Friday 23 January 2009

chocolate coconut slice

This month’s theme for Sugar High Friday, hosted by Rachel from Vampituity, is “childhood delights” and requires participants to cook desserts from their youth.

Chocolate Coconut Slice features firmly in my mind and reminds me of two people: my highschool friend Gemma, who used to make it and bring it to school to share, and my mother who made it at home and taught me how to do it too.

It’s a perfect recipe to whip up if you have impromptu guests or a late-night craving for something sweet. I usually have all the ingredients in the pantry.

It’s also great to make with kids because there are quite a few non-heat related stages where they can safely assist you - the way I used to help out my mum.

Most of all, it’s really delicious and somehow has a salty-sweet edge from the chewy coconut. Best served cut into small squares, I defy you to eat only one.

Chocolate Coconut Slice

Kay's very own recipe. Makes approx. 12 squares.


Slice1 cup plain flour
½ cup sugar
1 cup desiccated coconut
1 tablespoon cocoa
200g dark chocolate, melted
185g butter, melted
½ teaspoon vanilla essence
1 egg, beaten
Icing1 cup icing sugar
3 tablespoons cocoa
30g butter, melted
1½ tablespoons hot water


1. Preheat oven to 180’C. Lightly grease lamington tin (28cm x 18cm).

2. To make the slice, sift the flour, sugar and cocoa into bowl.

3. Stir through the coconut.

4. Add melted butter, melted chocolate, vanilla essence and egg and mix well.

5. Press mixture over base of tin. Bake for 20 minutes. Cool in tin.

6. To make icing, sift icing sugar and cocoa into a small bowl, add melted butter and water and mix until smooth and glossy.

7. When cool, ice while still in tin and allow icing to set. Cut into squares.

Monday 19 January 2009

aloe pera

I’m finally back for a Mixology Monday!

I love this cocktail making event but for the longest time I have either missed the deadline, couldn’t find the theme and date or haven’t had the necessary liquor to take part.

The theme for January, hosted by The Scribe from A Mixed Dram, is new horizons and so I’ve used two ingredients I’ve never used before: the first is Absolut’s intensely pear flavoured vodka and the second is a strange, bright green juice from New Zealand made from kiwifruit and aloe vera.

Absolut Pears was released in 2007 and Absolut claims that like all its vodkas it is “made from water and winter wheat . . . exclusively from natural ingredients and doesn’t contain any added sugar”. They describe is as “fresh and delicate, with a smack of mellow pears and a long fruity aftertaste”.

In my opinion, Absolut Pears is not a subtle flavour. There is no mistaking the pear in this and when mixing with other ingredients it’s very difficult not to overpower everything with the pear flavour. Midori is a good match since it often has the same effect.

Absolut Pears was a good choice to match to the Nekta as well, which has its own strong kiwi punch but also the strange grapey-bubblegum flavours of aloe vera.

And since there's aloe vera in it, surely this drink is healthy? Right? Surely?

Actually this drink is pretty powerful but it tasted good and was easy to drink. I’d be pleased to mix it again.

The vibrant green colour is quite confronting so it’s best used on jovial occasions or in warm weather for a tropical feeling. It might even make a good pitcher drink for a small, casual dinner party.

Aloe Pera

Anna's very own recipe. Makes 2.

3 parts Kiwi & Aloe Nekta
1 part Absolut Pears
1 part Cointreau
½ part Midori
½ part lemon juice

1. Shake with ice until chilled.
2. Serve in martini glass.

I am sure many of my MxMo colleagues have noticed this, but every time Absolut releases a new flavour they always write or spell the name in a strange way that most people don’t seem to pick up on.

For instance most people ask for Absolut Vanilla but it’s actually Absolut Vanilia, their mandarin vodka is written as Absolut Mandrin, and their peach as Absolut Apeach.

Since I’m married to a Swede, and can speak a fair amount of Swedish myself, I can tell you that the majority of these kooky names are not the equivalent Swedish words but a fanciful Absolut language cooked up in a marketing department somewhere.

