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Chicken Tagine with Couscous and Harissa

I’m a bit of a fraud with this recipe.  I made all of it, but have had real trouble getting ‘real’ couscous and not the instant stuff, so I did make the couscous, but the cheating way, not the way described in the recipe.  I definitely need to head down to the Middle Eastern Grocery stores so I can have some on hand.  So that’s why there are no photos of the couscous!

I’ve been looking lovingly at this recipe since I bought “In The Mix” and every time I’ve had the opportunity to make it, my parents have been coming around for dinner.  My Dad is strictly old-school and will not touch chicken or poultry of any description – or so he says.  He’s happily eaten it when he is guest in someone’s home, or if we tell him it’s something else – so it’s definitely a mind over matter thing – but my mother has now spent 56 years making a carpet bag steak for him for his Christmas Dinner while the rest of us eat turkey.  And I think Master 3 can be difficult to please!!  I had thought about just making it and telling him it was rabbit, but the potential guilt complex got the better of me.

I have been the owner of a tagine for about 10 years, but I have never – ever – used it.  It is sitting on the top of my fridge down at the beach in pristine condition.  I love the idea of cooking in a tagine, but just never got around to it, so I wanted to give this recipe a go.  This recipe is from Cath Claringbold, who is an amazing chef who specialises in Middle Eastern food, amongst many other things.  I’ve been lucky enough to eat at a few of her restaurants and they have all been amazing.

This would be a really great dish for entertaining a group of people, or if you were going to bring a dish to a gathering of some kind.  Although the recipe says it serves 4-6, my TM bowl was almost filled to overflowing, and I’m sure we have had at least six generous serves from it. I’m sure that I’ll bring one to our next family ‘bring something along’ gathering, and see if Dad eats it then!

I made the harissa paste required for this recipe a few weeks ago and popped it in the freezer for when I had the occasion to make this.  Although your local herb and spice shop will think you’ve gone mad with the quantity of cumin and coriander you buy for both the paste and the tagine, it really is worth it.  The paste freezes well although next time I’d freeze it in smaller blocks rather than one big chunk – ice cubes worth would be great.  Dani even recommends using the harissa in a Bloody Mary in place of tobasco – I’ll have to give that a go!

The harissa paste is dead easy.  I’d always been a little afraid of roasting capsicums, but I bit the bullet and did it in the oven.  I left them in the oven for about 20 minutes, turning them once, and made sure when they were pretty scorched, then put them in a ziplock bag and let them sweat and cool, and then the skin peeled right off. Even thought it might be tempting, don’t rinse them under water to get the skin off, as you’ll dilute the roasted flavour.  I’m not sure if some people cut the capsicum in half lengthwise before they roast, but if you have space on your tray it would save you turning them.  You don’t need to oil them or anything before you put them in the oven, and you’ll be surprised at the amount of oil that comes out of them!

Roasting spices has never been easier!  No mess, no mortar and pestle to clean up after grinding them, and the smells that waft through your kitchen are just heavenly.

The tagine itself is easy and pretty quick in the scheme of things. You will need a couple of bowls to set things aside in, but there’s nothing too tiresome in doing that.   I did notice after I’d poured it out a little that I had a slightly burned bit on the TM bowl, but it wasn’t burned as such, and the flavours were sound.

I didn’t need anything like 500mls of chicken stock to cover the chicken thighs, in fact I was a little dubious about putting in as much stock as I did as I was over the magic 2 litre mark on the TM bowl.  It didn’t bubble over till the very end though, and even then, not much.  If you had the varoma in place for the couscous, you wouldn’t even notice.

I had some store bought preserved lemon that I used for this recipe, and it really adds a lovely flavour to the tagine.  It’s well worth making your own or having a small jar on hand to use.

All in all, this is a great dish and something I will definitely put in the memory bank for future reference!!

 
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Posted by on August 23, 2012 in Main meals

 

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Scallop Mouselline with Lemon Caper Sauce

I’m back!!  I have been so slack in the last few weeks, and I’m going to do something about it. This week I’m planning to do two or three things from “In the Mix” – so watch this space!

My first recipe this week is the Scallop Mouselline with Lemon Caper Sauce.  It’s one of Willie Pike’s recipes – he’s a Scottish Chef.

Firstly, I’ve got to say that my presentation of this dish was a fail – so much so I was tempted to bin the lot.  I have been assured though, that it tasted so amazing that I can regularly serve it up.

