Saturday, 7 May 2011
When buying chocolate for use in cooking, read the list of ingredients and look for the percentage of cocoa solids. For simple chocolate cakes I use a dark chocolate with about 35% cocoa solids. For rich brownies, where you want a more intense chocolate flavour, I use a chocolate with 50–70% cocoa solids. The simple almost flourless chocolate cake comes from Alaphia Bidwell, a cake goddess who I had the fortune to work with in 1989. I am constantly refining my brownie recipes and this is definitely the best ever gooey, fudgy version. The trick with brownies is not to overcook them – the top should look crisp and feel firm to the touch, but the centre should still be a little soft when you insert a skewer or toothpick. The chocolate will continue to cook slightly for a few minutes after coming out of the oven.
Alaphia’s chocolate cake
300g dark chocolate, broken into pieces
250g unsalted butter, diced
5 eggs, separated
125g (1/2 cup) caster sugar
50g plain flour, sifted
1 teaspoon baking powder
Sifted icing sugar, to serve
Preheat the oven to 170C (fan forced 150C). Grease and line the base of a 21 cm loose bottom tin. Place the chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl set over a saucepan of barely simmering water (make sure the bowl doesn’t touch the water) until melted. Remove from the heat and leave to cool for about 10 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl.
Beat the eggs yolks, followed by the caster sugar, flour and baking powder into the melted chocolate. In a clean bowl, whisk the egg whites until they form firm peaks. Using a large metal spoon, carefully fold the egg whites into the chocolate mixture. Pour the mixture into the tin and bake for about 45-50 minutes. It will be firm to the touch. Let it cool in the tin. Serve dusted with icing sugar
Best ever brownies
300g dark chocolate, roughly chopped
300g unsalted butter, chopped
5 free-range eggs
350g caster sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
150g plain flour
40g (1/3 cup) cocoa
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
100g dark chocolate chips
Preheat the oven to 180C (fan forced 160C). Grease a shallow 20 cm x 30 cm baking tin and line with baking paper (leave a little overhanging the two long sides to help remove the brownies from the tin). Melt the chocolate and butter in a bowl set over a saucepan of barely simmering water, stirring occasionally until smooth (make sure the bowl doesn’t touch the water). Allow to cool.
Place the eggs, sugar and vanilla in an electric mixer and beat for 3–4 minutes or until pale and fluffy. Beat in the cooled chocolate mixture. Sift in the flour, cocoa, baking powder and a pinch of salt and fold in with a large metal spoon until smooth. Gently fold in the chocolate chips.
Spoon the mixture into the tin and smooth the surface. Bake for 35-40 minutes or until dark brown and the top has formed a crust. It should be firm to the touch but still a bit fudgy. Allow to cool in the tin, then remove and cut into squares. Store in an airtight container for up to 2 days. Makes 15–18
Chewy chocolate chip cookies
280g (2 cups) plain flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
40g (1/3 cup) cocoa
250g unsalted butter, softened at room temperature, diced
185g (3/4 cup) caster sugar
150g brown sugar
2 large free range eggs, beaten
200g dark chocolate chips
Preheat the oven to 180C (Fan forced 160C). Line two baking trays with baking paper. Sift the flour, baking powder, cocoa and a pinch of salt into a bowl.
Beat the butter and sugars with hand-held electric beaters until pale and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, a little at a time, alternating with a little of the flour mixture until combined. Fold in the remaining flour mixture, then stir in the chocolate chips.
Place tablespoons of the mixture onto the trays, leaving room for spreading (about 12 per tray). Bake for 8 minutes then remove and leave to cool on the tray for 2 minutes. You may need to bake a third tray if any mixture remains. Transfer to wire racks to cool completely. Store in an airtight container for up to 5 days. Makes about 30
Tuesday, 26 April 2011
Easter lamb recipes –
A leg of lamb is perfect at Easter; I especially love the ceremony of presenting and carving a roasted leg of lamb at the table. Many people find carving a leg of lamb a bit daunting, but it need not be. There are no hard and fast rules. To start, turn the meatiest side of the joint upwards (the bone will be on the underside). The first cut should be made across the leg at its thickest part, make a cut downwards to the bone. Remove two slices, about 5mm thick, from the centre of the leg, cutting to the bone. Continue slicing from both sides of the first cut, gradually angling the knife to obtain longer slices. Then carve the underside. To do this, turn the joint over, remove any unwanted fat and carve in long horizontal slices.
