Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Duck affair

I went over to my friends house last week to cook, an old friend who I hadn't seen for years actually, but a friend who joined me when a group of us dined at Billy Kwong in Surry Hills.

We were so impressed with the duck dished served, with a rich plum sauce, that we decided to try to recreate it, the only difference was that our duck would not be deep fried (something I have found out since and obviously contributes to the interesting texture and absolutely amazing flavour).

I remember having seen the recipe in a Jamie Oliver Cookbook and it very similar to Billy Kwong so the recipe I have used is an adapted version of his.

First thing was first, we needed to find duck breasts. If I had time I would have gone to a suburb where there are a lot of Asian butchers as I know their duck would be fresh and at a good price as it is so highly demanded, but I was too busy at work to leave early so had t settle for the local shopping centre, Broadway, which has an ok butcher inside.

I did find duck breast, and they weren't frozen so that was exciting. However, the price did not excite me at all. It ended up being close to $50/kg, but to try something new, I don't mind paying for it.

Now duck is perfectly complimented with fruity sauces, and some that I have tried include fruits such as plum, orange, pomegranate, grape, papaya (for Thai dishes), but it can really be pared with any fruit, just make sure the fruit is in season.

This is something we found out that day, being May, Plums are not in season. Disappointment overwhelmed us, but we weren't disheartened and chose another fruit which we both enjoyed but some may think not sweet enough. Red Ruby Grapefruit. Sweeter than the regular grapefruit, this citrus fruit can be sour at times, but can also be sweet in peak season, which falls at the end of summer, early Autumn, well I have found in Sydney.

Ok, fruit. Check. Next ingredients to go in this sauce include palm sugar, soy sauce, chilli, cinnamon quills and star anise. It is a simple dish that you pretty much throw everything into a oven proof pot and then slow cook for at least 2hrs.

Once cooked we plated and tasted. It is quite interesting to see how different people's taste buds react. I personally thought it tasted too salty and needed more sugar to offset the bitterness of the fruit, which didn't add as much sweetness as plums would. However my friend thought it was not salty enough and needed more salt to battle this bitterness.

I suppose it is something that we would not agree on as everyone's tastes are different, but we still agreed it tasted really good, thick, plump, tender flesh with the spices, chilli and (bitterness) made it an enjoyable dish.

Duck with Red Ruby Grapefruit


2 large duck breasts
2 tbsps soy sauce
3 spoonfulls five spice
large handful of star anise
2 cinnamon quills
1 tbsp EVOO
1 small chilli chopped (keep seeds to give it a bit of a kick)
2 large Red Ruby Grapefruits, skin on, segmented
3 tbsp Palm Sugar


1. Put all ingredients into an ovenproof pot and coat duck well.
2. Cover and marinate overnight.
3. When read to cook, preheat oven to 160 degrees and cook for 2 hours.
4. Serve and enjoy : )

Friday, May 22, 2009

Cooking with friends all things chocolate

Today's baking evening was to be based around chocolate of all strengths ranging from pure white to 5% cocao. We weren't limited to pure chocolate either and wanted to make these dishes that bit richer by adding chocolate biscuits....oreos, and then just to make them even more richer one dish had numerous packets of cream cheese, and the other a fudge sauce. If we were going to go all out, we were going to do it right.

My gorgeous friend Annabel wanted to cook with me and since our friendship started over a simple container of nutella, I though it was only appropriate to have a cook up based on such a glorious ingredient.

We sifted through numerous recipes and decided on two: a peanut butter cheesecake with a chocolate glaze, and an Oreo fudge bar.

I went at lunch to buy the ingredients but only left Coles with three things and none of those were chocolate. I have noticed recently that Coles has a much more limited selection of products to Woolworths or Franklins, especially when it comes to chocolate. I am quite particular with which brands I use for cooking as certain brands can taste bitter and make a ganache terrible. So I had to go again to Franklins after work to buy the remaining (nearly all) ingredients, and I arrived home happy that I got my Whittakers Dark Ghana (72%) and Lindt (85%).

The night started with the cheesecakes, something I had never name before, so it was lucky that Annabel was there as she, only a couple of weeks ago, made a white chocolate and raspberry cheesecake. She started making the base by crushing the biscuits with a rolling pin, adding the butter and then pushing them into the ramekins. I didn't do very much at all as the rest of the ingredients we just threw into the blender, including the jar of peanut butter so they would be strong and nutty.

