Archive for the ‘Pastry’ Category

Mums Apple Pie.jpgSince my unexpected arrival back in Australia 2 weeks ago, I have been bunkering down at my parents’ house.  It has always been a place that I feel at home, get taken care of and can take some time to get my head on straight. I was fortunate to have one of my Apples.jpgclosest friends K and her baby and husband come up the first weekend for Sunday lunch. This was a wonderful distraction and enjoyable afternoon, a great way to get my mind of my own troubles.

I managed to help Mum whip up some food, making a mushroom risotto and some fresh bread. However in my less than stellar state I let Ingredients.jpgMum cook dessert. Mum’s apple pie (that is actually her sister’s husband’s grandmother’s recipe… yes it is one of those recipes) is sweet, delicious and not like the apple pies you get in the US. It has a sweet shortcrust pastry rather than the more savoury kind you get in the US.Pastry.jpg

Firstly put on the apples to stew… Just peel and slice up some granny smith apples and add them to a pot with 2 tablespoons of sugar.

For the pastry, beat 125 grams of butter and ¾ cup of sugar together until creamy. Add in 2 eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Next mix in 1 teaspoon of vanilla Rolling.jpgand a pinch of salt. Then gradually mix in 2 cups of self-raising flour, ½ cup of plain flour and ½ cup of cornflour. Mix this until everything is combined.

Filling.jpg

The rest is simply rolling out the dough for the base and the top. Filling the pie with thecooled apples and then baking.

It bakes in a 180C oven for about 30 minutes or until the crust is golden brown. The great thing is that because the apples are cooked you’re Pie.jpgjust cooking the pastry until it is crispy.

This is now my new go to sweet choice for when I am down… not chocolate or icecream… Mum’s apple pie. Served with a dollop of icecream or fresh cream, it is just the perfect way to end a Sunday lunch or any lunch or dinner or breakfast… my new comfort food. Thankfully though it isn’t hard to make it is just time consuming enough for me not to make it too often… otherwise I could be in big trouble! Delicious, sweet and crispy… give it a try, it is guaranteed to help warm your heart!

Slice of pie.jpg

 

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Sausage RollsWe are back from Hawaii with many adventures to share and food to write about, just give me a day or two to settle back in to real life! I wanted to put a quick repost in honor of tonight’s start of the NFL season. I now have 16 weeks of Sundays where J. will barely communicate ahead of me but we both love the game and of course the food that comes with it.

It is also finals time for Aussie Rules and NRL back home in Australia so it is fitting for my wonderful Aussie followers also.

So here is a favorite recipe and favorite footy food from Australia – the sausage roll! A delicious savory treat with ketchup, relish or bbq sauce on the side and of course the prerequisite beer.

Check out the original entry here – Aussie Footy Food!

Enjoy the recipe and the football – whatever code or team you might follow!

FatooshOn my final day in Washington DC, I managed to sneak away for a delicious and yummy lunch. The conference I was exhibiting at had quietened down, people were leaving and I had a long night of travelling home to Phoenix ahead of me… a hearty delicious meal (and a couple of beers) were definitely called for.

Recommended by fellow blogger Alina and some great people I met at the conference, Zaytinya was my destination. Only 2 short blocks from the hotel that I was exhibiting in, I wandered down for a late lunch.

Mythos Beer

Taking my traditional seat at the very big bar I was ready for a nice cold beer and some great food. I ordered my Mythos beer, a Turkish beer that I had never tried before and perused the menu. The girls I met at the conference had insisted I try the $25 Mezze Lunch. It was a 4 course meal with multiple choices under each course.

For first course I went with the Fattoush salad, a combination of tomato, cucumber, red onion, green pepper and radish. This had a delicious pomegranate vinegar dressing over it. Given the heat of DC, it was such a light, fresh and yummy start to the meal. The fresh pita bread they kept refilling throughout the meal was a great accompaniment.

