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!

 

THE DARING COOKS OCTOBER 2009 CHALLENGE: MACARONS October 29, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — nanaglenmum @ 3:02 pm

Macarons

 

The 2009 October Daring Bakers’ challenge was brought to us by Ami S. She chose macarons from Claudia Fleming’s The Last Course: The Desserts of Gramercy Tavern as the challenge recipe.

 

I generally like to add my own little blurb when posting about my daring kitchen challenges, but I think Ami did a fantastic job in her introduction, so here it is.  Thanks Ami for a fantastic challenge!  The following excerpt in blue itallics are Ami S’ words.  You can find her website Baking without Fear here.

Unless you’ve been frozen in permafrost for the past five years, you’ve likely noticed that cupcake bakeries have popped up all over like iced mushrooms. Knock one down, and three take its place. Much has been made about not only the cupcake’s popularity, but also its incipient demise as the sweet du jour. Since we seem to be a culture intent on the next sensation, pundits, food enthusiasts and bloggers have all wondered what this sensation might be. More than a few have suggested that French-style macaroons (called macarons in France) might supplant the cupcake. This may or may not come to pass, but the basic premise of the French macaroon is pretty damned tasty.

In the United States, the term “macaroon” generally refers to a cookie made primarily of coconut. But European macaroons are based on either ground almonds or almond paste, combined with sugar and egg whites. The texture can run from chewy, crunchy or a combination of the two. Frequently, two macaroons are sandwiched together with ganache, buttercream or jam, which can cause the cookies to become more chewy. The flavor possibilities and combinations are nigh endless, allowing infinitely customizable permutations.

Famed purveyors of the French macaroon include the legendary Ladurée (http://www.laduree.fr/index_en.htm) and Pierre Hermé (http://www.pierreherme.com/index.cgi?cwsid=7450phAC194316ph5211130) in Paris, Paulette Macarons (http://www.paulettemacarons.com/) and Jin Patisserie (http://www.jinpatisserie.com/) in Los Angeles, and La Maison du Chocolat worldwide (http://www.lamaisonduchocolat.com/en/index.php#/home/undefined/1). This is by no means a complete listing of patisseries and bakeries that sell macaroons. If you want to check if any bakeries near you sell French macaroons, here’s a good place to start: http://www.seriouseats.com/2007/10/where-to-find-macarons-new-york-city-….

French macaroons are notorious for being difficult to master. Type in “macaroon,” “French macaroon” or “macaron” in your search engine of choice, and you will be inundated not only with bakeries offering these tasty little cookies, but scores and even hundreds of blogs all attempting to find the perfect recipe, the perfect technique. Which one is right? Which captures the perfect essence of macaroons? The answer is all of them and none of them. Macaroons are highly subjective, the subject of passionate, almost Talmudic study and debate. Chewy? Crisp? Age your egg whites? Ground the nuts or use nut meal or nut flour? Cooked sugar syrup, or confectioners’ sugar? In the words of a therapist, what do you think is the ideal macaroon? The answer lies within you.

Will French macaroon supplant the cupcake as the next sweet trend? There’s no way to know. I couldn’t have predicted the resurgence of leggings, yet here they are.

Macaroon making is somewhat labor intensive, yet simultaneously less difficult than you think it will be. One thing you must do is have your egg whites at room temperature. This ensures they beat up properly, as texture is an integral component to macaroons. You will be piping the batter onto parchment paper or nonstick liners, and some home bakers use stencils to make sure their macaroons are uniform in size.

Some recipes call for drying the piped macaroons on the counter prior to baking for 30 minutes to an hour. This recipe stipulates that you bake the macaroons at a low temperature for 5 minutes, then take them out of the oven, raising the temperature, and baking them for an additional 7 to 8 minutes. Drying is necessary to get the trademark “feet” on your macaroons. Experiment to find the best technique for you.

 

If you would like a printable copy of the recipe used in this challenge, you can find it here.

 

These macarons were a big hit with all my regular sweet tooths, but a bit too sweet for me I’m afraid.  Such a shame, I really want to like them because they are such pretty little things.  Perhaps I’ll have to try a savoury version.

