Appetizers

Asparagus, Broad Bean and Poached Egg Tart

Sunday, October 24th, 2010

Asparagus is on a great special at the moment in the shops and is tasting fantastic too. I always like using fresh, seasonal ingredients, because not only do they have an amazing taste, they are likely to have traveled less distance to reach the shops, and are also a good price – which is important to most people.

I have only just started getting into eating asparagus. This year in particular has been one where my whole family is eating asparagus – and broad beans too. I now have broad beans with a lot of meals, although we are lucky if they make it to the plate – as I tend to eat them whilst shelling them.

This is a quick and easy meal with fresh ingredients. I wish I was growing asparagus and broad beans as that would make it even more enjoyable and fresh. I haven’t left you with a recipe of how to poach eggs, as I haven’t come across a fool-proof way of making them yet so they look good. For my ones (which still tasted great), I boiled up water in a medium saucepan, added a splash of vinegar, stirred
the water, then added the egg. The eggs came apart a bit whilst cooking, although stayed together enough – they cooked for 2-4 minutes and were then drained.

Asparagus, Broad Bean and Poached Egg Tart

Recipe by Anita @ Leave Room for Dessert

Serves: 4

1 tablespoon olive oil
5 large onions, sliced
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 bunches of asparagus
2 cups broad beans
4-8 poached eggs
2 sheets puff pastry, thawed and halved
Caramelised balsamic vinegar to serve
Shaved Parmesan cheese, to serve

Preheat oven to 180C.

Heat oil in a medium saucepan on high. Add the onion and salt, stir and turn the heat down to medium/low (alternating if need be to make sure the onions don’t burn). Cook for 10-20 minutes until the onions are caramelised.

Place pastry halves on two lined baking trays. Divide the onion mix across the pastry halves, leaving a 2cm gap around the outside edges. Cook in the oven for 10-20 minutes until the pastry on the outside is puffed and golden brown.

Whilst the tarts are cooking, poach the eggs (with the method I used above, or according to your preferred method), and cook the asparagus and broad beans.

To cook the asparagus and broad beans, boil water in a medium saucepan. Place the broad beans in the water and cook for 2 minutes, or a little longer if they haven’t come to the surface of the water. Place in cold water straight away, to stop the cooking. Remove skins from the broad beans. Place the asparagus into the boiling water and cook for 2 minutes. Place in the cold water.

Rinse the broad beans and asparagus under a small amount of hot water, before draining and placing on top of the cooked onion tart. Top with 1-2 poached eggs per tart and drizzle caramelised balsamic vinegar around the edges.

Ciabatta Bread

Wednesday, October 6th, 2010

I’ve always had problems making bread at home. They nearly never end up with the same fluffy lovely texture the bought ones do. So I couldn’t be more excited to share with you all, the great ciabatta bread method Nick found. I know I have told so many people about it – and they have been very patient waiting for the recipe – so here it is (finally).

I had heard a while back about the no-knead bread. It sounds delicious and I still intend to make it one or two days when I have the time. This is a quick no-knead ciabatta bread and I don’t know why it’s called that, as there is quite a lot of kneading done by the KitchenAid. I wouldn’t want to do it by hand – as the mixture is just way too sticky.

Another plus it that you don’t need any special flour for it. Plain flour works beautifully.

I hope more people try it – as there’s almost nothing better than dunking some fresh gorgeous ciabatta bread into olive oil, caramelised balsamic vinegar and dukkah.

Ciabatta Bread

Recipe by Nick based on Jason’s Quick Coccodrillo Ciabatta Bread and Food Wishes Video

**Note: Takes 3-8 hours or overnight with proving. (Nick has made it in 3 hours at the shortest time, although it works in 6 hours and even overnight!)

Makes: one loaf, and can easily be doubled to make two loaves

250g plain flour
1 teaspoon dry yeast
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
250ml warm water

plain flour and polenta for dusting plastic wrap and baking paper lined tray

Place all dry ingredients into a bowl for a KitchenAid or mix master, with a dough hook attached. Whisk or mix the dry ingredients, then add the warm water and mix with the dough hook for 10 minutes. You may want to stop the mixer and scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl to ensure that all of the dry ingredients have come away from the sides. You should really notice the texture and consitency of the dough change after 10 minutes of mixing, going from gluggy to stretchy and bandy.