Also gathered around was Phillip, my brother, and Tim, my Graphic Designer. At each stage of the cooking I got out teaspoons so we could all analyze the mixture. So far so good. It was ridiculously rich and creamy, but hey it's a cheesecake so it is supposed to be like that.

We spooned the mixture over the bases and then baked them during which we prepped the Oreo Fudge Bars. Again, Annabel the Queen of bases crushed the Oreos, leaving them a bit chunkier than the previous biscuits giving it a nice texture and making you feel like you are eating a huge Oreo.

We made the fudge sauce, which is similar to a ganache, although you use condensed milk rather than cream and it is a lot thicker. We poured it over the base and then decorated with milk chocolate Whitakers then so far there are three layers of chocolate, only one more to go.

The cheesecakes came out and in went the oreo fudge bars. Eager as would be expected, we wanted to get straight into the cheesecakes but it was quite obvious they were too warm and should really cool completely. I quickly put one in the freezer to cheat a bit as we wanted to try it that night, not the next day, and within half an hour it was cooler and slightly more firm. Ok to flip we thought.......

It turned out to be a moon crater, cracked all the way over too. I will admit I was a bit disappointed, even though it was abstract and did not matter in the slightest whether it was broken or not. I tried to make it look a bit prettier by plating it and drizzling with some dark chocolate ganache.

Lucky I did though as it was a necessary component to break down the richness of the cheesecake and strength of the peanut butter.

We only had a few spoonfuls each as it was so rich, but also because we HAD to leave room to try the Oreo fudge bar which I had just taken out of the oven. I cut it up and we drizzled it with the fourth and final type of pure chocolate.....white. It was pure gluttony. This is a chocoholic's dream and perfect comfort food. I think as it is so rich it would be fantastic with ice crushed oreo's are. We all gave it the thumbs up and though it was the better dessert out of the two.

The next day when I visited Annabel at Cafe Giulia, she had brought a large cheesecake and I asked her if she brought the Oreo bar too. This was her response "When I got home I couldn't help myself........and ate half of it that night :P" I laughed and applauded her as that is a mighty effort. She would have to be the bigger chocoholic out of the two of us I think, but something I am happy to test out in the future.

Peanut Butter Cheesecakes



1 packet Arnotts Shredded Wheatmeal biscuits
125g butter
2 tbsps sugar
1 tsp vanilla essence

Cheesecake Filling
3 packets Philadelphia cream cheese
1 cup sugar
3 large eggs
1 cup heavy cream
1 tbsps lemon juice
1 tbsps vanilla essence
1 tub (375g) peanut butter, crunchy

100mL Pure cream
200g Dark chocolate, at least 70%


1. Preheat oven to 170 degrees in a fan forced oven.
2. Melt butter and mix with crushed biscuits and sugar to form the crust.
3. Line pan or ramekins, whichever you are using, with baking paper, or if using a spring form pan, grease.
4. Press base mixture into pans so it is about 1.5cm thick.
5. Mix Philadelphia and sugar in a bowl until smooth then add each egg one at a time.
6. Finally mix in cream, vanilla, lemon juice and then lastly add peanut butter.
7. Spoon mixture over base and then put the tins or ramekins in a large deep pan filled with boiling water (a water bath), which goes at least 3/4 of the way up the tins or ramekins.
8. Depending on what tin you are using and its size, the baking time will vary. The small ramekins only took 25 mins but then a larger tin would take up to 40 mins. You will have to monitor this as everyone's oven acts differently. You do not want them to brown on top. Just set enough.
9. Cool completely or fridge overnight. Once cool make the chocolate ganache topping by warming the cream and then stirring in the chocolate.
10. If you want to serve with warm sauce falling down the sides, use a knife to go around the edges and release the cheesecake from its tin, then plate up and pour sauce over the top. Otherwise pour sauce over the cheesecake and then refrigerate again until chocolate is cool. Then serve.

