Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Bill Granger’s Ricotta Hotcakes with Honeycomb Butter and Bananas

When you shop at Coles supermarket and spend over $30, you receive a discount fuel voucher for Shell, offering you 4c off per litre. When Mum and I went to Coles last week, our shopping bill only totaled $29.95. Disaster! So we picked up a Crunchie bar, got our fuel voucher, and went on our merry way.

This, however, presented us with a new crisis – what to do with the sodding Crunchie bar. Remember, I’m supposed to be on a diet, and mum doesn’t have a particularly sweet tooth. Then I miraculously remembered Bill Granger’s Hotcakes, which had I tried one sunny Friday morning in Sydney!


Bill Granger's Ricotta Hotcakes with Banana and Honeycomb Butter (at his café)

I’d also seen him make them on TV before, and he used a Crunchie in the recipe. I don’t have the recipe book that contains these hotcakes, but I just googled it. Problem solved.

I made these in a similar timeframe to the chicken tikka – came home from work at about midnight and prepared everything I could whilst having tea with my family. Then I stashed it in the fridge, ready to cook it the next day.

Firstly I had to make the honeycomb butter, which is just butter, a Crunchie and some honey, whizzed in the processor and shaped into a log. The batter is ricotta, eggs, milk, flour, baking powder, salt and butter. Even though you have to whip the egg whites until stiff (which I did by hand, yeah, I rock), you can make the batter up to 24 hours in advance.

Bill says to use the honeycomb butter to fry the hotcakes, but I only managed to fry one before the honeycomb in the butter started to burn in the pan. So, I cleaned the pan, and cooked the rest butter-free (it’s non-stick). This is why the rest of my hotcakes were uniform in colour, as opposed to speckly.


Homemade ones

You stack the cooked hotcakes with banana and the honeycomb butter, dust with icing sugar, and off you go. As you can see from the photos, I was a lot more judicious with the portioning out of the butter – I didn’t want to give out heart attacks on plates, you see. The hotcakes themselves are quite bland, in fact, my brother announced, “These are boring, I need syrup!”, before he realized what the butter was all about, and spread it meltingly over the hotcakes. The butter tastes GOOD. If my dad hadn’t seen what goes into the butter, I’m sure he would have added more to his as well. My dad liked the addition of banana (although you could use strawberries as well) because he said it was refreshing, and counterbalanced the richness of the hotcakes.

Of course, I didn’t eat any (but considering the turn for the worse that my “diet” has taken recently, I may as well have), but having tried them before, I can categorically say that they’re brilliant. I’m considering whipping up the batter again this Saturday to cook on Sunday morning as a hangover breakfast. I remember Nigella writing that pancakes with bananas are good for a hangover, because of the potassium in the bananas, or something like that. For my purposes, though, it’s all about the alcohol-absorbing carbs. We’ve got lots of the honeycomb butter leftover, and Saturday night is my 21st birthday!

Chicken Tikka with Red Onion Relish

This recipe comes from Nigella’s column in the New York Times, “At My Table”. I’ve only just discovered that a lovely woman from the nigella.com forum has posted up loads of Nigella’s recipes and columns, which I’ve been voraciously reading through. Many of these recipes reappear in Feast, but there are also lots of ones I haven’t seen before. Almost as good as discovering a new Nigella book!

But I’m actually very happy that I didn’t discover this archive of recipes before I got Feast. Otherwise, I’d have been well disappointed with Feast itself. Not only are some recipes repeated, but also many of the wordy Nigella descriptions (which I absolutely love) are taken word for word from “At My Table” and transplanted into Feast.

Anyway, enough of these minor complaints. I made this for lunch on Saturday. The chicken is marinated in yogurt, spices and lime juice, left to marinate for four hours and grilled. For ease, I marinated it the night before, whilst having a late-night cup of tea with my family.

Mum: It smells really authentic!


Chicken Tikka

It is served with a red onion relish – thinly sliced red onions, chilli flakes, lemon juice, coriander and a tomato. The addition of lemon juice takes the edge off the strong onion taste, so you can eat it, and still open your mouth in public afterwards. This was especially a concern for my father, as he was going out for a singing gig that night.


