Tuesday, 24 November 2009

caramel chocolate tart

This rich tart is my celebratory 500th blog post.

It takes a long time to prepare but it's worth it because it's extravagant deliciousness.

I'm not a big fan of caramel in general, but this tart caught my eye as I read delicious magazine last year and I've been dreaming of making it ever since. Hence why this is another 2009 Food Challenge.

There was quite a lot of caramel leftover from the recipe and, since it's so good, I've had to control myself from eating spoonfuls of it straight from the fridge while I try to figure out what I'm going to use it for.

I also had lots of extra chocolate custard too, so, unless I did something wrong, you might want to come up with some other desserts to use up the leftovers.

The recipe recommends serving with whipped cream, but it's so rich you might prefer it with crème fraîche parfait.

Caramel Chocolate Tart

Recipe from delicious Magazine (March 2008). Serves 6-8.


395g can sweetened condensed milk
250g block Carême dark chocolate shortcrust pastry
225g good-quality dark chocolate, roughly chopped
2 eggs
150ml thickened cream
100ml milk


1. Remove and discard label from can of condensed milk. Using a can opener make two small holes in the top.

2. Place in a saucepan (open side up). Fill pan with cold water to come almost to the top of the can (about 1cm from top).

3. Bring water to the boil then reduce to medium-low and simmer for 3 hours until a caramel forms, topping up with water to keep the same level.

4. Carefully remove can and cool. Scoop out caramel then set aside.

5. Lightly grease an 11cm x 35cm loose-bottomed tart pan.

6. Roll pastry between 2 sheets of baking paper to 5mm thick, then line tart pan. Chill for 20 minutes.

7. Preheat oven to 180’C.

8. Line the pastry with baking paper and pastry weights or uncooked rice.

9. Blind-bake for 10 minutes then remove paper and weights and bake for 5 minutes or until pastry is dry.

10. Reduce oven to 150’C.

11. Place chocolate in a heatproof bowl over a pan of gently simmering water, not letting the bowl touch the water. Allow to melt then stir until smooth. Remove from heat.

12. Gently whisk eggs in a separate bowl to just combine but not froth.

13. Heat cream and milk in a saucepan over medium heat until just below boiling point.

14. Pour over eggs in a thin stream, whisking constantly to avoid scrambling eggs.

15. Return the mixture to the pan over a low heat and stir for 5 minutes until thick.

16. Pour through a sieve over the chocolate and stir until completely combined and smooth.

17. Spread three-quarters of the caramel over the pastry.

18. Pour over chocolate custard then bake for 5 minutes or until just set.

19. Turn oven off. Leave tart in cooling oven, with door closed, for 1 hour.

20. Remove and cool completely before slicing.

21. Serve with extra caramel, whipped cream or cream swirled with caramel.

For my tart, on top of the cooking times above, the caramel needed about 1 hour longer to form, the pastry needed to blind-bake about 5 minutes longer to dry out, the custard took a few minutes extra to thicken and the chocolate top needed to bake about 5-10 minutes longer to set.

Saturday, 21 November 2009

braciole napoletana

 This is one of the best dinners you can eat. At least that's my opinion!

Thin slices of veal are rolled around a stuffing of parsley, raisins, pine nuts and parmesan, then browned before being finished in a rich tomato & red wine sauce.

It could be a summer or winter meal, the flavour easily adjusted with summery lifts like lemon zest or wintery warmth from chilli or irony spinach.

I discovered braciole years ago and yet I only recently made it for the first time as one of my 2009 Food Challenges. It's definitely a keeper and could be a weekly staple dinner. In fact it could be the creative parent's sneaky way for getting kids to eat their vegetables (not that I have kids yet, but I did note bracioles multiple applications).

It’s very easy to make but looks complicated so that guests are impressed, plus it tastes amazing.

Braciole comes highly recommended from me.

