Wednesday, 30 April 2008

Taste & Create: Borani (spinach, feta & yogurt dip)

I have noticed the festivities of Taste and Create around the traps but have never managed to join in time until this latest one. Taste and Create is a blogging event which a terrific event created by Nicole over at For the Love of Food Each blogger is paired up with a fellow food blogger and you each make something from each other's blog.

I was partnered with We [Heart] Food which is a lovely blog by Chris and Lisa in Seattle. As you may know, I am moving interstate at the moment, so it may not have been a great idea to join in this month, but by the time I realised this it was too late. Story of my life really!

There are many recipes I was interested in making on Chris and Lisa’s site, but I was most attracted to a Persian dish called Borani which is a dip or salad made up of spinach, yogurt, feta and dill. It came together quickly and easily and went down a treat with some Turkish bread. I will definitely be making this one again! Thanks guys!

1 bunch fresh spinach, well rinsed, stemmed, and chopped
1 cup chopped onions
3 spring onions, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 cup olive oil
1 tbsp minced fresh dill
1/3 cup feta cheese
2 tbsp light plain yogurt
salt and ground pepper to taste

After rinsing the spinach, cook for a few minutes over medium heat in a covered sauce pan until wilted but still bright green. Drain the spinach and press in a colander or sieve to squeeze out the excess moisture.

Saute the onions, spring onions, and garlic in the olive oil. When the onions are soft and translucent, stir in the spinach and dill and heat for about 2 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to press out any extra liquid and transfer to a bowl. Stir in the feta and yogurt and add salt and pepper to taste. Chill for at least an hour.

Serve with bread or pita.

Makes approx. 2 cups


Monday, 28 April 2008

April Daring Bakers Challenge - Cheesecake Pops

Its the end of April, which means it Daring Bakers challenge time. This month one of my favourite bloggers, Deborah from Taste & Tell joined Elle from Feeding My Enthusiasm choose the challenge - Cheesecake Pops. I was quite excited to see this recipe originally as I've never made a baked cheesecake and have not really 'played' with food like this to form it into something so fun.

We're moving back to Adelaide, South Australia from Sydney next week so I wasn't sure I'd be able to complete the challenge but things came together and I managed to make them this weekend for my gorgeous friends Stacy and Will who are kindly looking after us at the moment as we had to get get out of our apartment quicker than we thought.

I loved this challenge, the pops taste fantastic and I didn't struggle with any of the tasks. The only slight difficulty was the fact there are no beaters in this kitchen, so it took me a long time to combine everything to the right consistency. It made me realise how much I love my gorgeous red KitchenAid! I will definitely be making these again, maybe not us 'pops' but the cheesecake part for sure. It'll be a breeze with the KitchenAid.

Thank Elle and Deborah, this was a lot of fun. If you would like to check out my fellow challengers, please do so here.

Makes 30 – 40 Pops
5 x 225g packages cream cheese at room temperature
2 cups sugar
¼ cup flour
¼ tsp salt
5 large eggs
2 egg yolks
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
¼ cup heavy cream
Boiling water as needed
Thirty to forty 8-inch lollipop sticks
450g milk chocolate, finely chopped milk
2 tbs vegetable shortening
Assorted decorations such as chopped nuts, colored jimmies, crushed peppermints, mini chocolate chips, sanding sugars) - Optional

Position oven rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 160C. Set some water to boil.

In a large bowl, beat together the cream cheese, sugar, flour, and salt until smooth. If using a mixer, mix on low speed. Add the whole eggs and the egg yolks, one at a time, beating well (but still at low speed) after each addition. Beat in the vanilla and cream.

Grease a 10-inch cake pan (not a springform pan), and pour the batter into the cake pan. Place the pan in a larger roasting pan. Fill the roasting pan with the boiling water until it reaches halfway up the sides of the cake pan. Bake until the cheesecake is firm and slightly golden on top, 35 to 45 minutes.

Remove the cheesecake from the water bath and cool to room temperature. Cover the cheesecake with plastic wrap and refrigerate until very cold, at least 3 hours or up to overnight.

