Thursday, 31 May 2007

Rescue Mission: Choc Bread Pudding

When I was planning what to make for a dinner party a couple of days ago, the failed mocha panettone turned out to be a blessing in disguise. The party was sort of an impromptu occasion due to a friend's leaving Australia the next day. While wanting to make something special, I couldn't spend all day in the kitchen on a week night. So I needed quick and easy recipes that still provided an aah&ooh factor. Looking at the big brown loaf of panettone on the dining table, I remembered having seen a recipe for chocolate bread pudding at Anna's Morsels&Musings - this way I would be able to get rid of the bread in the most delicious way!

Luckily, all my dinner guests agreed that this reasoning had been right: The chocolate bread pudding was very chocolatey and moist, but not soggy. The lightly whipped cream and the warm berry sauce gave the dessert a little lightness (not calorie wise, though). The only changes I made to the recipe were substituting dark rum for the Pedro Ximenez Sherry (though I'd love to try that one!) and adding some more milk, another egg, and some cocoa as I was suspecting that I used more bread than Anna. Not to forget the half-hearted try to get rid of some calories by using a mix of milk, evaporated milk, and cream instead of cream only - well, I admittedly had to empty some open jars...
The next day, suprisingly, the leftovers served cold alongside vanilla yogurt and some berry sauce tasted even better.

If you're looking for a fuss-free main course, this parmesan-crusted chicken will fit the bill perfectly. All it requires is a quick brush with a mustard mixture (I was pretty generous with the mustard but it was still not overly noticable - next time, I'd use even more), coating it in grated parmesan and up it goes for a good 15 minutes into the preheated oven. The chicken was very juicy and flavourful with some nice crisp from the cheese. Serve it with baked potatoes and you'll be able to enjoy the evening while the oven does most of the job.

Monday, 28 May 2007

Mocha Panettone...

...with dark chocolate and pine nuts. Sounds good, doesn't it? Unfortunately, taste wise, the result was nothing short of a disappointment. There had been a little voice inside my head, asking if it really was such a good idea to use instant coffee as the main flavouring. However, the recipe said so - the accompanying picture was appealing enough - and I love these sweet yeast breads.

After the first slice it was already obvious that I didn't want to eat the whole loaf on its own. The coffee flavour was terrible, the texture was rather dry - and the chunks of dark chocolate definitely couldn't make up for that. But I didn't want to throw away the whole thing either. After all, besides the instant coffee, lots of good ingredients had been used to make this rather bland bread. So I had to think of something else to do with it...stay tuned!

Note: So far, it was the first and only recipe from the Bread Machine Kitchen Handbook that wasn't a success. Assuming that no one will want to try this particular recipe, I won't bother posting it.

Wednesday, 16 May 2007

In the Land of the Burger

I used to hate burgers. I thought burgers are what the company with the big M is trying to make out of them. Oh boy, was I wrong. Coming to Australia gave me the opportunity to try a lot of new things to eat - and the so far spurned burger was one of them. Of course I do love the traditional Bavarian mini-meat loaves. However, you never eat them inside a roll (potato salad and other salads are the common accompaniments) so you can't call them burgers.

Whenever you want to grab a quick bite in the average Aussie pub - chances are pretty high that some sort of burger is on the menue. And that's where I discovered that I really like them. Of course, the roll could be improved, most of the time. But the burgers are neither tasteless nor unbearably greasy. However, nothing can beat a homemade burger. Having some lamb mince in the freezer that was somewhat too intensely lamb-ish to eat it on its own, I decided to mix it with some beef mince. There was also some leftover feta that needed to be used and that's how this recipe was born. Even my boyfriend was quite happy to get some meat once in a while - so how many birds did I kill with just one stone?

PS: One more bird - this recipe will also be the entry for the Big Burger Ballyhoo over at Freya's and Paul's Writing at the Kitchen Table.

Lamb Burgers with Feta Filling

The ingredients

500g beef mince
300g lamb mince
1 big onion, finely chopped
2-3 cloves of garlic
½ bunch of parsley, finely chopped
2 small eggs
2 tbsp bread crumbs, heaped
Grated nutmeg
Freshly cracked pepper
Roughly 150g feta

Oil or cooking spray for frying

Yield: 8 rather big patties

In a bowl, knead both types of minces with your hands until smooth. Add all the other ingredients except feta and mix well. Note: Cookbooks usually state that you should fry onions and garlic first but my mom never does it and neither do I.