Pour the mixture into a large lightly oiled bowl. Cover with a lid, tea towel or plastic wrap and leave in a warm place for 3-6 hours or overnight.

Sprinkle some water onto a clean counter surface and lay out a piece of plastic wrap onto the wet surface. This stops the plastic wrap from moving around. Sift some plain flour onto the plastic wrap to give an even coating (slightly smaller than the size of a baking tray). Cover your baking tray with a piece of baking paper, then sift a similar sized patch of flour onto the baking paper. Then sprinkle some polenta onto the flour on top of the baking paper. The flour on the plastic wrap will stop the dough sticking to the plastic, and the flour and polenta on the baking paper will end up on the underside of the bread, giving it a good texture and flavour.

The mixture should have tripled in size after proving, and will be sticky and full of air bubbles. Pour the mixture onto the flour covered plastic wrap and shape the dough into a loaf roughly 30cm x 15cm. It’s best to pop any really large air-bubbles in the dough. Carefully lift the plastic wrap with the dough on top and flip the loaf on the flour and polenta covered baking paper, then remove the plastic wrap. Re-shape the dough into a loaf shape again on the tray if required.

Leave the dough to sit in a warm spot for 15 minutes to 1 hour.

Cook at 250C for approximately 20 minutes, until the outside has formed a nice crust and makes a hollow sound when tapped.

Allow to cool to a temperature you’re able to handle, then slice up and serve with a meal – or for a lovely starter serve with a good olive oil and caramelised balsamic vinegar, and perhaps dukkah too.

If you make two loaves, you can easily store one in a tea towel overnight. Place on a baking tray and reheat in the oven at 180C for 5-10 minutes, before serving. It’s almost as good as freshly baked.

Caramelised Balsamic Vinegar

Thursday, September 23rd, 2010

I used to love eating bread with olive oil and dukkah, although after going to the Hunter Valley last year, I have a new appreciation for caramelised balsamic vinegar – with dukkah and olive oil. It’s too good to go past. I could just eat bread with oil, caramelised balsamic and dukkah as a meal.

Caramelised balsamic vinegar is often slapped with quite a high price tag, although I’ll prove to you how easy it is to make – using the balsamic vinegar in your cupboard. I’m sure nicer balsamic vinegars make nicer caramelised balsamic vinegar, although I’ve used whatever’s lying around – which is normally whatever is a good price.

And the best bread to eat with it has to be my favourite – ciabatta. I promise to post the lovely (and easy) ciabatta bread Nick has made very soon.

See my recipe for dukkah here.

Caramelised Balsamic Vinegar

Recipe by Anita @ Leave Room for Dessert
Depending on the brand of balsamic vinegar, you may need to add more sugar.

Makes 125-150ml

250ml balsamic vinegar
3-6 tablespoons caster sugar
2-4 tablespoons brown sugar

The smell of the cooking balsamic vinegar can be quite strong, so don’t breathe in the vapours too deeply. You may want a window open in your kitchen.

Place all ingredients in a small saucepan and heat on low/medium heat, until the sugar has dissolved. Turn the heat up to high until boiling and cook for 5-10minutes until the mixture has thickened slightly (it should reduce by about half). Test it by placing a small amount on a cold spoon and see how the mixture thickens with cooking. It should start to become darker as it thickens and run on the spoon less easily. This is a good opportunity to test it for your desired sweetness. It will thicken further upon cooling – although it will still taste lovely.

Enjoy by dunking a nice piece of ciabatta bread into olive oil then the caramelised balsamic vinegar. If you have dukkah, dip the coated bread into the dukkah. Use instead of balsamic vinegar as part of salad dressings.

Vegetable Rolls

Thursday, May 20th, 2010

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Now, I don’t suppose you could call anything with puff pastry healthy. Although, you could say this is healthier than the normal sausage roll. These vegie rolls are packed full of vegetables, most of which you might not be able to guess while eating them. So, unsuspecting kids (and adults) will get a vegie fill when they go for these rolls at a party.

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I decided to make this recipe combining many vegetables I had on hand, so I’m sure it can be altered to what you have lying around.

