Chocolate makes me happy, so discovering that I was to spend a day exploring the chocolate secrets of Montreal was guaranteed to make me very happy indeed.
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The image above is a picture of innocence, isn’t it? Fresh, home-baked brownies and a wholesome glass of milk – hardly the stuff that leads down the road to ruin. Unless, of course, one knocks of the whole batch of brownies in one sitting as I was in very real danger of doing.
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Whoa – what on earth is going on here?!! It’s not like me to be organised enough to get an “In My Kitchen” post up to link with my friend Celia over at Fig Jam and Lime Cordial, but nevertheless that seems to be what I’ve done. I wouldn’t want you to be getting used to this as any sort of a regular occurrence – I just had one or two things I wanted to show you, so here goes.
In my kitchen –
… are the very last of the lilacs. I just adore these flowers and the delicate way they scent the air, but their flowering time is so very fleeting. I thought I’d miss them this year as they were just ready to flower when I left, but they saved themselves for me and I had to share them with you.
… is my new, Turkish table cloth. These designs and colours are found all over Turkey in different variations and, while I loved them, I just couldn’t see a way to fit them in with my (admittedly haphazard) home decor until I found this table cloth. I bought it from a delightful old couple who lived high up in a stone cave house in Cappadoccia (more on that at a later date). They very good-naturedly let a bunch of us troop through their sleeping, living and cooking areas and had a few souvenirs for sale on the way out. None of these people were wealthy so I was more than happy to pay my way and to secure a visual memory that I can enjoy every day in my own kitchen.
… there is still just a little real Turkish delight in my kitchen. The taste of the real thing bears very little resemblance to what we get here and there is no way I was going to travel all the way to Turkey and not bring some back. I bought a few boxes as gifts and just a bit (okay, more than a bit) for us to enjoy at home, although you’d be surprised at how much that stuff weighs down one’s baggage allowance.
… down from the bookshelf and now on my table is my copy of Greg and Lucy Malouf’s “Turquoise”, the beautiful book about their travels and eating inspirations in Turkey. Just the thing to keep the recent trip fresh in my mind and to help me share some of the amazing Turkish food with my family (who missed out, yet again).
… waiting patiently for me to get to it is a copy of Sydney chef Serge Dansereau’s gorgeous new cookbook “Seasonal Kitchen”, from ABC Books, Harper Collins. My heart did a little leap when I found this in the post just before I left for my trip and I can’t wait to get my teeth into it – pun intended.
… still in my kitchen, but not for long, is my secret addiction. For many years now I have had a distinct fondness for the wafer-thin, dark chocolate enrobed, post-prandial treats which used to be know as After Dinner Mints – that is, of course, when they were still available here in Australia. They vanished off the store shelves a few years back leaving me sad, bereft and just a little twitchy. Last year I was overjoyed to discover they are still available in North America under the name “After Eight” and I made sure I indulged whilst I could. I was equally chuffed to find them a few weeks ago in a candy store in Changi Airport in Singapore. The large box I bought on the way over to Bulgaria just lasted until I got back to Singapore on the way home and the whereabouts of these two boxes is a closely held secret. I won’t be sharing.
To check out all the other, more regular, “In My Kitchen” posts head over to Fig Jam and Lime Cordial.
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I’m quite a creature of habit – a condition which tends to leave me largely immune to most passing fads, dietary or otherwise. While I am happy to admit that I’m a greedy girl, for the most part I attempt to moderate my food variety and intake – I don’t miss out on things I love, but try not to pig out on them either. (With the possible exception of pork crackling and potato chips.) So, while things like Goji berries and Amaranth might be amazingly good for me, unless they taste gob-smackingly great or are easy to incorporate into my existing and already broadly varied diet they are unlikely to have much of an impact on me. I’m only human, though, and occasionally something that’s making people talk will pique my curiosity and I give it a go.
