Wrapped

I lied. Here’s a final picture post of all the things I missed from 2010, before I move on. Really.

From the Christmas BBQ at Nick’s.

One of the main approaches when it comes to a BBQ for many people is to not BBQ everything. My mother was persistently reminding me to tell Nick that he had to have to get some fried noodles handy. If things can be baked off, do it. Salads, pasta, rice, noodles, garlic bread, etc. should always be on standby because it’s unpredictable how long starting up the grill would take and people might want to nibble on something else while waiting for the meats to be cooked.

This is one of my favourite things to make and it’s always well-received. It’s not some magic trick; the recipe’s right here on Kitchen Wench’s site. It involves a two-day marinade but it is well worth all that effort and space in your refrigerator.

Barbecued Piri Piri Prawns

A quick Google search by Nick gave us this gem of a recipe. It’s ridiculously good. The prawns had so much flavour and still maintained the satisfying crunch that only the best cooked prawns provide. Credit to Dennis who was the Grill Master of the day. Two thumbs up and a very enthusiastic nod of endorsement for this recipe.

Lamb chops and pork + fennel sausages

Another product of a Google search was this recipe for the lamb. Ignore the skordalia bit and the last two ingredients in the lamb recipe. Basically all that was needed was the cumin seeds, parsley, lemon juice, garlic and oil. I really liked this as well. The cumin made it different and wonderful. It was nice not to be faced with yet another Worcestershire + BBQ sauce marinated meat, you know?

Grill at work

Avocado and Corn Salad

Another byproduct of a Google search. I never understand why people think I’m pulling their leg or trying to be secretive when I admit that I usually Google my recipes, not having to rely on a heavy endorsement from someone I know personally. Google does not lie!

Recipe here but in all honesty I could do without the shallots. I liked it fine with, and everyone seemed to love it with so I may be in the minority on this, but I thought it tasted so much better without the shallots. A really useful recipe for anytime of the year, to be honest. This recipe I’m going to store in my repertoire of To Be Used Forever And Ever because it’s fuss-free and bare-pantry-friendly.

Yosa’s amazing Greek Salad

Yosa is an amazing, amazing cook. Seriously. Look at that gorgeous salad! It disappeared with absolutely no trace by the end of the day. I still can’t get over her delicious ham from Christmas Eve dinner. She took the leftovers home and returned with… pea and ham soup! Seriously, how awesome is that? I was more than happy to have it with some crusty bread on one of the miserable rainy days that followed the sunny Christmas day.

There was also a ton more food at the BBQ; a healthy heap of steaks, fried kuey teow, fried noodles, fried rice, and fried mee hoon. There’s a very good reason why we had leftovers to feed us all for a few days after!

And from my kitchen, the last few dishes before the year ended.

Vanilla macarons with raspberry+lemon buttercream

I decided to try my hand at macarons again. I’ve still yet to try the aged egg whites method, which I intend to soon. I keep saying that but I’m a terrible procrastinator. I’ve learned a little more about the little nuances about macarons now that I’ve made them again and the first two trays were a little bit sadder than I’d have liked them to be.

So my tip when it comes to macarons is:
1. Don’t be afraid to leave them in the oven a little longer because I always had a problem with hollowed out centres and I thought I messed up during the macraronage process but nay, it’s the cooking time. My subsequent macarons were perfect!

2. Bake off almond flour in the oven for 5 minutes or so before using. There’s a possibility that almond flour that’s from the supermarket may be a little old and there’s a little too much moisture (oil) that’s been excreted so a quick bake off in the oven ensures that it’s drier and therefore, fresher. Or so my logic claims is a reasonable deduction.

3. Grind almond flour with sugar THEN sieve them all together. Always, always sieve. I didn’t this time around and suffered with the annoying bumps in my macarons.

