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Thursday, October 27, 2011

Cooking Lately

I can't say I have been most inspired in the kitchen lately...when life gets busy or hectic I tend to resort back to what I know and what I can make without a recipe and my slow-cooker.  However, I did have a few friends over for dinner last week and did a bit of a southern (USA) menu.

For starters I made hushpuppies with a spicy aioli and baked brie w/ maple syrup & walnuts.  Hushpuppies are basically fried cornbread, another southern favorite (so yummy).  I can't say they are very good for you but they sure do taste good!

The main dish was a South Carolina favorite 'shrimp and grits'.  Most Australians have never seen or tasted grits so I thought this would be fun to make.  I think they liked the taste and texture okay, but my portion sizes were a little large so I don't think anyone managed to clear their plate.  Sorry my pictures aren't great but basically it is sorta like a gumbo which you serve on top of the grits, which is like a creamy corn based porridge (savory).

I think our dessert may have been the best of my absolute favorite pies - keylime pie, although I could not find 'key' limes here in Australia so I just had to use regular limes and go figured I picked now when they are extremely expensive.  I think my 5 limes cost about $10... but the pie sure was good so I figured it was worth it.  It is also one of the easiest pies to make here is the recipe for anyone interested:

Key Lime Pie Recipe

1 pack of plain cookies/graham crackers (about 2 cups)
1/2 walnuts or pecans
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
125 grams melted butter (one stick)
Puree the first 3 ingredients until you have fine crumbs, then stir the butter into the mixture with a fork.  Mixture should be wet enough to then press into your pie dish or you can use a spring form pan.  Once you have formed the crust, bake it in the oven for 10 minutes.

4 egg yolks
1 can condensed milk
1/2 cup lime juice (about 4 limes)

Simply whisk these ingredients together until nice and smooth and pour into the crust.  Bake for 15-20 minutes on 180C/375F until pie has set.  Let the pie cool and then refrigerate.

For the topping I think fresh whipped cream is the best option mixed with a little mascarpone cheese and a couple of teaspoons of sugar.  Or I also tried mixing lemon curd in with the cream and it was divine.  You can also serve this pie with fresh berries and sprinkle with lime zest.


Sunday, October 16, 2011

Wedding Cake # Two

Lemon Vanilla Cake filled w/ Lemon Syrup, Lemon Curd & Vanilla Bean Mascarpone Custard Cream and Grand Marnier  Meringue Buttercream Frosting
My second wedding cake...made for dear friends Lucas & Lyl.  I thought it was pretty good considering I have never even had any cake classes (but I would be pretty keen to take one).

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Orange & Almond Cake Recipe (gluten-free)

I have thoroughly enjoyed this orange cake recipe which I snagged from Delicious magazine last month.  I have altered it a little bit and also included a recipe for Mascarpone Vanilla Bean Custard...which is a great addition to this little cake, which I topped with candied kumquats.

Orange & Almond Cake

1 orange
3 eggs
100g sugar (I used organic rapadura sugar)
1 cup almond meal
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp vanilla extract
finely grated zest of 1 lemon

Place the orange in a small saucepan and cover with water and bring to a boil over medium-high heat.  Simmer the orange for one hour, topping up water as needed.  Drain, cool slightly and whiz in a food processor until a puree.

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F.
Beat the eggs and sugar until light and fluffy.  Stir in the zest, vanilla, baking powder and almond meal, then add orange puree, stirring to combine.  Pour the batter into muffin tins, ramekins or a cake tin.  Bake 12-15 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean.

Mascarpone Vanilla Bean Custard

Making a base custard and adding to it has become one of my favorite recipes, this compliments all kinds of desserts and can so easily be flavored however you like.  It is also perfect to use for cake filling, pies, crumbles, parfaits and is also delicious right out of the bowl!

4 egg yolks
1/4 cup sugar (or a little more if you want it sweeter)
1 vanilla bean
1 tablespoon cornstarch
3/4 cup milk
1/2 cup mascarpone cream
1 cup whipped cream (optional)

Place milk and vanilla bean (scraped) in a small saucepan on low heat.  Meanwhile whisk together the egg yolks, sugar and cornstarch.  Once the milk is hot, just before boil, strain it into the bowl with eggs.  Whisk together and put back in the pan over low heat.  Stir constantly until the custard begins to thicken and starts to boil.  Lower heat and stir quickly until thick and creamy.  Then remove from heat and let cool before placing in the fridge.

Once custard has cooled, whisk in the mascarpone and then fold in the whipped cream if you want a lighter texture.  Then you can add any additional flavors you want, such as lemon, berry liquors, cinnamon, etc.