There are a couple of elements to this dish – the Mouselline itself and a really divine Lemon Caper Sauce.  If you want to, and I did, you can serve additional scallops with the Mouselline for presentation.  I love scallops!  Fans of food miles won’t like me, but I bought some Japanese Scallops at the local fish shop, and they were lovely – even if they were frozen.  They were sold without the roe – and that sort of makes me sad – I love scallop roe…but it really seems to be out of favour at the moment.  It’s not a difficult dish by any stretch of the imagination,I think the hardest part is getting those little suckers out of the dariole moulds in one piece!

You’ll need dariole moulds for this recipe, which I have quite a collection of.  You need to butter them well with melted butter, freeze them, and then add some more melted butter to them before putting them in the fridge.  Watch your fingers when you remove the moulds from the freezer – they don’t take long to get really cold and my fingers stuck to them.  I had flashbacks of one of our friends licking the metal ice tray when I was about 5. I think Andrew still has the scar on his tongue from that day – more than 35 years later!

Also, the recipe says it serves 6, but I had plenty left over from 6 dariole moulds, so I would guess that it you were really nifty with the spatula you could get maybe even 10 from the recipe.  My dariole moulds hold 100mls of water, so you might need to adjust your expectations depending on the size of yours.

The mouselline requires scallops, which you blitz, egg yolks, an obscene amount of double cream , and then egg whites.  You also add cayenne pepper and salt, to taste.  I added a generous quarter of a teaspoon of each, and I think the cayenne pepper was just right.  It also adds a nice little red speckle to the mouselline, which, when it’s turned out, it also lightly coloured by the butter you’ve greased the dariole moulds with.

I wasn’t sure if this was a recipe that you could pre-prepare, so I was a bit flustered getting it all ready for entree for Sunday night dinner.  I’m pleased to say I kept one aside in the fridge which I’ve just steamed almost 24 hours later and it was just a nice.  I thought I’d see if Master 3 would like it – but it was a bit too much for him – so I had to eat it!! 😉  As it is, you could prepare the Lemon Caper Sauce a little earlier too – maybe a couple of hours before you need it.  I’m not sure it would reheat properly because of the cream in it, but if you could stand a room temperature sauce then it would be worth it.

The mouselline rises a little in the steaming, so don’t completely fill the dariole moulds.  And do make sure you let them cool down a little before turning them out.  Mine were really hard to turn out even though they’d been buttered really well.  I ran a knife around the edge, but they were a bit blobby, so I think some extra steaming may have been in order.

The Lemon Caper Sauce is just delightful.  You could serve it with a range of things – steamed asparagus, smoked salmon, prawns, even with scalloped potatoes I think.  We even used some of the remains with roast potatoes last night, and it was great – allegedly!  I didn’t try – mainly as I had eaten too many potatoes at that stage to contemplate even more.

I’m not sure why, but my sauce didn’t look anything like the one in the picture.  Mine was almost a bernaise-y appearance in colour, not the clear-ish sauce in the picture.  I’ve just had a little spoonful from the leftovers in the fridge, and it still tastes amazing!

 
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Posted by on August 20, 2012 in Entrees

 

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Banana Bavarois with Oat Wafer and Salted Caramel Sauce

So – I’m not even a banana fan, and I love, love, love this dish!!

The recipe is from Terressa Jarvis, who is a Tasmanian Chef.  She has worked at some of Tasmania’s best restaurants, and takes a lot of her inspiration from French cooking techniques and the bountiful Tasmanian produce.  Not that you’d know from this recipe – by my reckoning, I can’t imagine Bananas growing in Tassie!

This would be an amazing special occasion dessert.  You can make each of the three elements in advance and assemble at the last minute.  I must admit I was quite impressed with my piping skills for this recipe – but it might just be that I am finally using the right equipment and not the ziplock bag trick. A month or so ago, I saw some disposable piping bags at the kitchenware shop, and I bought them.  They work out at about $1 each, so they are not expensive, and they worked beautifully.  I’ll definitely use them again.

There are three elements to this recipe:

  • Banana Bavarois
  • Oat Wafer
  • Salted Caramel Sauce

I must admit it was the salted caramel sauce that initially got me interested in this recipe.  Master 3 has recently discovered the love of the macaron.  It’s an expensive habit for me to maintain when we go out – I think the record has been $4.50 for one.  His favourite of recent times was a Salted Caramel Macaron – he asked for a second one later in the day, and then a third!  I succumbed to the request for the second (we were on holidays) but I knocked the request for number 3 firmly on the head.

