Friday, April 26, 2013

Comfort Food - Parsnip, Potato and White Bean Soup with White Chocolate

As promised in my Chocolate Chilli Dressing post, I experimented with another one of the chocolate recipes I discovered on the Hershey website - Potato-Parsnip Bisque with White Chocolate. Autumn has well and truly set in and the nights are brisk and chilly. The days waiver between warm and cooler, but all in all I am starting to crave comfort foods. Soups and stews and roasts and pudding and chocolates. So I was excited to try this soup with white chocolate, combining two of those things! I'm a bit strange in that I like both dark chocolate and white chocolate. Milk chocolate I can take or leave. So the idea of some white chocolate melted through a parsnippy soup sounded perfect. I am eating a bowl of this for a late lunch as I type, ugg boots on, watching Mad Men. It's creamy and thick and peppery and perfect for this cooler weather. Truly comforted.

The initial recipe was a bisque, and passed through a fine china cap. But I wanted mine thicker, so I skipped this step. Not to mention that I don't own one of those. It also called for heavy cream, but I wanted it to be a bit healthier, so I added a tin of white beans for extra fibre and used milk. I served it with some crispy bacon bits, but I actually would've preferred some crispy fried chorizo or salami bits. The fennel in these sausages would've taken it to another world of yum!

Parsnip, Potato and White Bean Soup with White Chocolate
serves 6
1 tbsp grapeseed oil
1 leek, quartered then finely diced
1 big clove garlic, diced
1/2 tsp salt
2 parsnips,  peeled, then medium diced
1/2 cup sweet white wine
6 small potatoes, peeled then medium diced
750mL vegetable stock
250mL water
2 bay leaves
1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
2 cups milk
40g or so of white chocolate - 16 sqaures of Dream, finely cut
pepper, to serve

Place a medium pot over medium heat, add the oil and allow to heat. Add the leeks, garlic and salt. Allow to cook until the leeks become translucent. Add the parsnips and mix well, coating in the leeks. Add the wine, stir it through then reduce it by half.

Add the potatoes, stock, water, bay leaves and nutmeg. Turn the heat up, bring to the boil, then reduce to a simmer. Cook for 15-20 minutes or so until the potatoes and parsnips are tender. Add the white beans, and cook for a further 5 minutes or so.

Turn off heat, allow to sit for 5 minutes or so. Remove the bay leaves. Using a stick blender, blend until smooth. Return to the stove top and heat to medium. Add the milk, stir through and allow to heat to just below boiling.

Add the white chocolate at this point, stirring carefully, but briskly to allow it to mix through completely. Taste for seasoning and adjust as necessary. Serve with fresh pepper.


Thursday, April 25, 2013

Entertaining - Tapas Sliders Night

The idea for this post came from three sources. Firstly, I am a huge fan of tapas style food. I want to try all of the things, so small amounts of various items is the best! When I go to restaurants, I can usually rope a few people into ordering multiple starters and make it a DIY tapas night, instead of ordering mains. Have you noticed that generally, the most unique and interesting food flavours are in the entrees? I'm assuming it's because if you don't like it, there's only a small amount and you've got your mains coming. But it's such a fun way of dining to try only smaller dishes.

One of my favourite restaurants is Watershed Winery near Margaret River and it's because they have a tasting plate appetiser for two and tasting plate dessert. Each plate comes with around 6 perfectly created mini-dishes. All different and unique, but still complimentary. I've often wanted to re-create this style of dinner party at home, but it's a lot of work to make so many mini-dishes. I actually want to do a tasting plate entree, main and dessert. 18 dishes for one dinner!

Secondly, my work Christmas party last year. It was a cocktail event, with lots of wonderful snacks going past and free-flowing champagne. It was getting towards the end of the night, when I'd danced to my heart's content and drank a few too many bubbles when I started to smell the most amazing smell. Burgers. And then I saw the tray of sliders the waiters were bringing around. Best. Idea. Ever. Mini-burgers for drunk folk, just before midnight.

