Sunday, 30 January 2011
With the warm weather I've been making all kinds of cooling, blended drinks.
This one can either be a simple drink or can be turned into a cocktail by adding šljìvovica, a Damson plum brandy from the Balkans and most of central/eastern Europe.
What kind of cocktails do you like to drink in the heat?
Anna's very own recipe. Makes 1 very tall drink.
3 ripe plums, halved & pitted
45ml sugar syrup
35ml lemon juice
Cup of ice
Cup of soda water
1. Purée plums with the šljìvovica, sugar syrup and lemon juice.
2. Add ice and blend.
3. Add soda water into blender, stir, then pour into serving glass.
Wednesday, 26 January 2011
This is my 600th post since I started this blog in May 2006, so I’m celebrating with one of my favourite and most elegant recreations: replicas of Orange Cake w Persian Fig & Quince from Newtown’s Black Star Pastry.
Black Star Pastry is an amazing little café / patisserie with very pretty little cakes and cookies and great coffee. If you’re ever in Newtown you must make a pit stop to refuel on Lamb Shank & Red Wine Pies, Spinach & Mushroom Pithiviers, Earl Grey Macarons, Lemon Meringue w Basil Jelly or Strawberry, Watermelon & Rose Cake. Delish.
I made these gorgeous little cupcakes for Tia Bicky’s birthday after I promised her that if she stuck to her cholesterol reduction diet I’d make her this pretty cake as a reward.
It was amazingly easy to make and assemble, but was extraordinarily delicious.
I rate this as one of the best cupcakes I have ever made. I’m told Tia’s work colleagues loved them too.
Today marks the 223rd year since King George III sent Captain Arthur Phillip and the First Fleet to set up a little penal colony on the ass-end of the earth.
Australia is a strange place. It’s big, it’s empty and it’s harsh. (sounds like a 4WD ad)
Aussies regularly call Australia the “lucky country” in reference to all things favourable about our island home. What many Aussies don’t realise was that this is part of a quote from the 1964 book "The Lucky Country" by Donald Horne, and that the author was being ironic and actually critical of Australia. Horne argued that while most industrialised nations created wealth by the intelligence of it’s population and the development of innovative technology, Australia just relied on its rich natural resources. The full quote is actually “Australia is a lucky country, run by second-rate people who share its luck”.
Yep. Quote reference fail, big time.
Over the last 20yrs, Australia has transformed from a backwater, with a serious lack of imagination beyond a narrow Anglo-Celtic heritage, to a vibrant and multifaceted hub that I’m proud to hail from.
In 2001 my home, Sydney, gives me a wonderful lifestyle in a multicultural, cosmopolitan city. But I can’t help wondering why, when my ancestors got their first look at this place, they didn’t turn around and high tail it back to where ever they came from.
We have three levels of government in Australia: local, state and federal. One thing I am particularly proud of at the moment is that every single person representing me in my political system, in all three levels of Government, is a woman. It’s pretty amazing and I'm proud to see it happen:
Clover Moore, Mayor of the City of Sydney (first woman elected into this position)
Carmel Tebbutt, Member for Marrickville (and Deputy Premier)
Kristina Keneally, Premier of NSW (first woman to hold this position)
Marie Bashir, Governor of NSW (first woman to hold this position)
Tanya Plibersek, Member for Sydney
Julia Gillard, Prime Minister of Australia (first woman to hold this position)
Quentin Bryce, Governor-General of Australia (first woman to hold this position)
Queen Elizabeth II
Yes, the Queen of Britain is also the Queen of Australia. But for how much longer...? I'm referencing republicanism here peoples, not regicide.
Alright, enough about Australia. Oprah has promoted Australia pretty heavily recently, so I can take a break.
What you’re really reading this blog for is the food!
Persian Orange Cakes w Figs, Quince & Rose
Anna’s recreation of the Black Star Pastry cake. Makes 12 cakes.