In a real world, where you weren’t spreading this recipe across a couple of days, I think the Bavarois would be the first element that most people would attempt, mainly because it needs to set.  While you’re waiting for it to set, you could make the oat wafer and the salted caramel sauce.

So, I’ll start with the Bavarois.

Firstly, it is really important that you get the right strength gelatine leaves.  I’ve been using the Gelita ones, and I can say with some certainty, even though they don’t put it anywhere on the packet, that they are gold strength (see the picture if you want to know the exact packet).  If you use any other strength you’ll either end up with something that runs off your plate or a chewy rubber bullet (trust me – I speak from experience – not with this particular recipe, but with a pannacotta a year or so ago).

I used lady finger bananas and 85 grams was about one and a half bananas.  I also used some banana liqueur which I purchased at the local bottle shop.  Sadly, it wasn’t available in small bottles, so I have one rather large bottle to get through, so I think this recipe will be on repeat until the bottle has gone.

I think the saffron threads are in the bavarois for the colour, as I know that banana can go that awful grey colour once it’s been cut up.  This bavarois is a pleasant pale colour, not too artificial, and definitely not grey.  The left over bavarois has been in the fridge for 24 hours now, covered, and it still doesn’t show any sign of going any other colour.

The bavarois is pretty straightforward to make – although I did manage to turn my first lot of cream into butter 😮  I think the trick is to start very slow (speed 2 or 3) and then as soon as it gives a hint of forming soft peaks, stop!  If you don’t stop then, you will run the risk of turning the cream into buttery curdled bits when you incorporate the banana.

This makes lots of bavarois, far more than you need for a serving for 4 in my opinion.  Next time I’ll double up on the recipe for the oat wafers and the salted caramel sauce so I have more to go around, and don’t end up eating the bavarois by itself.

And now, for the oat wafers.  They are great – in fact, I made them last weekend expecting to make this dessert then, and then we had to cancel our traditional Sunday night dinner.  Needless to say, they are so delicious and addictive that the whole tray of them went in a day.  The wafers are sort of a cross between Anzac Biscuits and Butternut Snaps – lovely with a cup of tea or I would imagine amazing with some good old vanilla ice cream in between.  I’m actually disappointed I just thought of that combination – – – I might just have to whip some up now to try!

My tips for the oat wafer would be to err on the side of too thin for the oat wafer.  Also, when you are rolling it out between to sheets of baking paper, try and keep the shape uniform so when you come to cutting the wafer shapes, you will have nice even edges and not waste any.  I found it took about 15 minutes to get them to golden brown, but keep a close eye on them.  Cut the wafer shapes while they are still warm, and separate them if you can.  Mine were a little chewy, which was fine, but I think my preference would be for something with a little more ‘snap’, so you could hit it with your spoon and watch it crack.  I think my problem was not taking them off the tray after cutting them, and letting them dry out a little on a wire rack. I think it gets down to personal preference, but I think the textural contrast of something with a real crunchy bit to it would be even nicer.

Ohhhh, the salted caramel!  I’m sort of afraid it’s so easy to make – it means I am mere weeks away from the hefty lady department!!  This is truly delightful.  I used Maldon Sea Salt and it tasted amazing – you sort of feel like it’s a little too salty by itself until you eat it with the bavarois and the oat wafer, and then it is pure bliss.  To make sure you don’t overdose on the salt component, invert the MC and weigh the salt into that , and once you’re happy with the amount then tip it into the mixture.  By my guesstimate, five grams of salt ended up being about 2 teaspoonfuls of Maldon Sea Salt.

My only mistake was to not take the salted caramel out of the fridge a while before I planned to serve it up – it tasted amazing, but looked a little blobby on the plate.

The family verdict was a resounding “please make this again”.  And I will!

 
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Posted by on August 6, 2012 in Sweet Things

 

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Olive Bread

I am so glad I tried this – it’s the loveliest bread I’ve had in ages.  It is so soft, yet the outside is firm, and the olives in it are really good – not too olivey, but enough to make it different.  It is so quick to make, hardly makes a mess thanks to the thermomat, and looks really impressive.  It would be great to pull out of the oven when friends come over for a barbecue, but don’t prepare too much other stuff, as everyone will eat themselves stupid with this bread – it really is that good!

Want the recipe?  Check the recipe tab!

This recipe comes from Nicolas Poelaert who is the chef at Embrasse in Melbourne. I’ve never been, but now I’ve tasted this – I want to!!

