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Archive for the ‘tropical’ 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.

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Coconut souffles with Lime Curd

So, what to do for dessert? A super, impressive and exotic dinner deserves an equally lovely little sweet treat to end things off. I decided to stick with the tropical, Thai-inspired theme. That, and Mr P and I both love a little souffle! Souffles aren’t as hard to make as you are sometimes led to believe. Be gentle when folding the egg white into the custard and don’t open the oven until they’re done. Otherwise they’re pretty simple fare, all in all, and satisfyingly impressive at the same time. You want a souffle that’s still creamy in the middle, not dry and over cooked, so keep an eye on them near the end, ready to whip them out and serve straight away, while they’re still puffed up. The custard can be made well in advance and kept in the pot with a piece of greaseproof paper over the top to stop a skin forming (or in the fridge if you’ve made it the day before), so that all you need to do when your guests are ready for dessert, is whip up the egg whites, fold in and bake. Voila!

Coconut souffles with Lime Curd 2

Coconut Souffle with Lime Curd

makes 4 souffles

for the coconut cream:
135 ml coconut milk
60 ml cream
4 Tbsp dessicated coconut
1 egg
1 ½ Tbsp caster sugar
2 tsp corn flour
1 Tbsp cold milk
for the souffles:
120 ml coconut cream
2 egg whites
1 Tbsp caster sugar

caster sugar and butter for ramekins

fist make the coconut cream:
– heat the coconut milk, cream and coconut in a saucepan until almost boiling. Remove from heat and cool slightly.

– beat the egg with the sugar until frothy.

– in a little bowl (I use a sushi soy bowl for this) mix the cornflour with the cold milk to form a paste. Add to the egg mixture and mix well. Strain through a sieve.

– add a couple tablespoons coconut mixture to the egg and beat, then pour the egg mix into the coconut mix and return to heat.

– heat over a low heat, stirring constantly, until mixture reaches a custard consistency. Remove from heat and allow to cool, with a piece of parchment on top to prevent a skin forming.

– pre-heat oven to 325˚F ; butter and sugar the inside of 4 individual ramekins .

– when mix is cool and you’re ready to make the dessert, whip the egg whites until frothy.

– add the sugar and whip until stiff peaks form.

– mix about 2 Tbsp egg white in to the custard vigorously, to lighten the mix, then gently and carefully fold in the rest of the egg-white in 3 or 4 batches.

– divide mix between ramekins. Run a knife around the edge of the mixture: this helps them rise evenly.

– bake for 8 – 11 mins. Keep an eye on them you don’t want them to over cook. The middle should still be creamy.

– remove from oven and serve immediately with a spoon of lime curd in the middle and a sprinkle of lime zest.

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Red Snapper with Lemongrass and Sweet Chili

This is one of my favourite dishes to make. It’s really easy, involves little actual cooking and is great tasting and healthy too. Also, it’s an impressive and exotic looking dish for a dinner party, if your friends don’t mind the whole fish. Actually, most of the flavour of a fish is in the bones and the skin, so cooking a whole fish makes much more sense. Just mind the bones while eating! I’ve adapted it from a recipe from Australian Women’s Weekly (some of my favourite books are from this range) for an outdoor barbecue dish, where the fish is grilled on a barbecue in banana leaves. A bit difficult to get in Toronto! I added a sliced banana underneath the fish and it absorbs all the flavours and sticky sweet spices from the fish to make a very complimentary chutney. Serve it with a sticky rice such as Thai, to sop up all the juices, a fresh salad (recipe underneath the fish) and edamame, boiled for a few minutes in salty water.

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Red Snapper with Lemongrass and Sweet Chili

1 large, whole Red Snapper, descaled and cleaned by your fishmonger
1 big fresh lemongrass, thinly sliced (to make about ⅓ cup)
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbsp fresh grated gingerRed Snapper with Lemongrass and Sweet Chili in parcel
1 Tbsp fresh lime juice
2 Tbsp soy sauce
¼ cup sweet chili sauce
2 Tbsp fish sauce
1 tsp sesame oil
1 banana, quartered length-ways
2 Tbsp chopped Cilantro
– wash the snapper under cold water and pat dry with paper towel

– in a bowl, mix garlic, ginger, lime, soy, chili, fish sauce and sesame oil.

– lay out a piece of baking parchment with a equal size piece of foil on top, large enough to wrap the fish

– lay 3 quarters of the banana in the middle of the foil.

– put the fish on top of the banana, put the remaining quarter banana inside the fish cavity

– cut three slashes into each side of the fish. Top with ginger/lemongrass, rubbing some mixture into each cut. Sprinkle with Cilantro

– wrap the fish in the foil and then in the parchment, tie with string to secure. Rest in Fridge for 20 mins.

– pre-heat oven to 420˚F. Bake fish for 20 – 30 mins until done.

Carrot and Cabbage Salad

3 small carrots, julienned
3 0r 4 outer leaves from a fresh, green cabbage, finely sliced
2 spring onions, sliced
Cilantro,chopped to make ⅓ cup
Basil, chopped to make ⅓ cup
Parsley, chopped to make ⅓ cup

dressing:

1 Tbsp fresh lime juice
1 Tbsp fish sauce
1 tsp soy sauce
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp sesame oil

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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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