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Archive for August, 2007

Matcha green tea and Lavender cup cakes

Who on this earth does not have a secret love affair with cup cakes? Those little mounds of sweet delight we used to gorge ourselves on at Saturday afternoon birthday parties as children, usually in unnaturally bright colours and packed with enough sugar to give all children tummy aches and all Mums headaches. The time for the Noble Cup Cake, as I’m sure you’ve noticed from local corner bakery to Gourmandista’s grocery lists, has returned. Only now they’re a little more grown up, a little more subtle but still oh so good. While great as a tea time snack on your own on a Sunday afternoon, a treat for the entire office or a delightful end to a dinner party I can assure you that the best bit of these little treasures is the making of them!

I’ve adapted the cup cake recipe from Nigella Lawson’s ‘Domestic Goddess‘ to suit my tastes.

Lavender Cupcakes

Basic Cup Cake Batter

Makes 12 little cup cakes

1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
½ cup castor sugar
2 eggs
1 cup flour
20 mls milk

For the Matcha Tea cakes:Matcha Green Tea
2½ tsp matcha tea powder
few drops vanilla

For the Lavender cakes:
1 Tbsp dried Lavender petals
⅓ cup milk
few drops vanilla

– heat oven to 400˚F

– put 12 medium muffin liners in a muffin tin

– beat butter and sugar together until creamy. Add eggs one at a time and beat well. (For Matcha cakes, add vanilla here).

– add flour and mix until well incorporated. Add milk and mix.

– bake for 10 – 15 mins. Keep an eye on them, they will go from yumminess to dry and nasty in no time!
– allow to cool completely before icing.

To Make the Lavender Cakes:
– put milk and flowers in a small sauce pan and heat until the milk is piping hot, but not boiling. Remove from heat, cover and allow to steep for a good 20 to 30 mins.

– strain milk, add vanilla and use Lavender milk in place of normal milk in cup cake recipe.

To Make Matcha Cakes:
– add vanilla after eggs

– once batter is mixed, add tea powder and incorporate.

White Chocolate Icing for Matcha Cakes

75 g good white chocolate (using good chocolate makes a big difference)
60 g unsalted butter
2 tsp milk
Icing sugar, about 2 – 3 cups, sifted
3 Tbsp Cream Cheese

– melt chocolate, butter and milk together over a bain marie, stirring until smooth. Remove from heat and allow to cool for a minute.

– add sugar, a half cup at a time, until consistency of mixture is a smooth, easily spreadable paste. Add cream cheese and mix well.

Lavender Cupcakes 2

Lavender icing

½ stick unsalted butter, softened
2 or so cups icing sugar, sifted
3 Tbsp Lavender Milk
a drop of blue and red food colouring

– beat butter until creamy. Add icing sugar a bit
at a time until a stiff icing is formed.
Add milk and mix, adjust consistency of
icing with sugar.

– in a small bowl, combine food colouring
with one teaspoon icing. Mix well.
Add to icing, little bit by little bit,
mixing very well in between,
until desired shade is obtained.

Matcha Green Tea cup cakes

Lavender Cupcakes 3

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Banana chocolate tarts with coconut

While away camping in Algonquin we had something for dessert that I haven’t had in a million years. I watched the shiny parcels being made up and carefully placed in the hot, glowing coals of a camp fire and as the packages were eventually passed around, one at a time, the silver foil peeled back and the sweet steam billowed into fire-lit faces, I felt eons and ages dissolving from my soul like the shadows of night at the dawn. I was a child again for a while; I was 5, I was 7, I was 11 years old gleefully eating baked banana’s with chocolate oozing out of them. That weekend had many moments that will stay with me forever, and that will be one of the top ones. This is a slightly less messy, more grown up approach, but just as yummy.

*ps/ I sneakily made a double batch of the pastry from the peach tart, which I used here. Use your own taste when making these tarts up as to the choc/coconut/banana ratio. Amounts are only a guide.