I was discussing how perfect that idea was after she'd said she had pork sliders for lunch that day when we came up with a brilliant easy dinner party idea - tapas sliders. Mini-burgers with a choice of patties. So you can try multiple burgers in one night, or just stick to your favourite if you're a bit fussier. All of the patties can be prepared beforehand and then just grilled when your guests arrive. You can perfect the topping combinations for them, or like we did, create a burger station where they can experiment on their own. 

Our burger combinations suggestions were:

Beef patties - with cheese, beetroot, salad and tomato sauce
Pulled pork - with BBQ sauce, pineapple and coleslaw
Grilled pumpkin - with avocado and grilled haloumi
Prawn patties - with avocado and mango salsa

I made the pulled pork and prawn burgers. My friend brought the pumpkin and beef patties.

Our buns were a little on the large side for sliders, so I had my beef burger bunless as you can see in the pictures below. Sorry, all phone photos still.


Thursday, April 18, 2013

Mixed Greens, Pear and Goat's Cheese Salad with Chocolate Chilli Dressing

I wish I'd come up with this idea on my own, it's something I'd be super proud of. It's a weird, but elegantly simple idea. After all, salad dressings are basically a mix of oil, acid and sugar - why shouldn't that sugar be chocolate? But I'll be honest and say that this recipe was adapted from an idea I saw on the Hershey webpage. As part of that holiday I mentioned in my last post (the one that means this photo is also a phone photo - so bad I'm almost ashamed to put it up, but the salad was so delicious I'm willing to put it out there), my husband and I are taking a quick trip out to Hershey, PA. That's right, a whole town built by a chocolate company. With a theme park. Chocolate and roller coasters! Perfect, right?

So anyway, I was doing a bit of browsing on their website and came across a recipe section with a chocolate and chilli salad dressing. I simplified their recipe down to the basic 3 ingredient rule, then added chilli. I figure easier is better for a weeknight, and it'll give me a good base to start experimenting with. And it was awesome. Seriously. Awesome. I used Cottees chocolate sauce because of availability in Australia and price point. But feel free to use Hershey's, or a more natural, virtuous chocolate sauce.

I served this as a side salad for dinner, but I'd definitely serve a larger portion with a big juicy pork steak to turn it into a main meal salad. And, at the risk of getting sick of my own'd also be really good with crispy bacon bits. Vegetarian dish improved by bacon. In fact, so many things would go well with this dressing!

The dressing is also pretty strong, you only need a drizzle of it, rather than to full-on 'dress' the salad. For two people, I used 2 tbsps of the dressing. The salad ingredients all depend on how much you intend to serve.

There was also a recipe for a savoury chocolate soup I'm keen to try when the weather cools down further - I'll keep you posted!

Mixed Greens, Pear and Goat's Cheese Salad with Chocolate Chilli Dressing

3 tbsps chocolate sauce
4 tbsps coconut oil
3 tbsps apple cider vinegar
1 tsp chilli powder

Mixed salad greens
1/2 buerre bosc pears, very thinly sliced
pine nuts
1/4 brown onion, diced
2 tbsps corn flour
oil for frying
goat's cheese, crumbled

Put all the dressing ingredients in a jar with a tight lid and shake!

Toast the pine nuts in a medium hot pan. Toss the onion in corn flour, then heat the oil in the same pan, and fry until brown and crispy. Put on paper towel to drain and cool.

Arrange greens, pear slices and goat's cheese in salad bowl, top with crispy onions and pine nuts, then drizzle the dressing over the top.


Sunday, April 14, 2013

Instagrams of Yumness - Moroccan Carrot, Cauli and Ruby Red Grapefruit Salad‏

So, I've been pretty slack with the photographs lately - so you'll only be getting phone pictures for a while. Sorry about that.

