food for thought

by michelle

chocolates

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I was researching sous vide cooking when I came upon some information on Serious Eats about tempering chocolate by that method. I had to try it. It was certainly easy but not absolutely necessary, as you can see in Three Ways to Temper Chocolate. My first attempt was nice and crunchy, melted nicely in the mouth and had a good shine.

My moulds were small round silicone ones and I painted the chocolate in with a brush which was not too wasteful and worked well. I decided on two different fillings. For the first I soaked dried cherries in vodka for a day or two and then added some shredded coconut. The cherries were quite sour and needed some sugar. The second filling was made from natural salted crunchy peanut butter, sweetened a little with powdered sugar and watered down to a good consistency. When the chocolate shells were set, I heated a small frypan and used the bottom to melt the first half of each chocolate flat. When I’d mounded in as much filling as I could I melted the second half and stuck the halves together. The only problem was that the chocolates were a little too large, if that’s a problem!

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Written by michelle picker

November 22, 2017 at 12:19 am

sichuan braised eggplant

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The province of Sichuan (Szechuan) in southwestern China has a bold, pungent and spicy cuisine. It’s known for it’s liberal use of garlic, chillies, vinegar and sichuan pepper. Here’s a great example of Sichuan braised eggplant from Serious Eats.

Trim ¾ kg (1½ lbs) of small Asian eggplants and cut them into quarters lengthwise then into 10cm (4″) lengths. Pour 2 litres (2 quarts) of water into a bowl and add ½ a cup of kosher salt. Add the eggplant pieces, skin-side up, and soak for 10 to 20 minutes. Meanwhile, slice 2 birds-eye chillies and place them in a small bowl. Heat 3 tablespoons of white or rice wine vinegar in a small saucepan until simmering and pour it over the chillies, allowing it to steep for 5 minutes before adding 2 tablespoons of Shaoxing wine, 1 tablespoon of sugar, 2 teaspoons of soy sauce and 1 tablespoon of Chinkiang vinegar (if you can’t get this use a cheap balsamic vinegar). When completely cool add 1¼ teaspoons of cornflour (cornstarch) and stir until dissolved. Set this sauce aside. Now drain the eggplant, pat dry with paper towels and set aside. Finely mince 4 teaspoons of fresh ginger and 4 cloves of garlic and slice 4 spring onions (scallions), the white part thinly and the green part into longer pieces. Roughly chop some coriander (cilantro) for garnish. When you’re ready to cook, make sure you have all the prepared ingredients ready as well as some Doubanjiang (a chilli and bean paste available from Asian grocery stores). Heat 3 tablespoons of vegetable oil in a wok over high heat until smoking. Reduce the heat to medium and add the eggplant. Cook until softened and well browned on all sides. Push it to the sides of the wok, turn up the heat and add the ginger, garlic, and scallions. Cook for about 30 seconds until fragrant then add 2 tablespoons of Doubanjiang and cook for a further 30 seconds. Stir the chilli sauce you prepared earlier and add it as well. Now toss and continue to cook for 1-3 minutes until the sauce is thick and glossy and is coating the eggplant pieces. Transfer to a serving dish and garnish with the coriander (cilantro). Serve hot with steamed rice or as part of a banquet with other Sichuan dishes.

Written by michelle picker

November 15, 2017 at 12:10 am

slow-roasted lamb shoulder

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Iranian in style, this fragrant slow-roasted lamb shoulder is easy to prepare and absolutely delicious. Serve it with rice and a fresh salad.

Preheat your oven to 160ºC (320ºF). Cut 3 onions into wedges and scatter them into a large roasting pan. Drizzle with olive oil and season to taste. Place the lamb shoulder on the onions. Coarsely crush 2 teaspoons each of toasted cumin and coriander seeds with a mortar and pestle. Transfer to a bowl and add 4 cloves of crushed garlic, 2 tablespoons of ground sumac, 1 teaspoon of ground cayenne pepper, ½ a teaspoon each of ground cinnamon, cardamom and allspice, the grated rind of 1 orange and 1 lemon, 2 tablespoons of olive oil and ½ a cup each of finely chopped fresh mint and coriander (cilantro). Combine well and season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Place this mixture on top of the (seasoned) lamb and pat into place to form a crust. Combine the juice of 1 lemon and 1 orange with 300ml (10 fl oz) of chicken stock. Pour this around the lamb shoulder and add 3 dried limes (available from Middle Eastern grocery stores). Cover the lamb shoulder and roast in the oven for 5-6 hours until very tender and falling from the bone.

*from a recipe by Emma Knowles and Alice Storey in Gourmet Traveller

Written by michelle picker

November 8, 2017 at 12:16 am

sour cream panna cotta with berries

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Cindy made this panna cotta (Italian for ‘cooked’cream’), the perfect dessert to follow our home-made pizzas. It’s a great make-ahead recipe that’s always elegant and delicious. She followed this recipe from Natasha’s Kitchen.