Banana chocolate tarts with coconut 2

Chocolate Banana Tarts with Coconut

6 Pate Brise lined mini tart tins (5″)

90 ml dark chocolate spread (or use a hazelnut choc spread like Nutella)
60 ml dessicated coconut
3 large banana’s, thinly sliced
30 ml white sugar
30 ml light brown (blonde) sugar

– preheat your oven to 400˚F

– Spread 1 Tbsp choc spread on the base of each tart shell

– divide the coconut between the tarts (about 2 tsp each)

– arrange the banana slices over the coconut

– mix the two sugars in a small bowl

– sprinkle half the sugar over the tarts, reserve the rest

– bake the tarts for about 20 mins.

– Sprinkle remaining sugar over banana’s. Caramelise with a blow torch until sugar is golden.

– alternatively, grill under a hot grill in your oven for a few minutes, but keep an eye on them so as not to burn the pastry.

Banana chocolate tarts with coconut 3

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Burger with shitake tarragon sauce and roquefort cheese

There’s something decadent about cooking up burgers at home. In North America we feel inundated with the things, from the multitudinous fast food chains everywhere you look to the pub ‘n grubs serving up overcooked hunks of beef-on-a-bun. One of the posher eateries down the street from us notoriously sells a burger for nearly $40, with the chips cheekily brought in from the fry up a few doors down. But I still love a burger on the odd occasion: the sloppy, messy, goo it runs down your chin as you try to fit a bun just-too-big into your mouth, the licking of fingers and slurping of beer to wash it down. It feels like the parents have left the building for a bit, leaving the rules to the five year olds. But then these are grown up burgers, after all, made with the best ingredients we can find. Mr P., the meat expert in the house, always gets fry up task, while I focus on fixing up a sauce and opening the beer.

Tonight we used sun-dried tomato and onion patties from The Healthy Butcher, which serves up organic, grass fed beef, with a shitake and tarragon sauce, Roquefort cheese caramelised shallot and garlic.

Shitake and Tarragon Burger Sauce

1Tsp butter
2Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 clove garlic, minced
½ cup destalked, halved and sliced Shitake mushrooms
2 stems tarragon, leaves removed and finely chopped
2 Tbsp Parsley, finely chopped
pinch sel de mer
pinch freshly crushed black pepper
1 Tbsp Chestnut flour
½ cup milk
1 Tbsp cream cheese (I used Philadelphia)

– heat oil and butter over medium heat

– add garlic and heat gently until aroma’s start to rise

– add mushrooms and tarragon. Cook, stirring, for a minute or so.

– add parsley, salt and pepper. Cool until mushrooms are tender, about 5 minutes

– sprinkle mushrooms with chestnut flour and stir. Cook for another minute

– slowly add the milk, stirring, and bring slowly to boil. Cook, stirring, until mixture thickens.

– just before serving, add cream cheese and stir until combined.

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salad with hers and fava beens

When it’s hot outside, all I seem to want for lunch is something light and fresh and low in energy-producing carbohydrates. But why stick with ye olde faithful lettuce tomato and Cucumber, not that there’s anything wrong with that, when you can have a mixture of fresh herbs, like Cilantro, fennel, basil, parsley, tarragon, chives and thyme with baby root veg like beets and carrots. Add some freshly steamed fava beans, sprinkle with sesame seeds and, Voila!

ps/ the dressing is a mixtrue of a crushed clove of garlic, a Tbsp on tarragon infused Dijon mustard, the juice of a lemon and a good measure of extra virgin olive oil.

Herb Salad with Sesame Seeds and Tarragon Dijon Dressing 2

Herb Salad with Sesame Seeds and Tarragon Dijon Dressing 3

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Peach Tart with Almond Saffron Cream

I love a dinner party. We used to host them quite frequently back home and loved getting return invites to others’ houses, whether it was for a long slaved over butternut and sage risotto with home baked bread and butter pudding or a heat and eat from Woolies with Magnum sticks for dessert. We all loved the food, but the evening was made truly special not so much by the cuisine as the friends and the laughs and the celebration of friendships. Isn’t that why we eat in any case? Since moving to these Northern Climes, we’ve not had much opportunity to host our own parties but have, from time to time, enjoyed the hospitality of some wonderful new friends in their homes. We were invited last night to a somewhat unusual dinner party by some good friends, Ms M and her lovely Mr S. The theme? Orange! The meals were split by course over the guests with the only proviso being that the food had to be orange! We all wore orange, drank orange and felt decidedly Sunny the whole evening.

