Wednesday, 30 December 2009

2009 in review

On the 1st of January 2009, I set myself 44 challenges under 11 categories with the aim to complete them throughout the year. Although I crossed off 32 out of 44 back in 2008, in 2009 I didn’t do so well with only 24 out of 44 and a further 2 of the remaining 9 from 2008.

Feel free to find out what these 2009 Food Challenges included. Some of those that I didn’t finish, I’ll carry over into 2010.

The Losers of 2009
2009 was a year of laziness in my kitchen and this meant the big loser was my taste buds and then my blog. I took on a new job that culminated in one of the biggest and busiest periods of my life, and once it was done I moved onto another job that’s kept me flat out for the past few months. This has meant my time in the kitchen has suffered a great deal and dinner has gone from being gourmet experiments to cheese on toast, or simply eating a can of tuna. The lack of time has also meant I haven’t been able to blog as much as I’d hoped, but let’s hope 2010 is a lot less busy.

The Winners of 2009
Rice Paddy HerbWhat a discovery this was! Such an unknown herb to me quickly became something I crave and search for in every fresh market. The fact that I can buy this seemingly unknown, rare herb in Sydney is just great. For more on rice paddy herb, check out this recipe for Bo Tai Chanh.

As a child I detested zucchini and squash. This mushy, flavourless vegetable was served steamed or boiled without accompaniment and I considered it a form of child abuse when my father and stepmother put it on my plate. These days I just love it. Marinated in lemon zest, olive oil and garlic, smothered in fresh herbs and grilled on the barbeque? That’s my idea of heaven. I insisted Jonas make this many times this year and at the last two family BBQs we attended before scooting off to Sweden I must have eaten 20 zucchini. Enough for M.E. to write a joke about it on my Facebook wall!!! Never trust the Irish.

I’d never eaten persimmon until this year and even though they have a slightly mild flavour, they are great in recipes. I made three persimmon dishes: persimmon & bourbon bread, Caramel Chocolate Tart, Dulce de Leche and Caramel Croissant Pudding, were all winners, especially the croissant pudding. Caramel is definitely on my sweet list these days.

Pinot Bianco and Barbera wines
These two Italian grape varieties became my new favourites in 2009. I have known both the red Barbera and white Pinot Bianco wines for quite some time, but it was only this year that I drank so much of both of them. This might have been influenced by Jonas’ job at one of Sydney’s newest Italian wine bars, but who knows?

Many 2009 evenings were spent at Bar Fico in Surry Hills, drinking bottles of Barbera d’Alba with Ms Correct. It’s a wonderful, light red wine with low tannin and high acidity that works perfectly as a winter evening drink but just as well at a summer BBQ. It's got a lot of berry flavours, but most predominantly tastes of black cherries and sometimes vanilla.

Pinot Bianco is a medium to full-bodied, dry white wine with quite high acidity. The flavours are often described as apple, green almond, melon, vanilla and cream. There are supposed to be drunk young, green and crisp.

Favourite recipes of 2009
apple, walnut & blue cheese flaugnarde
brandy milk punch
broccoli & stilton soup
caramel croissant pudding
chinese pork & garlic chive dumplings
crème fraiche parfait
eggplant parmigiana
feta, sumac & herb salad
mastic ice cream
peach & ginger punch
peanut butter pie
persimmon & bourbon bread
pickled smoked sausages
roast pork fillet w cider & pistachios
scallops w lentils, pancetta & sage
smoked rainbow trout
sticky date pudding
tamarind & vermicelli broth

Sunday, 27 December 2009

caramel croissant pudding

This is quite possibly one of the best desserts you can ever eat.

Big call?

Then you'll just have to trust me.

And it's the perfect heart-warming dessert for those in a deep northern winter.

Caramel Croissant Pudding

Recipe by
Nigella Lawson. Serves 2 greedy people.


2 stale croissants
100g caster sugar
30ml water
125ml double cream
125ml full-fat milk
30ml bourbon
2 eggs, beaten
¼ cup dulce de leche


1. Preheat the oven to 180°C/gas mark 4.

2. Tear the croissants into pieces and put in a small gratin dish; I use a cast iron oval one with a capacity of about 500ml for this.

3. Put the caster sugar and water into a saucepan, and swirl around to help dissolve the sugar before putting the saucepan on the hob over a medium to high heat.

4. Caramelise the sugar and water mixture by letting it bubble away, without stirring, until it all turns a deep amber colour; this will take 3–5 minutes. Keep looking but don’t be too timid.

5. Turn heat down to low and add the cream – ignoring all spluttering – and, whisking away, the milk and bourbon. Any solid toffee that forms in the pan will dissolve easily if you keep whisking over low heat. Take off the heat and, still whisking, add the beaten eggs.

6. Pour the caramel bourbon custard over the croissants and leave to steep for 10 minutes if the croissants are very stale.

7. Dot croissants with blobs of dulce ce leche.

8. Place in the oven for 20 minutes and prepare to swoon.

If you don’t have any bourbon in the house substitute with rum (not Scotch whisky).

Friday, 25 December 2009

mulled wine granita

 Merry Xmas!

Jonas and I are spending our white Christmas on the ski fields of Sälen, in Sweden.

It is my first white Christmas and, although it’s all very exciting, I am an Aussie girl after all and I’m sure Christmas just won’t feel the same without the searing heat, seafood and mangoes.

In honour of this I’m sharing a recipe that could be eaten by anyone in the Christmas spirit, whether they’re in the north or the south: mulled wine granita.

