Monday, August 8, 2016

Simple Banana and Date Cake

Fact: the world is a better place with cake. In particular, a humble banana cake that retains the dense crumb of a banana bread while staying light and miraculous like all good cakes should, not to mention the added textural delight and indulgent pockets of dates and a Hawaiian-inspired caramel frosting.
It's simple, it's delicious, and it keeps for up to a week (not that you are likely to find out given the speed at which this number tends to be consumed).
250g unsalted butter
350g caster sugar
1 vanilla bean, seeds scraped
Pinch salt
4 eggs
200g crème fraiche
2 cups plain flour
1 tbsp baking powder
3 large ripe bananas
20ml maple syrup
½ cup dates, deseeded, roughly chopped
Penuche icing
100g butter
1 cup brown sugar
¼ cup milk
1 ¼ cups icing sugar

Preheat the oven to 200C. Grease and line a deep-sided square baking tin (approximately 25 x 25cm).
Whisk the butter in sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer until pale and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, until fully incorporated. Add the crème fraiche and vanilla bean seeds, and mix to just combine. Add the dry ingredients and beat to just combined.
In a separate bowl, mash the bananas with the maple syrup then stir through the cake batter. Gently stir through the dates, then spoon into tin. Bake for an hour or until evenly browned and a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean. Check at about the 30-minute mark, as the cake can take on quite a bit of colour. If looking too brown, cover with foil and continue baking.
For the icing, melt the butter and brown sugar in a saucepan, stirring constantly so it doesn't catch until the sugar has completely dissolved. Add the milk until the mixture is just starting to bubble, then remove from the heat. Add the icing sugar gradually, stirring with a whisk until you get your desired consistency. You may need more than suggested here depending on the consistency you like. Finally, ice the cake while the icing is still warm.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Food Bowls

I am not immune to the social media obsession with food bowls. Trends aside, they are a pretty spectacular way to eat - all that flavour, colour and texture, its hard not to love. Here are a few salad bowls I had the great fun of putting together for Myer Emporium. Enjoy them!

Slow roasted beef cheek winter bliss bowl with greens and cauliflower rice

There's nothing better than a hearty, good-for-you salad bowl, brimming with colourful roasted veggies, cauliflower rice and slow cooked beef cheek. Winter never looked so good.

1½ tbsp. olive oil
6 beef cheeks (about 280g each)
1.5 litres (6 cups) veal stock
200ml red wine
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
2 small white onions, peeled and chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
3 fresh bay leaves, crushed
1 generous sprig of thyme 
½ head of cauliflower
1 roasted sweet potato, chopped
½ small red onion, thinly sliced on a mandolin
1 avocado, hulled and halved
Micro salad greens
Juice of ½ lemon
Sunflower seeds
Preheat oven to 180C. Heat 2 tsp oil in a large frying pan over medium-high heat, season beef to taste and cook in batches, turning once, until browned (1-2 minutes each side). Transfer beef to a casserole, add stock, wine, carrot, onion, garlic, bay leaves and thyme, cover with a lid and braise in oven until very tender (3 -4 hours). Remove beef, set aside and keep warm. Strain liquid (discard solids) into a saucepan, reduce over high heat to a thick sauce consistency and keep warm.
For the cauliflower rice remove the outer leaves from the cauliflower, cut it into quarters and remove most of the thick core, then cut each quarter into two or three chunks. You don’t want to overload the blender, or it will struggle to blitz the cauliflower, instead work with about half the cauliflower at a time. Blend for 30 seconds or so, until the cauliflower resembles fine rice, or couscous.  Toss the rice in a drizzle of olive oil on a tray, then spread it out to a thin, even layer. Roast at 200C for 12 minutes, mixing it in the tray halfway through cooking. 

To make the salad toss the roasted sweet potato with the sliced red onion and put into a large serving bowl. Top with a sprinkling of sunflower seeds. Add the warm beef cheek, cauliflower rice, avocado and micro salad greens. Squeeze over the lemon juice to dress the salad greens and prevent the avocado from going brown. Season generously and serve.


"If you're short on time, you can whip these up in a flash by purchasing some of the ingredients. If you're going to pre-purchase falafels, be sure to opt for good quality deli versions."
Serves 4
1 ½ cups tinned chickpeas
½ cup cooked quinoa
½ cup almonds
½ cup frozen peas
1 green onion, very finely chopped
5 cloves garlic
1 cup flat leaf parsley leaves
1 cup coriander leaves
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
½ tsp baking powder
2 tbsp buckwheat flour
Grapeseed or vegetable oil for frying

1 beetroot, peeled, finely sliced and cut into batons
Seeds of 1 pomegranate
¼ red cabbage, very finely sliced
2 tablespoons of a good quality salad seed mix (sunflower seeds, pepitas)
1 bunch broccolini, rinsed and diced
¼ bunch flat leaf parsley, chopped
¼ bunch coriander leaves, chopped
2 avocados, halved
½ cup sauerkraut (I used a combination cabbage and beetroot version)
4 tbsp turmeric cashew cheese
½ small pumpkin, thickly sliced and slow roasted
Japanese red sorrel and nasturtium leaves to scatter (or use any fresh in season herbs, leaves)