Such was the case with coconut oil. I already love the taste of coconut, in both sweet and savoury dishes, and when I saw all the remarkable health claims around the cold pressed oil I thought it might be worth giving it a try in some of my everyday dishes. And what astonishing health claims they are! I’ve done a little research on this product and have seen some extraordinary assertions, including suggestions that it can assist in digestion and metabolism, immunity, dental care, diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure and that it can reverse Alzheimer’s disease and has anti-microbial properties. I’d suggest that, like many natural products, coconut oil has a role to play in any or all of these conditions and that it has a place in a broadly varied diet. However, we need to remember it is still a fat and while I’m keen on fats (and have the hips to prove it) – especially the tasty, heart-helping kinds – their place in our diet should be limited.
Purely in the interests of research I bought myself a big jar of cold-pressed coconut oil recently and set about experimenting with it. I’ve very happily used it to replace olive oil (a personal favourite of mine) when frying chicken and fish and have been playing around with it as a substitute for butter when baking. I was pretty happy with these cookies which I put together last week. If more is better, then the combination of coconut oil and coconut cream, along with shredded coconut, must make them practically a dietary imperative – however, I suspect not. They are very tasty and not too sweet though, and would be a great addition to the lunch boxes when school goes back. I made mine in the Thermomix but, again, any food processor will do the job. Do remember to refrigerate the dough before baking – it does make a difference.
- 2½ cups plain flour
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 160 gms cold pressed coconut oil
- ½ cup coconut cream
- 1 cup brown sugar
- ½ cup caster sugar
- 2 eggs
- ½ tsp vanilla paste
- 1 cup craisins
- 1 cup shredded coconut
- 1½ cup choc chips
- Place coconut oil, coconut cream & sugars into processor - whizz until creamy.
- Add eggs and vanilla paste, whizz to combine.
- Add flour, salt, baking powder & baking soda, whizz until combined.
- Stir through craisins, coconut and choc chips.
- THERMOMIX INSTRUCTIONS -
- Place coconut oil, coconut cream & sugars in TM - speed 6/20 seconds.
- Add eggs and vanilla paste through hole in the lid - speed 6/10 seconds.
- Add flour, salt, baking soda, baking powder - speed 5/15 seconds.
- Add craisins, coconut & choc chips - Reverse speed 4/10 seconds.
- CONTINUE -
- Refrigerate dough for at least one hour before using, or overnight.
- Preheat oven to 180C. Line cookie trays.
- Place dessertspoons of dough on lined tray and bake for 12 minutes.
- Cool on tray for 5 minutes before transferring to cake rack to cool completely.
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Cookbook Review – Delicious Home Cooking by Valli Little & A Chocolate Cheesecake with Cocoa Nib cream
It seems that every year Christmas sneaks up on me and catches me unaware. You’d think at my advanced age (if I told you just what that is, I’d have to kill you) I’d have worked it all out by now, but apparently not – as the posts I wanted to get up before the break, the rustic, home-made Christmas wreath for the front door and the selection of flavoured salts I planned on making for gifts are among some of the things that just didn’t happen. It’s way to late for the rosemary wreath (note to self – make for next Christmas) and the salts will have to go back on my “must make this” list, but I firmly believe it’s never the wrong time of the year for a cookbook review!
ABC delicious. magazine has been a part of my life since it first came out in 2001. It seemed to herald a new era in Australian food publications with it’s fresh photography and modern, exciting, but accessible recipes that didn’t require a trip to the gourmet store for every dish. Each new month I was thrilled to find at least several dishes that I couldn’t wait to make and many of my back issues are still littered with bookmarks for dishes that I particularly enjoyed or never quite got around to before the next issue was released.
Highly esteemed home economist, food writer and chef, Valli Little, has been there every step of the way too. English-born Valli came to Australia on a working holiday after studying at London’s Le Cordon Bleu and, like many English roses before her, fell in love with the sun, the lifestyle and a bloke. Her experiences as a food consultant, banqueting manager, gourmet store owner and private chef for the great and glorious back in England give her an enviable depth and breadth of insight into all aspects of food – as her name on the covers of all seven of ABC delicious. magazine bestselling cookbooks will attest.
