24 December 2011

Gingerbread house

Now - the final of my one-post-per-day-till-Christmas session. I've been working on this on and off for the last few days. It's the first time I've done it, and the kids helped. We did a pretty good job as far as I'm concerned, and I dare you to defy the family Walton. 

I was particularly disappointed to see a gingerbread sleigh kit down at the local supermarket for $12.99 today, just as we were finishing.

Gingerbread Ingredients
  • 250g butter (softened)
  • 1 cup brown sugar (packed)
  • 1 cup golden syrup
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 5 cups flour
  • 2 tbsp ground ginger
  • 2 tsp bicarbonate of soda

23 December 2011

An Australian Christmas - Barbecued Lobster with garlic butter

In Australia, it's Summer around Christmastime. It kind of throws a spanner in the works of a lush winter meal like roast followed by pudding with steaming custard, mulled wine and egg-nog. There are still some that hang to tradition, but if you ask them, most people under 50 would say they prefer a seafood Christmas. We go all Paul-Hogan and colloquial, and "throw a shrimp on the barbie". But the funny thing is, we don't call them "shrimp" here, they're prawns (all except the tiny little ones, which are the things we call shrimp). And for Christmas, many of us go all-out, and upgrade to lobster.

Lobster is not scary. Just don't overcook it, or it goes tough. As soon as the flesh has lost any translucency, it's good to go, and remember it will continue to cook a little in that shell until it's cracked open like a Christmas present. Make sure the whole shell is red - sometimes when you grill things you miss a tricky corner. 

22 December 2011

White Christmas Fudge

This is the most basic of fudge, and has the added benefit of being egg-free. Like all my recipes it is very versatile - feel free to replace the flavours with your own.

  • 225g chocolate
  • 100g sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence
  • 1/3 cup pistachios and dried cranberries (craisins)
  1. melt chocolate, stir in other ingredients, pour into tray and refrigerate. 
  2. remove after 2 hours and cut into bite-sized pieces
I've also tried the recipe successfully with dark chocolate chips and Baileys, with Kahlua and chocolate coated coffee beans, and with milk chocolate (instead of white) and gingerbread chunks. Keeps for at least 2-3 weeks in the fridge, and also fairly successfully on the shelf provided it's not too hot.

21 December 2011

Turkey Pie

I'm planning my leftovers already. But I really don't like the sound of Bridget Jones' "curry turkey buffet". Anyway, this recipe uses everything, including gravy, cold peas and stuffing. 


20 December 2011

Roast Pork with Italian Inspiration

I first tasted "porchetta" at a deli I worked in when I was 15. It was sold cold, and allthough I loved my mum's pork, it just surpassed everything she did (except of course for the crackling, because that's only a hot food thing). That was just the processed stuff. It came in a roll, vacuum packed, and we sliced it and sold it at $15.99 a kg.

Then this summer, I tasted the real thing in Cortona, Tuscany. It was sold off the bone - off the carcass to be truthful, and the scent of fennel, pepper and pork fat permiated the air like a pipe tone of the pied piper, leading me to its source in the belly of the Friday market (more about Cortona on this post here). This porchetta blew the other off the map.

This is my first attempt, and it's a cracker. Like everything I cook, it's easy, and relies on the quality of the ingredients. I chose a lovely neck of Free Range Otway Pork. Loins are fairly lean and look pretty, and sure, legs have a wonderful flavour, but the neck I find the most tender of all, and without a bone, it cooks quickly and evenly. Not only that, it's super cheap. The best thing was that the rind had been trimmed, removed and then tied back on, making perfect crackling a sinch.

19 December 2011

Soft Chocolate Truffles

Yesterday I put up the recipe for my white chocolate truffles, and you may have realised that it is fairly flexible. This is a deviation, with whole hazelnuts, and without half a cup of dry ingredients stirred through, which makes the chocolate more like a fudge in texture.

  1. 250g milk chocolate
  2. 60ml cream
  3. dash liqueur/flavouring (I used Amaretto)
  4. 1/4 cup whole hazelnuts
  5. 1/2 cup chocolate strands for dusting

18 December 2011

White Chocolate Truffles

Truffles are the easiest sweets to make - the only cooking is melting chocolate, and they keep for a few weeks in the fridge. They're perfect for gifts, and you get to lick the bowl after rolling them out! This recipe is easily adaptable - I make different variants every year. This year I went tropical, with a mix of coconut, candied ginger and candied pineapple. Another family favourite is with flecks of finely grated lemon rind, coconut and a dash of Malibu liqueur.

  • 250g White chocolate
  • 60ml cream
  • dash liqueur/flavouring (I used Limoncello)
  • 1 cup finely textured ingredient (In my case, 1/4 cup mixed chopped candied ginger and pineapple, and 3/4 cup dessicated coconut)

15 December 2011

Mulled Cranberries

 I've never really understood the whole cranberry jelly thing. It tastes nothing like cranberries, and when it slides out of the tin, it has these rings on it that remind me of a block of dog food straight from the can. 

It's so easy to make your own cranberry sauce, and I make it each year to give as gifts. This is my most popular variety - inspired by one of my favourite winter drinks, mulled wine. It has such a lovely balance of sweet, spicy, bitter and sour - it's simply amazing with salty turkey with gravy or a well seasoned ham. 
The alcohol is burned off during cooking, but I make another version replacing the wine with half water/ half orange juice that also works beautifully.   

  • 340g cranberries (standard 12 oz packet size)
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1 cup red wine
  • rind of 1/2 an orange (as little pith as possible)
  • 1 large cinnamon quill
  • 5 cloves

14 December 2011

Rocky Road

I make Christmas presents every year.

I've found that, personally, if I really want something, I just go and buy it. If I can't afford it, I learn to live without it, or I buy an inferior substitute. Nobody can choose a present better for me than I can for myself. Except, when it is a present that is the gift of their time, thought and effort. I really hope all my friends and family feel the same way, because I spend time, not money on my gifts to them.

Sarah Walton Hedonista Rocky Road is very very rare - you have to be one of my nearest and dearest, or have to have performed some amazing task (ie teaching my kids for a year) to get it. The recipe changes annually, depending on the best stuff I can find to put in it, but there is always a basic formula - chocolate with nuts, coconut, jellies (not jam) and marshmallows.

07 December 2011

Salted caramel banana bread

I have a friend who likes to salt slices of green apple. Some might find this unusual, but I completely understand it. Until you have tried salted caramel in Provincial France (yes, you have to be there, not just have it shipped out), you might never understand how salt can affect the taste of sweet things in a very good way.

As my wine study showed me (Yes, I spent 4 years drinking at university), sometimes contrasting flavours is the best way to bring out the best. Think foie gras (salty, creamy goose liver pate) and Sauternes (sweet and marmaladey dessert wine), or maybe a ripe Australian Shiraz with a wedge of gorgonzola. Each element tastes good on its own, but put them together, and 1+1 suddenly makes 3.

06 December 2011

Lamingtons - the great Australian cheat

I've only been baking for a year or two. I used to think that making cakes is hard. I presume a conspiracy of the Australian CWA (Country Women's Association) and other organisations similar. They got into our heads that cakes had to be perfect, and perfect meant the way they had always been made. 

With the rise of modern baking however, we see things like whoopie pies. I'm sure it was initially an accident by someone like me. Tried to make biscuits, but mucked up the measures and they ended up too soft, and whoopie! You get something even better. I can feel the old dears turning in their graves every time someone tastes one and says - "Wow - this is SO much better than shortbread!"

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