ArayesSecond course was a difficult choice for me. I could have had any of the 4 choices but decided to go with the Arayes, a dish I had never heard of or tried before. These were stuffed pita breads, filled with grilled ground lamb and tahini on a bed of garlic yogurt. I don’t think it is possible for me to describe just how delicious this small plate of goodness was. Such flavor but so simple. I could have eaten an entire meal just of those. However, with 2 more courses still to go, I thought I shouldn’t order a second round. I ordered another beer instead.

Spanakopita

For my third course I decided to stay with something traditional, Spanakopita. This was flaky, melt in your mouth house-made phyllo pastry that was then stuffed with spinach and feta cheese. Carefully rolled into a crispy, tasty roll and placed on a spinach puree. My mouth is watering just thinking about it. This was possibly some of the best Spanakopita I have every eaten. I couldn’t believe how perfect the phyllo was. I wanted to eat 6 of them, not just 1.

Apricots and yogurtI restrained myself and just sat back with another beer and waited for my dessert. I had chosen to go with the lighter of the 2 dessert choices, Greek Yogurt and Apricots. I actually didn’t read the description until after I had ordered it. It may have been the lighter of the 2 but oh my, did it sound delicious. A small cup came out, looking like a orange and white parfait. There were layers of muscat soaked apricots, vanilla yogurt cream, apricot sorbet and pistachio powder. If I hadn’t have been in a public place I would have licked the cup clean! Delicious, light and refreshing – an excellent end to an amazing lunch!

I will go back to this place – I actually would go back to DC just for a lunch here and a dinner at St. Arnolds. My DC trip was great both professionally and culinary! I ate great food that had been recommended to me, found my own little gem on my wanders through the city and got to spend some time in one of my favorite cities on the East Coast.

When in DC next I recommend you try one of the great places I visited or perhaps you will discover a little gem of your own!

Time to eatBeing the foodie in our office has lead to me bringing in cakes for birthdays. Fortunately we have a staff of 6 so it doesn’t happen too often. Earlier in the year I made a Mum’s Sticky Chocolate cake for everyone which was a huge success. This time around I gave the birthday girl a few choices and she went with the Triple Chocolate Marble Mud Cake… well really, who wouldn’t!?

Step 1

The only problem… I had never made it before! How difficult could it be.

In a small pan I combined 250 grams of chopped, unsalted butter, 2 cups of caster sugar, and 1 cup of hot water. I mixed this until it was all melted and combined. Then I just set this aside to cool for 15 minutes and got on with the rest of the recipe.

Base mixture

While it was cooling I melted 150 grams of white chocolate in a bowl and in another bowl I melted 150 grams of dark chocolate. I used 70% dark so that it wasn’t too sweet. There is so much sugar in this recipe already I didn’t think I need extra in the chocolate. I then set these aside.

Going back to my sugar, butter and water mixture I whisked in 1 cup of plain flour, 1 1/2 cups of self raising flour and a teaspoon of vanilla. I added 2 eggs that I had already lightly beaten and whisked everything together. Now the tricky part… I had to divide the mixture into 2 equal parts, putting them in separate bowls. After a bit of back and forth, I think I got pretty close.

Two mixtures

To the halved mixture I added the melted white chocolate to one and the melted dark chocolate to the other. I just quickly mixed the chocolate into each mixture and the cake was ready to assemble.

Layering

In my large cake tin I spooned a spoonful of the white mixture in one corner and then next to it a spoonful of the dark mixture. It was easy just alternating between the two, layering them on top of eachother, until the mixtures were completely gone.

This went into a preheated 150C degree over for 1 3/4 hours. I couldn’t believe how easy it was, well relatively easy. I then just sat back with a glass of wine and waited for it to cook.

Cream and chocolate - Copy

When I opened the oven I discovered it may not have been as easy as I thought. The middle of the cake had sunk! Oh well, that was what the ganache was for… to fill up the large crater in the cake.

Ganache

I turned it out and let it cool. Of course as it cooled the center dropped more… What could I do? More room ganache is what I say!

When it was cool and ready to coat in ganache, I quickly combined in my double boiler 300 grams of milk chocolate and 3/4 cup of thickened cream. I slowly melted these together over a low simmering pot of water. I stirred this continuously until the chocolate had completely melted and was combined with the cream.

