Archive for March, 2009

Caramel Pots with Minted Shortbread Sticks

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Two months just slipped away, it’s time again for KBB ‘s challenge, the challenge this time is hosted by two selves proclaimed “sweet” ladies (ha… no.. they are seriously really sweet), Dita and Lina. Comfort dessert (although,  I think dessert by any name is comforting 😉 ) simple to make but with superb flavors (two of my favorites, mint & caramel), great texture pairing and not to mention delicious of course.

Beware that the caramel pots are addictive, that’s why I make half batch of the shortbread and a full batch of the caramel…. yumm…yumm  🙂

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Caramel Pots with Minted Shortbread Sticks

Source: Chef Fred Wiesehutter, Heritage Christchurch, posted at Foodtown Magazine.

Minted Shortbread Sticks

100g icing sugar

200g flour

100g cornflour

250g unsalted butter, softened

1 vanilla pod, seeds removed and reserved

1 sprig mint, chopped

 

Preheat the oven to 150C. Line a baking tray with baking paper.


Combine the icing sugar, flours, butter, vanilla seeds and mint in a bowl and mix well. Roll out to about 1cm thick. Cut into 2 x 8cm fingers. Place on the prepared tray and bake for 20-25 minutes, until lightly golden. Cool and store in an airtight container until required. Makes about 30.

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Caramel Pots

125g caster sugar

2 Tbs water

125ml milk

250ml cream

3 egg yolks


Whisk the sugar into the water in a saucepan. Heat carefully and cook to a golden caramel. Combine milk and cream in a separate saucepan and warm-do not boil. Whisk the milk into the caramel. Cool slightly.


Beat the egg yolks, until creamy. Gradually pour the hot caramel onto the egg yolks, mixing well.


Pour into four ramekins. Bake in a water bath at 160C for 30 minutes or until set. Remove the ramekin, cool then chill. Serves

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Lasagne Verdi al Forno

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A week before I made this challenge,  I was watching Mario eats Italy, where there’s a scene of an Italian old lady making pasta… she just rolled…and rolled, quickly and easily done, and Mr. Mario kept on saying “one hand roll and the other hand stretch…”

So I thought in the back of my mind, hmm… I can do that quickly, piece of cake pasta, no worries 🙂

On the D’day, I red the recipe thoroughly, it said you have to roll out the pasta dough very thin until you can see the back of your hand while you hold it… then… there it began, my journey of making my handmade pasta…

I made half of the dough recipe, it took me  about an hour just to rolled out a small amount of pasta, I guess the Italian lady was old not for nothing 😛

The finished dish was very satisfying… but next time I make my own pasta,  there’s better be a pasta machine in my kitchen 😉

PS: I made my own RAGU recipe

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The March 2009 challenge is hosted by Mary of Beans and Caviar, Melinda of Melbourne Larder and Enza of Io Da Grande. They have chosen Lasagne of Emilia-Romagna from The Splendid Table by Lynne Rossetto Kasper as the challenge.

 

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Lasagne of Emilia-Romagna (Lasagne Verdi al Forno)


(Serves 8 to 10 as a first course, 6 to 8 as a main dish)

Preparation Time: 15 minutes to assemble and 40 minutes cooking time

10 quarts (9 litres) salted water
1 recipe Spinach Pasta cut for lasagna (recipe follows)#1
1 recipe Bechamel Sauce (recipe follows)#2
1 recipe  Ragu (recipe follows)#3
1 cup (4 ounces/125g) freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

Method
Working Ahead:
The ragu and the béchamel sauce can be made up to three days ahead. The ragu can also be frozen for up to one month. The pasta can be rolled out, cut and dried up to 24 hours before cooking. The assembled lasagne can wait at room temperature (20 degrees Celsius/68 degrees Fahrenheit) about 1 hour before baking. Do not refrigerate it before baking, as the topping of béchamel and cheese will overcook by the time the center is hot.

Assembling the Ingredients:
Have all the sauces, rewarmed gently over a medium heat, and the pasta at hand. Have a large perforated skimmer and a large bowl of cold water next to the stove. Spread a double thickness of paper towels over a large counter space. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit (180 degrees Celsius). Oil or butter a 3 quart (approx 3 litre) shallow baking dish.

Cooking the Pasta:
Bring the salted water to a boil. Drop about four pieces of pasta in the water at a time. Cook about 2 minutes. If you are using dried pasta, cook about 4 minutes, taste, and cook longer if necessary. The pasta will continue cooking during baking, so make sure it is only barely tender. Lift the lasagne from the water with a skimmer, drain, and then slip into the bowl of cold water to stop cooking. When cool, lift out and dry on the paper towels. Repeat until all the pasta is cooked.

