Friday, October 23, 2009

Blue Cheese Souffle

This week's Barefoot Challenge was a Blue Cheese Souffle, selected by Summer from (Sexy) Apartment. While souffle is a word that strikes fear into the hearts of many cooks, this was actually a pretty easy recipe. You start with a roux, beat in some egg yolks, blue cheese and parmesan, and finally fold the mixture into some stiff egg whites. The mixture is then tipped into a souffle dish and with a few hurried prayers, despatched to the oven for half an hour. And then, your souffle is (hopefully) risen and frothy and lovely.

How strong or mild the flavour of the souffle depends on the blue you use. I picked a King Island blue that was mid-range in intensity, and that suited us just fine. A few tips if you are tempted to give this a whirl: make sure you have your oven on the conventional oven setting not fan forced, as souffles don't like any air blowing around them. Do not open the oven door and peek at the blossoming loveliness of the souffle for fear of a collapse. Serve this immediately as it will slowly sink, and you will lose some of the airiness. However, curiously, I discovered that the leftovers are actually pretty good the next day. Certainly it tastes more like quiche at this point, but was still yummy with a rocket salad for lunch. I will definitely make this again for a light supper or lunch - maybe one day I will convince the kids to have a taste as well. Sadly at the moment they think that blue cheese is the work of the devil.
Blue Cheese Souffle
from "Barefoot in Paris" by Ina Garten

3 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus extra for greasing the dish (NB US tablespoons as used in this recipe are 15ml, not the Aus standard 20 ml)
1/4 cup finely grated Parmesan, plus extra for sprinkling
3 tablespoons plain flour
1 cup scalded milk
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Pinch cayenne pepper
Pinch nutmeg
4 extra-large egg yolks, at room temperature
3 ounces good Roquefort cheese, chopped
5 extra-large egg whites, at room temperature
1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar
Preheat the oven to 200C. Butter the inside of an 8-cup souffle dish (7 1/2 inches in diameter and 3 1/4 inches deep) and sprinkle evenly with Parmesan.

Melt the butter in a small saucepan over low heat. With a wooden spoon, stir in the flour and cook, stirring constantly, for 2 minutes. Off the heat, whisk in the hot milk, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon black pepper, the cayenne, and nutmeg. Cook over low heat, whisking constantly, for 1 minute, until smooth and thick. Off the heat, while still hot, whisk in the egg yolks, one at a time. Stir in the Roquefort and the 1/4 cup of Parmesan and transfer to a large mixing bowl.
Put the egg whites, cream of tartar, and a pinch of salt in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Beat on low speed for 1 minute, on medium speed for 1 minute, then finally on high speed until they form firm, glossy peaks. Whisk 1/4 of the egg whites into the cheese sauce to lighten and then fold in the rest. Pour into the souffle dish, then smooth the top. Draw a large circle on top with the spatula to help the souffle rise evenly, and place in the middle of the oven. Turn the temperature down to 375 degrees F. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes (don't peek!) until puffed and brown. Serve immediately.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Fish and Porcini Pie

This afternoon I am playing catch-up, posting something that I actually made a few weeks ago: Fish and Porcini Pie. As long-time readers would know, this is not the first fish pie that I have posted, and I have cooked a lot more in between that I haven't posted. However according to darling husband, this is the best fish pie recipe I have tried out. Now, I really love most fish pies for their incredibly soft and comforting flavours and textures - it is truly the nanna rug in my dinner repertoire (that metaphor doesn't really work but I'm sure you get what I mean). Nigella herself says that even an imperfect fish pie is a delicious one. I just wish it looked prettier. Fish pie tends to be a bit of a melange of beige, and is nearly impossible to photograph and make look appealing. Or it is for me with my very limited styling and photography skills.

On that basis, this is not something that I would ever cook for company, but for a family meal, it is terrific. The porcini makes it slightly more elegant than usual, and I like having a mix of fish. This dish is incredibly easy to eat - you could manage it all with a spoon if you were that way inclined, and for that reason, I gave a second fish pie to a girlfriend with a broken arm. Both her family and my family devoured it, so even you fish pie-doubters out there should give this a try.