The best thing about this recipe is that you would certainly have all the ingredients in your cupboard. I always have a jar or two of olives in the fridge, and I used kalamata olives for this recipe.  They worked well, but the resulting bread was just a little too salty for mine – so I might drop back slightly the 20 grams of salt next time. Maybe try 15 grams or so.  I would much prefer salty bread to unsalted bread though.

I did find the dough quite sticky, and I think it might be the wetness of the olives.  So next time, I’ll add maybe 520 grams of flour, plus have some more on hand to dust. It’s the first time I’ve ever had really sticky dough from the thermomix, so don’t be too worried if yours is the same.  Just throw some more flour into the dough when you tip it out of the bowl.  You don’t have to cut the olives, just make sure they are pitted and then kneading action of the thermomix will cut the olives down into nice little bits without you having to do anything. I used the baker’s flour, as specified in the recipe, so make sure you use the right flour – it does make a huge difference to the outcome.

Which reminds me – everyone knows the trick to getting dough out of the thermomix, don’t they?  Invert the TM bowl, and twist the cog in the middle to rotate the blades – and most of your dough will come out in one fell swoop.  Any stubborn little bits can be ‘turbo-d’ off the side, and use another piece of dough to pick up the little bits.  When you’re washing the TM bowl, use the brush and only use cold water to wash until all the dough is out – it makes it so much easier.

If you don’t have a  thermometer something similar, this is why you need one!!  Not only is my thermomat my saviour at play dough time (and the Thermomix makes fantastic play dough), it’s perfect to use when proving dough, and to cook the dough.  With this recipe, you shape the bread, let it prove in a very very very low oven for`45 minutes and then cook it – see the recipe for details, all on the thermomat.  Nothing could be easier, and less messy.

I dud more than the seven balls of dough, and did one large one in the middle, and put several around the outside, just like a flower and petals.  You could do rolls all the same size, or vary them, like I did.  I guess you’re only limited by your imagination as to what designs you can come up with.  Before you put it in the oven to prove, sprinkle it with a little flour.  Mine took just on 15 minutes to cook, but keep an eye on it, depending on your oven.

I have made bread before in the thermomix, but as we don’t go through a lot of it at our house, it has never been at the top of my list for things to make.  I can see myself making this bread lots – Master Three has just downed two of the little rolls (and that after his lunch!!) and I’ve had one or two myself.

 
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Posted by on July 28, 2012 in Bakes, Recipes

 

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Recipe – Olive Bread

Time: 1 hour 20 minutes (includes proving).  Makes 1 loaf

Ingredients

300 grams of lukewarm water

25 grams of fresh yeast, or 1 sachet of dried yeast

500 grams of baker’s flour, plus extra for dusting

20 grams of olive oil

80 grams of black olives, pitted

20 grams salt

Preheat the oven to 35 degrees/Gas Mark pilot light and place a cup of water on the bottom of the oven to keep the air moist.

Put the lukewarm water in the TM bowl, along with the yeast.  Mix it for 1 minute/speed 2

Add the flour, oil, olives, and salt.  Knead for 2 minutes/Interval speed

Turn the dough out onto a silicon mat or floured bench.  Divide it into 7 balls.  Place one ball in the centre of the silicon mat or floured baking tray and arrange the other six balls around it, like petals on a flower.  Dust with flour.

Put the dough in the warm oven for 45 minutes, during which time it will rise.  After 45 minutes turn the temperature up to 240 degrees/Gas Mark 9.  The bread will be ready after 15-20 minutes.  Check that it is golden brown and sounds hollow when tapped.
Variation

Leave out the olives to make perfect burger buns.

 
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Posted by on July 28, 2012 in Bakes, Recipes

 

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Recipe – Spelt Pizza

Recipe by Jo Whitton

Time:  1 hour, plus at least 2 hours dough rising

Makes 4 large (and very satisfying) pizzas

Dough

250 grams spelt grain

750 grams plain unbleached spelt flour, plus extra for dusting

20 grams fresh yeast, or 2 sachets of dried yeast

20 grams salt

750 grams lukewarm water

Olive oil, to brush bases

Place the spelt grain into the TM Bowl and mill for 1 minute/speed 9.  Add the flour, yeast, salt and water.  Mix on speed 4 and a half until it is all mixed in, using the spatula to help it along if necessary.  Scrape the wet, sticky dough into a large plastic container and cover.

