Top Food Blogs

Friday, 26 October 2012

Apple and Pecan Cake

We all love to eat cake ! Since the resurgence of the cup cake and the macaroon we have perhaps abandoned the traditional whole cake in favour of the two bite sized, hand held morsels.
Whilst we do love these, they are a fiddle to make, but a cake is so very quick and easy ! It looks just as impressive and can double as a dessert !
This little apple and pecan cake served with some cream does just that. It doesn't require icing and is
moist and delicious on its own.  It takes no time to whip up ! Do not use a mixer for this cake just a spoon or the apple and pecan will get chopped up even more. They need to stay chunky.

2 Granny Smith Apples
1 cup sugar
1 cup chopped pecans 
1 1/2 cups plain flour
1 teaspoon bicarb soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon allspice
125 grams butter
1 egg

Melt the butter in a dish in microwave or on stove top and set aside to cool.
Peel core and chop apples into chunks as you would for apple pie, or approx 2 cms.
Place into a bowl and mix through the cup of sugar and set aside.
Sift the flour  into a mixing bowl together with the bicarb of soda, and the spices.
Add the chopped nuts and mix through.
Whisk the egg into the cooled butter and add to the flour mixture. At this stage it will seem a little stiff.
The sugar will have released juices from the chopped apple, so add this last and lightly mix into the flour mixture.
Spoon into a round 8 inch tin and cook in a 160 C oven for 45-50 minutes.

Sunday, 21 October 2012

Poached Chicken with Rice Noodles and Asian Salad

I am a huge fan of poaching and braising. Kylie Kwong and Neil Perry introduced me to this beautiful way of cooking, which imparts so much flavour and keeps the meat so moist and tender.
The added bonus of cooking this way for guests is that most of the work can be done well ahead, leaving the meat in the liquid just to be reheated at serving time . A lot of the poaching or braising liquids can be frozen for future use.
This poaching liquid is almost like a laksa, served over the noodles with the salad on the side.
The salad  and indeed the whole dish reminds me of the many meals I had in Thailand. Beautifully light and so tasty, perfect for our summer weather.  You can serve this with any barbequed meat or fish really, and play around with the ingredients. The quantities below are for 4 people but can easily be increased.

2 cups coconut cream
2 cups chicken stock
2 tablespoons light soy sauce
1/4 cup fish sauce
4 slightly crushed garlic cloves
1 red chilli finely sliced or a spoon of minced chilli
4 coriander roots slightly bruised
8 kaffir lime leaves torn
2 tablespoons lime juice
1 tablespoon palm sugar
1 kilo of chicken I have used breast and thigh
rice noodles 500 gram
Thai basil torn
mint torn

Asian salad

1/4 Chinese cabbage, finely sliced
1 carrot grated or use a vegetable peeler to slice fine strips
12 snow peas sliced into 3 or 4 strips
1/4 finely slice red capsicum
4 sliced shallots
1/4  red onion finely sliced
1 small chilli finely sliced (optional )
2 tablespoons roasted peanuts
1/4 cup chopped coriander
1 clove minced garlic
4 tablespoons fish sauce
4 tablespoons rice vinegar
4 tablespoon castor sugar
4 tablespoons lime juice

Prepare the dressing, by combining the fish sauce, rice vinegar, lime juice, garlic and sugar together and stir until the sugar is dissolved. Cover and set aside until serving. This will keep in the fridge in a screw top jar for weeks. Prepare all of the salad ingredients and place in a bowl and toss to mix. Set aside until ready to serve.
In a large saucepan or wok combine the stock, coconut cream, fish and soy sauces, garlic, lime leaves coriander and chilli. Bring to a boil and simmer for a couple of minutes to infuse the flavours. Gently add the whole breasts or thighs and poach for about 10 minutes or until just cooked. Remove with a slotted spoon and cover and set aside. If you have a while until serving, leave the chicken in the poaching liquid.
Cover the rice noodles with boiling water and soak for 5-10 minutes to soften, or throw into a pot of boiling water for 3 minutes and drain.
After removing the chicken, from the poaching liquid add the sugar and lime juice and simmer for a further 10 minutes. Remove the garlic cloves, coriander root and lime leaves before serving.
At serving slice or shred the chicken. Place a quantity of noodles in each bowl. Add the sliced chicken and ladle over the hot poaching liquid. Scatter with coriander, mint and Thai basil.
Dress the salad and serve separately.                                                                        

Saturday, 13 October 2012

Bread and Butter Pudding

As a child my mother made bread and butter pudding regularly. Probably to use up the stale bread. I hated this pudding with its soggy bread and jam and was at a loss to understand how anyone could enjoy it.
Later in life I decided to give it a go myself and am not sure where the inspiration for this recipe came from. I did go through a" French stage" and bought brioche all the time. Maybe the brioche inspired me, being sweeter than bread and a different texture. I now love this pudding.

The weather has turned chilly again as it usually does at this time of year. Perfect for pudding !

100 grams pitted prunes chopped in half
2 tablespoons whiskey
4 eggs
240 grams castor sugar
600 mls milk
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
300 grams brioche preferably a little stale
50 grams butter

Whiskey Sauce

50 grams brown sugar
50 mls whiskey
50 grams butter
50 mls of cream
nutmeg freshly grated or ground
thickened cream to serve

Soak the prunes in the whiskey, for several hours.
Combine eggs and sugar beating well.
Heat the milk and whisk into the egg sugar mixture and add the cinnamon and nutmeg.
Break the brioche into large chunks.
Grease an ovenproof souffle dish about 1.5 litres or 6 cup capacity.
Place alternative layers of the brioche and prunes in the dish. Top with small pieces of the butter.
Pour the custard mixture over the brioche to fill the dish and bake at 180C for 30-40 minutes until firm.

