food for thought

by michelle

Posts Tagged ‘vanilla

stewed rhubarb with vanilla yoghurt

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An excellent version of a classic from Jamie Oliver. Serve it for breakfast or dessert.

Place 750g (1.6 lbs) of chopped fresh rhubarb in a medium-sized saucepan with the juice and zest of 1 large orange, 100g (3½ oz) of caster sugar, 2 tablespoons of water and 2 pieces of finely diced or grated fresh ginger. Bring to the boil, then turn down the heat and simmer for 5 minutes until the rhubarb is soft and cooked but still holds its shape. Meanwhile, scrape the seeds from a vanilla pod and mix them into 1 cup of natural yoghurt, adding 1 tablespoon of caster sugar. Serve the warm rhubarb topped with a large dollop of vanilla yoghurt.


Written by michelle picker

July 26, 2017 at 5:41 am

cooking class in Provence

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While in Provence, I took the opportunity to participate in a hands-on cooking class with chef Jean-Marc Villard at his French Cooking School. After shopping for local and organic ingredients, we returned to the specially designed teaching kitchen, where Jean-Marc guided us in preparing and cooking a traditional French meal which we later enjoyed on the terrace with the chef and his wife Alice.


We started with 2 amusebouches, a small appetiser of one or two bites which is normally selected by the chef and served before the first course, both to whet the appetite and to give a glimpse of the chef’s approach to cuisine. Our first was deep-fried zucchini flowers. These were dredged in a simple tempura batter, deep-fried in grapeseed oil and served with a fresh pesto.




The second was a fresh sardine escabeche.







Sardine fillets were laid in a flat dish (skin side down) and seasoned. Onions, garlic, carrots and peppers were sautéed in olive oil, seasoned and spread over the sardines. Finally a slightly reduced mixture of white wine, vinegar and water was poured over everything to cook the sardines. It was served garnished with fresh dill.

zucchini-saladFor the first course we started by preparing a zucchini (courgette) salad. We cut the zucchinis in half and used a mandolin to cut thin strips lengthwise. To this we added pink peppercorns (which are particularly sweet here in France), grated lemon rind, dill, sea salt and freshly ground pepper. After mixing thoroughly we set this aside in a colander. Meanwhile, the sauce was on the stove. Vanilla pods were added to some chicken stock which was then reduced by half. Be careful not to use salty chicken stock as it will become too salty when reduced. To the reduced stock we added as much butter as there was stock and a little finely chopped candied lemon rind. The sauce was then aerated using a wand mixer. Next we prepared fresh prawns (shrimp) which we seasoned and quickly pan-fried. To assemble the dish we placed some of the zucchini salad in a form ring, followed by some mixed salad leaves. The ring was removed, the prawns arranged around the salads and the sauce carefully poured around the edges without wilting the salad leaves.


For the main course, saddle of lamb. This was boned and rolled, seared on the stovetop and finished in the oven along with some fresh garlic cloves (skin on). Of course, the sauce was also reducing on the stove, this time a veal stock with fresh sage leaves.

eggplant-fillingTo accompany the lamb we stuffed large cherry tomatoes. After cutting the tops off the tomatoes and carefully scooping out the flesh and seeds, we seasoned them with salt and placed them upside down on the board, allowing any liquid to drain. The eggplants (aubergines) were cut in half lengthwise and baked (skin side up) until soft. stuffed-cherry-tomatoesIn a saucepan we sautéed very finely chopped shallots and garlic then added the chopped eggplant pulp, some finely chopped rosemary, chopped parsley, a little chickpea flour to bind and salt and pepper. We then filled the tomatoes and put the lids back on for roasting.

potato-galette-with-goat's-cheeseWe also made a typically French accompaniment, a potato galette – this one with a goat’s cheese centre. The peeled potatoes were cut into thin slices with a mandolin and placed in a bowl with melted butter, salt and freshly ground black pepper. After mixing well, making sure that every piece of potato was buttered and seasoned, we arranged 2 layers of slices around central discs, then a generous amount of goat’s cheese, followed by one more layer of potato. We then cut the edges off with a cookie cutter and transferred them to a baking sheet and into a hot oven until golden brown. Finally, the plating and voilà!


