Saturday, December 30, 2006

Ice-Cream Sunday 2: Bitter Orange & Blueberry Tart with Cheesecake Ice-Cream
















When I decided to start making a whole bunch of ice-creams over summer, Nigella's cheesecake ice-cream was right at the top of my list. I love cheesecake, I love all sorts of cream cheese or mascarpone-based desserts, and I've always loved cheesecake flavoured ice-cream - but only when it actually tastes of cream-cheese. Häagen-Dazs' Strawberry "Cheesecake", for instance, doesn't taste like cheesecake, but seems to be just ordinary ice-cream with biscuit pieces folded through. Disappointment!

But back to the ice-cream at hand. In the introduction to her cheesecake ice-cream, Nigella writes that she once had cheesecake ice-cream served with a mini blueberry pie in Los Angeles. It sounded like a good combination to me! I had a family dinner on Friday night for which I needed to make a dessert, so I decided to try it out.

The cheesecake ice-cream is from Forever Summer, and I paired it with a bitter orange and blueberry tart from How to be a Domestic Goddess. I had a whole lot of blueberries in the freezer - they were cheap at Aldi last week, so I stocked up - and some Seville oranges from last year, so it was quite convenient.

The tart is a sweet pastry case, blind baked, and then filled with a creamy, eggy mixture that is flavoured with Seville orange juice and zest, and topped with blueberries which are then glazed. Sweet pastry is always hard to deal with, but I found that by keeping all the ingredients and work surfaces cold, and using a lot of flour to roll it out, the pastry didn't fall apart. Phew! After rolling out and filling the tart, I had quite a bit of pastry and filling left over, so I made a couple of mini tarts in muffin tins. You bake the filled tart(s) until firm...















... and let it cool before piling the blueberries on top.

The cheesecake ice-cream is a lot simpler than the tart. It's simply a matter of whisking up some caster sugar with cream cheese, vanilla and an egg, then adding hot milk and cooking the whole lot on a low heat until thickened. Once this has cooled down, you add lemon juice (I used Seville orange juice because I still had some) and a small carton of whipped double cream. Then it can be churned!















Mmm... check out that texture. I was actually running a bit late, and only managed to get the ice-cream into the freezer about 3 hours before we were supposed to eat it. This, however, was a really good thing, as the ice-cream was at perfect scooping texture straight out of the freezer. Usually, homemade ice-cream is rock hard because none of us can bear waiting for it to soften before hoeing into it.















Mmm... check it out! The pie was great - the bitter orange and blueberries make a lovely combination. Well done Nigella! And it wasn't too sweet or rich - a very good thing, as we'd had a massive Japanese feast for dinner, and didn't want a huge dessert. The pastry turned out quite flaky too. Delicious! However, whilst the pie was great, the ice-cream was just amazing! It had a pronounced cheesecake taste, and the smoothest, loveliest texture! Absolutely gorgeous. It's the type of ice-cream you could imagine eating a whole tub of whilst watching a DVD on a quiet night in.

I wasn't sure if the easy-scoop texture of the ice-cream was just because it had only been frozen for a short while, but the next day I had another scoop for afternoon tea, and it was just as smooth and gorgeous. It's a brilliant recipe, and I'm looking forward to making it again.































Friday, December 29, 2006

Random Brunswick Street Life

The warm weather is back! 24 degrees today and sunny.

Mmm... latte foam...

















Honey lining a chai latte glass...


















Sweet pizza at Bimbo's... chocolate in the front, apple at the back...

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Leftovers!

















Leftover gravlax, tossed through hot fettucine with a small knob of butter, a spoonful of cream, Maldon salt, and some freshly ground black pepper. Fabulous with an ice-cold rosé.

Ice-Cream Sunday: Brrr...! It's cold in here!

Hi All,

Just letting you know that my 1-ice-cream-a-week "Ice-Cream Sunday" project is still going. It's just been way too cold to eat any!! I wanted to have ice-cream on Christmas, but it was absolutely freezing, (and it still is). Right now outside feels more like stodgy-pudding weather than ice-cream weather.