I took it off the heat and set it aside. As I was preparing the cake I realized that the square cake didn’t quite fit in my round Sunken but deliciouscake carrier… being the ideas woman I am, I angled off the corners to make a shape that would fit in the container… Later people in the office commented on how cool it looked – I didn’t tell them it was purely to get it to fit, not make it look pretty.

The ditch

My cake now fit in the container, it was time to ganache it! I poured my ganache onto the cake and filled up the huge crater in the center. I then smoothed it down and around the edges until it was completely covered. It looked great! You couldn’t even tell that the cake looked like it had been hit by a meteor. A few quick decorations with fresh strawberries and I was done!

I held my breath when we cut it in the office, praying that it was actually marbled and that the puddle of ganache wouldn’t run off the cake like a waterfall. Luckily it didn’t!

Iced

The best news is that everyone in the office, including the birthday girl loved it. The cake is moist, dense and incredibly rich (especially the parts in the center with an inch of ganache on top). The cake was an afternoon snack for everyone for the rest of the week. I even managed to sneak J. home a slice. He really liked it, he thinks the texture is like a soft, dense cookie.

For a first attempt at this recipe I think I did well. It wasn’t as great as my mum’s but I rarely make her recipes as well as she does. It was a hit and it was delicious, I couldn’t really ask for more but I think I will need a little more practice to be able to make it as easily and as well as I make my Mum’s Sticky Chocolate.

Close up of marbling

Plum & Lime Jam.jpgWalking through one of our local supermarkets recently I had a flash back to childhood when I saw mountains of delicious red plums on sale… not just for sale but on sale for a ridiculously low price! J. watched with wide eyes as I kept adding more and more plums to my bag! I explained to him that mum used to make plum jam at home and nothing tastes quite as delicious as homemade jam.

The plums weren’t completely ripe so I decided to wait until the weekend to make my jam. During the week I kept trying to think of another ingredient I could put with the plums to make it a little more interesting and possibly even more delicious. It wasn’t until Saturday morning when I was getting prepared to start cooking that I looked down and saw some limes… Plum and lime jam – of course!

My mum’s recipe is 1:1 ratio of fruit and sugar… delicious, yes but high in sugar so I thought I would play with it a bit. I used 4 pounds of red plums that I cut in half and took out the seed. I didn’t cut them smaller because I wanted my jam to have some chunks of fruit in it. Plums and Sugar.jpg

My 4 pounds of halved plums went into a large. I had tasted the plums and they were really quite sweet so I decided to just add a single cup of sugar to the pot. I thought I could always add more later if it wasn’t sweet enough, but in the end I didn’t need to.

I put this pot onto the stove on a medium heat to start the stewing process. I added 1/2 cup of lime juice to the pot and stirred everything together. How easy is that! I just left everything to bubble away while I cooked some other things (fresh bread, triple chocolate marble mudcake – posts to come soon on those!)

Bubbling away.jpgI occasionally stirred the mixture to make sure it wasn’t sticking and also tasted it a couple of times to see if it was too tangy and needed more sugar. Once it was the consistency I wanted – jammy! I turned off the heat and let it cool. While it was cooling I sterilized a few jars.

I loved how this turned out, it was both sweet and tangy. The lime really gave the plums a zesty lift and made sure that the jam wasn’t just completely sweet. J. tried it out on some of the bread I had just baked and really enjoyed it. He like that it was tangy and tasted so purely of plum!

I really enjoyed making this. I haven’t ever made jam by myself and have only watched my mum do it when I was really young. I really only remember licking the spoon. For a first time effort I think I did well. We have a large supply of plum and lime jam now so I won’t need to make any for a while. I might even give some away as edible gifts… always a yummy present. It might make a great Christmas gift in a few months since it is such a fabulously festive color.

Now I just need to think of some other interesting jam combinations!

Muffin Tin Meat Pies.jpgWe reached a milestone this week… we have over 2500 followers now! To celebrate this great milestone I thought I would revisit a recipe from the early days of the blog.

Also, I have been craving a taste from home and what better way to taste Australia than through meat pies.

