Monday, May 30, 2011

Torta Di Ricotta - Adapted from Gourmet Traveller

I love Italian food.  I cook a lot of it.  I don't have an Italian nonna, so most of my knowledge of Italian food come from friends, and cook books.

I must admit since Italian food is so popular, it has changed a bit since migrating to the new world, just like all the other cuisines from the old world.

One of my recent collection was The Italian Cookbook, by Australian Gourmet Traveller.  It's a rustic torta, and I have been wanting to try out for a while.

I bought a kilo of fresh ricotta during the weekend, after making some potato ricotta smoked salmon patties, I decided I still have enough ricotta to do my torta.  Recipe adapted to suit my pantry, I don't have dried figs, and I did add mascapone which was not in the original recipe, used walnuts instead of hazelnuts.  And it's a bigger torta, so I didn't have enough left over pastry to do the cross over stripes on top, but instead, cut out some hearts.  I also used lemon myer, instead of oranges as I have a tree load.

Torta Di Ricotta

100g raisins
40ml masala
juice of one lemon Myer
zest of one lemon Myer

750g fresh ricotta
250g fresh mascapone
2 tbsp honey
110g sugar
1 egg, lightly beaten
100g roasted walnuts, roughly chopped.

185g plain flour
125g cold butter, coarsly chopped, plus extra for greasing
55g caster sugar
1 egg, separated


1. Pulse flour, butter, sugar and egg yolk together with a pinch of salt in a food processor till it's just coming together, knead mixture till smooth and roll between 2 sheets of plastic wraps into a large disc, put in fridge for an hour.
2. While the pastry is resting, mix the juice and the masala, soak the raisins for 30 minutes.
3. Mix ricotta, mascapone, honey, egg in a bowl, mix till smooth, I used my bench top mixer. Fold through the lemon zest, the walnut and the soaked raisins with the liquid.

4. Preheat oven to 190C.  Roll pastry whilst still in plastic wrap to 34cms round. Remove top layer of wrap and invert pastry into the tart tin, I used a deep 10" loose bottom tart tin. 
5. Spoon ricotta mixture into the tin and trim the edges of the pastry and roll out the left over pastry.  I didn't have enough to do the criss cross, so I cut out some hearts....

6. Brush pastry with a bit of egg white and bake for 40-45 minutes or until golden. brown. 

7. And as most of the Italian tortas, dust with icing sugar and serve warm or in room temperature...

Buon Appetito!

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Mocha Date Loaf... Lovely Sweet Bread

I had some left over chocolate sauce from the Chocolate Pear Pudding I made last week.  I guess when scaling down the recipe, there are some not quite right moments.

What do I do with the chocolate sauce?  How about use it in the bread I make for hubby's brekky?

Mocha Date Loaf

50g Chocolate Sauce (from Chocolate Almond Pear Pudding recipe)
350g Strong Bread Flour
1 table spoon good quality instant espresso coffee (I use Moccona, however if chocolate sauce was made from scratch, properly brewed espresso coffee would be preferred)
80g chopped dates
7g dry instant yeast
10g Butter (there's already some butter in the chocolate sauce and sugar)
1 tiny pinch of salt
160ml warm milk
1 large egg

The bread making part is just as same as other breads, and I do prefer the activate the yeast with the milk first and stir into the dry ingredients, add chocolate sauce and light whisked egg - keep a tiny little bit for egg wash before baking.  After I formed the rough dough, in goes the dates.

It's a pleasant brekky loaf, not over powering, and great as toast with a bit of butter.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Chocolate Marquise on Torched Meringue, Lemon Curd, Sesame & Peanut Brittle, Spun Sugar - May 2011 Daring Baker Challenge

Wow.  What a dessert.  Seriously.  If my bathroom scale reading is not what I want to see, can I...?

Of course not... blame something else...

Thank you Emma of CookCraftGrow and  Jenny of Purple House Dirt, to put this wonderful recipe up.  Please check this for original recipe and step by step recipe.

