Nana Glen Mum

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???



Filed under: Uncategorized — nanaglenmum @ 4:50 am

Still in the veggie patch

Still in the veggie patch

Super short post today.  I picked a cabbage yesterday.  I know, doesn’t sound terribly exciting, but it is the first cabbage I have ever grown myself.  I’ve grown lots of herbs and had good success with zucchinis and cucumbers, but this is my first ever “hearting” vegetable.  It looked amazing.  Full and plump and crisp, and the most gorgeous purple, especially once cut into.

I’m a tad excited, and just wanted to share it.

And on the inside...

And on the inside...


Spring Veggie Seeds Are Planted! August 25, 2009

Filed under: Garden — nanaglenmum @ 5:53 am
Tags: , , , ,

Well the calendar may say we still have another week of winter left, but Mother Nature has over-ruled.  Spring is definately here!  The thermometer hit 35C yesterday, and I reckon was probably nudging 30C today around lunch time.  I had been putting off planting my “sow in spring” veggies in case we got a late frost, but having not really had anything we could call a frost since winter last year, I figured I’d take the plunge.  I’ve decided to reserve the top veggie patch for berries, so I need to pull my finger out and order the rest of them this week.  The bottom veggie patch however is still full of my winter veg.  There is about 8 varieties of “pick and come again” lettuce, snow peas, sugar snap peas, shelling peas, 3 varieties of broccoli, bok choy, wombok, purple cabbage, leeks, loads of spinach, daikon and a few other things popping up around the place.  Since there is no room there at the moment, I picked up 5 broccoli boxes and some potting mix when I was in town the other day. (Fitting the 5 boxes plus shopping plus 3 super sized bags of potting mix plus 2 kids car seats in the little Pajero was a story unto itself!!)  I know styrofoam is not exactly the eco choice, but at least they are getting recycled.  Right??  I cut them down to

Broccoli Boxes make great seed raising trays

Broccoli Boxes make great seed raising trays

about 15cm high and then filled them with the potting mix before planting my veggie seeds.  Here is what I put in:  Beetroot (Chioggia – I love the pink and white rings – they looks so pretty thinly sliced in salad), Cabbage (Bok Choy & Wombok), Capsicum (Lipstick & California Wonder), Carrot (Nantes & a Colour Mix), Sweet Corn (Gladiator F1), Cucumber (Mideast Prolific – a lebanese style cucumber), Daikon (Japanese Radish), Eggplant (Lebanese, Rosa Bianca & Black Beauty), Jicama, Lettuce (Great Lakes, Baby Cos & Buttercrunch), Onion (Mini Purplette & Red Stem Welsh), Pumpkin (an unknown variety from friends & Butternut), Rhubarb (Sydney Crimson), Tomatillo (Purple), Tomatoes (Cherry Yellow Pear, Roma San Marzano, Tommy Toe & Thai Pink Egg), Japanese Turnip, Watermelon (Sugarbaby) and finally Zucchini (Golden).  I covered them all with a light layer of soil and put a piece of cardboard over the carrot seeds to hopefully get a better success rate with germination.  It will be interesting to see how they all go as I haven’t had much luck with carrots or onions yet.  I’m really looking forward to the cucumbers and