Middle Eastern Orange Cake batter (from my recipe index)
50g quince paste, cut into small cubes
4-6 dried figs, quartered
12 pistachio nuts, blanched & quartered
1 tablespoon dried rose petals
185g butter, softened
2 ¼ cups icing sugar mixture
2 tablespoon natural yoghurt
1 teaspoon lemon juice
½ teaspoon lemon zest
1. Make orange cake as per this previously posted recipe, only use cupcake or friand tins.
2. When cakes have cooled, make the icing by beating the butter until pale. Gradually add icing sugar mixture yoghurt, lemon juice and zest. Beat until combined.
3. Assemble cakes by topping with lemon yoghurt frosting, then decorating with pieces of quince paste, figs, pistachios and rose petals.
Note: for dried rose petals and pistachios, I recommend Pariya products.
Sunday, 23 January 2011
As I browsed aimlessly through the shops yesterday, I noticed that the fishmonger was almost giving away bright, shiny mackerel at a mere A$2.50 per kilo! Outrageously cheap!
I snapped up two with the intention of bonding over the smoker with Jonas, whose loves mackerel as all good Swedes should.
My first ever experience with fresh mackerel was in June 2008 during our sailing adventure along the Swedish west coast. Jonas and his mum threw baitless hooks into the sea to test the line, then pulled it up with five fat fish already attached! We didn’t even need to fish after that!
This recipe was our first real attempt at smoking anything, part of my 2011 Food Challenges, and it was an absolute success. We now have
If you’re thinking about smoking yourself, I highly recommend our compact Nipper Kipper smoker which is the perfect size and allow us to smoke food on our inner city apartment balcony. It’s very small and tidy, so doesn’t take up any space on our balcony, and yet each shelf is big enough for four fillets of fish. Frankly, I couldn’t be happier with it.
The Nipper Kipper is made from galvanised steel, cost us about A$50 and came with a burner, two internal shelves and some wood dust to start us off. We paid an extra A$14 for a stand to keep the hot elements off the balcony tiles. You can get a slightly more expensive version in stainless steel too.
Hot Smoked Mackerel
Recipe based on this and this. Makes 4 fillets.
1kg blue mackerel (about 2 fish)
50g (⅓ cup) brown sugar
50g (¼ cup) fine salt
1 litre water
1. Wash the mackerel then fillet. Pull out the more obvious bones with tweezers but don’t worry too much because after they cook it’s easier to debone.
2. Prepare the brine mix by stirring the sugar, salt and water. You can also add other ingredients at this stage, like garlic or onion powder, pepper, bay leaves, spices etc. Mix until the sugar and salt are dissolved.
3. Lay the fillets skin side up in a ceramic dish then cover with brine and allow to rest in a cool place for 2 hours.
4. Remove the fillets and dry thoroughly with paper towels. Some people even go as far as to give them some time under a cold fan to make sure they’re extra dry as you want as little moisture in the smoker as possible.
5. Prepare your smoker as per the manufacturer’s instructions. Cook for 20 minutes. Things to note:
- We used 1 tablespoon each (so that’s 3 tablespoons in total) of Australian native woods, American hickory and a rum drenched dust. If you’re not sure, I’d stick to pure hickory and only use 1 tablespoon.
- Oil the grill racks to prevent sticking (we used cooking spray).
- Cook the fish skin side down on the racks.
- Don't try to pack the smoker with too many fillets or it will generate too much moisture which prevents proper cooking. Better to do them in batches if you want to make a lot.
6. Cool the fish, wrap tightly and refrigerate.
Storage: Lasts up to a week in fridge or a few months in the freezer (where I’m told the texture won’t change upon defrosting).
Note: Blue mackerel is also sold as "slimy mackerel".
Sunday, 16 January 2011
(Final) Day 7 of Seven Days of Cherries!
Once upon a time, no one in Australia had any idea what a chipotle was. I was lucky enough to have an American father who introduced them to me in my youth, as well as some Mexican pals who reminded me about these wonderful little gems and even showed me where to buy some (from the shop across the street from my house!!!).
These days chipotles are fast becoming a trendy item in Aussie restaurants, part of a resurgence in North American dishes and a new interest in Latin American cooking.
Chipotles, as I am sure I’ve blogged many times before, are smoked jalapeño chillies. They are spicy but they are also incredibly smoky and sweet, and are perfect for flavouring sauces.
