Saturday, May 18, 2013
Do you ever have those moments when you stuff something up without even realising it, but it all works out in the end anyway? That was the experience I had when I made Basbosa, a traditional Egyptian dessert, using the recipe from Share: The cookbook that celebrates our common humanity. Share is a very special cookbook in that net profits go to support the work of Women for Women International. It is also a very handsome cookbook, with information and case studies from the various regions where Women for Women operates, interspersed with recipes from chefs and famous people who do charity work, and glorious full page colour photographs. Some of the recipes are traditional for the region in which they feature, others are most definitely not, meaning there is something for everyone.
I was instantly taken by the recipe for Basbosa, as the accompanying photograph looked delicious, and I was intrigued by something I had never heard of before. Now, I am not 100% sure whether I stuffed up the recipe or not. It refers to 240g of cornflour. In Australia, cornflour means wheaten cornflour, and it struck me that this seemed like a lot of cornflour for the recipe. However, I made it using the wheaten cornflour, not for a moment thinking anything was not right. However, the next day, I Googled some other recipes for basbosa (also spelled basbousa, but I use it the way it is spelled in Share), and noticed that most of those recipes used semolina and yoghurt instead of cornflour and cream, as specified by the recipe in Share from Manal Al Sharif (whom I believe to be a Saudi Arabian advocate for women's rights). Suddenly, the penny dropped - perhaps "cornflour" meant maize flour (cornmeal), not wheaten cornflour. The book was published in Britain, and I am sure that the Brits use the term "cornflour" in the same way as Aussies; however, that does not mean that Manal meant it that way, and given that many other recipes use semolina, I have a suspicion that Manal meant cornmeal.
Oh well, it doesn't matter - my version of basbosa seemed to turn out fine, and a couple of people at work said they liked it, so it can't have been all bad, even if I have stuffed up.
I urge you to buy Share, and support a good cause while obtaining a beautiful and practical book. As a tempter, here is the recipe for basbosa (interpret the reference to cornflour how you will!):
110g melted, cooled butter
3 tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
100g dessicated coconut
75g chopped almonds or pistachios (I used flaked almonds)
1/2 tablespoon lemon juice
Grease a 20cm x 27cm deep rectangular cake tin, and preheat your oven to 180 degrees Celsius. (Note that I found my slice tray to be too low to hold all of the batter - you do need a high-sided tin.)
Pour the butter into the bowl of a stand mixer, and add the eggs, sugar, milk, cream, baking powder and vanilla, and beat until smooth. Fold through the cornflour and coconut then spoon the batter into the prepared cake tin.
Bake the basbosa in the oven for 25-30 minutes or until golden on top and a cake tester comes out clean. Allow the basbosa to cool in the tin until lukewarm.
In the meantime, make the syrup by placing the sugar bringing the sugar, water and lemon juice in a saucepan over low heat until the sugar dissolves, then bringing the mixture to the boil and simmering for 3-5 minutes until slightly thickened. (I decided mine wasn't thick enough and let it bubble away for 10 minutes - err, slightly too long, as I ended up with something resembling taffy that I had to reheat to use.)
Pour the cooled syrup over the lukewarm basbosa and sprinkle to top of the basbosa with the chopped nuts. Cut the basbosa into squares.
Friday, May 17, 2013
Today is Cook's Choice for Food Revolution Day for our French Fridays with Dorie group. Our assignment: choose a recipe from Around My French Table that you loved (or would love to try, if it’s a recipe we haven’t made yet!) and Cook it. Share it. With family, friends, colleagues.
What is Food Revolution Day? To quote the website:
Food Revolution Day is a global day of action for people to make a stand for good food and essential cooking skills. It's a chance for people to come together within their homes, schools, workplaces and communities to cook and share their kitchen skills, food knowledge and resources. Food Revolution Day aims to raise awareness about the importance of good food and better food education for everyone by focusing on three simple actions – cook it, share it, live it.
I chose to make Lamb and Dried Apricot Tagine from p284 of Around My French Table. You can find the recipe to make it in the book, or online here. The photos below take you step by step through that recipe.
First, you put some dried apricots in chicken stock to plump up:
In the meantime, you brown some cubed lamb shoulder in a little oil on the stovetop:
Next, after removing the lamb from the pan, you cook some chopped onions and garlic in a little more oil:
and add a tin of tomatoes:
After reducing the tomatoes for 10 minutes, you add the chicken stock (sans dried apricots), dried chilli, coriander, saffron, ginger, cumin, cinnamon and two teaspoons of fresh coriander (if you have it):
Put the meat and dried apricots on top:
cover the pot with alfoil, pop the lid on your pot, and cook the tagine in the oven for an hour. Add a handful of toasted almonds and cook for another 15 minutes.
Serve and enjoy:
This tagine has a lovely zing to it - if you don't like zing, you can adjust the spices to your taste. However, the overall flavour is just devine in my view - sweet and savoury and spicy, with soft, melty meat. I served mine with steamed veges and leftover risotto.
You can find out what the other Dorie cooks made for Food Revolution Day by visiting the LYL section of the FFWD website.
Wednesday, May 15, 2013
This week, we travel to Italy for Wednesdays with Donna Hay as Margaret chooses Arancini from Modern Classic Book I.
This is a double recipe, as before you can make the arancini, you have to make Donna's lemon and parmesan risotto. Here is the risotto:
I had some of the risotto for lunch with a small tin of salmon mixed through - it was delicious.