Kaffir Lime and its yummy double leaves

Kaffir Lime and its yummy double leaves

zucchini though.  Last year we had only 6 cucumber vines and were picking 10kg of cucumber every week!  They were so sweet and succulent too.  The zucchini fared really well also.  We were picking them at about 10-15cm in length while the flower was still intact and stuffing the flower before cooking the whole thing – zucchini and flower attached.  They were delicious!  There are a few things there that I haven’t grown before either – these last 12 months being my first foray into gardening, so it will be interesting to see how they all go.  The fruit trees all look happy enough since planting them in last week.  We have Grapefruit, Kumquat, Dragonfruit, a Green Grape, Pear, Peach, Starfruit, Granny Smith Apple, Kaffir Lime, Tahitian Lime, Meyer Lemon, and Mulberry.  We also have 2 tiny blueberry bushes (twigs really) that are both covered in fruit and the raspberry bush that began as a single small cane last year is huge now and has new runners popping up everywhere.  I think I read you can dig the new runners up and replant them so I might pass a few on to friends.  The passionfruit vine we put in last year is looking lovely and lush so I am hoping for fruit from it this year and we were given another one 2 weeks ago from Monica – the lovely lady who gave us the Naked Neck Chickens.  Speaking of chickens, if the eggs she gave us were fertile, they should be hatching this weekend!!  Very exciting!  I am going to try and make an egg incubator this week with the help of a neighbour who has built one previously just in case they hatch as we will need to incubate the duck eggs that the chooks are sitting on.  Fingers crossed eh?!?

My herbs are all coming along nicely.

Bay Tree

Bay Tree

The bay tree FINALLY has more than one leaf on it after about 8 months of sitting idle, so it is nice to be able to use it at last … even if somewhat sparingly!  I am thinking of making a feature herb garden in the middle of the front yard and putting the bay in a nice big terracotta pot smack bang in the middle of all the herbs.  If it ever grows, I think it would look good as a central focus.  All the herbs that I planted 2 weeks ago are coming along nicely.  Most of them (Oregano, Zaatar, Orach, Chamomile, Marjoram, Nasturtium, Lemon Balm, Anaheim Chilli, Garlic chives, basil, Thyme, Parsley, Coriander & Dill) have germinated now and are starting to form their true leaves.  I’ll have to get on to Matthew to dig the new garden bed for them.  The Rosella and Pomegranate have also popped up

Baby Herbs

Baby Herbs

through the soil so I will have to figure out where I am going to put them!  My Borage is looking amazing at the moment as all the flowers have started coming out.  I am going to make some cupcakes this week to celebrate and use the flowers to decorate them.  Might have to have some friends come over for morning tea to share them!

Finally before I go, here are some pretty flower pics from our garden.  Matthew grows the most beautiful Australian Natives.  I really don’t understand why people don’t put them in because “they want flowers” (as one lady said to us!!)  We have gorgeous flowers all year round.  What more could a girl ask for?  I’d take them over roses any day – plus they bring in all the lovely wild birds too.

Well, that’s about all the news from the garden for today, so stay tuned as i will post pics as they (hopefully) grow.


Foodie Fights!!! Peaches and Tarragon August 24, 2009

Filed under: Foodie Fights!! — nanaglenmum @ 10:11 am
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,
Peach and Tarragon Verrine with Tarragon Flecked Tuilles

If you’ve been following my blog, or even only read a post or two, you have probably realised a couple of things by now:
1.  I love food
2.  I love to cook
3.  I love a challenge; and finally
4.  I spend far too little time doing housework, and way too much time surfing the net looking at pictures of food!
Once you’ve taken all of these things into consideration, they kind of come together in the various challenges that I have partaken in so far.  I guess it was only a matter of time before I came across Foodie Fights.  Needless to say, my interest was immediately piqued, so I put in my application to participate in the next challenge.  I was very excited to see my name on the list of 10 participants for this fortnights challenge – Peaches and Tarragon.  Hmmm, this was indeed to be a challenge!  We are amidst the throws of winter here (although you wouldn’t know it today…being 35oC!!) so fresh peaches are not exactly available.  Added to that, I’d only ever eaten them fresh – never cooked.  Then there was the Tarragon.  I knew it was a herb, often used in French cooking and usually paired with chicken?  I think????  So now I had to come up with a tasty recipe using an ingredient that I couldn’t get with an ingredient I had never used, let alone tasted.  The announcement was out on Wednesday which gave me a few days to ponder my predicament.  Inspiration hit me at about 2am on Saturday morning.  Peach icecream with tarragon tuilles.  I have made icecream before – the old beater and freezer method as I don’t have an icecream maker, and have wanted to make tuilles for ages after reading various peoples entrants in the a previous Daring Bakers Challenge.  However, we ended up with a really busy weekend and I didn’t even get a chance to get in to town to buy ingredients until this morning, so I had run out of time for icecream.  Helene of Tartelette to the rescue!!  She is my absolute idol.  Amazing cook, fantastic food stylist, and unbelievable food photographer.  I jumped on her recipe for Mango and Vanilla Bean Buttermilk Pannacotta.  Perfect.  This looked yum and I figured I could adapt it easy enough, and still use my tuilles as a garnish.  I made a few changes to the original recipe, so here is what I did:

Peach and Tarragon Verrine

1 cup pureed tinned peaches (thank god for the canning process – I used 8 halves of peaches in natural juice!!)
3/4 teaspoon finely chopped fresh tarragon
1 tablespoon water
1 3/4 teaspoons powdered gelatin
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup heavy cream (extra)
3/4 cup full cream milk

Puree the tinned peaches with half of the finely chopped tarragon and divide among 4 glasses, being careful not to spill any excess on the inside of the glasses.  Place the glasses in the freezer.

Sprinkle the gelatin over the water and let it bloom.

In a medium saucepan, heat the 1 cup of cream with the sugar, remaining chopped tarragon and vanilla until the cream is just about to boil, stirring occasionally to make sure the sugar dissolves completely. Remove from the heat and stir in the gelatin until completely dissolved.

Let the mixture cool for about 10 minutes then add the extra 1/4 cup of cream and the milk. Allow to cool to room temperature. You can speed up the process by placing your saucepan over a bowl filled with ice but keep and eye on it as it will thicken faster. Once the cream is cooled, slowly pour it over the frozen fruit and let set in the fridge, at least two hours, preferably overnight.

Tarragon Flecked Tuilles

65 grams softened butter

60 grams sifted icing sugar mixture

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

2 large egg whites (slightly whisked with a fork – I use duck eggs for baking)

65 grams sifted plain flour

1/2 teaspoon finely chopped tarragon

Preheat oven to 180C or 160C fan forced.

On low speed, cream together butter sugar and vanilla until just combined.  Gradually add egg whites and beat only until combined to a smooth batter.  Be careful not to overmix.
Line a tray with baking paper.  If using a stencil, place it on the paper

and hold down with one hand while using an offset spatula with the other to gently smooth the batter over the stencil.

You want a thin but even layer of batter.  Now, very carefully remove the stencil.  I found it easiest to start at a corner and pull the stencil up on the diagonal.

Make 3 more in this way then place in the oven for 4-5 minutes until lightly browned around the edges.

As soon as they are cooked, remove from the oven and shape over a folded piece of cardboard.  You have to do this really fast before they cool and set.

This is why you only want 4 biscuits at a time on the tray, otherwise they snap when you try to bend them.  Mind you, the kids think it’s a good thing because they get to eat all the broken ones!!  Allow them to cool completely before removing them from the card to a SAFE PLACE away from curious little fingers!  (Like I said, the kids like to eat the broken ones – they don’t care who breaks them!!!)

When ready to serve, place one or two of the tuilles on top of the cream mixture in the glass, then sit back with a spoon and enjoy!!

So, what did we think of the taste??  Yum yum yum!  The kids both loved it, and Matthew said it is a definate must next time we have people over for a meal.  I was feeling really dubious about it, having never combined fruit and herbs like this, and not being a great fan of pureed anything as it just looks like regurgitated baby food to me, but this blew me away!  The peach puree was lovely and cold and refreshing, and the tiny bits of tarragon through it added a lovely extra “note”.  The cream layer set into a beautiful, silky concoction which delicately melted away with a creamy, but not fatty mouth feel.  The coolness of the fruit perfectly balanced the mousse-like texture of the cream.  The little tuilles on top were a cute finishing touch with a lovely vanilla taste and soft bite.  The tiny flecks of tarragon in them left a really pleasant aftertaste, which also tied them in with the main part of the dessert.