The full range of flavours, and correct Absolut spelling, are as follows:
Absolut Apeach
Absolut Citron
Absolut Kurant
Absolut Mandrin
Absolut Mango
Absolut Pears
Absolut Peppar
Absolut Raspberri
Absolut Ruby Red
Absolut Vanilia

I quite like Absolut’s flavoured vodka range, but I’m not a fan of their plain vodkas. Frankly I think the elegant design of the bottle and witty advertising campaign does more to drive sales than any flavours from the lighter fluid inside.

But as I said, I enjoy the flavoured vodkas, particularly the lemon (citron) and black currant (kurant). They’re great for mixing and usually add good strength of flavour to many cocktails.

The Absolut Drinks website has some great cocktail suggestions for using all their flavoured vodkas so I checked out what they had for Absolut Pears. Some are as simple as mixing with lemonade or ginger beer and garnishing with a lime wedge, but here are three of the more interesting suggestions:

Pears Garden
4 parts Absolut Pears
2 parts lemon juice
2 parts simple syrup
1 part black currant liqueur
2 parts cranberry juice
Shake on ice and strain into chilled martini glass.

Absolut Appearance
1 part Absolut Pears
1 part apricot brandy
1 part simple syrup
1 part lemon juice
1 part grapefruit juice
Fill a shaker with ice cubes. Add all ingredients. Shake and strain into a chilled rocks glass filled with ice cubes.

Chocolate Pear
1 part Absolut Pears
1 part cream
1 part chocolate liqueur
2 parts hazelnut liqueur
Fill a shaker with ice cubes. Add all ingredients. Shake and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with 1 whole chocolate.


Saturday 17 January 2009

mushroom & barley soup

This recipe is vegetarian, but it certainly feels meaty.

Perhaps it’s because there are so many chunky pieces of mushroom and a rich earthiness to the broth, but it’s so “meaty” some vegetarians might be concerned about what they’re eating!

Never fear, this truly is a vegetarian recipe submitted to the vegetarian food blogging event No Croutons Required. January’s theme is ‘vegetable soup’ in order to built up the nutrients lost during the excesses and gluttony of the festive period.

Our host, Lisa from Lisa's Kitchen, wants us to focus on vegetable concoctions so instead of using a variety of different veggies I've gone with a variety of mushrooms. The barley just adds to the hearty, nutritiousness of it all.

Although I’m in the middle of my summer, and this soup is suited to cooler weather, I thought I’d offer it up to my blogging pals in the northern hemisphere who are shivering through one of the coldest winters in a long while.

Mushroom & Barley Soup

Recipe by Maggie Beer. Serves 4.


850ml vegetable stock
200g pearl barley (cooked in 1½L water for 1hr)
200g onion, diced
100g shitake mushrooms
200g Swiss brown mushrooms
200g field mushrooms
80ml sherry
40g butter
20g dried porcini (soaked overnight in 500 ml hot water)
20g salt
10g garlic
10g rosemary
3g fresh thyme
1g pepper
Chopped fresh parsley, to serve


1. After barley has cooked in 1½ litres water for an hour, strain.

2. Melt butter and fry onion until translucent.

3. Add garlic, rosemary, thyme, salt and pepper and cook together.

4. Reserving the liquid, strain the porcini (which were soaked overnight in water) and chop.

5. Add chopped porcini, reserved porcini liquid, precooked barley, stock and sherry to the onion mixture.

6. Chop the shitake, swiss brown and field mushrooms

7. In another pan, sauté the mushrooms in olive oil, seasoning with salt.

8. Add mushrooms to the barley and stock.

9. Cook for approx 10 minutes and season with black pepper.

10. Serve topped with chopped parsley.

Note: This can of course be made with all one kind of mushroom to equal 500g.

UPDATE: Thanks to all the wonderful people who voted for my soup! My soup has officially made me the No Croutons Required January Winner! Can you believe that this is the first ever blogging competition/honour I have won? I've come in a close second before, but never won. Thanks everyone! And thanks Maggie Beer for the recipe in the first place.


