Nana Glen Mum

Daring Bakers November Challenge – Cannoli November 28, 2009

The November 2009 Daring Bakers Challenge was chosen and hosted by Lisa Michele of Parsley, Sage, Desserts and Line Drives. She chose the Italian Pastry, Cannolo (Cannoli is plural), using the cookbooks Lidia’s Italian-American Kitchen by Lidia Matticchio Bastianich and The Sopranos Family Cookbook by Allen Rucker; recipes by Michelle Scicolone, as ingredient/direction guides. She added her own modifications/changes, so the recipe is not 100% verbatim from either book.

Cannoli are known as Italian-American pastries, although the origin of cannoli dates back to Sicily, specifically Palermo, where it was prepared during Carnevale season, and according to lore, as a symbol of fertility. The cannoli is a fried, tube-shaped pastry shell (usually containing wine) filled with a creamy amalgamation of sweetened ricotta cheese, chocolate, candied fruit or zest, and sometimes nuts. Although not traditional, mascarpone cheese is also widely used, and in fact, makes for an even creamier filling when substituted for part of the ricotta, or by itself. However, cannoli can also be filled with pastry creams, mousses, whipped cream, ice cream etc. You could also add your choice of herbs, zests or spices to the dough, if desired. Marsala is the traditional wine used in cannoli dough, but any red or white wine will work fine, as it’s not only added for flavor or color, but to relax the gluten in the dough since it can be a stiff dough to work with.

Despite not technically a “baking” challenge, I was SO excited to see this month’s challenge recipe at the Daring Kitchen.  I have only had cannoli a few times, but have always loved their delicate crispy shell and creamy fillings.  We had a choice of fillings, so I made half with vanilla and half with chocolate, and dipped the ends of both in melted dark chocolate.  For the cannoli with chocolate filling, I then dipped the ends into candied orange peel also for a bit of a jaffa flavour.  YUM YUM!!

Anyway, if you would like a printable copy of the recipe, you can find it here.

My first batch, I tried the forming them around the premade cannelloni tubes.  Unfortunately, they blistered and cooked along with the cannoli and I was unable to separate the two without smashing the entire thing into smithereens.  Luckily, I had some stainless cream horn shapes in my cooking stash, and they worked a treat.  Had they not worked, I would have opted for the flat, layered version aka millefeuille/napoleon style.  All in all, a great hit with the family and definately will be made again.  Am hoping Santa will bring me an ice cream maker for Christmas, as I can really imagine these with a yummy home made ice cream filling!!  Delish!

 

The Daring Cooks November 2009 Challenge: Sushi! November 16, 2009

The November 2009 Daring Cooks challenge was brought to you by Audax of Audax
Artifex and Rose of The Bite Me Kitchen. They chose sushi as the challenge.
Sushi (寿司 or 鮨 or 鮓) is much appreciated for its delicate taste and exquisite appearance. Sushi
actually means vinegared rice, which is the essential ingredient in every sushi recipe. Sushi is
simple and cheap to make at home, needs no special equipment and is an excellent way to use left
overs.
Although sushi in various forms has been around for fourteen centuries, the modern version was
invented in Japan in the 1800’s where a ‘hand-formed’ sliced fresh fish and vinegared rice ball was
eaten as a snack food. Nowadays, sushi is made with various seafood, meats and vegetables, raw
and cooked.

Although I have made sushi numerous times before, this was my first attempt at a decorative style.  It was great fun and much easier than I expected.  The first one was the Dragon Roll:

Dragon Roll

Dragon Roll

It is supposed to be covered in avocado, but I was unable to buy any, so I just sprinkled Nigella seeds on top instead.  the filling was cucumber and smoked salmon.

The second style we made was spiral sushi.  It has 6 different fillings.  I used inari, blanched carrot, cucumber, smoked salmon, red capsicum and fresh asparagus.  Finally, we had to have a go at the hand shaped nigiri.  These I had made before, not that you would guess by the dodgy shaping!!  You can get a printable copy of the recipe here.  Don’t be intimidated by how long it is, they are just detailed instructions, the actual process is surprisingly quick and easy.

Nigiri on the top, and spiral sushi below.