When the cheesecake is cold and very firm, scoop the cheesecake into 2-ounce balls and place on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Carefully insert a lollipop stick into each cheesecake ball. Freeze the cheesecake pops, uncovered, until very hard, at least 1 – 2 hours.

When the cheesecake pops are frozen and ready for dipping, prepare the chocolate. In the top of a double boiler, set over simmering water, or in a heatproof bowl set over a pot of simmering water, heat half the chocolate and half the shortening, stirring often, until chocolate is melted and chocolate and shortening are combined. Stir until completely smooth. Do not heat the chocolate too much or your chocolate will lose it's shine after it has dried. Save the rest of the chocolate and shortening for later dipping, or use another type of chocolate for variety.

Alternately, you can microwave the same amount of chocolate coating pieces on high at 30 second intervals, stirring until smooth.

Quickly dip a frozen cheesecake pop in the melted chocolate, swirling quickly to coat it completely. Shake off any excess into the melted chocolate. If you like, you can now roll the pops quickly in optional decorations. You can also drizzle them with a contrasting color of melted chocolate (dark chocolate drizzled over milk chocolate or white chocolate over dark chocolate, etc.) Place the pop on a clean parchment paper-lined baking sheet to set. Repeat with remaining pops, melting more chocolate and shortening (or confectionary chocolate pieces) as needed.

Refrigerate the pops for up to 24 hours, until ready to serve.


Tuesday, 22 April 2008

Double-Baked Gruyere Soufflé

The news in our world is we are moving from Sydney, Australia to Adelaide, South Australia. For those of you who don’t know our wonderful country, that’s 2 days drive away or a few hours in a plane. In other words, a big move! Its all very stressful and we are in the midst of boxes, tape, bubble wrap and a few temper tantrums! (So, please bear with me, if there aren't too many posts up here in the coming weeks).

We had our last dinner party 2 weekends ago and I somehow convinced myself to make soufflés! I know, brave huh? Well, you’ll be happy to hear they went really well. The preparation was a little fiddly but they rose perfectly in the oven and tasted delicious along side a green salad of rocket, apple and toasted walnuts with a tart French vinaigrette. I used a recipe from a handy site called Cuisine, it makes 6 and is worth a try next time you would like to impress.

70g butter
65g plain flour
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp sea salt
380ml milk
160g gruyere cheese, grated
3 egg yolks
4 egg whites
1 1/2 cup thickened cream

Pre-heat oven to 180C. Grease 6 x 200ml ramekins.

Melt butter over low heat. Add flour, nutmeg, cayenne and salt. Cook for eight minutes, stirring regularly, until mixture starts to foam and flour is cooked. Gradually add the milk, stirring to prevent lumps.

Cook further for 10 minutes, stirring. Stir through 80g gruyere cheese. Remove from heat and transfer mixture to a bowl then add egg yolks. Combine. Whisk whites to medium peaks and gently fold through in three batches. Pour evenly into ramekins. Fill a roasting tray with hot water, one-third the height of the ramekins. Bake 20 minutes.

Remove from oven and allow to cool. They will shrink. At this stage, you can put them to one side.

When ready to serve, remove from moulds and place upside down in six ovenproof dishes with sides. Pour cream evenly between soufflés. Sprinkle with remaining cheese and bake for 20 minutes or until puffed up and golden brown. Serve immediately with a well dressed green salad.


Monday, 14 April 2008

Chicken with Sliced Lemon and Fried Onions

Do you love lemons? I do, they are my favourite, sweet or savoury, and honestly 9 times out of 10 a squeeze of lemon makes a dish better! In my book, anyway.

So, when I saw a Madhur Jaffrey on Serious Eats for a chicken curry focused on lemon I knew I'd love it. I organised a curry night with our newly wed friends, Merryn and Jamie and started this wonderful concoction.

It didn't take too long to prepare, but I did let it bubble away on the stove, on a low simmer for an extra 30 minutes to an hour. The end result is a delicious thick gravy with tender tasty chicken. It was devoured by all. Its not too spicy, or to Indian-ey either, like Robin Bellinger, I think this would be enjoyed even by those who think they don't like Indian food or curries.