What luck that in season right now are a fabulous selection of orange fruit and veg, or we might all have had to resort to slipping drops of Moir’s food colouring into everything! We started off with an orange salsa made from bright orange tomatoes and a dash of Cilantro, sliced orange peppers and Beamster cheese , a mature, hard cheese with little lumps of salt in it, part of the Gouda family. We drank Tangerine Martini’s, expertly prepared by our host, and less successful cocktails of Malibu with fresh peaches (my decision and one I don’t think I’ll repeat). For the mains our honourable hosts prepared a sunset coloured feast of spicy pepper pasta with orange tomatoes and peppers in a superbly tasty olive oil and garlic, with a side salad of fresh orange tomatoes and Mimolette cheese, which, incidentally, is favoured by Charles de Gualles, and I can see why. Thanks to Ms M and Ms B, our other Orang-er, for introducing us to two fabulous new cheeses! I’m always so excited to meet a new tasty treat!

Dessert was my contribution to the meal. After messing around with a few radical ideas involving all sorts of freezing and moulding, I went with something a bit easier to transport in the summer heat: an open peach tart flavoured with almonds and Saffron. I’m having a little love affair with Saffron, it’s delicate, subtle flavour fills the mouth and transports one to exotic places. Also, it helped turn the dessert a more pleasing shade of orange than the pale almond cream on its own.

For the pastry, I used half vegetable shortening, which I don’t often do (in fact the only time I usually allow hard veg fats is in mince pies at Christmas time) but wanted a pie a little more delicate to suite the saffron. Acidity in the Grapefruit juice also adds to the tender crumble of the crust.

Peach Tart with Almond Saffron Cream 2

Peach Tart with Almond and Saffron Cream

for the pastry:Peach Tart with Almond Saffron Cream 3

1¼ cups plain flour
½ tsp Fleur de Sel
small pinch plain salt
½ Tbsp Sugar
¼ cup unsalted butter, cut in to small pieces, chilled
¼ cup vegetable shortening, cut in to small pieces
2 Tbsp Grapefruit juice in about ¼ cup chilled water

for the almond saffron cream:

pinch saffron strands
2 Tbsp just boiled water
⅓ cup ground almonds
1 egg
⅓ cup sugar

2 or 3 peaches, pitted and thinly sliced

2 or 3 Tbsp sugar

– preheat your oven to 400˚F

– make the pastry:

– combine all dry ingredients well in a large bowl. Add chilled butter and shortening and work with your fingers gently until mix resembles oats porridge. OR place dry ingredients ands fats into your food processor and blitz a couple times to form porridge texture.

– add liquid, half at a time, until dough just begins to form. Heap onto a sheet of cling film, cover and form into a disc. Refrigerate, covered in plastic, for about half an hour.

– when dough is chilled, roll out on a floured surface and line a greased and floured pie dish (about 10 – 12 inches). Cover and refrigerate for at least 15 mins.

– blind bake the tart shell for 10 – 15 mins until just firm (to blind bake pastry: cover the raw pastry with a piece of baking parchment, cover with dry beans or rice to weight the paper down and bake for a few minutes. This stops the crust turning soggy once the filling is added)

– make the almond cream:

– in a little bowl (a soy sauce sushi bowl is perfect) soak the saffron strands in the hot water for about 10 mins

– beat together the ground almond, egg and sugar. Add the saffron water and one or two strands. mix well and refrigerate for about 10 minutes to firm the cream a bit

-pour chilled cream into tart shell, arrange peach slices on top, bake 30 – 35 minutes in your hot oven until the peaches are bubbling slightly and the pastry is a golden brown.

-Allow to cool to room temperature

-Just before serving, sprinkly top with sugar and caramelise using a blow torch or under a hot grill for afew minutes. Be careful not to burn the pastry!