Braciole Napoletana
Recipe by Armando Percuoco from delicious Magazine, May 2008. Serves 6.
6 x 150g veal escalopes
¼ cup olive oil, for frying
80g (½ cup) toasted pine nuts, roughly chopped
½ cup raisins, roughly chopped
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
25g (1/3 cup) freshly grated parmesan
2 bunches flat-leaf parsley, leaves roughly chopped
60ml (¼ cup) olive oil
1 large onion, roughly chopped
375ml (1½ cups) dry red wine
4 vine-ripened tomatoes (600g), seeds removed + chopped
2 tablespoons toasted pine nut, to serve
1 tablespoon raisins, to serve
1. Halve veal escalopes lengthways. Pound with meat mallet, between plastic wrap, until 3-4mm thick.
2. To make the stuffing, combine the pine nuts, raisins, garlic, parmesan and parsley (reserve a little parsley for garnish). Season with salt and pepper and mix well.
3. On the shorter end of each veal escalope, place 2 tablespoons of filling then roll to enclose and secure with toothpicks.
4. Heat the olive in a large, deep frying pan over medium high heat.
5. In two batches, brown the braciole all over, turning, for 2 – 3 minutes. Remove to plate.
6. To make the sauce, add the additional olive oil to the same pan and cook the onion on medium heat, stirring, for 2 – 3 minutes until soft and slightly golden.
7. Increase heat to medium-high, add red wine and cook for 6 – 8 minute until the alcohol has evaporated.
8. Reduce the heat to medium, add the tomatoes and simmer, occasionally stirring, for 25 minutes or until soft and reduced to a thick sauce.
9. Return the veal to the pan and heat through for around 5 minutes.
10. Place 2 braciole on each serving plate, top with sauce and garnish with pine nuts, raisins and parsley.
Note: I added chopped baby spinach to the stuffing for an extra nutrient boost.

This parsley-rich stuffing is my contribution to Weekend Herb Blogging, hosted by Winnie from Healthy Green Kitchen.

Monday, 16 November 2009

lebovitz's watermelon sorbet

It was a warm summer weekend in Sydney and given the beautiful, sunny weather it’s the right time to post my 2009 Food Challenge recipe for Sorbetto all’Anguria or watermelon sorbet.

It’s down in the food memory category because I have rich memories of eating scoops and scoops of watermelon sorbet during the spring I lived in Rome. As the city heated up, the watermelon sorbet was the perfect cooler and I devoured it in miraculous portions.

Even though I made the sorbet to eat at the end of a Vietnamese feast, it still brought back warm memories of Rome and the family I have now have there. I can’t wait to see them all again when I take Jonas (for his first time in Italy) in the first week of January.

It will be the middle of winter, so no sorbetto all’anguria, but there will be other delights to share.

Making this sorbet also knocked off another 2009 Food Challenge, to purchase David Lebovitz’s book of frozen delights The Perfect Scoop.

I am a big fan of David Lebovitz (like many bloggers out there). Not only do his posts contain cheeky insights into Parisian life, but his recipes are interesting, appetising and achieveable. When I had just started blogging more than three years ago, David was kind enough to leave an encouraging comment on one of my posts. I was thrilled.

Now I’m even more thrilled to have this cookbook. I couldn’t find it anywhere in Australia and was ridiculously jealous of bloggers in the US and Europe talking about it, so when Jonas and I were in the US in July I made sure I swung by Books A Million, or some such megastore, and grabbed myself a copy.

I have not been disappointed with the recipes nor their outcomes. The usual suspects are in there of course, but it’s flavours like Guinness-Milk Chocolate; Anise; Black Currant Tea; Saffron; Chartreuse; Goat Cheese; Rice; Sweet Potato & Maple and Eggnog that have me itching to try them.

So far I’ve made Watermelon Sorbet and Dark Chocolate and Roasted Banana ice creams.

In the pipeline are Roquefort & Honey, Peach, Salted Caramel and Passionfruit.

And that’s just the ice creams! I haven’t even touched on the sorbets, sherbets, granitas, sauces and toppings that this mighty book contains.

Basically, if you like ice cream, buy this book.

Sorbetto all’Anguria (Watermelon Sorbet)

Recipe from The Perfect Scoop by David Lebovitz. Makes 1 litre (1 quart).


3 cups (750ml) watermelon juice
½ cup (100g) sugar
Big pinch of salt
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lime juice
1 – 2 tablespoons vodka (optional)


1. In a small, non-reactive pan heat ½ cup (125ml) of watermelon juice with the sugar and salt, stirring until sugar is dissolved.

