October 31, 2011

Apricot, White Chocolate and Macadamia Cookies

So the Queen of England was in Perth this weekend.  I didn’t go see her (meaning stand in a large crowd under the sun for a one second glance) or participate in the big BBQ, instead I took advantage of this glorious long weekend weather, and ate and drank and went to the beach, walked, cooked and slept in!  Oh, it was glorious.

How glorious you ask, well I took some iPhone photos (and yes I cheated and used an app to make it look even more glorious, but those apps are pretty cool!).

So onto the recipe.  The one thing I wanted to make and never got around to was a strawberry gin and tonic.  I plan on making this tonight, so if all goes well you’ll hear about it.

I did make a loaf of sourdough which I’ll share with you soon.

And some cookies.  Everybody keeps making cookies lately, and it got me thinking about my favourites.  When I was a little girl, my mum would take me into David Jones (large department store in Australia) to have coffee with my nanna (my mum’s mum).  Every time we went I ordered the same thing – a small strawberry milkshake and an apricot, white chocolate and macadamia cookie.

Years later I ended up working at David Jones, and downstairs in the food court there was the Cookie Man, to which I always bought an apricot, white chocolate and macadamia cookie.  I have an obsession.

I learnt something from making these there is a 2 minute difference between chewy and crispy cookies.  I played with both options, and in the end decided I liked the crispy ones better.  The chewy almost tastes like it’s undercooked, but that might be because they were…  hrmm…  anyways, give it ago and see which you prefer!

2 cups plain flour
½ teaspoon bicarbonate soda
225g unsalted butter, room temperature
½ cup raw sugar
1 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 eggs
1 cup (110g) chopped macadamias
1 cup (100g) chopped white chocolate (or buttons)
½ cup chopped dried apricots

Preheat the oven to 180ᵒC.  Line a tray with baking paper.

In a large bowl, add the butter and both sugars, and beat until light and fluffy.  Add the eggs, vanilla and salt, and continue beating until all ingredients are well combined. 

Sift in the flour and bicarb soda.  A little trick I use is to add one cup of flour in the sifter, then the bicarb, then the second cup of flour.  This ensures the bicarb is spread throughout the flour.  Stir the flour through the butter mix.  When all combined, add the chopped macadamias, white chocolate and apricots and fold through until evenly distributed.

Place 1 tablespoon heaps of cookie dough on the tray, leaving 2 inches between each ball.  You can use wet fingers to shape them into round balls.

Bake in the oven in batches for 10 – 12 minutes each tray.  If you prefer chewy biscuits, remove from the oven when the edges are golden and the centre is soft.  For crispy cookies, leave in for a further 2 minutes.

Allow to cool on the paper for 5 minutes, then on a wire rack until completely cooled.

Makes around 30 cookies.

October 24, 2011

Chicken Tortillas with Salsa and Yoghurt

So you know how I’ve been talking about my garden every week?  Well I have finally got to a stage where I can see a big difference and my hard work has paid off.  I even got a text message from my brother who drove past and commented on how good it looks – bonus!

Saturday I pulled a massive plant out, with a shovel.  I was so stoked with myself.  In my head I was singing “I don’t need a man to make it happen”.. yeah, Pussycat Dolls.  Bless them.

So on top of this, I also spent a good deal of time going through all my old Gourmet Traveller magazines and pulling out the recipes I want to make.  I figured, as much as I love them all stacked nicely on my bookshelf, I’ve never going to cook anything from them if I don’t rip out the good recipes.  So I did, and found a mass of cocktail recipes I want to make!

Among those magazines was Donna Hay’s new one (Issue 59).  Being a nice balmy Sunday, I really wanted to make her Grilled Chicken Tacos with Salsa Verde.  Only I don’t have a grill, and I’m not the biggest fan of salsa verde.  I love herbs when used as adding a touch of flavour to a dish, but not bam-in-your-face-sauce.  There was a recipe for making tortillas, and you know how I feel about making bread.  So it was done.  I swapped the salsa verde for a simple tomato and cucumber salsa, and made an awesome minty yoghurt side to go with it.

Chicken tortillas with salsa and yoghurt
800g chicken thighs, trimmed and cut into strips
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon ground chilli
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon paprika
Olive (peanut or grape seed) for cooking
2 tomatoes, diced
½ large cucumber (or one Lebanese), de-seeded, finely diced
½ small red onion, finely chopped
1 green chilli, finely chopped (optional)
Olive oil
Sea salt
250ml natural or Greek yoghurt
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
Handful of fresh mint, finely chopped
½ teaspoon ground cumin
Juice of ½ lemon
Sea salt
3 cups plain flour
40g cold butter, cubed
Pinch of sea salt
470ml boiling water

Place the chicken in a medium bowl and sprinkle over the salt, chilli, oregano and paprika.  Mix well to coat in all the spices and set aside in the fridge.