All in all, a delicious challenge as always.  Both daughters loved it and it made a lovely dinner for a mild spring evening, eaten out on the front verandah watching the sun set over the hills surrounding our little valley.  Aaaaaahhhh!

 

Daring Cooks October Challenge – Vietnamese Pho and Sweet Wontons October 14, 2009

The October 2009 Daring Cooks’ challenge was brought to us by Jaden of the blog Steamy Kitchen. The recipes are from her new cookbook, The Steamy Kitchen Cookbook.

Having grown up overseas due to my Dad’s job, and spending 6 years in Asia, I was really excited to see that this month’s challenge was a noodle soup – one of my all time favourites.  I mostly make Japanese Ramen, or a Chinese wonton soup, but I have not really ventured too far into Vietnamese cuisine, so I was really looking forward to this recipe.  When I think of Vietnamese food, I think of fresh, tangy dishes, full of flavour and zing.  This one was definately all of those!  Aromatic, wholesome, tasty, and with optional levels of chilli, it was bound to please all.  We had another family over for dinner the night I cooked it, and all of the kids went back for seconds – even knowing full well that there was dessert too!  Us adults had to make do with the few bits and pieces that the kids left!!  Both recipes were fantastic for entertaining as it could all be prepared ahead of time, and when I wanted to serve, all I had to do was bring the broth back to the boil and prepare the noodles.  Everyone loved the idea of adding their own condiments at the table – they could have extras of their favourites, and leave out anything that they didn’t feel like.  If you would like to see a printable copy of the recipe, you can find it here:  Printable Version of Vietnamese Pho.  And yes, I did change one or two things.  My 6 year old daughter is vegetarian, so I made a vegetarian broth and cooked the chicken fillet separately.  Also, bean sprouts were unavailable (I’m in a rural area), so I substituted with fresh snow peas and sugar snap peas from my garden which I sliced as thinly as I could.  They did the trick in adding a crunchy texture and freshness to the soup as bean sprouts would have.  I’ve never used hoisin sauce as a condiment, only as a marinade, and it was fantastic!


As a little something different, Jaden gave us a second course to play with.  Sweet wontons.  My family are HUGE fans of all things wonton, so there was no question that I would have to make both parts of the challenge.  We had never had sweet wontons before though, and I really liked the idea.  In the brief, Jaden encouraged creativity not only with flavours and fillings, but with shape as well.  Having spent 3 years in Japan as a child, I have always been intrigued with origami, so I figured wonton wrappers are a square…why not?  The traditional crane has always been a fave, so I had to go with it.  I decided to sit it atop an island of dark chocolate ganache amidst a sea of rich, luscious creme anglaise.  The cranes were a little fiddly as the wrappers are much thicker than origami paper, and they tended to stretch a little out of true square when separating them, but all in all, I was thrilled with the result.  Here is a printable version of Jaden’s Sweet Wontons.  Mine was pretty simple.  The wontons were folded and then deep fried.  The ganache was just one block of dark chocolate melted with half as much cream, and the creme anglaise was from Ann Amernick’s book “The Art of the Dessert”.  Here is a printable version of her creme anglaise which I used.
Yum Yum!  Bring on the November Challenge I say!!

 

Daring Cooks September Challenge – Dosai September 21, 2009

I must apologise first up for taking so long to get this entry up. It should have been written about a week ago, but things have been crazy around here to say the least! The pizza oven has been working overtime entertaining al of our friends, we have had Father’s Day, and the Father’s Day Stall at the Primary School, P&C Meetings at school and preschool, lots of gardening with the onset of spring, and yep, we have more babies on the way. Lots more babies. Lots and lots and lots of babies in fact, but I’ll get to that later.

The Daring Cooks September Challenge comes to us from Debyi at The Healthy Vegan Kitchen. It is an absolutely delicious Indian savoury pancake served with 2 yummy curried sauces. There is a thicker chickpea based one and a lighter coconut sauce poured over the top of it all.

Here is the recipe:

Serves 4

Dosa Pancakes

1 cup (120gm/8oz) spelt flour (or all-purpose, gluten free flour)

½ tsp (2½ gm) salt

½ tsp (2½ gm) baking powder

½ tsp (2½ gm) curry powder

½ cup (125ml/4oz) almond milk (or soy, or rice, etc.)