Go ahead, give it a go, I will most definitely be trying it again.

1.5kg bone-in, skinless chicken pieces (I used all thighs; it’s easy to remove the skin yourself, if you can’t find bone-in, skinless parts)
3 medium onions
Ginger fresh, about 1-inch cube, peeled and coarsely chopped
4 cloves garlic, peeled and coarsely chopped
6 tbs vegetable oil
1 tbs ground coriander
1 tsp ground cumin
½ tsp turmeric
2 tbs plain yogurt
4 tablespoons tomato sauce
1 tsp salt
¼ tsp ground cinnamon
¼ tsp ground cloves
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
1 whole lemon
1 tbs sugar
1/8 tsp freshly ground pepper

If the chicken pieces are skin-on, remove the skin. Rinse and pat dry.
Peel the onions. Chop two of them coarsely and put them into the bowl of a food processor or blender. Cut the third one in half lengthwise, then slice it into thin half-rounds and set aside.

Add 6 tablespoons of water, the ginger, and the garlic to the onions in the food processor or blender and blend at high speed until you have a smooth paste.

Heat 4 tablespoons of the oil in a 10-12 inch pot over medium-high flame. When hot, put in the sliced onions and fry them, stirring, until they are darkish brown and crisp, though not burned. Remove onions with a slotted spoon and leave them to drain on paper towels.

In the same oil, brown the chicken pieces on all sides until they are golden. Do this speedily over high flame so the chicken browns but does not cook through. I did the thighs about 2 minutes per side. You will need to do it in at least 2 batches. Remove the chicken with slotted spoon to a bowl or plate.

Add the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil to the pot. Pour in the paste from the blender (turn your face away!). Stirring, fry on medium-high heat for about 10 minutes or until the paste turns a nice golden brown. Now put in the coriander, cumin, and turmeric and fry, stirring continuously; after another 2 minutes add yogurt, a teaspoon at a time; after 2 or 3 minutes, the tomato sauce, a tablespoon at a time, continuing to stir and fry. Finally, add salt, cinnamon, cloves, cayenne pepper, and 1 1/2 cups of water. Bring to a boil. Cover, lower heat, and simmer gently for 10 minutes.

Cut the lemon into 4 or 5 slices, discarding the end pieces, and remove the seeds. Add lemon slices along with the chicken pieces, fried onions, sugar, and the ground pepper to the sauce, stir, and bring to a boil. Cover, lower heat, and simmer gently for 20-25 minutes, or until the chicken is tender, turning the pieces every now and then. If chicken sticks to the bottom of pot, add a little more water. You should end up with a very thick sauce.


Friday, 11 April 2008

Roast Pumpkin Lasagne

Between the 2 of us we've posted quite a few lasagne's and here is yet another one. I guess it shows how many different ways there are to do 1 dish! I made this one while I was at home in Adelaide recently for a large group including vegetarians. I found half a butternut pumpkin/squah in the fridge and sliced it very thinly and roasted it and included it as one of the layers. It worked so well! So many people have an infinity with roast pumpkin.

Note the empty plates and lasagne from a different angle at the bottom, everyone really enjoyed it.

½ butternut pumpkin/squash
2 sprigs fresh rosemary finely chopped
2 x 400g tins of peeled tomatoes
Olive oil
2 garlic cloves, finely sliced
1 onion, diced
Handful fresh basil leaves, torn
1 packet of fresh lasagne sheets
Salt and pepper
½ tsp nutmeg
300g grated mozzarella
100g grated parmesan

Bechamel sauce
140g butter
3 tbs flour
5 cups milk
1 ½ tsp nutmeg

To begin preheat the oven to 200C.

Next peel the butternut pumpkin and cut into large thin slices. Place on a baking tray and sprinkle with olive oil, rosemary and salt and pepper. Place in hot oven for 15-25 minutes till roasted and set aside till you build the lasagne.

In a large pan heat a tablespoon of olive oil and add the onion and garlic and fry on a medium heat till soft. Add the tins of tomatoes and season and stir. Allow to simmer, uncovered for 20 minutes till nice and thick. Add the torn basil leaves and stir through. Set aside.