I did a smaller portion and changed a few spices due to what I have in pantry. 

Chocolate Marquise on Torched Meringue, Lemon Curd, Sesame & Peanut Brittle, Spun Sugar

Chocolate Base:
85g Dark Chocolate - 70% Cocoa
90ml thickened Cream
12ml Vodka (I don't have Tequila in my pantry)
15ml light corn syrup
a drop of vanilla essense
1 teaspoon of mixed spice: nutmeg, cinnemon and ginger powder
10g butter

Chocolate Marquise:
3 egg yolks
1 whole egg
37.5 g sugar
20 ml water (optional)
125 ml thickened cream

I won't repeat the cooking process, it's the same as explained in the original recipe.  It's amazing to watch the egg yolks and the whole egg to go pale and fluffy. 

I must say because I reduced the quantity heavily, I didn't use the sugar syrup, but whisk in the sugar gradually into the eggs.

Folding in the chocolate base was easy.
And after whisking up the cream, it's all set up and ready to go into the lined mould to get into the freezer.

Torched meringue was made the next day.
3 Egg Whites
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
50g sugar

Whisk till hard peak. 

I had some home made lemon curd, and sesame seed and peanut butter brittle made the weekend before, so I added them to the plate, and made a caramel for my spun sugar and a bit of caramel sauce...


Thursday, May 26, 2011

Home Made Spring Roll Crepes

My first attemp of making them.

There's no recipe for me and I can only rely on my childhood memories of life in a country far far away.

I remember the little old ladies at the side of the streets on little stoves making those crepes.  Mum used to send me to the streets to get them so she could make spring rolls for us, or just use them as wraps.  There was no freezer section or big super markets when I was growing up. 

In the 70s and early 80s, there was hardly anything in any shops in mainland China, and all the spring roll crepes, along with a lot of other traditional poor men's foods, were hand made.  The old ladies were usually pretty quick, they usually made them in front of the buyers, straight away when you order them, was almost magical for me when I was little, swirl the runny dough around the flat pan, and a second later one crepe was ready.

After living in Australia for half of my life - 20 years and most of my cooking life, I rarely make spring rolls, and if I do, I usually use the pastry from the supermarket freezers.  So does mum.  The shope crepes do deep fried spring rolls alright, but it's not usable at all, as wraps.

So this is from a 30 year old memory... and I must admit, it's a lot harder than I thought!

Oh, by the way, Jamie Oliver made his Snake Cake in his Jamie Does show and the filo pastry used and how he tried to make it in the Moroccan Street stall, was amazingly similar to the humble Chinese Spring Roll Crepes...

From memory, the dough was runny but very elastic, so this was what I did:
450g strong bread flour
400g water
1.5 tbsp salt.

Mix well and leave it covered for roughly half a day to a day.

So it's elastic and stringy when it comes to make it.

I bought an electronic crepe pan earlier this year, with a little wooden thingy to make all sorts of crepes.  Since the spring roll crepe dough was not a normal runny crepe batter, all work had to be done by "wiping" the pan with the dough...

It was harder and I think maybe, after a few practices, I might be able to compete with the little old ladies in my memory?

There were a few thick bits and edges were not perfect, after a few failed attemps, I got the hang of it, and starting to make something that's sort of - passable. 

Maybe not the best for making actual spring rolls, but good enough to use as wraps... thin, chewy, how it should be. 

Wrap it up with shredded pork stir fry.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Baked Lemon Myer Cheese Cup Cakes For the Australia's Biggest Morning Tea

The Biggest Morinng Tea today at work, for the Cancer Council.  The social clubs at work have always been very good with all these charity events.   It's for a great cause, and although I have been busy with my work and not able to attend, I decided I can donate some food to support.

It's hard to concerntrate cooking on Monday nights after work, kids school work, dinner and everything so I just decided to go for an easy choice of making some baked cheese cake slices.  Then I realised, starting around 7am in the morning means I have to be able to pack and rush out of the door, and cheese cakes can't be sliced until the morning...