Red Onion Relish

I served it with fragrant basmati rice for my parents, and salad leaves for me. But in truth, you need nothing more than the delicious relish.

Another fantastic, low carb Indian meal!

Thursday, April 21, 2005

My Parents’ Dinner Party – “Trust Me, I’m a Professional”

At my parents’ request, we had some of their friends over for dinner last night, and I cooked. There were 11 people in total.

Here’s the menu:

Bolinho de Bacalau (Brazilian Cod Cakes)
Jamie Oliver’s Thai-flavoured Beef Carpaccio with mixed green salad
Nigella's Chocolate Espresso Cake with Café Latte Cream

I spent the whole day enjoyably, and sometimes, strenuously, working in the kitchen, listening to Scissor Sisters, Gwen Stefani and Tommy February6.

The company was great, the food was nice (if I may immodestly say so myself), and it was a fun night! We had a kids’ table (5 of us, aged 16 to 23, so not really “kids”) in the kitchen, and the 6 adults sat in the dining room. After dinner, it kind of dissolved - the boys went to play video games, and Georgina and I got really hyper and started sexually harassing our friends on MSN – words like “macropenis”, “orgasm”, and “masturbation” popped up frequently. But trust me, I’m not a pervert! I was just jacked up on caffeine and sugar!

I think this menu represented a major development for me, in that I actually managed to exercise restraint in my menu selection, and didn’t leave everyone in a turgid, post-prandial bloat. You see, between the deep-fried salt cod and potato fritters, and the dense chocolate espresso cake, nothing more than a light, fresh salad of mixed greens and quickly grilled and thinly sliced steak was needed.

Oh yeah, and I’m on a diet, so was planning on just eating beef and salad. Hmmm… I ended up having at least 6 cod cakes, a generous slice of chocolate cake with cream, a few Lindt Fioretto chocolates, some pieces of Cadbury Roast Almond and a few Italian biscuits. *blush*

And for those of you who are into that sort of thing, here is the food in more detail…


Bolinho de Bacalau

These were very difficult, very fiddly, but ultimately satisfying. I now have at least four versions of the recipe, all with varying ratios of salt cod, mashed potato and flavourings, and was deliberating over them for days. I ended up choosing one from Steven Snow’s South America Feature in the current issue of Vogue Entertaining and Travel, because of the inclusion of cream, parmesan cheese and Japanese panko breadcrumbs.

I’d never worked with salt cod before, and was petrified it would be inedibly salty, so soaked it for the longest stipulated time, with frequent water changes. The result? It tasted great, but I could have handled it being a bit saltier. Hah.

So, to make this Bolinho de Bacalau…

1. Soak salt cod for 24-48 hours
2. Boil and mash some potatoes
3. Grate up some parmesan
4. Poach the salt cod until cooked, then flake the flesh away from the bones



Grated cheese (on board), mashed potato (in pot), and salt cod (in bowl)

5. Saute some onions and garlic, then add the fish, and the potatoes. Stir well.

The mixture was so incredibly thick! It was such a mission stirring the thick, gloopy mixture, and my arm was DYING by the end of it. No wonder Brazilians are so toned! Hehe.

6. Add cream and grated parmesan, and stir to combine.


Dive in!

Oh my god, it was the most heavenly mixture! The salty fish, the warm, doona-like mash, turned glossy and rich from the cream and cheese. I never understood Nigella’s fixation with mashed potato as comfort food… but now I do! I just wanted to heap the mixture onto a plate, retreat to my bed and dive right in. Luckily for our guests, and my self-esteem, I restrained myself.

7. Roll into balls, coat in flour, egg and breadcrumbs.

I then stashed them in the fridge until it was time to fry! I was quite worried about these, so I did a trial one for my brother to test out – he approved. Phew!

8. Fry until golden brown.


Balls

Served with Thai sweet chilli sauce and Nando’s extra hot peri peri sauce. I was going to make saffron mayo, but was afraid it’d be too heavy. My bro suggested a sweet sauce, like plum sauce, or hoisin sauce. I think some sort of fruit chutney would be nice. (Even though I can feel Brazilians cursing me as I suggest this…)

This mixture ended up making 67 balls - the perfect amount, which we polished off easily. I have a feeling though, that even if I'd made more, we'd have been able to keep going.