Oreo Fudge Bars


2 sleeves Oreos
125g butter, melted
1/4 tsp salt
1 condensed milk
1 tsp vanilla essence
250g Whittakers Dark Ghana, 72%
100g, 85% Lindt chocolate
About 3 rows of Whittakers Milk chocolate
1/3 block White chocolate


1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius.
2. Melt butter and mix with crushed oreos and salt. (Do not crush too finely, you want them to be a bit chunky)
3. Line a square tin with baking paper and press down oreo crust.
4. Heat condensed milk in a pot with vanilla, then mix in dark chocolates. Pour over base.
5. Decorate with individual blocks of milk chocolate and then bake for 20 minutes.
6. Allow to cool and then when ready to serve drizzle with melted white chocolate.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Flourless Chocolate Cake with Nut Crust

Flourless Chocolate Cake with Nut Crust


250g good quality dark chocolate (70% +), broken into small pieces

100g 85% Lindt chocolate (broken into small pieces)

150g butter

5 eggs, separated

1/2 cup icing sugar

1/2 cup caster sugar

Nut Crust

2 cups nut of choice (I tried the cake with each of the following nuts:Hazelnut, Walnut and Almonds)

70g butter


1. Preheat oven to 160 degrees.

2. Melt butter on a low heat and once melted remove from heat and gradually stir in chocolate until smooth and silky.

3. Separate eggs and whisk whites to stiff peaks, slowly adding the caster sugar.

4. Whisk egg yolks lightly with icing sugar and mix into chocolate mixture.

5. Fold in egg whites being careful not to over mix the mixture otherwise it won't be light and fluffy.

6. For crust, roast nuts in oven until nice and brown then mix in a blender with the butter.

7. Line ramekins with baking paper on the base and around edges. Place enough nut mixture in each ramekin to achieve a 1cm crust.

8. Spoon in the chocolate over the nuts but so not over fill ramekins as they will rise over, so just below the edge.

9. Bake for 18 minutes, but be careful not to over cook them. They should have 'just set' on the top and not have browned at all.

10. If serving warm, allow to cool for at least 10 minutes otherwise they will break when you turn then out. Otherwise refrigerate them until cold then serve them. They are best served with ice cream.

What you can also do to achieve a nice warm cake is fridge them until firm then turn them out onto your serving plate. Put then in the microwave for 20 seconds and they will go all gooey in the middle.

European Weekend

The cooking continued today for Andrew, Maria and little baby Edward (who is so cute!), and today the menu would consist of Spanakopita, which was requested, a normal gluten full bread and the flourless chocolate cakes with some different bases.

Andrew is very lucky because after cutting gluten out completely for a good couple of weeks, he slowly reintroduced it back into his diet and found that it wasn't what was upsetting him, but rather the culprit was spicy food. I wanted to celebrate by baking a gluten filled bread...focaccia.

I had attempted this for Easter but wasn't to impressed with that first attempt. It was not soft enough and was quite dense which I think was due to the short time I let the dough rise. This bread should be rising for at least 3 hours I would say, to get a good texture, which was good for me as I made the dough before going to beach training and then to the grocery store to buy ingredients for the other dishes. So by the time I actually made the bread it had risen for over 4hrs.

I decided to top it with a garlic and rosemary oil. I love having a thriving rosemary bush outside my house as it is perfect with so many things. I used my newish mortar and pestle which my Yiayia gave me as an early birthday present by mistake, which is large and marble. It ground the garlic, sea salt, rosemary and EVOO up so well, and after letting it sit for around 20 mins, the flavours really infused into the oil.

I didn't hold back pouring it into the groves I had made with my fingers, making little puddles of flavour, then 25 mins later it was done and the smells wafted all through the house. It was soft and after cutting it up I was so happy I was quite busy in the morning.

The bread tasted so good, light, fluffy and soft, and the best bit was dipping it straight out of the oven into the cold infused oil that was leftover.....what a treat! Of course I wanted to share it with my family while it was warm and since my Dad hadn't eaten lunch I decided to make him a nice focaccia sandwich, although he requested the toppings: bastouma; haloumi; proscuitto. I added some fresh tomato also to balance the flavours and add some sweetness to it.....I think he enjoyed it.

Ok next up was the spanakopita. I went out to the garden again to grab some fresh mint and parsley. This was pretty much a chuck it all in mixture. Rough measurements too. I threw in the ricotta, crumbled in the feta, chopped the shallots, herbs and the cooked and very well strained spinach and seasoning. I know spanakopita usually uses filo pastry but I improvised with what was in my freezer and used puff. It still turned out beautiful and golden and still gives that crunch like filo does........what can you do when you have no cash and Franklins EFTPOS machine's are down...