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Vegetables Rolls

Recipe by Anita @ Leave Room for Dessert

Makes: 50

250g spinach, fresh or frozen (thawed and water pressed out)
2 large carrots (300g), grated
1 zucchini (200g), grated
12 mushrooms (200g), grated
4 cloves garlic, crushed
200g corn kernels, drained
1 egg, lightly beaten
250g ricotta
1/4 cup sweet chili sauce
1/2 cup bread crumbs
5 sheets puff pastry

1 egg beaten for glazing (or milk)
poppy seeds for sprinkling on top

Mix all the vegetables in a large bowl. Add the ricotta, egg and sweet chili sauce, mix to combine. Add the breadcrumbs and mix until fully combined.

Cut the pastry sheets in half. Spoon equal amounts of the vegetable filling down the middle or side of the pastry sheet – to form an even roll. Place a small amount of egg wash down the length of the puff pastry. Roll the pastry up firmly and sealing with a little pinch on the edge. Brush some egg wash over the top and sprinkle with poppy seeds.

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At this stage, either freeze as they are (with some baking paper or puff pastry plastic between the rolls) or, to eat straight away – preheat oven to 180°C. Cut each roll into 5 equal portions. Place on a baking paper lined tray and place in the preheated oven for 15 minutes or until they are browned and cooked through. Serve with sweet chili sauce.

For Frozen rolls, allow to thaw enough to cut through with a knife. Cook in a preheated oven (180°C) for 20 minutes or longer, depending on how much they have thawed.

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Spinach and Sour Cream Dip

Wednesday, March 10th, 2010

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This dip is high on the list of dips we make for parties. Even though it may not sound the tastiest (with a packet of spinach in it) – it really is quite lovely. Even those who don’t like spinach will go back to more!

The dip can be served in a number of ways, with some Lebanese bread (which has been spread with a herb butter, cooked in the oven and then chopped up to biscuit size). Alternatively, you can scoop out cob of bread and serve the dip in the middle, with friends and family tearing off edges of the cob and dipping it into the dip. You can also heat the dip up in the cob for a few minutes in the oven.

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And what’s even better is it can be made the night before, so it firms up a bit in the fridge. I love being able to have things organised – it takes out a lot of the hassle and stress which could have been felt on the party date, if you had to prepare everything that morning.

On another note – I can’t believe how busy this year has been (and is)!! I have weekends booked up until late April, with a heap of big birthdays, weddings, hen’s nights, the taste of Sydney (Thursday-Sunday, in case you haven’t heard), Easter, ANZAC day and a quick visit to Melbourne for a French cake cooking class (very exciting!!).

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Spinach and Sour Cream Dip

Recipe source unknown (possibly a friend of a friend of the family?)

1 box (250g) finely chopped frozen spinach – thawed then excess water squeezed out with hands or a sieve.
1 carton (300g) sour cream
½ cup grated cheese
1 packet spring vegetable soup mix (Continental brand – we found this is nicer than some other brands)
2-3 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 small packet pine nuts (toasted) (optional)

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Mix ingredients together, sprinkle pine nuts on top. Serve in a cob or on Pita/Lebanese bread.

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Better made the day before and the dip stored in the fridge (but scooped into the cob just before serving).

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Scones

Sunday, November 22nd, 2009

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I love scones. Almost nothing is as good as jam and whipped cream on some fresh scones.

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Even better is when they’re so quick and easy to make – and these ones surely are. They were seen on a masterclass show on MaterChef, although had dates and lemon. I’m sure this flavour combination would be great, but without them the recipe is lovely.

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Scones

Recipe adapted from MasterChef’s Date and Lemon Scone recipe

150ml-175ml milk
150ml cream
1 egg
3 cups self-raising flour
2 tablespoons caster sugar
Cream & jam, to serve

Preheat oven 200°C fan forced. Line large flat oven tray with baking paper.

Whisk 150ml milk, cream and egg together until well combined. Combine flour and sugar in a large bowl. Add milk mixture and stir gently to a soft dough, adding remaining milk if necessary. Turn onto a lightly floured surface and knead gently until dough comes together.

Press dough out to 2cm-thick.

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Cut scones from dough and place onto tray flat-side up. Press dough together gently and repeat using the remaining dough.

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Brush the tops with milk and sprinkle with a little sugar. Bake 12-15 minutes until golden and well risen. Serve hot with jam and cream.

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Feta and Ricotta Stuffed Tomatoes and Asparagus, Bacon and Parmesan Pasta – Cooking Class 11

Wednesday, November 18th, 2009

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Another cooking class, another new recipe (or two, possibly three – in this case).