Allow the mixture to use for at least 2 hours or up to 5.  The dough will rise quite high, then flop down – don’t worry.  (I sometimes leave mint to rise overnight then place it in the fridge in the morning ready for the evening’s pizza)

When ready to cook, sprinkle the dough with a little flour and gran grapefruit sized chunks to form into balls.  Cover the balls with flour and gently stretch the surface of each one, pulling it to the base to gradually form smooth balls.  Place each ball of dough on a floured bench or baking paper.

If the dough has come straight from the fridge, rest it uncovered for about 20 minutes or until the balls reach room temperature.

Preheat the oven to 250 degrees/Gas Mark 9

Place each dough ball on a greased tray, sheet of baking paper or dusted pizza stone and press the dough into circles about 5mm thick.  Brush the pizza bases with olive oil and place in the oven for 5 minutes to pre-bake.

Topping

500 grams lamb, cubed

Handful parsley

2 cloves of garlic, peeled

1/2 an onion

chilli, to taste (optional)

A handful of rocket

125ml Greek Yoghurt

Juice of 1/2 a lemon

Place the cubed lamb into the freezer for about 20 minutes.

Place the parsley, garlic, onion and chilli (if using) in the TM bowl.  Chop for 2 seconds/speed 6.  Add the cubed and slightly frozen lamb.  Mince for 10 seconds/Reverse/speed 6

Remove the pizza base from the oven and spread with the topping.

Place in oven and bake for 20 minutes or until cooked through and nicely browned.  Remove from oven and slice.  Add the rocket and yoghurt, then drizzle with lemon juice to serve.

Variation

For a dairy free version, Jo suggests leaving out the yoghurt and adding semi dried tomatoes, sliced olives and “Poor Man’s Parmesan”.  To make Poor Man’s Parmesan, tear up a few slices of stale sourdough bread, and place in the TM bowl with 60 grams of olive oil, 4 anchovy fillets and a handful of parsley.  Mix for 10 seconds/speed 7, or until crumbs have formed.  Sprinkle over pizza.  (Poor Man’s Parmesan can also be browned and crisped in the TM by cooking for 5 minutes/100 degrees/speed 1 then sprinkled over salads or grilled meats)

 
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Posted by on July 20, 2012 in Bakes, Recipes

 

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Spelt Pizza

We have a family tradition of going to our local pizza place every Friday night.  Master Three has a huge crush on one of the waitresses, and has made friends with one of the Pizza Makers, so it’s a ritual I think we’ll have to keep to for a while.  He just has to go and see the “Little Princess” every week – he runs up to her and gives her a huge hug and a kiss – he clearly has a thing for older women!  Master Three usually has the smoked salmon pizza, so I figure there’s not too much wrong with that once a week.  This week, we had the neighbours in for drinks and I decided I wanted to give the Spelt Pizza a go – the kids could eat it, the adults could eat it – and it’s easy – super easy to make.

This is one of Jo Whitton’s recipes from her allergy-friendly food blog at quirkycooking.blogspot.com  Jo’s blog focuses on tweaking everyday recipes and making them healthier and more interesting.

I’d never cooked with spelt before, but I was at the Health Food Shop a few days before and saw the grain and the flour available, so I bought what I needed and took it home.  The spelt dough needs at least 2 hours (and up to 6 if you want) to prove, so it’s a good recipe to make if you have an afternoon at home, and the heater is on – especially with this cold, cold winter we are having.  I made the entire recipe as suggested in the book, but there would be absolutely nothing stopping you putting on any topping of your choice, so long as you adjusted the pre-cooking time, and cooking time to suit your toppings.

The spelt dough is quite sticky, but don’t be put off.  As I mentioned earlier, it does take a long time to prove, so make sure you have the time.  I made the dough straight after lunch, let it rise for a few hours, then rolled it out into 4 good sized pizzas – I did a couple of big circles, and a couple of oblongs for good measure. The recipe did say to prove it in a plastic bowl, but I must have skipped over that bit – and I used a ceramic bowl – but there were no ill effects. When I initially took the tea towel off the top, my heart sunk as I thought it was going to be a nightmare to get out of the bowl, and thought I should have oiled the bowl first – but it was fine. Just make sure you put it in a BIG bowl, as it rises quite a bit, and makes a lot of dough.

You will need a bit of extra flour to make the dough a little less sticky when you roll it out – so make sure you have some on hand.  Master 3 had the time of his life helping me roll the dough out – I’m so glad I bought him an apron recently…he really got into it!!