Assembling the Lasagne:
Spread a thin layer of béchamel over the bottom of the baking dish. Arrange a layer of about four overlapping sheets of pasta over the béchamel. Spread a thin layer of béchamel (about 3 or 4 spoonfuls) over the pasta, and then an equally thin layer of the ragu. Sprinkle with about 1&1/2 tablespoons of the béchamel and about 1/3 cup of the cheese. Repeat the layers until all ingredients are used, finishing with béchamel sauce and topping with a generous dusting of cheese.

Baking and Serving the Lasagne:
Cover the baking dish lightly with foil, taking care not to let it touch the top of the lasagne. Bake 40 minutes, or until almost heated through. Remove the foil and bake another 10 minutes, or until hot in the center (test by inserting a knife – if it comes out very warm, the dish is ready). Take care not to brown the cheese topping. It should be melted, creamy looking and barely tinged with a little gold. Turn off the oven, leave the door ajar and let the lasagne rest for about 10 minutes. Then serve. This is not a solid lasagne, but a moist one that slips a bit when it is cut and served.

 

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#1 Spinach Egg Pasta (Pasta Verde)

Preparation: 45 minutes

Makes enough for 6 to 8 first course servings or 4 to 6 main course servings, equivalent to 1 pound (450g) dried boxed pasta.

2 jumbo eggs (2 ounces/60g or more)
10 ounces (300g) fresh spinach, rinsed dry, and finely chopped; or 6 ounces (170g) frozen chopped spinach, defrosted and squeezed dry
3&1/2 cups (14 ounces/400g) all purpose unbleached (plain) flour (organic stone ground preferred)

Working by Hand:

Equipment

A roomy work surface, 24 to 30 inches deep by 30 to 36 inches (60cm to 77cm deep by 60cm to 92cm). Any smooth surface will do, but marble cools dough slightly, making it less flexible than desired.

A pastry scraper and a small wooden spoon for blending the dough.

A wooden dowel-style rolling pin. In Italy, pasta makers use one about 35 inches long and 2 inches thick (89cm long and 5cm thick). The shorter American-style pin with handles at either end can be used, but the longer it is, the easier it is to roll the pasta.
Note: although it is not traditional, Enza has successfully made pasta with a marble rolling pin, and this can be substituted for the wooden pin, if you have one.

Plastic wrap to wrap the resting dough and to cover rolled-out pasta waiting to be filled. It protects the pasta from drying out too quickly.

A sharp chef’s knife for cutting pasta sheets.

Cloth-covered chair backs, broom handles, or specially designed pasta racks found in cookware shops for draping the pasta.

Mixing the dough:
Mound the flour in the center of your work surface and make a well in the middle. Add the eggs and spinach. Use a wooden spoon to beat together the eggs and spinach. Then gradually start incorporating shallow scrapings of flour from the sides of the well into the liquid. As you work more and more flour into the liquid, the well’s sides may collapse. Use a pastry scraper to keep the liquids from running off and to incorporate the last bits of flour into the dough. Don’t worry if it looks like a hopelessly rough and messy lump.

Kneading:
With the aid of the scraper to scoop up unruly pieces, start kneading the dough. Once it becomes a cohesive mass, use the scraper to remove any bits of hard flour on the work surface – these will make the dough lumpy. Knead the dough for about 3 minutes. Its consistency should be elastic and a little sticky. If it is too sticky to move easily, knead in a few more tablespoons of flour. Continue kneading about 10 minutes, or until the dough has become satiny, smooth, and very elastic. It will feel alive under your hands. Do not shortcut this step. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap, and let it relax at room temperature 30 minutes to 3 hours.

Stretching and Thinning:
If using an extra-long rolling pin work with half the dough at a time. With a regular-length rolling pin, roll out a quarter of the dough at a time and keep the rest of the dough wrapped. Lightly sprinkle a large work surface with flour. The idea is to stretch the dough rather than press down and push it. Shape it into a ball and begin rolling out to form a circle, frequently turning the disc of dough a quarter turn. As it thins outs, start rolling the disc back on the pin a quarter of the way toward the center and stretching it gently sideways by running the palms of your hands over the rolled-up dough from the center of the pin outward. Unroll, turn the disc a quarter turn, and repeat. Do twice more.

Stretch and even out the center of the disc by rolling the dough a quarter of the way back on the pin. Then gently push the rolling pin away from you with one hand while holding the sheet in place on the work surface with the other hand. Repeat three more times, turning the dough a quarter turn each time.

Repeat the two processes as the disc becomes larger and thinner. The goal is a sheet of even thickness. For lasagne, the sheet should be so thin that you can clearly see your hand through it and see colours. Cut into rectangles about 4 by 8 inches (10 x 20 cm). Note: Enzasaysthat transparency is a crucial element of lasagne pasta and the dough should be rolled as thinly as possible. She says this is why her housekeeper has such strong arms!