Change of game plan.  I always have a lot of cup cake casing, for cup cakes, slices, tarts, because it's just easier to bring to work where there are not a lot of kitchen tools.

Baked Lemon Myer Cheese Cup Cakes

Makes 24 cup cakes

Zest and Juice from 1 Lemon Myer (can be any lemon, I've only got Lemon Myer in my back yard)
6 tablespoon sugar
500g cream cheese - just normal Philly Cheese
300ml thickened cream, 35%
4 large eggs
2/3 pack of Arnott's Marie biscuit
100g butter

Using the food processor to process the biscuits till fine with butter.  Press in individual cup cake cases in the muffin pans, chill in fridge for 30 minutes.
In a small saucepan add lemon juice, and half of the sugar.  Bring it to simmer on low heat to make syrup and stir in the rest of sugar to melt, set a side to let cool.
Use either the cleaned food processor or a bench top mixer to mix the cream cheese and cream, slowly add in cooled lemon syrup.  Add lemon zest.
Add in eggs, one by one and make sure the batter is smooth.  Pour in individual cup cake casings.
Bake in pre-heated 180C oven for 25 minutes.
Chill in fridge over night after cooled down.

I was told they were nice treats in the morning tea...

Monday, May 23, 2011

Home Made Fettuccini with Beef Ragu...

Home made pasta - the whole egg version is usually easy and well received by the family.

I must admit that a bit of time is involved, and we usually make pasta when we don't need to bring lunch boxes - we don't buy lunches a lot, the children usually bring sandwiches, there's not much around hubby's work, and I don't usually prefer to waste time and money on lunch at work, eating alone by myself.

Both hubby and I prefer hot lunches, so normally we cook extra serves of dinner for lunches.  I have found it's a lot easier to calculate the right quantity with dry pasta, but when it comes to home made ones, we usually don't have any left overs.  I'm not sure if it's because the children go for the seonds or everyone loves to have a bit more...

Anyway, for the pasta we made, we served with Beef Ragu.

It's a good way to use cheaper cuts of the beef ribs, osso bucco or gravy beef, we used a mix match of ribs and osso bucco.

The night before, I prepared the base of the ragu:
1 parsnip
2 carrots
1 big potato
1 stalk of celery
1 onion
bouquet garni - sprigs of parsley, thyme and bay leave
1 small lemon
whole black pepper
1 cup of white wine

Heat up the oil in pan, and brown the meats. 
Brown the cut up and cleaned veggies in the pan after cooking the meat, to soak up the flavour.
If I'm not working, I'd do the whole process in a stove top pot, and do it straight away.  But, I turned to my trust worthy slow cooker again because I had to go to work.  And since I normally start at 7:15-7:20 am at work, preparations were done the night before.
Store the cooked veggie and meat in fridge.
The next morning, place veggies at the bottom of the slow cooker, then meat, add the whole black pepper, lemon and bouquet garni.  Add white wine and water to cover the meat, and let the slow cooker do the job until I got home from work and Luke's school, around 4:00pm.
Switch off the slow cooker, but first things first, making pasta, as the dough need to be set, the longer the better.

Pasta dough:
300g '00' flour (or plain flour when '00' is not available)
1 pinch of salt
3 whole eggs.

I usually make pasta the traditional way, by hand, and set the dough aside wrapped in cling film to set.

Time to drain the stock, discard the veggies and take the meat off the bones.  Keep them seperate, the stock and the meat, we normally end up with more stock, that we can use later during the week.

Heat some olive oil in pan, and put in the very soft beef.  It doesn't need a lot of browning.  Add a can of diced roma tomato, and tomato paste.  Dry mixed herbs.  (I need a green house if I want fresh herbs all year around!)  Season with salt and pepper and add some beef stock.  Add a dash of milk to make it creamier, and let it simmer, so the beef can soak up the tomato flavour.

