Friday, 17 June 2011

plum & vanilla jam

Ever since I made this luscious Cherry & Vanilla Jam, I realised vanilla is the most wonderful thing you can add to jam.

When I was presented with a basket of sticky, overripe Santa Rosa plums I decided the best thing to do with them was turn them into jam.

Blood plums would have made a much more dramatically coloured jam, however the tart red skin of the Santa Rosa added a pinkish hue to the flavoursome yellow flesh. And in the end I’d prefer it to taste delicious than look dramatic.

Spread thickly on toasted sour dough.

Plum & Vanilla Jam

Anna’s very own recipe. Makes around 5 x 300ml jars.
1kg plums
1 vanilla pod
60ml (¼ cup) water
1kg sugar
50g (1 packet) jamsetta


1. Preheat oven to a moderately slow 150’C (300’F). Put a saucer in the freezer.

2. Wash plums. Cut into chunks and discard stones. Combine with water in a large saucepan.

3. Slice vanilla pod in half and scrape out seeds. Add seeds and pod to plums. Cook until fruit softens.

4. Meanwhile, warm sugar on a tray in the oven for around 5 minutes, being sure not to burn or dissolve it.

5. Add warm sugar and jamsetta to fruit purée, then heat and stir until sugar fully dissolves.

6. Bring to the boil for 5 to 10 minutes, stirring every now and then to prevent burning.

7. To test the set of the jam, remove the saucer from the freezer and teaspoon on a little jam. Wait 30 seconds then run your finger through. If it crinkles and leaves a path, then the jam is ready. Otherwise continue cooking.

8. Remove from heat and pour hot jam into sterilised jars. Seal immediately.

Monday, 13 June 2011

coeur à la crème

Coeur à la Crème reminds me of my mother, not because she made it often but because she never, ever made it.

It must have been the 80s, or even the 70s, when she bought the six little heart ramekins with drainage holes in the base. I remember being quite small when I asked her what these intriguing dishes were for.

“They’re for making coeur à la crème”, she answered matter-of-factly and pulled a French cookbook from the shelf, flicking to the photo.

Pretty white hearts of cream floated in a puddle of bright red fruit sauce and looked wonderful. I couldn’t wait to taste them.

But she never made them.

Years went by and, despite moving houses many times, she never made the dessert nor threw away or sold the ramekins. They sat at the back of cupboard, a quiet reminder of all the things you never get around to doing.

When my mother passed away, I inherited the ramekins. They have sat in my cupboard for ten years and I haven’t made coeur à la crème either. Jonas has begged me to get rid of them, but for some reason these little dishes hold a special place in my heart and I put them on my 2011 Food Challenge list.

So today, on the tenth anniversary of her death, I decided to finally cook and eat coeur à la crème.

Today is also my birthday, which makes it even sadder when I realise that I’ve lived one third of my life without her now. She never knew me as an adult, which I know was something she was so sad she would miss out on.

The raw pain of losing her is as intense now as it was ten years ago.

A friend of mine, Nicki, who lost her own mother before me, told me “It never stops hurting, you just get better at coping with the sadness.”

That’s the truth.

I thought today would be spent sobbing, but then something spooky and quite wonderful happened this morning to take away some of the loneliness.

Before my mother died she swore that if there was life after death, and if she was able to get word out, she’d try to make contact with me. We giggled about it, two atheists making plans like POWs escaping from a prison camp.

This morning Jonas and I woke to find a cold, grey winter day and no electricity for our heater, oven or fridge. There was a power outage.

I told Jonas that at 9:20am, the time I was born, the power would come back on, as a little 'happy birthday' from my mother. I turned on the powerless bedside lamp, and at 9:20am I thought of my mother and said aloud with sheer confidence, “Ok, it’s my birthday now. Turn on the lights Mummy.”

And with that, they flickered on.

As an atheist, I’m sure it’s coincidental but, as a daughter, I’d like to think it was my mother telling me she loved me.

~ ~ ~

This French dessert is usually made from fromage frais (fresh cheese) which is a creamy, soft curd cheese. I couldn’t find any fromage frais, or even quark, so I decided to use a combination of cream cheese and mascarpone.

It worked.

It was a wonderful way to celebrate my birthday, and my mother’s memory.

Coeur à la Crème

Based on a recipe by Australian Gourmet Traveller. Serves 6

250g cream cheese
250g mascarpone
110g (½ cup) pure icing sugar
1 vanilla bean, split and seeds scraped
200ml double cream
300g (2 punnets) raspberries
75g (⅓ cup) pure icing sugar
60ml (¼ cup) Cointreau


1. Start the day before by combining cream cheese, mascarpone, icing sugar and vanilla bean seeds in a food processor until smooth, scraping down sides.

2. Add cream and pulse until just combined. Cut six 20cm squares of muslin, rinse well and wring out.

3. Either line specialised coeur à la crème ramekins with muslin, wrap over the top and place on a plate so whey can drip through drainage holes. Refrigerate overnight.
Make free form by placing muslin on a work surface and divide cream mixture (about ½ cup each) between muslin squares. Bring corners of muslin together, twist tightly and tie securely with kitchen twine. Tie to hang on a rack and place a tray underneath to catch whey. Refrigerate overnight.

4. For raspberry coulis, process raspberries, icing sugar and Cointreau in a food processor until smooth, then push through a fine sieve, discarding seeds. Makes about 300ml.

5. Remove coeurs à la crème from muslin, invert onto coulis, carefully peel away muslin and serve.

Note: instead of mascarpone use fromage frais, quark, ricotta or cottage cheese.

