30 November 2012

Macaroon vs Macaron: Walnut Cheesecake Macarons

French macarons have certainly been the 'flavour of the month' for considerably longer than a month. It seems like every café, bakery and patisserie has them in a myriad of hues, they have become such a phenomenon you can even get packet mixes for them in the supermarket (not highly recommended). The problem with such a glut of macaron is that not all macaron are created equal, nor is it easy to tell without tasting them all (not such a bad way to do it)!
They may have good 'feet', a smooth shell and an exotic pastel shade with notions of lychee or violets, but this is no guarantee of flavour and the *Wow* factor. I have been seduced by too many 'Meh' (with a shrug of the shouldersmacarons that unless someone says emphatically, 'You HAVE to try the salted caramel macaron from... or you HAVEN'T lived!', I am content to admire their neat rows in pretty rainbow shades of compact perfectness while ordering a coffee éclair or something oozing chocolate.

28 November 2012

Macaroon vs Macaron: Coconut Macaroons

Taste is such a truly individual thing that you will find for anything you are cooking there are an infinite number of variations out there. Only through trial and largely delicious error will you find out which one becomes your never fail, go to recipe. Coconut macaroons are no exception, they can be chewy, "meringuey", with a glacé cherry, dipped in chocolate, with desiccated coconut or moist shredded coconut … you may end up with several recipes that are just right depending on what mood you are in.

26 November 2012

Macaroon vs Macaron: Moroccan Almond Macaroons

In recent years the French 'Macaron' has become so popular and all pervasive that the 'Macaroons' of the rest of the world have taken a back seat. While it may seem like semantics to debate Macaron vs Macaroons - there is a difference (for which we should rejoice in all their delicious variety). They all have in common the base of egg whites with icing sugar but after that they diverge into an array of widely varying flavour and texture... so please, let's call a Macaron a Macaron, and a Macaroon a Macaroon and enjoy them all.
Morocco has two versions of the Macaroon, one is an almond based thin chewy biscuit, often with a whole almond on the top while the other is still almond based and chewy but is more dense with a hint of cinnamon, and usually lemon zest and rose water. For me, this second version is a wonderful representation in bite sized pieces of some of the influences evident in Moroccan culture and cuisine through centuries of diverse colonisation. Amongst the colonizers there were the Arabs who brought spices to the table, while the Moors cultivated citrus and the French shared their love of sweet pastries and biscuits.

23 November 2012

Peanut Butter: Biscuits

It's that time of year when everyone wants to catch up, it HAS to be before Christmas and you end up rushing around, bringing plates to gatherings or entertaining people at home when all you really want to do is collapse in a heap on the couch and eat sugary buttery food!

Peanut Butter biscuits can combine these facets of pre-Christmas frenzy as not only do they taste delicious, the dough keeps really well in the freezer so you can have it on hand to whip up a batch of bikkies whether you need to entertain or just satisfy your sugar and butter cravings! Even better, if you did make the PB ice cream and on the off chance you didn't finish it all in one go, you can slather the ice cream on the still warm biscuits for the ultimate PB ice cream sandwich of joy (scroll down to the end to see the photo)!

21 November 2012

Peanut Butter: Ice Cream

I finally got all organised before the night before posting, worked out the whole "schedule" thing and was sitting back feeling pretty pleased with myself when I somehow managed to delete the whole content of this post! Aaarrgg. So, armed with a big bowl of peanut butter ice cream I am re-writing this week’s second peanut butter binge recipe the night before posting - a custard based super creamy ice cream with a good dose of peanut butter goodness *AMAZING*.
Peanut butter always makes me think of being a kid - celery sticks covered in PB as an afterschool snack, PB sandwiches and PB running down the wall... yes, that's right - the wall.