For the sauce in
Dissolve the brown sugar in the whiskey over a low heat. Remove from heat and stir in the butter and cream. This can easily be doubled for extra sauce.
Serve pudding topped with a little of the sauce, a sprinkling of nutmeg, cream and extra soaked prunes if you desire.

Friday, 5 October 2012

Simple Green Chicken Curry

After my trip I felt I had to give you all a touch of Thai. This is a dish I am sure you have all tried in some form or another . I have cooked Green Curry so many times with a variety of ingredients , but this recipe is just so quick and easy you will do it again and again.
Of course you must have the curry paste on hand and a couple of other ingredients are a staple part of Thai cooking, Fish sauce and Palm sugar. You cannot skimp or compromise on these two ingredients. Well at a pinch if you are really stuck you can use brown sugar instead, but it is sweeter than palm sugar I feel, so use less. The other essential is kaffir lime leaves, even those can be bought in a jar on the shelves if you are finding them hard to get.
The secret to the meal is Spicy Sweet and Sour or Salty. There is really no excuse for not having the makings of a great curry in your pantry. They do not have to be purchased at an Asian store either everything is readily available in Australia at the supermarket. Once you have the staples you can make many curries, and this one is made in no time!! Just know your paste ! If using a bought paste they vary greatly in heat so maybe use caution initially if you are not sure.

1/2 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 large can coconut cream
2 tablespoon green curry paste
200 gram sliced chicken breast
2 teaspoons palm sugar
1 tablespoon fish sauce
250 grams small white and red eggplant  or a little less with the tiny pea eggplant as well ( if you can't get these do not use normal eggplant it is too strong ) substitute, kumera or pumpkin chopped into small pieces and some snow peas, or broccoli pieces.
2 kaffir lime leaves torn into small pieces
Extra fresh chilli finely sliced optional

Heat the oil in a large pot or wok. Add the paste and stir until fragrant a minute or two.
Add 1 cup of coconut cream and bring to a simmer. When the oil appears at the edges or surface is shiny, add the chicken and when coloured add the rest of the can of coconut cream, which will be milky or thinner in appearance.
Bring to a boil and add the vegetables of choice with the lime leaves. When the vegetables are cooked add the palm sugar and fish sauce. Garnish with the fresh chilli. Serve with steamed jasmine rice.

Monday, 1 October 2012

Want Food Tour of Thailand

I have just returned from a frenetic food and cultural tour of Bangkok and Chiang Mai. It was fabulous and we were treated like royalty.
Asia is so different to Europe, everything operates 24/7, no afternoon siestas which means you aren't forced to rest ! We did manage to get some pool and spa time though ! There is so much to see, so many places to eat and so many shops!!

We ate in many restaurants, from incredibly cheap to the uber cool Nahm operated by David Thompson originally of Darley Street Thai fame. It is rated in the top 50 restaurants in the world and it certainly didn't disappoint on any level. The tasting menu was truly amazing and incredibly inexpensive by our standard .  Having done a cooking course at The Blue Elephant that day and eaten every dish we cooked, we felt we couldn't manage it so we settled on four dishes. Next time !
Crab and Pomelo Salad  at Nahm
Braised Spicy Ribs with Pineapple  from Soul Food

Soul Food Mahanakorn owned and operated by an American, Jarrett Wrisley was a taste sensation of Thai regional dishes with some signature cocktails. The aubergine salad topped with thick chunks of bacon and soft cooked duck egg, was gorgeous as well.

The food is a sensory delight, so tasty and so fresh.
We ate street food, with a guide of course, indulging in some incredibly cheap and delicious bowls of Thai food. I declined the cockroaches, worms and spiders, but did eat duck cheeks. Tiny little bite size morsels that were very tasty. The Thais eat everything, anything that crawls or walks and every part of it, quite fascinating  and only for those Westerners with an iron stomach.

The remainder of a Plate of Duck Cheeks

The markets were so clean and organized, with all of the food so beautifully presented on wickers trays with banana leaves and flowers. All of the produce was very fresh and I was told comes to market every day from the growers. Of course all so inexpensive ! I was a frustrated cook, as I didn't have a kitchen to go home to prepare this healthy gorgeous produce.
Fresh Scallops
Mud Crab

I only took this because I love fresh asparagus

These dear little ladies make the most delicious dumplings which you buy cooked at the Samyan Market. Note the people queueing for them. They spend hours everyday making them and like all Thai people still manage to smile continually.

River Prawns
We also toured the wonderful markets of Chiang Mai, in the north of Thailand.
 Each market has its own speciality and with our guide we explored many edible treasures for a few hours. You can buy anything dried, from fish to fruit, and everything else.
Deep fried chicken heads and grilled frogs, which I didn't try, nor did I try the packets of dried white worms which I was told are delicious!! We did try beautiful miniature fruit and banana dumplings, prepared on the spot. We did a cooking class in a Thai home with Yui and she also took us to her local food market, where she sources produce for her classes. Another day of continual eating !
At the end of our day at the market we returned to our hotel for another assault of the senses... a facial and Thai massage at their gorgeous spa. Two hours of pure indulgence , after which we just had to lie around the pool have some cocktails and prepare for our next meal out !
We also did a lot of shopping, funny about that! Well when in Thailand..... it is their favourite pastime !

As this goes to post, I am working on some tours to Thailand, to take like minded people to discover
the sensory delights of Thai food. Come and enjoy cooking classes, market tours and sampling, gourmet walking tours, have lots of laughs, some genuine fake shopping, search for beautiful antiquities and treasures for the home. Add a little culture to balance things, a regular serving of fabulous cocktails and what more can you want !