Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Shrove Tuesday....mmmmm.... Pancake Day!

Shrove Tuesday, the perfect excuse to indulge in pancakes - and for the first time in a little while I've managed to make them on the Tuesday.

Ricotta Pancakes© by Haalo


Sunday, February 26, 2006

Blancmanger

A most interesting IMBB this month - Cucina Testa Rossa would like us to cook a French regional dish and match it with a French wine. This was more of a case of what wouldn't you like to cook - way too many choices.

After wading through the bookcase I finally settled on two books in particular for inspiration, Anthony Bourdain's "Les Halles Cookbook" and a new release by Australia's Damien Pignolet, "French."

Eventually I opted for the local choice and in particular a dish that I've never made before but always held an interest.

The dish in question is "Blancmanger" or "Milk Jelly" - it's the food that seems to be associated with English boarding schools but according to Damien its an "ancient recipe from the French region of Provence consisting of sweetened almond milk bound with gelatine and lightened with softly whipped cream". Now, I ask you, who could resist that description?

Doing some more research I've discovered that it does have quite an interesting if not confused, history - Larousse claims it's a dish from the Languedoc region; it has Italian connections with the area of Valle D'Aosta as a kind of regional panna cotta; Wikipedia believes it was introduced by the Arabs into Spain and Sicily, the medieval version was a savoury dish, and finally, Escoffier pronounced it to be "one of the best sweets served."

So, for this exercise I will trust Damien on Blancmangers history and now it's time to move onto the best part, the dish!


Blancmanger© by Haalo


Paper Chef #15: The Results

Magic Tofu and his fearless companion Fufu, over at Slurp and Burp have just announced the results for Paper Chef #15.

Congratulations on everyone that took part - all the dishes were amazing and certainly showed what can be done with simple ingredients and some imagination.

And congratulations to the category winners:
Tankeduptaco (Super Saver Award)
Noodle Cook (Picasso Award)
Alanna and Surfindaave (Home Cook Award)

Blow me down with a feather, I'm still going wow, but I managed to snag the Indiana Jones and Grand Winner award. Thank you once again, it certainly came as a surprise.

This is such a fun event and I can't recommend it highly enough, and in the words of Molly Meldrum, do yourself a favour and check out Tomatilla on Friday 3rd March for the start of Paper Chef #16.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Easy Peasy Pie

Savoury pies are another of those great winter comfort foods - crisp pastry encasing a steaming, oozing mix of your favourite meats and vegetables. Sounds lovely but what if I can't be bothered making and rolling the pastry and as for forming it into little pies - ugh there are other things to do with my time.

For these days I like to make this...

easy peasy pie© by haalo

...the Easy Peasy Pie.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Friday o'Clock Swill #4: My Blue Heaven

It seems summer isn't quite finished...so here's a drink to see you through the rest of the season (or for those in winter climes, a celebration of the season to come)

My Blue Heaven© by Haalo

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Spiced Hot Chocolate

Spiced Hot Chocolate© by Haalo

A much loved winter warmer that's been given a boost with the addition of cinnamon and vanilla - who could resist such a delicious combination?

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Ultimate Gnocchi

ricer© by haalo

You might be wondering why I chose this photo to head up this post about Gnocchi. It's a simple reason, really. This object is a key to making excellent Gnocchi - and it's an inexpensive device called a Potato Ricer. This one was given to me by my mother, her own ricer came with her when she migrated from Italy, along with a few other things that had yet to be seen in Australia. But that's a whole other topic.

Having obtained the best training in the kitchen alongside my mother, the secrets of Gnocchi (amongst other things) became clear, follow these are you are half way there.

These are the secrets to making the best gnocchi:
1. you must use starchy potatoes
2. you must boil them in their skin
3. you must put them through the ricer when they are still hot
4. only 3 ingredients are needed, potatoes, salt and flour

Monday, February 20, 2006

Mixed Fruit and Nut Bread

Mixed Fruit and Nut Bread© by Haalo


This is something I like to make when the weather begins to get a little colder - it's excellent served warm, straight from the oven or toasted the next day with appropriate levels of butter!

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Friday o'clock Swill #3: Lychee Fling

lychee fling© by Haalo

To mangle a saying...red and green should never be seen, unless a drink is in the scene!

This weeks (slightly delayed) offering is a very refreshing summery delight that puts to use those tinned lychees that happen to be sadly sitting in our cupboards.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Going crackers for cheese

There's been much said about "cheesegate" and others have voiced opinions far more eloquently than I ever could, so in solidarity with "Cheese Sandwich Day" I present this offering of Cheese Crackers

cheese crackers© by Haalo


Thursday, February 16, 2006

Blog Party #7: Red and Hot

Stephanie from Dispensing Happiness our delightful Blog Party hostess has decided that the theme for this month's event would be red and hot.