Pot roasted leg of lamb
About 1.75kg leg of lamb
6 sprigs rosemary
1 lemon, halved
1 whole head garlic, halved
roasted vegetables, to serve
Preheat oven to 170C. Score the lamb and rub with salt, pepper and olive oil. Place the rosemary, lemon halves and garlic in the base of a roasting tin or large lidded casserole. Add the lamb on top. Add enough beef stock (or water) to a depth of 1.5cm. Cover with foil or a lid and roast for about 11/2 hours (uncover for the last 20 minutes. Add more liquid if needed.
When cooked, remove from the oven, cover and let it rest in a warm place for about 10 minutes. While it is resting, strain the juices through a sieve, discarding the lemon and garlic. Using a spoon, remove any fat from the top of the liquid and reheat just before serving. Serve the lamb with the strained pan juices. Accompany with roast vegetables. Serves 6
Mediterranean-style racks of lamb
Large handful each of basil and mint leaves
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1/2 long red chilli, roughly chopped, seeds removed
125ml olive oil
3 racks lamb (each 7-8 chops)
2 red onions, sliced into 1cm circles
2 red capsicums, quartered, pith and seeds removed
8 Roma tomatoes, quartered
1 x 400g tin chickpeas, drained and rinsed
Whiz the herbs, garlic, chilli, and oil in a food processor until roughly chopped. Place the lamb racks in a ceramic dish, season and pour over 2/3 of the herb mixture. Marinate for at least 2 hours or up to 24 hours.
Preheat oven to 210 C. Place the onions, capsicums, tomatoes and chickpeas in the base of a large roasting tin. Drizzle with a little extra olive oil, toss and season well. Place the lamb racks in the centre of the tin.
Roast for 35 minutes (for medium), stirring the vegetables occasionally. Remove, cover lamb in foil and rest for 5 minutes. Turn off the oven and pop the vegetables back into the oven while the lamb is resting. To serve, slice between each bone, separating each rack into cutlets. Transfer the vegetables to a large platter and top with lamb. Drizzle with the reserved herb and oil mixture. Let everyone serve themselves from the platter. Serves 6
Leg of lamb with potatoes
6-8 large Desiree potatoes, scrubbed
1 onion, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 sprig rosemary, roughly chopped
1 leg of lamb 1.6-2kg
400ml beef or chicken stock
Preheat the oven to 200C. Slice the potatoes thinly (about 4mm). Layer the potatoes, onion and crushed garlic (seasoning as you go) to a depth of about 3-4cm in a lightly oiled roasting tin just large enough to hold the leg of lamb. Scatter with the rosemary and add a couple of knobs of butter.
Place the lamb on top of the potatoes and pour in enough stock to come about 3/4 of the way of the depth of the potatoes. Season with a little salt and pepper. Roast for 20 minutes then turn the heat down to 170C for a further 60 minutes (for medium).
Remove the lamb to a warm place to rest for about ten minutes. While the lamb is resting increase the oven to 200C, then brush the potatoes with a little olive oil and put them back in the oven to crisp up. Serve the lamb with the potatoes and green vegetables. Serves 6-8
Really useful stuff
How pink do you like your lamb?
Everyone has his or her own preference on how well they like their lamb cooked. More and more of us are appreciating the flavour and texture of lamb that is cooked pink rather than grey looking overcooked meat. The timings above will give you lamb cooked to medium, but if you prefer your meat a little more well done, just put it in the oven for a further 20-30 minutes.
To calculate the cooking time, weigh your lamb. Roast in a 200C oven for 20 minutes, then reduce the temperature to 180C and allow 15 minutes for every 500g.
If you are unsure of how well the leg is cooked you can use a meat thermometer (inserted into the thickest part of the leg) to test how hot the meat is inside. As a guideline, temperature for a leg of lamb would be
Rare 45C - 50C
Medium Rare 55C - 60C
Medium 60C - 65C
Well Done 75C - 80C
Sunday, 10 April 2011
I like to use a heavy, ribbed, grill pan, heavy frying pan or barbecue to cook the perfect steak. The pan needs to be placed over a high heat and be almost smoking before the steak is added. Brushing the steak with a little olive oil (rather than brushing the pan) helps prevent smoking. Once the steak has cooked for a minute or two and nicely coloured, reduce the temperature of the pan to finish the cooking. For an average steak of about 2cm thick, for rare cook 2-3 minutes each side, for medium cook 3-4 minutes each side and for well done cook for 6-7 minutes each side. It is important to rest the meat before serving. Don’t be afraid of meat that is flecked or marbled with fat; remember fat equals flavour!