Trying to fit quite a number of people in a small kitchen, all trying to find something to help with and space to actually do it, is quite a spectacle. Luckily the dessert for this cooking class was not too involved, as you will find out later…

Not being a fan of asparagus or raw tomatoes, I was a bit concerned when I saw what we were making. Fortunately, both these dishes were great and most of us are looking forward to eating them again, either as separate dishes or together.

The pasta bake was lovely and flavoursome with the bacon, cheese and even the asparagus (I guess I do like asparagus). The stuffed tomatoes had a great combination of olives, pinenuts and herbs and of course the feta and ricotta.

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Dessert was described as a Jamie Oliver tried and tested, fantastic recipe. We were told it may take a while and could be quite involved… I was so intrigued as to what it could be and could not help but laugh when I saw the so-called “recipe”.

On the page was something I have made and eaten plenty of times before. At one stage I was eating it almost every night… it was…

Maltesers on Ice cream!

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I kid you not. It was in Jamie’s book, with an understandably short recipe. Something like:
Ingredients: Ice cream and a bag of maltesers
Method: Crush maltesers, place on ice cream and serve.

Feta and Ricotta Stuffed Tomatoes

Recipes from Party & Snack Perfection

Serves: 6

6 large firm tomatoes
105g feta cheese, crumbled
150g ricotta cheese
60g pine nuts, chopped
10 black olives, pitted and chopped
1 ½ tablespoons chopped fresh oregano
3 tablespoons wholemeal breadcrumbs
freshly ground black pepper
6 block olives to garnish
extra oregano leaves to garnish

Preheat oven to 180C.

Cut a lid off the top of each tomatoes and set aside. Carefully scoop the centre of each tomatoes into and large bowl. Combine half the tomato mixture with the feta, ricotta, pine nuts, olives, oregano, breadcrumbs and pepper. Beat mixture together and spoon back into the cases (piling the tops high). Discard left over tomato flesh.

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Place in a lightly greased shallow oven-proof dish and bake 20-25 minutes.

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Garnish with an olive and oregano (we left this bit out) and serve.

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Asparagus, Bacon and Parmesan Tortiglioni

Recipe from The Australian Women’s Weekly Eating in

Serves: 4

500g tortiglioni pasta (or another tube-pasta, if you can’t find this)
500g asparagus, chopped coarsely
2 teaspoons olive oil
5 bacon rashers, sliced thinly
1 clove garlic, crushed
100g butter, chopped
¼ cup coarsely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
½ cup (40g) grated parmesan cheese
½ cup (50g) grates mozzarella cheese

Cook pasta in a large saucepan of boiling water, uncovered, until just tender. Drain and return to pan.

Meanwhile, boil, steam or microwave asparagus until just tender, drain.

Heat oil in large frying pan, add bacon, cook, stirring, until crisp. Add garlic, cook until fragrant.

Add bacon mixture to drained pasta with butter, asparagus, parsley and a quarter of the combined cheeses, toss gently

Preheat grill to hot. Transfer pasta mixture to shallow 2.5 litre ovenproof dish. Sprinkle top of pasta with remaining cheese. Place under grill until cheese has browned. (Alternatively place the dish in a moderate oven [180C] for 10-20 minutes until the cheese has browned)

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Vols-au-Vents – Daring Bakers Challenge September 2009

Sunday, September 27th, 2009

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The September 2009 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Steph of A Whisk and a Spoon. She chose the French treat, Vols-au-Vent based on the Puff Pastry recipe by Michel Richard from the cookbook Baking With Julia by Dorie Greenspan.

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I was a bit intimidated seeing puff pastry was one of the chosen recipes for this month’s Daring Bakers challenge, but also excited to finally be “pushed” into making it.

Steph, our lovely host for this month, provided a great video showing how to make the puff pastry and it was brilliant! I would strongly recommend anyone wanting to make this or any other puff pastry recipe, to first watch the video.

I was just amazed at how easy the puff pastry was to make and roll, it didn’t take as long as I expected either (maybe 2-3 hours – mostly consisting of resting). The pastry looked perfect, very similar to the one on the video – lovely and smooth.

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I think the biggest problem for me was doing the vol-au-vent cases on a busy day – and this made it feel like it was taking forever. Plus the fact that I was making three different fillings…

Apart from the restricted time, the vol-au-vents turned out very well. They looked just like bought vol-au-vents and all the fillings were thoroughly enjoyed (once I tweaked my chicken and mushroom filling – a request from a family member).

