Nana Glen Mum

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 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!!!)

Directions:

  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.

Sofregit

(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
Ingredients:

  • 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

Directions:

  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.
Ingredients:

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)

Directions:

  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
Ingredients:

  • 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

Directions:

  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!

 

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!