These were tasty little treats I made for J. and I during NFL season last year. A nice little snack for watching footy. We did an entire series of Football Food posts last year and with the NFL season only 3 weeks away, I am going to have to prepare some more great snack ideas.

These pies were very easy to make, especially since I cheated and bought the pastry instead of making it myself. You could also try all different kinds of fillings but we stayed with the traditional beef and added some spice and chili! You could also make them into a full size pie but these were the perfect size for a tv snack. Beer and a pie – a completely Australian way to watch the football.

So take a trip down memory lane, across the Pacific to Australia with me…. here.

J. discovered a new food truck a few months back… The Maine Lobster Lady. By the name one might wonder why the two of us here in the burning desert of Arizona might be interested. The reason this place interested us so much was because they actually spend their winters here in Arizona serving up deliciously good lobster rolls, chowder and shrimp puffs. All of this, in one little food truck.

Needless to say, we were excited. I followed them on Facebook so we would be able to find them somewhere, somehow once they returned to Phoenix. We had been planning this for quite a few weeks when they announced they would be at the JamMarket one Friday from 6pm until 8pm…. We would be there.

We really had no idea what was in store when we rocked up around 6.30pm to find a line of about 60 people snaking away from the Lobster truck’s window. There were 3 other food trucks in attendance, none with a line at all let alone 60+! We hopped in line and J. went to scope out the other food trucks. There was a Filipino food truck selling street food so J. picked us up some pork pancit to snack on while we waited in line. The pancit was delicious… the perfect appetizer for our meal!

It took about 45 minutes but it was finally our turn, we had our order chosen and we were set… disappointment hit us when they said there were no shrimp puffs left so J. thought quickly on his feet and placed our order. We got clam chowder, 1 Maine style lobster roll and 1 Hot Buttered lobster roll. We figured since we had snacked in the line this would be more than enough to eat.

Our order came and we fortunately got the last of the chowder, yay! We sat down on some lawn chairs and prepared to dive in. Let me say, the servings weren’t huge by any means but I can say that there was more lobster than roll in the lobster roll and that’s what counts!

Both lobster rolls were delicious. The Maine lobster roll was served with just a touch of lemon aioli, nestled in a butter grilled roll. This roll was cold. The second roll, well it’s called the hot buttered roll so you probably get what it is…  it was served dripping with butter and hot.

I tried the Maine roll first and couldn’t believe how good it was until I bit into the other lobster roll… so warm, juicy and delicious it really was the better of the two. Not that I would complain about being served the other anytime!

Then we tasted the chowder… oh my gosh it was wonderful! Generous chunks of seafood, in a really well seasoned, creamy broth. It in itself was a meal… though we “forced” ourselves to finish all of it. They served the rolls with potato chips and the chowder with some little crackers… all in all it was a really hearty meal. 

We bought a raspberry cream pie from one of the other food trucks to take home with us because we couldn’t face more food right then. The pie was pretty good, though I wouldn’t chase that food truck the way we would the Lobster Truck. I think the pie actually looked better than it tasted.

The only negative I could say about The Maine Lobster Lady, and I have to say it, is that it was a really expensive food truck experience. Though delicious and something we can’t get elsewhere, $17 for the lobster roll isn’t something we would do often. I am just glad that it tasted so great, we didn’t mind paying that much when it was so incredibly good.

We will definitely go back to this truck sometime, but probably not often. It is a fun night out on the street with the food trucks and we might go back to try some of the others sometime. We will be tempted to get in that long line again though for that buttery lobster roll… Yum!

Saturday night marked my first opportunity to cook for friends here in Phoenix. I had hijacked a group of J’s mates to come over for dinner after the boys had all gone motorbike riding that afternoon.

I spent time during the week leading up to the night planning a menu to suit their tastes. They aren’t the most adventurous eaters and most importantly I couldn’t put the tiniest bit of spice in anything… without profuse sweating and cursing for our mates.

So after some consultation with J. we came up with a menu. First course was really just going to be finger food to keep them happy when they got back from riding so I went with Cheesy Bacon Bites with Plumb BBQ Sauce.