¾ cup (175ml/6oz) water

cooking spray, if needed

Dosa Filling

1 batch Curried Garbanzo Filling (see below),

Dosa Toppings

1 batch Coconut Curry Sauce (see below),

heated ¼ cup (125gm) grated coconut

¼ cucumber, sliced

Dosa Pancakes

1.Combine the dry ingredients in a bowl, slowly adding the almond milk and water, whisking until smooth.

2.Heat a nonstick skillet over medium heat. Spray your pan with a thin layer of cooking spray, if needed.

3.Ladle 2 tablespoons of batter into the center of your pan in a circular motion until it is a thin, round pancake. When bubbles appear on the surface and it no longer looks wet, flip it over and cook for a few seconds. Remove from heat and repeat with remaining batter.

Makes 8 pancakes.

Curried Garbanzo Filling

This filling works great as a rice bowl topping or as a wrap too, so don’t be afraid to make a full batch.

5 cloves garlic 1 onion, peeled and finely diced

1 carrot, peeled and finely diced

1 green pepper, finely diced (red, yellow or orange are fine too)

2 medium hot banana chilies, minced

2 TBSP (16gm) cumin, ground

1 TBSP (8gm) oregano

1 TBSP (8gm) sea salt (coarse)

1 TBSP (8gm) turmeric

4 cups (850gm/30oz) cooked or canned chick peas (about 2 cans)

½ cup (125gm/4oz) tomato paste

1.Heat a large saucepan over medium to low heat. Add the garlic, veggies, and spices, cooking until soft, stirring occasionally.

2.Mash the chickpeas by hand, or in a food processor. Add the chickpeas and tomato paste to the saucepan, stirring until heated through.

Coconut Curry Sauce

1 onion, peeled and chopped

2 cloves garlic ½ (2½ gm)

tsp cumin, ground

¾ (3¾ gm) tsp sea salt (coarse)

3 TBSP (30gm) curry powder

3 TBSP (30gm) spelt flour (or all-purpose GF flour)

3 cups (750ml/24oz) vegetable broth

2 cups (500ml/24oz) coconut milk

3 large tomatoes, diced

1.Heat a saucepan over medium heat, add the onion and garlic, cooking for 5 minutes, or until soft.

2.Add the spices, cooking for 1 minutes more. Add the flour and cook for 1 additional minute.

3.Gradually stir in the vegetable broth to prevent lumps. Once the flour has been incorporated, add the coconut milk and tomatoes, stirring occasionally. 4.Let it simmer for half an hour.

Okay, I know what you are about to say….what did I change?? Surprisingly, very little, the only difference was I used Besan flour instead of spelt (because that’s what I had in the pantry), and I left the chickpeas whole because I love their taste and texture. This was an absolutely delicious dish. I have even made it a second time already this month. Seeing as the pizza oven has been getting such a work out, we made naan bread to have with it instead of the dosai pancakes the second time around, and what can I say but Yum, Yum, Yum!!! Definately one to try if you are cooking for vegetarians or vegans, or you just enjoy a really good curry. I had a bit of the left over coconut sauce on an omelette the other day too, and that was just super delish!

 

Daring Bakers August Challenge – Dobos Torta August 26, 2009

After last month’s delicious duo of Milan Cookies and Mallows, I was anxiously anticipating what delectable goodies we would be challenge with this month over at the Daring Bakers.  Lorraine of Not Quite Nigella and Angela of A Spoonful of Sugar did not let me down.  They chose the amazing and even famous Hungarian Dobos Torta.  Their rendition of the spectacular Dobos Torta is based on a recipe from Rick Rodgers’ cookbook Kaffeehaus:  Exquisite Desserts from the Classic Caffes of Vienna, Budapest, and Prague.