More ice-creams to come, once the sun comes back out! (Or if it remains cold, I guess I'll just have to make ice-creams WITH puddings. Genius.)

xox Sarah

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Merry Christmas! - Christmas Dinner

Merry Christmas everybody! To everyone who celebrates, I hope you had a fabulous day and that you were at the top of Santa's good list! For lunch, all the members of my family were eating traditional Christmas lunches at different locations, but we had a light family dinner planned for the late evening.


Christmas Dinner Menu

- Gravlax (Nigella's Christmas Kitchen)
- Blini (How to Eat, although Tyler Florence also has a recipe in Real Kitchen)
- Sliced cucumber
- Salsa of red onion, capers and lime juice
- Sour cream
- Bellini cocktails

This menu was reasonably easy to put together, but does require a bit of advance preparation. The gravlax has to be prepared 2 or 3 days in advance, and the blini batter has to be started the morning of the day you want to eat it.

I would have never thought to make gravlax myself, but seeing Nigella make it on her Christmas program really inspired me to do so. (Do we see a recurring theme here?) It's super, super easy. You need a large fillet of salmon, skin on, which you cover in a paste made of sugar, sea salt, English mustard and gin. Then you blanket it in loads of dill, flip it over and cover it tightly with glad wrap. Once this is all done, you can shunt it in the fridge for 2 to 3 days, weighted down. (I used the random jars of jams and sauces that were already in my fridge, and piled them on top. Space saver!)















Salmon ready for glad wrap.

This morning, I made the blini batter, in double quantities. It's basically a yeasted pancake batter (the yeast is essential for the authentic blini taste, says Nigella), with buckwheat and regular white flour. You mix up all the ingredients in the morning, and let it rise slowly in the fridge all day. (Of course, you could just make it a couple of hours in advance and let it rise at room temperature, but the all-day-refrigerated-rise-method was much more convenient for my timing today).

The batter looked like this when I took it out of the fridge in the evening, all spongy and light. Awesome!















Before you get frying, you fold in a beaten egg white. Oh actually, come to think of it, I was supposed to put 2 eggs in there, but I only put in 1. D'oh!! They still turned out fine though.

To prepare the dinner in the evening, it was simply a matter of frying the blini, and slicing everything else up. Blini smell a-mazing frying in a hot pan. The yeasty batter, when cooking, smells just like pizza dough.















Salmon, ready to be sliced. It is important to use a very sharp knife.















Sliced cucumber















Red onions and capers. (I squeezed lime juice over the onions, and let it sit while I was doing the rest of the slicing and dicing, to allow the juice to take the edge off the raw onion).
















Sliced gravlax. I think you're supposed to cut the skin off, but I didn't because I was being lazy. You can't eat the skin though, and the dish looks prettier without it, so next time I'll definitely cut it off.

I put my mother and my friend Su on Bellini duty - they peeled the white peaches and puréed the flesh in a blender, ready to be poured into champagne glasses and topped up with prosecco.




















The meal was fantastic! All the flavours worked together perfectly. I think that the flavours of this meal are really classic combinations, and it's easy to see why. Additionally, when you eat this meal, you will see why sour cream and onion chips are the best flavoured chips ever! Su also brought her mother's pumpkin salad - roast pumpkin, cut into fine dice, mixed with white beans, chickpeas, cinnamon and coriander. Yummy!















Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Merry Christmas! - Christmas Eve Goose
















I do love goose.

Christmas Eve Dinner

- Bohemian Roast Goose (Feast)
- Perfect Roast Potatoes (How to Eat/Feast)
- Maple Roast Parsnips (Feast)
- Red Cabbage cooked in the Viennese Fashion (How to Eat)
















As you can see from the photo, I really have gotten into the Christmas spirit. I even bought a tablecloth!! (This is a huge step for me, as I never do table decorations. I feel so grown up.) The napkins were made by my mother. I was just going to buy some, but all the offerings at the stores were either hideously expensive or just plain hideous. Mum bought some cheap red and gold cloth, cut it into squares and sewed the edges neat. Very nice!