I made the lamb mix for the topping, which is also very quick and easy to make.  I used a home grown chilli, which made a huge improvement to the overall flavour, and next time I think I’ll go down a more middle eastern path and use some more spices, sumac, cumin, cinnamon, cayenne pepper, and maybe even add in some pine nuts or use a chilli pesto to spread as a base for the lamb mixture.

I brushed the bases before I pre-cooked them with left over curry oil from the Cauliflower Sausages, and it was terrific.  It was mellow curry flavour and I’m sure it contributed to the overall success of the dish.   I think I overcooked the bases and lamb a little, so do watch it when it’s in the oven.

One thing I didn’t expect – this pizza is really, really satisfying.  A few small pieces and you feel quite full.  It must be the spelt grain – no wonder it’s so acclaimed.

I’m a bit torn about this dish – the pizza base was great.  I loved the taste of the lamb, but I did think there needed to be more of it, and that it would have been greater still with some flavours other than the lamb, yoghurt, rocket and lemon juice.

I’ll definitely do the bases again and play around with the flavourings to see what I come up with.

Want the recipe I used?  Check the recipe tab!!

 
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Posted by on July 20, 2012 in Bakes, Recipes

 

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Muesli Slice

Thank goodness the school holidays are nearly over!  Although the thermomix has saved my bacon on a few occasions, the time I’ve had for cooking extra bits and pieces has been limited.

My three year old has just discovered the joy of cooking and I’m sure it won’t be long before he’s able to whip something up in the thermomix all by himself.  I’d been trying to get him into cooking for ages, but the clincher was the big boy step – so he wasn’t sitting on the bench any more, he’s actually standing up at the bench and can ‘help’ me much more easily.  The only downside is that he now knows he can get to what’s on the bench even without mum or dad around – luckily he’s a bit scared of the washing machine at the moment, so I just leave the lights on and it tends to keep him out of the laundry, where the offending step is stored!

I’ve never thought about making cakes or biscuits to have on hand for when guests arrive – the temptation of knowing they were there was too much for me.  But I wanted to try this recipe a amy neighbour had raved about it, I had all the ingredients in the pantry, and it was something that Master 3 could easily help with.  Sadly I can’t send them in his kinder lunchbox because of the nut factor, but I’m sure I can find something to substitute the nuts for.

This recipe is from Caroline Velik, who is a regular contributor to The Age’s Epicure and a very talented food stylist – just look at “In The Mix” as an amazing example.

From start to finish this took less than three quarters of an hour, so it’s a great recipe if you’re time poor or want some pretty instant gratification, so it’s ideal for making with the kids.  The mix – if you don’t use the coconut cream – makes quite a biscuity slice.  It’s quite delicious and very satisfying – a small piece is quite enough to keep you going.  I have been sorely tempted for another piece just because it tastes so good, but I really didn’t need it.

I used raw oats in my mixture, but I can imagine this is one of those recipes you can play around with to your hearts’ content and substitute other ingredients for.  I can imagine it would be lovely with dried apricots instead of dates (or “dog poo” as Master 3 identified them as ;-)) It would also be a great way to use up some of the weet bix crumbs that are always at the bottom of the box – 40 grams is about 2 and a half weet bix.

The mixture is pretty sticky – it must be all that honey – so I tipped it into a lined 20x20cm tin, put the thermomat on top and pushed it down till it was sitting in the tray nicely.  Let it cool in the tray till it’s really quite cool, and then slice into bars or biscuit sized pieces.

Highly recommended.  This will certainly be a regular menu item at our house!

 
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Posted by on July 15, 2012 in Bakes

 

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Chilled Mint and Avocado Soup

Oh so simple, and tastes just lovely – so smooth and with a lemony zing.  This is a really quick yet impressive dish to make – and the parmesan crisps are just divine – lucky I didn’t make too many of them, or I’d have eaten them all without a second thought! This recipe is from Udaysen Mohite, who is the Executive Chef at the Brisbane Hilton.

My parents came over for dinner last night and I wanted to make something from “In The Mix” because I’ve been very slack the last couple of weeks – blame school holidays and a very ill little man, and I was getting antsy.  I had a thermo itch to scratch, so not only did I make this soup, but also adapted a recipe I saw in yesterday’s Melbourne Age Good Weekend supplement for Neil Perry’s  Coconut and Pineapple Pannacotta – which was lovely – I’m happy to email my thermo-adaptation of the recipe if anyone wants it.

The chilled Mint and Avocado soup is really easy to make.  And super quick if you already have a batch of vegetable stock concentrate in your fridge – which I suspect most thermomix fans do.