Thursday 15 January 2009

baked ricotta

Ricotta can be so versatile.

I love to bake it as a side dish to dinner or for dessert.

Different flavours can be used everytime and here I have photos for:
• Black Pepper Ricotta
• Cinnamon Ricotta w Sour Cherries

Baked Ricotta
Anna's very own recipe. Serves 2 as side.

250g ricotta
1 egg
Flavouring, see below

1. Preheat oven to 180'C.
2. In a bowl, mix ricotta with flavouring of choice.
3. In an oven proof baking dish or non-stick baking even tin, firmly pack in the ricotta pressing down to remove air bubbles.
4. Bake in oven for 20-30 minutes or until ricotta rises and develops a light surface.
5. Serve warm or cold, as preferred, with accompaniments.

Flavour Suggestions
• 50g melted dark chocolate & 2 tablespoons brown sugar
• 1 teaspoon cinnamon & 2 tablespoons honey
• ¼ cup chopped berries & 2 tablespoons caster sugar
• ¼ cup mashed banana & 2 tablespoons honey or brown sugar
Serve with fresh berries, canned fruit, raisin toast, pancakes, toasted panettone, scones or muffins.

• 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
• 1 teaspoon chilli flakes
• 1 crushed garlic clove
• 2 tablespoons fresh herbs or 1 teaspoon dried herbs
• 2 tablespoons finely chopped olives

Serve with crackers, bread, bruschetta, on a sandwich, as a side dish, crumbled through pasta or salad.


Monday 12 January 2009

chilaquiles & salsa verde

I first ate chilaquiles at a Mexican restaurant when my friend, Luis (aka Pollo) was in the kitchen whipping up our breakfast.

It was love at first bite.

The tangy flavours of the salsa verde cutting through the cheese and sticky refried beans was pure bliss.

These days Jonas and I ensure all the ingredients for chilaquiles are in the house before we go out on the town, because we know the next morning all we’ll want to do is roll out of bed and start eating this simple yet delicious brunch treat.

Chilaquiles is an amazing hangover cure.

It’s a great recipe to use up stale tortillas, which are simmered in either salsa verde (tomatillo) or salsa roja (tomato). If you’ve got a craving and no leftover tortillas then just use some unflavoured corn chips.

I prefer my simmer sauce to be tomatillo based because the tangy salsa verde makes such a great comparison to the other flavours.

Salsa Verde (Mexican Tomatillo Sauce)

Anna’s very own recipe. Makes approx 3 cups or 750ml.

1.5kg canned tomatillos, drained
1 cup chopped fresh coriander leaves and stems
2 pickled serrano chillies
2 garlic cloves, crushed
3 tablespoons lime juice
Salt, to taste

Put everything in a blender and blitz until smooth.

Chilaquiles (Tortilla Breakfast Bake)

Anna’s very own recipe. Serves 2-4 depending on greed.

500ml salsa verde
200g stale corn tortillas, cut into small pieces
250g grated cheese
500g refried beans or whole pinto beans
Diced avocado, to serve
Crème fraîche, to serve
Salsa verde, to serve


1. Preheat oven to 180’C.

2. In a saucepan, heat the salsa verde then add the corn tortillas and simmer until softened a little.

3. Pour into a baking dish and if it’s a little dry add about ½ cup more.

4. Top with refried beans then cheese.

5. Bake in oven for 10-15 minutes until cheese is melted and ingredients are heated through.

6. Serve immediately with accompaniments.

Variations: you can use tomato based sauce instead, replace tortillas with unflavoured corn chips and add shredded chicken before baking.
Other accompaniments: ham, eggs, fresh coriander, chopped onion etc.

The tomatillo (Physalis philadelphica) is a member of the nightshade (Solanaceae) family and is also known as a green tomato, tomate verde, husk tomato, jamberry, husk cherry, Mexican tomato, ground cherry, tomate de cáscara, tomate de fresadilla, tomate milpero, miltomate and pokmou.

Tomatillos, although commonly referred to as tomatoes, are actually closer relatives to the gooseberry than the tomato.