It’s a great pre-dessert for those waiting for their puddings to steam up and a perfect, spicy refreshment for those sliding into their swimsuits.

Mulled Wine Granita

Ice Cream Ireland’s sorbet recipe. Serves 8.

360g sugar
600ml spring water
350ml red wine (eg merlot)
225ml fresh orange juice
Juice of half a lemon
2 cloves
1 tablespoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon nutmeg


1. Combine the sugar, water, wine and spices and cook over low heat, stirring occasionally for about 30 minutes, maintaining at a low simmer.

2. Strain to remove the cloves. Cool completely.

3. Stir in the orange and lemon juices.

4. Freeze in a metal tray for 30 minutes until ice crystals have formed. Scrape ice with a fork to break up.

5. Repeat every 30 minutes for approximately 3 hours until the granita has frozen completely in small ice pieces.

6. Eat within a day or so, breaking up crystals with a fork before serving.

Monday, 14 December 2009

udon w edamame & almond pesto

It’s the last Weekend Herb Blogging event for the year, so I’ll end it with a new ingredient I’ve never used before and a recipe that will be my last 2009 Food Challenge post (I didn’t complete many in 09!).

Ever since seeing this post on the Scent of Green Bananas, over 4 years ago, I have yearned to make my own delicious edamame pesto using Japanese influences.

I used Santos’ photo for inspiration and, while mine certainly doesn’t look as pretty as Santos’ herb heavy noodles, it turned out to be one of the most delicious sauces I’ve ever made.

It’s flavours of almonds, herbs, garlic, ginger and lemon are probably best suited to summer, but I could eat the mixture with a spoon any time of the year.

Udon w Edamame & Almond Pesto
Anna’s very own recipe. Serves 3.
270g organic udon noodles
1½ cups cooked + peeled edamame (soya beans)
¼ cup sunflower oil
¼ cup toasted flaked almonds
1 teaspoon sesame oil
2 teaspoons grated ginger
2 teaspoons grated garlic
Zest of 1 lemon
Juice of 1 lemon
2 tablespoons each of shredded coriander, parsley, mint & shiso
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
1. Boil udon noodles as per manufacturer’s instructions.
2. While noodles are cooking, combine all other ingredients in a food processor and blend into a fine paste, adding oils last.
3. When noodles are finished cooking, drain then return to the hot cooking pot and add pesto. Stir it around and let the heat from the pot melt the pesto through the noodles.
4. Serve warm in bowls and eat with chopsticks.

Edamame are soya beans in their shells, eaten in Japan as beer snacks. And they are perfect for this job, boiled or steamed and tossed in salt, then popped from their shells straight into hungry mouths. Too good to believe they’re damn healthy too.

Soya beans are an amazing source of protein without the saturated fats of animal proteins in fact "just one cup of soybeans provides 57.2% of the daily value for protein for less than 300 calories and only 2.2 grams of saturated fat.”

Soya beans have very good levels of manganese and protein and good levels of iron, omega 3 fatty acids, phosphorus, dietary fibre, vitamin K, magnesium, copper, vitamin B2 (riboflavin) and potassium.

Better still, Wikipedia says the soya bean is “the most widely grown and utilised legume in the world”.

But the elusive shiso is the magic herb of interest here.

Also known as perilla, shiso leaves are elegant leafy herbs and a member of the Lamiaceae family (with mint).

According to Wikipedia, “it is considered rich in minerals and vitamins, has anti-inflammatory properties and is thought to help preserve and sterilize other foods.”

The flavour is pretty intense, with an aniseed/mintiness.

In Japan it’s served alongside sashimi, in India it’s shredded with chilli and tomatoes into a dip, in China it’s used in traditional medicine to boost immunity, in Vietnam it often accompanies bún (rice vermicelli salads) and in Korea it masks the strong smell of dog meat dishes.

But this delicious shiso/perilla meal is vegetarian, so your puppies won’t need to fear.

Our WHB host for the last time this year is our WHB organiser, Haalo, from Cook (almost) Anything At Least Once, an Aussie blog that is full of inspirational recipes.

So, as I usually do at the end of every year, here’s my WHB theme ingredients for the past 12 months:
kiwi - kiwifruit & lemongrass slushie
tomatillos - chilaquiles & salsa verde
capers - smoked trout & warm potato salad
corn - esquite (Mexican corn snack)
eggplant - eggplant parmigiana
preserved lemon - Morrocan chicken tagine
blackberries - blackberry & oatmeal breakfast cake
hominy - pozole verde (Mexican tomatillo & hominy stew)
sage - scallops w lentils, pancetta & sage
scallions - feta, sumac & herb salad
persimmon - persimmon & bourbon bread
lemon thyme - roast pork fillet w cider & pistachios
tangelo - tangelo delicious pudding
peanuts - peanut butter pie w roasted banana ice cream
cavolo nero - milk-braised pork w cavolo nero
palm hearts - palms hearts w parsley
sage - apple, walnut & blue cheese flaugnarde
cherries - duck w cherries
mâche - mâche w chive & mustard dressing
dates - sticky date pudding
thyme - basque oxtail stew
potato - rösti
plums - kentish pigeons w plums
broccoli - broccoli & stilton soup
avocado - salpicón de camarónes (Mexican prawn cocktail)
rice paddy herb - bò tái chanh (Vietnamese lemon-cured sirloin)
parsley - braciole napoletana (Italian stuffed veal)
shiso - udon w edamame & almond pesto

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