Archive for June, 2010

banana bread

ok, i know…its all very cwa, very church fete, very wifey. but i never did eat it and never did done make it. and so i did. and fascinating it was. mashed bananas…like for an infant. with melted butter. and sugar. but so many questions arose…white or brown sugar? walnuts or no nuts? bread or cake? the answers soon became clear – almost intuitively, as if the moment i embarked upon this exercise in old world baking, i was suddenly taken over by the spirit of margaret (member of the victorian branch of cwa, head of crafts, deputy catering coordinator) and i had known these answers all my life. brown of course. no nuts…too wild. not bread. not cake. just loaf. the only questions that remained were those pertaining to two parts of space and time which should never have touched (and i am not referring to me and the victorian branch of the cwa.) i couldnt, however, entirely embrace the blandness. im not tough. im not rough. im not stoic. i cant run a household and a local community. i can barely run myself.i dont hang washing on the line in between milking my cows and speaking loudly at town meetings. im not a joiner. and i dont darn. i cant chop wood. i cant fix anything. i lack motivation and gumption. and im sometimes prone to princess like behaviour. so a cake made for filling those kinds of dreams, and those stomachs, is a bit beyond my capabilities. i therefore made it mine. but in honour of all that im not. and to be honest, in spite of the deep and fundamental character deficiencies of its creator, i am of the belief that it would blow margaret’s ever diminishing hair back. so here it is…banana bread, subtitled: “are you there margaret, its me schleps”, loaf in tin, june 2010.

ingredients

4 bananas mashed & 2 bananas chopped

1/3 cup melted butter

1 cup brown sugar (or light brown)

1 egg beaten

1tsp vanilla extract

1tsp baking soda

1 pinch salt

1 1/2 cups flour

1tsp cinnamon (optional…i didnt. nor did i add an optional 1tsp nutmeg. because when given the option i first say no. besides, margaret would have wanted it this way)

preheat the oven to 175 degrees. first mash up the bananas. add the melted butter and mix to combine.

add the sugar, then the vanilla and then the beaten egg and stir. sprinkle in the baking soda and salt and mix. finally add the flour and stir to combine. pour into a loaf tin (whatever size you got…they are pretty standard and margaret wouldnt care for that sort of dicking around over centimeters and diameters)

lay chopped bananas atop and give a final sprinkling of brown sugar. or demerara if you live for crunch.

bake in the oven for 50 minutes. and it will be glorious.

Advertisements

mushroom radicchio & spinach fettuccine

this dinner was an elegant combination of the results of a food-related, dinner based, free association game* and a vision in my minds eye. my cohort had just yelled ‘pine nuts’ and ‘magnesium’. so i had a lot of thinking to do because i was less after dietary requirements and more focused on the aesthetic qualities of the meal. pasta is quick which seems so often to be the only factor under consideration so pasta it was. i had to use radicchio because i had a bee in my bee-ridden bonnet (other bees include banana bread…coming soon to a post near you). the worst supermarket in the world for some reason had a vast selection of wild mushrooms, the likes of which i had never before seen (in this barren culinary landscape) and which, im told are a high source of protein. i dont do science so protein and magnesium sounded the same…in as much as they made equally little sense to me and were of equally little importance to my artistic vision. spinach too was, according to the world wide web, rich in magnesium and green always looks pretty so i was home and hosed with robbie buck. (all for you snow). and so it was, mushroom radicchio and spinach fettuccine. pretty and magnesium heavy.

*game not suitable for children or those lacking intuition where food is concerned. it takes place often unintentionally during negotiations relating to the making and eating of dinner during which seemingly arbitrary food related words get yelled out. (in our case with its strange specificity it often starts with couscous and ends in pine nuts.)