I have no other tips. I don’t really count how many times I fold my batter before piping them out, I don’t age my egg whites (I use the Swiss Meringue method), and I don’t know what does and doesn’t make feet because I’ve always managed to get feet on mine. And I’ve also always gotten a glossy finish so I’m not sure what exactly I’m doing right here. I guess I’ve been lucky because I’ve never failed at making macarons before. They were not store-perfect but they always had the characteristics of what a macaron should be. Kitchen luck!

But as you can see, the consequences of not sieving your almond flour and sugar is the lumps that make for horrible uneven surfaces. Preferably, this tower of macarons would be straight!

For the buttercream, I whipped up a batch of French Buttercream with some lemon juice added. Unfortunately it became a little too runny for my liking so I decided to whip in some raspberry jam. This created a gorgeous red marbled effect in the otherwise cream coloured buttercream, which I kinda loved. The lucky coincidence was that it went perfectly together.

I’m embarrassed to admit that I ended up consuming a lot of this batch of macarons by myself. They were addictive! Plus, macarons are SO ridiculously cheap when you make them yourself. They’re definitely not worth $4 per macaron!

I also recently dabbled in making my own pasta. It was a lot easier than I thought it would be. This was a semolina pasta and didn’t require any drying time, which was nice. Unfortunately my stupid el cheapo pasta machine didn’t have a spaghetti cut setting, just angel hair and fettucine so I ended up with what looked unimpressively like Chinese egg noodles!

Spaghetti con Pesce D’acqua Dolce

It was a lovely dish with white wine, barramundi fillets (which I destroyed because I simply cannot cook fish perfectly!), prawns and capers. I loveloveloved this dish despite its sad appearance.

I also tried my hand at cooking with rabbit. Melbourne had been unseasonably cool in December and it was actually perfect weather for a hearty ragu! The rabbit was delicious and I loved it, my only complaint is that it is so full of tiny bones! Deboning it was an arduous and slow task that has me second guessing my desire to ever cook this dish again.

However, it is supremely delicious and tender. There was a tiny hint of spiciness to it and just… mmm. The recipe was from the Gourmet Traveller Annual Cookbook, as was the spaghetti dish above.

And now, we’re done with 2010! Whew!


Waste Not, Want Not

Wow, I’ve been so bad at updating this thing. Here’s the last from 2010 and we can move on to 2011 posts! There’s a few backlogged but I can’t be stuffed anymore. New slate, new beginnings etc!

So the issue we faced after all the feasts on Christmas Eve and Christmas All-Day-Binge-Fest (I swear, I did not stop eating from noon till past midnight!) was the leftovers. We had a few good meals made of leftovers but I decided to help with using up a loaf of bread and 2kg of peaches. Mostly because I knew if I didn’t, Nick would just chuck them in the bin without blinking. The super Chinese aunty in me would not allow for such terrible wastage!

Bread & Butter Pudding

Bread & Butter Pudding

It was pretty obvious to me that a loaf of bread meant Bread & Butter Pudding. It’s one of my throwaway recipes that is good for when you’re lazy and doesn’t necessitate a trip to the supermarket.

Bread & Butter Pudding
Adapted from Gourmet Traveller
Serves 6

1 loaf of white bread, crusts removed and sliced in two
2 Tbsp cognac
1/2 cup raisins
300 ml cream
300 ml milk
1/4 cup sugar
1 Tbsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
60 gm soft butter, plus extra for greasing
Demerara sugar to finish
Optional: Vanilla ice cream to serve

1. Combine raisins and cognac in a bowl and leave for raisins to soak up most of the liquor.

2. Combine eggs, cream, milk, caster sugar, vanilla extract and cinnamon in a deep bowl. Whisk vigorously to combine.

3. Spread both sides of bread with butter. Grease an ovenproof dish with butter. Fit bread slices into the dish in one even layer, then top with the raisins. Repeat twice more, or until you run out of bread. Pour the cream mixture evenly over the bread slices and leave to stand until most of the mixture has been absorbed by the bread.