Place the diced tomato, cucumber and red onion in a serving bowl.  Add a slug of olive oil and a pinch of sea salt and mix well.  Set aside in the fridge.

Place the yoghurt, chopped mint, garlic and lemon juice in a serving bowl.  Add the cumin and salt and mix well.  Set aside in the fridge.

In a large bowl, add the flour, salt and butter.  Using your fingers, rub the butter into the flour until you have a bread crumb like consistency.  Add the boiling water and mix with a wooden spoon.  When it comes together, pour the dough onto a well floured surface and knead for 2 minutes.  The dough will become smooth very quickly.  Divide the dough into 12 equal size pieces, and roll each piece out to about 20cm round.  Note - they will shrink a little when you cook them.

Heat a non-stick fry-pan over a high heat, and cook each tortilla until it becomes lightly browned on each side.  Set these aside in a tea towel to keep warm.

Preheat a fry-pan or barbecue over a high heat.  Place a good slug of oil, and cook chicken in batches, until cooked through and brown.

Serve the chicken with tortillas, salsa and yogurt.

Serves 4

October 17, 2011

Strawberry Cake

So gardening part two, became gardening part two of potentially four!  Turns out, I have A LOT of weeds.  So much that I filled my bin up again and I still have so much to rip out.  While I was ripping out weeds, Colin was breaking up the sand in the area for my future herb garden.  30 years of root systems has completely ruined the sand and now the only solution might be building a new framed box and placing it on top of the crappy sand.  Yep, it’s that bad!  

Last weekend when I went to the farmers markets, I was making a conscious effort to look for strawberries – pretty easy thing to do seeing we are heading into summer.  They were everywhere, and so big and red!  I had in the back of my mind the need to make the Summer Strawberry Cake featured on Smitten Kitchen.  I first came across this recipe on Fizzle Out, and after drooling over the pictures, I needed to make it!
It’s such a basic recipe, but I guess those ones are always the best.  The cake was beautiful and soft, like a sponge cake, and with the soft gooey strawberries on top – my ideal cake!  I love these types of cakes (which you might have noticed from my peach and raspberry tart and lemony peach cake) so I was in heaven. 

Unfortunately the cake didn’t last long, mainly because it fed quite a few people.  This was the only downfall – that I didn’t get a second or third piece.

Strawberry Cake
85g unsalted butter, room temperature
¾ cup caster sugar
1 ½ cups plain flour, sifted
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 large egg
½ cup milk (you might need extra – my cake did)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
500g strawberries, hulled and cut in half
Extra sugar for sprinkling
Icing sugar (optional)

Preheat the oven to 180°C.  Line a 22cm cake tin with paper and lightly spray with cooking oil (or rub with a little butter).

In a large bowl, add the butter and sugar and beat until pale and fluffy.  Add the egg and continue beating until combined.  Add the vanilla and milk, and sift in the flour, baking powder and salt at once (this will ensure the baking powder is spread evenly throughout the flour). Stir until all ingredients are well combined.

Pour the cake mix into the lined tin, and evenly scatter the strawberries on top, making sure the cut side is facing down.  Sprinkle a little extra sugar on top, and place in the oven for 10 minutes.  After 10 minutes, reduce the oven temperature to 160°C, and continue cooking for a further 1 hour, or until a skewer comes out clean.

Dust a little icing sugar on top, and serve with a dollop of thickened cream.

October 10, 2011

Caramelised Leek, Asparagus and Goat’s Cheese Tart

Wow what a couple of days.  This weekend was full on, for many reasons.  There was lots of meals, socialising, cooking and most of all – gardening.  While I was in Bali it was like the weeds had thrown a big party.  I got home to find more weeds than plants!  I really don’t know how it took me so long to notice, but I decided this weekend I would get rid of them all.  I got rid of half before my bin got full.  So next weekend will be ripping out weeds part two.

Before I start telling you about this recipe I want to share a little story.  I popped into my local supermarket Saturday afternoon to get a few things for this recipe plus a cake I cooked (will share this cake next week!).  I asked a store-worker if they had any unsalted butter, seeing there was none on the shelf.  He disappeared so I thought I’ll get the cream while I wait.  Sitting high up on the shelf (and me being very short) I reached up to grab the item.  Just as I do so, a little old lady reaches through me and knocks over another container of cream.  From the corner of my eye I see it fall.  Smack on the shelf below.  Then I feel a cold liquid run down my leg.  I cringe, then slowly look down.  The whole container has spilt on my shorts, and is now running down my leg and into my shoe.  Gross.  I can smell only cream.  I froze, still reaching up with my cream in my hand.  The worker comes back out and stops “awwww….   [pause] we have no unsalted butter”.

