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Chocolate, Coconut and Rum Cake

1 Feb
Tiki says "yum yum two4six8!"

Tiki says “yum yum two4six8!”

I’m not a very good baker. I just don’t have the feel for it and never really got the basics firmly under my belt. I do however, have baking under my belt in the literal sense. In fact, I always tell people I don’t really have  a sweet-tooth. Well, that’s just a big whopping ol’ lie isn’t it. I have the waist-line to prove it 😉 I especially like chocolate cake. Who doesn’t? Apart from my Nanna’s hand-written chocolate fudge cake recipe which lives tucked inside the front cover of Mum’s tattered and beloved Joy of Cooking, I really don’t know a chocolate cake recipe. Nanna’s is a good everyday chocolate cake, but I wanted to make something a bit spesh, you know? I also like rum. Rum and chocolate cake… Now you’re talking. Oh, merde! No butter. Hmmm. And merde encore, only two eggs. Lousy backyard chickens. Oh, there’s a spare egg white leftover. And what about that jar of coconut oil sitting in the pantry? Surely that stuff’s delicious. Mum makes the world’s best muffins with that stuff. And I hear it’s really GOOD for you. Something about good fats with a really hard to pronounce name… Medium chain triglycerides? Say that 10 times really quickly! After you’ve tested the rum for the cake.  Healthy chocolate cake… Woohoo!

Eggs, chocolate, coconut oil, rum, flour. Let’s give it a bash. So, I got brave and made it up as I went along. And guess what? Success. It’s been out of the oven 30 minutes and I’ve already got two slices under my belt! Yay! I can bake!

Here’s what you’ll need…

2 eggs, separated

1 extra egg white

1/4 cup caster sugar

150 grams dark cooking chocolate

1/4 cup coconut oil

splash of rum/rum essence

3/4 cup SR flour

1/3 cup milk

Here’s what you do…

1. Grease a standard 8″ round tin and pre-heat oven to 180 degrees celsius.

2. Melt the chocolate (in the microwave or over a bain-marie) and set aside to cool.

3. In a medium sized mixing bowl or stand mixer bowl, beat the two egg yolks and caster sugar until light, fluffy and very pale (about 5 minutes). In another bowl, beat the egg-whites until stiff peaks form.

4. Mix oil and rum into melted chocolate. Stir thoroughly until well combined. While beating the egg yolk mixture on low speed, slowly pour in the chocolate and rum mixture. Mix until just combined. Don’t over-beat, or you will lose the air you need in the mixture.

5. Slowly add sifted flour and milk, alternately, mixing gently on very low speed (or you can do this by hand). I like to start and end with flour. Again, do not over-mix, just until the flour and milk is incorporated.

6. Add about 1/3 of the egg whites to the batter and slowly, gently fold through with a whisk or spatula. Once incorporated, add the remaining egg whites to the bowl and fold through the mixture.

7. Pour batter into prepared tin and sit this in another baking tray with an inch or so of tepid water in the bottom. Bake for around 20-30 minutes or until the top bounces back when lightly pressed with your finger.

8. Allow to cool in the tin for ten minutes, then turn onto a wire rack to cool. Ice and refrigerate to eat later or serve warm as a dessert. I just did a paper cut and sprinkled with icing sugar – maybe it doesn’t need icing at all?

Enjoy! If you think of any good serving ideas or garnishes – share them in the comments section.

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I served this piece with rum chocolate cream. It’s whipped cream with rum and melted chocolate. You could ice it with this?

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Miso Marinated Mackerel

29 Jul

Food for those days when you want to feel light and happy!

