Christmas Pavlova

Christmas Pavlova

Last night I experimented and made a different ‘shaped’ Pavlova. Using the recipe here instead of making one big Pav I made smaller ones with a piping bag that could be mounted on each other to create a ‘Christmas tree’ shape. I used plenty of whipped cream and fruit then dusted it over with some icing sugar. Came out pretty good. Only tip – create and serve immediately. Cream doesn’t hold its shape for too long!

Happy Christmas cooking!

My first attempt at making sushi

So lately I’ve been craving sushi and I’ve noticed people either share my excitement and then tell me of a great Sushi restaurant or they screech in horror – ‘Gross out – fish was meant to be cooked!’

Some myths about Sushi revealed!
1. The word “sushi” actually refers to the seasoned rice, not the fish.

Sushi was developed hundreds of years ago in Japan as a way of preserving fish. To properly ferment the fish, it was packed in rice, but then the rice itself was discarded. Over time, cooks began experimenting with cooking the rice to eat with the fish. Eventually people started eating the fish raw rather than preserved, so cooks mixed the rice with sugar and vinegar to give it the sharp fermented flavor they missed from the fish. The word “sushi” actually refers to the seasoned rice, not the fish.
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2. So sushi rolls DO NOT have to contain RAW fish as many people are lead to believe.

For a long time I thought this and was just horrified at the idea rather then it be based on something I had actually tasted. I would eat Avocado, or Sweet Potato, Cucumber, Sweet Chilli Chicken Sushi and then slowly branched out to try some with Shrimp. The other day I ended up at a buffet Japanese restaurant where the Sushi options were endless! So I decided to go all out try all these random raw fish options – guess what! They didn’t actually kill me… or for that matter taste bad! Most of the ‘Sushis’ in American/Australia have been so westernized anyway – I bet they don’t have a ‘Philadelphia Roll’ (Rice, Smoked Salmon, Cucumber and cream cheese) or a ‘Californian Roll’ (Avocado, Crab, Cucumber and Mayo) in authentic sushi restaurants in Japan.

3. Sushi is simple, fun, healthy and cheap to make!

My friend Mandy and I attempted it last night. Instead of going out and spending money on a ‘Sushi making kit’ I randomly came across a ‘bamboo place mat’ at the dollar store that I used as the ‘sushi mat’ to make the rolls. It worked awesome!

I watched a bunch of very educational youtube videos:
How to make a ‘Inside out Californian roll’ (Uramaki is actually the word for sushi that has the rice on the outside.)
How to make a tiger roll

Found a great taste recipe to make ‘sushi rice’. I halved this recipe and we had more then enough for two people!
Hint: Make sure you by proper sushi rice and sushi vinegar and the recipe calls for. If your rice isn’t sticky you’re sushi wont happen!

Find some recipes to ‘roll’ with
We made – Cali roll – Avocado, Crab meat, cucumber and Mayo
Phily roll – Smoked salmon, cucumber and cream cheese
Sweet chili chicken – precooked strips of chicken marinated in sweet chili sauce and fresh garlic add a little more sweet chili sauce when rolling up.
Shrimp roll – shrimp (prob would add more to this one in the future… bit bland)

We sprinkled sesame seeds on the outside of all of them too! So delicious and we barely used any of our ingredients and were full as bulls!

Highly recommend the homemade sushi making to do with friends or a date one night when you have a bit of time to muck around in the kitchen. Prepare the rice before your guests arrive. Sit the computer on your table and watch the experts show you how to do it. It isn’t quite as easy as it looks… but you get the knack of it after a while. My first roll was a bit fat!

Mandy making rolling her roll

Sitting down on the floor Japanese style to eat – just forgot to buy some chopsticks!

Have you ever made sushi? Do you have your own recipes or favourite combinations?

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Awesome Sticky Date Pudding Recipe


Despite the name… this Australian Sticky Date Pudding recipe wins hands down every time I make it. The awesome cook, Naarah from Alabaster Box gave me the recipe… which I think was passed onto her by her mum. So I have no idea who to give true credit to for coming up with the recipe… all I know its GOOD!

INGREDIENTS
CAKE/PUDDING RECIPE
250g pitted dates
1 cup water
1 tsp bicarb soda (Baking Soda in the US)
1 tsp vanilla
150g butter
1 cup caster sugar
2 eggs
1 1/4 cup plain flour sifted
3 tbsp cocoa sifted

SAUCE
125g butter
100g white chocolate melts
1 cup brown sugar
200ml cream (+ some extra to whip up to serve with)

METHOD
Preheat oven to 180C/365F and prepare either a 28cm x 18cm tin or muffin trays. I often double the recipe for parties.

Chop dates up finely.

Bring dates and water to boil and then simmer for 10mins until dates are soft and liquid is absorbed

Cool and stir in vanilla and bicarb soda

Cream butter and sugar

Add eggs slowly

Fold in date mixture and combine sifted flour and cocoa.

Bake 25 – 30mins.

METHOD FOR SAUCE
Combine butter, white melts, brown sugar and cream on low/med heat and melt together until becomes a creamy caramel sauce.
*If I double the recipe I don’t normally double the sauce. There tends to be enough spare with just one batch!