 

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!!

 

Dessert in a flash! October 5, 2009

Here in NSW, Australia, yesterday was Rugby League Grandfinal Day.  Sorry, but that’s about as excited as I get about it.  Sub intelligence blokes with chunky thighs running forwards down a paddock, but throwing the ball backwards???? Go figure!

Anyway, my friend over the road is a mad keen fan and decided to put on a barbie late lunch/early dinner to celebrate and suggested I join her and her kids with my kids as her hubby was away and mine was at work.  Sounded like a good idea to me, so I asked what I could bring along in the way of food.  It was pretty much all organised, but I always like to take something along (plus any chance to have a play in the kitchen of course!), so I decided to try out something that had caught my eye a while ago made by Helene of Tartelette fame.  I highly suggest you check out her blog.  To call it awesome is a MASSIVE understatement!  She is my culinary idol!  My gastronomic hero!  Now I do have one small favour to ask.  Please don’t look at her magnificent masterpiece and my pitiful, meagre attempt on the same day.  Please???

Chopped Berries

Chopped Berries

Anyway, back to lunch at Liz’s.  I had a few mulberries left over that my friend Tomoko gave me the other day when we went to scab some wood from their fire pile to use as garden borders for my new herb patch, along with some strawberries I had bought for the girls.  My stash of sweet tartlette cases are still surviving in the freezer, so all I needed was some fresh cream.  A quick trip to the general store (didn’t have time to go into town for more complex ingredients) sorted that out and I was well on my way.

As the mulberries were a little tart, I decided on Chantilly cream rather than just plain cream, especially as vanilla goes so well with fresh fruit, so I whipped that up, pulled some tart cases out of the freezer, chopped the berries roughly and put it all in a box to take over the road.  Now for the fun part!!  The stained glass toffee – or rainbow toffee as my girls dubbed it.

It is actually a really easy process.  Line a baking tray with baking paper (I

Tray with drops of food colouring

Tray with drops of food colouring

also sprayed it lightly with oil first to make the paper stick to the tray and in case any toffee spread off the paper on to the tray).  Put a few drops of food colouring around the place.  I used gel colours as they are much more intense than the liquid ones from the supermarket.  Then you make the toffee.  It is really easy.  Just 1 part water to 4 parts sugar,

Toffee

Toffee

heat it gently till all the sugar is dissolved, then let it boil away WITHOUT STIRRING ONCE IT IS ON THE BOIL.  Brush the sides down with a pastry brush dipped in water every now and then to prevent crystals forming on the sides of the pan as they will ruin the toffee.  After a while, (the actual time will depend on how much you are making and how fast you are boiling it down), the syrup will have thickened and look a bit plasticy.  If you have a sugar thermometer, use it.  You want the syrup to reach soft crack stage which is around 140 celcius.  If you don’t have a thermometer, just drop a teaspoonful of syrup into a glass of cold water and it should immediately form a hard solid ball.  I try to take my time bringing the temperature up because I have found in the past that boiling it too rapidly makes bigger boiling bubbles which then pop and splatter syrup up the sides of the pan which then crystallise, fall in to the syrup and make the whole lot crystallise before it’s ready.  Ruined.  Here is a video of how fast I like to boil it and the consistency when it is ready:

Once it has reached temperature and before it begins to colour, take it off the heat and let the bubbles subside.  Then, VERY carefully, pour the syrup onto the prepared pan.  Tilt the pan around to spread the toffee across all the dollops of colouring and voila!

Stained Glass Toffee

Stained Glass Toffee

Aint it purty!!  When it is completely cold, you can snap it into shards of whatever size you like.

After dinner, all I had to do was fold the berries into the cream, dollop it into the cases and top with a shard of toffee.  Quick.  Easy.  Delicious.  Oh yeah, and I added a couple of borage flowers because they are running rampant in my veggie garden at the moment!

