Monday, 31 August 2009

Honey-baked Pumpkin Risotto

Sounds good right? Looks nice as well, don't you think?

Well don't be fooled like I was, it was terrible. Actually, terrible might be too strong. It was bad. The combination of the mascarpone, ginger, parsley and honey did not work for me at all. As I've said here before, its always a disappointment when you go to some extra effort for dinner, then when you take that first hopeful mouthful you think, hmm not what I expected. Then the second and you realise yuk, its not good, I just waited time, money and calories.

I did that recently with this. We were off to a friends for a big birthday gathering and I announced I would bring nibbles as I made the yummiest dip. Sarah, the host, was disappointed when I turned up with 2 containers of store bought dip and some crackers as I had talked this cucumber and feta dip UP!

Funny how you look around a while later and see everyone's devoured the store bought crap and doesn't even know how you spent all morning peeling and chopping and soaking and mixing for them only to stick your little finger in at the end to check the seasoning and realise with enormous dread that somehow a cup of salt must have fallen in there or something! It was so ridiculously salty I needed a gallon of water after a tiny taste!

Anyway, back to this risotto. I found it on Taste and loved the sound of it, only to be sorely disappointed.

900g pumpkin, peeled, cut into 1cm cubes
1/4 cup (60ml) olive oil
1/2 tbs honey, plus extra to drizzle
850ml vegetable stock
1 onion, chopped
2 celery stalks, finely chopped
2cm piece ginger, grated
1 cup (220g) arborio rice
2/3 cup (160ml) white wine
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1/2 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley, plus extra to garnish
2 tbs mascarpone, plus extra to serve

Preheat the oven to 220°C.

Lay pumpkin in an even layer on a large baking tray and drizzle with 2 tablespoons of oil. Season with salt and pepper. Roast for 15 minutes, then remove and drizzle with 1/2 tablespoon of honey, tossing well to coat each piece. Roast for a further 15 minutes until cooked and golden.

Place stock in a saucepan and keep at a simmer over low heat.

Heat remaining tablespoon of oil in a large heavy-based pan over low heat. Add onion and stir for 2-3 minutes until soft. Add celery and cook for 1 minute, then add ginger and rice and cook for a further minute, stirring to coat grains. Increase heat to medium-low, add wine and cook until absorbed. Add stock a ladleful at a time, allowing each to be absorbed before adding the next. Continue for 15 minutes or until rice is cooked but still firm to the bite. Add lemon juice, pumpkin and parsley. Season, then stir in mascarpone.

Serve with a dollop of mascarpone, a drizzle of honey and extra parsley.

Sathya-rating *

Monday, 24 August 2009

Banana Cake

I bought a new camera recently. A DSLR and am trying to learn how to use it. I'm really enjoying all the new things I can do and am working out the best time of day as well as the best spots in the house for the right light etc.

One of the best spots is at the back of the house where the sun directly hits. I wandered out there recently to try and get a good shot of this delicious cake. I spread out a table cloth and got started. After a while I noticed our cat, Kurty had joined me as you can see here.

I continued to take photos and trying all the different tricks I've been learning and reading about. I'm not very good yet, hopefully I'll get there. The funny thing about Kurty is he's never been interested in our food. Only his fish. So you can imagine it's taken us by surprise to find him getting into food we've left out. This has never been a problem before so we're quickly learning we have to put everything away. I never thought he'd get into banana cake, but as you can see here he gave it a red hot go!

This delicious banana cake came from The LA Times, and is a recipe from The Clementine Bakery which shares their secret is using pastry flour. I stumbled across this recipe at Amateur Gourmet who says its his "dream cake". I must agree its fantastic!

2 2/3 cups sugar
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon kosher salt
3 large or 4 small very ripe bananas
3 eggs
1/2 cup buttermilk
3/4 cup canola oil
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 cup plus 1 1/2 tablespoons cream cheese, at room temperature
5 tablespoons butter, room temperature
1/2 cup powdered sugar
2 tablespoons sour cream

Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Into a large bowl sift together the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, or in a large bowl with a hand mixer, mash the bananas. Mix in the eggs, one at a time, until each is completely incorporated, then mix in the buttermilk, oil and vanilla. Finally, mix the dry ingredients into the batter just until thoroughly combined.

