Sunday, July 31, 2011

Left Over Pavlova

 Individual Strawberry Pavlova
Pavlova is an Aussie favourite dessert and as we often have foreign guests, it is a regular coming out of my kitchen  on a weekend evening. They always love the crispy outer coating and mallowy inside, and with summer berries, or kiwi fruit and passion fruit topping, it often has our friends and homestay students pulling out the camera for a picture of this Aussie icon!

It is also a tasty use for the left over egg whites that I seem to amass when making delicious ice cream custard. Today I jumped on the "individual" portion bandwagon and made mini pavlovas for us and our 2 students.

The trouble I face when using different batches of left over egg whites is that I never seem to have enough, or have too many for the recipes and none of my recipes seem to have a proportion of sugar to egg white. So I thought I'd give some different quantities in my pavlova recipe here:

Aussie Pavlova
4 Egg whites
200g Caster sugar (for 5 egg whites: 220g caster sugar, for 6 egg whites: 250g caster sugar)
2 tsp corn flour
1 tsp vanilla essence

  • Pre heat oven to 100º;
  • Line a baking tray with baking paper;
  • Whisk egg whites till they form hard peaks and the bowl can be turned upside down without the egg whites moving;
  • Slowly add the caster sugar spoon at a time;
  • When sugar is combined and mixture is glossy, add corn flour and vanilla essence
  • For individual pavlovas, split mixture into 4 rounds on baking tray and cook in the preheated oven for 35 mins. For a large pavlova, scoop the mixture on to the lined tray and cook for 1 hour - 1 hour 20 mins for a large one.
  • Leave the pavlova to cool in the oven with the door open for a few hours till the oven is completely cold. Close the door and leave till cool. 
  • Serve with whipped cream and decorate with fruit.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Mincing About

Spicy Lamb Burgers
Mince is such a diverse product that I inadvertently prepared a menu with mince in the entree and mince in the main! Given that kids were joining us for dinner, it wasn't too much of a culinary error and both meat dishes were a great hit. We started off with some pork and prawn wontons. They're so crunchy and tasty that all 40 disappeared quickly! It's been one of my favourites of the last few months (since we got our deep fryer) and they've featured already in one of my blog posts earlier this year (Long Necks & Rib Eyes)! They've been so successfully received, I've posted the recipe below.

We followed those with Spicy Lamb Burgers for the main course. This recipe makes such moist, juicy burgers. They have a slight spice that gives them great flavour but doesn't turn the kids off! We didn't serve them with this time with the tomato yoghurt relish, but instead slices of tomato, cheese (melted in the grill) and guacamole.

The two different cooking styles disguise the fact that it's really pretty much the same base, and they're just a couple of examples of the variety of mince recipes!

Pork and Prawn Wontons

It is such a quick mixture to make that if you are patient, and get on a roll with the wonton preparing, they can be put together without too much bother.

Deep fried pork and prawn wontons
250g green prawns chopped
250g pork mince
1/2 small can of water chestnuts
2 spring onions chopped
2 tbsps chopped chives
1 tbsp cornflour
1 tbsp soy sauce
1/2 tsp salt

1 pack 40 square wonton wrappers

Raw wontons

  • Mix together all the filling mixture in a large bowl;
  • Dust a surface with corn flour, and prepare a tray covered in corn flour; 
  • Fill a small plate with warm water (this is to help seal the wrappers);
  • Lay out some of the wonton wrappers on the dusted surface;  
  • Place a small spoonful of mixture in the centre of the wonton wrapper;
  • Dip your finger in the prepared water, and run it around the edges of the wrapper;
  • Fold the wrapper over to make triangle;
  • Pinch the two long ends of the triangle together so they look similar to those in the picture;
  • Drop the wontons in the deep frier for around 5 mins till golden brown;
  • Serve with Sweet Chilli Sauce

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Recipes from a hungry cook

Marion, last season's MasterChef favourite, released her cookbook the other day, and at the Good Food Show in Sydney I had a chance to grab my copy of her book hot off the press and meet her to get it dedicated to me! Browsing through the pages I was delighted at the variety of recipes from Marion's kitchen. Her Thai background has influenced many of the recipes but there is also a whole lot that are inspired by other areas of her life: Darwin, South Australia, and her MasterChef experience. There are beautiful images and anecdotes Marion shares about villages in Thailand she's visited where her family lives, markets in Darwin and food memories which really bring the recipes to life!