This was meant to be for the family favourites week at I Heart Cooking Club but I missed the deadline, so am now sending it to them for their pot luck round-up. You would be very lucky if this turned up at a pot luck dinner!

Fish and Porcini Pie
from "How To Eat" by Nigella Lawson

10g dried porcini
300ml fish stock (buy it from good delis or fish shops)
175g skinned cod (I used Blue Eye)
175g skinned smoked haddock (couldn't get this so I upped the amounts of the other fish)
175g skinned salmon
250ml milk
3 bay leaves
60g butter
60g plain flour
1.25kg mashing potatoes
Extra milk and butter for mashing

Cover the porcini with boiling water and leave for 20 mins. Remove the mushrooms and strain the soaking liquid into the stock. Butter your pie dish. Put the fish in a single layer in a wide deep pan and cover with milk, the stock and the bay leaves. Bring to a simmer then poach the fish for about three mins. Remove the fish to the pie dish and break into chunks. Sieve the cooking liquid into a jug.

Finely chop the mushrooms. Melt butter in a frying pan and fry the mushrooms gently for 2 mins. Stir in the flour and continue frying for another 2 mins. Remove from heat and slowly add the poaching liquid stirring as you go. If the mixture is not already thick, put back on the heat and stir gently until thickened. Pour over the fish.

Boil and mash the potatoes. Preheat oven to 180C. Spread the mash on top of the fish mixture, bake for 20-40 mins, depending on how hot everything was when it went into the oven.

Monday, October 19, 2009

The Chocolateiest Chocolate Chip Cookie Ever

Today was the first day back at school for the last term of the year. Term 4, for those of you without kids, is like the sprint at the end of the marathon. Calendars are already filling up with concerts and performances and carols and a million other commitments ... Not surprisingly, everyone gets tired of it all very quickly and starts to get itchy for that fantastic stretch of holidays in December and January, which always arrives before any of us are ready for it.
But since today was the first day, and I wanted to start the term well (perhaps more accurately on a chocolate and sugar high), I spoilt the kids with a very yummy treat in their lunchbox - a Totally Chocolate Chocolate Chip Cookie. This biscuit is easily the most indulgent I have ever made. Rich and gooey with a slightly salty taste, that just makes the chocolate sing more. Mmmmmmmmmmmmmm. The recipe, from Nigella Express is meant to only make 12 biscuits. I got 16 out of the mixture and each one was the size of my palm or possibly a little larger. So don't feel you need to follow Nigella's directions for 12. They freeze well, either as dough or baked so you can get temptation away from you.
I am sending this over to The I Heart Cooking Clubs midnight sneaks theme. They wanted recipes so good that they would pull you out of bed and back to the kitchen for one more morsel. This is definitely one of those - somehow they have been disappearing nibble by nibble out of the cookie jar.

Totally Chocolate Chocolate Chip Cookies
Nigella Express by Nigella Lawson

120g semisweet chocolate
1 cup flour
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa, sifted
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
125g soft butter
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/4 cup white sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 egg, cold from the fridge
2 cups semisweet chocolate morsels or dark chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 160C. Melt the chocolate gently in a heat proof bowl over simmering water. remove from heat and allow to cool. Measure the flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt into a bowl. Cream the butter and two sugars in another bowl. Add the melted chocolate and mix together. Beat in the vanilla extract and cold egg, and then mix in the dry ingredients. Finally stir in the chocolate chips. Scoot out 1/4 cup-sized mounds - an ice cream scoop and a palette knife are the best tools for the job - and place on a lined baking sheet about 2-1/2 inches apart. Do not flatten them. Leave to cool on the bakign sheet for 4-5 minutes, then transfer them to a cooling rack to harden as they cool. Makes 12 big cookies (or 16 big cookies for me).

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Chicken Pho and Malteser Wantons!

I I was very happy when I saw this month's Daring Cooks' challenge was Pho, the traditional Vietnamese soup. And not just because, there was no dismembering of squid or cuttlefish required. Firstly the recipe comes from Jaden of Steamy Kitchen fame. Jaden has a blog that never ceases to entertain me: great recipes, beautiful photos and a side-gig as an ambassador for Club Med which involves flying from one glamour location to another. I guess someone has to do it.