I've continued on with my simpler outlook from Paper Chef and created two eye-catching yet simple canapés and as requested, there's also a cocktail to enjoy.

Watermelon Cube with Marinated Fetta© by Haalo Beetroot Cured Salmon, Pear and Lime: Spoon Style© by Haalo

hot and cold cocktail© by Haalo


On offer is
Watermelon Cube with Marinated Fetta
Beetroot Cured Salmon, Pear and Lime: Spoon Style
Hot and Cold Cocktail

Hot and Cold Cocktail

This gets it's kick from Chilli Vodka and it's redness from a combination of Blood Orange Juice and Grenadine.

Hot and Cold Cocktail© by Haalo

Beetroot Cured Salmon with Sliced Pear and Lime

This could well have been another entry for Paper Chef #15 but it fits in equally with the Blog Party #7 theme.

Beetroot Cured Salmon with Sliced Pear and Lime: Spoon Style© by haalo

Watermelon Cubes with Marinated Fetta

I've often seen watermelon and fetta matched together in salads so why not in a canapé? Since it's summer here and watermelon is plentiful and I've got that Marinated Fetta in the fridge, why not take advantage of the situation and make this extremely simple, quick and easy canapé, that still looks good (we don't want to spend all our time in the kitchen when a party is on!)

watermelon cubes with marinated fetta© by haalo

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Paper Chef #15

Magic Tofu over at Slurp & Burp recently announced the ingredients for Paper Chef #15. Those ingredients are beets, pears, lime and aphrodisiacs. After having overdosed on aphrodisiacs for the recent Sugar High Friday, for Paper Chef I'm taking a more simplistic approach, yet doing something a bit out of the box.

Beet and Pears are commonly found matched in salads and it wouldn't be too difficult to incorporate lime and aphrodisiacs galore in this type of dish. Sweet wise, it would be pretty simple to make, say a chocolate beetroot cake or tart.

But all these ideas were thrown out the door as I dined on my Japanese meal. The lightbulb went off and this creation was born...

Beetroot, Pear, Lime and Vanilla:  Nigiri Sushi style© by Haalo


Beetroot Cured Salmon

I thought this months Paper Chef ingredients would be a good choice to use as I play around with some cured salmon dishes.


beetroot cured salmon© by Haalo


Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Caramelised Pear and Frangipane Tart

Caramelised Pear and Frangipane Tart© by Haalo

This is an adaptation of the Pinenut and Almond Tartlet.

For this tart I've just replaced the pinenuts with layers of finely sliced Pear - then sprinkled them with demerera sugar.

After the tart is cooked, I then sprinkle the surface with icing sugar and use a blow torch to caramelise the crust.

This is really nice served warm with a dollop of double cream.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Feta or Fetta...or white cheese in brine

If I use the EU standard then Feta can only be used to describe cheese made in certain parts of Greece, this is the result of the granting of a PDO (Protected Designation of Origin) in 2002.
White cheese in brine is a little wordy, so for this recipe I'll be applying the extra t, just to be safe.

fetta© by haalo


Sunday, February 12, 2006

Cookbook: Stephanie Alexander

Since I've been inspired by recipes from this cookbook I thought I should write a little something about it.


Stephanie Alexander
The Cook's Companion
1996









Stephanie Alexander
The Cook's Companion (Revised/2nd Edition)
2004








Friday, February 10, 2006

SHF#16: Recipe For Love

Perhaps it was a side effect of the last rounds sugarfree-ish theme, that this month we'd been sent to sashay down a more sensual side of desserts. Jennifer from Taste Everything Once wants to be tempted and enticed by recipes that stoke those romantic urgings.

On a quest for aphrodisiacs there was really only one place to go - google of course. Soon I found myself making a list and checking it twice, and working out which ingredients were the naughtiest by far.

Almonds would entice females whereas pinenuts would supply those oh-so-necessary minerals to fuel his performance. Ginger stimulated the circulation and vanilla increased feelings of lust. Chocolate and Coffee both stimulated the neurotransmitters while Alcohol, in carefully measured doses, removed our inhibitions and relaxed the mood. Passionfruit, well, it's all in the name and both berries and honey are associated with sexual viguor.

Once the list was compiled the hard part began. What ingredient would be best to accomplish the task?

Then it came it me...it was clear now. What I had in mind was my own version of the big bang theory.

Combine multiple ingredients and boost their effects and offer them in an assortment of bite sized delights - perfect for sharing. A nibble here, a nibble there.