I've been somewhat pre-occupied with researching and booking our upcoming holiday, so everything else has fallen by the wayside.  Seriously, so excited! At times like this, my memory is even worse than usual. Do you ever buy a specific ingredient with a specific dish in mind - then completely forget why? I do. All. the. time. I bought some ruby red grapefruit last weekend. I can only imagine that it was for some form of salad, given that it got back up to 37C, despite being April. I can't remember what I planned to pair with it, but a salad still seemed like a good idea.

Lately I've been wanting Moroccan flavours. I haven't had a great deal of Moroccan cuisine (despite being in love with my tagine and using it to cook everything), but I had leafed through a Moroccan cookbook a few weeks back and thought that they would go well with the grapefruit. A lot of recipes call for harissa paste, which I knew was a chilli paste of some description, but I didn't know the specific flavours. I found a recipe online and gave it a go, using it as a rub on a slow-roasted lamb leg but I can't say that I was all that excited by it. I decided to try a commercial one, to see what it was 'supposed' to taste like. Much better. Zesty, with a decent residual heat. Cumin and caraway stronger than the one I made. Perfect for a salad dressing. I added honey for sweetness, herbs for freshness, crunchy veges and some seeds for texture.

Quite impressed with the results. Fresh and spicy at the same time. Really easy to prepare as the food processor does all the work. Perfect salad for a warm night. Paired beautifully with steaks. Next time, I would consider adding some fetta or goats cheese and toasting the seeds.

Moroccan Carrot, Cauliflower and Ruby Red Grapefruit Salad

Half head cauliflower
4 small carrots
4 big sprigs flat leaf parsley
4 big sprigs basil
4 big sprigs coriander
handful pepitas
1 tbsp white sesame seeds
1 tbsp black sesame seeds
1 red grapefruit

2 tsbp harissa paste
2 tbsp honey
2 tbsp grapeseed oil
1/4 tsp salt
2 tbsp grapefruit juice

shaving of pecorino to serve

Break the cauli into florets, and put it through the processor, pulsing until it resembles rice. Put it in a bowl big enough to hold the whole salad. Do the same with the carrots, add to the bowl. Do the same with the herbs, but leave slightly bigger.

Segment the grapefruit, breaking it up over the bowl of the processor to catch the juice. Break the segments into small pieces and add to the bowl of vegetables. Add all of the seeds, and fold together, mixing thoroughly

To the grapefruit juice in the bowl of the processor, add the harissa paste, honey, grapeseed oil and salt. Blend to combine, check for seasoning.

Pour dressing over the vegetables and mix thoroughly, then serve with pecorino. As I said, next time I'll use fetta or goat's cheese.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Happy Easter - Bacon Bark and Chocolate Salami

Instead of buying eggs and bunnies for people we visited over the Easter period, I thought it'd be nice to make people something chocolatey. I've tried a multitude of truffles over the years, with varied success and didn't feel too keen to risk a failure. My last effort didn't go so well, the lemon white chocolate wouldn't set hard enough to roll into balls. It did, however, make the most delicious macaroon filling. I also find them really fiddly, something a bit more straight-forward seemed the go.

First on the menu - Whisky Caramel, Marshmallow and Bacon Bark. I first found this about year ago I guess, through pinterest on endless simmer and gave it a shot. It was a bit of effort, but delicious. And seeing as my brother and husband kept 'innocently' mentioning it when I said I wanted to make something chocolatey for presents, it seemed time to make another batch. I followed the linked recipe above almost 100% both times. Except Australian bacon isn't the same as American bacon. It doesn't 'crumble' as well, so I diced it finely before cooking. I also used normal marshmallows instead of mini. I'm guessing the gelatin content or something is therefore reduced? Not sure. It still sets pretty well if you keep it in the fridge. If you give this a go and it's too sweet, try eating it with ice cream!

And secondly, I made Alejandra from Always Order Dessert's Orange Chocolate Dessert Salami. I have Eastern European heritage, and grew up eating salamis and such, so when I saw this recipe on her blog, I knew I would be making it for my family at some point! I used shortbread and a combination of walnuts, almonds and hazelnuts. I also used a mandarin liqueur (it seems we'd drunk the Cointreau!). Make sure you check out her recipe for ideas of other flavour combinations.