I was also happy because this recipe fits in perfectly with the super-healthy eating that I have trying (sometimes sort of) to do since my return from the health retreat. Nothing more than clear soup, rice noodles, some vegies and loads of flavour in direct correlation with the absence of calories. It is also a pretty easy soup to make. You start with a whole chicken that you chop into pieces with a cleaver, exposing bone and marrow. My cleaver skills could do with a little work - getting a nice clean cut through bones is a little trickier than it looks, and my kitchen did look a little like it was being styled for a Texas Chain Saw tribute night. No matter. Parboil the butchered pieces, rinse them off and pop into a pot, with a charred onion and some ginger, and spices. Bring to the boil then let it cook on low for 1 1/2 hours. Serve with the classic additions of lime slices, red onion, bean sprouts, chillies and some of the shredded chicken.
Unfortunately the reviews in my kitchen were a little mixed. The kids thought the soup was lacking in flavour, possibly because they are more used to thick soups with garlic in the base, possibly because they refused to add any of the options apart from some chicken. However both the husband and I enjoyed it, with chilli, some extra fish sauce, the bean sprouts, lime onion plus for me, loads of coriander. The recipe is here on Jaden's blog if you are interested in daring yourself this month.

And now for some fun! Part Two of Jaden's challenge was a wonton dessert (which I kept thinking of as a wanton dessert, since the best desserts are all a little wanton). I decided, after a little experimenting to go with Malteser wontons. For those of you who don't get maltesers in your part of the world, they are honeycomb balls coated in chocolate. Three balls wrapped up very neatly into a wonton wrapper, and these received a big thumbs up from all the family. The crunchy pastry filled with melted chocolate and some more crunch from the honeycomb was a real winner. In fact I'm heading downstairs to make the rest now! These are a keeper.
Malteser Wantons
1 large egg
1 tbsp. water
12 wonton wrappers (keep wrappers covered with damp towel)
36 Maltesers
Oil for frying (i.e., vegetable oil, corn oil)
Icing sugar (icing sugar) for sprinkling

Directions:In a small bowl, whisk together the egg and water to make an egg wash. On a clean, dry surface lay 1 wonton wrapper down with a point toward you, like a diamond. Place 3 Maltesers of chocolate near the bottom end of the wrapper. Brush a very thin layer of the egg wash on the edges of the wrapper. Fold the bottom corner of the wrapper up over the maltesers, then fold in the sides and roll up to make a little parcel. Make sure the wrapper is sealed completely. Repeat with the remaining wrappers and Maltesers. Keep the folded chocolate wontons covered under plastic wrap or a damp paper towel to prevent them from drying. In a wok or medium pot, pour in 2 inches (5 cm.) of high-heat oil. Heat the oil to 350º F (180º C) and gently slide a few of the chocolate wontons into the hot oil. Make sure you don’t crowd the chocolate wontons. Fry the wontons for 1 ½ minutes, then flip over and fry another minute or until both sides are golden brown and crisp. (Mine cooked faster than this).