I am definately going to make this dish again, and can’t wait for the arrival of summer so I can make it with fresh juicy peaches.  Thanks Helene for the inspiration and thank you also to Foodie Fights for pushing me out of my comfort zone to find a new favourite dish!  Definately a success!!  Now I’ve just got to go and plant some tarragon in the garden……

Oh yeah, and if you like the looks of this, please head on over to Foodie Fights and vote for me (Nana Glen Mum).  thanks heaps!


Daring Cooks August Challenge – Rice with Mushrooms, Cuttlefish & Artichokes August 14, 2009

Hi everyone, well here I am with my second Daring Cooks Challenge.  This month Olga from Las Cosas de Olga and Olga’s Recipes is our lovely hostess.  I urge you to please check out her yummy sites!  She has selected a Spanish dish for us – Rice with Mushrooms, Cuttlefish & Artichokes by Chef José Andrés who has worked at the world famous El Bulli!  If you like the look of the recipe and want to see more of his work, you can check out the website of his US TV show Made in Spain, which has videos of his episodes.

I must say a personal “Thank You” to Olga for this recipe – it was an excellent dish for my family in more ways than one.  For starters, my six year old daughter Miss J is a self proclaimed vegetarian who refuses to eat meat.  After many lengthy philosophical discussions, we have finally convinced her to still eat seafood as she needs her Omega 3s.  She just doesn’t eat red meat, chicken or pork now.  (I must admit, it was quite a shock that she gave up both spaghetti bolognese and pepperoni pizza – 2 of her all time favourites!!)  In addition to her dietary “restrictions”, I am allergic to shellfish, so when it comes to preparing the family meals, I have to put in a bit more thought these days as I refuse to cook a separate meal for each person in the family.  I am a big believer that dinner is the most important time of the day and that we all sit and share the meal together as a family.  It also turned out that we were having a few friends (9) over for dinner at short notice, making a grand total of 6 adults and 7 kids to feed!  This dish was perfect…easy to cook for a crowd, tasty (even for fussy kids), suitable for myself and Miss J, and almost all of it could be prepared ahead of time.

At first glance, it looks like a fairly complex dish, but broken down into its components it is really quite straight forward. So, without further ado, here is the recipe for Rice with Mushrooms, Cuttlefish & Artichoke.  I have added my comments and changes in this colour.

Rice with mushrooms, cuttlefish and artichokes

Ingredients (serves 4):

  • 4 Artichokes (you can use jarred or freezed if fresh are not available – I used artichoke hearts in a jar, but only half the quantity as the flavour can be very strong)
  • 12 Mushrooms (button or Portobello)
  • 1 or 2 Bay leaves
  • 1 glass of white wine (for the pot – 2 for you lol!!)
  • 2 Cuttlefish (you can use freezed cuttlefish or squid if you don’t find it fresh – I used squid)
  • “Sofregit” (see recipe below)
  • 300 gr (2 cups) Short grain rice (Spanish types Calasparra or Montsant are preferred, but you can choose any other short grain. This kind of rice absorbs flavor very well) – about 75 gr per person ( ½ cup per person) Please read this for more info on suitable rices.  (I used Arborio)
  • Water or Fish Stock (use 1 ½ cup of liquid per ½ cup of rice) (I used home made vegetable stock as I couldn’t get fish bones being in a rural area)
  • Saffron threads (if you can’t find it or afford to buy it, you can substitute it for turmeric or yellow coloring powder)
  • Allioli (olive oil and garlic sauce, similar to mayonnaise sauce) – optional (this sauce actually MADE the dish – well worth the trouble of making!!!)