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I am definitely thinking of making some more puff pastry after being pleasantly surprised by this recipe, although I think it might have to involved custard this time… like perhaps my Portuguese Custard Tarts. Not many things can be more rewarding than custard with pastry.

Forming and Baking the Vols-au-Vent

Yield: 1/3 of the puff pastry recipe below will yield about 8-10 1.5” vols-au-vent or 4 4” vols-au-vent

-well-chilled puff pastry dough (recipe below)
-egg wash (1 egg or yolk beaten with a small amount of water)
-your filling of choice

Line a baking sheet with parchment and set aside.

Using a knife or metal bench scraper, divide your chilled puff pastry dough into three equal pieces. Work with one piece of the dough, and leave the rest wrapped and chilled. (If you are looking to make more vols-au-vent than the yield stated above, you can roll and cut the remaining two pieces of dough as well…if not, then leave refrigerated for the time being or prepare it for longer-term freezer storage. See the “Tips” section below for more storage info.)

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On a lightly floured surface, roll the piece of dough into a rectangle about 1/8 to 1/4-inch (3-6 mm) thick. Transfer it to the baking sheet and refrigerate for about 10 minutes before proceeding with the cutting.

(This assumes you will be using round cutters, but if you do not have them, it is possible to cut square vols-au-vents using a sharp chef’s knife.) For smaller, hors d’oeuvre sized vols-au-vent, use a 1.5” round cutter to cut out 8-10 circles. For larger sized vols-au-vent, fit for a main course or dessert, use a 4” cutter to cut out about 4 circles. Make clean, sharp cuts and try not to twist your cutters back and forth or drag your knife through the dough. Half of these rounds will be for the bases, and the other half will be for the sides. (Save any scrap by stacking—not wadding up—the pieces…they can be re-rolled and used if you need extra dough. If you do need to re-roll scrap to get enough disks, be sure to use any rounds cut from it for the bases, not the ring-shaped sides.)

Using a ¾-inch cutter for small vols-au-vent, or a 2- to 2.5-inch round cutter for large, cut centers from half of the rounds to make rings. These rings will become the sides of the vols-au-vent, while the solid disks will be the bottoms. You can either save the center cut-outs to bake off as little “caps” for you vols-au-vent, or put them in the scrap pile.

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Dock the solid bottom rounds with a fork (prick them lightly, making sure not to go all the way through the pastry) and lightly brush them with egg wash. Place the rings directly on top of the bottom rounds and very lightly press them to adhere. Brush the top rings lightly with egg wash, trying not to drip any down the sides (which may inhibit rise). If you are using the little “caps,” dock and egg wash them as well.

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Refrigerate the assembled vols-au-vent on the lined baking sheet while you pre-heat the oven to 400ºF (200ºC). (You could also cover and refrigerate them for a few hours at this point.)

Once the oven is heated, remove the sheet from the refrigerator and place a silicon baking mat (preferred because of its weight) or another sheet of parchment over top of the shells. This will help them rise evenly. Bake the shells until they have risen and begin to brown, about 10-15 minutes depending on their size. Reduce the oven temperature to 350ºF (180ºC), and remove the silicon mat or parchment sheet from the top of the vols-au-vent. If the centers have risen up inside the vols-au-vent, you can gently press them down. Continue baking (with no sheet on top) until the layers are golden, about 15-20 minutes more. (If you are baking the center “caps” they will likely be finished well ahead of the shells, so keep an eye on them and remove them from the oven when browned.)

Remove to a rack to cool. Cool to room temperature for cold fillings or to warm for hot fillings.

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Fill and serve.

*For additional rise on the larger-sized vols-au-vents, you can stack one or two additional ring layers on top of each other (using egg wash to “glue”). This will give higher sides to larger vols-au-vents, but is not advisable for the smaller ones, whose bases may not be large enough to support the extra weight.

*Although they are at their best filled and eaten soon after baking, baked vols-au-vent shells can be stored airtight for a day.

*Shaped, unbaked vols-au-vent can be wrapped and frozen for up to a month (bake from frozen, egg-washing them first).