Stay tuned for dessert….

Written by michelle picker

July 9, 2016 at 5:39 am

classic vanilla slice

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Those of you who grew up in Australia will know this slice with it’s thick, yellow, cream-free custard sandwiched between two layers of flaky pastry and topped with passionfruit icing. A glorious, messy treat!


Preheat your oven to 200ºC (390ºF). Take 2 sheets of store-bought puff pastry and (on lined or greased baking sheets) bake for 10-15 minutes until puffed and golden. Remove from the oven and gently flatten with a clean chopping board. Line a square cake tin with paper, making sure the paper protrudes above the top edges and lay the first sheet of pastry in the bottom of the tin. Now in a saucepan combine 1⅓ cups of caster sugar, 1 cup of cornflour and ¾ of a cup of vanilla custard powder. Slowly add 4½ cups of milk until you have a smooth mixture. Add 75g (2¾ oz) of chopped butter and cook over low heat, stirring, until very thick. Remove from the heat and stir in 2 egg yolks, 1 teaspoon of pure vanilla essence or paste and a few drops of yellow food colouring (optional). Spread this custard evenly over the pastry in the cake tin and set in the fridge. Before serving place the second pastry square on top. To make the passionfruit icing, mix 2½ cups of pure icing sugar with 2 teaspoons of butter and the pulp from 3 fresh passionfruit. Spread this icing over the top pastry sheet and allow to set before serving.

Written by michelle picker

March 23, 2016 at 5:47 am

vanilla panna cotta with poached tamarillos and cherries

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A luscious dessert of creamy vanilla panna cotta and tart honey-poached fruit.


To make the panna cotta sprinkle 4½ teaspoons of gelatine powder over 90ml (3 fl oz) of cold water in a large bowl and allow it to soak. Combine 2 cups of milk, 2 cups of cream and 100g (3½ oz) of sugar in a saucepan and heat until the sugar has dissolved and small bubbles appear around the edges of the milk mixture. Add 1 teaspoon of vanilla paste. Pour the hot milk mixture into the bowl and stir to dissolve the gelatine. Pour into individual cups and refrigerate for a few hours before carefully removing them from their molds.

Any poached fruit would taste good with vanilla panna cotta. If using tamarillos (also known as tree tomatoes) cut a small cross into the skin at the bottom of each fruit and immerse in a bowl of boiling water for a minute or so before peeling. Place 8 – 10 peeled and cut tamarillos into a saucepan with ½ a cup of fresh or frozen cherries, 1 teaspoon of vanilla paste and ¼ – ½ a cup of honey to taste. Cook over low heat until soft.

Written by michelle picker

July 24, 2015 at 6:00 am

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birthday cake

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A special birthday request from my sister led to us making this amazing cake. It’s the Momofuku Milk Bar Birthday Cake. A recipe at Hummingbird High was our guide and it took 3 hours to make. You will need a stand mixer and a tall freezer space for this recipe.


There are four components to this cake – first the cake crumb:


Heat the oven to 150ºC (300ºF). Combine ½ a cup of sugar, 4½ teaspoons of  light brown sugar, ¾ of a cup of cake flour (if you can’t find cake flour remove 4½ teaspoons of the flour and replace with cornstarch), ½ a teaspoon each of baking powder and salt and 4½ teaspoons of 100s & 1000s (rainbow sprinkles) in the bowl of the mixer and mix on low speed until well combined. Add ¼ of a cup of grapeseed oil and 3 teaspoons of  imitation vanilla and mix again to combine. Spread the clusters on a lined baking tray and bake for 20 minutes, breaking them up occasionally. The crumbs will become crunchy after cooling. This component can be made ahead and stored in an airtight jar.

