Monday, August 18, 2014

split pea and israeli couscous soup

I've just flown back to Sydney from Brisbane and the weather here in Sydney is absolutely revolting - cold, gray, wet and windy. I'm in the process of sprucing up my place and should be looking at furniture shops but instead I came home to put on some warm clothes and to make a pot of warming soup.

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Growing up I would never eat split pea soup. It was something about the grainy texture I didn't like so I felt pretty brave attempting this recipe for split pea and israeli couscous soup. The recipe comes from Colin Fassnidge's book, Recipes from Four Kitchens.

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Living in Sydney I'm lucky enough to have eaten at both the Four in Hand and at Four Fourteen, two of Colin Fassnidge's restaurants and the food has always been delicious. I made this soup for the first time a few weeks ago and it's really tasty, though I did use chicken rather than vegetable stock. Best of all, I've managed to track down the recipe for you.

Split pea and israeli couscous soup - serves 8

1 carrot, peeled and diced 
1 onion, peeled and diced 
1 celery stalk, sliced 
3 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped 
100ml white wine 
200g Israeli couscous 
300g green split peas
litres vegetable stock (plus more if you like) 
splash of olive oil 
thyme leaves, to serve

1. Heat the oil in a large saucepan over low heat. 
2. Add the vegetables and garlic, and sweat until soft but not coloured
3. Deglaze with white wine then add the couscous.
4. Add the split peas and stock. 
5. Bring to the boil then reduce the heat slightly and cook uncovered for 30 minutes or until the vegetables, couscous and peas are tender. 
6. Add more stock as it cooks if you like, but it is supposed to be a thick and chunky soup.
7. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper, and serve sprinkled with thyme leaves.

Don't stress if you can't track down the israeli couscous, any small pasta like risoni or ditalini will do.

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I hope you enjoyed your weekends despite the rain. See you all again next week with a tropical cake which is presently languishing in the freezer waiting until the sun returns before it can be photographed.

The ironing needs to be done so I better go and get that done.

Bye for now,


Monday, August 11, 2014

spicy chicken burgers on a light brioche bun

I don't usually buy take away but when I'm on holidays I've been known to order the occasional burger. I'm quite partial to a chicken burger and this month's Gourmet Traveller featured a tasty looking chicken burger recipe from Pinbone. It contained fried chicken, which I can't eat, so when I spied a Curtis Stone recipe for oven fried chicken  I thought I'd give that a go instead.

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The list of ingredients I needed was quite long so I went in search of hot sauce, panko breadcrumbs, mayonnaise, onion and garlic powder. 

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I was going to buy the bread rolls but when reading one of my favourite food blogs I discovered this New York Times recipe for light brioche burger buns. I simplified the technique considerably, put the dough into the fridge to rise overnight and made these at lunch time.

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I already had cheese in the fridge but I needed some lettuce leaves and tomatoes. I bought some mini ox heart tomatoes because they're so sweet and juicy! I thought the perfect accompaniment to the burgers would be some of my faux fries.

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Here are the simplified instructions for the brioche burger buns using a stand mixer. I also cut the sugar content considerably.

Light Brioche Bun 
Adapted from Hidefumi Kubota, Comme Ça, Los Angeles 
Time: 1 hour, plus 2 to 4 hours’ rising

3 cups bakers flour 
1/3 cup plain flour 
1 1/2 teaspoons salt 
2 teaspoons dry yeast 
2 teaspoons sugar 
35 g softened butter 
1 egg, beaten 
1 cup warm water 
3 tablespoons warm milk 

1 egg 
1 tablespoon water 
Sesame seeds 

In the bowl of an electric mixer, mix the flours with the salt, dried yeast and sugar. Add butter and rub into the flour.  

Using the dough hook, mix in the beaten egg and the warm water and milk to form a soft dough. Mix for 8 - 10 minutes before shaping the dough into a ball. Lightly grease the bowl and return the dough to the bowl. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk, 1 to 2 hours or you can place the bowl in the fridge overnight. The next day bring the dough to room temperature before proceeding to the next step. 

Line a baking tray with baking paper. Divide the dough into 8 - 12 equal parts. Gently roll each into a ball and arrange 2 to 3 inches apart on the tray. Cover loosely with a clean kitchen towel and let buns rise in a warm place for 1 to 2 hours. 