Here is peek inside the arancini:
I used pieces of light cheddar cheese to stuff my arancini instead of the mozzarella from a practicality and cost saving perspective. My arancini took about double the 3-4 minute cooking time recommended by Donna. The arancini were delicious, but obviously they are not every day food as they are deep fried. For that reason, I only made two arancini and will use the rest of the risotto as a side with another dish.
To see what Margaret, Kayte and Chaya thought of these arancini, visit their websites.
Saturday, May 11, 2013
Over the Anzac Day long weekend (created by taking Friday off as well as the official Thursday holiday), my family and I travelled to Adelaide for a mini break. My favourite part of that trip was going to Hahndorf, an originally German settlement in the Adelaide hills. Hahndorf is very beautiful at this time of year with the autumn leaves all yellow and red, and it has been kept cute-sy and touristy to attract visitors.
While in Hahndorf, at the Bavarian deli, I spied what is a very difficult to obtain product here - Speculoos spread (known as Biscoff spread in the US). I had seen the mania over this product in the blogging world, and I was keen to get my hands on some. I had tried a Speculoos chocolate bar from Trader Joes when I was in the US last year, but the Speculoos spread had eluded me until now.
Speculoos spread has a similar appearance and consistency to peanut paste, but it tastes of the spicy biscuits from which it is made. It is rather thick and cloying in the mouth, like peanut butter, so while I am glad to have tried it, it is not a favourite of mine.
To ensure that I don't fall into the trap of eating the Speculoos spread all from the jar (although it tastes very nice on a warm crumpet), I decided to make Caramel Speculoos Blondies. You can find the recipe that I used here.
I didn't put the soft caramels on top of my blondies, but these were not necessary, as the brown sugar makes the blondies very caramel-like without any help. These blondies had a chewy quality to them - which didn't surprise me, as the batter was very thick. The verdict at work was that these blondies are rather good. Though only one person commented on them, the fact that the blondies all disappeared speaks for itself.
In closing, I want to congratulate my friend Craig, who became an Australian citizen on Thursday night:
This lovely photo is courtesy of my friend Steve. I was firmly wedged into a row of seats, replete with paper Australian flags, so I couldn't really get up to take photos. Congratulations Craig!!!!!
Friday, May 10, 2013
This week for French Fridays with Dorie recipe is Coupetade, a bread pudding made with French toast instead of ordinary bread.
As a kid, Mum made bread pudding to use up the egg yolks after she'd made pavlova. Neither of us really liked bread pudding much back then - it was the poor cousin to the main event, the pavlova. However, I now love the stuff.
Because I didn't want temptation in my house, I scaled the 6 serve recipe down to 2 serves made individually in ramekins. I chose apricots and cranberries for the fruit component, and, sin of sins, I made French toast out of rye bread instead of brioche.
This pudding was delish - what is not to like about custardy bread with fruit - but I don't think it trumps Donna Hay's marmalade bread pudding. I tried it both warm and cold - I think I liked it better cold because everything had had a chance to meld together into a smooth, sweet mouthful.
To see what everyone else thought of Coupetade, visit the LYL section of the website.
Wednesday, May 8, 2013
One of my favourite TV shows at present is Silk, the BBC series about criminal defence barrister Martha Costello on her path to becoming a Queen's Counsel (called "taking silk" - hence the name of the series) and her colleagues and clients at Shoelane Chambers in London. I think that the character of Martha is fantastic, but she lives a pretty hard life - she works all day, then comes home with the next day's brief(s) and starts again, working late into the night. Martha seems to subsist on a steady diet of beer (she has a built in bottle opener on her fridge), wine and cigarettes, and neither cooking nor eating seems to play a large part in Martha's life.
This week's Wednesday with Donna Hay is a dish that Martha's lifestyle would never give her the chance to make. Our host, Kayte, chose Moussaka from Modern Classics Book I.
This dish is very tasty - it's tomato-ey, it's cheesy, it's meaty, it's rich. It is perfect comfort food for a cold night.
The only drawback is the length of time it takes to prepare this dish. The longest part is preparing the eggplant. It has to be thinly sliced, salted, left to rest for 15 minutes, rinsed, oiled and lightly fried before it can be used to construct the dish.
To see what Kayte, Margaret and Chaya thought of this dish, visit their websites on Wednesday, US time.
Tuesday, May 7, 2013
Last night, I watched an amazing performance on The Voice by Kiyomi Vella singing Paloma Faith's Upside Down. I had never heard of this song before, but after seeing Kiyomi's performance, I was sold.
For Baking with Julia this week, we turned our own worlds upside down and made Rhubarb Baby Cakes, hosted by Erin of When in Doubt - Leave it at 350. I had thought this would be similar to the Ginger Baby Cakes we have already made, and except for my own laziness, I was going to make these in mini muffin tins. Now that I know how these cakes go together, I know that would have been a huge mistake - phew!
I made my baby cakes in a 12 hole muffin tin and got 12 cakes out of the recipe. These cakes are comprised of a nutty caramel topping (I used macadamias instead of pecans), followed by a layer of sliced rhubarb, and topped with a butter cake batter. There seemed to be so much rhubarb packed into the tins, I was not sure that the cakes would hold together, but they did. And they were amazing!!! The sweetness of the caramel, the crunchiness of the nuts, the tartness of the rhubarb and the soft, tender cake make for a magical dessert. I ate one of these served warm, and it was fantastic. I would definitely make these again.
To see what the other Julia bakers thought, visit the LYL section of the website on Tuesday, US time. If you want the recipe, buy the book, or Erin will have it on her site.