4. Preheat oven to 180˚C. Sprinkle demerara sugar over the top of the dish and bake until golden and firm, approximately 30 minutes. Serve warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

I love mine served piping hot, fresh from the oven. The beauty of this simple dessert is in the contrast. The hot with the cold, the crunch of the bread with the velvety texture of the ice cream, the doughy bread with the sweet custard and that little bit of liquor to shock your tastebuds. Simplicity is so underrated.

For the 2kg of peaches, I put my “minions” to work, as I called them that day. Mostly because peeling 2kg of peaches was not an easy task and I’m not known for my patience. I happily relegated the task to my kind friends who were eager to help. Despite numerous boil-and-shock trips between the pot and bowl of ice water, the skins on the peaches would hardly budge! Then we had to slice them and GAH there must be an easier way to handle peaches.

Honey Caramel Peach Pie

Honey Caramel Peach Pie

Caramel Peach Pie
Adapted from Gourmet

All-Butter Pastry Dough
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp sugar
3/4 tsp salt
250g butter, cut into cubes
1/3 cup plus 1-4 Tbsp ice water

1. Whisk together flour, sugar and salt in a bowl. Blend in butter with your fingertips or a pastry blender just until most of mixture resembles coarse meal.

2. Drizzle 1/3 cup ice water over mixture and gently stir with a fork until incorporated. Squeeze a small handful of dough: if it doesn’t hold together, add more ice water 1 Tbsp at a time, stirring until just incorporated, then test again. Do not overwork dough, or pastry will be tough.

3. Turn out dough onto a lightly floured surface and with the hell of your hand smear the dough twice in a forward motion to help distribute fat. Gather the dough together and press into a ball. Divide in half and form 2 disks. Wrap each disk in plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm, at least an hour.

2 kg ripe peaches
2 Tbsp cornflour
1 1/2 Tbsp all-purpose flour
2 tsp fresh lemon juice
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup plus 1 Tbsp sugar, divided
1/4 cup honey
2 Tbsp water
3 Tbsp unsalted butter

1. Cut an X in the bottom of each peach, then blanch peaches in batches in boiling water for 15 seconds. Transfer with a slotted spoon to an ice bath to stop cooking. Peel peaches and cut into 1-inch thick wedges

2. Toss peaches well with cornflour, flour, lemon juice, cinnamon and salt in a large bowl.

3. Bring 1/2 cup sugar, honey and water to a boil in a saucepan over medium high heat, stirring until sugar has dissolved. Boil without stirring, swirling pan occasionally so caramel colours evenly, until a dark amber.

4. Remove from heat and add butter, swirling pan until butter is melted. Pour over fruit and toss.

5. Preheat oven to 220˚C. Roll out 1 piece of dough into a 13″ round on a lightly floured surface. Fit into a 9″ pie plate. Trim excess dough, leaving a /2″ overhang. Chill shell pin.

6. Roll out remaining piece of dough into an 11″ round on a lightly floured surface.

7. Transfer the peach filling to the pie shell, mounding it. Cover pie with the second pastry round. Press edges together, then crimp decoratively. Brush top with milk, then sprinkle remaining Tbsp of sugar. Cut 3 steam vents on the top with a paring knife or scissors.

8. Bake in oven for 20 minutes, then reduce temperature to 190˚C and continue to bake until crust is golden brown and filling is bubbling, about 50 minutes more. Cool pie to room temperature, or serve warm if you’re impatient (like me).

My pie was decidedly “rustic looking” because I am absolutely horrible at sealing pies but it still tasted good which was all that mattered to me.

It was served with a healthy scoop of vanilla ice cream and received rave reviews from my friends.

Honey Caramel Filling

It’s actually pretty fun to have so much leftovers that you can host another party just to finish all the food up. Christmas for us was just a never-ending feast, as it rightfully should be.

(Note: The beautiful pictures were taken by Dennis with Nick’s fancypants Nikon D90 camera. These pictures alone have convinced me that I’m in dire need of a DSLR – disregarding the fact that Dennis has a beautiful eye for composition!)