Personally I love chipotles en adobo, which means they come in a can of sauce typically made from tomato, paprika, onions, vinegar, garlic, bay leaves and oregano. The chillies are already reconstituted and don’t need to be soaked back into softness, and the sauce has made them a little sour.
This sauce was very easy to make, even if it does contain loads of ingredients. You could cut out or add your own bits and pieces. Basically this is a sauce made from whatever is in the fridge and cupboard. The important part to remember is balancing the sweet and the acidity, so you end up with an even flavour.
I gave a bottle of this to my father for Christmas and kept a smaller bottle for my husband. It’s perfect for sticky ribs, barbecued meat and toasted sandwiches.
Cherry & Chipotle Barbecue Sauce
Anna’s very own recipe. Makes approx. 1 litre.
1kg (2.2 lbs) cherries
1 white onion, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 chipotle chillies in adobo, finely chopped
Olive oil, for cooking
2 teaspoons ground coriander
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 tablespoon paprika
¼ cup tomato paste
800g (1.8lbs) canned crushed tomatoes
¼ cup ketchup
¼ cup kecap manis (thick, sweet soy sauce)
2 tablespoons maple syrup
1 tablespoon brown sugar
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon HP sauce
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1. Pit and chop cherries.
2. Heat olive oil and sauté onion until softened but not brown.
3. Add garlic and chipotle chillies and fry until soft too.
4. Next add the paprika, ground cumin and ground coriander and stir through.
5. Add the tomato paste and fry until thickened.
6. Add the remaining ingredients (cherries, canned tomatoes, ketchup, kecap manis, maple syrup, brown sugar, Worcestershire sauce, HP sauce, apple cider vinegar and balsamic vinegar).
7. Stir well and then simmer down for 20 minutes until reduced slightly and thickened. Taste to ensure sweetness and acidity is well balanced.
8. Blend into a puree in a processor or blender. While still hot, poor into glass bottles and seal.
This is my last cherry post after seven days of pure cherry recipes:
• Cherry, Feta & Oregano Salad
• Cherry Almond Shake
• Pickled Cherries
• Cherry & Vanilla Jam
• Cherry Vinegar
• Cherries in Amaretto Syrup
• Cherry & Chipotle Barbecue Sauce
With my theme ingredient being cherries (of course!) this is also my contribution to Weekend Herb Blogging hosted by Cinzia from Cindystar.
Saturday, 15 January 2011
Day 6 of Seven Days of Cherries
Suddenly I have changed from detesting almond and marzipan flavours to adoring them.
I think it was the amaretto pannacotta at Manta that finally turned me, but I had been clearly heading that way to even order it in the first place.
This simple recipe is a testament to my newfound love. Sweet spiked almond syrup is a lovely match to fresh or poached cherries.
Don’t make the mistake I did for my first batch by not adding enough amaretto and not refrigerating these beauties. The two jars I gifted to friends turned into fermented messes for the garbage, not the beautiful desserts I enjoyed though my second attempt.
Cherries in Amaretto Syrup
Anna’s adaptation of this recipe. Makes 2 jars.
½ cup sugar
¼ cup water
½ cup amaretto
2-3 cups cherries
1. Give each cherry a shallow cut to allow the syrup to permeate.
2. Pack cherries tightly into preserving jars, trying to fill all the spaces.
3. In a saucepan, stir the water and sugar over a medium heat until sugar dissolves.
4. Boil syrup for 2-5 minutes until it thickens slightly. Remove from heat
5. Pour the amaretto into the syrup, stir then pour over cherries.
6. Seal the jars tightly then allow to cool to room temperature before refrigerating.
Note: Eat within a few days (2-4) of making. Serve over vanilla yoghurt or ice cream.
Friday, 14 January 2011
Day 5 of Seven Days of Cherries
You could hardly say I “cooked” this next recipe but the results are quite superb.
Overuse of balsamic vinegar in my home has led me to dislike this sweet, syrup Italian gem. While Jonas laps it up like mother’s milk, I rarely touch the stuff these days.
But this new version might entice me again.
By steeping smashed up cherries in supermarket balsamic, you end up with a brightened version that’s thick with cherry colour and flavours.