3-cakesThe second component is the cake: We made three 15cm (6″) cakes. (The sides of the original birthday cake are white as it is cut from a single sheet cake.) Turn your oven up to 180ºC (350ºF). In the mixer combine 60g (2oz) of unsalted butter, ⅓ of a cup of vegetable shortening, 1¼ cups of sugar and 9 teaspoons of light brown sugar and cream together on medium to high for 2 – 3 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, add 3 eggs and mix on medium to high for another 2 – 3 minutes. On low speed pour in ½ a cup of buttermilk, ⅓ of a cup of grapeseed oil and 2 teaspoons of imitation vanilla extract. Increase the mixer speed to medium to high and mix for 4 – 6 minutes, until the mixture is almost white, twice the size and completely homogenous. On low speed add 2 cups of cake flour, 1½ teaspoons of baking powder, ¾ of a teaspoon of salt and ¼ of a cup of 100s & 1000s. Mix for 45 to 60 seconds until the batter comes together. Spread evenly into your tins (or tin) and sprinkle with another 2 tablespoons of 100s & 1000s. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes until set and bouncing back slightly when you press lightly with your finger. Remove from the tins and cool on a wire rack.

The frosting: Using the mixer again combine 120g (40z) of unsalted butter (at room temperature), ¼ of a cup vegetable shortening and 60g (2oz) of cold cream cheese. Cream together on medium to high for 2 – 3 minutes. With the mixer on its lowest speed stream in 6 teaspoons of glucose and 3 teaspoons of imitation vanilla extract. Turn the mixer up to medium to high and beat for 2 – 3 minutes until the mixture is silky smooth and glossy white. Add 1¼ cups of icing (confectioner’s) sugar, ½ a teaspoon of salt and a pinch each of baking powder and citric acid. Mix on low to incorporate the ingredients then turn the mixer up to medium to high again and beat for 2-3 minutes until the frosting is completely smooth.

process1 process2Now it’s time to assemble the cake: Make an acetate tube in a 15cm (6″) cake ring. Mix ⅓ of a cup of milk and 1½ teaspoons of imitation vanilla extract. Place the first cake circle into the acetate ring and brush it with the milk mixture, using ⅓ of it. Spread ⅕ of the frosting on the first cake. Press ⅓ of the crumb into the frosting process3and use another ⅕ of the frosting to cover the crumb. Repeat this process with the second and third cakes but leave the crumb showing on top of the third. Now place the entire cake into the freezer and freeze for at least 12 hours. Before serving make sure to allow a few hours for defrosting. cut-cake



Written by michelle picker

December 1, 2014 at 5:49 am

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vanilla and berry baked cheesecake with almond brown sugar crust

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This deliciously naughty cheesecake is just big enough for 6 generous serves. If you wish to make it in a standard-sized cake tin then add 50% to the ingredients.


Preheat the oven to 200℃ (390℉). For the crust combine 135g (4¾ oz) of almond meal,  50g (1¾ oz) of 5brown sugar and 70g (2½ oz) of melted butter and press into an 180cm ( 7” ) cake  tin (springform is easier for removal of the cake). Bake for 8 minutes and cool for about 30 minutes before filling. Turn the oven down to 160℃ (320℉). For the filling combine 200g (7oz) of cream cheese, 200ml (6¾ fl oz) of cream, ½ a cup of sugar, 3 teaspoons of pure vanilla bean paste, 5 teaspoons of cornstarch and 3 large eggs in a food processor and blend until smooth. Grease the sides of the cake tin. Place 170g of mixed berries (these can be defrosted frozen berries) onto the cooled base and pour the blended cheese mixture over the berries. Bake for 50-60 minutes or until the centre is not wobbly. Cool in the tin, preferably for a few hours. When ready to remove the cake, run a knife around the edge before removing.

Written by michelle picker

September 25, 2013 at 6:12 am

vanilla sweet vermouth cake

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Although I don’t normally use packet mixes, my good friend Rosalie gave me this recipe. The cake is moist, alcoholic and reminiscent of Rum Baba.

Preheat your oven to 180C (350F). In a bowl combine 1 packet of vanilla cake mix, 1 packet of vanilla instant pudding mix, 4 eggs, 1 teaspoon of ground nutmeg and ⅔ of a cup each of salad oil and sweet vermouth (you could replace this with sweet sherry or marsala if you prefer). Beat until smooth then pour into a prepared bundt tin or ring tin and bake for 45 -50 minutes. Serve at room temperature with berries.

Written by michelle picker

October 12, 2012 at 3:30 pm

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