5g dried porcini

few tbsp olive oil

30g butter

3tbsp cream

4 garlic cloves finely chopped

couple spoons of chopped oregano

500g mixed mushrooms

350g fettuccine

half radicchio roughly chopped

couple handfuls spinach

couple handfuls parmigiano-reggiano finely grated

first put porcini in 125ml boiling water and set aside to reconstitute. cook the pasta in a large pan full of boiling water. nigella once said that the water you salt pasta in should be as salty as the mediterranean. thought she didnt say it, the italians did. but its a nice analogy and she delivered it well.

heat oil and butter in a large frying pan, add the mushrooms. try not to crowd the pan…if its too full it will steam and not fry so if you have, as you always have, gone too far, try doing mushrooms in batches. when the mushrooms start cooking down add the garlic, season with salt and pepper and add the oregano.

add cream and stir. then add the porcini and soaking liquid and simmer so that it reduces by half. add in the spinach and cook til just wilted.

drain pasta and toss through the mushrooms. add the radicchio and parmesan. scatter with pine nuts too if you are so inclined.

buffalo mozzarella, tomato and basil

theres really no point introducting much here. anything ill say will have been said before. but i will just say that this: dinner arose out of a need for beauty. the visual content of my day consisted of this. my gastronomic experience consisted of a bucket of anemic, undercooked and yet overcooked, floury hot chips from a student union employee who was lacking entirely in personality and joie de chip. if thats not enough im parenting a ferment that grows fouler by the day. so there was a sudden and pressing need to redress an imbalance and in a world devoid of beauty, return some small reminder that it still exists.

ingredients (yes its cheese and tomato but it still takes love and thought. any fool can tear some mozzarella and call it ‘sexy’ and slap it on an earthy wooden board and call it ‘rustic’ but heres what makes it taste better than it looks)

250g buffalo mozzarella

2 ripe tomatoes (and i threw in a couple of cherry tomatoes because i could)

marinade ingredients

grated zest of half lemon

15 basil leaves sliced very finely lengthways

2tsp oregano

4tsp good olive oil

1 garlic clove crushed

salt and pepper

put all marinade ingredients together and mix to combine. break up mozzarella, smear the marinade over the top and let it sit for 20 minutes. meanwhile cut tomatoes, sprinkle with salt and pepper. serve next to the mozzarella and give final drizzle of olive oil. beauty restored.

Proving Oven – part 2

After last week’s exciting episode where i waffled on about some numbers and stuff, its now time to put some of the theory into practice. Firstly, the improving of the “oven” itself by adding some aluminium foil to improve its thermal retention properties (natch) and to try and stop it from smelling like melty plastic.

A quick test of this saw the light heating up the oven from 19 degrees to 30 degrees in approximately half the time it took before. And now to the switch. There are several ways of doing this and the first attempt is to use a kit form of thermostat control circuit. Theres a few around, either at electronics shops or even home brew shops (maybe even Off Ya Tree…). Basically this is a temperature resistor that acts as a switch. As we be using mains electricity (240 volts in this country, gringos) it needs a beefy relay to be able to safely handle switching the current on and off. This kit (KC5476 from Jaycar) requires a bit of soldering.

And some careful metering, as this little sucker has to use a 12v rail to switch 240v. Yes, i can hear the cooking fanatics groan in boredom…The finished circuit board takes a 12v in and has a temperature sensor on a lead so it can be placed where you like. Also, this is a switchable device that can operate to turn something on or off at a set temperature, so its suitable for cooling or heating. The point is its supposed to be efficient and cheap to run. So now its time for a soak test and calibration.

The testing proves that the circuit works and does what is intended, however it seems that this circuit is only rated for a limited temperature range with a maximum achievable of 19-20 degrees centigrade. So this will mean that part 3 will be tweaks and hackery to get the resistance value into the range we need to get the operating temperature to be within the median of 24-27C. Stay tuned….

brioche bread and butter pudding

in spite of the fact that this elegant rendition of a stodgy, heavy, unattractive classic was met with the response “yeah…ive never been a big fan”, it is in fact wonderful. done with the right bread. panettone is preferable. but sadly it is not christmas time and we’re not in sicily and panettone isnt sold on the side of the road in trucks all year round. mores the pity. brioche however is an agreeable alternative. should you be willing and able, you can make your own brioche. but not even i would suggest doing that for filling a ramekin and drenching it in custard. you’d be insane. and you should probably find something better to do with your time. but maybe its passion that drives you. and a refusal to give in to the miserable alternatives that are presented to you late on a sunday evening in a city where bakeries have no name and no soul. faux parisienne “patisseries” full of wealthier-than-thou ladies who lunch long into the night are no place for pastry enthusiast (recently labeled a snot, as recently, in fact, as in the space between the last sentence and this). but you gotta do what you gotta do and there was a neglected blog to attend to. so here it is, brioche bread and butter pudding. heavy heaven.