As a gift combination, they work awesomely. The dark bitter salami dotted with delicious crunchy bits stands in stark contrast to the chewy, almost over-the-top sweetness of the bark. It's also fun seeing people come to terms with bacon on their dessert - then offering them chocolate salami!

I do caution you on a few things making these. One - watch the caramel! It goes from 'not quite caramel' to 'burnt' very quickly. Two - put the marshmallow pot into hot water immediately. Three - keep lots for yourself! They're seriously amazing!

Bacon Bark
450g milk chocolate

Whiskey Marshmallow
1 packet Pascall's Marshmallows (I put the brand, because I can't remember how much it weighed)
1/4 cup whiskey (I used Jack Daniels)

Bacon bits
450g bacon, finely diced
4 tbsps sugar syrup
1 egg white
1/4 tsp finely ground black pepper
pinch of cayenne

Caramel sauce
1 cup sugar
4 tbsp water
4 tbsp butter
7 tbsp cream

Because of the time involved, I start making the bacon crumble first. At the 'place in oven' stage, I then make the caramel, to allow adequate cooling time for that, too.

Cook finely diced bacon and set aside to cool completely. This is important, because otherwise you scramble the egg white. Heat oven to 150C. Toss the bacon bits through the sugar syrup, and pass through a strainer to remove excess syrup. While straining, beat egg white in a bowl until foamy, whisk in the black pepper and cayenne. Add in bacon and stir well to coat. Spread this bacon mix over a baking tray and put in the oven for 30 minutes or so until crispy. Remove and cool.

To make caramel, add sugar and water in a pan over low heat. Stir until sugar has dissolved. Increase the heat to high, every so often, swirl the pot to keep mixture moving, but do not stir. The mixture will then start turning a nice caramel colour, when this happens, remove from the heat and add the butter and cream. Whisk to combine, set aside to cool.

Break the chocolate up into a bowl, and slowly melt over a simmering pot of water. Line a baking tray with baking paper allowing some overhang. Spread half of the chocolate into a thin layer on the tray. Place into the freezer/fridge to set hard.

Place the marshmallows in a pot over a low heat to melt. When they start to break up and stop looking like individual marshmallows, remove from heat and stir through the whiskey. Spread in an even layer over the chocolate. Put in the freezer/fridge to set.

Spread a layer of the caramle over the marshmallow layer, then follow up with a chocolate layer using the other half of the chocolate. Sprinkle the bacon bits over the top, pressing in slightly. Put in the fridge/freezer to set. Store in the fridge, remove about an hour before serving. If you can wait that long.

Chocolate Salami
1/3 cup finely chopped almonds
1/3 cup finely chopped walnuts
1/3 cup finely chopped hazelnuts
1/2 cup crushed shortbread
1/2 cup unsalted butter
2 cups dark chocolate chips
1/4 cup Mandarin liqueur
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp orange zest
1/3 cup white chocolate chips
icing sugar for dusting

Preheat oven to 175C. Spread the nuts on a baking tray and put in the oven until lightly toasted. Remove and cool

Chop the butter up, add to chocolate chips and microwave in 30 second intervals, stirring in between until completely melted. It'll burn if you try do it all at once. Stir in the liqueur until smooth, then add the nuts, shortbread, salt and zest, making sure it's evenly combined. Fold through the white chocolate chips. Place in the fridge to cool and harden, so you can form it.

I then divided this into 3 portions, for three smaller salamis. Place three sheets of plastic wrap on the counter - 1 for each sausage. Form into a sausage shape and wrap tightly in the plastic. Let it chill until firm, I left it overnight.

Remove from plastic, then rub the outside with icing sugar to make it look like a real salami! You'll then need to wrap in new plastic wrap to store. Slice and eat!