Preheat oven to 220°C/425°F with rack in centre. Set a large shallow pan of water on the oven floor. Beat remaining egg with 1 tablespoon water and lightly brush the top of the buns. Sprinkle with sesame seeds. Bake, turning the tray halfway through baking, until tops are golden brown, about 15 minutes.

Transfer to a rack to cool completely. 

Yield: 8 - 12 buns.

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I have to say these burgers were absolutely delicious. I followed Curtis Stone's instructions to the letter using chicken thigh fillets which I'd brined overnight. The buns came out really well and they were soft and tasty. I used the toppings suggested in the Pinbone recipe - cheese, tomato, lettuce, mayonnaise and hot sauce. These little burgers are so good, I think the Colonel may be in trouble!

P.S Here's my final Delicious Bites column for decor8, a recipe for Petal Cupcakes. As the column won't be running anymore what would you think if I renamed my blog Delicious Bites? It would just be a redirection so my current readers wouldn't have to change a thing. It would give me an opportunity to get a new logo and a new look for the blog. 

I'm looking forward to hearing what you think of my idea.

See you all next week,


Monday, August 04, 2014

chewy triple ginger cookies

I have a confession to make and as my work colleagues don't read my blog, this secret will stay just between you and me. I don't take all my baking into work. Sometimes I'm selfish and I'll bake something just for the biscuit tin which is what I did last weekend.

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For those of you who've been reading my blog for a while, I'm still looking for the perfect ginger biscuit recipe. I read through this chewy triple ginger cookie recipe from August's Australian Gourmet Traveller (AGT) magazine, checked my fridge and cupboards and apart from the Demerara sugar, I had all the ingredients required. I figured I could use some old fashioned coffee sugar crystals instead of the Demerara sugar so I rolled up my sleeves and put these together. The most time consuming part of the recipe was the ginger grating and juice squeezing part, but even then that wasn't too onerous.

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The recipe indicates it will make 18 biscuits. I used the cookie scoop I bought in New York a few years ago, which holds about a tablespoon. Well I made 24 generously proportioned cookies and I still have dough left over which is in the freezer, so I figure 36 is closer to the mark.

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Chewy Triple Ginger Cookies - makes about 18

160 gm softened butter
110 gm each dark muscovado sugar and raw caster sugar
60 gm honey
1 egg
330 gm plain flour
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1½ tbsp ground ginger
½ tsp each ground cinnamon and ground cloves
40 gm fresh ginger finely grated
40 gm candied ginger, finely diced
pinch of salt +/- white pepper
Demerara sugar, for coating

Preheat oven to 180C. Beat butter, sugars and honey in an electric mixer until fluffy and pale (3-4 minutes). Scrape down sides of bowl, beat in egg, then sieve over dry ingredients and stir to combine. Squeeze as much juice as possible from fresh ginger into the dough (discard solids) add candied ginger and a pinch of salt (and white pepper if using) and stir to combine.

Roll heaped tablespoons of mixture into balls, flatten slightly then coat in Demerara sugar. Place on oven trays lined with baking paper, leaving 5cm between each to allow for spread. Bake swapping trays halfway to cook evenly, until dark golden around the edges (10-12 minutes). Cool on trays, then store in an airtight container until required. Cookies will keep for 5 days.

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I have another confession to make. I love dunking my ginger biscuits into a hot cup of tea. Once these were photographed, that's exactly what I did and I had not one, but two. These cookies are nice and spicy with some added crunch from the coffee sugar crystals. I'm always tweaking recipes so I added a pinch of white pepper to the dough just to bump up the spice factor a bit more.

I still have quite a few biscuits left in the tin so once this is written I'm off to brew some tea and get dunking.

See you all again next week,


Monday, July 28, 2014

lemon curd crumble cheesecake

A few years ago I made some lemon poppyseed cheesecake tartlets using an Ottolenghi recipe I found on the Guardian website. Individual tartlets are fiddly so I decided to combine all the features of the tartlets into a single cheesecake. With a farewell morning tea on the horizon, I put this together and kept my fingers crossed that all the different elements would work together.