The layers were then piled, two on the bottom and two on the top, neatly folded over to achieve a nice clean lid, then into the oven it went. A good 50 minutes later it was golden and when I pulled up a little segment it was steaming and the aromas were heavenly. I think the single ingredient which makes this dish is the shallots. They are necessary in giving a nice bite to the mixture to break down its heavy dairy content.

As I said earlier I also remade the flourless chocolate cakes, but this time experimented with different bases. The almond was very nice but other nuts work much better with the richness of the chocolate like hazelnuts or walnuts. The almonds are a bit blander than the other nuts, as they are less oil and the flavours not as strong, so I added a little brown sugar to the mixture this time. Now it was up to Andrew and Maria to tell me which combination they liked best.

So I took the food over and while I played with Edward, they had dinner and loved it. I now understand how little time parents have to prepare food and eat as they always have to have their focus on the baby, so if my meal gives them a break for even half an hour, I am happy : )

Garlic & Rosemary Focaccia

*Makes two loaves

750g pleain flour ('00' if you have it
2 teaspoons of salt
1 2/3 cups of luke warm water
4 tsps dry yeast.
2 tablespoons EVOO (Extra Virgin Olive Oil)

Infused Oil

1 cup EVOO
4 garlic cloves
2 lge stalks rosemary
1 tsp sea salt

1. Combine the flour and salt in a large bowl then make a well.
2. Mix the yeast with the water and let stand for half an hour until it froths up a lot.
3. Pour the oil and the yeast mixture into the well and then mix to form the dough. Knead for 5-10 minutes or until the dough becomes elastic and springs back.
4. Cover the dough with baking paper and a blanket or tea towel and let it rise in a nice warm place for 4 hours (A nice sunn spot in the house is ideal)
5. Whilst dough is rising, combine garlic, sea salt, rosemary and a little EVOO in a mortar and pestle until a nice smooth mixture. Slowly add the rest of the oil until well combined. Let it sit until doughis ready to infuse.
6. Once dough has doubled in size, preheat oven to 200 degrees.
7. Seperate it in two and roll out each dough into a rectangular shape. Place them onto greased baking trays.
8. Using your fingers, make pits in the dough. Pour oil gnerously onto each dough, making sure you fill the pits and spread it all over. YOU WILL NOT USE IT some for dipping once it is finished.
9. Bake in the oven for 20 minutes or until bread has risen and is soft. You do not want it to get brown in colour, just a light shade as this is a very light and soft bread, not one with a thick crust.
10. Cut it diagonally and serve with infused oil and sea salt to dip.



500g ricotta
1 cup feta (crumbled into small pieces)
2 eggs
touch of nutmeg
1 bunch shallots, chopped
2 bunches spinach
handful of chopped parsley and mint
pepper to taste
4-5 sheets puff pastry


1. Steam spinach until wilted and drain ALL water out of it. (This is very important)
2. Preheat oven to 180 degrees.
3. Drain ricotta then combine with rest of ingredients until mixed well.
3. Lightly grease a baking dish and then line with well thawed puff pastry. One layer on the bottom and along sides, leading some overhand on the top. Try to be neat.
4. Spoon filling in and then fold over the edges. Top with two sheets of pastry to close the pie and then score the lid with portions.
5. Bake for 50 mins or until top is a golden brown.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Gluten free experiment......with chocolate

A very dear friend of mine recently found out he was gluten intolerant which is a tragedy as nothing beats fresh bread with olive oil....especially when waiting for a main meal or to nibble on of an afternoon. Not to mention all the pastry, cakes, slices, biscuits etc. etc. etc. that can't be had. It really would be my worst nightmare, that is why I feel so bad for Andrew, especially since he is in the hospitality industry.

I know some would argue that he is lucky that now there is so much available which is gluten free, and I do agree but come on, nothing compares to the real thing.

Well last week Andrew and his lovely wife had a baby boy, and he is absolutely gorgeous. Of course when I visit I want to take some food to celebrate the occasion, but it took me a while to think of what to make. I can just imagine how much he would be missing bread so I decided to make some gluten free bread...........but that wasn't all. I also wanted to do something with chocolate (the next best thing of course).......flourless chocolate cake anyone? But how to spice it up? I decided to add a nut base by roasting some almonds and blending them with butter, not too much as they should still be course, you don't want a meal, but enough so you can mould them into the ramekin.

Once done I made the flourless chocolate cake and then spooned some mixture into the ramekins. I did not expect them to take long at all to cook, as fondant and souffle's are both under 20mins, so after about 22 mins they were done. I took them out and while hot I couldn't resist but had to break one open.