So, goose. I love goose, and have been harbouring very fond memories of roast duck with dumplings and 2 types of cabbage, eaten at the Staroměstská Restaurace in Prague. I thought that Nigella's Bohemian roast goose recipe would approximate this wonderful dish. Her goose is stuffed with a mixture of sauerkraut, apple, sugar and caraway seeds, and then roasted. Summer weather is hardly appropriate for this type of food, but that has never stopped me before. And coincidentally, it happened to be very cold today - less than 20 degrees. Brr!

The last time I made goose, I used the "pour boiling water over the goose then dry it with a fan" method, which gives it super-crispy skin. Nigella says you don't necessarily need to do this, but I had enough time, and more importantly, enough fans to do it. (They were on sale for $20 at Target last week and it was very hot).















So once the goose is dried and stuffed, you can roast it, chucking some apples in for the last 45 minutes of cooking. Once it came out of the oven, I covered it in foil, and cooked the parboiled potatoes in the delicious goosefat. The parsnips were sliced into batons, parboiled, and baked in a separate tray with maple syrup and olive oil. The cabbage has to be cooked while this is all going on, as it takes 2 hours. It may sound like too much effort, but believe me, it is not. It is, in my opinion, the most delicious cabbage recipe ever! And I do love cabbage. The recipe basically consists of shredded red cabbage, red onion, brown sugar, an apple and some beef stock, cooked very slowly for 2 hours. At the end, you stir in a bit of cream and flour, and it's done. A-mazing.















Mmm... Dinner. Mum carved the goose, as I am a complete klutz with the carving knife.















The dinner table















Carved goose















Maple-Roasted Parsnips
















Roast potatoes. They have a few black specks from being roasted in freshly rendered, unstrained goosefat, but they tasted brilliant. So crunchy!
















Red cabbage

The goose was a little bit dry, but the skin was delightfully crispy, and the sauerkraut filling was delicious! The dry meat wasn't totally a problem though, because the cabbage was quite moist, and the baked apples were very soft, more like an apple sauce. I think they looked quite pretty too - perhaps it would be a good idea to roast whole apples alongside, say, a roast pork instead of making an apple sauce.















I love the warm, Autumnal golden tones of this meal.

I hadn't planned a dessert, apart from fruit, but by the end of dinner we were all feeling like another piece of that chocolate fruit cake, which I served with a swiftly made custard. We'd eaten a few slices earlier in the day for afternoon tea, and thought that its super-dense fruity centre would be best served with a custard, as a pudding. Wonderful. I made too much custard for 5 people - 400ml of cream, 4 egg yolks and 4 heaped teaspoons of sugar. I don't think this is a problem though, because there is half of the chocolate fruit cake left, and cold custard is just heavenly.
















It's not Christmas without mince pies and Walker's shortbread!

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Merry Christmas! - Chocolate Fruit Cake




















Making Nigella's chocolate fruit cake was a last minute affair. I saw it on her Christmas show a couple of nights ago, and it looked so deeply fabulous that I decided that I must have one too. It's very easy, and doesn't need to be made far in advance, like a trad fruit cake or pudding would.

Just heat dried fruits (prunes, raisins, currants, orange peel) in a pan with butter, dark muscovado sugar, honey, coffee liqueur (I used Kahlua), orange juice and zest, mixed spice and cocoa. Once it's all smoothly combined, you have to let it steep for at least half an hour.















Then you add eggs, flour, ground almonds, baking powder and bicarb, and bake it in a double-lined springform tin for a good long time. It stays squidgy and moist even when cooked, but firms up after cooling down. I decorated it with a mixture of chocolate-covered raisins (Nigella used chocolate covered coffee beans on the show, but I thought raisins were more appropriate) and silver cachous. Ta-dah!















Christmas goodies! White chocolate and cranberry cookies, chocolate fruit cake, and mince tarts (from the Convent bakery in Kew).