To serve – place heated piece of pudding on a plate, drizzle caramel sauce on top and then serve with a dollop of cream and sprinkle with some shaved chocolate.

Delicious…

Inspired by Julie & Julia the Movie

Tonight I caught the movie Julie & Julia written and directed by Nora Ephron. It’s an inspiring film derived from two stories – firstly – Julia Child and American who’s husband takes a job that moves them to Paris. Eventually, to take the monotony out of her day she decides to develop and perfect (bascially!) her cooking passion and join the male dominated famous Le Cordon Bleu cooking school. Her passion for cooking and eating fine French food results in a published book deal and crazy TV cooking demonstrations.

The second story woven into the film is about a disgruntled government worker who decides to add some spice to her monotonous life by honing in on her own cooking passion by going through Julia Childs cookbook Mastering the Art of French Cooking. She decided to cook each of the 524 recipes in 365 days and blog about her experiences!

This film makes bloggers want to blog more… wannabe cooks want to cook more… and gives food lovers even more good reasons to eat! Anyone – male or female – who are into those three things will most likely enjoy this film!

I love to muck around in the kitchen – as you might have worked out if your a regular blog or twitter reader. I think its actually my escape from the business of life. I remember during my first year of teaching my kitchen became my place of solace… away from terror students and free of stress and demands. I would go to the tiny little IGA in Taroom(very small town – only 56 kids in the whole high school) grab a few ingredients and whip a concoction that I’d dreamed up during the day when I had a moment to think and sit down and eat it by myself in my TV-less home savouring every moment.

So today a ‘concoction’ I came up with:

Shrimp and Basil Pasta
Whole Grain Thin Spaghetti
Shrimp
Fresh Garlic
Small Onion (from my garden!)
Handful of fresh basil (also from my garden)
Season with Salt
1/3 cup of Olive Oil
Tablespoon of Sweet Chili Sauce (available in the Asian aisle)
Tablespoon of Lime Juice

Method
Cook the Spaghetti
Saute the garlic, onions, basil leaves, half the amount of olive oil, Sweet Chili Sauce and Lime Juice.
Add with rest of oil to cooked pasta.
Season with a dash of salt.
I also added a bit more Sweet Chili Sauce and Lime on top when I served it up.

It’s interesting seeing what different people do to ‘veg out’ after a stressful day at work. Coming home after a busy day and cooking might not appeal to you at all. I guess for me, being on the road so much deters me from eating out… especially grabbing unhealthy takeaway. What about you? Where do you pour your energy when you’ve had a bad day or even just a busy one? Are you a couch surfer or do you get active and do something? Whatever it is – do something – don’t let the monotony of your work suck your creative juices dry … let it out whatever way that is!

ANZAC biscuits – Australia’s best recipe!

I love to bake! I think especially since I am rarely home and when I am all I want to do is make a mess in the kitchen and make something from scratch. So I thought today I would share one of three of my favourite Australian biscuit recipes (or Australian Cookie Recipes). Biscuit = Cookie not something you eat at breakfast with bacon and eggs!

ANZAC Biscuits

First a little history about these ‘bickies’. ANZAC biscuits have long been associated with the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) established in World War I. These biscuits are made from ingredients that don’t spoil easily so we’re often shipped to soldiers who were fighting abroad during war (quite literally) by their love ones.

This recipe is very simple and will make you wonder why you ever bother using premade cookie dough! My grandma use to make us ANZAC biscuits from this recipe.

Ingredients
1 cup rolled oats
3/4 cup coconut
1 cup plain flour
1 cup of sugar (make this less if desired)
125g butter (4oz)
2 tbsp Golden Syrup (I found some Lyle’s Golden Syrup at Publix)
1/2 tsp of Bicarb of Soda (called Baking Soda) in the USA
1 tbsp of boiling hot water

Method
Preheat oven to 150C/300F and prepare trays. (makes at least 24)
Mix oats, flour, sugar and coconut
Melt syrup and butter
Mix soda and boiling water and then add to melted syrup and butter
Add to dry ingredients and stir well
Place 1 tablespoon worth of mixture on tray for each biscuit.
Cook for 20mins or until golden brown.

They taste great soft or hard so experiment and cook however you like em!

Awesome Aussie Dessert – Pavlova Recipe

This past weekend I made the famous Australian Dessert – Pavlova. I had so much response to the twitpic photo I sent from my phone that I thought I would share with the world my secret Pavlova recipe that I actually stole from my sister Cherie – who is by far the best home baker I know!

This seriously is a fool proof Pavlova recipe… at least the second time round.

You need: (the picture above is this recipe doubled)
1 tablespoon Cornflour (US call it Cornstarch)
1 1/2 cups of Caster Sugar (Hard to find in USA – use finest sugar you can find but not powdered sugar)
1 teaspoon vinegar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
2 egg whites
4 tablespoons of boiled water

Method
Preheat oven to 155 degree C or 302 F
Mix cornflour with sugar into a bowl, add vinegar, vanilla and egg whites. Mix until just combined and then add boiling water.

