Sunday, October 28, 2012

Off with a bang(er)!

Mincing the lamb and pork belly
My best birthday present ever this year has been on my wishlist ever since I moved out of home! A Kenwood Mixer! Not just any mixer either, this is one of the top of the range models: the Titanium Major. This wasn't a surprise gift, as my hubbie knew he had to involve me in the decision making of what make, model, features and attachments I was hoping for, but what was a surprise was when we put a bid on an online auction for significantly less that we thought it was worth, and WON! I was ecstatic!
Sausage snake

What to cook to "pop the cherry" of the Major, I wondered. It couldn't be any old cake or pavlova that I could have made using my trusty food processor.... It had to be something that we couldn't do before: Sausages!

I've always liked the thought of choosing our own sausage filling, but having seen the sausage making debacles on MasterChef, I wasn't convinced it would be successful first time! Now, I had a mincer and sausage attachment, there was no excuse to give it a go. I figured, worst case, we'd end up with some meat patties!

They look like the real thing!
We wanted to start off with a recipe before we branched out and experimented, so we tried out Poh's Spicy lamb and pork sausage recipe with lots of herbs and spices accompanying the 2 types of meat, that we minced from scratch. The resulting sausages were juicy and tasty, but just a little overcooked (with so much fresh meat in there, the cooking requirements are obviously different to the supermarket bought ones), so we have since fixed that up in subsequent serves, ready for a sausage sizzling summer ahead!

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Anyone for Pimms Jam?

High tea is synonymous for me with 3 tiered cake plates with scones with jam and cream, cucumber sandwiches and other sweet goodies (like the pictures you see in the Sweet Adventure Blog Hop hosted by Le Delicieux) accompanied by a classic English refreshing drink, Pimms! I thought I'd combine a few of these together in my Sweet Adventure creation for this month: Scones with Pimms Jam and cream!

The jam makes way more than you need for the recipe, but it's also good on toast, Victoria Sponge and over ice cream, as it's more runny than store bought varieties. I also made mini bite sized scones to take to work for morning tea, but you can make them as large as you want depending on the cutter you use!

Pimms Jam (Based on a recipe I found on the ITV website)

750g strawberries, hulled
225g cucumber
1kg jam sugar
rind of 1 lemon
rind of 1 orange
juice of 2 lemons
juice of 2 oranges
4 mint leaves
50 ml Pimms

Quarter the cucumbers, remove the seeds and slice into approx 1/4 cm slices;
Simmer in a little water for 10 mins or so, then remove from heat and drain;
Add all the remaining ingredients except Pimms and mint to a large saucepan and leave for 30-45 mins to mascerate;
Add the drained cucumber and bring to the boil for 10 -15 mins, breaking down the whole strawberries as they become tender, to your liking;
Leave jam mixture to cool for 10 -15 mins;
Add Pimms and finely sliced mint leaves and stir well;
Decant into sterilized jars and allow to set in the fridge.

Scones (based on a recipe from the trusty Readers Digest's The Cookery Year)

450g plain flour
pinch of salt
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
2 teaspoons cream of tartar
85g butter
120 ml water
120 ml milk

Preheat oven to 200C;
Sift dry ingredients together in a bowl;
Add butter and either rub in or use a mixer/food processor till the mixture resembles breadcrumbs;
Gradually add milk/water mixed together till it forms an elastic dough – you may not need all the milk/water mix;
Knead on the benchtop till smooth and roll out to approx. 1 cm thick;
Cut with pastry cutters to the desired size;
Lay quite close together on a preheated baking tray;
Brush with left over milk/water mixture;
Bake for 10 mins till risen and golden.


Whip 150 ml cream till it forms stiff peaks

To assemble the scones, half each scone and spoon a little jam onto each half and then either pipe or quenelle a small dollup of cream on top! Enjoy with a glass of Pimms or a pot of tea!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Happy Birthday to me!

My hubbie always spoils me and this birthday was no exception. In fact, this one was the spoiling of all spoilness. For the first time, instead of going out, he decided he would cook a surprise meal for me at home. I requested a fine dining menu of 3 courses. I did not, however, expect the lengths that he would go to deliver! I was hoping for something just a little bit more than a bowl of pasta. Let's just say if spag bol is a bungalow, my birthday dinner was a high rise!

We started of with a Spanish style tapas dish - Spanish croquettas. These little balls of delicious goo, breaded and deep fried just melted in our mouths setting the stage for the main to come.

From the aromas coming from the kitchen I had a feeling that we were going to be having something smoked. It smelt sweet and spicy, which infused the perfectly cooked duck beautifully. I recognised the dish as one Pete Evans cooked in series 1 of MasterChef and was so impressed by my hubbie's delicious and great looking rendition.

The piece de resistance came for dessert. I was almost expecting a croquenboche from hearing how much time he had spent in the kitchen, but it was quite different. An elegantly plated chocolate tart - also of Masterchef fame! It was Matt Moran's challenge to the series 1 finalists, Poh and Julie, and Cam certainly gave them a run for their money! If birthdays are a time for decadence and richness, this certainly was right on with chocolate ganache lining the plate, a slice of chocolate tart, chocolate mousse quenelles on the plate, chocolate sorbet to cut through the richness and chocolate Macarons for texture.

This was the best birthday treat ever! Three hat dining in my own home!

A little daunting.... What will I come up with for him next year?! Maybe I will need to bring on the croquenboche to top it!

Sunday, October 7, 2012

MasterChef Live

I am the biggest MasterChef stalker groupie fan as you know, so I was so excited to attend MasterChef Live yesterday. It is the best of it's kind with so many cooking demonstrations, in between the exhibitors, we were hopping from stage to stage watching MasterChef contestants past and present sharing tips and tricks they have learnt and learning from the real life Sydney chefs.

I have several new little techniques that I'll try in our kitchen now - deep frying enoki mushrooms seems all the rage with the Season 4 contestants. We love mushrooms, and this little technique to add some crunch to a plate sounds like it will be great for summer entertaining!

Darren Robertson's sherbet is something I'll definitely test out at home. After a meal last year at Ritual where a cardamom sherbet lined the plate, it's been something I'd love to put my own spin on, and now I know how to make it!

Prompted by a fabulous meal at Ms Gs on Friday night, chicken was on my hubbies mind, and a causal conversation with Audra Morris sparked a few ideas for him to try for a fried chicken coating to rival Audra, Mindy and Kylies "3 Pepper Chicken" from their pop up, or Dan Hong's "Naked Chicken" that we loved the other night!

Duck from the Three Blue Ducks
Of course, it wasn't just picking up on techniques for the kitchen. We came home with lots of heavily discounted booty (including pre-sale of MasterChef 2012 winner, Andy's new book "The Next Element" and our bellys full of some amazing food - the highlight for me being the Three Blue Ducks slow roasted duck with Asian greens which fell off the bone and melted in your mouth - a perfect dish for eating with a plastic fork (and I hate eating with plastic cutlery at the best of times!) whilst sheltering from the light drizzle!
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