Thursday, 29 March 2012

Crumping up the crumpets

Crumpets have always been one of those things that I've never really thought about how they come about.  Growing up, they came in the packet, dose it with golden syrup, and that was that.

Fast forward 15-20 years and I came across them on a breakfast menu at a local cafe. When they came out they looked amazing, not at all like their better known processed counterpart.  In that instance I knew that I needed to know how these were made. Thanks to mobile internet a quick Google check managed to calm my burning desire for knowledge. Fast forward several months and here we are. This recipe is found in the book Breakfast by Greg Duncan Powell -must admit that it was purchased purely because it had a crumpet recipe in it.

When Dad comes to visit Melbourne the crumpet cafe is on the top of his list to visit. So it's fitting that at Christmas time, Dad gave Troy and I some egg rings that he had made from stainless steel tubing. Perfect for crumpet production.

Made from a yeasted batter, the recipe needs around a hour for it to rise - just to get that crumpety air-pocket lightness.

Verdict:  Pretty good, we had the whole pan/heat ratio not quite right, so the first couple were a little doughy.
Would we make this again?: It would only be fair to make these for my parents when they are visiting in a couple of weeks. A really easy recipe, just requires some perfecting in the pan.

Friday, 23 March 2012

It's Tomato time.

It's always fun when you're told to go and look on the doorstep .. ooh a new parcel? No, a 15 kilo box of tomatoes.  Well, at least it wasn't a another amazon package with yet more cook books!
This bought back memories of the same time last year, when we spent a nice day together in the kitchen making tomato sauce.  Then a not so nice solo Monday -a full 14 hours over a spluttering stove top, followed by 23 bottles of tomato sauce.

Sauce requires company.

We still had a couple of bottles of sauce let over from last year, so we thought this time we would make a couple of different varieties. Our recipe is Roasted Tomato Passata from Preserves: River Cottage Handbook No. 2, which also has a recipe for Roasted Tomato Sauce using the passata. We have a smoker oven so we thought we could adapt the recipe slightly and make a smoked tomato passata, use that to make a smoked tomato sauce then pump out a casual tomato chutney on the side.

All tomatoes were laid out on baking sheets with fresh
herbs, garlic, shallots and salt and pepper.

Before and after shots of the tomatoes in the smoker with fresh Oregon wood chips.

The passata is getting passed through a sieve on the right. Meanwhile the sauce ingredients
are ready to cook up on the induction plate on the left.


We sieved all of the tomatoes for the passata. For the tomato sauce we kept the smoked tomatoes, shallots and herbs whole as we are fans of chunky tomato sauce.

Passata, tomato sauce, chutney and Troy's pickles stored for the winter.

I wonder how long these bad boys will sit unlabeled. It's on the to do list, but I guess it comes down to blog posts versus sauce in our laundry looking pretty.

Verdict: We made a simple pasta for dinner with some of the passata and some extra smoked tomatoes and its a really lovely base to work from.
Would we make this again?  It's time consuming, but really rewarding. It's always nice being able to pull a preserve out of the cupboard to use for a recipe, knowing exactly where it came from, or even better, to give to friends in exchange for some of their creations.

Thursday, 22 March 2012

Crossing the Ditch, a Milestone Event

Going global this weekend, the butcher, baker and tea towel maker went off shore and took their cooking challenge with them.
We headed to New Zealand for my Grandma's 90th surprise birthday, and there wasn't a more perfect occasion to bake one of their amazing creations from Momofuku Milk Bar by Christina Tosi.

We had to withstand New Zealand oven conditions (although anything can be better than our crappy oven) and a double recipe, but the task was set.

Carrot cake is one of Grandma's favourite, so we chose the layered carrot cake - but this just isn't any carrot cake. I wouldn't say any recipe in this book are too difficult as such, but when the recipe involves 5 different components, there is 5 more chances that something could go wrong. But not here my friend, this cake was a huge success.

The bits:
Carrot cake, Liquid Cheesecake (half baked cheesecake, so still spreadable), Graham frosting, which a graham crust had to be made first (we used digestive biscuits), and a milk crumb.
Triple layer carrot cake, with layers of liquid cheesecake, a biscuit frosting, and
milk crumb.

The cakes fate is in Troy's hands.

The stack:
Cake, Cheesecake, Crumb, Frosting, Cake, Cheesecake, Crumb, Frosting, Cake, Frosting, Crumb!
What's that? 11 layers of love!

Frozen overnight, and refrigerated 3 hours before serving.

We blew up 90 helium balloons prior to the arrival of Grandma, including a few
chipmunk impersonations.

90 balloons were let off by all great grandchildren and grandchildren, lets hope there were no planes flying over.
The cake in question - Happy Birthday Gram!

Verdict: It was well worth the time to make, and a bit of a show stopper. Was it the recipe or my baking skills?
Would we make this again?: If you are getting comments "this is the best cake I've ever tasted - ever!", I wouldn't pass up that praise any day. Maybe for Grandma's 100th!

Monday, 12 March 2012

One of our kitchen bibles

I know we have a lot of cookbooks, and being truthful many don't get a look in, but this is one that is frequented often.

The cookbook is Ottolenghi by Yotam Ottolenghi. If I need to bake something, this will be one of the four books that I will flick through for its great Baking section.  Caroline has had the pleasure of making everything from the pastry section which is amazing.  I know it's easy to discard the salad section when the pastry is this tempting however, we can highly recommend this as well.