Roll out the pasta, and cook them in lightly salted water.  Home made pasta has to be rationed in my family, so I usually ask the children to come around and choose their own "noodles".

By the time the pasta is rolled and cooked, the beef ragu should be ready - seve together with shredded parmesan - my family are happy with simple food cooked with care.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Sfogliatelles with Ricotta Walnut and Raisins

I have been cooking a lot of Italian food, or Italian influenced food.

Our family love Italian food, especially children, and we have a lot of Italian families around us.  When we get to another birthday party - the friends of our children, we get more Italian food and get more Italian recipes.

And some of them have been accepted by the Italians, when hubby brought them to work.  Including the Italian Potato Donuts, Cannolis, so I said to hubby, time to re-visit some of the old time favourites and bring them to work, see if the Italians at work will OK them as well...

So, time to do Sfogliatelles.  The little pastry wrapped sweets filled with ricotta ...

However, I made an almost fatal mistake, about the timing.  Anyway, this is this batch of Sfogliatelles:

I didn't change the pastry dough quantity:


500g plain flour
50g sugar
1 tsp salt
80g water
80g milk
1 large egg

The dough was mixed, and rested for more than 3 hours, and rolled out and stretched, bit like how I'd do filo pastry, make it thinner and then brush melted butter on each later, roll it up like a long log.

Normally, I'd wrap it up in cling form and rest it for an hour as per original recipe suggests. 
However, because I was very tired that night and decided to leave it in the fridge over night, and make the filling the next day.

The Filling:
75g thickened cream

75g milk
60g sugar
50g semolina
150g Ricotta
1 egg yolk
1 whole egg
Zest of 2 lemons
1/3 cup of crushed and roasted walnuts
1/3 cup of raisins
1 vanilla pod, sliced open and seed scrapped out.

Bring the cream, sugar, vanilla and milk to a slow boil and set aside and discard the vanilla pod. 

Whisk the egg and the yolk, stir in the warm mixture, return to the small saucepan and add in semolina.  Once thickened and smooth, fold in ricotta.  Fold in the rest of the ingredients.

And, I found the pastry is too sticky to be moved like how I used to!  So instead of the traditional method of cutting into 1cm rings and push out the middle, I roll it out and wrapped the filling like hmm... riviolis.

But they are still quite nice and well accepted by the Italians at hubby's work....

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Gooey Chocolate Pear Almond Pudding...

Hubby always brings home some cooking magazines that I like, this month's Masterchef Mag, has got some really goooood chocolate recipes by Andriano Zumbo.  They do look a bit complicated.

After rushing around for ballet mid year concert, and making pasta sheets for lasagne tonight, I thought I might just go for something easy on this mag:

Chocolate Pear Almond Pudding

Recipe adapted from May edition of MasterChef, quantity alterred to suit 5 x 1 cup ramekins.

30g unsalted butter, plus extra for greasing
1.5 Beurre Bosc Pear
100g self raising flour
100g brown sugar
20g almond meal
100ml milk
1 egg - lightly beaten
75g dark chocolate, 70% cocoa

Chocolate Sauce
40g unsalted butter
90g brown sugar
20g dutch cocoa
160ml hot water

Grease the ramekins, place sliced pear at the bottom of ramekins and pre-heat oven to 180C.
Place milk, chocolate and butter in a saucepan, on low heat, stir till smooth, take off heat and cool for 2 minutes.
Stir in egg, mix till just combined.
Sift in sugar, almond meal and flour.  Mix till combined and share the mixture between the 5 ramekins over the pears.
Make the chocolate sauce, place all ingredients in a small saucepan and place on low heat and bring it to a slow boil.  Stir till all melted and smooth.
Pour chocolate sauce into ramekins to fill up.

Bake for 15-20 minutes or until puddings have risen.

Dust with icing sugar, and serve with peach icecream....

Friday, May 20, 2011

Semi Sourdough Pain Viennois

Since I make white sandwich loaves every week, I do decide to use different recipes so it's more interesting for me - the bread maker.  I don't think the little people who use them in school lunches really care how I've made them...

