Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Macaron Mayhem, take 2

As promised, my new macaron cookbook got a workout this weekend. Mr FSIL and I had what was originally intended to be a MasterChef style macaron bake off... until someone reset the timer, and we realised we there wasn't really enough equipment for both of us to be going flat out at the same time.

I was allocated the Almond Praline Macarons, while Mr FSIL was given Gingerbread-Spiced Macarons. Both were basic macaron shells (coloured in his case) with flavoured chocolate ganache filling.

The piped shells - waiting for a crust to form

Out of the oven - they have 'feet'!

Almond caramel, before crushing

Matching the shells

They were definitely a vast improvement on my last attempt. The shells had a definite crunch, I got them to form a crust before baking and they had feet!!!

Unfortunately, it was deemed a tie. Although even Mr FSIL admitted that mine tasted better than his the next day -the filling in his now tastes a bit strange.

Mr FSIL's gingerbread-style macarons

Monday, September 13, 2010

Friday night....

... is pizza night in our house (yes, that's right, I was back on the east coast this weekend). Every Friday night, FH Alphie turns into an Italian papa (aka Papa Tony), and our kitchen becomes pizza central. We have been doing this for over two years whenever we are home on a Friday night (and, lets face it, we generally are...), there have been a few occasions where we have rescheduled at the request of guests, and moved it to a Saturday, but only with good reason - Socceroos matches during the World Cup springs to mind....

FH Alphie rolling the dough

FH Alphie makes his own dough, which after a few failed attempts at the beginning, came from a recipe in SMH's Good Living liftout. He hasn't actually read the recipe in the last 18 months, but that is where it originated.

pizza 1 - olive oil, garlic, parmesan and tomato

The tradition started as a way to use up the leftover bits in the fridge at the end of the week, but has now morphed into its own monster. We now regularly buy things 'specially' for pizza night, and the guy at our local deli has worked out when FH Alphie is by himself, buying pizza toppings, he's an easy target! He'll often return with piles of antipasto ingredients, and multiple types of cheese.

pizza 2 - asparagus, olives, onion and bocconcini

We always start with a garlic pizza (although sometimes a zaatar pizza is whipped out instead), and what follows that is totally dependent on FH Alphie's creativity on the night. There's usually a mix of tomato and pesto bases, and mozzarella and parmesan cheeses, but apart from that, there are no guarantees.

pizza 3 - capsicum, bocconcini, artichokes and chorizo

pizza 4 - mushrooms, olives, haloumi, parmesan, onion and asparagus on pesto

Friends of ours, Mr & Mrs Pink, who live stumbling distance away (after the obligatory Friday night beers), are regular Friday night guests, and always bring dessert with them, or rather, Mrs Pink brings dessert, and Mr Pink brings the beers... Mrs Pink is the queen of desserts - I don't think we've had a double up in the last year! This week it was chocolate self saucing pudding and ice cream.

Mrs Pink's chocolate self saucing pudding

I'm now back in Perth for the working week, after a great weekend at home, a beautiful wedding for Uni friends and pizza!


Thursday, September 9, 2010

Red curry with fish and bamboo shoots

I have been meaning to make this for a few weeks - since I visited Ms Red in Bunbury. I hastily scribbled down the recipe from one of her cookbooks, only to find that FSIL's partner has the same cookbook, noticed while he was recommending another fish curry recipe to me.

I'm not usually a big fan of Thai coconut milk curries, but this one may have won me over. It was tasty, and not overly rich or creamy, which is what usually turns me off this style of curry.

Red Curry with Fish & Bamboo Shoots
the food of thailand: a journey for food lovers
serves 4

  • 60ml coconut cream
  • 2tbs red curry paste
  • 440ml coconut milk
  • 1.5-2tbs palm sugar
  • 3tbs fish sauce
  • 350g firm white fish fillets (skinless)
  • 275g tin bamboo shoots, drained & cut into matchsticks
  • 50g galangal (or ginger), finely sliced
  • 5 kaffir lime leaves, torn
  • Thai sweet basil and sliced chilli, for garnish
ingredients ready to go...

Put the coconut cream in a wok and simmer for about 5 minutes, or until it separates and a layer of oil forms on the surface. Stir if it starts to brown around the edges. Add the curry paste, stir to combine, and cook until fragrant.

Stir in the coconut milk, and add the palm sugar and fish sauce and cook for 2-3 minutes, or until the palm sugar has dissolved. add the fish and bamboo shoots, and simmer for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the fish is cooked.