2. Remove from heat and combine with the remaining watermelon juice, lime juice and vodka.

3. Chill thoroughly then churn in your ice cream machine according to the manufacturers instructions.

David says “I find that I get about 3 cups of watermelon juice from a 1.5kg (3lb) chunk of watermelon. Cut away the skin and rind then cube the flesh, remove seeds and puree in a blender or processor."

David adds 1 to 2 tablespoons of tiny mini-sweet chocolate chips to the last minute of churning to give the appearance of watermelon seeds.

Saturday, 14 November 2009

pork chops & sauerkraut

I forgot to delete some of my recent recipe photos from my camera and now that I lost my old computer (and all the files) I'm glad I was disorganised.

I've bought a new laptop so I can at least blog about the images I found, and I'm happy to say this includes all the recent recipes from my Vietnamese feast as well as two 2009 Food Challenges (this one for chops & kraut plus a wonderful braciole).

Unfortunately I still need to install Microsoft Office and Photoshop etc, so my posts might be a little sketchy for a while yet.

Not to mention trying to recover the more than 100 backlog of recipes I had on the corrupted hard drive of my old computer! Sigh.

This recipe for Pork Chops & Sauerkraut was one of my food challenges for 2009 under the category "food memories". I have a lot of sauerkraut memories, all good.

It is a signature dish of my 90yr old grandfather who would make big pots to feed the entire family, harping on the days when his own mother would enlist his help to cook for his five brothers.

When I was five, my grandparents returned to the US and my parents continued the regular family dinner of pork chops and sauerkraut, a favourite for my brothers and I.

Sauerkraut was such a normal part of our week that I never realised other families didn't eat it. It wasn't until my parents' divorce, with new partners and children who looked at the bland pile of shredded cabbage in shock and horror, that I realised my family was a rare breed of Aussie kraut eaters.

Unfortunately, this meant sauerkraut fell out of favour in both homes, much to the dismay of us kids.

As a teenager I travelled to Slovakia to meet my grandfather's family and suddenly understood the origin of this dinner. It was a strange, emotional moment for me when I perused a Bratislava pantry to realise that this Central/Eastern European dish had travelled three continents and four generations to link me to my heritage.

Since then I have eaten this dish a few times in Slovakia and the Czech Republic, and more than a few times on what used to be annual work trips to Germany. One particularly good experience with sauerkraut and porkiness was the Schupfnudeln mit Sauerkraut und Kasslerwürfel that I ate in Koblenz. It was delicious!

So . . . onto the recipe. Pork chops and sauerkraut is the perfect winter dinner served with mashed potatoes. Enjoy.

Pork Chops & Sauerkraut
Anna's very own recipe. Serves 6.
6 pork chops
450g canned sauerkraut
750ml (3 cups) vegetable stock
½ green apple, peeled + grated
1 white onion, sliced
2 dried bay leaves
Salt and pepper, to taste
Olive oil or butter, for frying


1. Preheat oven to 180’C.

2. Heat olive oil in an ovenproof pot and brown pork chops for 1 minute on each side. Set aside.

3. In the same pot, fry onion until softened.

4. Spread onion across the base of the pot then add a layer of sauerkraut.

5. Next add the pork chops, bay leaves, salt and pepper and grated apple.

6. Top with remaining sauerkraut then pour over 2 cups of vegetable stock.

7. Cover with pot lid then back in oven for 1 to 2 hours or until chops are tender. The remaining cup of stock can be used to top up the pot if it's drying out.

Serve with mash.

Monday, 9 November 2009

computer blues

My computer died.

It's very sad because my backlog of photos and recipes (not to mention the last 5yrs of my entire life) was all on that computer. Hopefully I'll be able to recover it though.

But this means no more blogging for a while.

Thursday, 5 November 2009

tahu goreng pedas (spicy fried tofu)

This dish was made as part of a big Balinese feast I made all the way back in September 2008.

The original recipe of for this dish involves (I think) blending the tofu together with the other ingredients to create little tofu patties (bregedel tahu) but Jonas and I decided to keep our tofu slices whole and simply dip them into a spiced batter before frying.

If you don’t like the flavour of tofu much, do the patty version, otherwise this is a delicious (semi) vegetarian dish.

Tahu Goreng Pedas (Spicy Fried Tofu)

Anna & Jonas' variation of various internet recipes. Serves 4 as part of banquet.