To make the béchamel sauce, melt the butter over low heat until foaming then add the flour. Cook for 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove the pan from the heat and gradually stir in the milk. Return to the heat and bring to the boil, stirring until thickened. When thick, simmer for 2 minutes. Season well with salt, pepper and nutmeg.

Lightly oil a lasagne pan and start with a little of the tomato sauce spread over the bottom. Lay the lasagne sheets on top. Next pop the roasted pumpkin in one layer and top with more lasagne sheets. Then the tomato sauce with a sprinkling and mozzarella and parmesan then the lasagna again. Continue, in this order with the layers, finishing with béchamel, top with the parmesan and mozzarella and bake for 30-45 minutes or until golden brown. Leave for 10 minutes before cutting and serve with a well dressed green salad.


Tuesday, 8 April 2008

Banana Bread

Here's a nice easy, comforting recipe for you when you have left over bananas, like we all do sometimes.

This recipe comes from Woman's Weekly cookbook collection, and is the only banana bread recipe I have ever used as it was perfect every single time.

1 ¼ cups self raising flour
1 tsp ground cinnamon
20g butter
½ cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 egg, lightly beaten
¼ cup milk
½ cup ripe mashed banana

Preheat oven to 170C.

Grease 14cmx21cm loaf pan.

Sift flour and cinnamon into a large bowl and rub in the butter.

Stir in the sugar, egg, milk and banana and mix. Do not over mix, the batter should be lumpy.

Spoon into the prepared pan and bake for 30 minutes, or until cooked when tested.

Cool and serve sliced with butter.


Thursday, 3 April 2008

Eggplant Curry

Molly over at Orangette posted a recipe for eggplant curry a few weeks ago and it sounded wonderful. I'm not overly keen on eggplant, but lately I've realised doing things a whole other way can make a difference. Certain things I did not like, I do now. Eggplant curry is the only way I can enjoy eggplant at the moment, although I have not yet made one myself. Here is my first attempt and it was wonderful. Molly is spot on, its not hard to make and it definitely gets better as each day goes by. The texture of the eggplants is like velvet and with all those spicing its my idea of comfort food. I followed the recipe pretty much exactly, however I finely chopped up the roots and them stems of the coriander (cilantro) and added them to the pan with the ginger and the garlic.

The smell the filled our place when the onions, cummin seeds, coriander roots, ginger, garlic and jalepeno was warm and tangy and spicy all at the same time.

Adapted from Food & Wine, March 2005

3 large eggplants
2 tbs olive oil
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 onion, finely chopped
1 small jalapeño, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 ½ tbs fresh ginger, minced
¼ tsp chilli flakes
3 medium tomatoes, finely chopped
½ tsp paprika
¼ tsp turmeric
1 cup frozen peas
¾ cup coriander, chopped
½ cup plain yogurt
Salt, to taste
1 tsp garam masala

Preheat the oven to 260°C. Put the eggplants on a rimmed baking sheet, and pierce them all over with a paring knife. Bake for about 1 hour, or until the skins are blackened and the flesh feels very soft when pressed. Set aside to cool slightly. Slice open lengthwise and, using a spoon, scrape the flesh from the skin onto a large bowl. Using a potato masher or a large fork, mash the flesh coarsely. (This part can be done a day or so ahead, if you like. Refrigerate the prepared eggplant in a covered container.)

Heat the oil over medium-high heat in a large skillet. Add the cumin seeds and cook until they begin to sizzle and pop, about 10 seconds. Add the onion, and cook, stirring occasionally, until it is soft and beginning to brown, about 5 - 10 minutes. Add the jalapeño, garlic, ginger, coriander roots/stems and chilli flakes, and cook, stirring constantly, for 2 minutes.

Add the tomatoes, and stir well. Cook until all the liquid has evaporated, about 10 -15 minutes. Add the paprika and turmeric, and cook, stirring, for another 2 - 3 minutes. Add the eggplant, stir to combine, and cook over low heat for 10 minutes. Add the peas, and cook to warm through. Reduce the heat to low, and stir in the coriander, yogurt, garam masala and salt.