Sunday, April 17, 2011

Easter Goodies

         With easter just around the corner I thought a couple of treats were in order,  I foolishly thought that having my boys help with the Easter egg making would be fun and for them it was awesome sticky fluffy marshmallow, gooey  melted chocolate, brightly coloured hundreds and thousands and clouds of icing sugar,. heaven.  I'm still finding little sticky smudges days later..... but the satisfaction of biting into that gorgeous pillowy marsmellow, priceless.  You don't need any special equipment for this as the shape is formed by pressing an egg into a tray of packed flour.
        No Good Friday would be complete with-out toasted hot-cross buns.  Once a year I faithfully pull out a hand written recipe, it's a satisfying practice kneading the dough till it's smooth and elastic, patiently putting it aside till the volume doubles and is soft like a breast (not a silicone one), knocking it back, shaping, proving (letting it rise) and finally the sweet aroma of spice and bread wafting through the house.  Don't be disheartened by the lengthy process each step is simple, and in between each step your free to go about your day or a part of it can be done in your bread-maker.  Happy baking!

Marshmallow Easter Eggs

2Tbspns Gelatine
1/2cup cold water
2 cups sugar
1 cup water
1 tspn vanilla extract (or other flavouring)  try orange blossom or rose water

1.5kg cornflour or cornflour Icing sugar mix (mould)
1 egg (shape)

melted chocolate, hundreds and thousands, icing sugar etc

Combine gelatine and first measure of water.  Leave to swell.  (The gelatine will absorb the water)  Heat the sugar and second measure of water, stirring until sugar is dissolved and bring to the boil.  Dissolve gelatin in the microwave,  or over hot water.  Add to the sugar syrup and boil for 15 minutes.   While gelatine mix is boiling tip flour into a tray press down firmly.  Take your egg and press indentations length wise of a half egg (the deeper the impression the bigger the eggs this mix will make 20 eggs so 40 indentations.   Cool until lukewarm.  Beat well until
very thick and white add your flavouring.  Pour into your moulds.  Refrigerate to set.  When set stick halves together.  Decorate or leave plain.  To do the chocolate coating dip in half length ways and allow to set before dipping the other.  To coat the marshmallow in sprinkles dampen the outside with a little water and roll with enthusiasm.   Eat.  Eat.  Eat.

Hot Cross Buns

!50mls boiling water
150mls cold milk
2 tspns sugar
1 tbspn yeast

Mix and stand 5-10 minutes in a warm place until frothy.

4 cups plain flour
1 tspn salt
3 tspns mixed spice
2 tbspns sugar
2 cups dried fruit
1 egg lightly beaten
2 Tbspns melted butter

Sieve the flour, salt and spice.  Stir through dried fruit and sugar.  Make a well in the centre and add yeast mix, butter and egg.  Mix well.  Knead mixture on a floured surface until smooth and elastic (5-10 minutes).  Leave in a warm spot covered with a damp towel until the dough has doubled in size.  (think breast)  Knead the dough lightly.  Divide into four equal parts, divide each of those into five.  Using the palm of you hand press and turn lightly rolling in the cup of your palm to form into balls.Arrange on a greased tray until the size doubles.  Pipe crosses on buns using a loose slurry of flour and water.Bake at 200c for 20-25 minutes until golden brown.  To make buns glossy brush with a 50/50 water/sugar syrup.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Succulent Pear

Pear and Cardamom Friand

Pears when they are ripe are wonderfully juicy and soft.  There is nothing quite like that first bite of lush sweet flesh, sheer bliss and there is nothing as disappointing as a firm crisp almost flavourless pear.  Ripe pears yield to a slight pressure at the top do not despair if all you can find are hard green supermarket pears as pears ripen well off the tree and a couple of days on the bench will enhance your eating pleasure.  Select pears that are clean, unblemished and free of cuts and bruises. handle gently.  For this recipe I was lucky enough to find some small organic pears perfect for fitting in my texas muffin tin and the moment I laid eyes on these beauties I knew exactly what they were going to become.

Pear and Cardamom Friand

6 small pears, peeled and cored
150grms ground almonds
225grms sifted icing sugar
75grms s/raising flour
a pinch of salt
1tsp ground cardamom
2tbspn poppy seeds
finely grated rind of 1 lemon
150grms butter
6 egg whites

Poach whole pears in a light sugar syrup.  1/4 cup sugar to 1 cup of water how much you need will depend on the size of your pot.  Make sure your pears are completely submerged use a saucer or small plate to hold pears down in the liquid.  10 minutes at a gentle simmer should see your pears poached.

Butter and flour 6 texas muffin tin.  A small circle of paper at the bottom is useful as these are a little tricky to turn out.  Heat oven  to 180C

Beat egg whites with the sugar, flour, ground almonds, poppy seeds, cardamom, salt and lemon rind.  Melt butter in a saucepan leave on the heat until butter develops a light brown colour and nutty aroma, cool and stir through the cardamom batter.   Evenly divide the batter into tins and top with a well drained pear.  Cook for 25minutes.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Comfort Food

Potato Gnocchi in Ragu

For me this is soul deep satisfaction and the true beauty of it is that not only do I enjoy this meal (and the glass of pinot noir that accompanies it) but my two boys eat it with so much enthusiasm and enjoyment that the only dinner time hassle is is there more?  These little potato dumplings are Italian and are a nice alternative to pasta. 

Ragu - Sauce Bolognese

500grms prime beef mince
500grms pork mince
50grms butter
50grms oil
100grms pancetta   (or best bacon)
2tspns finely chopped garlic
1 large onion
1 large carrot
2 stalks celery
250mls red wine
250mls beef stock
2 x 410gm tinned Italian tomatoes 
2 bayleaves
4 juniper
4 cloves
piece of cinnamon stick
large handful chopped fresh oregano
salt and pepper

In a food processor blend roughly chopped carrot, celery, onion and pancetta until finely chopped or hand cut very finely (brunoise).  In a large pan heat oil and butter together when hot add the vegetables and cook until golden add meats and continue to brown remembering that colour is flavour and the deeper the colour the better the depth of flavour will be.  Be patient and stir often.  Deglaze the pan with red wine lifting all the sticky bits off the bottom of the pan.  Add stock tomatoes, spices and herbs.  Simmer on a low heat for an hour.  Season well.  I would recommend tripling this recipe and freezing quantities for use another day.

Potato Gnocchi 

1kg potatoes, scrubbed
220grms plain flour
1 egg lightly beaten
100grms grated parmesan
2tsp salt and plenty of pepper.

Bake potatoes until soft.  (oven or microwave) This is done so that the potato stays very dry.  While the potato is hot scoop out the flesh and push through a sieve into a bowl gently mix through other ingredients until just combined.  Divide dough into four, then working one piece at a time roll on a lightly floured surface to for a 2cm diameter cylinder.  Cut into 1.5cm lengths.  Place on a floured tray and continue on with the remainder of the dough.  Cook in batches in plenty of boiling salted water the dumplings are ready when they float to the top.  As they are ready add them to your meat sauce so that they can absorb the sauce. Or refresh in ice water to hold them until you are ready for them.