300g firm tofu
3 tablespoons fried shallots
1 red chilli, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, crushed
3 teaspoons grated ginger
1 teaspoon turmeric powder
¼ teaspoon roasted shrimp paste
2 eggs, beaten
2 kaffir leaves, finely sliced
3 teaspoons palm sugar
Salt and pepper, to taste
Oil, for frying


1. Blend all the ingredients except the tofu and fried shallots.

2. Into the blended mixture, stir in the fried shallots.

3. Dip the tofu into the mixture to coat, then fry in hot oil, over medium heat, until browned and warmed through.

4. Served with fresh chilli or a fiery sambal.

Sunday, 1 November 2009

bò tái chanh - lemon sirloin w rice paddy herb

After perusing through Helen’s recent posts about her food tour in Cabramatta, I became ravenous for Vietnamese food and determined to cook my own Vietnamese feast.

Ms Correct and I set the GPS to John Street then chatted until we reached our destination: Cabramatta, effectively Vietnam in Sydney.

The place was buzzing. The fruit, herb and veggie range was extravagant and the prices were absurdly cheap. As Ms Correct correctly asks “Why don’t we shop here every week?”

The whole time we were there, we must have seen only six other Caucasians and we marvelled at how exotic, exciting and foreign Cabramatta felt, even though it was still in Sydney. Ms Correct is quite tall at the best of times, but among Cabramatta’s Vietnamese population she was like Gulliver in Lilliput. We were certainly identified as outsiders and blatantly stared at, but people were welcoming and we felt comfortable.

We both felt so excited that Sydney had such a beautiful microcosm to explore.

Both Ms Correct and I have visited Vietnam, and Cabramatta felt like a cleaner, better-dressed version of HCMC, even down to the architecture of crowded market arcades and busy main streets. The local government, Fairfield City Council, is always touting Cabramatta as a tourist destination for Sydneysiders and visitors alike, and now I have to agree with them.

Navigating the narrow market aisles was difficult, but in true Vietnamese style other shoppers took no offence, and in fact didn’t even notice, getting whacked with the odd shopping bag.

We bought a huge range of things, the highlights being (left to right):

Many of the shop and stall owners don’t speak English and your mere non-Vietnamese speaking presence can be a cause of anxiety for them, so make sure you bring your understanding and patience with you. Don’t take offence when people shrug and walk away without helping, they probably just don’t understand you. Instead, wander to the next shop until you find someone who can speak English. There are many who do.

Like the shop keeper Ms Correct and I discovered at the end of our day. She was full of good advice and helped us navigate the Vietnamese-only signs and food labels. After learning I planned to make ice cream, her suggestion to buy frozen soursop pulp instead of fresh fruit was genius. Not only was the pulp super ripe and flavoursome but it had been skinned and deseeded and when it was blended through the hot custard, the icy cold temperature chilled everything immediately making the base ready to churn on the spot.

Once we were loaded up with goodies, we headed back to my place to cook up a storm from the beautiful cookbook The Secrets of the Red Lantern (tick off another food challenge).

Siblings Pauline and Luke Nguyen, and Pauline’s partner, Mark Jensen, are Sydney’s tres-chic experts on both traditional and modern Vietnamese food and their first cookbook is full of amazing recipes and heart-wrenching stories (that made me blubber like a baby).

This first recipe I'm posting is a favourite of mine from their restaurant, Red Lantern.

Little Em, Stinky, M.E. and Tia Bicky joined Ms Correct and I to eat:
* Bò Tái Chanh (lemon-cured sirloin w rice paddy herb)
* Nước Chấm (dipping fish sauce)
* Nem Nường (lemongrass pork sausages)
* Rau Muống Xào Tỏi (water spinach w ginger & garlic)
* Gỏi Mực Bắp Chuối (banana blossom & squid salad)
* Canh Chua Cá (tamarind & pineapple broth w perch)
* Kem Mãng Cầu Xiêm (soursop ice cream)
* Kem Dưa Hấu (watermelon sorbet)

I will post these recipes one by one over the coming months, but first up is this amazing little starter of juicy raw beef topped with the most delicious, unusual herbs. The best description can only come from the recipe’s author, Luke Nguyen:
“This traditional salad is a perfect starter. It is a ‘rare’ treat – refreshing, crisp and aromatic. Described by some as a ‘Vietnamese carpaccio’, Bò Tái Chanh is a particular favourite . . . rice paddy herb and sawtooth coriander are essential for this dish and should not be substituted. The rice paddy’s sharp citrus character and the sawtooth’s powerful aroma perfectly match this lemon-cured dish.”
I discovered that I love rice paddy herb (or ngò om). The flavours are like cumin and lemon and pepper altogether and I discovered it goes quite nicely on sweet pineapple slices too.