Joyeux Noel 2010

I realise I have been terribly absent and I probably deserve a small slap on the wrist for it. I wish I had an excuse but going beyond, “I just didn’t feel like it”… I have nothing. I don’t really reckon I have a “following” per se but I’ve been questioned by numerous friends about this neglect and I guess it’s time to buck up!

I was busiest in the kitchen during the festive season because Nick hosts an annual Christmas BBQ at his gorgeous abode and I volunteered to help with grocery shopping and marination. I have also infiltrated the inner sanctum of his friends so I was kindly invited to the Christmas Eve potluck shindig for close friends, for which I also cooked some dishes. Then after Christmas, we had to deal with leftovers and the repercussions of overcatering. I’m not complaining, though. It was so much fun and it’s always great to break bread with good company. Mostly because there was always copious amounts of alcohol involved.

(Digression: A guy from the UK made us some Snakebites, a really delicious concoction! It’s half cider, half lager and a little bit of Ribena cordial. DELISH!)

There were two things I had my mind set on when Christmas was around the corner: cute Christmas sugar cookies and steamed fruit cake. The former is always such a cute idea and I’m a sucker for different cookie cutters. And the latter is just such a Christmas thing. I always associate fruit cakes with Christmas and I usually loathe them but my mother makes the BEST steamed fruit cake ever. I nixed the recipe from her book and got baking.

Sugar cookies

Sugar cookies

I have to admit I don’t have a no-fail-go-to recipe for cookies except a chocolate chip one that I found on About.com and when I share the recipe with others they think I’m trying to pull a fast one on them and am actually being a stingy little shit about my recipes. Please believe me when I say that I Google recipes more often than not and they just work and taste good. Not all recipes are duds and it doesn’t have to come from my Grandma’s Super Secret Recipe Archives to be good.

This rolled sugar cookies recipe is from here. Over a 100,000 people have saved the recipe. I was like, “Okay, majority rules.” It’s pretty great, actually. It wasn’t too sweet and the addition of my icing helped add a little more crunch and sweetness to it which was a lucky thing.

The recipe for the icing was from here except I changed the quantities of the liquid to tablespoons after reading the reviews. Just go easy with it. Don’t dump in 2 tablespoons of milk and corn syrup without waiting to see the consistency. I think I went with only a tablespoon of syrup and 1.5 tablespoons of milk.

Icing the cookies was really fun. I knew I didn’t have the patience nor the time to sit around and delicately decorate each and every cookie (I had something like 40 cookies) so this crazy drizzle method worked best for me. It still looked festive and *ahem* “modern”. I especially loved my new reindeer cookie cutters but they were so annoying to use as the antlers broke off every time I lifted my cookie onto the Silpat. In the end, I decided to roll the dough out ONTO the Silpat and removed the excess.

Steamed fruit cake

Steamed fruit cake

The steamed fruit cake was all about rum. In fact, I think it tasted more like rum than cake. That’s a good thing, btw!

One of the most fun parts of the cake-making process for me was making the caramel. I love the scent of caramel and the fact that it lingered on for a few days.

Christmas Eve

Christmas Eve

This was a partial part of the spread for the Christmas Eve dinner. There’s ham on the left by Dennis & Yosa with the most crazy good chilli-mango mayonnaise ever, my two roast chickens and pot of potato gratin above it, Simon’s quiche, and Dennis & Yosa’s grilled vegetables with fried haloumi.

Pauline’s amazing pipis linguine was missing in the pic above.

For dessert we had a gorgeous pavlova made by Kylie.

My cookies and cake also made it to the Snack Table for the guests to graze on while we were getting the food ready for the table.

And if you want to know what silliness ensued in the kitchen… well, the most absurd was cooking the two chooks and the potato gratin in my pretty silk dress.

A+ for looking groomed while cooking!

Kudos to Nick who trusted me not to burn down his gorgeous house, who generously offered his kitchen to my ministrations and who patiently washed dishes that I kept dumping in the sink. And who photographed most of the pictures of the food used here.

Coming up: Christmas BBQ and what I did with leftovers!