They are a staple of Mexican cooking and make the world’s most delicious sauces.

The fruits are small, spherical and green or green-purple. When they are ripe they should be snug inside a papery husk but still green. Once tomatillos become yellow they are overripe and loose their tart flavour. Sauces using overripe yellow tomatillos will be too sweet. The husk is a good indication of freshness. It should be pale brown and papery, not dried and shrivelled.

It’s believed the Aztecs started cultivating the tomatillos around 800 B.C.E. The Aztec word for tomato was xitomatl and the tomatillo was call miltomatl. These words, meaning round and plump, were shortened by the Spaniards to tomatl and the origins of our own words for both fruit.

Tomatillos are my feature ingredient for Weekend Herb Blogging this week, hosted by Rachel from The Crispy Cook.


Thursday 8 January 2009

chocolate chestnut cake & crème fraîche parfait

This was quite a feat. I had never eaten nor cooked chestnuts before and it was also the first time I used my brand new ice cream machine.

Both recipes were successes!

The chocolate chestnut cake is a Nigella Lawson recipe. I have been watching a lot of Nigella lately, with round-the-clock Nigella episodes airing due to Christmas cable programming.

As my friend John put it, after being mesmerised by those curves, cheeky smile and healthy appetite, “Nigella is one hot heifer”. I have to agree.

The chocolate chestnut cake comes from her book, Nigella Bites, and is so easy to make with only 4 ingredients and 5 steps from start to serve.

Nigella suggests serving it with crystallised violets and crème fraîche, but since the weather is so warm in Sydney I opted for an ice cream recipe I saw Maggie Beer make on The Cook And The Chef.

They worked perfectly together and although the cake was luscious, rich and everything you want in a Christmas dessert, I think we all swooned over the sweet-sour flavours of the crème fraîche parfait. There was just something utterly decadent about it.

These two recipes are my contributions to First Thursdays January 2009 theme “challenge yourself”. The recipes each happen to fufill one of my own 2009 Food Challenges: cook with chestnut.

Chocolate Chestnut Cake 
Recipe from Nigella Bites by Nigella Lawson. Makes 10–12 slices. 
500g sweetened chestnut purée
300g dark chocolate, minimum 70% cocoa solids
175g unsalted butter, soft
3 tablespoons dark rum


1. Beat the purée in a bowl until it’s smooth, and then add the butter, beating again to make a well-blended mixture.

2. Melt the chocolate and let it cool slightly, before adding it to the chestnut and butter in the bowl.

3. Beat in the rum, and spoon the chocolate mixture into a 23 x 10cm loaf tin, lined with clingfilm, in two batches, making sure the first layer reaches the corners and sides of the bottom of the tin before you smooth over the rest.

4. Wrap the overhanging clingfilm over the cake so that it is completely covered, and put it in the fridge to set for at least 4 hours, but a day or so in advance if you want.

5. Don’t take the loaf tin out of the fridge until you want to eat it, when you just unmould the cake, cut it into thin slices and serve.

Crème Fraîche Parfait

Recipe by
Maggie Beer. Makes 1 litre.


375g sour cream
3 egg yolks
¾ cups sugar
¼ cup +1 tablespoon of water


1. Whip the sour cream in an electric mixer until soft peaks form – cover and refrigerate.

2. Dissolve the sugar & the water together in a small pot, washing the sides down with a pastry brush dipped in water.

3. Cook until the syrup reaches the “soft ball” stage. To check that the sugar is at the right stage, dip a teaspoon into the pot and drop a little syrup into a glass of iced water, if you’re able to form a soft ball with the syrup then it’s reached temperature, if not continue to cook and test for the right consistency from time to time. Alternatively if you have a sugar thermometer, the syrup is ready when it reaches about 116C.

4. Beat the egg yolks together in a clean electric mixing bowl and slowly pour the syrup over the eggs in a steady stream and then continue to whip the yolks at a moderate speed until room temperature.