Sawtooth coriander (ngò gai) is also very special and is much more potent than regular coriander (cilantro), but I still think you could substitute them for each other if you needed to.

But you can’t substitute the rice paddy herb!!!

Bò Tái Chanh (lemon-cured sirloin w rice paddy herb)
Recipe from Secrets of The Red Lantern. Serves 6.

400ml lemon juice
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon fine white pepper
500g sirloin steak
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
1 large handful sawtooth coriander, roughly chopped
1 large handful rice paddy herb, roughly chopped
½ small red onion, finely sliced
1 large handful bean sprouts
2 tablespoons chopped roasted peanuts
1 birds eye chill, sliced
Nước mắm chấm, to serve (see below)
1. Trim the sirloin or fat and slice as thinly as possible.
2. Heat 1 teaspoon oil and fry garlic. Remove and reserve both garlic and ½ teaspoon of the oil.
3. Combine the lemon juice, fish sauce and mix through the salt, sugar and pepper.
4. Arrange the slices of beef in a single layer on a plate and marinate in the lemon juice for 10 minutes, ensuring the meat is entirely covered in the curing liquid.
5. Remove the beef from the lemon mixture and drain the excess juice,.
6. Combine with the garlic, garlic oil, herbs onion and bean sprouts.
7. Transfer to a serving plate and garnish with the peanuts and chilli. Dress with nước mắm chấm at the table.

Nước Mắm Chấm (Dipping Fish Sauce)
Recipe from Secrets of the Red Lantern. Makes 1 cup (250ml).
½ cup (125ml) water
3 tablespoons fish sauce
3 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 tablespoons sugar
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 birds eye chilli, finely chopped
2 tablespoons lime juice
1. Combine the fish sauce, rice vinegar, sugar and water in a saucepan.
2. Heat on medium, stirring, until just before boiling point. Cool.
3. To serve add chilli, lime juice and garlic and stir well.

Rice paddy herb (Limnophila aromatica) is native to tropical South East Asia and grows in water logged environments . . . like rice paddies! In the west it’s been used mostly as an aquarium plant but in Vietnamese (and some Thai & Khmer) cuisine it plays a strong role.

If all you’ve been doing is sticking in your fish tank, you’ve been missing out!

The leaves taste like lemon and cumin and is quite delicious.

Here’s some advice on how to grow your own: “Get some fresh stems from another plant or your local Thai or Vietnamese grocer. If placed in water, they will develop roots within one or two weeks; in the meantime, they must be covered with a plastic bag or the like to give them enough humidity. In this phase, direct sunlight will kill the plants, so put them in a shadowy but not dark place. When enough roots have been formed, plant the stems into a high, transparent container filled with soil to cover most of the roots. A mixture of ordinary soil plus small, porous grains of burned clay is perfect. Keep the plants warm and humid. After a few days, they will tolerate (and even appreciate) intensive sunlight.”

If substituted, it is often done so with coriander, sawtooth coriander, perilla, mint or basil.

Other names include:
Cantonese - séui fuh yùhng, tìhn hēung chóu, jí sōu chóu, séui fā
Mandarin - shuǐ fú róng, tián xiāng cǎo, zǐ sū cǎo
English - finger grass
Estonian - järvelemb
German - reisfeldpflanze
Indonesian - daun kerdemom, selasih ayer kecil
Japanese - shiso-kusa, rimonohira
Khmer - ma-om
Korean - soyeob, soyop, soyop-pul
Lithuanian - kvapioji pelkenė
Malaysian - beremi, kerak-kerak
Polish - limnofila pachnąca
Russian - амбулия ароматная ambuliya aromatnaya
Thai - ผักแขยง, แขยง phak kayang, kayang

This week our Weekend Herb Blogging hostess is Haalo from Cook (almost) Anything At Least Once.

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