Thai-flavoured Beef Carpaccio

This recipe comes from Jamie Oliver’s Return of the Naked Chef. I made this only at the insistence of my mother. I am SOOOOO over this dish! Yes, it tastes very nice, but we’ve had it a lot, and it’s kind of lost its novelty. So, I wouldn’t make this for a dinner party anymore – just for our own meals.

I used five large rump steaks (from Rendinas Butcher), flavoured and grilled them just as people were arriving, and left them to rest in foil baggies while I got on with frying the balls. This ended up being too many for 11 of us, so we have one steak leftover (hardly a problem, it became my dinner again tonight).

The beef slices are arranged over salad, and sprinkled with chilli, coriander, radish, lime juice, soy sauce and sesame oil.


Thai beef carpaccio, balls in background


Chocolate Espresso Cake with Café Latte Cream

This cake comes from “Dinner Party Cakes” in the “Chocolate Cake Hall of Fame” from Nigella’s Feast, and is one on the list of many of Nigella’s chocolate cakes that I’d been meaning to try (there’s at least 12 on the list).


Chocolate Espresso Cake with Cafe Latte Cream

This went down an absolute treat! Everyone loved it. I discovered too late that Uncle Nick doesn’t like chocolate cake, but he very graciously had an entire slice. I have learnt since is a huge compliment from him, as normally he doesn’t even try chocolate cake at all. I think it was because he liked the accompanying café latte cream (white chocolate, cream and instant espresso powder).

It’s a really, really good cake. Almost flourless, intense in texture and taste, yet not coronary-inducingly dense. The coffee adds a slightly smoky intensity, which offsets the sweetness. I also took the remaining slice to uni today for An, who, despite his claims of "I wanna savour this", gobbled it down with surprising speed (he’s usually a very slow eater).

An: Why didn’t you just make two cakes?


My Slice – yeah man, I’m so committed to my diet…

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Ricotta Hotcakes (Forever Summer)

As promised... the answer to last night's carb-craving...

Dad woke up at 9:50am, went to the corner store and picked up a tub of ricotta cheese for me, and I whipped up these hotcakes. They don't require very energetic mixing, so were nice to make on a lazy sunny Sunday morning. (Well, lazy for me, but not for my Dad, as he had to leave for work at 11 and was in a hurry...)

Surprisingly, the mixture has no sugar in it. So, not too unhealthy...

I fried them in a Le Crueset cast iron frypan. As is usual when making pancakes, the first few were duds, and resulted in them breaking up and me scraping bits off the pan... but the rest were fine, and didn't need much oil at all.


Ricotta Hotcakes

Nigella says she likes them served with just strawberries, whilst her children like to drown them in syrup. I think the addition of something sweet is definitely the superior option. I had mine with strawberries, light cream cheese and jams (St Dalfour Strawberry, Swedish Cloudberry). My brother also used honey and peanut butter. Mmm... lovely, but just a touch too fattening for my liking. BUT, if I weren't on a diet, I would have used peanut butter, jam, AND Milo. On the one hotcake. What a heavenly combination!


A "single" portion. (Although I think I ended up having at least 6... I lost count)

I’ve made Nigella’s Banana Buttermilk Pancakes before, and I think I prefer those – they’ve got more interest about them, whereas these ones are quite bland. I’d been wanting to make the hotcakes for ages, ever since I bought Forever Summer, like two years ago. But in reality, they weren’t quite as dreamy as Nigella’s description…

“the flavour of cheesecake, combined with a texture that’s best, if wordily, described as a kind of souffléed griddle cake”

...but still nice. Despite their blandness, they have a lovely light texture, colour, and gorgeous smell. The perfect way to satisfy my carb-craving without inducing undue guilt and self-loathing!

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Sake Steak with Rice

This was dinner tonight. From Nigella's "Ultimate Feasts" in Feast. Despite having read this chapter numerous times, this was the first recipe I made from it. And it was beautiful! I can definitely understand why Nigella cooks this "more often than I cook anything else, bar the roast chicken, in my repertoire". I guess I'd better get cracking on her ultimate roast chicken!