Dry the pasta at room temperature and store in a sealed container or bag.

#2 Bechamel

Preparation Time: 15 minutes

4 tablespoons (2 ounces/60g) unsalted butter
4 tablespoons (2 ounces/60g) all purpose unbleached (plain) flour, organic stone ground preferred
2&2/3 cups (approx 570ml) milk
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Freshly grated nutmeg to taste

Using a medium-sized saucepan, melt the butter over low to medium heat. Sift over the flour, whisk until smooth, and then stir (without stopping) for about 3 minutes. Whisk in the milk a little at a time and keep the mixture smooth. Bring to a slow simmer, and stir 3 to 4 minutes, or until the sauce thickens. Cook, stirring, for about 5 minutes, until the sauce thickens. Season with salt, pepper, and a hint of nutmeg.

#3  Ragu’ con basilico

Preparation Time: Ingredient Preparation Time 15 minutes and Cooking time 45 minutes

 Makes enough sauce for 1 recipe fresh pasta or 1 pound/450g dried pasta)

  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (45 mL)
  • 1 medium onion, minced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 500 g half on half  coarse grind veal and beef
  • 1 &1/2 cups (12 ounces/375ml) chicken or beef stock (homemade if possible)
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup tomato paste
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp coriander
  • 1 tsp all spices
  • fresh basil leaves
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Working Ahead:
The ragu can be made 3 days ahead. Cover and refrigerate. It also freezes well for up to 1 month. Skim the fat from the ragu’ before using it.

Heat the olive oil in a 12 inch (30cm) skillet (frying pan) over medium-high heat. Have a large saucepan handy to use once browning is complete. Add the onions, garlic and sauté, stirring frequently with a wooden spoon until the onions barely begin to color. Stir  meat into the pan and slowly brown over medium heat. First the meats will give off a liquid and turn dull grey but, as the liquid evaporates, browning will begin. Stir often, scooping under the meats with the wooden spatula. Protect the brown glaze forming on the bottom of the pan by turning the heat down. Stir stock into the saucepan and let it bubble slowly, 10 minutes, or until totally evaporated. Add the tomato paste and all the spices,adjust heat so the liquid bubbles very slowly. Partially cover the pot, and cook 30 minutes. Stir frequently.

Add the fresh basil. Cook uncovered, at a very slow bubble for another 5 minutes.

Strawberry Banana Cupcake with Orange Blossom Banana Frosting

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I don’t know what’s got into my “better” half’s mind, when he brought home 6 kg bananas… he said those bananas were honey bananas, small but very sweet, now it’s the season, on sale etc…etc…

Yes, of course I love bananas, I love eating on banana leaves, I even used to eat banana’s hearts…. but 6 kilos…. man???

For the sake of not  throwing food away… I made banana smoothie , banana bread, banana pie, banana ice cream, and this is my last attempt on finishing my banana stock… no more banana  at least for the next month 😉

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Strawberry Banana Cupcake with Orange Blossom Banana Frosting

Ingredients

  • 2 cups Flour
  • ¼ cup Sugar
  • 2 teaspoons Baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon Salt
  • 1 Egg
  • ¾ cup Milk
  • ⅓ cup Cooking oil 
  • 5 small  ripe bananas (about 2 medium), mashed
  • 150 gr strawberries diced
  • Directions

    1. Heat oven to 375 degrees F. Grease a cupcake pan with shortening and lightly flour.
    2. Beat all ingredients except bananas,and strawberries in a large bowl with an electric mixer on low speed, scraping bowl occasionally until all is blended.
    3. Beat in bananas on medium speed 2 minutes. Stir in strawberries.
    4. Pour batter into greased pan and bake 20-25  minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes on wire rack, remove from pan to wire rack.

    Frosting

    Ingredients

    • 4 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
    • 1 Tbsp unsalted butter, room temperature
    • 1/4 cup sugar
    • 3 small ripe bananas (1 medium), mashed
    • 1/2 teaspoon Orange Blossom essence

    Directions

    Using electric mixer, beat cream cheese and 1 Tbsp butter in medium bowl until light and fluffy. Add 1/4 cup sugar and beat until well blended. Beat in bananas and Orange Blossom essence. Set mixture aside.

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    Cherry Egg Whites Cake

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    After my burnt matcha cherry creme brulee, I have some left over cherry conserved and lot of egg whites, by me not being in the mood for suspense, I was looking for a cake recipe with a lot of egg whites. Thought about making an angel food cake, but the dryness of the cake kind of puts me off.

