Friday, 27 April 2012

Asian afternoon

Steamed Pork Buns from Asian Dumplings by Andrew Nguyen and Beef and Prawn Laksa from Thai Street Food by David Thompson.

It's been a while since we've had a weekend at home, and a chance to spend a chunk of the day in the kitchen. Thanks to daylight savings we had an extra hour up our sleeves - we had cooked baked eggs for breakfast, dug up and planted our winter garden, checked out the Richmond Weekender market and bought a new Texas barbeque while still allowing enough time for a afternoon cooking session.

Hot and steamy - our steamed pork buns

The bun dough wasn't quite a success.  It's always hard with a new recipe knowing how much the dough should rise.  Caroline singing to the dough in bread puns doesn't help either, the likes of 'I want you, I knead you..' doesn't help when you're trying to concentrate.  Making the filling was a bit more of a success.  Doing our own char sui sauce and barbeque pork was definitely worth it.

For the Laksa the paste was made from scratch, cooked off with coconut cream and meat which simmered for about an hour. 

Verdict: Pork Buns have always been Troy's weakness, so we were pretty excited to try mastering these at home. Which we didn't quite do, but the filling was more to my taste than the standard of the ones bought down Victoria Street.
Would we make this again?: We need to master the dough, but next time we would use the sweet dough from the Momufuko book (which is always a success) but with this filling. And would make the Laksa again.

Thursday, 26 April 2012

Am I a fat duck? No I'm a cook at home!

Heston is that creepy scientist dude. Often I get scared of his thought process, other times I am in complete awe.  It really amazes me how he can look at an one thing or process and turn it completely on its side, this is what Heston is known for.  The recipe chosen is quinoa sushi from Heston Blumenthal at Home.  In this book Heston Blumenthal is not so sideways, but still a good step ahead of the general norm.

How to make 'sushi rice' from quinoa you say? By blending half of the cooked quinoa, that's how. It turns in to this gluggy mass, and when mixed back through, a sticky 'sushi quinoa' is created.

Quinoa is also mixed with some toasted sesame seeds (black in this case) and ponzu sauce.

The flavours we created were rare beef with shitake mushroom and spring onion, then house smoked salmon (Troy's first attempt at smoking salmon) and spring onion. Served with a ponzu sauce and some wasabi mustard.

Verdict: It was a really nice change from the usual sushi.  The smoked salmon was really good, actually.. it was all good.
Would we make this again?: We don't make enough sushi at home, considering how easy it is. So this would be a healthier and more interesting alternative to rice. The ponzu sauce was delicious too.

Monday, 23 April 2012

Happy Easter

Yay for Easter and the Easter Bunny.
We can't really complain about our lead-up to Easter.  We had Hot Cross Buns on tap from the moment the bakers commenced production and a stream of chocolate bunnies starting to filter through the door a week (or two) up to Easter.
I have always wanted to attempt making eggs so I made mad dash to some cake shops the day before Good Friday to find some chocolate molds and my Easter challenge was set.

Adding a little excitement to the mix - 3 salted caramel filled eggs were
sealed in the larger egg.  On the bottom left a lolly cake molded egg too.

Pierre Herme Pastries was pulled out again for the salt caramel filling and adapted lightly with some additional salt for a salted caramel.

Caroline's eggs were left with a little note on her bed.  Troy received his on Easter Sunday when we were away for the weekend at the Royal Mail Hotel.

Verdict: We'll it turns out I can temper chocolate, but my finishing skills need a bit of work. Not quite ready to switch careers to be a chocolatier.
Would we make this again?: It was nice being able to mix up the norm and customise my own eggs.  I am currently taking pre-orders for next year

Thursday, 12 April 2012

Getting serious - dog party.

Our latest dinner party was a for a group of friends and their dogs. 
Apertif: White Wine and Mint Granita from Easy Growing. There are also great recipes in here flowerpot cornbread which I would like to try, cooking something in a flowerpot - genius! The people drank these and struggled through severe brainfreeze while the dogs (Archie Oneman the Wonderman, Janet and Lowrider) played at sniffing each others crotches.

Entree: Broccoli and Egg from Your Place or Mine? by Gary and George.  I don't like to think too much about what the title of this book is insinuating.  But it's nice to see that the lovely couple are able to reep in more rewards post Masterchef.

Main: Lamb Farcie from Jacques Reymond Cuisine de Temps.  Troy's masterpiece.  Double lamb cutlets with a chicken and sweetbread farce (mousse) wrapped in creppinette. Lamb cutlets were baked on rock salt. Served on silverbeet, with a tamarind and ginger dressing.

Dessert: Ginger Brulée Tarts and Rhubarb and Almond Tarts from Bourke Street Bakery

Verdict: Apertif was good.  Someone (they shall remain nameless) didn't read the recipe properly and the mix turned out brown instead of a mint green.  Still delicious, but really it's just watered down sugary wine.
Entree - OK quite simple, but about as exciting as a night out (or in) with George and Gary.
Main - A show stopper.  Every mouthful was delicious.  Definitely worth all of Troy's hard work the night prior.  Big thanks for working tirelessly. Sorry you had to clock up an epic 20 hours on your feet that day!
Dessert - We were all very full by this stage but managed to push through. Ginger brulee tarts were the favourite.  The rhubarb and almond tarts were a little dry.  This will be because we opted not to make a pastry cream to fold into the frangipane.  The pastry used for these tarts was very good.  A light, flaky and sweet pastry which really worked with the brulee tarts. 
Would we make this again?: Would we - No, No, Yes (if Troy's happy to scarifice another a whole night of prep), Yes - these tarts are too good not too.