Use in place of regular balsamic for salads, bread or over fresh berries.
Taken from this recipe. Makes 600ml or so.
2 cups (approximately) smashed ripe cherries, with pits
500ml inexpensive balsamic vinegar
1. Smash up the cherries (with pits) and pour them and their juices into a sealable glass jar.
2. Cover with vinegar, seal and steep for two weeks, agitating every second day or so.
3. Strain and pour into a bottle for long term storage.
Thursday, 13 January 2011
Day 4 of Seven Days of Cherries
Cherry and vanilla is a match made in heaven.
They work so well together because the kernels inside cherry pits have a natural almond-vanilla flavour. The spice mahlab (also known as mahleb, or mahlepi) is actually made from the dried kernels of St Lucie cherry pits and it’s traditionally been used to flavour breads and desserts in the Middle East, Mediterranean and Levant the same way Europeans use vanilla.
There are loads of cherry jams out there, but my favourite two recipes probably come from Not Quite Nigella and David Lebovitz because they are easy to follow and because I love their blogs.
I like the Lebovitz version because it’s a fuss free, no-recipe jam that makes sense and I like the NQN recipe because it suggests using jarred sour cherries and jamsetta.
I didn’t use jam sugar or additional pectin this time because I feel like my jams get a strange taste from these products (it could very well be my imagination, but I don’t think so).
While the flavour of my finished cherry jam was perfectly luscious and edible by the spoonful, it’s certainly a very runny jam. It doesn’t bother me, but some people like their jams firmly set.
Having said this, even with some added pectin this jam isn’t going to gel into sticky clumps like commercial jams and is always going to be just a little runny.
And don’t forget Lebovitz’s jam adage “the best jam is cooked quickly” so once the sugar goes in, gun it!
Cherry & Vanilla Jam
Anna's combination of various recipes from the internet. Makes around 1 litre (4 cups)
1kg fresh cherries, pitted
125ml (½ cup) lemon juice
Zest of one lemon
2 vanilla pods
(50g jamsetta, optional)
1. Chop ¾ of the cherries into smaller pieces and leave the rest, because as Lebovitz says “Leave some cherries whole so people can see how hard you worked pitting real cherries. If you leave too many whole ones, they’ll tumble off your toast”.
2. Quarter vanilla pods by halving once lengthwise and once crosswise.
3. Put cherries into a saucepan with the vanilla pods, lemon zest and lemon juice then cook for around 15 minutes until cherries are completely tender and juicy.
4. Add the sugar and stir until sugar dissolves (around 10 minutes).
5. Increase heat and bring to a boil. Cook for around 5-10 minutes, or until mixture is at setting point.
6. Check to see if jam is ready by dropping a small amount onto a chilled saucer and allow it to set for 30 seconds in the freezer. Run your finger through the mixture. If it wrinkles rather than runs, it has reached its setting point.
7. Remove from the heat and pour into jars, tightly screw on lid and then turn jars upside down to create vacuum seals (takes 30 minutes). Store in a cool, dark place.
Variation: instead of vanilla, Lebovitz recommends kirsch, clear cherry eau-de-vie or a few drops of almond extract to flavour the jam.
Wednesday, 12 January 2011
Day 3 of Seven Days of Cherries
This couldn’t be a simpler recipe.
Pickled cherries are a fantastic accompaniment to rich game meat like roast goose, as the original recipe suggests.
Geese for eating aren’t very common in Australia and honestly I’ve never seen goose meat at any of the fancy butchers I’ve visited around Sydney, but there’s nothing stopping you serving these pickled beauties with roast duck or pork. Just as tasty and rich and also requiring a little acidity to cut through the fatty goodness.
Honk, honk! The geese will be pleased.
Recipe from Australian Gourmet Traveller Magazine. Serves 6 as a side dish.
425ml white wine vinegar
12 black peppercorns
350g caster sugar
3 bay leaves
1. For pickled cherries, place cherries in a sterilised jar and set aside.
2. Combine remaining ingredients in a saucepan, bring to a simmer over medium heat.
3. Cool, strain, pour over cherries, seal and refrigerate for 1-2 days, inverting occasionally.
Tuesday, 11 January 2011
Day 2 of Seven Days of Cherries
This drink is a perfect vegan smoothie because it is 100% dairy free yet still remarkably creamy.