5. Once cooled, fold the egg yolk mixture into the whipped sour cream.

6. Freeze according to ice cream machine instructions.


Tuesday 6 January 2009

kiwifruit & lemongrass slushie

This recipe works best when you use over-ripe kiwi fruit, since the sweetness levels are high and the seeds have a delicious nuttiness. It’s a great way of using up excess fruit.

You can either use lemon juice or, for an adult version, lemon vodka. I prefer the vodka version to be honest.

Kiwifruit & Lemongrass Slushie

Anna’s very own recipe. Makes 2.


2 kiwi fruit
90ml lemon vodka (or lemon juice)
90ml lemongrass syrup (see note)
1 cup crushed ice


1. Put all ingredients in a blender and process until smooth.
2. Taste for sweetness levels and serve immediately.

Note: use this syrup recipe and replace kaffir with 4 bruised lemongrass stalks

The Kiwifruit, Actinidia deliciosa, is actually a berry and the vines grow over trellises, just like grapes.

Although people associate kiwifruit with New Zealand, they originated in the Yangtze River valley of northern China and Zhejiang Province on the coast of eastern China. According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation, in 2005 the top ten global producers were (in order): Italy, New Zealand, Chile, France, Greece, Japan, Iran, United States, Canada and Cambodia.

Unlike many fruits which grew in popularity over millennia, the kiwifruit had a very quick rise to fame. Mary Isabel Fraser, a principal of a girl’s school, had been visiting mission schools in China and returned to New Zealand with kiwi seeds. The seeds were planted in 1906 and the first fruit appeared in 1910. By the 1950s New Zealand was ready to export and the name changed from Chinese gooseberry to kiwifruit as a marketing tactic.

In China the kiwi has many names such as macaque peach (獼猴桃: míhóu táo); macaque pear (猕猴梨 míhóu lí); vine pear (藤梨 téng lí); sunny peach (阳桃 yáng táo); wood berry (木子 mù zi); hairy bush fruit (毛木果 máo mù guǒ) and unusual fruit or wonder fruit (奇異果 qíyì guǒ).

A study conducted at Rutgers University “found that out of the 27 most commonly consumed fruits; kiwifruit is the most nutrient dense”. It is rich in folic acid, vitamin C, vitamin E, lutein, potassium, calcium, iron, magnesium, copper, manganese and chromium. Its high levels of dietary fibre cause it to have a mild laxative effect.

Like papayas and pineapples, raw kiwifruit have a “protein-dissolving enzyme actinidin” which acts as a meat tenderiser but can also cause allergic reactions such as “sweating, tingling, swelling of the lips, tongue and face; rash; vomiting and abdominal pain; and, in the most severe cases, breathing difficulties, wheezing and collapse, although the most common symptoms are unpleasant itching and soreness of the mouth”.

The presence of this enzyme means any dairy or gelatine based desserts containing kiwifruit need to be eaten soon after making or the enzyme will begin to break down the proteins.

The kiwi is my theme ingredient for my first Weekend Herb Blogging of 2009. Our host this week is Pam from The Backyard Pizzeria.



Sunday 4 January 2009

smoked rainbow trout

This Christmas my dad proudly showed off his new smoker and the excellent goodies coming out of it.

Not only had he made a delicious chilli beef jerky, flavoursome and not too chewy, but he managed to smoke up a succulent rainbow trout.

About a year or so ago, dad became obsessed with fly fishing. The flies he makes are so good he can sell them to fishing shops.

I suspected Dad was artistic when my school projects were finished with near-perfect sketches, but he’d hidden these skills well under his PE teacher, basketball-coach, platoon-commander bravado.

These days, now that his study is filled with peacock feathers, roe deer hair and fluorescent pink string, his artistic side is quite obvious. His flies are really beautiful and elegantly tied together. One particular blue set looked like some earrings I’d recently seen for sale!

With fly fishing comes trout eating and my father’s smoked rainbow trout is simply exquisite: delicate oils under the luminescent skin lubricating firm peachy flesh. None of this bright orange dyed stuff you get from supermarkets!

At Christmas he gave me one fillet and my sister another. Shamu and Tombo ate their's with pasta while I turned mine into a herb and caper potato salad.