Having never heard of the Dobos Torta (which rock have I been hiding under?), I went straight to the good ol’ Wikipedia and punched it in.  It is a 5 layer cake sandwiched together with buttercream, first devised by Hungarian confectioner József C. Dobos in 1884 in an effort to create a cake with better keeping qualities.  The fine buttercream layers kept the cake moist and the caramel/toffee on top helped seal it also.  For many years the recipe remained a strictly guarded secret until his retirement in 1906 when he presented it to the Budapest Confectioners’ and Gingerbread Makers’ Chamber of Industry on the condition that all members be able to use it freely.

So, without further ado, here is the recipe as presented to us:

Dobos Torta

Prep times

  • Sponge layers 20 mins prep, 40 mins cooking total if baking each layer individually.
  • Buttercream: 20 mins cooking. Cooling time for buttercream: about 1 hour plus 10 minutes after this to beat and divide.
  • Caramel layer: 10-15 minutes.
  • Assembly of whole cake: 20 minutes

Sponge cake layers

  • 6 large eggs, separated, at room temperature
  • 1 1/3 cups (162g) confectioner’s (icing) sugar, divided
  • 1 teaspoon (5ml) vanilla extract
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (112g) sifted cake flour (SUBSTITUTE 95g plain flour + 17g cornflour (cornstarch) sifted together)
  • pinch of salt

Chocolate Buttercream

  • 4 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 cup (200g) caster (ultrafine or superfine white) sugar
  • 4oz (110g) bakers chocolate or your favourite dark chocolate, finely chopped
  • 2 sticks plus 2 tablespoons (250g) unsalted butter, at room temperature.

Caramel topping

  • 1 cup (200g) caster (superfine or ultrafine white) sugar
  • 12 tablespoons (180 ml) water
  • 8 teaspoons (40 ml) lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon neutral oil (e.g. grapeseed, rice bran, sunflower)

Finishing touches

  • a 7” cardboard round
  • 12 whole hazelnuts, peeled and toasted
  • ½ cup (50g) peeled and finely chopped hazelnuts

Directions for the sponge layers:

NB. The sponge layers can be prepared in advance and stored interleaved with parchment and well-wrapped in the fridge overnight.

1.Position the racks in the top and centre thirds of the oven and heat to 400F (200C).

2.Cut six pieces of parchment paper to fit the baking sheets. Using the
bottom of a 9″ (23cm) springform tin as a template and a dark pencil or
a pen, trace a circle on each of the papers, and turn them over (the
circle should be visible from the other side, so that the graphite or
ink doesn’t touch the cake batter.)

3.Beat the egg yolks, 2/3 cup (81g) of the confectioner’s (icing)
sugar, and the vanilla in a medium bowl with a mixer on high speed
until the mixture is thick, pale yellow and forms a thick ribbon when
the beaters are lifted a few inches above the batter, about 3 minutes.
(You can do this step with a balloon whisk if you don’t have a mixer.)

4.In another bowl, using clean beaters, beat the egg whites until
soft peaks form.

Gradually beat in the remaining 2/3 cup (81g) of
confectioner’s (icing)sugar until the whites form stiff, shiny peaks.

Using a large rubber spatula, stir about 1/4 of the beaten whites into
the egg yolk mixture, then fold in the remainder, leaving a few wisps
of white visible. Combine the flour and salt. Sift half the flour over
the eggs, and fold in; repeat with the remaining flour.

5.Line one of the baking sheets with a circle-marked paper. Using a
small offset spatula, spread about 3/4cup of the batter in an even
layer, filling in the traced circle on one baking sheet.

Bake on the
top rack for 5 minutes, until the cake springs back when pressed gently
in the centre and the edges are lightly browned. While this cake bakes,
repeat the process on the other baking sheet, placing it on the centre
rack. When the first cake is done, move the second cake to the top
rack. Invert the first cake onto a flat surface and carefully peel off
the paper. Slide the cake layer back onto the paper and let stand until
cool. Rinse the baking sheet under cold running water to cool, and dry
it before lining with another parchment. Continue with the remaining
papers and batter to make a total of six layers. Completely cool the
layers. Using an 8″ springform pan bottom or plate as a template, trim
each cake layer into a neat round. (A small serrated knife is best for
this task.)

Directions for the chocolate buttercream:

NB. This can be prepared in advance and kept chilled until required.

1.Prepare a double-boiler: quarter-fill a large saucepan with water and bring it to a boil.

