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Archive for the ‘star anise’ Category

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Toronto, and I’d feel safe saying the rest of Canada, is waiting for the Spring.  We’ve reached that point in the year where we all start looking expectantly at the empty flowerbeds, strewn still with the remains of last autumn’s debris, hoping for that first glimmer of life; that tiny speck of brilliant, fresh green amidst the somber grey-browns.   We’re all needing some colour to freshen our senses and I’m drawn like a mouse to cheese by the buckets of bright, optimistic tulips lining the outsides of corner stores along the high streets.  At this time of year I find my palate also yearning for something fresh and bright and exciting.  All those gorgeous, comfy stews and thick, hearty soups are starting to seem old and overused and while I’ve no doubt I’ve a few left to make before the sweet peas bloom I needed a little something with attitude on the tongue this past weekend.  A vibrant, exotic Red Curry was dished up with plenty of fresh Cilantro, chili and coconut and to finish this little gem, which is cool and creamy and oh, so delicately flavoured with star anise, lime and cardamom.

*note: I served these little yummers with a good dollop of home made Meyer Lemon curd on the side.  Deeeelish.

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Lime and Coconut Creme Brulee

1 cup whipping cream (35% fat)
1 cup coconut milk
1 tsp finely grated lime zest
2 whole star anise
2 cardamom pods, lightly crushed
1 egg
3 egg yolks
¼ cup sugar

about 2 Tbsp sugar extra

– Preheat the oven to 320˚F. Put a full kettle of water on to boil. Have a deep oven dish ready (a lasagna dish or a roasting tin for example).

– put the cream, coconut milk, lime zest, star anise and cardamom in a saucepan and scald (heat until just before boiling, when little bubbles and a bit of steam come off the surface).  Cover and set aside to infuse for 20 minutes.

– In a separate bowl beat the egg, yolks and sugar until well mixed but no longer than necessary.

– When the cream mixture has infused, stir in the egg mixture then strain the whole lot to get rid of the spices.

– Pour the custard into 6 small, individual oven proof dishes (ramekins are traditional, but I used oven proof glasses).  Put the dishes in the large oven proof dish and fill the dish with hot water to come half way up the side of the ramekins.

– Bake for 20 – 25 mins until the custard is almost, but not quite, set. Remove from oven and allow to cool to room tempurature

– Refridgerate for at least 2 hours before serving.

-Just before serving, remove from fridge and sprinkle each little creme with about a teaspoon of sugar.  Caramalise the sugar using either a blow torch or by placing the creme’s under a very hot grill for a few seconds.

coconut-creme-brulee-combo

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Butternut Fritters with Ginger Anise Poached Quince and honey spiced Cream Cheese

I might have mentioned, in the last few posts, all the culinary disasters that have emanated from my kitchen over the last couple of weeks, while I’ve familiarised myself with new cooking appliances. Well, okay, a bad workman always blames his tools, right? So I suppose I have to take just a wee bit of the blame moi-meme, though I’ll still try to look like the poor blameless victim and blame my flops on mental distraction due to life upheaval and an over abundance of missing kitchen gadgets and unpacked boxes. Anyway, some spiteful, slightly belligerent part of me has insisted on getting it right in one respect: those darn Pumpkin Fritters I made my gracious friends pretend to like at a Sunday tea. Poor dears, they put on brave faces one and all, while covering up the cinders with extra honey spiced cream cheese. “Wow, this cream cheese is great, what ever is in it?”, was a common cry from the infantry on the couch.

One of my Mother’s great food hugs, in my opinion, is the Pumpkin Fritter. Up there with crumpets, these little scrunchions of delight would appear sometimes on a Sunday afternoon, still hot from the pan and drenched in fresh butter and apricot jam. Sometimes they wouldn’t even make it that far as my brother and I would hang around the stove grabbing one as it came off the egg flip. I can’t remember, thinking back now, whether they were an Autumn treat or just a general now-and-again treat, seeing as how Every Season is Pumpkin Season where I come from… Oh, I did try to recreate those marvelous morsels for that awful tea…

Not to be defeated, this time I put my war paint on and, wielding my largest (and favouritestest) Henkles 4-star (le sigh) bravely attacked a real, live butternut for the purposes. Forget that canned stuff, which was half the problem with the first lot and probably had my great-grandmother turning in the grave (it just seemed so much easier than the thought of peeling and cooking a pumpkin when the guests were expected any moment now.) Pumpkin Fritters seem to be one of those uniquely South African things. Just ask any obliging South African about Pumpkin Fritters and they usually get that far away look in the eyes. Here in North America (as far as I can tell) a fritter is a doughnut type thing, deep fried and considered bad for you in that McDonalds kind of a way. Not so the humble Pumpkin Fritter. It usually uses real pumpkin, eggs, flour and a bit of sugar. In the traditional waste-not-want-not kind of a way a lot of South African food evolved, pumpkin fritters were usually made from last night’s dinner left over pumpkin. Add some spices and you’re A-for-away. Also, Butternut is slightly sweeter and more, well, buttery than regular boere pampoen (farmer’s pumpkin), which really made for a softer, less floury fritter at the end of the day.