I remember one afternoon in Paris when I was walking past a ‘Quick’ burger restaurant and there was a young 20 something year old guy standing out the front scoffing his burger in the street and a 50 something year old woman, glamorously dressed à la Parisienne,  unreservedly and angrily berating him, asking why he couldn’t at least eat his ‘merde Americaine dans le restaurant’. I think in France if you don’t have time to sit down and eat properly you might as well skip the meal altogether. I’m pretty sure this would be the consensus of most self respecting gourmands and I guess it could be an alternative explanation for the skinny French woman phenomenon. I’ve heard that the days of that miraculous ability to stay glamourously thin on a diet consisting of all things indulgent may be running out for the French (much to the relief of ‘full figured’ women like me everywhere). Even the culinary nonpareil (at least the time poor ones), have begun to surrender to the mystery meat/butane burger and ‘french’ fries (ironically not French at all) from oily cardboard boxes drenched in long life mayonnaise from a sachet, tout à emporter – ‘to go’. Not surprisingly, the obesity epidemic is gaining significant momentum in France as it is elsewhere. And the French aren’t the only ones who are losing their grip on traditional, uncompromisingly high culinary standards, apparently. I’ve read that the Japanese 22 year record for the longest life span is threatened by the ‘would you like fries with that’ generation. A junk food tsunami seems to be emanating from some of the world’s epicenters of crap, flooding streets where once stood vendors of short-order nourishing fare with burger joints and pizza chains in all their greasy glory. But can the fast food empire really dilute gastronomical greatness?

When I am good I am very very good and when I am bad I eat chips. Sometimes I get the extra crunchy beer battered chips from the fish n chip shop in Burleigh or fish tacos from Wahoos with a mountain of crispy shoe-strings doused in their XXX hot sauce on the side. When I am good I eat sushi.

Japanese food always makes me feel healthy. I have only recently learned a few basics of Japanese cooking and I’m desperate to go to Japan to connect the dots properly. What an incredibly complex, developed cuisine. I’ve only scratched the surface but it’s so nice learning about new ingredients. I have made this particular recipe several times now and I think it is really beautiful. I’ve heard there are hundreds of types of miso in Japan – my local Asian grocer has two: brown and white. This dish uses white miso, tastes fabulous and is quick and easy to prepare. It is not my creation. I have done what I often do which is to read a few similar recipes and go with my instincts on how to cook the dish.

This dish is quite common I think, although I had never tried it until I made it recently. I bought the freshest mackerel at the market. It was glistening so silvery and wet I couldn’t resist, so I got the fish monger to clean and fillet it for me. I have cooked it several times since and it is our #1 favourite at the moment! I much prefer mackerel fillets to steaks personally, but you could do either I guess.

It’s dead easy.

You’ll need…

1/4 cup white miso paste

1/4 cup mirin

2 tbsps rice vinegar

1 1/2 tbsps minced ginger

1 1/2 tbsps minced spring onions

2 fillets mackerel (cut into smaller pieces if you like)

Simply combine all marinade ingredients in a bowl and coat mackerel. Leave for 30 minutes minimum, 2 hours max (I suspect any longer the vinegar might cook the fish a little too much and make it mushy when cooked).

Mix well until smooth

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This was the best fish in the shop and the cheapest!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fry the fish fillets skin side down in a hot pan for a few minutes and then spoon on any residual marinade and put under a hot grill for about 5-6 minutes (or more or less depending on the thickness of the fillets). To test, insert a knife into the thickest part of the fish and gently pull to the side. If the flesh is white and opaque you’re done! If it’s resistant or pink or translucent it needs to keep cooking.

Served with cold buckwheat soba noodles and dipping sauce, snow peas with sesame paste and some pickled daikon radish and red radish

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

two4six8!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

An icy cold pilsener and some pretty little dishes feel nice too!

Promiscuous Pomegranate

2 Feb

Dream Caused by the Flight of a Bee Around a Pomegranate a Second Before Awakening, 1944.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This fruit is very high in antioxidants and so is considered an aphrodisiac (apparently the effect of these antioxidants on the body is increased blood flow through the vessels which leads to heightened sensitivity). It was sacred to Aphrodite and the Chinese revered it as a symbol of prosperity because of the abundance of seeds in the clusters within the fruit. It looks so curious, and it is a potent pleasure to eat. Apart from its aesthetic, when you sink your teeth in and suck out the flesh coated seeds the sensation of popping the little beads between your teeth and the tart, sweet crimson juice that bursts out is just so pleasing.