In the morning, Dad and I went to Rendinas Butcher, about which I have waxed lyrical before, and picked up a couple of rather huge rump steaks. Brought them home, and let them marinate in English mustard, soy sauce, garlic oil and Worcestershire sauce.

When I was about to start cooking later on, my dad informed me that Daniel was working, and thus wasn't having dinner with us, so I only grilled one of the steaks, and decided to use some leftover plain rice from the fridge. (Just enough for my parents).


Rump No. 1, on the grill

However, after the steak was cooked and resting, Daniel called to tell us that his shift was cancelled, so he was coming home! So quick as a flash, I whipped out the other steak and put some fresh basmati rice on to cook. But, when he got home he told us that he'd already had KFC because he thought he was going to be working! Grrr... but of course, it smelled so delicious that he had some anyway. (Yes it was all about the deliciousness, nothing to do with me guilt-tripping him!)

It's served with cardomom-scented basmati rice, and a sauce made of sake, soy sauce, fish sauce, Worcestershire sauce and English mustard... Mmmmmm....

I found the sauce a bit salty, but I think that was because I didn't have rice (remember the diet?). Also, a friend of mine who's made this said she found the sauce too Worcestershire saucey. But my family are big fans of Lee & Perrins Worcestershire sauce, so we loved it. (Or as my brother and I hilariously like to call it, "Lee & PERNIS"...)


Sake steak with rice


My own, carb-free portion

A quick, easy yet luxurious supper.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Food I was dreaming of today...

I was so hungry at uni...

  • Fettucine in a disgustingly rich and creamy blue cheese sauce

  • A steak sandwich - bloodily juicy and charred sirloin, with melting Swiss cheese, caramelized onions, peppery rocket and stinging mustard, wodged into a crunchy ciabatta roll

  • A field mushroom, slathered in garlic and herb butter, roasted until soft and melting, served in a crusty white bread roll, eaten squishily and with the juices dripping down my arms...

Monday, April 11, 2005

Tender and Crisp Chicken Legs with Sweet Tomatoes (Jamie's Dinners)

This recipe comes from Jamie’s Dinners, which I have discovered is a really great book. This was very, very easy. Just chuck chicken pieces into a dish with cherry tomatoes, olive oil, basil, garlic, salt and pepper, and cook for one and a half hours in a moderate oven, turning the tomatoes once. I chucked it in the oven at about 5:20, had some people over to work on a group assignment, then had them out the door just after the chicken was cooked. Easy peasy! The recipe asks for “4 chicken legs, jointed”, but I had no idea what that meant. From the picture, it looks like little chicken marylands with the knobbly bit at the end of the drumstick cut off. But I substituted 8 plain old drumsticks.

It looked gorgeous going into the oven, with the Italian-flag combination of white garlic, fragrantly green basil and red tomatoes…


Chicken going into oven

And it smells beautiful as it’s cooking. Jealous sniffs coming from my fellow group members. Hah!


Cooked. Looks shrivelled, but tastes great! And so tender too!

I actually left the chicken sitting in the turned-off oven until my group members left, which was about 20 minutes. But it was fine, not dry at all. In fact it was very crisp, and very tender! (Funny, that.) The tomatoes were great as well, their fruity sweetness intensified in the heat.

I think this would be a good recipe for beginners to cook, as it's easy and has lovely results. More importantly though, it's a great dish for anyone to eat. Very homely and tasty and comforting, yet light at the same time. I served it with egg-fried rice (for my family) and salad.

Jamie also suggests shredding the chicken meat once cooked and tossing it through cooked pasta - a great idea, but I think it would need a LOT more seasoning. Or at least a lot of cheese. Mmm... CHEESE.

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Happy Birthday Daniel!

On Monday night, my family went out for my brother Daniel’s 23rd birthday dinner. We went to Cecconi’s, in Crown, a very lovely, large and fancy Italian restaurant. We went there for my birthday last year, but my bro was in England at the time and so missed out…

I bought Daniel a red armband from Tomorrow Never Knows. I forget the brand, but it’s made by this artist who does one-off pieces, so I thought Dan would appreciate it. It also matches his loud Evisu jeans with the red sunbursts on them. Dad got him a book – The Art of the Matrix.