Unfortunately, many of her more tasty looking recipes are not necessarily compatible with our current health kick, but I leafed through licking my lips at Deep Fried Pork Belly, Sticky Beef Ribs with Sweet Coriander Sauce, Confit Duck and Thai Fishcakes. Another day.....

Marion's Pad Siew (cooked by me!)
For a quick mid week option I chose one of the many healthier items from her menu, Pad Siew - a chicken and rice noodle dish with gai lan (Chinese brocolli). I also added a few bonus veggies from the fridge. The dish is served with a chilli infused vinegar drizzled on which gives it an acidic heat to balance out the slightly sweet flavour of kecap manis, an Indonesian dark soy.

It turned out to be delicious, crunchy, flavourful and very moreish - lucky I had made a whole wok full to heat up for lunches during the week too!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Cowardly Custard? Go on! Make you're own!

Sticky Date Pudding with Custard
Custard! It helps us through the harsh Winter months with it's silky, creamy texture and distinctive flavour, accompanying our favourite puddings, pies and crumbles. It hides in summer in the guise of homemade ice cream: custard mixed with pureed strawberries (or any flavour that takes your fancy) churned in the ice cream machine, once tasted, guaranteed to convert you for good! 

I grew up only knowing how to prepare custard from custard powder which used to squeak between my finger tips once I'd wrenched the can open with the handle of a teaspoon. It was not until I was living in Japan where custard powder wasn't even heard of, that I discovered how simple it is to make custard from scratch.

What is custard powder anyway? It just replaces the egg yolks but doesn't remove the laborious part of having to heat the milk! The ironic thing is that they sell custard powder right next to the "pavlova magic" egg - another strange invention which seems to be just dried egg whites that you reconstitute in water. Buy them both, and you've saved the minute it takes to separate eggs and sacrificed bags of flavour and pride of making your own!

I adapted a new recipe for custard this evening from Rick Stein. The great part which was new to me was mixing in a tablespoon of cornflour with the egg yolks to replace one yolk for a lighter version! It also helped thicken up the sauce quicker. I don't normally post recipes, but I really would love to convert custard powder or pre-packaged custard buyers to try their own. It's so easy and makes a delicious and impressing topping to a hot sponge pudding, or on your traditional British trifle!

M(i)sCh(i)ef"s Custard

Adapted from a Rick Stein Custard Recipe

450ml milk
150ml cream
teaspoon vanilla bean paste (or 1 vanilla pod, or a teaspoon of vanilla essence)
4 egg yolks
1/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon corn flour*
delicious pudding to serve

Heat milk, cream and vanilla in a saucepan over a medium heat until just boiling. Meanwhile beat the egg yolks, cornflour and sugar together until light in colour and ribbony. When milk comes to the boil, remove from heat and add to the egg yolk and sugar mixture. Return to a clean pan and stir constantly till thick and creamy. 

Remove from heat and pour over your favourite winter pudding!

If using in strawberry ice cream, omit the vanilla and mix with strawberry purée (500g strawberries and 1/2 cup sugar processed to a purée) leave to cool and churn in the ice cream maker according to the manufacturers instructions.

*If you don't have access to corn flour, just use another egg yolk

Friday, July 1, 2011

Souper Bowl

Pea & Ham Soup
A winter favourite of ours is soup. A hearty bowl warms and fills us up and is packed with veggies. This week I prepared a couple of soups: one using a vegetable favourite of many (but not of mine, apart from in soup) and the other, a vegetable I've never cooked with before.

Pea and Ham Soup was a Rick Stein recipe from a Delicious Magazine. It uses a cheap and easy to find veggie - the frozen pea! The ham hock is also a budget ingredient and by boiling it up in stock imparts the fabulous flavour. The meat doesn't go to waste and is chopped up and added to the thick green soup. The soup was delicious with the salt and smokiness of the ham balancing against the fresh pea flavour.

Jerusalem Artichoke Soup
I've never cooked with Jerusalem Artichoke before so I decided to try it out in a soup. Jerusalem Artichoke wasn't exactly as budget an ingredient, with the soup requiring 3 packets of it. They didn't even have enough at the fruit and veggie store. My hubbie was a bit apprehensive after noticing it's similarity to ginger - one of the only foods he can't stomach! The soup also had plenty of other veggies, including leek and potatoes. It was a creamy soup with a flavour not dissimilar to celeriac, and was a successful experiment!

Two fantastic nourishing soups gave us two winter warmers! What soup flavours - unusual or old favourites - should we try next week?

Jerusalem Artichokes on FoodistaJerusalem Artichokes
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