Pour into a 9-by-13-inch greased pan. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until golden-brown on top, a toothpick inserted comes out clean and the cake springs back when lightly touched. Cool on a rack.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, or in a medium bowl with a hand mixer, beat the cream cheese until smooth and there are no lumps. Add the butter and whip until incorporated, then add the powdered sugar and the sour cream. Frost the top of the cooled cake, then slice and serve.

Sathya-rating *****

Sunday, 23 August 2009

Peppermint Slice

Jared and I went to Clare to stay with my parents for the weekend. Mum had a cookbook of Blue Ribbon Winning recipes! The prize winner from every country town in South Australia had featured. I chose the Blue Ribbon Peppermint Slice to recreate. And it tastes sensational. I can see why it received first place. I gave Jared a piece on the drive home from Clare and he said, "in all seriousness, this is quite possibly the best slice I've ever eaten!" I cant help but agree.

Since making the slice and deciding to buy the cookbook I found it in I have discovered the author has her own blog! The Blue Ribbon Cookbook. Check it out!

I also brought the slice to work and fed it to a friend of Jared's and this is the feedback I received: "have just eaten the slice. However the word eaten really doesn’t sum it up. It was more of a whole cuisine experience or a culinary journey. For god sake don’t ever make it again as Jared can’t possibly exercise more than he already does and he will make Jabba the hut look like a supermodel after 6 months of that. Of course I’ll be running again soon and could probably get away with a piece that size every 3rd day. Thanks".

I had to double the filling and I also used 75g more chocolate than in the recipe. The recipe below is what I did.

125g butter
200ml sweetened condensed milk
250g milk biscuits
1 rounded tablespoon cocoa powder
1/4 cup desiccated coconut

2 cups icing sugar mixture
80g butter melted
2 tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon peppermint essence
3 drops green food colouring (optional)

200g dark cooking chocolate
30g copha

To make the base, melt the butter and condensed milk in a saucepan. Crush the biscuits and mix with the cocoa and coconut. Pour over the butter and condensed milk mixture and mix well. Press the mixture into a slice pan (about 20 x 30cm) lined with baking paper. Place in the fridge and chill well for an hour.

To make the filling mix together the icing sugar, butter, milk, peppermint and food colouring. Spread evenly over the chilled biscuits mixture and put it back into the fridge to set.

To make the topping, melt together the chocolate and copha. Spread the chocolate evenly over the filling and allow it to set before cutting the slice into squares.


Sunday, 16 August 2009

Vege Tagine

Can you see that cinnamon stick? And the cummin seeds? And the gorgeous juicy dates in amongst all that delicious goodness? Oh yeah, this is a lovely dish.

My sister, Sal and her boyfriend, Liam came over for dinner recently. It was hard to know what to prepare as Sal is vegetarian, and a fussy vegetarian at that and Liam is a big time meat eater. Like any real Aussie male. I've really enjoyed cooking lately and am trying lots of different ingredients and techniques. We never had stews when I was a kid so its a new thing for me. I made a beef stew for the boys and this yummy vegetable tagine (from for Sal and I all served with mashed potatoes.

It's quite a sweet subtle flavour so its very different from dishes that usually come out of my kitchen but I enjoyed it.

2 tsp olive oil
1 brown onion, halved, cut into wedges
2 carrots, peeled, coarsely chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
2 tsp finely grated fresh ginger
2 tsp cumin seeds
2 tsp ground paprika
1 cinnamon stick
Large pinch of saffron threads
375ml (1 1/2 cups) vegetable stock
650g butternut pumpkin, deseeded, peeled, coarsely chopped
250g green beans, topped, cut into 6cm lengths
100g dried apricots
100g fresh dates, halved, pitted
1 x 400g can chickpeas, rinsed, drained
2 tsp finely grated lemon rind

Heat oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and cook, stirring, for 5 minutes or until soft. Add the carrot, garlic, ginger, cumin seeds, paprika, cinnamon and saffron and cook, stirring, for 30 seconds or until aromatic.

Add stock and bring to the boil. Add the pumpkin, beans and apricots. Reduce heat to medium and cook, stirring occasionally, for 15 minutes or until the pumpkin is tender. Add dates, chickpeas and lemon rind and stir to combine.

Sathya-rating ***