It was this amazing fish (and his beef jerky) that convinced Jonas and I to buy a smoker (one of my 2009 food resolutions). Unfortunately when we visited the store on Boxing Day they were sold out of smokers. We're in line for the next delivery and are already dreaming up things to smoke: oysters, mussels, chicken, almonds and tofu!

Smoked Rainbow Trout
Recipe from smoker manufacturer. Makes 4 fillets.


500ml water
2 tablespoons salt
1½ tablespoons sugar
4 fillets rainbow trout
2 tablespoons hickory sawdust


1. Mix brine and soak fish for 20 minutes (the longer the better).

2. Line the smoker with aluminium foil and scatter with hickory sawdust.

3. Lay fish, skin side down on wire rack of smoker. Allow brine to air dry.

4. Smoke fish for 15-20 minutes, depending on thickness of fillets. Eat warm or cold.


Friday 2 January 2009

2009 food challenges

It’s that time again, where I set my culinary new year’s resolutions.

In 2007 I did a masterful job, and so I upped the ante in 2008 setting many new categories and increasing the tasks to five in each category. I had 45 tasks to complete, many of which had multiple elements, and I achieved 32 of these.

The hardest to complete were the feasts, which I have scraped in 2009. The most entertaining to do were trying out new ingredients, recreating food memories and learning about new cuisines. I’ve kept these for 2009.

I’m back down to four tasks per category (it’s much more achievable) and I’ve introduced a two new categories: trialling recipes by fellow bloggers and a commitment to purchase some new cooking gadgets.

Here are the tasks I have set myself. Those I didn’t complete from 2008 have rolled over into 2009 and are listed in italics.

Cook recipes I’ve coveted:
Puy Lentils w Scallops completed
Chocolate Caramel Tart completed
Castagnaccio (cake)
Red Wine Risotto
Coeur de Crème (dessert) completed Jun 2011

Find recipes for:
Pickled Sausages completed
Tagine completed
Braciole completed
Oeufs en Meurette (eggs in red wine)
Česneková Polévka (garlic broth) completed Dec 2011
Königsberger Klopse (meatballs)

Invent my own recipes for:
Rhubarb Jam completed Oct 2011
Edamame Pesto completed
Falooda completed
Musk Ice Cream
Crepe Gratin

Recreate food memories:
Dadar Unti (pancakes)
Sauerkraut & Pork Chops completed
Sorbetto all’Anguria completed
Cullen Skink (soup)

Learn more about these cuisines:
Creole & Cajun travel experience, main, breakfast
French ice cream, dessert, breakfast
Mexican sauce, breakfast, snack, stew, starter

Cook with new ingredients:
Oxtail stew
Hominy stew
Chestnuts cake
Wattleseed scones
Mastic ice cream

Taste test:
Sea Urchin completed
Rapini (turnip leaves)
Brawn (head cheese)
Grains Of Paradise

Recipe Road Test:
Far Breton by Mercedes from Desert Candy
Milk Braised Pork by Kalyn from Kalyn's Kitchen completed!
Rosemary Scented Truffles by Ilva from Lucullian Delights
Apple Cider Indian Pudding by Alanna from Kitchen Parade

Cook from these books:
Red Lantern by Pauline Nguyen
Creole by Babette de Rozières
elBulli by Ferran Adria
Frozen Desserts by Francisco J. Migoya
Pier by Greg Doyle

Buy these books:
The Press Club by George Calombaris
Aquavit by Marcus Samuelsson
The Perfect Scoop by David Lebovitz bought!
The Silver Spoon
by Phaidon Press
Thai Food by David Thompson
Cheese Slices by Will Studd

Buy these gadgets:
Lime juicer COMPLETE
Photography light box
Cooking thermometer

Now that you've read through mine, it would be great to hear what challenges you have set yourself for 2009. Why don't you write your own food challenge post and add a link to it in the comments section. Be sure to update the same post regularly with your progress throughout the year and check back to this very post to see how I am doing too!
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