Here is a recipe for a delicious salad featuring pomegranate that I made tonight. It is easy and quick to prepare.

You’ll need…

Mixed salad greens to serve 4

One pomegranate *see notes below on how to get the seeds out without squishing them or getting red stains on your apron

One small ‘Granny Smith’ apple (or other variety you prefer)

2 tbsps Walnuts (coarsely chopped and toasted)

Some shaved parmesan (about 1/4 cup) or crumbled feta

1-2 French Shallots (finely sliced)

Vinaigrette (any kind is fine – whatever you like)

Prepare the Salad…

Toast the walnuts lightly and set aside to cool.

Once nuts are cool, arrange all salad ingredients on a large platter. Toss with vinaigrette just before serving.

two4six8!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

* To remove the seeds, follow these steps…

1) Slice the pomegranate down the centre widthways with a sharp knife – some juice will run out and be warned – it stains!

2) Fill a large mixing bowl that you can fit both hands in with clean cold water.

3) Place the fruit in the bowl while working so that you don’t squirt out the juice. Carefully pull apart the halves into halves again and then into quarters. The seeds are clustered together and will come out easily if you gently roll them off with your thumb. You’ll get the feel for it – just don’t poke your fingers in and burst the little pearls. Discard the white part and the skin as you go (although an old Brazilian woman used to steep the skins in hot water and gargle to fight a throat infection – at the time I thought it was sorcery, but apparently Kingston Uni are finding out it really does have naturally occurring anti-biotic qualities). Sorry for getting side-tracked.

4) Scoop off any little bits of yellowy-white pith from the surface of the water and strain through a colander.

 

Herblog

26 Jan

Parsley Patch

Trains on tracks, feet on paths, cars on roads, jobs, jobs, jobs, noisy devices and people everywhere! My herb garden helps me escape the stress of everyday life. It’s my own little scented sanctuary. I love my herbs: growing in the earth, nourished by the sun and water, more abundant and beautiful everyday. I get so much pleasure from standing out in the milky sunlight first thing in the morning, quietly surveying my dewy, scented garden. Better still, reaching down to pluck a whole handful of wonderful bouncy greenery sure as hell beats sorting through plastic sleeves of wilted, lifeless stuff for the least soggy and sad on the supermarket shelf. Sorry for all the S’s. Pagan folklore suggested that the souls of babies come from parsley patches. I don’t know what implications this has for harvesting or cooking with parsley. In fact, I don’t know why I even shared that tidbit, I just thought it was nice I guess. Check out my herb garden!

Our little herb jungle. Our herb garden has taken about a year to get as good as it is.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

PPPPeppers We also have a few mini capsicum plants, and some lovely banana chillies and a kaffir lime in a pot that's bursting with limey goodness.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Basil Seed. Now it's time to start planting seedlings, to make sure we don't run out.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Any little spot will do.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Little snow pea tendrils.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

chillies chillies chillies

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rosemary. Baaaaah.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bay Laurel what a nice name. My absolute favourite... Chuck the packet of musty, tired, flavourless flakes in the bin and plant one of these - you'll never recognise the sweet, nutty, fragrant leaf.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cumquat. I dream of marmalade. Stink bugs begone!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vietnamese mint setting the bar for the mint in the middle. xcuse the styrofoam boxes, but they do a great job of housing bushy things like our vietnamese mint. The regular mint died in an unfortunate drowning incident that occurred over the period of this summer's deluge. With a little TLC I'm nursing him back to health and I'm expecting him to burst forth in typical trustworthy fashion any day now.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

THE pumpkin. We decided to pull up the pumpkin once it had taken over almost the entire yard and yielded a grand total of one (small and slow growing) fruit despite my best efforts! I was up before 6 one morning cross-pollinating the bloody thing myself when I cursed the bees and threw in the towel. Here is our lovely pumpkin souvenir, it'd better be tasty!