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Frittata for One

I am old enough to remember when eggs were the bad guys in the cholesterol wars, banished to the "once in a blue moon" category with
double cream and butter. But the pendulum has swung, and a friend has now been prescribed more eggs (if prescribed is what a nutritionist does) to help control his cholesterol. Apparently the good fats in eggs help fight cholesterol, plus they have a whole lot of nutrition and are very filling, so he won't nosh on something naughty mid-morning. So with that blessing in mind, here is a very very very easy frittata recipe from Nigella, that will get your day off to a good start.
Even if you are still half-asleep, you can manage this:
1. Scan fridge for any little bits and pieces of leftovers (vegies, maybe some ham or cheese or smoked salmon) that take your fancy, and grab two eggs.
2. Whisk eggs and chop whatever else you have grabbed finely, before combining them.
3. Tip the eggs into a hot pan, pause for two mins and then tip onto a plate. Too easy.
This was a perfect breakfast this morning with my fillings of choice - a little ham, a little capsicum and a little parmesan. Nigella also suggests using the frittatas as a filling in a sandwich with a smear of mayonnaise - something to do with your leftovers if there are any. Thanks to the ladies at I Heart Cooking Clubs for their theme this week: a Nigella One Pot (or pan) Wonder. I have no doubt that I will make this again and again and again.
From "Nigella Express" by Nigella Lawson
For each frittata:
2 free-range eggs
knob of butter and a drop of oil, for frying
For a cheese frittata
25g/1oz Emmental, grated (or any other cheese of your liking)
For a chilli frittata
1 long red chilli, deseeded and sliced ¼ tsp ground ginger ¼ tsp ground coriander
For a green frittata
20g/¾oz watercress, baby spinach or rocket, finely chopped 1 spring onion, finely sliced
For a ham frittata
50g/2oz ham, chopped
1. Crack the eggs into a bowl, add your choice of flavouring and beat well to combine.
2. Heat the butter and oil in a heavy-based frying pan. Once the pan is hot, pour in the egg mixture, swirling quickly to coat the base of the pan in a thin layer.
3. Cook the frittata for 2-3 minutes over a medium heat, then lift the edge of the frittata with a spatula to check it is set and golden-brown underneath; the top of the frittata should be just set but still a little gooey.
4. To serve, slide the frittata out of the pan onto a plate and fold one half of the frittata over the other. Repeat the process with different flavourings to make more frittatas as needed.

Friday, October 9, 2009

A Warm Bowl of Cheddar Corn Chowder

Well I'm back from kicking up my heels up north, and in my absence, Sydney has slid back into winter. Today was 16C and poured with rain for most of the day. It was the type of day when all you want to do is curl up on the couch with a book - I am reading the "The Story of Edgar Sawtelle" and am completely entranced. Happily it was also a great day for soup and as luck would have it, this week's Barefoot Blogger choice was a corn chowder. Chowders make the occassional appearance on Australian menus, mostly at seafood restaurants, but it is not a soup I have ever made before, or knew much about before today:

According to Wikipedia, chowder is a type of soup enriched with salt pork fatback (or bacon in this case) and thickened with flour and often featuring seafood. Apparently the word chowder comes from the cooking pot in which the soup is made, known in French as a chaudière. The word "chowder" came from Newfoundland where Breton fishermen — who would throw portions of the day's catch and other available foods into a large pot — introduced the word, and perhaps the soup itself. So, with the lesson out of the way....

The recipe below was easy to make and created a tasty soup that was very filling. Happily the kids all lapped it up. After giving half the chowder away and serving six for dinner, I still had enough soup to fill a box for freezing for another day. So, unless you are expecting a regiment to arrive at your place sometime soon, half the recipe would be more than adequate for most families. Incidentally, I skipped the half and half called for in the recipe because I just didn't think it needed to be any richer. And watch out before you add the salt - if your stock is salty you might not need any.

Thanks to Jill of My Next Life for the pick - it was a perfect choice for my day. If you feel like joining in and cooking some of the Barefoot Contessa's wonderful recipes every fortnight, join in Barefoot Bloggers.

from The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook by Ina Garten
250g bacon, chopped
1/4 cup good olive oil
6 cups chopped yellow onions (4 large onions)
60g unsalted butter
1/2 cup flour
1 tsp salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
12 cups chicken stock
6 cups medium-diced white boiling potatoes, unpeeled (1kg)
10 cups corn kernels, fresh (10 ears) or frozen (1.5kg)
2 cups half-and-half (1 cup cream and 1 cup milk)
8 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, grated

In a large stockpot over medium-high heat, cook the bacon and olive oil until the bacon is crisp, about 5 minutes. Remove the bacon with a slotted spoon and reserve. Reduce the heat to medium, add the onions and butter to the fat, and cook for 10 minutes, until the onions are translucent.

Stir in the flour, salt, pepper, and turmeric and cook for 3 minutes. Add the chicken stock and potatoes, bring to a boil, and simmer uncovered for 15 minutes, until the potatoes are tender. If using fresh corn, cut the kernels off the cob and blanch them for 3 minutes in boiling salted water. Drain. (If using frozen corn you can skip this step.) Add the corn to the soup, then add the half-and-half and cheddar. Cook for 5 more minutes, until the cheese is melted. Season, to taste, with salt and pepper. Serve hot with a garnish of bacon.