As soon as I did my eyes instantly went wider as I saw the soft, almost molten, chocolate centre collapse over the plate. The smell just wafted right into my face and that spoon somehow went from one side of the bench onto the plate. Ok so it was 9:30 at night, but really, who could resist. The only thing that would have made this dish better was some creamy vanilla bean ice cream.....

Mind you tonight was only the test. I will redo this recipe on Saturday to take over to Andrew.

The bread however, was not so successful. I used a gluten free plain flour and added yeast, sugar, milk and a little oil to it. It turned out extremely dense and rock hard on the outside. I'm sure it would be fine if you were to toast it, but definitely not up to my standard to give away.

I did also buy white rice flour, xantham gum, chickpea flour and millet flour today, so I will look up recipes which require these ingredients instead and try again on Saturday for some light and fluffy gluten free bread.....

If anyone can help me, or tell me where to find tapioca flour, I would greatly appreciate it.

View recipe here

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Celebrating Mothers Day

Today I was so looking forward to cooking for my Mum and spoiling her with a nice dinner, especially since I am never home at nights to eat with the family, as I know that is something she would appreciate.

It was a bit of a hectic day though as we were supposed to meet the rest of the family for coffee in Leichhardt, but due to the rain we went back to my Aunt's house for lunch. Better for me as I was able to bake a cake before we went, as the time got pushed back.......well I told myself I had time. Half an hour isn't that late, and I still had to take the half baked cake to finish off in my Aunt's oven.

The cake I made was a take on a fantastic banana bread recipe I had. Yes I only had two bananas, and no sour cream, but instead I added yogurt, chunks of ricotta and roasted walnuts through it. The reason I think it took a long time to bake was that I added bicarb soda to the yogurt and ricotta mixture and it fluffed up tremendously. This affected the cake whilst baking as it rose a lot and was very light and fluffy but just would not bake in the centre. It did turn out lovely and everyone dug in, but I think cooking it at a lower temperature for longer (and being patient) would have been the way to go.

After we had enjoyed lunch and dessert tragedy struck when my Yiayia, who is 86, fell and broke her wrist. Straight to hospital she went and she was put in a cast. I came home while my Mum and her sister were at the hospital, to prepare dinner. I really wanted to make Mum the lamb shanks I made a couple of weeks ago with the cous cous salad, but slightly alter the salad a bit to compliment the meat.

See lamb recipe

As pomegranate's are going out of season and aren't very good at the moment, I decided to do a Moroccan style cous cous salad which was simply chopped dates, roasted almonds, olive oil, and lemon juice. It was a nice and fresh salad which could be enjoyed by itself, but was the perfect sponge to soak up the juices from the lamb.

One last thing I wanted to try, since I had quite a few garlic bulbs, was roasted garlic. So I put 2 bulbs in a ramekin drizzled with olive oil and roasted them in an oven at 200 degrees for about 30 minutes. After 10 I placed alfoil over the top so they would not burn. They turned out sticky and caramelized with a texture that makes it hard to not get them stuck in our teeth or at the top of our mouth. They were devoured by all of us and it was the one thing my Dad actually said he really enjoyed from the meal......well at least that is one tick.

Although we were all a bit preoccupied taking care of my Yiayia, we all sat down at the table together and enjoyed a meal, which is something we haven't done in a long time, and I'm sure Mum would have appreciated that.

Happy Mothers Day

I wrote this post also to share with the viewers of Kopiaste, written by an amazing and passionate foodie, Ivy. I am constantly on her site looking up other ways of preparing traditional Cypriot recipes, which I know my family and especially my Mum would love.

I hope you all like the post.

Cooking for a Crowd

I was so excited when asked to prepare some desserts for a cocktail party I was attending. It was the opening of a friend of mine's fitness studio, Vital Lifestyle Experience in Rozelle and he hadn't arranged dessert, so three days before the party I got a phone call asking what would be an easy dessert. I told Dom, the director, that mini tarts would be the way to go especially if there were around 60 people, and that I was more than happy to make them for him.

But what type of tart? A simple custard tart? Rich chocolate tart? Lemon tart? Since I didn't have a lot of time after work to try out new things, I went with something I have made before and am confident with. The last thing I would have wanted to happen was that they burned or tasted terrible. The pressure was on. SO Mini Chocolate Ganache Caramel Tarts it was.