These are ridiculously easy to make but taste so good. Nothing tastes quite as good as bacon and cheese so I was really in no doubt that these would be a hit.

For 20 bites I used 1 sheet of puff pastry rolled out a little thinner than usual. I then cut the sheet in half length ways. On each of the halves I crumbled crispy bacon down the centre. I had cooked and cooled the bacon earlier.

Once the bacon was evenly placed down the middle I added the grated cheese. Any cheese would be tasty with this and I just used some 3 cheese grated mix we had in the fridge.

Then it is just a matter of carefully rolling the pastry over. I use a little water along the edge to seal it. I then just cut into bite size pieces and placed them on a greased cookie sheet. Be careful that you don’t loose all the filling because it falls out very easily. Brush the tops with a little beaten egg.

These went into a 400F degree oven for 15 minutes, until they were golden brown.

While these were cooking I made up the dipping sauce. Usually this sauce would have some Thai sweet chilli sauce in it but I steered away from that. I mixed together 2 tablespoons of ketchup, 2 tablespoons of smokey BBQ sauce, and 1/4 cup of plum sauce. That’s it! If you want the spice add 2 tablespoons of sweet chilli sauce as well.

They came out of the oven just as the boys got home from riding and they disappeared within 5 minutes!! Quick, easy and delicious. You can’t go wrong with bacon and cheese! That glorious magical animal called the pig has given us so much!

This morning J. and I had a free Saturday morning. We weren’t meeting friends to run, we didn’t have a million chores to do and we weren’t too exhausted to leave the house. This combination rarely occurs so we thought we would go out and explore Gilbert Farmers Market, not far away from our place.

Anyone who knows Melbourne, knows that we are completely spoilt with one of the best markets in the Southern Hemisphere, the Queen Victoria Markets. These open air markets are hard to compete with and I knew I wouldn’t find anything similar here in Phoenix but I was hoping the Gilbert Markets would offer some farm fresh fruit and veggies and other goodies.

The markets were fun, they were small but there were a couple of fresh fruit and vegetable stalls where we got somegreat produce. There were places selling meat (organic, grain fed), cheese, pickles and pastries. We stopped at one place and bought a quiche for a us to nibble on. J. bit into it and realised we really needed to heat it up, so that will be a snack for us later on today. We bought some loose leaf tea, jasmine oolong tea. We have a nightly routine in winter of finishing the night off with a pot of tea and had run out of supplies brought from Australia. I was really happy to find that stuff. There was also an Italian bakery stall where we bought a loaf of semolina bread, to see if I have found another place for us to get delicious bread.

Our favorite stall was Grandma’s Kitchen. This stall had an assortment of “jellies” or “jams”. We taste tested nearly all of them but were incredibly impressed with the habanero jam. Sweet and spicy all at the same time, it will be a great accompaniment with cheese and crackers. We actually went back to this place and bought a couple of extra bottles for gifts.

After the markets we wanted to get some lunch. None of the stalls or food trucks at the markets really had anything we craved so we thought we would just stop by Tortas Ahogadas on the way to do our grocery shopping. This plan was changed when we drove past a park with signs saying “Art & Vintage Car Show with Gourmet Food Trucks”. We thought we would give it a go, plus J. got to look at some Ferraris.

There were a 7 foodtrucks to choose from… icecream, crepes, philly cheesesteaks, burgers, hawaiian food, soba noodles, fry bread… we chose what we thought would have the most interesting and tasty food. Since J. said Philly steaks were boring I went with the fry bread truck, Emerson Fry Bread and he went with the Hawaiian food, Island Loco.

Fry bread is an Artisan Native American fried dough, I found it similar to a tortilla or pita bread. There were lots of options to choose from and I decided I would go with the one they were promoting as a “healthy choice”, the Daisey. This meant my fry bread was actually not fried but rather what they call dry. I thought this was a better option. The Daisey was grilled steak, cheese, spring mix, cucumber, tomato & creme fresh on the flat bread. The server handed it to me and told me to eat it like a taco.