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Pierre Herme "The Picasso of Pastry"

This is a new addition to our book shelf since the challenge has begun.  To say that it's made it to the bookshelf is a bit of a lie, it's still open on the table at the ready for us to flick through and drool over the marvelous creations.  You may remember that an all out ban on cook book purchases was placed on our household, but how could we resist when we heard Pierre Hermé was bringing out a new book? One pre-order and Pierre Hermé Pastries was at our doorstep a couple of weeks later - it's all too easy this day in age to be a cook book addict!

Needless to say, we want to cook A LOT from this book.  He takes classic recipes from around the globe, explains the history behind it then goes ahead and creates a new and glorious recipe inspired by the the first.  We found it hard to pick just one, but Brittney decided our first recipe would be the Apricot and Hand of Buddha Financier which was baked for a workmate (Alainnah) on her birthday.

There were a couple of deviations from the recipe
1. We couldn't locate any Hand of Buddha for its zest (this has now moved up the ranks on the list of trees we would like to buy for our garden). 
2. The search for apricots was fruitless (excuse the pun) so we substituted apricots for plums.

A baked financier made with burnt butter, plums, chopped almond and sugar syrup. The almonds caramelized the top and this was decorated with a caramel mascarpone cream and some toffee pieces - delish!

Verdict: Yum, the mascarpone caramel was amazing, well it was all good. It did have a bit of a slide around in the top box of the Vespa, so it didn't arrive to work like this, but it's all meant to be about the flavours, right?
Would we make this again?: Yes, before the mascarpone was added to the caramel it was mouth watering, add a couple of teaspoons of salt and we think we have found the perfect salted caramel, jar it up and maybe it may give Burch and Purchese Salted Caramel a run for it money. This is on the Easter's holiday to do list.

Can I peel your peppers amigo?

Basque-styled Baked Eggs from Alain Ducasse Nature.

Peeled peppers, tomatoes (also peeled), red onion, garlic, jamón and eggs. Seasoned with salt and pimenton.

A fancy little little weekend brunch for two (Caroline had work).  Finally a perfect excuse to get some use out of our small frying pans!

Our limit of jamón was restricted to one 100g packet, nothing like the extent of our over eating in
Spain last year.

Verdict: Delicious, and so easy!
Would we make this again?: Yeah, for sure.  Our love of Spanish food has now extended to breakfast.  Perfecto!

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Muffins with just as much sugar as flour - I think you're a cupcake!

Rhubarb and Ginger Muffins (cupcakes) from 500 Muffins and Cupcakes by Fergal Connoll.

Wow, 500 muffins and cupcakes. This was a Christmas present from my mum, Caroline has 500 cupcakes - so there are still more of these bite sized morsels on the way.

Following the recipe vs not reading the recipe properly, the latter is my general downfall.  In this case, you were meant to add cooked rhubarb in a hole made in the cooked muffin.  Our version had raw rhubarb in the mix which surprise surprise also cooked in the 20 minutes it took to cook the muffins.  Let it be known.. there are always more ways than one to make something.

How do you make muffins look good when they come out of the oven? Add a dog to the mix.

Verdict?: These were taken around to a friends BBQ.  The barbie was a smorgasbord of salads with a healthy side of meat, so the muffins were well received.  The verdict from everyone was delicious.  The frosting was sweet, and the 'muffins' were really light and fluffy.
Would we make this again?: With 500 recipes in the book, wouldn't you want to make something different?

Stuff those bad boys

Banana Chillies stuffed with Crab and Chicken in a Green Curry Sauce from Spirit House. Really love this book, everything that has been made has been a success. There is a great section at the start of all different curry pastes, which are great to make and freeze down into ice cube trays to use at a later date.

We used our joe's long cayenne chilli from the garden, they grow up to 30cm and are wrinkly and creepy looking. They're not that hot so added some green chillis too.

We first saw these chilli  at Heronswood Gardens down the Mornington Peninsula and needed the seeds then and there. Their chilli plant was 7 years old, which for the first time our chilli plants are staying around instead of composting them every year.

I did cheat a little with the green curry paste, and use the food processor which blitzed the onions and made them a little watery - a little less love in this curry paste, but it still tasted great!

The banana chillies where stuffed with the chicken and crab mix, and topped with a green curry sauce.

Verdict: The sauce was nice but stuffing could have done with some more flavour.  Caroline says salt, but we don't all have salt addictions.
Would we make this again?: Yeah, we have a few more 'stuffing' recipes to look forward to, so once that's over with I wouldn't rule out a repeat. Next time we would add some of the curry sauce with the meat mix before stuffing.