Saturday, 11 June 2011

apple, sage & garlic sauté

This sauté is the perfect side dishes to mains like pan-fried duck breast or pork chops.

It combines all the fresh flavours of apple and sage with the warmth needed for winter meals.

Tangy, tart and savoury, and takes around 5 minutes to cook.

Apple, Sage & Garlic Sauté

Anna’s very own recipe. Serves 2.

1 green apple, peeled & cored
2 tablespoons baby sage leaves
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
Salt and pepper
Olive oil, for cooking


1. Slice apples into small wedges.

2. Heat olive oil in a frying pan, add sage and garlic slices and fry gently until fragrant.

3. Add apple pieces, tossing carefully to ensure sage and garlic do not burn.

4. Cook until apple is heated through but still crunchy and fresh.

5. Season with milled salt and pepper, serve warm.

Sunday, 5 June 2011

smoky pulled pork

Pulled pork is just magical.

The juicy meat slow cooked for hours until it falls from the bone and then smothered in spicy, smoky sauce and piled high onto soft burger buns.

To. Die. For.

When Kitchenware Direct contacted me and offering to give me a slow cooker of my choice to review on this blog, their email couldn’t have come at a better time.

Jonas and I had been discussing the idea of getting a slow cooker just so we could make pulled pork sliders. We’d eaten them recently at Porteño and had not recovered from their marvellous flavour. We wanted to replicate the magic at home.

So here I was being offered a slow cooker and all I had to do was use it and tell you what I thought about it.

I love my life.

I selected the NewWave 5 in 1 MultiCooker because it’s not just a slow cooker but also a pressure cooker, rice cooker, steamer and soup maker. It’s Kitchenware Direct’s most popular model and after trawling through some online review sights it ranks right up there among the best of its type.

It arrived promptly in a well packaged box, safely cushioned in plastic air bags and styrofoam. When we took it out we cooed and sighed, stroking our shiny baby with all the love of proud new parents.

Once we were ready to use it, we got a bit scared that it might be broken, because the vacuum seal on the lid was wobbly freakishly and didn’t seem too stable, but then we realised we were complete idiots and that once you use the pressure cooking function the valve sucks into place perfectly.

Crisis averted.

We plonked the meat and sauce inside, hit the slow cooker and walked away for a few hours. At the end, we vamped up the intensity with a few minutes of pressure cooking and we were left will a sweet sauce and meat so tender it just peeled away from the bone.

The results were so good that even the highly critical Fabio let out an involuntary exclaim of satisfied praise.

This cooker is definitely easy to use (one couple cooking together, zero arguments) and even easier to clean (good work Jonas).

All the residual fear I had from my high school friend’s horrific pressure cooker accident was dispelled by the quick vacuum seal and the easy steam release valve. No explosions, good times.

My rule when accepting free gifts or meals is simple: if I don’t like it, I won’t write about it.

Well, I love my NewWave 5 in 1 MultiCooker and I’m not afraid to tell the world! Without the crew at Kitchenware Direct we might never have been introduced, and that would have been a tragedy.

Spicy Pulled Pork

Based on a recipe by Feast on the Cheap. Makes 10 buns.

2kg pork shoulder, bone in
1 medium brown onion, diced
1 cup carrot, grated
4 garlic cloves, sliced
2 chipotle chillies in adobo sauce*
800g can crushed tomatoes
250ml (1 cup) passata (tomato sauce)
250ml (1 cup) ketchup
250ml (1 cup) BBQ sauce
125ml (½ cup) red wine
3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon adobo sauce (from chipotle chillies)
1 teaspoon dried oregano
2 teaspoons kosher salt
¾ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 bay leaves
Olive oil, for frying

To serve:
Hamburger buns
Fresh coriander, chopped


1. Trim the pork shoulder of skin and excess fat to prevent congealing in the slow cooker.

2. Over medium heat, sauté the onion, carrot, garlic and chipotle chillies in olive oil until the onion is translucent.

3. In a bowl, combine the sautéed vegetables, BBQ sauce, ketchup, crushed tomatoes, passata, adobo sauce, red wine, cider vinegar, dried oregano, bay leaves, salt and pepper. Stir well.

4. Back in the frying pan, sear the pork shoulder and brown on all sides.

5. In the slow cooker, pour a cup or so of sauce into the base to completely cover the bottom.

6. Put the pork shoulder inside the slow cooker and cover completely in sauce. Cover and cook at 100’C for 5 hours.

7. Switch to your pressure cooker setting and cook for another 20 minutes.

8. Remove the pork from the sauce, cool then shred with a fork. Set aside in a bowl, covered with plastic wrap to keep moist.

9. Pour the sauce into a pan and check seasoning. Adjust balance of sweet and sour according to your tastes, then reduce the sauce by simmering for 10 minutes over medium-low heat. Blend into a purée.

10. In a bowl, add enough sauce to pork to allow for a sticky but not soupy mix.

11. Serve on soft hamburger buns topped with aioli, coriander and sides of coleslaw and dill pickles.

Note: If you don’t have a slow and pressure cooker in one, buy one from Kitchenware Direct! Or you can cook it in a slow cooker for 6-7 hours or a large oven pot at 175’C for 4-7 hours, depending on your oven.

* In Australia, chipotle chillies in adobo sauce are sold in cans in Latin American sections of specialist supermarkets like Fiji Markets in Newtown, Sydney. You can buy them online at Fireworks Foods too. Otherwise substitute with Chipotle Tabasco.

This post has been featured on the wonderful slow cooking blog:

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