“Home Cooking” is the most recent of these and continues the tradition of fresh, flavoursome, but not too fiddly recipes for the home cook. In this edition, Valli gives us a hint of what goes on in her own kitchen as she shares her favourite recipes to cook at home along with her tips to turn a family classic into a cover-worthy meal without too much fuss. Usefully, the content is divided into seasons as well as the different courses within each season and each recipe is as reliable, approachable and achievable as we’ve come to expect from this passionate and much-loved adoptee. The book contains everything from tropical treats with a twist like the Coconut & Mango Tarts with Chilli Syrup, to inspired, but simple tweaks like the Wasabi Pancakes with Smoked Trout or the velvety and indulgent Honey Pots de Creme – and, of course, each dish is accompanied by lavish, full-colour photgraphy.
When casting my (often vacant) mind around for an acceptable dessert to serve to one who is known for her stunning, sweet cookery (my friend Jennifer of Delicieux – see my last post) I recalled earmarking something in “Home Cooking” for a special occasion. I don’t suppose you’ll be at all surprised to know that it was a Chocolate Cheesecake with Cocoa Nib Cream. This seriously indulgent treat really ticked all the boxes for everyone and was so simple to make – another winner in a long line of them for Valli Little and ABC delicious. magazine.
- 2 x 150 gm pkts Oreo biscuits (or similar)
- 125 gm unsalted butter, melted then cooled
- 250 gm cream cheese at room temperature
- 2 cups (500 gm) mascarpone
- ⅓ cup (75 gm) caster sugar
- 3 eggs
- ½ cup (50 gm) cocoa
- 100 gm dark chocolate, melted then cooled
- 1 Tbs chocolate liqueur (optional)
- 1 cup (120 gm) cocoa nibs, plus extra to serve
- 300 ml thickened cream, lightly whipped
- Grease and line 24cm springform cake pan.
- Whizz biscuits in processor to fine crumbs. Add butter, pulse to combine, then press into the base of the cake pan. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.
- Preheat oven to 170C.
- Wipe out processor (no need to wash). Place cream cheese, mascarpone and caster sugar in machine, whizz to combine. Add eggs, combine, then add cocoa, chocolate and liqueur. Process until smooth. Add half the cocoa nibs, pulse to combine, then spread filling over chilled biscuit base.
- Bake 45-50 minutes until cake is firm to the touch, but slightly wobbly. Turn off oven and cool cheesecake in oven with door ajar. Chill for 2-3 hours or overnight before serving.
- Fold remaining cocoa nibs into whipped cream. Pile on top of cheesecake and serve sprinkled with extra nibs.
Review copy of “Home Cooking” kindly supplied by Harper Collins Publishers Australia.
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Wow – this is looking like it might start to become a habit! Here I am with a post ready to go for Celia’s – Fig Jam and Lime Cordial – regular, monthly segment where we indulge in the more inquisitive side of our natures and have a quick sqizz around each other’s kitchens. This is the second time in a row that I’ve managed to join in!
I’ve been waiting ever so eagerly for the first tomatoes of the season so I could make a delicious rose-water scented Moroccan salad from Paula Wolfert – one of my favourite experts on modern Moroccan cuisine. Obviously, this is the before shot – I was a little to too eager to eat them once they were done – and is a stunningly different way to prepare tomatoes.
My friend Liz has been traveling in the US of late and came home with some genuine Boston Tea Party tea for me – although I’m pretty sure this hasn’t been dredged up out of the harbour! She also bought me these gorgeous coasters woven in the style of Persian rugs, just to add a little bit of style to my cuppa.
I’ve been living vicariously through my friends holidays of late. This beautifully packaged little ceramic box is full of Kampot Pepper and was brought home to me from Cambodia by another friend. It is reputed to be the very best pepper in the world and is famed for it’s delicate and enthralling aroma. I’m quite shallow, so I just love it for the box it came in.
The delightful people at Adelaide’s famous Haighs Chocolates sent me a little surprise in the post, a sample of their newest treat – the very sublime Creme Brulee Truffle. I had to hide these from my loved ones, but it was worth it – I’d love to know how they get that delicate little crunch into this rich, creamy, decadent, indulgence.
The wicked folk at Loving Earth had a special on a while ago and I was powerless in the face of two words close to my heart being used in the same sentence – chocolate and sale. They sell these raw chocolate blocks in packs of 11 – but they’re raw and sweetened with coconut nectar, so that makes them a health food really – right?