ingredients

375ml double cream

6tbsp milk

1 vanilla pod split and scraped

4 eggs

150g sugar

1 brioche loaf (small)

75g saltanas

preheat your oven to 170 degrees. put milk and cream into a saucepan.

add the vanilla and place on medium heat on the stove. bring to the boil. dont let it boil over so watch it and remove from heat when its reached boiling and remove the vanilla pod.

meanwhile whisk your eggs and sugar until pale and fluffy

slowly pour the hot cream into the eggs, whisking constantly. set this aside to cool completely.

slice your brioche and butter the slices. then cut into small squares.

put the brioche into the buttered ramekins and sprinkle with saltans.

pour over the custard so it fills half the ramekin. leave this for 5 minutes so the bread soaks up the custard. then fill with the remaining custard. sprinkle with a bit of sugar if you so desire.

put this in a bain marie and then into the oven for 15 minutes until set. remove and promptly eat.

in the immortal words of master shake from aqua teen hunger force…cha cha cha cha delicious!

sweet potato & goats cheese galette

5 more sheets of puff pastry and 5 hours to kill. it wasnt until very recently that i felt something other than contempt for puff pastry. it was always synonymous with everything i find objectionable and it always produced something substandard. but after having made an exception the other week on account of an unprecedented pastry craving, and left with 7 sheets of the stuff, it was by necessity that i was impelled to delve, albeit tentatively, deeper into this foreign world of magical pastry – pre-made, pre-packaged, and pre-destined to be crap. much to my consternation, i was proven wrong. the uses for puff pastry are as infinite as the misuses of it. yet being a deeply stubborn individual i couldnt shake my 25 year long disdain for these pale, anemic looking frozen sheets of “pastry”. the fact that they were sitting in the freezer was making me irritable and i had a persistent sense that i needed to get rid of them. sooner rather than later. one acceptable use was a tarte tatin – because with that much butter and sugar you cant really go wrong. caramelised pears could be served on a bed of durian fruits and i dont think you could go past them. but 5 stubborn sheets remained and in a manic and inspired moment of revelation i recalled a galette i had read about in ottolenghi. puff pastry yes. but mitigated by sweet potato, goats cheese, chili, garlic and thyme. it seemed to be an extremely apt use of the pastry and my time. and so here it is – the final installment in the puff pastry series entitled “puff pastry and me: a girls photographic odessy from paris to coles” – words on internet, by new moon.

ingredients

couple of sheets of puff pastry (however many you have remaining or however many you wish to make)

2 sweet potatoes

1 egg lightly beaten

100ml sour cream

100g goats cheese

1 dried chilli

3 tbsp olive oil

3 garlic clove crushed

handful of thyme

salt & pepper

i also made a couple with oven roasted tomatoes, basil, mozarella, garlic and pine nuts for which you will need…

1 punnet cherry tomatoes

handful of basil

1 ball mozarella

2 cloves garlic finely sliced

handful of pine nuts

to my befuddlement, after all this, i was still left with some sheets of pastry. so i looked in the fridge to see what was leftover. cauliflower apparently. so if you have some cauliflower left over from the previous post (are you following me this closely?) put some on. give it a bit of salt, pepper, and some chili flakes and tear over some mozarella.

so first, preheat the oven to 180 degrees. cut the cherry tomatoes in half, sprinkle with salt & pepper and drizzle with some olive oil. put the sweet potatoes (in their skin) and the cherry tomatoes side by side on a baking tray and put into the oven for 50 minutes.

the cherry tomatoes should be shrivelled and the sweet potato should be soft but still slightly raw in the centre. leave potatoes until they are cool enough to touch and then peel and cut them into slices.