Making my own stock concentrate was one of the reasons I bought my thermomix – I used to regularly spend $15 a week buying liquid stock for soups that I made while I was studying part time and working full time…I think I probably wouldn’t have spent $15 in total on bought stock in the years since – and I bet the batches of stock I’ve made probably would figure out at about $15 in total!  Anyway, I digress.

If you haven’t made the stock concentrate before, you’d need to do that before you made the soup, or be a cheat and buy some liquid stock from the supermarket.  I have used both the standard thermomix stock concentrate recipe from the Everyday Cookbook and Dani’s version, and I must admit I much prefer the flavours in Dani’s version.  I used to keep my stock concentrate in a glass preserving jar, but I had noticed that the metal clasp was starting to get a little coroded from all the salt, and a few weeks ago at the supermarket, I happened upon a “Sistema” plastic container that works a treat and holds a while batch of stock without a problem.

First off, you need to make the parmesan crisps – and boy, are they crisp!

I am not known for my precise knife work, and to get the parmesan cut nice and evenly, I used the mandolin slicer.  I used the thinnest setting, and put the slices on silicon paper and baked them.  They took about 20 minutes at 150 degrees, but I am sure it will depend on your oven, so do keep an eye on them.  I let them cool on the baking paper for about 10 minutes, and then just lifted them off and put them onto some kitchen paper to soak up any oil.  Most of the oil was left on the silicon paper anyway, but you wouldn’t want to not take them off the silicon paper as I bet they wouldn’t crisp up as well.

The resulting crisps are absolutely beautiful, wafer thin, crunchy and of course taste amazing – but make sure you use a really good parmesan for them. I made these several hours earlier than I needed them, and they showed no sign of going limp when I served them up, so you could easily make these the morning you’re planning to serve the soup.  If there were any left, I could tell you how they are the following day, but – they are so good – there are none left!!

What could be easier than peeling and stoning just three avocados?  Not much – but it does get down to the selection of your avocados – you need to select the ones that are just ripe.  I was lucky and got three perfect ones with no bruises or blemishes.

I erred on the side of caution and didn’t make the soup until about an hour before I was planning to serve it, because I was a little worried that the avocado might go that icky dark colour if I made it too early.  There is lemon juice in the recipe, and I thought that might help the discolouration factor, and to be honest, there was no discolouration at all in the hour or so it was in the fridge waiting to be served up.  I was doubly cautious though and put one of the stones in the mixture while it was in the fridge, I’m never sure if that’s an old wives’ tale or not – but you never know!!

The mint component of this dish is really minimal, and to be honest, more decorative than anything else – just a  couple of mint leaves on top to serve.  I didn’t check the bunch of mint I bought and the leaves were all ginormous, so I ended up finely chopping it and making a little pile of it.  You could probably even use some lemon rind, chives, or even some micro herbs for added effect and taste.

As for the seasoning, I was pretty heavy handed with the white pepper and salt, and ended up adding some more black pepper as I was eating it – it was delightful – and so popular with the four of us that we even ate the leftovers, and then proceeded to main course and desert!

 
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Posted by on July 8, 2012 in Entrees

 

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Cauliflower Sausages with Cauliflower Couscous and Curry Oil

When I walked into the greengrocers the other day, I saw the most beautiful looking cauliflowers that I have ever seen…so I bought one and then came home and wondered what I could do with it!  The answer was Ryan Flaherty’s Cauliflower Sausages.

As I mentioned a few posts ago, Dani gave me some maltodextrin, which I used for the Pine Nut Crumb, and some Metil Methylcellulose, which I used in this recipe.  Both these ingredients can be hard to get and pricey at that, so it would be a perfect opportunity to share the purchase with another thermomix or foodie friend.

Metil Methylcellulose is like a jelly that sets as it heats up. You only need 15 grams of the actual Metil Methylcellulose, and it makes about 4 times what you actually need for one batch of the recipe. The Metil mixture – once it’s made up into a liquid – keeps for a week in the fridge, but I don’t think it would freeze all that well.  You need to mix it up and prepare it first, and let it cool for 4 hours, so this is a recipe that you need some time to prepare. The cauliflower puree also needs some time to cool, and the dried cauliflower needs to stay in the oven overnight, so I actually prepared this recipe over a few days. First I made the Metil mix, then the curry oil, then the dried cauliflower, and finally the sausages and the cous cous.

Having said that, it would be a great dinner party entree although very rich, so you’d want to serve it with something fairly light as a main course.