– serve with a little dulce de leche or caramel sauce. We used a Butterscotch sauce with Jamacian Rum for something a bit more sophisticated. 🙂

*thanks to Jane for the use of her camera and some lovely pictures taken by herself

Peaches

Orange Dinner 1

Orange Dinner 2

 

 

Orange Dinner 3

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Thai Summer Salad

We were blessed, this weekend, with extraordinarily good weather on our portage trip. Which meant a clear, deep, warm blue sky bereft of clouds, temperatures perfect for swimming and lounging on rocks like lizards and no need to ever use the gas burners to cook our food on. All meals were prepared over an open wood fire from start to sweet, gooey, smorsey end. Now, usually after 4 or so days in the bush eating what you managed to drag with you leaves one craving some or other comfort food from home, not to mention ones own mattress and a hot soapy bath. On this trip, however, the wonder-woman in charge managed to organise meals of such fabulous diversity and succulence that ne’er a soul hankered after anything for their belly that wasn’t somehow already there. No dehydrated-rehydrated pea passed the lips. No thirst went without quenching by beer or wine or cold, fresh water. And, thanks to our (rather belated) discovery of a little thing called the Thermarest, no ache graced a bone in my back through the nights. All said and done, it was a trip which bordered on the sublime and trembled dangerously near perfection.

And after a long, long weekend of, in one team member’s words, Ghetto Gourmet, what better way to get back on the bright side of health and digestion than a salad made from the sweetest, most succulent of Summer’s wares? After a trip to the farmer’s market on our return, I picked up a selection of crisp, freshly picked goods for a dinner filled with all the flavours of a gorgeous season. Due to the abundance of things like garlic, Shitake mushrooms and Cilantro (coriander leaf) I opted for a somewhat Thai inspired arrangement.

 

summer bounty

Thai Summer Salad with Sweet Corn and Watermelon Beetroot

for the topping
¼ cup pine-nuts, toasted

1Tbsp sesame oil
1 Tbsp canola oil (or other veg oil)
1 onion, thickly sliced
1 Tbsp freshly grated ginger
about 1 cup Shitake mushrooms, sliced

for the saladwatermelon beetroot
small bunch of lettuce, torn
1 big handful fresh basil leaves, torn
1 big bunch Cilantro leaves, torn
a dozen or so golden cherry tomatoes, halved
1 ear of sweet corn, kernels removed
2 new carrots, julienned
2 watermelon beetroot, scrubbed and thinly sliced
⅓ garden cucumber, peeled and julienned
2 spring onions, thickly sliced

for the dressinglettuce
1½ Tbsp sugar
1 Tbsp fish sauce
1 Tbsp soy sauce
1 clove garlic, minced
1 small chili, finely chopped
juice of 1 lime

– combine all dressing ingredients and leave to infuse.
This dressing is particularly good made a day ahead.

– keep toasted pine-nuts to one side

– in a skillet, heat oils. saute onions until they just start to brown slightly. Add mushrooms and cook on a medium heat until mushrooms are tender. Remove from heat.

– when cool, add pine-nuts and mix. Set aside.

– combine all salad ingredients, top with mushroom pine-nut mix and dress only when ready to serve.

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Jammy Jars

We’ve been up late trying to fit more stuff into backpacks than is Scientifically possible. This makes for hard, sweaty work, seeing as how it’s about 38 degrees outside (that’s Celsius, not Fahrenheit) and testy moods. The reason for all this silliness is a Canoing trip we’ve been invited on with some friends for the long weekend in Algonquin Park. I was told last night, when it’s now too late to cancel, that the first time you go Canoing it’s called the Divorce Canoe. Well, I’m hoping that having already survived a trying and emotionally testing move to a foreign country has given Mr P and I enough karmic balance to see us through the next couple days.

Just in case things turn a little sour, I’m taking some of my homemade blackcurrant jam with and these delicious little scrumpets, which had Mr P dribbling at the chops and is bound to help even the most blistered-hand, sore-footed, tired shouldered campers smile a little around the camp fire.

Wilderness, here we come! See you when we get back.

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