Cut the feta in 8 pieces (I made 8 rather big patties but that’s up to you. Cut the feta accordingly).

Flatten a chunk of the mince mix and put a piece of feta in the middle. Cover with some more mince and make sure you seal the sides very well (otherwise the patty will fall apart during frying or the filling will peep through as you can see above).

Heat oil in a frying pan over medium to high heat (cooking spray works well, too). Fry patties on one side until well-browned than flip over. When browned on both sides, reduce heat and continue frying until cooked through. This can take a couple of minutes depending on the thickness of your patties. If unsure, just cut into one patty and have a look if it’s still pink on the inside.

The source

My own creation

The hint

Serve hot or cold with pita bread, tomato and cucumber slices, salad leaves, and a sauce of sour cream, salt, freshly cracked pepper and shredded fresh mint. Or serve hot with rice and chunky tomato sauce.

Sunday, 13 May 2007

Chocolate Crumble Cake by Mum

In Germany things like baking powder or vanilla sugar are sold in little sachets. Pretty convenient for the lazy baker who doesn’t want to bother with measuring. But the best part is the recipes on the back. My mom used to collect them (and I do it, too, sometimes). She has quite a stack of them; all bundled up and secured with rubber band. Some are 15 years old – or even older. Looking through them, you can stumble upon real treasures. We’ve got our family vanilla ice cream recipe from one of them (something I hope to make and blog about pretty soon).

Another one is a cake that never failed to impress – the combination of pound cake, ricotta filling, and most importantly the chocolate crumble topping is uncommon enough to spark interest at once.
The original recipe didn’t have the filling but a spread of red currant jam instead. That was quite good but my mum came up with the idea of a quark filling that was even better. It pretty much sums up her approach to cooking and baking: nothing fancy-schmancy – just down-to-earth and simply good. Happy Mother’s Day, mum!

Chocolate Crumble Cake with Ricotta Filling

Pound Cake Base
75g butter
75g caster sugar
1 tbsp vanilla sugar (heaped)
1 egg
150g all-purpose flour
50g cornstarch
1 tsp baking powder
2-4 tbsp milk

Beat butter until soft, add both types of sugar. Beat until pale and fluffy, the sugar should be dissolved. Add the egg and mix well. Add the dry ingredients and as much milk as needed (the dough should be rather on the stiff side). Spread into a prepared springform pan creating a little rim if desired).

Ricotta Filling
2 egg yolks
100g caster sugar
1 tbsp vanilla sugar, heaped
500g Ricotta (should be rather sour, do not use the ricotta for baked cheesecake)
2 egg whites

Beat the egg whites until stiff. In another bowl, beat the egg yolks and the sugar until pale and fluffy and the sugar is dissolved. Add ricotta and mix well. Gently fold in egg whites. Spread ricotta filling on top of vanilla dough.

Chocolate Crumble Topping
150g flour
30g cocoa
100g sugar
1 tbsp vanilla sugar, heaped
100g butter, cold, diced

Mix with your fingers until coarse crumbles form. Do not over mix (otherwise the butter will melt and mixture will get too soft to form proper crumbles). Sprinkle atop ricotta filling.

Fan-bake cake at 150 degrees Celsius (otherwise 170 degrees Celsius in a preheated oven) for about half an hour. If the ricotta filling is still wobbly, bake for another five minutes. Let cool down thoroughly before unmolding. Otherwise the cake might crack.

The source
My mum and a very old vanilla sugar sachet

The hint
If you can track it down, use European-style quark or curd for the filling – that’s what the original recipe calls for.

If using a mini-loaf pan, you’ll have leftover ricotta filling which can be baked separately as little soufflé. The leftover crumble can be frozen.

Saturday, 5 May 2007

A new Tart and a new Blog

I will talk about the above pictured salmon puff pastry tart with mushrooms - later. What I really want to say is that there is a brand new food blog out there. I have not the slightest idea how many there are and how many get started each day - the numbers must be enormous. However, this one is special to me as it is the blog of my dear friend Nora - the one that got me started in the first place! About a year ago, she introduced me to this whole new world that takes up quite a lot of my spare time. Not that I blog all the time (which, sadly, you will have noticed by now) but if you count in all the other reading / photographing / planning / thinking / dreaming of and about food, you will understand what I mean. This whole new world has now a new star - come and check it out at Life's Smorgasbord.