Cauliflower Sausages

The first step in this recipe was the preparation of the Metil Methylcellulose.  You do this part in a bowl – not the TM bowl.  You add the water and mix it – well, as much as you can mix it – it’s sort of like wallpaper paste in consistency. Once you’ve got it fairly lump free, you add the mix to the TM bowl and blend and heat it.  It froths up quite a bit, and when I opened the bowl after it had finished mixing, there was quite a layer of foam on it, which does subside (but not completely) while it’s cooling.  When it’s cool, it is almost jelly like in its texture, and when I used it later I avoided the foamy white part at the top.

Next, I made the mix for the cauliflower sausages.  They were pretty easy to make, although the first time I did them, I forgot to take the bunch of thyme out before I blended it – so I started over.  Not sure it actually made that much difference, as although you tie the thyme in a bunch so you can pull it out later, the bunch that I actually got to pull out was a pathetic shadow of it’s former self – so much of the thyme comes off during the cooking, and by the time you’ve pureed it, I don’t think much of the thyme stalks would remain. The second batch I made was a lot less green than the first batch.

When I was blending the cauliflower mix, I put it on 50 degrees as was listed in the recipe.  The friction of the blades going at speed 10 for 12 minutes gives you a headache as it takes a surprisingly long time for the noise to change to that ‘pureed’ sound if you get what I mean, and the temperature remained above 50 degrees the whole time.  Make sure you don’t forget to add the toasted cumin and the chopped chervil. (Which I now grow in plentiful supply in my garden since I had such a hassle finding it last time I needed it!)  I actually found the cumin too overpowering in the final product, so next time I’ll reduce the cumin quantity a little.

Once you cool the puree you can add the Metil mixture.  It’s really, really like wallpaper paste, so you need to make sure that you measure out the required quantity of the Metil mix and the cauliflower puree – I had a little over what I needed for the ratios, so chances are you will too.  So, if you’re a little short on cauliflower, don’t stress for the puree part.  I mixed it through just using a spatula, which worked fine. And then it was on to the difficult part – or the part I had thought would be difficult – making the sausages…

I followed Dani’s instructions in terms of the size of the sheet of glad wrap that I used, and it was a great size.  If you are serving this for a dinner party, you’d probably want to me a little more consistent than I was with the amount in each sausage, smaller is easier to manage in terms of wrapping and then tying off the ends.  The wrapping and typing process is actually surprisingly easy – I had no disasters at all.

Dried Caulifower

The dried cauliflower looks amazing!!  It’s really worth the wait to do it – it takes overnight in a very, very, very low oven to prepare it.  I didn’t trust my knives or my knife skills to slice it so thinly so I used the mandolin on the very thinnest setting, which worked beautifully. I put it in the oven at the lowest setting mine would go to (50 degrees) and after a few hours I sneaked a peek, and it didn’t seem to be drying as well as I thought it would, so I turned the heat up to about 65/70 degrees and left it for a few more hours, which was perfect. Next time I’ll throw some salt and pepper on it before I cook it.

Cauliflower “Cous Cous” 

The cous cous is easy to make, but I think mine was a little too moist.  To me, it should have been drier, but I think I’ll blame myself for that.  I drained it on the kitchen paper after cooking the butter through it, but it was still quite wet, and I fancied it a little drier.  Hmmm, next time I might cook it longer and see if that dries it out a little.

Curry Oil

The curry oil also needs several hours (or a couple of days if you have the time) to mature flavours, and it’s really aromatic. It takes quite a lot of bottled spices to make, so next time I’ll buy my own whole spices and mill them down in the thermomix, which will make it even more aromatic I think (and maybe even cheaper)  I strained the oil after a day or so, using coffee filter paper,  and ended up with about 60 mls of the oil.  I’ll use the rest on Middle Eastern Pizzas in the next week or so.

Plating it up

You serve the sausages as soon as you’ve taken them out of the varoma.  They are very hot, as you’d expect, and you need to leave them for a few minutes to set properly.  Once they are set, you  can just cut the ends off and unwrap them – easier said than done when you’re trying to find the end of the glad wrap!!  I ended up just cutting down the whole length of the glad wrap, and it didn’t have any ill effects.  There will be a little water around, so don’t unwrap them on the plate you are planning to serve them up on.  I’m pleased to say mine unwrapped perfectly!

Overall, this is a lovely, impressive dish.  The sausages are rich and very creamy – the dried cauliflower provides a real textural contrast.  And the curry oil is just lovely!!

 
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Posted by on July 1, 2012 in Entrees

 

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