    Then, I found this fantastic recipe,  egg whites cake but with  a little of baking powder & butter… simply perfect.  All of what I did extra was adding some cherry conserved for some colour and sourness (to balance the strong egg-y flavor 🙂 )

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    Mini Milk Honey Raisins White Loaf

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    Spring time is in the air, love how the earth starts to become “alive” again, love the smell of new grass, love to see the parade of flower buds reaching for the sky… and what could be better than to celebrate spring by baking your own bread…

    This moist bread is the kind of bread that you don’t need anything else to eat with, but a small amount of salted butter.

    I’m sending these babies to the yeastspotting over at Wildyeast

     mhrmwl1

    Ingredients

    • 425 gr bread flour
    • 4 tbs thick honey
    • 1/4 tsp salt
    • 1  1/4 tsp instant yeast
    • 2 tbsp sunflower oil
    • 2 tbsp milk powder
    • 1 cup water
    • 125 gr raisins

    Directions

    1. Blend flour, milk  powder, and yeast in a food processor for a couple of seconds.  Mix honey, salt and water in a separate bowl. Add the wet mix  little by little to the dry ingredients while whizzing the dry ingredients.
    2. Stop when the dough has form a ball, remove the dough to a lightly  flour dusted surface, and kneed the dough for 10 mins.  Gradually kneed in the raisins
    3. Put the dough in slightly oiled bowl, cover with oiled plastic cling, Let it rise in a warm place for 1 hour.
    4. Tip the dough out on to a lightly floured surface, divide into small amounts, then press into mini greased loaf tins.Let it prove for 30 mins, preheat the oven  to 200′ C.
    5. When they are ready,  baked for 15 -20min or until the bread is well risen, browned and sounds hollow when tapped with the fingertips.

    Fresh Ginger Cake with Simmered Oranges

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    The mean influenza virus is invading my house, so I need to make some kind of home remedy…

    I’m thinking of citrus and ginger… normally I would just boil some water with honey, lemon and crushed fresh ginger, but this time I ‘d like to fancy it up a little.

    I made then Dave’s Ginger Cake with Nancy Wall Hopkins’s (Deputy food editor of Better Homes and Gardens) Simmered Oranges, with two “superb” recipes , I believe they have added some extra strength to my immune system 😉

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    *This picture is my entry for CLICK: March 2009. (Wood)

    Fresh Ginger Cake Recipe adapted from here

    ** I substitute molasses with honey and I didn’t have ground cloves, so instead I skipped it on the cake and added whole cloves in the simmered oranges

    Simmered Oranges

    Ingredients

    • 4 oranges, sliced crosswise about 1/4 inch thick, seeds discarded
    • 1 1/2 cups sugar
    • 1/4 cup water
    • 1/4 cup orange juice
    • 1/4 cup lemon juice

    Directions

    1. Boil water and juices, stir to dissolve sugar
    2. Reduce heat, simmer, uncovered, 10 mins or until syrupy
    3. Add orange slices(and cloves), return to boiling, reduce heat
    4. Simmer, uncovered for 3 mins or until oranges are tender, turning occasionally
    5. Transfer to serving bowl. Cool

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    Durian Madeleines with White Chocolate Sprinkles

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    Durian, I think is the one fruit that you can say you love  it or you don’t, and there is nothing in between. It has a very distinct taste,  very strong aroma and in my case I love durian, if I could I would eat them everyday. 🙂

    Unfortunately I couln’t eat durian as much as I want, I’m lucky enough that I have stewardeses friends that from time to time could bring me some of them from Thailand. Last holiday I brought some essences to at least ease my longing for “the king of fruit”.

     

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    Durian Madeleines with White Chocolate Sprinkles

    Recipe adapted from here

    Ingredients

    1 cup (140g) flour, sifted
    1 teaspoon baking powder
    4 eggs, lightly beaten
    1 cup (200g) sugar
    2 tablespoons light brown sugar
    1 stick (4 oz/113g) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
    1 teaspoon durian essence

    white chocolate sprinkles

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    Directions

    Preheat the oven to 200ºC/400ºF. Lightly grease two 15 ½-by-9-inch (38×22cm) nonstick madeleine pans.

    In a separate small bowl, combine the sifted flour and baking powder. Set aside.

    In a large bowl, combine the eggs, sugar and brown sugar. Using a spatula, fold in the dry ingredients until just combined; the batter will be slightly stiff. Add the butter and essence, mixing until just combined (do not overmix). Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

    Spread a heaping tablespoon of the batter evenly into each madeleine cup, sprinkle with white chocolate and bake for 8 to 10 minutes, until a hunchback has formed on the cookies and they are golden brown. Unmold them immediately onto a wire rack and allow them to cool completely.

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