I used almond milk, which was surprisingly delicious and contains zero lactose or cholesterol. You can buy almond milk from the supermarket or simply make it yourself with some blanched almonds and water in a blender.
The almond milk shouldn’t be pre-sweetened because this will be done by the cherries and the almond syrup.
It’s a very rich shake, so you don’t want too much, and it’s quite elegant and adult in its flavours.
Cherry Almond Shake
Anna’s very own recipe. Serves 2.
24 pitted cherries
¼ cup (60ml) almond syrup (orzata/orgeat), or to taste
2 cups (500ml) almond milk, chilled
3 cups crushed ice
1. Blend cherries, almond milk and ice.
2. Add almond syrup for desired sweetness.
Note: add a shot of amaretto for some alcohol action!
Monday, 10 January 2011
Seven Days of Cherries
In the week before Christmas I was very, very kindly given a 5kg box of cherries by Moraitis on behalf of The Cherry Growers of Australia Inc.
In exchange for this extremely generous gift, my task was to demonstrate that cherries, one of my all time favourite fruits, are versatile enough to be used in all kinds of ways in the kitchen. It wasn’t hard and I spent the next three days pitting, preserving, macerating and devouring these wonderful cerise orbs.
Here’s what I came up with:
• Cherry, Feta & Oregano Salad
• Cherry Almond Shake
• Pickled Cherries
• Cherry & Vanilla Jam
• Cherry Vinegar
• Cherries in Amaretto Syrup
• Cherry & Chipotle Barbecue Sauce
I will be blogging these recipes every day over the next seven days and I hope you too enjoy the awesome cherry crops while they’re in season.
I stumbled upon this first recipe by accident and am so happy I did. The unique combination of salty-sweet flavours and bright colours are amazing, and I’m pleased this is the recipe that's launching my Seven Days of Cherries.
This salad is wonderful with refreshing bursts from the cherries, earthiness from the oregano, heat and depth from the onions, moreish saltiness from the feta and sweet-acidity from the verjuice.
Cherry, Feta & Oregano Salad
Anna’s very own recipe. Serves 2.
24 cherries, pitted & halved
3 baby spring onions, quartered lengthways
1 tablespoon cabernet verjuice
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
100g crumbled sheep’s milk feta
Fresh oregano leaves, picked over
Freshly milled black pepper
1. Dress cherries and onion quarters with verjuice, olive oil and black pepper.
2. Mix through oregano leaves.
3. Plate then crumble over the feta before serving.
Tuesday, 4 January 2011
When Jonas started eating meat I was determined to have him experience all the various cuts and types of meat possible.
After a lovely morning stroll to the farmers markets at Eveleigh Carriageworks, I got chatting with one of the stall operators selling goat meat, and this inspired me to make these wonderful marinated cutlets and sweet-sour sauce.
It was all part of my three course rhubarb feast that included a raw rhubarb & feta salad as well as a rhubarb, strawberry & vanilla compote with chocolate custard.
Goat is a very strong flavoured meat, even more so than lamb. In cutlet form, it’s very easy to overcook and serve tough, so the trick is to serve it on the pink side.
As goat meat is so strong, it’s perfect to pair with gutsy marinades and powerful sauces because the flavours really shine through.
This agrodolce sauce is my own concoction, based on Italian sweet and sour principles. It worked perfectly with the goat but could be equally matched with a lamb or pork dish for the less adventurous meat eater.
Grilled Goat Cutlets w Rhubarb Agrodolce Sauce
Anna’s very own recipe. Serves 4.
Fresh thyme flowers, picked over for garnish
Olive oil, for cooking
8 goat cutlets (or 12 if very small)
½ cup red wine
1 tablespoon thyme leaves, picked over
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
4 garlic cloves, crushed
1 red onion, finely diced
4 garlic cloves, finely sliced
4 stalks of rhubarb, chopped
2 tablespoons red wine
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons cabernet verjuice
½ cup water
Salt and pepper, to taste
1. Marinate goat overnight in red wine and garlic.
2. Next make the agrodolce sauce. Heat olive oil, and on a low heat cook the onion and garlic until soft and translucent.