Strawberry and Mulberry Tartlettes with Rainbow Toffee and Borage Blossoms

Strawberry and Mulberry Tartlettes with Rainbow Toffee and Borage Blossoms

Just quickly while I’m here, I want to share 2 more photos of things I’ve made in the past week or two.  One is Ange’s new favourite dessert….Chiffon Cheesecake (Printable Recipe here).  It is heavenly.  It is a baked cheesecake, but with a texture half way between cheesecake and sponge cake.  It is lovely and light and luscious and just wonderful with chocolate, cream and fresh strawberries.

Chiffon Cheesecake

Chiffon Cheesecake

and finally, here is what we had for brekkie the other day:

Bacon and Eggs Nana Glen Style.

The eggs had only been laid by our chooks that morning (in fact they were still warm from the chook’s bum!), the salad greens had been out of the ground for minutes only, the beetroot was from our garden and home pickled, and the tomatoes had been collected from the farm gate down the road only half an hour before.  Seriously people, can you think of a better way to start the day?

Bacon and Eggs Nana Glen Style

Bacon and Eggs Nana Glen Style

 

And with a new day, we have new babies!!

Chicks, chicks and more chicks!  I love baby chicks!

Chicks, chicks and more chicks! I love baby chicks!

Yep, the babies have arrived at last!  Twenty of them in fact!!!

Arent they gorgeous!!!

Aren't they gorgeous!!!

And here are some more…

Whitey the White White with some of her new chicks...

Whitey the White White with some of her new chicks...

I know they aren’t the best pics, but we had to move Whitey the White White as it was (her nesting box was too high and we were worried the chicks might fall and get hurt), and Pecky lived up to her name and decided to have a go at Whitey’s chicks.

We’ve put up a temporary barrier now though so they both have their own space with their individual broods.   Inside, we are up to day 22 with the incubator, so all things going well, we stop turning the eggs in 3 days time, and hopefully the ducklings and turkey will start to hatch in 6!  Exciting times!

Out in the garden, spring is in full swing.  If only we could get some decent rain, actually any rain would be nice!  I’m starting to worry the tank is going to run dry again, and I am so sick of having to drink town water!  We had 2mm rain this morning, just enough to dampen the soil, but I may have to get out there with the hose again this afternoon and water the seedlings.  The new

Baby Peaches

Baby Peaches

fruit trees all seem to be establishing themselves well.  We have 5 baby peaches growing beautifully, and both lime trees are heavily laden with tiny little limes the size of a ladybug!  So cute!  The cumquat is throwing heaps of new leaves and the grape must have quadrupled in size in the few weeks we

Kaffir Limes budding

Kaffir Limes budding

have had it.  It’s going to be fantastic when it reaches up to the verandah and we have shade from the hot summer morning sun, not to mentions the luscious fruit!  The dragonfruit is growing well, and if anyone has any suggestions on how to trellis it, I am all ears!  It is supposed to be a climber of

Yep, these were nothing but a single raspberry cane this time last year!

Yep, these were nothing but a single raspberry cane this time last year!

sorts, but it doesn’t throw out tendrils!?!?!?  We have finally put the 2 kiwi fruit in the ground now.  Matthew put up 3 star pickets and some chook wire down the front of the block for them, and they seem to be settling in well.  The grapefruit has dropped its “bridal bouquet” as Ange called it and replaced it

My u-beaut home made worm farm

My u-beaut home made worm farm

with more fruit than you would find at a greengrocer!  For such a small tree that has been in the ground for such a small time, I can’t believe it!  I think I will be having to cull quite a few of the fruit so they don’t snap the branches.  Mind you, if it fruits like that every year, I’ll be making heaps of marmalade and grapefruit pate de fruits!  Yummy!

Freshly picked peas and a little visitor

Freshly picked peas and a little visitor

All the seedlings I had been raising in the broccoli boxes are now in the ground too.  We have 5 varieties of tomato and tomatillo, beetroot, daikon, jicama, sweet corn, 3 varieties of eggplant, golden zucchini and lebanese cucumbers and on and on goes the list.  Now that they are all in the ground, I’m hoping they’ll take off for a bumper summer harvest!  The most exciting thing in the garden at the moment though, is my new herb garden.  It is huge!  I’ve put it smack bang in the middle of the front yard so I can gaze upon it as I wash the dishes.