Semi Sourdough Pain Viennois

1 Egg
30g butter
50g 100% hydrated sourdough starter
2/3 teaspoon yeast
150ml milk
300g bread flour, plus a bit extra to dust
1 tablespoon sugar
1 pinch of salt

Whisk the egg, leave a bit out for egg wash.
Warm up the milk and activate the yeast.   Set aside for it to froth.
Flour sugar and salt, rub in butter, add in yeast mixture and sourdough starter.
Knead dough till elastic, set to proof till double the size.

Shape dough, and wait for the second proofing the finish.  Brush on egg white.

Bake in pre-heated 200C oven for 30 minutes.

Slice up, perfect for making school lunches.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Wholemeal Chocolate Chip Chocolate Cookies

I have always been wondering if I can make children's favourite after school snack in a less guilty form?  Like, add in a bit more fibre?

This is just a play on the recipe, as I've never tried making cookies with wholemeal flour before.  However, children love them, they couldn't taste if they have got some different flour in them... Shhhh... do not tell...  I hope they are not reading my blog...

Wholemeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

100g fine wholemeal flour (I used Roti Flour from Indian grocery shop)
85g self raising flour
3 tablespoon brown sugar
2 tablespoon white sugar
1 tablespoon golden syrup
2 tablespoon fresh cream
2 egg yolks
125g butter
40g cocoa powder
50g dark chocolate chips

Icing mixture

Cream butter with sugars, until smooth and ribbony, mix in the egg yolks, mix in the cream - roti flour is dryer and the bit of cream made it a bit easier.  Fold in golden syrup, and sift in flour and cocoa powder.
Mix in the dark chocolate chips. 
Shape the cookies...  It works best if it can be shaped in a long log and rolled up in cling wrap, sit in fridge for half an hour and cut into 0.5cm - 1cm slices, it will expand a bit so place the cookies on the baking paper a bit apart from each other.
However as I was watching the shows on TV, I just rolled them out into little balls and pressed down.
Dust with icing sugar and in the pre-heated 200C oven for 12-15 minutes.


Monday, May 16, 2011

Nutella Pancakes

Whenever I asked the children, what would you like to have for breakfast?  They will say, pancakes.

I normally leave home for work before 7am during the week, so the only chances of giving them pancakes, are weekends.

We made this yesterday morning:

Nutella Pancakes:
25g butter
2 Eggs
250ml milk
150g Self Rasing Flour
4 heap tablespoons of Nutella
4 tablespoons of sugar

Melt butter and set aside to let cool a bit.
Bring milk to room temperature.
Whisk together eggs and sugar.  Slowly mix in the warm butter and milk.
Sift in flour, mix to a smooth batter.
Fold in the nutella.

Enjoy with honey or maple syrup....

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Chicken & Chorizos Gumbo, My Attempt of May Daring Cook's Challenge - Let Good Times Roll

Denise from There's A Newf in My Soup challenged all of us to do an old times dish, a classic gumbo.  I chose to use chicken and chorizos because of my allergy to seafood - what a bad allergy, well, it's not deadly, just uncomfortable, enough for me to limit eating my favourites to the very minimum amount.

The recipes for different gumbos, chicken & smoke sausages, seafood and vegan, and their methods are here.

I used mainly what I have in the pantry:
1 chicken,
2 chorizos
several sprigs of parsley
1 onion
2 cloves of garlic
2 green chilli
1 egg plant
2 zucchinis
4 button mushrooms
2 tomatos
Plain flour
canola oil and chicken fat (dripping)

For the spice mix:
All spice powder
smoke paprika
cajun powder
cracked black pepper

Made the roux first, and then stir in the onion garlic and chilli.

Stir in the chicken pieces with spice mix.

Simmer and wait...

It was lovely.  We ate with rice, but somehow I thought the bread roll might looked a bit more decorative in the photo than white rice....