For falafels, rinse and drain the canned chickpeas. Add to a food processor along with other falafel ingredients except baking powder and buckwheat flour. Process to a semi-coarse paste. Turn out into a bowl and season generously. Add baking powder and buckwheat flour and stir to combine. Roll the falafel mixture into 20 golf ball sized rounds. 
Pour oil into a heavy based saucepan to about 5 cm deep and then place over high heat. When oil reaches smoking point, reduce heat to medium and add 1-2 falafels. They should instantly rise to the surface. Cook, turning gently until evenly browned. Remove from oil and drain on paper towels. Repeat this process with remaining falafels. If frying 2-3 at once, make sure you adjust the heat as the more falafels you have in the pan, the colder the oil gets. 
As falafel are cooling, combine the beetroot, pomegranate and red cabbage in a small bowl with the salad seeds and toss to combine.
In another bowl, combine broccolini and herbs and toss to combine.
To assemble: place a handful of each salad in a bowl along with a tablespoon of cashew cheese, a slice of roasted pumpkin and half an avocado. Top with falafels and sauerkraut and serve immediately.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Basic Moulding Steps for chocolate

So the lovely folk at Nestle sent me some of their new baking chocolate range to use, which I did. Of course I did. Who wouldn't? I made these individual white chocolate, vanilla, cardamom and rose cakes with white chocolate butter cream and Persian floss. I also played around with some chocolate buttons and it got me thinking, its actually fairly hard to find accurate information out there on some very basic moulding steps with chocolate. So here are a few tips from me to you. I'll be posting the recipe for the cake later this week, in a cake baking post extravaganza.

Basic Moulding Steps

1. Melting Chocolate.
My method of choice is a double boiler. Yes you can use a microwave, but its best to have complete control over the heating process. Simmer water on low heat in a saucepan. Place a bowl over the top, add the chocolate and stir until melted and glossy.

If you are using pure chocolate then it needs to be tempered. You need to heat the chocolate to 49C, slightly higher for dark chocolate, allow chocolate to cool quickly and evenly by adding chocolate until near set and a crust will form at 31C. Then warm to a working temperature of 33C. 

2. Fill the mould.
Tips. GO SLOW. You do not want to over-fill or allow the entry of air, water or steam. Tap the mould on a bench to eliminate air bubbles and also to give a smooth base.

3. Chill the mould. 
In the fridge for about 10 minutes. If the chocolates are not set, a wet patch will show on the underside of the mould preventing a clean and easy unmoulding. Return to the fridge until set.

4. Tap out
Onto a soft surface. Only a gentle tap is required. 

A few other handy tips.
Layers - a layered effect can be achieved by separate colours or painted sections to set in the mould before adding the next layer. Make sure layers are not too thin or transparent.

Nut centres - cover the base of the mould with a small amount of the melted chocolate. Tap to eliminate air bubbles, place a nut in the mould and fill with chocolate. Tap again for flat base.

Cleaning - use a dry cloth or wash in warm water and dry thoroughly. DO NOT use detergents, boiling water or dishwashers unless you want to say bye bye chocolate mould.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Im still here...

Hello. Yes I am still here. You could be forgiven for thinking I had fallen off the face of the earth. In between book projects, my weekly recipe column and two little people under the age of 3, sadly the blogging has fallen by the wayside. But not today!! Here is a seriously belated recipe update. Get cooking and let me know how you get on! Just to prove my commitment I'll be posting a recipe each day this week so keep an eye out. 

Sometimes, I know with absolute certainty that my day will involve leisurewear and soup. Generally, its cold, windy and/or wet outside, and the in-your-face weather of late has provided several opportunities for me to don said leisurewear and indulge my obsession with soup-making.
This number is a bit ramen-meets-laksa-meets-my vegetable crisper, and its not worse off for it. I think you'll echo my sentiments when you get to the bottom of a bowl of this goodness. The soup component can be made ahead of time, and I dare say its better having a few days marinating and developing on your fridge shelf.

Serves 4-6
Leisurewear and soup, the hallmarks of a good winter's day.
Leisurewear and soup, the hallmarks of a good winter's day. 

