Saturday, February 12, 2011

Cookbook Challenge 2011 - Rice/Noodles

I've had a jar of vine leaves in the cupboard for ages, so when rummaging through my pantry looking for inspiration, I figured dolmades would be a good idea. A la grecque is a little Greek restaurant in Aireys Inlet and the owner's cookbook is one of my favorites; it's actually written by an Australian who married into a Greek family, so I particularly like it for that reason. My own mother in law has taught me plenty of traditional Greek recipes - none written down & all measured by feel! Dolmades, however, are not part of her repertoire. She's taught me similar recipes using cabbage leaves, but I also love the flavour that the vine leaves impart, meaning the filling can be quite simple and the result is really tasty.

dolmades from pam talimanidis' a la grecque
500g fresh vine leaves, or a jar of vine leaves preserved in brine
450g medium-grain rice, rinsed until the water runs clear
10 spring onions, finely chopped
1/2 cup dill, finely chopped
1/2 cup mint leaves, finely chopped
juice of 1 lemon
315ml extra virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 litre water
plain yoghurt to serve

If using fresh vine leaves, blanch them, a few at a time, in a large saucepan of boiling water. Refresh in cold water then lay flat on a tea towel to dry. Trim off the stalks with sharp scissors. If using preserved leaves, rinse them well to remove the brine. Dry and trim off the stalks, as for the fresh leaves.
In a large mixing bowl, combine the rice, spring onions, herbs, lemon juice and 190ml of the olive oil. Season with salt and pepper and mix everything together well.
Lay a vine leaf out on the back of a dinner plate, with the vein side up. Place a spoonful on the rice mixture across the base of the leaf. Roll it over once, fold the sides in and then continue to roll into a neat sausage shape. The dolmades should be about the size of a finger - don't roll them too tightly or they will burst during the cooking. Repeat until all the rice mixture is used up. You should have a few vine leaves left over.
Lay a few of the remaining vine leaves flat over the base of a large saucepan. Pack the dolmades tightly into the pan then add more layers until all are used. Pour on the water and the remaining 125ml of olive oil. Lie a few more vine leaves over the dolmades then sit a plate on top and cover the pan with a lid. Cook over a medium heat for 1 hour then remove from the heat and leave to coll in the pan. Drain and serve the dolmades at room room temperature with yoghurt.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Cookbook Challenge 2011 - Citrus

Food safari has always been one of my favorite foodie shows; I love the mix of home cooks and celebrity chefs featured, and of course Maeve O'Mara's natural style. I spent ages scribbling down notes while watching the shows, so I was stoked when a cookbook to accompany the first series was released.

The Turkish episode featured sweet little semolina orange cakes in syrup that looked just beautiful. There's some great valencia oranges available at the markets at the moment, which don't look as pretty as some of the other varieties, but are great for juice so I figured I'd buy some and give this recipe a go.

To be honest, I found that there was way more syrup than I felt was needed and you could easily halve the quantity given. 500g of sugar for 6 small cakes is begging for a diabetic coma if you ask me. Otherwise, I was really quite pleased with how they turned out.

ravani - semolina orange cakes from maeve o'mara's food safari
5 medium eggs, separated
1 tablespoon sugar, plus 1 pinch extra
grated zest of 1 orange
50g fine semolina
50g plain flour
100g ground pistachios

600ml fresh orange juice
grated zest of 1 orange
500g sugar

300ml greek yoghurt
2 oranges

Preheat the oven to 180°C. Butter a muffin tray that has 6 large moulds.
In a large bowl beat the egg whites with a pinch of sugar until stiff. In a separate bowl, beat the egg yolks with 1 tablespoon of sugar and the orange zest until pale. Add the semolina, flour and pistachios to the egg whites and partly mix through. Add the egg yolks and fold through until combined. Spoon into the muffin tray and bake for 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, make the syrup. Put the orange juice, zest and sugar in a saucepan and bring to the boil over medium heat, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Simmer for 10 minutes or until syrupy and reduced by half. Leave to cool.

Whip the cream until thick and stir in the yoghurt.
Segment the oranges by cutting off the peel with a small sharp knife, making sure you remove all the white pith. Cut on either side of each segment, removing wedges of flesh but leaving the membranes.
When the cakes are cooked, ladle over some of the cooled syrup and leave to soak for at least 10 minutes (or longer if you prefer the cakes softer). Serve the cakes with the whipped cream and yoghurt, orange segments and a little extra syrup.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Cookbook Challenge 2011 - Stonefruits

So, I came across the cookbook challenge last year and thought - what a great idea. I'm a notorious (to my family and friends anyway) cookbook junkie, but when it comes to actually cooking, I jump straight on the net to find what I'm looking for. I figured it was about time I did them justice and used them for something other than bedtime reading, so here I am jumping into the cookbook challenge with the intention of making it through the year. Lets see...

Where else to start but Stephanie Alexander? If there is one cookbook that I do use, it's this one. When I've bought something that I'm not quite sure what to do with, she's the first place I look for ideas. So when I came back from the Collingwood children's farmers market with kilos of peaches, cherries and nectarines from Taminick, the cook's companion was the obvious place to start.

I settled upon the peaches and cream tart (mainly so that I could use the kitchen blowtorch that I just had to buy) which was just lovely. The tartness of the peaches with the creamy filling and crunchy brulee topping made for a really nice contrast in flavour and texture.

peaches and cream tart from stephanie alexander's the cook's companion

1 quantity Shortcrust Pastry
1 egg white, lightly beaten
3 egg yolks
1/2 cup castor sugar
few drops of pure vanilla
1 tablespoon peach schnapps or brandy
1 cup sour cream
1 tablespoon cornflour
3 large peaches
2 tablespoons brown sugar

Preheat oven to 200°C. Line a 26cm loose-bottomed flan tin with pastry and bake blind for 20 minutes. Remove foil and weights, then brush base of pastry case with egg white and return to oven for a further 5 minutes. allow to cool. Reduce oven temperature to 180°C.

Whisk egg yolks, castor sugar, vanilla, schnapps, sour cream and cornflour in an electric mixer until pale and mousse-like. Peel peaches and cut into 5mm thick slices, then arrange slices in pastry case in concentric circles. Pour over sour cream mixture and bake for about 20 minutes until set and beginning to brown. Allow to cool for 5 minutes. Crimp some foil over edges of tart to protect pastry, then sprinkle top with brown sugar. Using a blowtorch or passing tart under a preheated griller, quickly and evenly caramelise top. Serve warm or at room temperature.