My new herb garden

My new herb garden

It’s right at the bottom of the front steps, so nice and convenient access to both the kitchen and the wood fired ovens.  It has 16 different herbs and about a dozen or so different lettuces and salad greens.  I’m really looking forward to when the growth takes off in there.  It is going to look spectacular as well as taste divine!  Seriously, how could you not love fresh food?  I did have a chuckle to myself the other day as I pottered about the garden.  My how my wardrobe has changed in 18 months!  Gone are the Dianna Ferrari frocks, Whittner shoes and handbags, makeup and high heels!  Now I get about in either gumboots or riding boots with old faded jeans, a long sleeved cotton check shirt (gotta be sun smart!!), and an akubra! Laughed my backside off at myself!

 

Go Speed Racer! September 22, 2009

Filed under: Cakes — nanaglenmum @ 11:40 am
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

This is just a super quick post to show you some photos of a cake I made on the weekend for Miss J’s friend over the road.  He is really into speed racer and so Liz lent me one of his toys for inspiration.  It was a devils food cake recipe I found on cake central.  Positively delicious!  So moist, but still firm enough to support the fondant.

Speed Racer

Speed Racer

Speed Racer - Before Icing

Speed Racer - Before Icing

Speed Racer Before Icing - Side View

Speed Racer Before Icing - Side View

Speed Racer Before Icing - Top View

Speed Racer Before Icing - Top View

Speed Racer

Speed Racer

 

The day begins with sad news….

Filed under: Chooks & Ducks,Garden — nanaglenmum @ 11:27 am

First thing this morning, we checked our 2 little injured chickies in the aquarium.  Mr Percival is doing better by the day and looking more and more alert, but unfortunately Dot didn’t make it through the night.

Dot (on the left) and Mr Percival

Dot (on the left) and Mr Percival

Her injuries were much more severe though and you could see the muscle fibre on the back of her wing.  Poor darling!  So, it is all hands on deck to look after the remaining chicks.

Mr Percival snuggling with make-do Mamma Hen

Mr Percival snuggling with make-do Mamma Hen

In addition to Mr Percival inside, we still have the 3 little black ones out in the pen, but they are fully feathered around the neck.  We think one of them might even have a little frizzle in there as it is so fluffy even with its new feathers!  So cute!!

Last night I candled the duck eggs and turkey egg as we are now up to day 7.  Candling is a process whereby you hold a narrow bright light up to the egg in a darkened room and you can see through the shell.  You have to do it fairly quickly as you don’t want the temperature of the egg to drop too much while it is outside of the incubator.  I bought a little $5 torch from Woolies which does a great job.  Here are some photos:

Visible Yolk

Visible Yolk

In this first picture, you can see where the yolk is – the dark yellow shadow.  There is a small darkened dot which is a bit difficult to see in the photo, but hopefully it is the beginning of a new little duckie!

Day 7 - Embryo and Network of Veins

Day 7 - Embryo and Network of Veins

This next photo turned out great – lucky because the battery in the camera died right after taking it!  The really bright bit at the pointy end is the air sac which will increase in size as the egg progresses.  A few days before the duckling hatches out of the actual shell, you should (hopefully) be able to see its beak sticking into the air sac – I’ll be sure to keep the camera battery charged!  That red spidery looking thing is the exciting part.  That means there is a living embryo in there!  The thin red lines are a network of veins supporting the tiny embryo which is the red “C” shaped mass in the centre.  When you look at if for real, you can actually see the heart beating!  I’ll see if I can get some video of it tonight.  Very exciting stuff!  The girls are finding it an amazing process to watch and be involved in, especially as you can get the odd glimpse of what is going on inside the shell!

They say that the embryos shouldn’t start developing until they reach incubation temperature, and we collected the 7 eggs over the course of a week, so technically they should all be at the same stage, however, I’m not too sure.  I am pretty well convinced that they are all fertile – Danny the Drake makes sure of that EVERY morning without fail!  Also, there is no sign that any of them have died.  You can tell if you have lost one as you get a red ring instead of the vein network.  So, cross your fingers with me and hope that the ones with just a yolk shadow are a day or 2 behind the others!