Michel Richard’s Puff Pastry Dough

From: Baking with Julia by Dorie Greenspan
Yield: 2-1/2 pounds dough

Steph’s note: This recipe makes more than you will need for the quantity of vols-au-vent stated above. While I encourage you to make the full recipe of puff pastry, as extra dough freezes well, you can halve it successfully if you’d rather not have much leftover.

There is a wonderful on-line video from the PBS show “Baking with Julia” that accompanies the book. In it, Michel Richard and Julia Child demonstrate making puff pastry dough (although they go on to use it in other applications). They do seem to give slightly different ingredient measurements verbally than the ones in the book…I listed the recipe as it appears printed in the book.

2-1/2 cups (12.2 oz/ 354 g) unbleached all-purpose flour
1-1/4 cups (5.0 oz/ 142 g) cake flour
1 tbsp. salt (you can cut this by half for a less salty dough or for sweet preparations)
1-1/4 cups (10 fl oz/ 300 ml) ice water
1 pound (16 oz/ 454 g) very cold unsalted butter

plus extra flour for dusting work surface

Mixing the Dough:

Check the capacity of your food processor before you start. If it cannot hold the full quantity of ingredients, make the dough into two batches and combine them.

Put the all-purpose flour, cake flour, and salt in the work bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade and pulse a couple of times just to mix. Add the water all at once, pulsing until the dough forms a ball on the blade. The dough will be very moist and pliable and will hold together when squeezed between your fingers. (Actually, it will feel like Play-Doh.)

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Remove the dough from the machine, form it into a ball, with a small sharp knife, slash the top in a tic-tac-toe pattern. Wrap the dough in a damp towel and refrigerate for about 5 minutes.

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Meanwhile, place the butter between 2 sheets of plastic wrap and beat it with a rolling pin until it flattens into a square that’s about 1″ thick. Take care that the butter remains cool and firm: if it has softened or become oily, chill it before continuing.

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Incorporating the Butter:

Unwrap the dough and place it on a work surface dusted with all-purpose flour (A cool piece of marble is the ideal surface for puff pastry) with your rolling pin (preferably a French rolling pin without handles), press on the dough to flatten it and then roll it into a 10″ square. Keep the top and bottom of the dough well floured to prevent sticking and lift the dough and move it around frequently. Starting from the center of the square, roll out over each corner to create a thick center pad with “ears,” or flaps.

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Place the cold butter in the middle of the dough and fold the ears over the butter, stretching them as needed so that they overlap slightly and encase the butter completely. (If you have to stretch the dough, stretch it from all over; don’t just pull the ends) you should now have a package that is 8″ square.

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To make great puff pastry, it is important to keep the dough cold at all times. There are specified times for chilling the dough, but if your room is warm, or you work slowly, or you find that for no particular reason the butter starts to ooze out of the pastry, cover the dough with plastic wrap and refrigerate it . You can stop at any point in the process and continue at your convenience or when the dough is properly chilled.

Making the Turns:

Gently but firmly press the rolling pin against the top and bottom edges of the square (this will help keep it square). Then, keeping the work surface and the top of the dough well floured to prevent sticking, roll the dough into a rectangle that is three times as long as the square you started with, about 24″ (don’t worry about the width of the rectangle: if you get the 24″, everything else will work itself out.) With this first roll, it is particularly important that the butter be rolled evenly along the length and width of the rectangle; check when you start rolling that the butter is moving along well, and roll a bit harder or more evenly, if necessary, to get a smooth, even dough-butter sandwich (use your arm-strength!).

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With a pastry brush, brush off the excess flour from the top of the dough, and fold the rectangle up from the bottom and down from the top in thirds, like a business letter, brushing off the excess flour. You have completed one turn.

Rotate the dough so that the closed fold is to your left, like the spine of a book. Repeat the rolling and folding process, rolling the dough to a length of 24″ and then folding it in thirds. This is the second turn.

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Chilling the Dough:

If the dough is still cool and no butter is oozing out, you can give the dough another two turns now. If the condition of the dough is iffy, wrap it in plastic wrap and refrigerate it for at least 30 minutes. Each time you refrigerate the dough, mark the number of turns you’ve completed by indenting the dough with your fingertips. It is best to refrigerate the dough for 30 to 60 minutes between each set of two turns.

The total number of turns needed is six. If you prefer, you can give the dough just four turns now, chill it overnight, and do the last two turns the next day. Puff pastry is extremely flexible in this regard. However, no matter how you arrange your schedule, you should plan to chill the dough for at least an hour before cutting or shaping it.