4 small eschallots, very finely chopped
2 tbsp coconut oil
3 tbsp excellent quality Thai red curry paste (I used Charmaine Solomon's)
2 tbsp curry powder
1 can (400 ml) coconut milk
500ml master stock
500ml chicken stock
3 lemongrass stalks, bruised
5cm knob ginger, minced
4 kaffir lime leaves, deveined, very finely sliced
1 tbsp brown sugar
1 tbsp peanut butter
1 tbsp Maggi seasoning
pinch paprika
juice 1 lime
The add ins
200g udon noodles
4 baby pak choy
4 chicken thighs seared over high heat until browned and cooked through, or use 1 breast chicken
1 cup sprouts
¼ cup coriander leaves, finely chopped
Asian mushrooms
Micro herbs to serve
Fried shallots to serve

In a large pot over medium heat, add coconut oil and eschallots and fry until golden browned.
Add red curry paste and curry powder, then cook for another 2 minutes until fragrant.
Add coconut milk, stocks, lemongrass, ginger, lime leaves, sugar, peanut butter, Maggi seasoning and pinch of paprika.
Simmer over low heat for about 45 minutes. You want the flavours to develop and the mixture to reduce slightly and take on a creamy sort of consistency.
Add the noodles and baby pak choy and cook for 1-2 minutes. Turn out into serving bowls.
Combine the sprouts and coriander in a small bowl, then place a small handful in each bowl. Top with chicken and mushrooms or any other toppings, sprinkle with fried shallots and serve piping hot.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

A winter fighting spiced soup bowl

Spiced pumpkin soup with brown rice, blackbeans and lime whipped feta
I am not built for cold weather. To me, chill is a fun killer. I know there is skiing, and ice skating and pretty white landscapes and amazing coats and boots but this all glosses over that very banal fact that being cold completely sucks. The only redeeming feature, other than the aforementioned, means long slow cooking in the kitchen, the kind that has wafting amazing roasting type smells escaping through your windows and floorboards. And bowls of deliciousness like this spiced number that is part soup, part hearty soul fortifying meal. Basically as many comfort foods you can find to fit in one bowl with a touch of flu warding garlic and spice.

1/2 Jap pumpkin, thickly sliced
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 red onions, peeled, roughly chopped
2 sprigs marjoram
1 tsp coriander seeds, ground
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp ground turmeric
2 tbsp freshly grated ginger
1 cup coconut milk
100g adobo sauce
4 cups chicken stock
juice and zest of 2 limes
sea salt and pepper to taste
1 cup tinned black beans, rinsed
2 cups cooked brown basmati rice

Lime whipped feta
Juice and zest of 1 lime
1 tbsp yoghurt
160g fetta
Micro coriander leaves, lime wedges and black sea salt flakes to serve

Preheat the oven to 180C. Toss the pumpkin slices, garlic and chopped onion with the olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Place on a large baking tray and roast until lightly caramelized and tender, about 25 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly before adding to a blender with the herbs and spices. Turn out into a saucepan and add the coconut milk and adobo sauce. Add the chicken stock gradually until your desired soup consistency is achieved. Simmer for 20 minutes to allow the flavours to develop, adding more chicken stock as it thickens. Season.

For the whipped feta, blend ingredients in a food processor until smooth. Set aside until ready to serve.

Scoop a 1/2 cup of brown rice into each bowl. Pour soup over the rice, then top with blackbeans, lime whipped feta, and fresh coriander.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Spiced Roast Chicken with Cauliflower and Fennel Cream

BBQ spiced chicken, cauliflower and fennel cream

Roast chicken never gets old. Like never ever ever gets old. There are countless variations, flavourings and culinary persuasions to suit almost any cooking requirement. And that’s what I love the most, it can be dressed up and dressed down, there are infinite possibilities and persuasions to this humble concept. Here I’ve incorporated a cauliflower and fennel cream base for a spiced yoghurt marinated chicken; its a hunker down the weather is turning kind of roast chicken. One I’d imagine would go well with a quiet Sunday, a lovely pinot and a Netflix marathon.


Cauliflower and fennel cream
1kg cauliflower, broken into florets
2 baby fennel bulbs, thinly sliced
2 small onions, thinly sliced
6 garlic cloves
300ml milk
300ml cream

1 organic chicken, cut into 4 pieces (ask your butcher to do this for you)
Butter for under the skin
Salt to season

150ml greek style yoghurt
½ onion, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, crushed
15g (3cm piece) ginger, finely chopped
½ tsp each ras el hanout, black lime powder, sumac, onion powder, cayenne pepper
60 ml (¼ cup) olive oil

For cauliflower and fennel cream, combine all ingredients in a large saucepan, bring to a simmer and cook until cauliflower and fennel are tender (12-15 minutes). Using a hand-held blender or food processor, blend mixture until smooth and season to taste. Set aside.

For spiced yoghurt marinade, process ingredients (except oil) in a food processor until a paste forms, then stir in oil. Lift skin of chickens, being careful not to tear and push pieces of butter between skin and flesh. Place chicken in a non-reactive container, rub all over with marinade and refrigerate overnight for flavours to develop.
Preheat oven to 200C. Heat a large cast-iron ovenproof frying pan over high heat, add 2 tbsp oil, then season chicken to taste and cook skin-side down until golden (3-4 minutes). Turn, then transfer to oven and roast until cooked through.

To serve, smear cauliflower and fennel cream at base of plate. Place over chicken pieces. Season with lemon juice. Serve.