And here comes the tart - I haven't forgotten. Having bought a slab of salmon and thinking about another way than just frying it with rice and veggies on the side, I came up with this really simple but really tasty tart. If you happen to have some frozen puff pastry in your freezer, that's dinner in a breeze.

Salmon Puff Pastry Tart with Mushroom and Cream Cheese filling

The ingredients

1 1/2 sheets of frozen puff pastry
250g salmon
150-200g mushrooms
1/2 package of cream cheese (the slightly fat reduced version was fine)
1 egg
splash of milk
1 tsp dried dill
freshly cracked pepper
lemon wedges to serve

Yield: Serves 3-4

Preheat the oven to 220 degrees Celsius. Put the frozen sheets of puff pastry on a prepared baking sheet. I just pressed the edges together to seal it a bit.

Cut salmon and mushrooms into bite sized pieces.

In a small bowl whisk together the cream cheese and the egg, adding a bit of milk to lighten the consistency. Stir in salt, dill, and lots of pepper. Spread mixture atop the puff pastry leaving a rim of 1-2 centimetres.

Spread the pieces of salmon and mushrooms leaving a bit of space in between - this tart doesn't want to be crowded. Bake until the edges are golden brown and the salmon is cooked through, roughly for 20 minutes.

The hint
Serve with lemon wedges and a salad of young spinach. Leftovers are still fine the next day.

Thursday, 3 May 2007

Discovering Lemon Curd

Doing grocery shopping is still kind of an adventure for me - at least here in Australia. Even after one and a half years in this country, I still find some edible things that aren't familiar to me. Or I finally figure out what a familiar thing is called around here. For example, it took me a while to realize that "apple sauce" is no sauce at all but the name for pureed apple compote - something I almost thought wouldn't exist in Australia. Not that it's hard to make it myself but to have a jar of apple sauce in the pantry is not too bad at all.

However, there is a down side to all those discoveries. A long time ago standing in the midst of a normal supermarket, I had come to realize that there is some sort of immanent order in Australian supermarkets that is completely different from German ones. It still happens that I'm walking the aisles back and forth, looking for a certain ingredient (of course looking at the spots where it would be in German supermarkets) - and not finding it at all. After I had eaten the jar of apple sauce a friend gave to me when he left Australia, I haven't been able to buy another one. It's not at the spot for preserved fruits, it's not at the spot for spreads, it's not at the spot for cans - it seems that I definitely will have to make my own apple sauce in the future. And did I mention that it's completely useless to ask any shop assistant? If you're lucky, they will narrow your search down to "look in aisle 2 or 3 but it could also be in aisle 8". If you're lucky, that is.

Anyway, there are also some happier discoveries like lemon curd. I was just looking for some jam and right next to it, I found nice little jars with either pale yellow or flashy yellow content. The label "lemon curd" wasn't familiar to me at all and "lemon butter" was even more confusing. Feeling adventurous, I bought a jar. I wasn't really sure what to do with it but its vicinity to jam and peanut butter pointed at some sort of spread. Well, what shall I say - I tried and loved it! Soon after I had gone through this first jar, I decided to make my own having read frequently that homemade lemon curd is very much superior to the store-bought variety. After checking out various recipes of fellow food bloggers, I quickly settled on this recipe from A Cat in the Kitchen. The changes I made were using only lemons (didn't have any limes) and omitting the zest (the lemons weren't organically grown and I wanted my curd to be completely smooth). Dagmar hadn't promised too much, this recipe was truly foolproof. The resulting curd firmed up nicely without any curdling whatsoever. Its tartness is noticeable but not overwhelming and can stand up against any kind of bread. And when I'm biting into my toast with homemade lemon curd, I can almost pardon the lack of logic in Australian supermarkets.

Tuesday, 1 May 2007

Bread - and more Bread...

If you're looking for some inspiration regarding your daily bread, just have a look at the round-up of "Waiter, there's something in my... Bread" at Andrew's SpittoonExtra. I'm a little late in announcing but he was unbelievably quick in putting all the wonderful entries together - well sorted into sweet and savoury ones.

I definitely have to try those Pecan Sticky Buns, and the Pain Brioche sounds like a real challenge. However tonight, being short on time, I'll get my bread maker to whip up a quick Oatmeal Buttermilk Bread for breakfast tomorrow...