2.Meanwhile, whisk the eggs with the sugar until pale and thickened,
about five minutes. You can use a balloon whisk or electric hand mixer
for this.

3.Fit bowl over the boiling water in the saucepan (water should not
touch bowl) and lower the heat to a brisk simmer. Cook the egg mixture,
whisking constantly, for 2-3 minutes until you see it starting to
thicken a bit. Whisk in the finely chopped chocolate and cook,
stirring, for a further 2-3 minutes.

4.Scrape the chocolate mixture into a medium bowl and leave to cool to
room temperature. It should be quite thick and sticky in consistency.

5.When cool, beat in the soft butter, a small piece (about 2
tablespoons/30g) at a time. An electric hand mixer is great here, but
it is possible to beat the butter in with a spatula if it is soft
enough. You should end up with a thick, velvety chocolate buttercream.
Chill while you make the caramel topping.

Lorraine’s note: If you’re in Winter just now your butter might
not soften enough at room temperature, which leads to lumps forming in
the buttercream. Male sure the butter is of a very soft texture I.e.
running a knife through it will provide little resistance, before you
try to beat it into the chocolate mixture. Also, if you beat the butter
in while the chocolate mixture is hot you’ll end up with more of a
ganache than a buttercream!

Directions for the caramel topping:

1.Choose the best-looking cake layer for the caramel top. To make
the caramel topping: Line a jellyroll pan with parchment paper and
butter the paper. Place the reserved cake layer on the paper. Score the
cake into 12 equal wedges. Lightly oil a thin, sharp knife and an
offset metal spatula.

2.Stir the sugar, water and lemon juice in a small saucepan. Bring to a
boil over a medium heat, stirring often to dissolve the sugar. Once
dissolved into a smooth syrup, turn the heat up to high and boil
without stirring, swirling the pan by the handle occasionally and
washing down any sugar crystals on the sides of the pan with a wet
brush until the syrup has turned into an amber-coloured caramel.

3.The top layer is perhaps the hardest part of the whole cake so make
sure you have a oiled, hot offset spatula ready. I also find it helps
if the cake layer hasn’t just been taken out of the refrigerator. I
made mine ahead of time and the cake layer was cold and the toffee set
very, very quickly—too quickly for me to spread it. Immediately pour
all of the hot caramel over the cake layer. You will have some leftover
most probably but more is better than less and you can always make nice
toffee pattern using the extra to decorate. Using the offset spatula,
quickly spread the caramel evenly to the edge of the cake layer. Let
cool until beginning to set, about 30 seconds. Using the tip of the hot
oiled knife (keep re-oiling this with a pastry brush between cutting),
cut through the scored marks to divide the caramel layer into 12 equal
wedges. Cool another minute or so, then use the edge of the knife to
completely cut and separate the wedges using one firm slice movement
(rather than rocking back and forth which may produce toffee strands).
Cool completely.

Angela’s note: I recommend cutting, rather than scoring, the
cake layer into wedges before covering in caramel (reform them into a
round). If you have an 8” silicon round form, then I highly recommend
placing the wedges in that for easy removal later and it also ensures
that the caramel stays on the cake layer. Once set, use a very sharp
knife to separate the wedges.

Assembling the Dobos

1.Divide the buttercream into six equal parts.

2.Place a dab of chocolate buttercream on the middle of a 7 1/2”
cardboard round and top with one cake layer. Spread the layer with one
part of the chocolate icing. Repeat with 4 more cake layers. Spread the
remaining icing on the sides of the cake.

3.Optional: press the finely chopped hazelnuts onto the sides of the cake.

4.Propping a hazelnut under each wedge so that it sits at an angle,
arrange the wedges on top of the cake in a spoke pattern. If you have
any leftover buttercream, you can pipe rosettes under each hazelnut or
a large rosette in the centre of the cake. Refrigerate the cake under a
cake dome until the icing is set, about 2 hours. Let slices come to
room temperature for the best possible flavour.

So, what did I do different??

