Monday, January 30, 2012

Hungry Homestay

Vac Packed Beef Chilli

Our friends know us to be hospitable and always generously opening our dining table to anyone who requests an invitation! We also have a stream of international guests travelling through our dining room who stay with us on an overseas Homestay program. Auzzie Families send us students from far and wide to sample our cuisine, and experience life at the home of a (not so...?) typical Aussie family.

Our most recent homestays are staying a bit longer than the usual month, hopefully due to the great food and fun company. Over the holiday period though, we spent some time away from home and to honour our commitment of a home cooked meal every night, I made sure there was plenty in the freezer to keep them going while we weren't there to cook every day.

Plenty food and in the freezer are not phrases that usually can go well together in our household. We have a small apartment and an even smaller freezer, so we've been typically limited on the number of dishes we can tupperware up and cram into the couple of drawers. Recently though we invested in a Food Saver, Sunbeam's groovy vacuum sealing machine. It is not just food that it saves. It saves space, money and our waist lines, as it allows us to portion up bulk packs of meat into smaller serving sizes and properly seal it up ensuring no freezer burn.

It has also meant that we have been able to prepare a few weeks worth of home cooked, healthy unprocessed meals for our homestay "kids" to defrost while we're galavanting off on holidays. I just multiply whatever I create, or throw something in the Slow Cooker and we vac a bag or two, flatten it out and slide it into the freezer. Even when we're not in town, we're able to provide quick, healthy and diverse meals each night of the week to our hungry homestays!

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Fresh from the Philippines

Lumpia Sariwa
All my family who live out of the Philippines seem to have a yellow "bible" of Filipino cooking, Filipino Cooking Here and Abroad and my cousin gave me my very own copy for my birthday! Now there was no excuse for not trying some dishes of my heritage.

There are only a few Filipino dishes that I remember my Mum preparing when I was a kid. One of them is Lumpia Sariwa, fresh spring rolls with a sweet but savoury dipping sauce, so I decided to Christen my book trying the lumpia recipe. I started off with the mince for the inside of the rolls. This was a blend of pork and prawn mince, packed with lots of other vegetables. One of my new favourite ingredients is water chestnuts. These give it a bit of crunch and was the recommendation in the book for those "abroad" folk who can get the traditional vegetables

When my Filipino cousin (the husband of the cousin who had sent me the book) saw me preparing the egg wrappers, he commented that he had rarely if ever seen them made from scratch, as I guess they're normally bought - like me buying corn tortillas for Mexican I suppose. It took me a while to get the hang of them, as my instinct was to cook them till slightly brown. These ones need to be still yellow and soft, perfect for rolling. Once I got the hang of it, they came out nicely, although for next time I have to challenge myself to make them a little thinner!

Rolling the pancakes wasn't as challenging as I expected. I just had to remember my fajita rolling experiences and not pack them too much so they burst at the seams. With a slice of lettuce and just enough filling my Filipino fresh spring rolls looked just like I remembered them. Dipping them into the sauce was also a familiar experience reminding me of what I love about the flavours and textures all melting together in my mouth!

Monday, January 16, 2012

Triple Chocolate Profiteroles

Tripe Chocolate Profiteroles

For the death by piping bag, I mean chocolate, Sweet Adventure Blog Hop, I knew I needed to go a bit more out there than my regular chocolate desserts. I decided to do a twist on an old favourite, the profiterole. I had a bad experience the last time I tried to make profiteroles so I needed to prove to myself I hadn't lost my choux pastry touch that had been one of my signature desserts since I was a child. I also didn't want to go too overboard and fixate on the "death" part rather than the "chocolate" so I couldn't make it too rich for us to be able to eat! I decided to add cocoa to the profiterole mixture and then feature a liqueur that my hubbie loves to put into creamy after dinner cocktails, Sabra. Sabra is an Israeli Chocolate
Orange Liqueur, that way I could make the cream more subtley chocolatey (and give it a zing of alcohol).

So here it is, the chocolatiest profiteroles I've ever made - Death by...

...Triple Chocolate Profiteroles!

Sabra, Chocolate Orange Liqueur
200ml water
85g butter
4tsp caster sugar
100g flour
15g cocoa powder
3 eggs

Sabra Cream
200ml cream
2 tbsp Sabra

Chocolate Sauce
250g dark chocolate
200ml cream
2 tbsp Sabra

Makes about 30 profiteroles

  • Preheat the oven to 200. 
  • For the choux pastry, heat water, butter and sugar in a saucepan until the butter melts;
  • Meanwhile measure out the flour and cocoa and place it in an easy to access bowl;
  • When butter has melted, turn the heat up and drop the flour mixture in all at once;
  • Remove from heat;
  • Stirring rapidly, combine the flour mixture and water mix together till the mixture comes away from the side of the saucepan;
  • Cool slightly;
  • Whilst the mix is cooling, beat the 3 eggs;
  • Gradually add in the egg mixture to your choux pastry mix, combining the egg in full before you add more, until the mixture is smooth and glossy;
  • Grease a baking tray;
  • Fill the piping bag with the mixture and pipe small, 1.5cm diameter rounds onto the baking tray;
  • Place the baking tray in the oven and cook for about 25mins until the profiteroles are crispy on the outside, and cooked through; 
  • Cool before you use the profiteroles.
  • For the Sabra cream, whip the cream until stiff peaks form;
  • Add in the sabra 1 tbs at a time, whisking in each tablespoon;
  • Fill a piping bag with the cream.
  • For the chocolate sauce, add the chocolate and cream into a double boiler and heat gently until the chocolate melts;
  • Just before you drizzle the sauce over the profiteroles, add in the Sabra and stir well.
Serving Suggestion
  • To assemble, cut a small hole in each profiterole;
  • Insert the piping bag nozzle into each profiterole and fill with the Sabra cream;
  • Place 3 profiteroles in a bowl (I used Martini glasses);
  • Drizzle a spoonful of chocolate over the profiteroles and serve the rest on the side.
  • Eat and enjoy!

A few notes -  I can't often be bothered with piping bags, but I've just discovered the Multix disposable piping bags - they're really easy to clean cos you don't need to! 

If you don't want to buy a whole bottle of Sabra, you could substitute with any liqueur in your cabinet (it just might not be triple chocolate if not a chocolate liqueur!)

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Get Forked

When we have dinner parties, recently we've preferred to have some canapes on the balcony before heading in for the main course. An interesting and quite an original concept, was Jamie Oliver's forks, and after locating some cheap but nice looking forks (not at Victoria Basement which wanted to charge us $90 for some great looking, but too exy forks), we decided that we'd try it out for a Christmas dinner party. Giving everyone a bite on a fork was a fun and easy to prepare canapé but something a little different.

Jamie called for 3 types of forks that we replicated for our guests. We started off on the most simple, but a classic favourite - proscuitto wrapped and threaded onto the fork, with a clump of rocket, lying in a bed of olive oil and balsamic. With the dressing on the plate, we could swirl our forks into the dressing before popping the forkful in our mouths.

The second was a smoked salmon fork with thinly shaved cucumber and a lemony creme fraiche topped with a sprinkle of chives. This was a great combination, and who doesn't love smoked salmon with anything! The lemon creme fraiche added a nice zing to the fork.

The fork de resistance, however, was the duck a l'orange fork, a combination of orange, threaded onto the fork with a medium rare slice of duck breast wrapped around a sprig of watercress with a mint, lime, chilli dipping sauce.

All scrumptious little morsels, easy to eat and dip into their respective dressings! And a bit of a laugh as my hubbie enjoyed telling our friends to "get forked!"
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