Merry Christmas! - Cranberry and White Chocolate Cookies















I made these cookies on Thursday the 21st of December, as a last minute Christmas gift for some friends who I only just realised were giving me Christmas gifts. They come from the Christmas chapter in Nigella's Feast, and as such, were totally appropriate. The cookie batter contains rolled oats, dried cranberries, pecans and white chocolate. It looks very, very festive.
















You roll out tablespoonfuls of the dough out, and bake it for 15 minutes. Easy. I increased the quantities of the recipe by 1.5, which resulted in 42 cookies - enough to go between my friend Mark, my friend Sandra, and my family.















Check out the delightfully jewel-bright cranberry-studded interior! Very pretty. The bicsuits were lovely and crunchy, but too sweet (even with the sour cranberries inside). I'd love to make these again, but with much less sugar. I would have also liked much, much more chunky bits. I'd easily double the cranberries and the chocolate, and perhaps triple the nuts. You see, after trying out The Rock's Favourite Chocolate Chip Cookies, I have realised that only totally garish cookies, chock-full of chunky American-style goodness will satisfy me. But even so, these were still very good, and my family will happily finish them off over the next few days.





















Packed and ready to go.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Merry Christmas! - Lebkuchen


Lebkuchen

My run-up to Christmas started about a week ago. I was out shopping and happened to see the perfect gift for my brother. Before that, I didn't think we were really going to do Christmas this year, as we're all busy with work and we don't usually have a tree anyway. All I had planned for this year was a festive roast goose for Christmas Eve. In all honesty, I think we're still recovering from last year's mega-turkey-feast.

Anyway, back to my story. I bought my brother the gift, and then realised that it would be more festive if we actually had a tree in the house to shelter the gift. (I also realise that displaying my brother's gift under a tree 2 weeks before Christmas would increase the likelihood of me receiving a gift this year. Sneaky). So Mum and I hit the local nursery and got a conifer bush to display in the kitchen.

Then I baked some lebkuchen (recipe from How to be a Domestic Goddess) to decorate the tree. Lebkuchen are delicious little crunchy German biscuits, rich with spices and dark sugar, and hot with pepper. The pepper might sound a bit weird, but it tastes good. After rolling and cutting out your little biscuits, you cut a little hole in the top (I used a chopstick), so that you can later thread some ribbon through and hang it on the tree. The icing is just a mixture of icing sugar and water, which I then decorated with cachous and other random sprinkles I found in my pantry. Luckily for me I only have a small conifer bush, and not a proper hardcore Christmas pine tree. The recipe made more than enough biscuits for decorating, and we got to eat the rest. Score!

Since the lebkuchen day, Nigella's Christmas Kitchen has been screening on the Lifestyle Channel, which got me even more mega-pumped about Christmas, and Christmas plans are now in full swing. I've been shopping and baking like crazy and I have my Christmas Eve roast goose dinner and my Christmas dinner (non-turkey) all planned out. Check back over the next few days to see progress.

Edit: Having recently heard my friends' plans for traditional turkey lunches, and seeing Nigella's fabulous Christmas lunch on the final episode of Nigella's Christmas Kitchen tonight, I can't help but feel a pang of emptiness in my heart that only a roast turkey smothered in bread sauce can fill. Oh well, there's always next year. Or Boxing Day.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Ice-cream Sunday 1: Italian Antipasto Lunch



I had some friends over for lunch yesterday. It was a lovely sunny day, and we ate out in the garden. I made a few platters of food, and let everyone pick what they wanted. Easy! We had an Italian-style antipasto lunch, followed by ice-cream.

The Menu

Mixed griddled vegetables (Jamie's Kitchen)
Plain bruschetta (Jamie's Italy, although I guess you don't need a recipe to grill bread and drizzle it with oil and salt)
BBQ'd marinated chicken wings
Prosciutto
Ricotta
Marinated Olives

I bought the prosciutto, olives and cheese from Cardamone's fabulous Italian supermarket on Station street, Fairfield, and prepared the rest of the food myself. All the food was cooked on the BBQ (aka The Beefmaster 3000), and I got to work barbecueing about an hour before my lunch was scheduled, and my friends started arriving just as I finished grilling.