Tagliata with rocket and parmesan
2 cloves garlic
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 large T bone steak or 2 rib eye or sirloin steaks
2 handfuls rocket
Shaved parmesan, to serve
lemon wedges, to serve
Pound the garlic, oil and black pepper in a pestle and mortar (or mash in a bowl with back of fork) to form paste. Pat steak dry with paper towels. Rub garlic paste over both sides of steak. Cover and set aside in a cool place for 30 minutes or refrigerate up to 8 hours. Wipe off the paste and brush with a little extra oil.
Cook steak on a barbecue or in a ribbed frying pan over a high heat for about 3-4 minutes per side (depending on how you like them cooked). Transfer the steak to a plate to rest for 5 minutes.
To serve cut steak on slight angle into 1.5 cm thick slices. Arrange the rocket on a platter, then top with the slices of meat and pour over any juice from the plate.
Serve with shaved parmesan and lemon wedges. Serves 2
Grated rind of 1 lemon
1 garlic clove, peeled and chopped
1/2 tsp each black peppercorns, fennel seeds, dried oregano and cayenne pepper
2 sirloin steaks
Ripe tomatoes, to serve
Using a pestle and mortar, grind the lemon rind with the garlic, peppercorns and fennel seeds until well blended. Add the oregano and cayenne and a good pinch of salt and grind together.
Lightly brush the steak with oil and rub the spice mixture on both sides. Set aside to marinate if desired. Cook in a hot pan for 3 to 4 minutes on each side until browned with a slight crusty coating. Remove from the pan and leave to rest for a few minutes. Serve with a tomato salad.
Steak with herb butter
150g unsalted butter, diced and softened
1 small French shallot (eschallot), finely chopped
2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley
2 tablespoons chopped chives
1 teaspoon chopped capers
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon grated lemon rind
1 dash Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon lemon juice
Make the flavoured butter by placing the butter, shallot, parsley, chives, capers, mustard, lemon rind, Worcestershire sauce, salt and a good grinding of freshly ground black pepper into a small bowl. Using a fork or wooden spoon, beat the mixture until the ingredients are combined. Slowly add the lemon juice, beating as you go, until combined.
Place on a sheet of non-stick baking paper and then roll and shape the butter into a log about 4cm in diameter, twisting the ends like a cracker. Chill for about 1 hour; store up to 2 weeks.
Place a grill pan or heavy frying pan over a high heat. Cook the steaks in the hot pan until to your liking. Place two 1cm slices of the chilled butter on each steak and pop under a hot grill until starting to melt. Serve immediately. Serves 2
Thursday, 7 April 2011
Autumn in a bowl - Mushrooms
Whether fresh or dried, wild or cultivated, mushrooms are at their best when cooked simply. Look for the bounty of seasonal and wild mushrooms that appear at this time of year. One of my favourite “home alone” dinners is garlic mushrooms on toast - it also makes a simple starter). The Japanese-style mushroom dish is a big bowl of shiitake, oyster and enoki mushrooms served with noodles and a little liquid; delicious, fresh autumnal flavours.