3. Add the rhubarb and brown sugar and continue cooking until some of the moisture has been cooked out.
4. Add the red wine and cook until some of the alcohol has evaporated.
5. Add the water and verjuice and simmer until rhubarb is soft. Cool, then process into a rough purée.
6. Return to saucepan and reheat. Taste sauce, season and ensure a good sweet-sour balance (adjust as required adding more verjuice or brown sugar). Keep warm.
7. To cook goat cutlets, grill until medium-rare, basting with marinade throughout cooking.
8. Serve cutlets hot with agrodolce sauce.
This recipe (using thyme & rhubarb) is my contribution to Weekend Herb Blogging, this week hosted by Haalo from Cook (almost) Anything At Least Once.
Saturday, 1 January 2011
I decide on a few recipes and key ingredients for the year then get distracted by some other shiny new things!
Regardless, I’m not going to stop setting myself these challenges even if they’re not always met.
I did a pretty dismal job in 2010, achieving only 9 out of 20 and still needing to blog 6 of those recipes.
I’ve decided to incorporate some of the unfinished challenges from previous years. Not all of them, but just those that still strike a chord with me somehow.
There were some dishes I thought I should attempt too. For instance every blogger worth their cyberspace has posted macarons, but then that’s kind of boring because people surfing the net for good recipe ideas don’t want to find seven hundred macaron recipes and nothing else.
Regardless, here are my 2011 Food Challenges.
Cook with new ingredients
Items or flavours I have never used before
Loomi (dried Persian limes)
Shito (West African chilli condiment)
Smoked Ghanese Fish
Techniques, cuisines or types of dishes I wish to master
Granola Chocolate, Cashew & Honey Granola
Iced Teas (& cooking with tea) Early Grey & Rhubarb Jam, Strawberry, Vanilla & Rose Iced Tea
Smoking Smoked Mackerel
Candies & Treats Passionfruit Truffles, Marzipan & Grand Marnier Truffles
Native Australian Ingredients Finger Lime Syrup, Oysters w Lime Caviar
Cook coveted recipes:
Recipes that I have scrapbooked over the years but never made
Pozole Rojo (red hominy stew) COMPLETE
Baby Potatoes w Blood Sausage & Crisp Parsley
Castagnaccio (Italian chestnut cake)
Česneková Polévka (Czech garlic soup) COMPLETE
Cha Traop Dot (Cambodian smoky eggplant & pork)
Dishes that have seemed too complicated to attempt before
Singapore Chilli Crab COMPLETE
Zupa Ogórkowa (Polish pickle soup) COMPLETE
Coeur a la Crème (French cream desserts) COMPLETE
Assam Laksa (Malay sour fish soup)
Invent recipes for:
Recipes I have dreamed up, seen or eaten and wish to replicate in my own way
Francesinha (Portuguese sandwich)
Green Papaya/Mango Salad
Apricot & Ganache Truffles
Musk Ice Cream
Adaptation of a Noma recipe
Taste / buy:
Market goodies that I just gots to ‘ave
Miracle fruit tablets
Violet essence BOUGHT
Sorrel COOKED WITH IT
New camera BOUGHT
Dine out at:
Restaurants I want to try at some point in the year
Ash Street Cellar VISITED
Anna's AU Food Trend Predictions
(announced via Twitter)
#1 fast food goes gourmet with haute cuisine burgers, hotdogs & popcorn etc
#2 hot sauce, the Lousiana kind. ccrryysstaaaaaaalll!
#3 locavorism, foraging and native Aussie ingredients. bring on the finger limes I say!
#4 salt-sweet desserts, like bacon chocolates and salted caramels
#5 more apple & pear cider on drinks lists. yay!
#6 Nordic ingredients like elderflower & lingon
#7 smoke, whether it be smoked meat, salt, butter or chocolate
#8 choripan, Argentina's fab chorizo hot dogs
#9 Latin American cuisines, esp Mexico, Argentina, Peru & Brazil
#10 lovely tongue on more menus