A MI ME GUSTA LOS CHIPOTLES!

23 Jan

Chipotle Peppers in Adobo Sauce

SKIP TO THE LAST PARAGRAPH FOR INFORMATION ABOUT THESE CHILLIES!

My friend Doug shows an excessively high (and much appreciated) amount of enthusiasm for my Mexican cooking. The manifestation of his excitement is often flattering, sometimes threatening (in a well intended, happy aggressive kind of way – those of you who know Doug know what I’m talking about). He once told me bluntly to “… put all the other shit aside, forget it and cook awesome food”. This is perhaps not quite what he said at all, but Doug won’t mind if I misquote him. One night after a Mexican banquet that had taken me the best part of two days to prepare to serve to our 50 guests at a ‘5 de Mayo’ fiesta at our place last year, I knew I’d hit the jackpot when I was abruptly lifted off my feet and flung around in a series of 360’s – another marvellous expression of gratitude from Doug. People like Doug, and another mate Steve who’ll lurk around the kitchen well after supper time and well passed tipsy going gaga about the smell of cornmeal and chipotle peppers wofting out of the tamale steamer, are the reason I love to cook.

Doug once asked me what he needed to cook great Mexican. There is no short answer to this question regarding a cuisine that boasts ancient and extraordinary dishes like Mole Poblano, which (in some versions of the recipe) uses over 40 ingredients. From the simplest salsa to the most mouth watering Mole, from time consuming tamales to two minute tacos, steaming hot sopa de tortilla and crisp, delicious zopes (little fried corn baskets topped with beans, shredded meat and salsa), I LOVE MEXICAN. Old El Paso and Doritos can get lost – you only need simple ingredients to cook authentic and fresh Mexican food, oh and time. Lots and lots of time is well worth spending on some recipes. Alternatively, if you can’t be bothered, go out to eat at El Torito Restaurant, West End (plug plug).

When I moved back to Brisbane after spending most of the first half of my twenties in Melbourne I got a job at El Torito Restaurant, Boundary Street, West End. The family who run the restaurant welcomed me into their well established and extremely popular business with open hearts and a friendliness I’ve not known in a work environment before or since. With three years of University Spanish under my belt and a desperate desire to maintain and improve my language skills (my other, if neglected, passion) it was the perfect job to have. I worked four or five hour shifts speaking Spanish only in the kitchen and often serving Spanish speaking customers. It was a really enriching experience. I actually enjoyed being a waitress.

It didn’t take me long after starting at El Torito to appreciate and love the food from the tiny kitchen as much as the people. If the saying ‘You are what you eat’ has ever been proven, it was proven to me at El Torito. Beautiful, vibrant, gentle, unstressed, genuine food, just like the people who cooked it. I have fond memories of competing in home-made habañero sauce tolerance competitions with Carlos and Abner in the kitchen, dipping as much of a corn chip in the salsa picante as we were game to. Unfortunately we had minimum recovery time in order to compose ourselves and relocate our sanity before either returning to the long line of orders posted above the pass, or to the front of house to serve more hungry customers, eyes watering, mouth on fire and barely able to see straight. But hey, my credibility was on the line. Chilli is very important to Mexican food (and pride, I suspect, spoken as a true gringa!) and there are at least 12 varieties I’ve used. I’m sure there are many more.

The product photographed above is one example of an ingredient which helps produce quick and easy Mexican that is healthy and has an authentic flavour. I have found it harder to locate in Brisbane than Melbourne but I know two places where it is often (if not usually) on the shelf – Samio’s at 36 Annerley Road in Wooloongabba and the Euro Deli in Russel Street, West End. You may not find the brand pictured above, but there are several others available and the product is more or less identical. When you blend them and combine them with a few other simple ingredients, you can make a rich, spicy, sweet and tangy sauce for slow cooking meat to serve in tacos and other Mexican dishes.

Stay tuned for a simple pulled pork taco recipe, using these chillies. ¡Olé!