So here’s what we ate. As I am too lazy to do photos of all of them, you’ll just have to imagine… I’m only going into my food in detail, because it was obviously the best.

Daniel

Oysters with tuna carpaccio, green onions and green chilli

Tortelloni (yup, tortelloni) with prosciutto and ricotta


Strawberry triffle (sic)



Mum

Crab kataifi roll - crab in a Greek pastry shell, kinda like filo but with lots of thin strands instead of layers.

Osso Bucco – This is Cecconi’s most popular, speciality dish. It’s very traditional, the veal shank stew served on risotto Milanese and sprinkled with gremolata. Mum seemed to like it, but Dad hated his.


Dad

Quail with chorizo

Dad absolutely loved this. He almost ordered another one. In fact, he probably should have, as he didn’t like the heavy taste of his Osso Bucco…

Osso Bucco

Neither of them had dessert. Pikers!


Me

Campari and Orange – my drink, the only drink with which to begin an Italian meal!

Peppered Beef Carpaccio with garlic aioli, mushrooms, cress and rocket

This was absolutely fabulous! The meat practically melted in my mouth, the mushrooms tasted so fresh, and the aioli was heavenly!!

Half a baby chicken with porcini lasagnette

Again, this was super-yummy, but couldn’t really top the carpaccio. The chicken was crunchy and tender, and the lasagnette had a lovely taste, but the texture was a bit cotton-wooly for my liking. Came with a sage butter sauce though, delicious.

St Azur blue vein cheese with grapes, pears, sultanas, quince paste and crackers

I’ve wanted to be a “cheese-for-pudding” person for ages, but the lure of the dessert menu has always been too strong. This night however, the desserts looked a bit boring (banana and date pudding, soft-centred chocolate pudding, cassata, tiramisu etc. – so basically, fancier versions of stuff I could make at home), so I went for a blue vein cheese. It was so so good, tasted great, looked beautiful, and was just the right, oozy temperature. I had it with a glass of De Bortoli Noble One Semillon. “This is giving me pleasure on so many levels!”

I’m converted now – bring on the cheese!

Happy birthday Daniel!

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Healthy Dinners...

My computer’s back!! It had a little breakdown over the weekend, but after a couple of days in the shop, it’s back, good as new. And whilst I haven't been on the computer, I certainly haven't stopped eating. So this food blog NEEDS updating!

As you all know, I’m on a diet now (although I prefer the word “regime” – it’s French, don't you know). So, for those of you who want healthy suggestions, or those who just to laugh at me whilst you tuck into a delicious slice of cake, here are some of my recent healthy dinners.


Salmon with Shiitake Mushrooms and Greens


From “Templefood” in Nigella Bites. I’d made this before and been unimpressed, but the other night I decided to give it another go, and it turned out much better this time. It’s a very simple recipe, the type of thing one of us would cook up quickly on a weeknight, but still very good. It really is "gratifyingly substantial", to steal Nigella's words. If you make this, you absolutely must make the little sauce she suggests to go with (mustard powder, soy sauce, water and fresh ginger) - it's killer.


Vietnamese Chicken Salad


Again from "Templefood". This salad is very tasty, simple to make, and I think it's a good idea to have it sitting in the fridge, for a low-fat, low-carb meal when I return from uni so hungry that I could eat anything and everything (and probably would, given half the chance).


Lemon, Mint and Spinach Salad with Griddled Courgettes


These are side dishes from the "Meatless Feasts" chapter in Feast. It was surprisingly tasty, given how simple it is. Fabulous, in fact. The courgettes are just sliced and grilled, but it's the addition of salt and lemon juice that lift them to a whole new level - highlighting the courgette's griddled sweetness. And the spinach salad - baby spinach, lemon, salt and mint, (I added pine nuts and pepitas for crunch) - is lovely. All the elements of the salad just work so well together.

Just a warning though, these make a VERY light dinner - if I were you and less flippant about energy levels than myself, I'd probably add a piece of grilled chicken or something to make it more substantial, and less likely to result in fainting later on. But at any rate, this combination is fabulous, I've had it twice this week.

Just letting you all know that I also went to the gym tonight. *Insert smug virtuous grin here*