I present the "ultimate platter of passion"

recipe for love© by haalo


Chocolate Coffee Hearts

Another component for SHF#16 the base for these chocolates is a very simple ganache that I've used since I don't know when and results in an exceptionally soft and smooth truffle. You really need to work quickly as the mix is very sensitive to heat. Instead of hand rolling them to form balls I've used two small heart shaped cutters instead.

Chocolate Coffee Hearts© by Haalo


Brandy Snap Baskets

For SHF#16, Brandy snaps (sourced from Stephanie Alexander's "The Cooks Companion) have been moulded to form small baskets and filled with a strawberry vanilla cream mix.


brandysnap basket© by haalo


Pinenut and Almond Tartlets

pinenut and almond tartlets© by Haalo


This next recipe for Sugar High Friday #16 is a traditional Italian sweet. Using the sweet shortcrust pastry and a frangipane base, pinenuts are sprinkled over the cakes and then baked until golden.

FOCS#2: Tantalizing Toblerone Cocktail

This week's cocktail has a touch of desire with the influence of those known aphrodisiacs honey and alcohol. This creamy drink is assured of enticing those thoughts of seduction...



Tantalising Toblerone Cocktail© by Haalo



Honey Madeleines

honey madeleines© by haalo


Another recipe sourced from the Stephanie Alexander's "The Cook's Companion" - an excellent resource for making many classic items. Madeleine moulds are delightfully cute and as you might tell from the photo, they come in a few different sizes. As part of Sugar High Friday #16 I'll be using the miniature moulds.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Passionfruit Curd Meringue Pies

passionfruit curd meringue pies© by haalo


Using two of the recipes I've listed below we can create this dessert. The best thing about this recipe is that it can pretty much be made before hand, with only the meringue topping to be added and lightly browned just before serving. The tarts are pre-cooked and the curd can be made well before hand.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Passionfruit Curd

passionfruit© by haalo

Passionfruit - hardly the most attractive thing in the world but it more than makes up for that with it's taste. When making things like curd or butters most recipes will insist that you go the softly softly approach and use a double boiler. So I was interested when Stephanie Alexander in her book The Cooks Companion totally debunked this theory and presented a very approachable method that actually worked. You can use this recipe to make orange, lemon or lime curds - you might want to adjust the sugar levels, it would depend on the tartness of the fruit you've used.

passionfruit curd© by haalo

Monday, February 06, 2006

Anchovy Sticks

Looking for something to nibble on with drinks? Something that's quick and easy to prepare but looks like something you slaved hours on?

Then this is a perfect recipe for you.

Anchovy Sticks© by Haalo

Friday, February 03, 2006

Friday o'clock Swill - Boozy Berries

Boozy Berries© by haalo


In the dark ages, here in Melbourne, an unusual phenomena used to take place - it was known as the "Six o'clock swill". This situation arose due to our archaic liquor laws which made it illegal to be served alcohol after 6pm. So the combination of the need of refreshment and the time restriction led to free for all where booze was guzzled in a frenzy.

In remembrance of this I've created the Friday o'clock swill where I'll feature a drink to enjoy in a civilized manner at the end of the week.

Today it's a simple, summery cocktail.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Basics: Sweet Shortcrust Pastry

Sweet shortcrust pastry© by haalo


Sweet shortcrust pastry forms the basis of many a good dessert. Here is a recipe that I've used that's remarkably foolproof, very easy to make and it gives you a wonderful shortbread-like crust.



Sweet Shortcrust Pastry

250 grams plain flour
150 grams butter, diced into small cubes
50 grams caster sugar
iced water (water with ice cubes, you really need it as cold as possible)


In a food processor (yes a food processor - I said it was easy) add the flour, sugar and butter. Using the pulse button, mix until it acquires that breadcrumb like appearance.

The key to this pastry is making sure the water is ice cold. The downside of using a processor is that it "heats" the pastry - to combat this using the coldest water possible keeps the mix cold, so it amalgamates before it heats up too much and starts melting the butter.

The amount of water needed depends entirely on your flour, sometimes I can get away with 2 tablespoons, this last batch needed 6 tablespoons. I make the iced water by getting a small metal bowl (better conductive properties) and filling it with ice cubes and then pouring over just enough cold water to cover.

Just add the water one tablespoon at the time and pulse until the dough comes together. Take it out of the processor and knead it very lightly, just to make sure it's a nice smooth silky dough. Form a round, flatten it slightly then wrap in plastic and place in the fridge. Let it rest for an hour.

There's enough dough here to make one large pie.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Smoked Trout Potato Cakes

smoked trout© by haalo


What is this attractive fellow? It's your humble smoked rainbow trout. It's odd, fresh rainbow trout has a flavour that doesn't appeal yet when it's smoked it's absolutely delicious. I like to keep one of these as a handy standby. This recipe is one of the things I like to make with it.
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