  1. Cut the cuttlefish in little strips.
  2. Add 1 or 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a frying pan and put the cuttlefish in the pan.
  3. If you use fresh artichokes, clean them as shown in the video in tip #7. Cut artichokes in eighths.
  4. Clean the mushrooms and cut them into quarters.
  5. Add a bay leaf to the cuttlefish and then add the artichokes mushrooms.
  6. Sauté until the artichokes are a golden colour.
  7. Put a touch of white wine in the pan (from the 1 cup in the ingredients – not from your glass – it’s hard work cooking for that many people!!) so all the solids in the bottom of the get mixed, getting a more flavourful dish.
  8. Add a couple or three tablespoons of sofregit (I added all of it) and mix to make sure everything gets impregnated with the sofregit.
  9. Add all the liquid and bring it to boil.
  10. Add all the rice. Let boil for about 5 minutes in heavy heat.
  11. Add some saffron threads to enrich the dish with its flavour and colour. Stir a little bit so the rice and the other ingredients get the entire flavor. If you’re using turmeric or yellow coloring, use only 1/4 teaspoon.
  12. Turn to low heat and boil for another 8 minutes (or until rice is a little softer than “al dente”)
  13. Put the pan away from heat and let the rice stand a couple of minutes.


(a well cooked and fragrant sauce made of olive oil, tomatoes, garlic and onions, and may at times have different vegetables such as peppers or mushrooms)

Ingredients for the Sofregit

Ingredients for the Sofregit

Cooking time: aprox. 1 hour

  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 5 big red ripe tomatoes, chopped
  • 2 small onions, chopped
  • 1 green pepper, chopped (optional)
  • 4 or 5 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 cup of button or Portobello mushrooms, chopped (optional)
  • 1 Bay leaf
  • Salt
  • Touch of ground cumin
  • Touch of dried oregano


  1. Put all the ingredients together in a frying pan and sauté slowly until all vegetables are soft.
  2. Taste and salt if necessary (maybe it’s not!)
Sofregit after ingredients have cooked down

Sofregit after ingredients have cooked down

Next time I make this, I will use tinned tomatoes if I don’t have any in the garden – I think they would  give better colour, texture and taste than bought tomatoes unless you can get REALLY good quality ones.Allioli is the optional part of the recipe. You must choose one of the two recipes given, even though I highly recommend you to try traditional one. Allioli is served together with the rice and it gives a very nice taste

I made the traditional Aioli, and believe me, it was well worth the effort.  It was GORGEOUS and by far everyone’s favourite part of the dish.  It complimented the main part of the meal beautifully.

Allioli (Traditional recipe)
Cooking time: 20 min aprox.

Aioli Ingredients

Aioli Ingredients

  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled
  • Pinch of salt
  • Fresh lemon juice (some drops)
  • Extra-virgin olive oil (Spanish preferred but not essential)


  1. Place the garlic in a mortar along with the salt.
  2. Using a pestle, smash the garlic cloves to a smooth paste. (The salt stops the garlic from slipping at the bottom of the mortar as you pound it down.)
  3. Add the lemon juice to the garlic.
  4. Drop by drop; pour the olive oil into the mortar slowly as you continue to crush the paste with your pestle.
  5. Keep turning your pestle in a slow, continuous circular motion in the mortar. The drip needs to be slow and steady. Make sure the paste soaks up the olive oil as you go.
  6. Keep adding the oil, drop by drop, until you have the consistency of a very thick mayonnaise. If your allioli gets too dense, add water to thin it out. This takes time—around 20 minutes of slow motion around the mortar—to create a dense, rich sauce.

José’s tips for traditional recipe: It’s hard to think that, when you start crushing the garlic, it will ever turn into something as dense and smooth as allioli. But don’t give up. It’s worth the extra time and effort to see the oil and garlic come together before your eyes. Just make sure you’re adding the olive oil slowly, drop by drop. Keep moving the pestle around the mortar in a circular motion and keep dreaming of the thick, creamy sauce at the end of it all.

Allioli a la moderna (Modern recipe)
Cooking time: 3-4 minutes

  • 1 small egg
  • 1 cup extra-virgin olive oil (as above, Spanish oil is highly recommended)
  • 1 garlic clove, peeled
  • 1 Tbs. Spanish Sherry vinegar or lemon juice (if Sherry vinegar is not available, use can use cider or white vinegar)
  • Salt to taste


  1. Break the egg into a mixing bowl.
  2. Add 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and the garlic cloves, along with the vinegar or lemon juice.
  3. Using a hand blender, start mixing at high speed until the garlic is fully pureed into a loose paste.
  4. Little by little, add what’s left of the olive oil as you continue blending.
  5. If the mixture appears too thick as you begin pouring the oil, add 1 teaspoon of water to loosen the sauce.
  6. Continue adding the oil and blending until you have a rich, creamy allioli.
  7. The sauce will be a lovely yellow color.
  8. Add salt to taste.