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Steph’s extra tips:

-While this is not included in the original recipe we are using (and I did not do this in my own trials), many puff pastry recipes use a teaspoon or two of white vinegar or lemon juice, added to the ice water, in the détrempe dough. This adds acidity, which relaxes the gluten in the dough by breaking down the proteins, making rolling easier. You are welcome to try this if you wish.

-Keep things cool by using the refrigerator as your friend! If you see any butter starting to leak through the dough during the turning process, rub a little flour on the exposed dough and chill straight away. Although you should certainly chill the dough for 30 to 60 minutes between each set of two turns, if you feel the dough getting to soft or hard to work with at any point, pop in the fridge for a rest.

-Not to sound contradictory, but if you chill your paton longer than the recommended time between turns, the butter can firm up too much. If this seems to be the case, I advise letting it sit at room temperature for 5-10 minutes to give it a chance to soften before proceeding to roll. You don’t want the hard butter to separate into chuncks or break through the dough…you want it to roll evenly, in a continuous layer.

-Roll the puff pastry gently but firmly, and don’t roll your pin over the edges, which will prevent them from rising properly. Don’t roll your puff thinner than about about 1/8 to 1/4-inch (3-6 mm) thick, or you will not get the rise you are looking for.

-Try to keep “neat” edges and corners during the rolling and turning process, so the layers are properly aligned. Give the edges of the paton a scooch with your rolling pin or a bench scraper to keep straight edges and 90-degree corners.

-Brush off excess flour before turning dough and after rolling.

-Make clean cuts. Don’t drag your knife through the puff or twist your cutters too much, which can inhibit rise.

-When egg washing puff pastry, try not to let extra egg wash drip down the cut edges, which can also inhibit rise.

-Extra puff pastry dough freezes beautifully. It’s best to roll it into a sheet about 1/8 to 1/4-inch thick (similar to store-bought puff) and freeze firm on a lined baking sheet. Then you can easily wrap the sheet in plastic, then foil (and if you have a sealable plastic bag big enough, place the wrapped dough inside) and return to the freezer for up to a few months. Defrost in the refrigerator when ready to use.

-You can also freeze well-wrapped, unbaked cut and shaped puff pastry (i.e., unbaked vols-au-vent shells). Bake from frozen, without thawing first.

-Homemade puff pastry is precious stuff, so save any clean scraps. Stack or overlap them, rather than balling them up, to help keep the integrity of the layers. Then give them a singe “turn” and gently re-roll. Scrap puff can be used for applications where a super-high rise is not necessary (such as palmiers, cheese straws, napoleons, or even the bottom bases for your vols-au-vent).

For My Fillings:

Try and fill vol-au-vents on the day they are made.

Salmon and Cream Cheese
120g cream cheese
50ml thickened cream
Juice of 1/2 a small lemon
1 sprig of dill
smoked salmon, cut into 3 x 3 cm squares or similar

Soften the cream-cheese by mixing vigorously with a spoon. When the cream-cheese has softened, add the lemon juice and cream and mix until combined. Once combined stir in 1/8 teaspoon dill. Spoon into vol-au-vent cases, top with a piece of smoked salmon and a small piece of dill.

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Creamy Chicken and Mushroom
1 small chicken breast, cut in 4 chunks
6 mushrooms, halved and sliced
1 lemon, juice and rind
250ml (1 cup) white wine
3 sprigs of thyme
50g butter
3 tablespoon plain flour
250ml (1 cup) milk
100ml thickened cream

Combine wine, lemon juice, lemon rind, thyme and ¼ cup water in a saucepan. Bring to the boil and add the chicken. Cook for 10 minutes or until cooked. Remove chicken, shred or cut into small pieces and strain juices from pan into a small bowl. Place the pan back onto medium heat and add the mushrooms. Add small amounts of juice to help the mushrooms cook. Once cooked (5-10 minutes), remove and place with chicken.

In a clean saucepan cook the butter on high until bubbling. Add flour and cook for a few minutes. Add the milk and whisk together. Continue to whisk on heat until mixture thickens. Add the cream and remove from stove. Stir in chicken and mushrooms.

Spoon chicken mixture into vol-au-vent cases and place in a 180C preheated oven for 10 minutes or until mixture and cases are heated through. Serve hot/warm.