Beat until extremely thick. It must ‘hold shape’ by itself and not collapse. It’s ideal to use a bench mixer but I have used a hand beater before. Definitely takes a lot longer to mix to the required consistency.

Cover tray with baking paper and plonk mixture on and flatten into desired shape. I generally allow it to be 2 – 3 inches thick. It will enlarge when cooked

Cook for 1 and a half hours.

The longer you cook it the harder it will become. So if you prefer a marshmellowey-er inside then cook for less time.

Don’t worry if it cracks round the edge or even through the middle. That’s pretty normal. Just finish off and hide them with some homemade whipped cream and pile on strawberries, kiwi fruit, raspberries, blackberries, blueberries, bananas, pineapple or whatever combination takes your fancy. My favourite is to add a sprinkling of shredded dark mint chocolate. If the centre ends up hollow and you can get to it, I’ve pipped in whipped cream too.

Fully evil and I’m sure not recommended by a doctor!

Pork Roast with Plum Sauce

I made Pork Roast with Plum sauce tonight! Amazing! Recipe by Paula Deen for Smithfield. I’ve pasted a copy of the recipe here… but I’ll put in bold changes I made.

Roast Pork with Plum Sauce
This pork roast recipe is great for your family or for guests and the easy ingredients are all things you can find in your house.
Serves: 10
Cook Time: 3 Hours
Smithfield Product: Fresh Pork
Ingredients

* Roast:
1 5-pound Smithfield Pork Loin Roast Pork Butt Roast – whatever that was.
2 cloves garlic slivered
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons dried or fresh rosemary
1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 1/2 teaspoons dried thyme
1 1/2 teaspoons rubbed sage
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

Plum Sauce:
2 tablespoons butter
3/4 cup chopped onions
1 cup plum preserves Plum Sauce from Publics in the Asian Aisle
2/3 cup water
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/3 cup chili sauce
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 tablespoons prepared mustard
3 drops Tabasco sauce Didn’t use
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
Garlic salt to taste didn’t use or need

Steps

To make the sauce melt the butter in a saucepan; add the onions and saute until tender. Add the remaining ingredients and simmer for 15 minutes. Set aside. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Moisten the roast with a damp paper towel to help hold the seasonings. In a small bowl stir together the garlic salt herbs and spices. With a sharp knife make 1/2 inch deep slits in the top of the roast. Press the seasonings mixture into the slits and rub the remainder over the entire roast. Place the roast in a roaster pan and pour 1/2 cup plum sauce over it. Cover and bake for 2 1/2 hours. Uncover and roast and baste it with additional plum sauce; bake for 30 minutes longer basting 2 or 3 times until the roast is nicely browned. Serve the remaining plum sauce on the side for dipping.

I served it with roast potatoes and roast veges (Butter Nut Squash, Sweet Potato, Carrot, Capsicum (red bell peppers), Egg Plant and fresh Garlic) and Asparagus fried lightly in Olive oil with Salt and Pepper.

Delicious!

Great Spinach and Sweet Potato Salad


For the last couple of years I’ve had a fascination with trying to make creative, out of the ordinary salads. Here’s my latest Spinach and Sweet Potato recipe:

Small sweet potato
Spinach leaves
Red Capsicum (Bell pepper)
Fetta Cheese
*Handful of Pancetta Bacon (optional)
Pinch of Salt
Pinch of Pepper
Clove of Garlic
2 tablespoons of vegetable oil

Cut up Capsicum into small chunks.
Slice up Pancetta Bacon
Peel skin off sweet potato then cut in half.
Use the potato peeler then to shave long, thin strips of sweet potato until you have peeled as much as you can.
Dice clove of garlic
Fry sweet potato shavings and garlic in oil until crisp. Add salt and pepper. Don’t worry if some look slightly brown or burnt. Place on a paper towel to remove excess oil.
Cook Pancetta Bacon
Spread a handful of spinach leaves on each plate, sprinkle on capsicum and fetta cheese. Then sprinkle the crispy sweet potato shavings and bacon.
Serve with fresh bread

*Use avocado instead of Pancetta Bacon

A real ‘Aussie’ Biscuit (cookie)!


MILO BISCUITS

125g butter
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla essence
1 egg
1 1/3 cups self-raising flour
1/2 cup milo

Beat butter, sugar and vanilla intil light and creamy. Beat in egg. Fold in sifted flour and milo . Roll heaped tsps full of mixture into balls. Place onto a greased baking tray. Flattenwith a fork. Bake in 180C oven for 12 to 15 minutes until light and golden. Makes approx; 40

I was trying to work out what to make for supper the other night without having to go to the shop… and the only thing fun I had in the cupboard was Milo… so for some reason I looked up Milo recipes on google… seriously one of my most favourite bickies I have tasted!

If you are an American you are wondering what the heck is Milo… it is similar to hot chocolate. It’s a granulated product that you add to hot or cold milk. Also is awesome on the top of icecream! You can only buy it in the US at Australian internet stores like – Australian Food Shop.