3 tablespoons olive oil
500g mixed mushrooms, roughly chopped
2 leeks, sliced
1 onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
50g dried porcini
2 litres chicken or vegetable stock
1 fresh bay leaf
80g small dried pasta shapes
2 tablespoons roughly chopped flat-leaf parsley
Freshly grated parmesan, to serve
Heat half the olive oil in a large frying pan and sauté mushrooms until softened and liquid has evaporated. Transfer to a large saucepan. Heat remaining oil in the frying pan and cook leeks, onion and garlic, stirring, until softened, then transfer to the saucepan. Add porcini, stock, bay leaf and pasta to the saucepan and bring to the boil. Skim off any scum that rises to the top, reduce heat and simmer gently for 20 minutes. Season to taste. Serve sprinkled with parsley and parmesan. Serves 4
Garlic mushrooms on toast
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
400g fresh mushrooms, wiped and sliced
2 tablespoons cream
Handful fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped
Thickly sliced bread toasted
Heat butter and oil in a large saucepan over a medium heat. Add garlic and cook for 1 minute, then turn up the heat and add mushrooms. Fry, stirring frequently, until tender and most of the liquid has evaporated (you may need to do this in batches; if so, return all the mushrooms to the pan when they’re done). Add cream and parsley, stir well and season to taste. Serve mushrooms on toast. Serves 2
220g dried udon or soba noodles
1 tablespoon miso paste
1 tablespoon mirin
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 bunch broccolini, halved lengthways
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
4 spring onions, sliced
200g oyster and enoki mushrooms
150g shiitake mushrooms, halved
Cook noodles according to packet instructions. Meanwhile, combine miso paste, mirin and soy sauce with 250ml boiling water, stirring to dissolve miso. Heat oil in a wok, add broccolini, ginger and spring onions and stir-fry for 2-3 minutes. Add mushrooms and stir-fry for 2-3 minutes. Add miso mixture and noodles and heat through. Season to taste and serve in bowls garnished with extra spring onions. Serves 3-4
Frying pan dishes
My inspiration this week comes from one of the most used pieces of equipment in my kitchen - a large non-stick frying pan. Great for frying, stir frying, pancakes, omelettes, panini, tarte tatin and upside-down cakes; its ovenproof handle means it can be used on the hob as well as in the oven.
Equally delicious warm or cold, frittata is perfect picnic fare. It makes a more-ish lunch, and is also good cut into pieces and served as part of an antipasto platter. Frying and pressing a sandwich makes the outside crispy and the filling all warm and gooey. Swap the gruyere for cheddar or mozarella, swap the ham with salami or cooked chicken, add some sliced olives, or anything you like - there are no hard and fast rules here.
Ham, cheese and chutney panini
2 slices Italian style bread
Olive oil or butter
1 tablespoon sweet relish or chutney
Brush one side of each slice of bread with a little oil or butter. Spread the un buttered side of one slice with a little chutney, then top with a layer of sliced gruyere, a layer of ham and then another layer of cheese. Place the remaining slice of bread on top, making sure that the buttered side is on the outside. Press the sandwich down to flatten it slightly.
Heat a non-stick frying pan over a medium heat. Place the sandwich in the pan and place a weight on top; I use either a smaller frying pan, or a saucepan or even a small brick that has been covered in foil. The weight helps to compress the sandwich, giving it that professional panini look. When golden, turn the sandwich over and cook until both sides are golden and crisp. Makes 1
Mascarpone, zucchini and parmesan frittata
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 medium zucchini, trimmed and sliced into thin rounds
6 large organic eggs
150 ml mascarpone (or double cream)
1 tablespoon chopped flat-leaf parsley
125 g parmesan, freshly grated
Preheat the oven to 190C. Heat the oil in a large ovenproof frying pan over medium heat and sauté the zucchini for 3–4 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat. Whisk together the eggs and mascarpone until just combined, then stir in the parsley and three-quarters of the parmesan. Season with salt and pepper.
Place a non-stick frying pan with the zucchini back on the heat and pour in the egg mixture. Reduce the heat to low and cook, stirring once or twice, for 7–8 minutes or until the bottom is set firm and the top a little soft. Sprinkle with the remaining parmesan.
Cook for 5–10 minutes, until the top is puffed and the cheese is golden. Serve straight from the pan or place a large flat plate over the top of the pan and invert the frittata onto it. Serve warm or at room temperature with a rocket salad. Serves 4
Pistachio and apricot upside-down cake
150g light brown sugar
8 large ripe apricots, halved and stoned
200g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
2 eggs, lightly beaten
50ml sunflower oil
25g shelled pistachios, roughly chopped, to serve
Preheat the oven to 180C. Melt the butter in 25cm ovenproof non-stick frying pan, add half the sugar and cook until the sugar has dissolved and is beginning to caramelise. Tip the apricot halves into the pan; the sugar will harden a little, but it will melt again in the heat of the oven. Spread the apricots out in a single layer and remove the pan from the heat.
Sift the flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda, cardamom a pinch of salt into a large bowl. Add the eggs, buttermilk, oil and the remaining sugar. Whisk until smooth. Pour over the apricots, transfer to the oven and bake for 30-35 minutes or until the cake is golden on top and feels firm when gently pressed in the middle.
Remove and allow to cool for about 5 minutes before inverting onto a serving plate. Scatter with the pistachios and serve warm. Serves 8