I teamed the end results with another Autumn favourite of mine: quince, poached with ginger and star anise. The ever experimental Mr P does have his faults, one of which is his dislike for all things ginger and I have to say, I had great satisfaction watching him wolf down his dessert knowing that he had no idea he was so thoroughly enjoying a gingered treat. I knew it! He just thinks he doesn’t like ginger! I guess from now on I’ll be making “cinnamon-spice-breadmen” and “molasses-spice-houses” around Christmas time… ha!

Butternut Fritters with Ginger Anise Poached Quince and honey spiced Cream Cheese 2

Butternut Fritters with Ginger-poached Quince and Honey Spice Cream Cheese

For the poached quince:
1 large quince, cored and cubed (1 inch cubes)
1 tsp fresh, grated ginger root
2 Tbsp sugar
1 cinnamon stick
2 or 3 star anise (I used 3 for extra flavour)
3 cardamom pods
hot water, enough to almost but not quite cover quince (about 1½ cups)

For the fritters:
1 cup cooked, mashed butternut (I used ¼ of a large butternut)

1 egg
1 Tbsp sugarQuince and Ginger
pinch cinnamon
pinch cloves
1 ½ tsp baking powder
⅓ cup flour
1 – 2 Tbsp milk

For the honey spiced cream cheese
1 tub plain cream cheese
1 tsp cinnamon
2 Tbsp clear honey (or more to taste)
2 Tbsp milk

1. Poach the quince
– put all spices and sugar in a medium sauce pan, add 1 cup water and bring to boil. Add quince and more water if necessary. Bring to boil then lower heat and simmer for 2 – 3 hours until quince is tender. Remove from heat, cool, remove hard spices and reserve.

2. Make the Honey spiced cream cheese
-mix all ingredients together

3. Make the Fritters
– beat the butternut with the egg and sugar

– Mix all the dry ingredients and add to the pumpkin. Mix then add enough milk to make a soft dropping consistency.

– Heat a large, heavy-based non-stick frying pan on a medium heat. Cook about 3 Tbs worth of batter per fritter, as you would a pancake: 1 minute or so per side.

4. Serve!
– Top 3 or so fritters with quince, cream cheese and some reserved quince juice.

Quince

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Lemongrass rice pudding with fresh mango and lime

The reason I’ve been a bit slow in getting the next post up is because I hit a little boulder on my road to a good dessert this week. I had this idea in my head, and the more I thought about it the better it became. It all started when I started thinking about the four banana’s I had sitting on my Kitchen counter. In my world, a banana has a very short window of opportunity for eating. One day on the early side of the window and it’s green and chewy ; one day on the other side and it’s a powdery mush. These banana’s were a day or so on the downward slope of their life. Not an unusual circumstance, but the usual solution of banana bread or banana walnut muffins just didn’t appeal. What could I do with these yummies? So the idea of a compote came into being. With what? Hmm. A rice pudding perhaps? A tropical, Thai inspired rice pudding perhaps? What about a coconut and lemongrass rice pudding, with a banana and ginger compote and fresh mango? Sounds really good, really exotic, something a slender, tan woman in a fusia and turquoise sarong would serve to you in a coconut shell while sitting on a beach in Indonesia. Mmmm.

So I diligently set about concocting a dessert which was to become possibly the worst dessert ever made in the history of man, ever. Well, I exaggerate. But the ever wonderful Mr. P stopped smiling rather abruptly after the first spoonful. And after my own first taste I realised that he hadn’t just swallowed a fly. Was it the over exuberant amount of fresh ginger I had used in the banana compote? Was the rice too sickly sweet? Too dry? Was the mango cut into too large chunks, making it difficult to eat with the rice pudding?

All of the above.

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But I’m determined to get it right and so did a
bit of thinking, a bit of reading and discovered
a thing or two about rice pudding. Firstly, ride
pudding takes a lot more liquid to make than
normal eating rice. How could I not know that?
Secondly, coconut rice pudding is known as Kheer,
though the recipe I’ve since concocted is somewhat
different. The lemongrass lifts the pudding from
a sweet comfort food for a cold rainy day to
something best eated at room temperature
(or slightly chilled) in the summer after a
light meal. Also I ditched the banana compote,
ironically seeing as that’s what got me going on
this path in the first place, as there seemed to be
so many conflicting flavours to concentrate on.
Simpler is better after all!

Lemongrass Coconut Rice Pudding with Fresh Mango and Lime

¼ cup Jasmin Thai rice img_7807.jpg
½ cup coconut milk
2 cups milk (I used 2%)
¼ cup dessicated coconut
1 stick fresh lemongrass, scored and bruised

1 fresh mango, peeled and diced into small pieces
juice and zest of one lime
2 Tbsp castor sugar
60ml water
2 full star anise

– rinse the rice under cold water

-bring the milks, coconut and lemongrass to almost a boil in a heavy based saucepan. Add rice, bring to boil and lower heat to a simmer. Simmer, covered, 45 – 60 mins until thick and creamy. Leave to cool.

– Meanwhile, chop fruit

– put water and sugar in a small saucepan, heat gently to melt sugar. Add star anise and bring to a small simmer on a low heat. Simmer about 10 mins until syrup starts to thicken slightly. Do not caramelize.

– Allow syrup to cool slightly before adding lime juice and half the zest.

– When rice pudding is cooked and cooled, add lime syrup to mango. Remove lemongrass from rice, divide pudding between four bowls and top with mango. Garnish with remaining zest.

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