The steak was marinated beautifully, with such amazing flavor. The fry bread was soft and delicious and all the topping were fresh and crunchy. For a quick lunch from a food truck I was really happy. Fresh, delicious and filling … the best things.

J. couldn’t order anything but the Kalua Pork Plate lunch at Island Loco. We loved this stuff when we were in Hawaii and it isn’t something you find very often. The pork came with rice and macaroni salad. There is something about Hawaiian style macaroni salad that takes us back to the beaches of Kauai. It is one of those strange comfort foods that reminds you of awesome vacations and delicious lunches by the beach. J. has had his share of Kalua pork and he said this was as soft, tender and flavorsome as any he has had. If they had have had ahi poke it would save us our next trip to Hawaii.

After we had lunch we wandered through the vintage cars and art. The cars were pretty cool and I know J. enjoyed looking at them. This was a great and unexpected little detour but we got food and that always makes us happy. We then headed off to do grocery shopping with our bellies full and a new market to visit once in a while.

Even back when I would get dragged by my parents to watch my brother play football my food of choice at a game has been a pie, a meat pie! There are so many variations on the traditional meat pie now and even a whole chain of franchises built on selling meat pies to hungry Australians. However, I am a traditionalist. I like my pies simple, beefy and sometimes with a splash of tomato sauce (ketchup to all the Americans reading this). I gave J. a choice for his football food this weekend, he could choose homemade pizza or homemade meat pies, like a good little faux-Aussie he went with the pies.

After some deliberation I decided to make mini beef & bacon pies that the boys could eat relatively neatly in front of the games. The main issue with this was what to use as the pie dishes? I had no little aluminium pie containers like back home so I thought I would just use our muffin tins and make them nice and small. Am I an ideas woman or what?!

I like to watch the football too so to make life a little easier on Sunday I prepared the pie filling Saturday night. In a large pot I heated 2 tablespoons of olive oil and then threw in 2 cloves of garlic, 2 large shallots (both garlic & shallots finely diced), 2 small chillies (this is optional but as you know J. likes his spicy food) and 4 rashers of bacon (diced). As the bacon was cooking I sprinkled in some rosemary, probably around a tablespoon.

As this was all cooking in a large bowl I put a cup of flour, a teaspoon of salt and a good amount of cracked black pepper. I just stirred this quickly together before placing my beef (I bought pre-cubed beef that is usually used for stews or kebabs) in and dredging it through the flour. I used around 3 pounds of beef for this recipe. When thinly coated in flour I added the beef to the garlic and bacon and browned it. Once browned add 1 cup of chicken stock and 1 cup of beef stock so that the beef is just covered. I also add 2 tablespoons of tomato paste and 1/2 cup of red wine. We also add a lot of ground black pepper for a little bite.

I like to let my beef mixture simmer down and thicken over a couple of hours and then put it in the fridge overnight. This way Sunday when I need it for the pies it is nice and thick and really full of flavour.

Sunday morning I grease our muffin tins. I am just using frozen puff pastry from the supermarket because it is yummy and far easier than making pastry myself. I put some flour down on the bench and roll out the puff pastry. I use the rolling pin just to roll it out a little more. I want it to be nice and thin and flaky. Using a small plate I cut out circles for the base of the pies. The pastry should come up a little higher than the tins around the edges. I use a fork to prick the edges and base before scooping in the beef filling.

Each muffin tin is filled almost to the top. I use a mug to cut the circles for the lids of the pies and then gently put them on the top. Using my fingers I wet the edge and pinch together the top and the base to they are firmly closed around the edge. With a very sharp knife I make a small X incision on the lid for steam to escape. Last thing I have to do is brush the lids with an egg wash. I want the crispiest lid I can get.

The great thing about these is that the inside is already cooked so it only takes 20 minutes to cook the pastry and then they are ready!

These turned out great and are just the right size for a snack during the football. J. said that they were dangerous and he could eat 8!! He hasn’t yet but the day is still young. The filling was rich beefy, tomato flavor with just a hint of chilli and pepper and the crust was flaky and crispy. I am really happy with these and will definitely be making them again soon, perhaps with a different filling.

Back to the football now. GO BEARS!!