19 November 2012

Peanut Butter: Satay chicken

One of the girls from work has just come back from 3 weeks of sunshine and satay sticks in Bali looking brown and relaxed... meanwhile it rained overnight in Melbourne and I am still very Vitamin D deficient! While I have to wait for the warmer weather, and even then it can be unpredictable, I can make satay sticks as aromatic and moreish as those found in Bali so at least that's something...

16 November 2012

Lemons: Moroccan Preserved

Last New Year's we were in sensory overload eating our way through the souks of Morocco. One of the flavours that captured the vibrancy, intensity and colour of Moroccan culture and cuisine was the preserved lemon. From the hint of preserved lemon in steamed couscous to its perfect pairing in a tagine with chicken and green olives, the jars of preserved lemons in the markets and taste on your tongue stay with you. With my glut of lemons and the oncoming sunshine I knew I wanted to make preserved lemons to have on hand to add to summer salads, or slowcook with meat.

14 November 2012

Lemons: Lemon curd

I have tried so many recipes and trawled the internet in order to find an easy, no fail lemon curd recipe that is super lemony (there is nothing worse than insipid curd), but should really have looked no further than Stephanie Alexander's The Cook's Companion'. I am often heard saying in the kitchen, "what would Stephanie do?" and she has certainly never let me down. Stephanie debunks the 'whisk continuously in a double boiler and never let it boil or it will curdle' myth, which makes 'lemon curding' a whole lot easier.

12 November 2012

Lemons: Limoncello

Everywhere you look at the moment there are bags of golden lemons going cheap. On a recent drive in the countryside we stopped at a roadside stall and picked up several bags of Eureka and 'Improved Meyer' lemons. I like having lemons in a huge bowl on the table for easy use and decoration and use them a lot in my cooking. That said, I now have an awful lot of lemons to get through so I am putting some away for another day... and this weekend I got to work making limoncello, an Italian digestivo usually served icy cold in small glasses at the end of meal.

9 November 2012

Omelette: Japanese Rolled 'Tamagoyaki'

Last year on a visit to Kyoto we spent a day in the kitchen with Mariko, who teaches Japanese cooking from her home. For me, food tells you so much about a country's culture, its historical influences and its modern traditions so whenever I travel I try and find a local cooking class. Mariko was a wonderful teacher, explaining all the different ingredients, cooking utensils and the specific uses for a mutitude of soy sauce varieties! One of my favourite things we cooked, and something I make regularly at home, is Tamagoyaki a Japanese rolled omelette with "Kyoto" green spring onions.

7 November 2012

Omelette: Tortilla de patatas 'Potato Omelette'

Tortilla de patatas is as delicious hot as it is cold and is perfect for picnics, snacks, breakfast, lunch or dinner... hmmm, it may be just right at any time actually. The trick is the poaching of the potato slices in olive oil! The oil should be good quality but not heavy virgin olive oil, and just hot enough to bubble as it cooks the potato but not hot enough to turn them brown. (Apparently, poaching the potato in oil this way is also the secret to the incredibly silky potato 'fondant' you get in restaurants.)

5 November 2012

Omelette: Classic

I don't overly like horses (already nervous around them, I was once on one that stepped on a snake and took off...) but I love the Melbourne Cup, mainly because as Victorians we get an extra public holiday. For me, long weekends mean sleeping in, cooking, catching up with friends and eating breakfast at any time of the day. Omelettes are quick and delicious and can be as simple or as fancy as you like making them great for lazy breakfasts or to share with friends for a weekend brunch. 

3 November 2012

Silverbeet: Tortellini

I love pasta in all its forms - from packet angel hair that cooks in 2 minutes to a pasta bake that warms and fills... but nothing beats home-made pasta. It really is a completely different experience to dry pasta and can have super simple toppings yet still taste incredible.
I sometimes make ravioli with the filling below but had never tried making tortellini before, the 'belly button' shaped filled pasta. It was a learning curve and my first few looked like no belly button I have ever seen (or hope to see for that matter) but it did use up a lot of silverbeet and once I got the hang of it they turned out beautifully!