For the bruschetta, I sliced 2 loaves of light rye sourdough, and grilled them on the BBQ until -marked on each side, and drizzled them with extra-virgin olive oil and salt.

Jamie's grilled vegetable recipe includes red and yellow capsicum, zucchini, baby leeks, fennel and eggplant. Fennel's out of season, so I left it out, and I've never seen a baby leek, so I used spring onions. The capsicum you grill whole until it's black, then let it cool and peel and deseed it. The rest of the vegetables simply need to be sliced and then grilled.


the barbecue

Once the vegetables were done, I drizzled them with a mixture of basil, olive oil, garlic and salt, which I had combined with a pestle and mortar earlier.

Next was the chicken wings. To prepare them for the BBQ, the chicken wings had been marinated overnight in lemon juice, olive oil, peppercorns and salt. They took about 10 minutes on each side to be cooked - it was such an effort to cook them on the BBQ, standing in the hot sun, no beer in hand. (I had to drive later that night). Phew!! Next time it's the oven!

After a lot of grilling and some very attractive tan lines on my feet, lunch was ready.


stack of griddled bread


chicken wings (scattered with chopped parsley)


Prosciutto


Platter of mixed grilled vegetables. (In the book, Jamie mixes them up, but I preferred to keep them separate).



I set up all the food inside (didn't want it to go funny because of the bright sun), we took it and ate on the porch. Lovely!


Now we get to the ice-cream. I served 4 ice-creams, which I had made at various points throughout the week.

- peanut butter ice-cream (Iced)
- baci ice-cream (Forever Summer)
- vanilla gelato (Iced)
- strawberry ice-cream (Forever Summer)

It's not possible for me to make more than one ice-cream a day, because my ice-cream maker only holds 1 litre, and because the speedie-freeze bowl can only be used once before it needs to be washed and re-frozen, ready for the next batch of ice-cream.

There are several ways you can make an ice-cream base, but essentially you make up a custard (i.e. beaten egg yolks and sugar, combined with hot cream or milk) and slowly cook it over a low heat until it thickens. Then you can add your flavourings and churn it for 15 minutes, before transferring it to the freezer to freeze completely. The peanut butter ice-cream has peanut butter and sour cream folded through, the strawberry ice-cream has (funnily enough) puréed strawberries, and the baci has nutella, cocoa, melted chocolate and hazelnut syrup. I doubled the quantity of hazelnut syrup because I felt the hazelnut flavour was not pronounced enough upon tasting it. The vanilla gelato is a bit different, however. It is simply milk, vanilla extract and sugar, which you combine and then churn.


baci ice-cream in churn (made on Thursday)


peanut butter ice-cream in churn (made on Friday)


Table


vanilla gelato, baci ice-cream. Mum had the idea of making a bowl of multicololured mini-scoops with that yellow scooper, which would have looked wonderful, but the ice-cream was too hard straight out of the freezer to do so. And more importantly, we were all impatient to eat the ice-cream!


bowl of ice-cream

The baci ice-cream was delicious, so velvety and chocolatey. Just like frozen nutella. The recipe only makes about 750ml, but that is ok because it is incredibly rich! A teensy scoop is more than enough. The peanut butter ice-cream is as good as it sounds, smooth and with a strong peanut taste. However, I would have liked some crunch in there, perhaps with some roasted peanuts or peanut brittle (just like the Peanut Nutter flavour at Trampoline - best ice-cream store EVER!).
As you can see in the photo, the vanilla gelato didn't really scoop properly as it was very icy. It still tasted good, very light and refreshing, and a great foil against the super-rich peanut butter and chocolate ice-cream.

The strawberry, however, was just divine. Real strawberry ice-cream is my favourite flavour. Especially Häagen-Dazs' strawberry, eaten out of a little tub with a wooden spoon whilst on holiday in Malaysia, lounging on a deckchair and getting nicely tanned. Nigella's one tastes very "Wimbledon" - fresh strawberries and cream, frozen into a bowl of pure deliciousness. Heavenly.

My friends said that the strawberry-baci combination was the best, and I'd definitely agree.