Add the galangal (or ginger) and kaffir lime leaves. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary. Serve with steamed rice and sprinkle with Thai basil and chilli.

NOTE: I used a 400ml can of coconut cream, and made up the rest of the liquid with water - we didn't have coconut milk, but even if we did, I wouldn't have been too keen to open two cans for one recipe.


PS. Exciting cooking related news - FSIL bought me a book on macarons!! So, there will be another post on macarons in the near future - stay tuned!

Monday, September 6, 2010

Pizza oven curry fest

A few weeks before I moved in, FSIL and partner built a wood fired oven in their backyard. It's had a few outings as a pizza oven, and another run for bread and a lamb roast. I returned from Kalgoorlie on Friday to find out that a curry night, using the pizza oven, had been planned for Saturday.

After a tour of North Perth and surrounds chasing ingredients and equipment, we returned home, and FSIL's partner started cooking up a storm. We started with chicken skewers, kinda tandoori, kinda not (I think he just made it up on the fly...)

chicken skewers

Moving on to the main feature... the curry. FSIL's partner (I really need a psuedonym for him, this is getting ridiculous!) made a lamb rogan josh, palak paneer, and a fish curry (not sure what it was called....), and of course, naan. Because no curry-fest is complete without it.

lamb rogan josh and palak paneer


It was all delicious, and we're still eating the leftovers, but that's ok by me, curry is one of those things that improves with time. Hopefully I can snaffle some of the remaining fish curry before FSIL's partner takes it to work tomorrow!


Sunday, September 5, 2010

Chicken tikka masala

Well, my blog reform lasted all of two days! I tried, I promise, but I was sent off to Kalgoorlie for work for the rest of the week. Determined not to let that stop me, I packed my personal laptop and my USB modem, only to find that the modem has no service in Kalgoorlie :(.

So, here's a post I've been saving up for a rainy day to tide you all (!) over while I put a post together on last nights pizza oven shenanigans.

On the way back from our impromtu lunch at Bills, I asked FH Alphie what he felt like for dinner (yes, I am one of those people who starts thinking about the next meal before I have digested the first...). Strangely, he requested butter chicken. I don't think he's ever even mentioned butter chicken before, I have never cooked it before, and I have never been a particular fan. So, I suggested a mild chicken curry instead.

I thought I would use this as an opportunity to try out one of the curry paste recipes from Jamie Oliver's Ministry of Food. I figured, if he was suggesting them to people who have never cooked before, it can't be that hard, and curry pastes have always scared me a bit (see previous post here).

Flicking through the curry section, the chicken tikka masala looked similar to most of the butter chickens I have seen before, so the decision was made. I made a double batch of the curry paste, hoping that it would freeze well.

As for the actual curry, I disregarded Jamie's recipe. For two reasons, I had underestimated the amount of coriander we would need, and we had run out, and FH Alphie was getting concerned about the number of chillis I was using.

FH Alphie rated it: 8/10

Chicken tikka masala
adapted from Jamie Oliver's Ministry of Food, pg 82 & 99

Tikka masala curry paste

  • 1tsp cumin seeds, toasted
  • 1tsp coriander seeds, toasted
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • thumb sized piece of fresh ginger
  • 1tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1tbs smoked paprika
  • 2tsp garam masala
  • 1/2tsp salt
  • 1tbs dessicated coconut
  • 2tbs ground almonds (I used whole almonds, because that's all we had, and it was fine)
  • 2tbs vegetable oil (as always, I used rice bran oil)
  • 2tbs tomato paste
  • 2 fresh red chillis
  • small bunch fresh coriander
Peel the ginger and garlic, and, this is the hard part, throw everything into a food processor and whiz until you get a smooth paste.

The curry
serves 4

  • 2tbs vegetable (rice bran) oil
  • a knob of butter (Jamie's term)
  • 2 medium onions, finely sliced
  • 1/2 cup tikka masala curry paste
  • 4 chicken thighs, trimmed and diced
  • 400g can chopped tomatoes
  • 4ooml coconut milk
In a large pot or frypan, cook the onions in the butter and oil for about 10 minutes, until soft and beginning to colour. add the curry paste, stir until fragrant. Stir in the chicken.

Add the tomatoes and coconut milk and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 30 minutes with the lid on. Stirring every now and then. You may need to add some more liquid if it looks too dry, so just keep an eye on it.

Serve with rice and pappadaums. And maybe some cooling yoghurt!