Me being me, I had to make a few changes along the way – I can’t help it.  We were having friends over for dinner the night I made it and B. is allergic to full fat dairy which ruled him out of the dessert due to the buttercream.  Luckily I had some left over lime custard in the fridge from some tarts I had made a few days earlier with some gorgeous Tahitian lime Dad had given me.  So I figured I would make a second torta using the lime instead of the chocolate. 

I made the sponge layers as per the recipe with the only difference being I used duck eggs (because we have ducks and I think they are immeasurably superior to chicken eggs for baking), and I made the layers square instead of round so I could cut them in half and make 2 rectangular cakes out of the one batch.  Matthew complimented me on “up there for thinking”, I just thought I was being lazy!! lol!

Anyway, once the layers were all made I put aside one full layer (we will come back to this one) and then trimmed off one edge from each layer and measured out 11cm and cut to make 2 long rectangles.  When I stacked them, I put all the cakes with 2 trimmed edges in one cake, and the cakes with one trimmed edge and one rough edge in the other – aligning the cut edges on one side and the untrimmed edges on the other to keep it neat.

On the lime cake, I brushed each layer with some lime syrup that I whipped up (just equal parts water, sugar and lime juice boiled for 5 minutes – note to self – WATCH IT ON THE BOIL NEXT TIME – DRIED SUGAR SYRUP IS A PAIN TO HAVE TO CLEAN OFF THE STOVE TOP!!!).  I then spread on a layer of the lime custard, then the next layer of cake and so on, finishing with a cake layer.

For the chocolate cake, I brushed the cake layers with some raspberry liquer from the local winery before spreading the chocolate buttercream, continuing with the layering and finishing with a cake layer.

Now, back to that layer we put aside earlier, I pulled out a heart cutter (you already know about my penchant for cookie cutters right?  It’s not a problem…really…is it???) and cut out heaps of hearts – turned out I only needed six and lay them in a silicone cake tin.  I then poured the caramel (toffee to us Aussies) over them as per the proper recipe, let it set, and cut it out again with the cutter.  Most of them smashed/shattered/broke.  Next time, I will dunk the cake hearts into the pot of caramel/toffee and then lay them on a silicon mat/baking paper.

I then took a lime and sliced it as thin as I could and poured some of the caramel/toffee over them and let them set.

Finally, I covered the chocolate cake with the remaining chocolate buttercream and pressed chopped hazelnuts onto the sides of the cake.  I then used whole hazelnuts to prop up the hearts along the length of the cake.

For the lime cake, I made a lime flavoured cream cheese frosting (yep, completely forgot about B. and his probs with dairy at this stage – some friend I am!!)  and covered the cake with it.  I pressed poppy seeds into the side of this one and placed the toffee coated lime slices on top.  YUM YUM!  Needless to say, B. loves his sweets, so his wife ate the frosting off his piece of lime cake and the toffee coated lime slices on top turned out to be the highlight of his evening.  Think I’ll make him a big box of them for Christmas!

All in all, everyone loved both cakes.  The chocolate lovers and sweet-tooths loved the original chocolate version, and those of us who prefer our sweets not-too-sweet loved the lime version.  Both will DEFINATELY be made again!  Thanks Daring Bakers, and extra special thanks to Lorraine and Angela.

So, I wonder….what is on the cards for next month’s challenge???

 

Spring is on the way! August 12, 2009

Kaffir Lime leaves and their knobbly fruit

Kaffir Lime leaves and their knobbly fruit

We may only be 2 weeks into the final month of winter, but spring can’t be too far away. The horse has begun to shed and 2 of our chickens…Pecky – on the left – (she likes to peck at food) and Specky – on the right – (a speckled brown)

Pecky

Pecky

have both gone broody. We popped a few of Daisy’s (our female Indian Runner

Specky

Specky

Duck) eggs under them when they first went broody as all she want to do is run around, eat, splash and “play” with the drake!! A few days later, we were given ten naked neck eggs believed to be fertile from lovely Monica who gave us the chickens. (No they don’t have mange, they are Transylvanian Naked Neck Chickens – also known as Turkens in the US) So, we have popped them under the chooks also. Hopefully in the next week either Daisy or one of the other chickens will go broody also so we can separate out the duck eggs, otherwise we will just have to take them out and try for ducklings later on. We figure it’s not really fair to expect mamma hens to raise clutches of half chicks, half ducklings!