So about this tart.  PS I hate cream right about now.

I went to the farmers market of Saturday morning, and while wandering around, trying to decide on only a few vegetables to buy, I couldn’t help but noticed these beautiful skinny asparagus spears.  Then noticed the leeks.  Hrmm maybe a tart?  I call my mum, no answer.  I guess a tart will work.  I had made a tomato, feta and thyme tart some months back, and really liked it.  I picked up some goats cheese and gave this a go.  Oh my, yum!  Such a great combination…

Caramelised Leek, Asparagus and Goat’s Cheese Tart
3 sheets puff pastry, thawed
1 leek, halved and sliced into half moons
1 knob butter
Olive oil
1/4 cup water
4 eggs
300ml thickened cream
1/2 cup grated parmesan
pinch sea salt
200g asparagus, ends removed (if using thick spears of asparagus, blanch in boiling water for 2 minutes to start the cooking process)
100g goats cheese

Preheat the oven to 200°C.  
In a pan over a medium heat, add the butter, a good slug of olive oil and leeks.  Stir the leeks so they begin to caramelised.  After 5 minutes add the water and continue stirring.  When the leeks are golden and cooked through, remove from the heat.  Set aside.

Lightly spray two 12 x 35 cm tart tins with a removable base with cooking oil.  Place the sheets of puff pastry over the centre, making sure the corners and side are completely covered.  Use small overlapping pieces of puff pastry to cover any free areas.  Press the edges down with your fingers or the back of a teaspoon, then score the base of the pastry with a fork to allow air to come through while baking.

Place a sheet of baking paper over the pastry and top with baking weights (or something like rice) and blind bake in the oven for 15 minutes.  After 15 minutes, remove the tin from the oven and discard the paper and weights.  Place the tin back in the oven and cook for a further 5 minutes.

Reduce the oven temperature to 160°C.  

In a bowl, add the eggs, cream, parmesan and salt and mix well.  Place an even layer of the caramelised leek on the base of the tart.  Place the asparagus evenly on the tart, spear tips pointing to the centre and the thick ends at the edge of the tart, and then carefully fill the tart with the egg mixture.  Crumble the goats cheese over the top, and bake in the oven for 30 minutes or until set and golden. 

Makes two tarts.

October 3, 2011

Sun, Pools and Cocktails

Well I’m back from my holiday.  Relaxed, but sad, and with a bit of an upset tummy – something that happens to many in Bali.  We set off Thursday afternoon, and as soon as we arrived we put our bags down and headed out.  From then it was a few days of getting into the spirit of ‘holidays’, then came the relaxing part. 

I didn’t really do much over there in terms of sight-seeing or venturing out.  We visited a couple of different villages (I’m not sure if that’s the right term?) and most of the time was really spent drinking and eating.  Nothing wrong with that right?

I took a few photos over this time, but really went nuts when we had a seafood extravaganza at Jimbaran Bay, and when Colin and I took a cooking class at Echo Beach.

Jimbaran Bay was awesome.  A long stretch of beach filled with tables and chairs, all belonging to different restaurants.  They are all pretty much the same - you start with a drink, then you can either go pick your seafood, or you can order a set menu.  We got the set menu, which consisted of a crayfish, a local fresh fish, prawns, clams, squid and mussels, and some greens and potatoes, plus drinks.

We did the cooking course on our last day while up near Echo Beach.  First we went through all the different types of spices and ingredients used in Indonesian cooking, then cooked up a feast and sat down and ate it!  We received a booklet at the end with all the recipes, so I'm pretty keen to try a couple out here, especially the pancakes!

Half of the class was hands on, but with 16 people you didn't exactly get to do much.  We did however get to fold up the steamed banana leaf dishes.  Sorry for my back to the camera, it was either this or a photo with my eyes half open looking suspiciously drunk...

So along with the steamed banana things (right now I can't seem to remember the actual name!) and the amazing looking pork dish above, we made a traditional mee goreng and some side dishes.

The last of the dishes were two fresh salads and some pandan pancakes!

So all in all, a pretty good trip!  Will most likely be back there again this time next year.  Oh yeah, cos I forgot to mention, the reason we went there, besides to relax, was Colin's rugby team played in a competition, to which they won! 

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