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Last weekend was a particularly cold weekend in Sydney and I had all sorts of trouble. I made the poppyseed base forgetting to add the sugar and then when I did, the base refused to come together. Then my foolproof lemon curd recipe turned out to not to be quite so foolproof and it required a bit of rescuing.

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As there is lemon rind in the base and it's topped with lemon curd, I decided to flavour the cheesecake purely with vanilla. I baked the cheesecake for an hour and it was a vision - a perfectly even cheesecake with nary a crack. One hour later it had developed a bit of a crevasse. These days I refuse to worry about such matters because I knew I'd be covering the cheesecake with the lemon curd.

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Here's the recipe for you. I used my little 16 cm tin and the cake will feed 8 but if you want to make a 23 cm cake, just double all the quantities and bake for the same time. You can use shop bought lemon curd, but if you'd like to make your own I've included my (normally) foolproof recipe. The lemon curd recipe makes more than enough curd to top the cake so you'll have some leftovers.

Lemon Curd Cheesecake
1 cup Plain Flour
¼ cup Caster Sugar
1 teaspoon grated lemon rind
100 grams unsalted butter
3 teaspoons poppy seeds

Preheat the oven to 180⁰C.

Place the flour, sugar and lemon rind into a food processor and whiz to combine. Add the butter and pulse until a soft dough forms. Remove the dough from the processor and gently knead the poppy seeds into the mixture.

Grease and line a 16 cm spring-form tin with baking paper. Press about half the mixture into the base of the spring-form tin. Bake the shortbread base in the preheated 180⁰C oven for 10 - 15 minutes or until the edges are lightly golden. Set to one side and allow the base to cool.

Meanwhile, line a baking sheet with baking paper. Roughly crumble the remaining shortbread mixture over the prepared baking sheet and bake in the oven for 10-15 minutes until golden. You can do this at the same time the cheesecake base is cooking. Allow the crumble topping to cool on a tray. When cool place in an airtight container until serving time.

1 x 250 gram packet of cream cheese, softened
50 grams ricotta cheese
¼ cup caster sugar
2 tsp plain flour
1 egg
1 egg yolk
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
2 tablespoons yoghurt or cream
1 egg white
Additional 1 tbs caster sugar

Lower the oven temperature to 160⁰C.

Put the cream cheese, the ricotta cheese, the ¼ cup caster sugar and the 2 tsp plain flour in the food processor and whiz until smooth. Add the egg, the yolk, the vanilla and the cream and blend until smooth. Pour the cheese filling into a medium sized bowl.

Place the egg white into a clean dry bowl and whisk until stiff peaks form. Beat in the remaining sugar until a meringue forms. Gently fold the egg white through the cheesecake batter. Pour the filling over the cooked base and bake in the preheated oven for 1 hour until the filling is almost set.

Turn off the oven and allow the cheesecake to cool in the turned off oven for an hour. When cool the cheesecake can be stored in the fridge.

Lemon curd
2 egg yolks
Finely grated rind of 1 lemon
60 ml lemon juice
1/3 cup caster sugar
60 gram unsalted butter

Place the egg yolks, the lemon rind, juice and sugar into a small bowl and place over a pan of simmering water. Whisk the mixture until smooth. Keep whisking for 10 minutes until thickened. Remove from the heat and incorporate the butter in small batches until incorporated. Set aside to cool. The mixture will continue to thicken once it cools. When cool, spoon the curd into a sterilised jar, seal and store in the fridge. The lemon curd will keep for a week or so in the fridge.

To serve
Lemon curd
Crumble topping
Icing sugar

Bring the cheesecake to room temperature. Spread the lemon curd over the top of the cooled cheesecake leaving a 1-2 cm rim. Sprinkle the icing sugar over the edges of the cheesecake. Lavishly sprinkle the crumble topping over the lemon curd and sift icing sugar over the top.

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I took the cheesecake into work and it disappeared quickly, which is always a good sign. I ate my piece of cheesecake on Saturday and the recipe is a winner. The crumble is crunchy; the lemon curd is nice and tangy, while the cheesecake is velvety smooth. I'll add more grated lemon rind to the base, next time, maybe a whole lemon rather than a teaspoonful.

It's time for me to go and clean up the mess in my kitchen.

See you all again next week,