Blueberry Flowers

Blueberry Flowers

Out in the garden are other signs of spring. One blueberry bush is covered in flowers while the

Blueberry Fruit Forming

Blueberry Fruit Forming

other is actually starting to form fruit! Very exciting for us as this will be our first ever crop of blueberries. On the subject of berries, the mulberry tree

Mulberry beginning to bud

Mulberry beginning to bud

is sprouting leaves and also budding flowers. Hopefully we will get our first crop of them also this year. We are keeping our fingers crossed for a nice abundant spring and summer as this is the first year the plants will have been in long enough as they only went in last year. We
have a single lonely Chinese Bell chilli left on the bush after I had picked all the red ones to make curried chilli with (super yum – I’ll post the recipe), but hopefully with the onset of spring, we will get some more. Up in my green house, I have planted about 18 different varieties of herbs and a couple of fruit trees, all from seed. The first few are beginning to pop their heads out of the soil, so far the thyme, marjoram, chamomile and zaatar have all popped up to say hello, as have some of the sunflowers. I am really excited as they are not your standard yellow sunflowers, but will flower in a range from yellow to orange, through to a crimson red!

The lonely Chinese Bell Chillie

They almost look like gerberas. The peas are all giving us pods daily now and we have planted a second lot, and the bok choy is enormous – much to the delight of the chooks and ducks who tuck in to it for their green fodder each day. My first 3 purple cabbages are forming heads and the daikon are growing quickly too! Our mixed lettuce are probably nearing the end of their run, but I do have some new lettuces on their way up. I am really looking forward to giving some baby cos to my friend over the road who has promised me a big bowl of her delicious Caesar Salad in return!

 

Daring Cooks July Challenge – Skate, traditional flavours powdered (slightly altered) July 13, 2009

I have just joined an online group at the Daring Kitchen called the Daring Cooks where each month they post a new recipe and everyone makes it, then publishes the results on their blog all on the same day.  Today, the 14th of the month is Reveal Day!!, so here it is…Skate with traditional flavours, powdered by Grant Achatz from his Alinea Cookbook (page 230).

Skate, traditional flavors powderedI think that one of their aims in the challenge is to extend your repetoire of both cooking and flavours.  This certainly did both!  I was really dubious when I first read the recipe as it sounded like alot of work, and some crazy ideas…like powdered sauces!!!  I thought it was going to be a really dry, bland dish that would be hard to eat, but boy was I wrong!!!!  It was FANTASTIC!

I had to make a few minor changes as some ingredients weren’t available (I live in a rural area).  I couldn’t get skate, so I had to opt for goodness only knows what it was from the supermarket fish counter, and they only had green bananas on my shopping day, so I had to substitute avocado instead.  Also, I added a few veggies from the garden to the side of the plate (I’m one of those mums that insists the children have vegetables every night).  It was a huge hit with the family.  The kids loved the novelty of brightly coloured powders on their plate that they could swirl around to make new patterns and flavours (yes I know, usually I would call it playing with food, but on this occasion, I told myself they were “exploring new horizons” lol!!)  I wasn’t sure how hubby would take it either as he can be a bit “traditional” in his tastes at times, but we must have spent the next hour discussing different flavour combinations that we thought would be great.  He also said it was definately a dish to be made for visitors!

I must apologise for the lack of photos in the construction phase, but I have had sick kids and hubby all week, and my shoulder has been playing up so I pretty much just wanted to get it done and dusted.

The beans under the fish were simply divine.  They were cooked in half water, half beurre monte which was reduced right down, resulting in a beautiful buttery coating that wasn’t the least bit greasy.

All in all, for my first attempt at Molecular Cuisine, I would say it was a resounding success.  I am definately going to make this again, but will travel to get decent fish that is worthy of such a magnificent recipe.  I also reckon fruit powders would be delicious served up with home made vanilla ice cream.  Might have to try that one out too!

Finally, I really must extend my thanks to Sketchy of Sketchy’s Kitchen who hosted this month’s Challenge.  Please check out his blog and see what other delectable delights he has been up to!

 

 
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