Of course I needed to test them out a couple of days before as I did use pre-made mini tart shells which are based on a shortcrust pastry. I got home from work on the Wednesday, at 8pm mind you, I started to bake. As I was only making one dozen I wasn't too fussed about the order of the operation, although this was a huge factor when the final baking day came along.

I started with the caramel by melting down the sugar mixture......NOTE TO SELF: Do not be talking on the phone whilst trying to make WILL burn and you will have to start all over again.......which of course happened. But it was a good thing as I had actually forgotten to add the water to the sugar in the first place. No wonder it took such a short amount of time to make the toffee.

Second time round I added the water and waited for it to dissolve, then thicken into a syrup, then crystallize into a dry sugar rock, then melt again to obtain this clear golden toffee. QUICK....add the butter, cream and salt before that 5 second window passes (Another thing I have learn from previous attempts) otherwise it will taste badly burnt, then smellll the sweet aromas of the rich caramel in the pot while it cooks for just a few minutes more.

Taste? Perfect. Thick, buttery and smooth, just how it should be.

Ok. Phew the hardest part is over. Now the fun part....ganache. Something I can do whilst multitasking and doing other things. The only problem this particular effort was that when I went to buy the chocolate from the supermarket, their range of dark chocolate was very poor and dismal. I had to settle for Old Gold which I do not like at all. When I took it home and made the ganache I remembered tastes bitter and burnt, not smooth like a dark chocolate should be. It is chocolates like this which give dark chocolate a bad name and make people think it is well......gross. The other problem with this chocolate is that it did not give a nice smooth consistency that ganache should have and actually split so the oils were separated through the mixture. In an attempt to fix the taste and recombine the mixture I added a little bit of trusty nutella, which admittedly did make it taste slightly better, but not like how it should be. What can I do, bad ingredients scream disaster.

Ok so once the pastry shells were done from the oven it was time to assemble the tarts then fridge them.

The next day I took some to work, the cafe down the road from me which I love, Cafe Giulia, and to Reuben from Mecca Roastery, for their verdict on the tarts.......Three thumbs up :)

Ok great news. The next night I was buzzing and ready to make the tarts....however the one thing I was worried about was fridge space. See the number of tarts had actually jumped from 60 to 120......

The night started off well with my favourite chocolate to cook with being on special, Whittakers Dark Ghana which is 72% Cocao, smooth and not too sweet. Fantastic for cooking. I got home and first thing to do was start baking the tart shells. Each rack only took 15 and the took around 15 minutes to bake so it was going to take a good couple of hours for them.

Next thing to start was the caramel. I did not know how much to make so I just guessed and hope it would be enough, which it most definitely was. The only thing was that when you make a mass amount of caramel it takes a lot longer as the surface area to volume is less so to get it through each state, especially melting it down from the dried out rock, took a very long time and I needed to continually break the rock up so it would not cook unevenly.

This time my 100% attention was on the tarts, no phone calls, only music to keep me going through the night.

Now the Ganache.....The cream was warmed and I slowly added the chocolate one block at a time and mixed it so it combined. Two blocks. Three Blocks. Four Blocks. Now it was looking good, smooth and like silk. The texture was fantastic, and the taste.......incredibly rich and decadent. PERFECT.

Time to assemble....the hardest part was not dripping the caramel over the edges of the tart as I do not want to ruin the presentation at all. The need to look pristine. Once I had done all 120 I went back the the first ones I filled, which the caramel has slightly set and spooned over the ganache.

3 hours later, 120 tarts done and 3 fridges filled....but the job was done.

The day of the party I was worried about transporting them to the venue, that I would end up with a boot full of caramel and chocolate, but thankfully the alfoil over the top was enough to secure them in place.

Champage, wine and canapes were served.....then it was time for desserts.....and everyone loved them. What a relief!!!! Some even went back for seconds. Moorish I know but they tend to do that. And as for me....I couldn't devour even half.....I had had PLENTY of little teaspoons over the whole 3 hours I made them, and enjoyed every mouthful.