For the panna cotta pour 1 cup of milk into a saucepan and sprinkle with 2½ teaspoons of unflavoured gelatine powder. Allow the gelatine to soften for a few minutes then place the saucepan over low heat and, without boiling, stir until the gelatine dissolves. Now add 2 cups of whipping cream, ½ a cup plus 1 tablespoon of sugar, 1 teaspoon of pure vanilla extract and a pinch of salt. Continue stirring, still without boiling, until the sugar has dissolved. Allow this mixture to cool for a few minutes. In another bowl, whisk 1 cup of sour cream then, while whisking, pour in the warm cream mixture. When this mixture is smooth divide it into 6 – 8 glasses or ramekins and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or until fully set. For the berry sauce combine 1 cup of raspberries with 1 cup of halved strawberries. Place half of this mixture (1 cup) in a saucepan with ½ a tablespoon of lemon juice and 3 tablespoons of sugar. Bring to a simmer and cook until syrupy. Add the remaining berries and immediately remove from the heat. Allow the berries to cool completely before spooning them onto the chilled panna cottas to serve.

Written by michelle picker

November 1, 2017 at 12:12 am

zucchini, parmesan and basil soup

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Do you keep those rinds from parmesan?  Here’s a truly delicious way to use them and to eat your greens.

The first step for this soup is to make a stock from the parmesan rinds. A pressure cooker helps to shorten this process. Cut 4 -6 pieces of rind into small pieces and cook them in 1 litre (1 quart) of water until they are almost melted away. This will take 20-30 minutes in a pressure cooker and 2-3 hours in a pot and may need more water. Meanwhile, in a large saucepan sauté 1 chopped onion and 4-5 chopped zucchinis in some olive oil. Season to taste. When you’re satisfied that you’ve extracted the most out of the parmesan rinds, strain the stock into the saucepan and continue to cook until the zucchinis are just soft. Purée the soup with a stick blender or food processor until the mixture is emulsified then add fresh basil leaves and process again. Check the seasoning before serving with a drizzle of olive oil.

Written by michelle picker

October 25, 2017 at 12:08 am

greek lemon chicken and potatoes

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Looking for a simple meal that’s enticing and delicious? Here is a wonderful version of this Greek classic from Chef John at Food Wishes.

Preheat your oven to 220ºC (425ºF). Cut a chicken into 6-8 pieces (I left the breasts whole as they cook more quickly) and place them in a large bowl. Season well with salt and freshly ground black pepper and add 1 teaspoon each of dried rosemary and oregano, some cayenne pepper to taste, 6 cloves of minced garlic, and ½ a cup each of freshly squeezed lemon juice and olive oil. Peel and quarter 3 large potatoes and add them as well. Mix well to coat everything with the marinade then place the chicken pieces and potatoes into a lightly oiled roasting pan, reserving the marinade. Pour ⅔ of a cup of chicken stock around the chicken and potato pieces then spoon the marinade onto the top of each piece. Roast in the oven until the chicken pieces are golden brown and cooked through, turning in the marinade now and then but leaving the skin side facing up. When the chicken is cooked, remove the chicken pieces to a serving platter. Toss the potatoes in their marinade again. Turn the oven to high or transfer to a grill (broiler) and finish the potatoes until they are golden brown and the marinade is a little caramelised. Remove the potatoes to the platter and deglaze the roasting pan with a little more chicken stock to loosen it. Taste for seasoning and pour it over the chicken and potatoes (you can strain it if you prefer).  Serve with a salad of greens and feta with a simple lemon and olive oil dressing.

Written by michelle picker

October 18, 2017 at 12:18 am

torta di cioccolata

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This Italian-style flourless chocolate cake has a crisp crust, a wonderful rich dark chocolate flavour and a light, moist, melt-in-the mouth centre. I prefer my cakes not too sweet so I reduced the sugar in this recipe which comes from one of my favourite cake books, Bake your cake & eat it too! by Tamara Millstein.

Preheat your oven to 180ºC (350ºF) and prepare a 22cm (8″) springform tin by greasing and lining the bottom with baking paper. In a heat-proof bowl over a bain marie, melt 350g (12⅓ oz) of good quality chocolate pieces and 100g (3½ oz) of chopped butter until smooth and glossy. Whisk in 3 tablespoons of dutch cocoa powder plus 1 tablespoon of instant coffee and set aside. In another bowl beat 5 large eggs with 220g (7¾ oz) of caster sugar until thick and pale. Add 5 tablespoons of ground walnuts and 100g (3½ oz) of walnut pieces. Gently fold in the chocolate mixture until well combined. Pour into the cake tin and bake for 40 minutes. Switch off the oven and leave the cake in the closed oven until completely cool. When cool, remove from the pan. Combine 1 tablespoon each of cocoa powder and icing sugar and dust the top of the cake to serve.

Written by michelle picker

October 11, 2017 at 12:26 am