It seems like a bit of a cheat using this cookbook for our challenge as we've already made so many of the dishes.   A visit to London last year saw us visiting the Ottolenghi in Islington.  It was great to see in the flesh.  Giant counters full of tasty cakes and salads - a real feast for the eyes!  We have a bit of an inability to hold back, so we got an array of salads and sweets to try.  This bounty would have in essence feed us for 2 days, we instead choose to eat it in one sitting.  Later that evening we found ourselves wandering past Nopi. We were of course very satisfied from our lunch bonanza but eager to try the restaurant version of Ottolenghi.  We wander in.   Delicious.  Slow service - but we weren't in a rush (and who really cares when it's that mouth wateringly good?).

Anyway, back to the task at hand. We were invited around to our friends Myles and Amy's for dinner, and asked to bring a dessert.  First stop - our dessert list.  Apple and Olive Oil Cake with Maple Syrup Icing - BOOM!

The cake added the finishing touch to an array of seafood that was put on by our gracious hosts: Mussels in a creamy white wine sauce followed by  Ocean Trout on a salad of asparagus and smashed peas with some crispy prosciutto.

Verdict: Pretty, pretty good (to borrow the words of Larry David). The maple syrup frosting put us all in heaven. Everyone should have this cookbook on their bookshelf, even if it's a little more curated than ours.
Would we make this again?: Yes.  We even feel the need to have some maple syrup frosting pre-made at all times.. just in case.

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Perishable Artwork

This was the feature piece at our most recent dinner party.  We could easily have added this in amongst our more edible creations of the evening.  But excessive pride in our craft forced us to separate the two.  This truly deserves a post of its own, and maybe a career change.. Definitely a new hobby.  Food art/food carving.  This is clearly the way forward.  There has always been talk of a novelty cake business on the side, but move over cakes.  I think we have a new mover shaker in town.

Food art.  It may seem a little excessive in this throw away society but.. so are flowers,  We've seen some of it around -the Lady Gaga meat dress(oh-la-la), Maurice Bennett -New Zealands most renowned toast artist and not to mention Carl Warner's excellent foodscapes.  Have we gotten on to something here? Is this to the Teenies what fondue was to the Seventies?

The 'recipe' for our Cauliflower Lamb and Squash Goose comes from Garnishing: A Feast for Your Eyes by Francis Tayln Lynch.  This book is a must for anyone else wanting to test their creativity in the kitchen and join in with our new hobby.

This book has it all - Eggplant Penguins, Watermelon Wishing Well and Randolf, the Red-Nose Rain-moose - something for any occasion.

Table decoration kept to a minimum, with old sheepie bird here taking
centre stage.

What better way to entertain our guests while they wait for their main course than with a
bag of veggies.  Here (excuse the photo) our special guests have created
a smoking Mexican.  Top effort.

This is quite possibly more fun than our last obsession, the Lego game Creationary -and every one  gets to win!

Verdict: Yes
Would we make this again?: And yes, do we need say anymore?

Monday, 5 March 2012

Wholesome food with mum in mind

Comments are always welcome.  This one came in the form of a facebook message from Caroline's mother.
Your food blog is excellent but the undertones are a bit worrying...Sex changes? and as for Pony's bit - binge drinking, aggression, and a suggestion of bestiality and animal cruelty! What would Nigella think?
Can I put in a request for something genteel e.g. cucumber sandwiches or better still something very wholesome.

This one's for you Mum.  We sourced one of the oldest cookbooks we could find on the shelf then carefully selected the most outrageous sounding recipe from it.  And what a beauty it was - very wholesome!
Behold: Pineapple and Rice salad.  As found in A Taste for All Seasons by Beverly Sutherland Smith circa 1975.  It has a vast array of tasty treats from stuffed cucumber to cold chicken in curried cream.  A worthwhile purchase for nostalgia's sake or even just to impress the older person in your life.

This was our first outing leaving the confines of our kitchen to attend our friends barbeque/pool party.

The pineapple rice salad was a clear hit.  What with rice, pineapple, sultanas, peanuts, capsicum and a healthy serve of mayo all served up the pineapple itself it was bound to be the BBQ favourite.

Verdict: Not bad.
Would we make this again?: For entertainment value, yes!
Crimplene 70s dress up night - it would be on the top of the list.

Sunday, 4 March 2012

The forgotton about granita.

It was a bit ambitious thinking we could make a granita in a couple of hours.  Grossly overestimating our freezer's freezing power we checked on it's progress hopefully every half hour while we stirred it. Left with a pool of slightly chilled sangria mix just before the entree went out and we had to admit defeat. We couldn't serve this up as an aperitif on our Spanish night.  The intention was then to bring this out at a later stage in the night. This quickly left our minds over the excitement of sampling the array of Spanish wines. 
The granita was discovered in the freezer the next morning .. "Ah, the granita. It's ready", with Caroline bringing a teaspoon for me to try in bed. The first taste was awful- "oh god, red wine".  Not something my palate could handle with a fuzzy head and the taste of last night's wine still very vividly engraved in my memory.  So, Lowrider licked the rest of the spoon.. Is that wrong?

Skip forward a couple of nights, and the hot weather brings to mind our forgotten frozen granita.  Easily the best remedy after a warm day at work.

The recipe is from the Spanish book Cocina Nueva by Jane Lawson. It seems to be out of print here, I think this book was picked up at a discount book store.

Verdict: Really good (just not after a night of red wine)
Would we make this again?: Yes, all drinks should come in frozen form. This recipe also stemmed the thought that we should have a granita a week -yet to be implemented, but watch this space. Hopefully we'll be able to time it perfectly with Melbourne's next heat wave.