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White Chocolate and Raspberry Cream

50g white chocolate, chopped finely
250ml (1 cup) thickened cream
20 raspberries (fresh or frozen), chopped

Pistachio Praline
50g pistachios
50g caster sugar
3 tablespoons water

Place cream in a saucepan and just bring to the boil. Pour over chopped white chocolate in a bowl and whisk until chocolate has melted. Cool at room temperature and then cool in the fridge for a few hours. Once cooled, beat the white chocolate cream mix until fluffy. Fold through raspberries. Spoon into vol-au-vent cases and sprinkle with chopped praline.

For praline: Roast pistachios in 180C preheated oven for 5-10minutes. Place sugar and water in a small saucepan. Heat on low, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Then turn the heat up to medium-high and cook until golden brown. Pour over pistachios on baking paper and leave to cool. Chop praline into pieces when cooled.

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Caramelised Onion Tart

Sunday, September 6th, 2009

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Now what am I supposed to do with 10kg of onions? Some may think it’s a little crazy to buy 10kg of onions – especially for me who really didn’t fancy them and used to pick them out of every meal (Sorry Mum).

Well, this is the second time we’ve bought a bag this big and we easily went through the last one. I wanted to make both a caramelised onion tart and French onion soup with the onions, but never got around to it. This time I made sure we made use of these onions and tried some new recipes.

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And we are so happy to have tried this recipe. I can’t wait to make it again. It was absolutely gorgeous, very easy and didn’t require many ingredients or steps. As long as you’ve got someone who doesn’t cry too much cutting onions, you’ll be fine and it’s easy. It even heated up quite well at work – an extra bonus!

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Caramelised Onion Tart

Serves: 4 mains or 8 small entrees

2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 brown onions, sliced
3 sprigs thyme
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar (optional)
1 tablespoon honey
14 Kalamata olives, chopped (pits removed)
2 sheets puff pastry

Preheat oven to 180ºC (160ºC fan forced).

Heat a saucepan on medium heat. Add butter and oil, once bubbling add onions and thyme and continue to stir. After a few minutes add the salt, sugar and honey and continue to cook and stir until onions become translucent and eventually caramelise. This will take 10-20 minutes.

Place each sheet of puff pastry on a baking paper lined tray and cook in oven for 5-10minutes, until starting to brown very slightly. Remove from oven and place caramelised onions on top, leaving a 2cm border around the edges. Top with sliced olives and place back in the oven and cook for 10-20 minutes, until the pastry is nice a golden brown colour. (It may puff a little, but will deflate once taken out of the oven).

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Cucumber Mint Raita

Monday, July 13th, 2009


I love Indian Food!!!

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As I’m not fond of hot and/or very spicy food, many people were quite surprised to find out that I do love Indian food. Although I’m not suggesting that I actually make traditional Indian food, I probably tend to eat more Westernised Indian food.

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Many of the dishes are easy to prepare, especially since once you’ve bought a few bags of spices, they sit in the cupboard waiting to be used and you don’t have to go and buy fresh ingredients as you need to do when making some other curry pastes. This is one of the reasons that an Indian banquet is one of our favourite meals.

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Over the next few blogs I’ll describe all the preparations and dishes to prepare a great feast for all! I have never tried any Indian desserts or sweets before, but the ones I found on the internet were definitely a winner.

First off is the Cucumber Mint Raita
This Cucumber Mint Raita is lovely served with pappadums, cooked in oil as the pack says (I have heard of people cooking them in the microwave, but haven’t tried that yet).

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It has many flavours throughout, made primarily with plain yoghurt, the addition of mint and cucumber make it quite refreshing and a great entrée.

Cucumber Mint Raita
(Recipe slightly adapted from epicurious)

Serves: 8-10

1 Lebanese cucumber
2 cups plain yoghurt
½ lemon, squeezed
¼ cup fresh mint, chopped
1 teaspoon ground cumin
¼ teaspoon ground paprika
1 teaspoon salt
3 teaspoons caster sugar

Finely grate the cucumber and dab with a paper towel. Whisk yoghurt, lemon juice, mint, cumin, paprika, salt and sugar in a medium bowl to blend. Add cucumber and toss to coat. Season with more spices, as desired. Cover and refrigerate at least 2 hours. (It can be prepared 1 day ahead. Keep refrigerated.) Sprinkle with a pinch of paprika and serve with pappadams.

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