remove pastry from the fridge and cut into rectangles about 7-14cm. line a baking tray with baking paper and place the rectangles on the paper – with room between them to grow and do what they do. now lightly brush the pastry with the beaten egg. then spread a thin layer of sour cream around the pastries. leave a small border – untouched and unmarred by anything that will go on top. place the slices of potato on the pastry, overlapping slightly. sprinkle with salt, pepper and some dried chilli. then crumble over the goats cheese.

put these into the oven for 20-25 minutes or until pastry is golden brown.

while the pastries are cooking – stir together the crushed garlic, with some salt, pepper, thyme and the olive oil. as soon as you get the pastries out of the oven, brush them with the oil. you can also, while these are cooking, make round two. with the prepared pastry rectangles, already brushed with egg, place cherry tomatoes, slices of garlic and torn up mozarella in and around. tear over some basil. and give it a good grating of parmesan if you so desire.

or place anything you like on top – like cauliflower you prepared earlier. bake these for 20-25 minutes again.

when the tomato and cauliflower ones come out – sprinkle with some pine nuts and brush with the garlic oil.

the sweet potato needs nothing – some pine nuts always work but i didnt think necessary here. they are a bit creamy, not unlike the potatoes and cheese so if anything, try another nut maybe – almonds or even pumpkin seeds. brush them with some of the garlic oil and there you have it.

roast squash, tahini, pinenut salad

things have been a little rough. again. and so the mournful returns. its not that i dont enjoy the giggling, the car-mel, heart-shaped cookie cutters, and the hand clapping. i especially love the hand-clapping. its just that the world doesnt really present me with much of that. i realise that some of this may come across as martyrdom (cant imagine why, its not like i have inherited any kind of victim mentality). its just that the world doesnt make me want to clap my hands. its wintery and cold. there are not enough hours in a day before it gets dark and so often there are too many. in the words of a boy i know, this is the winter of our discount tent. theres the interminable problem of israel, its barbarity, and the violence inherent in zionist ideology. then, on a more personal level theres the problem of being in the possession of 14 winning mars bar wrappers and henceforth the looming predicament of having 14 mars bars on my person and (presumably) subsequently in my person. theres an exploding wardrobe full of clothes deemed unsuitable, and a devastatingly unattainable little calvin klein dress, hidden behind a curtain, that i cant afford on the salary of a blogger. and of course, theres the intractable problem of the starter, the untrelenting, unforgiving, and unappealing starter which is suffering in the cold and has had to go into hibernation in the bathroom (until it gets its proving oven). the steam and heat of a post shower environs seems to do worlds of good. which is ok… it just makes this world a stranger place to be. in amidst these troubles, there is so little time for cooking and writing. so this was the best i could come up with. but i make no apologies because it was really quite lovely. so here is an improvised, left-over inspired roast squashy (that was a typo but its very funny so it stays), tahini, pinenut and parmesan (and/or feta) salad.

ingredients

1 butternut squash (cut into cubes)

4 garlic cloves

few sprigs of thyme (or rosemary…which id dare say is better if you have it. i did not.)

salt & pepper

3 tbsp olive oil

bunch of spinach and rocket leaves

handful of pine nuts lightly toasted

handful of parmesan (shaved)

for tahini….

150ml tahini paste

2 garlic cloves crushed

80ml lemon juice

1/2tsp salt

2 tbs olive oil

150ml water

handful parsley finely chopped

preheat your oven to 200 degrees. cut up your pumpkin and toss in a bowl with 3 or 4 garlic cloves, olive oil, rosemary, sea salt and black pepper and roast for about half hour or until soft.

to make the tahini bash up some garlic in a mortar and pestle. mix the garlic with the lemon juice in a bowl. add the tahini and mix to combine. then add the water and the olive oil and mix well. check for seasoning and if its too thick just add more water. finally throw in the chopped parsley. set aside.

put leaves on the plate. add the squash on top. then drizzle with tahini. scatter over pine nuts and finally give it some shavings of parmesan. alternatively crumble over some feta. or even alternately do both.