Mini Chocolate Ganache, Caramel Tarts
(to make 120 mini tarts)


12 packets of Pampas pre-made tart tins (available in the frozen section of your supermarket)

4 cups sugar
1 cup water
350mL pure cream
420g butter cut into small blocks
3tsps sea salt (can add more if you want salted caramel)

3 blocks Whittakers Dark Ghana
700mL pure cream

* I have slightly decreased these quantities as I ended up with a lot left over


1. Preheat the oven and once warm start to bake the tart tins at 180 degrees until slightly brown around the edges.
2. Add the sugar and water to a pot over medium high heat until sugar dissolves.
3. Cook over high heat until the mixture thickens into a syrup, then once it starts to dry out, put it down to a medium heat. You will need to use a knife to break up the clump so it melts evenly.
4. Once it is melted and a golden brown take it off the heat and add the butter, cream and salt and mix well then put back onto a medium heat, still stirring until all combined then cook for another three minutes.
5. While the caramel cools, prepare the ganache. Heat the cream in a pot over medium heat, but don't take it to boiling point. Take off heat and mix in chocolate, in small pieces, one block at a time then mix until combine....Add next block and so on until you achieve a smooth, silky consistency which is thick and strong in taste.
6. Once the tart tins had cooled add two tbsps of caramel to each tin.
7. Go back to the first caramel filled tarts and add a heaped tsp of ganache and smooth evenly over the top of the caramel*
8. Refrigerate the tarts.
9. Take out an hour before serving so they warm up to room temperature.

*If you had more time, refrigerate the tarts before topping with ganache, for at least 3 hours so the set completely and so the ganache does not sink into the centre of the tarts.

Friday, May 1, 2009

A night in Lebanon

I feel really compelled to write tonight. I just had a really good friend over for dinner, someone I have known for years. I wanted to cook meat, as I know I don’t eat it enough and need to make time to prepare it. As my favourite cuisines are middle eastern I decided to do lamb and use the following base ingredients which are very prominent in this style of cooking: garlic; lemon; parsley; pomegranate; almonds; and cumin.

I didn’t have a lot of time to prepare anything amazing, so I had to think of something which was easy to whip up yet still impressive. My friend, Brad, was bringing over cous cous and greens so I figured I’d do a simple salad with the cous cous however, I couldn’t try to add to many flavours to both as they could possibly clash and overwhelm each other.

Once I went to the butcher to buy the meat I decided how to do the lamb. I bought lamb shanks (which I have cooked before Moroccan Style) and this is similar but Lebanese use a few different spice mix. While Moroccan is generally cumin, paprika, cinnamon, lemon, red chilli and olive oil, for a standard spice mix, Lebanese uses cumin, garlic, lemon, green chilli and olive oil. I also added green olives and let the shanks just braise for about an hour, till they were soft and the liquids had reduced to a thick sauce.

The cous cous honestly took about 7 minutes to prepare, quicker if I hadn’t forgotten about the almonds toasting in the griller….which I smelt after they were well and truly charred.

Such a simple, healthy meal which is full of amazing flavours, and is impressive if you have time constraints. I am so satisfied after enjoying it too, I didn’t even want dessert, which is very rare for me.

The one thing I did not do however, was take photos. I was enjoying the cooking and the conversation that I didn’t want to take time out to set up the shots this particular time….but don’t worry, I’ll be cooking tomorrow night and will definitely document that in images.

Lamb braised with garlic, lemon and green olives

3 cloves garlic
½ Spanish onion
1 green chilli, with seeds
2 lemons
Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO)
1 ½ cups Chicken Stock
3 lamb shanks


1) Chop garlic, onion and chilli finely. Sautee in a pot with EVOO on a low heat until onions translucent.
2) Add lemon juice, cumin, stock to pot and then season. Add shanks and mix around so they get coated in liquid. Simmer with a lid on for at least an hour. (You must monitor the amount of liquid and every so often turn the shanks so they are immersed in liquid. If it starts to dry up, add extra water).
3) Serve with cous cous and greens (see below)

Pomgranate, Almond, Parsley and Lemon Cous Cous

½ pomegranate
1 ½ cups almonds
1 lemon, juiced
1 ½ cups cous cous


1) Clean Pomegranate seeds into a bowl.
2) Toast almonds until browned, then once cooled, crush or cut coarsely.
3) Chop up parsley very finely.
4) Put cous cous in a large bowl and add 1 cup boiling water, a generous drizzle of EVOO and lemon juice then mix until absorbed well. If it is too dry, add more water. Should be moist and fluffy.
5) Add pomegranate, almonds and parsley to cous cous and stir through, adjusting amount of lemon juice to your liking.