José’s tips for modern recipe:
(1) If you do not have access to a hand blender, you can use a hand mixer (the kind with the two beaters) or a food processor. If you use a food processor, you must double the recipe or the amount will be too little for the blades to catch and emulsify.
(2) What happens if the oil and egg separate? Don’t throw it out. You can do two things. One is to whisk it and use it as a side sauce for a fish or vegetable. But if you want to rescue the allioli, take 1 tablespoon of lukewarm water in another beaker and start adding to the mix little by little. Blend it again until you create the creamy sauce you wanted.

Olga’s Tips:
(1) In Spain, rice is not stired as often as it is when cooking Italian risotto. You must stir it once or twice maximum. This tip is valid for all Spanish rice dishes like paella, arròs negre, arròs a banda…
(2) When cooking the alternative style you can change the cuttlefish or squid for diced potato.
(3) If you can’t find cuttlefish or squid, or you’re not able to eat them because of allergies, you can try to substitute them for chicken or vegetables at your choice.
(4) Sofregit can be done in advance. You can keep it in the fridge or even freeze it.
(5) For more information on how to clean and remove the heart of artichokes, please watch this video
(6) To watch how Jose Andres cooks this dish click here.
(7) For more information on how to clean and remove the heart of artichokes, please watch this video
(8) To tone down the taste when you do it by hand in a mortar, then add an egg yolk. If you want to tone it down in the alternative way use milk or soy milk. Anyway, the best alternative way is the original oil and garlic alone.
(9) Allioli must be consumed during the preparation day and preserved in the fridge before using it.
(10) For help on conversion on metric to imperial, visit this page.

The Finished Dish!

The Finished Dish!

All in all, this recipe was a success from start to finish.  From being able to prepare all but the final stage before guests arrived, to the delicious flavour that suited various dietary requirements and people used to a variety of food styles.   A definate must cook again!


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)



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



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!


First Pizza in the Wood Fired Oven August 11, 2009

Well, there could be only one thing more exciting than the previous post…the first meal in the oven!!  So, here it is…
Late afternoon Matthew fired up the oven as the sun set over the hills of Nana Glen.  I know, it sounds a little cliche, but it was really the perfect setting.  We turned on the fairy lights as we stood under the gazebo watching the thermometer steadily climb to 350oC.  Time for me to go inside and get the bases and toppings ready.  I had been down to Coffs Catering earlier in the day and bought our first 4 pizza trays.  2 big ones for the grown ups and 2 small ones for the girls.  We like to have everyone make their own as we all like different toppings, and I think it is important to involve the kids in preparing their own food.  They tend to eat better if they have ownership of the meal, and it teaches them about nutrition also.
I squished (my technical term) out all the bases on the tray, using my regular recipe for pizza dough and chopped all the ingredients to put on top then everyone came inside and made their pizzas.  The four of us marched outside in procession, all with our trays in our hands to the oven and one by one, passed them to Matthew who put them into the oven.  Within minutes it smelled wonderful!  I don’t know what it is, but there is definately something special about food cooked by wood rather than electricity or gas.  That wonderful earthy aroma and taste…mmmm…I’m starting to drool just recollecting!  Before we knew it, the peel was back in the oven and the pizzas were ready.  Nothing left to do but sit and eat.  We were so excited about tucking in, I forgot all about photos and just managed one quick snap of Matthew’s plate – sorry bout the lack of composition in the pic but we were dying to tuck in!  And the result?  Delicious!  So good in fact, we are going back for round two tonight.  For a bit of variety though, we are going to have Turkish Pide instead of Pizza.  Hey, why restrict ourselves!

Bring on dinner time!