Everyday Cooking

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Tropical White Chocolate Dessert

Folks have probably noticed a recurring theme when I blog of things baked and sweet. They are always tales of woe.
Successful dessert-making still eludes me. Might it have to do with the fact that I do not have a sweet tooth? Who knows. Beautiful dessert creations I've seen in books and other blogs constantly inspire and challenge me, though. I am also always on the look-out for something to appease the hubby's major love of sugar. So I persevere...

A kitchen tea was held at my house on the weekend and I had my heart set on making a tart. This was to be a good chance to practice making a crust, rolling it onto the tart pan and avoid shrinkage (which happens to me too often, even when I refrigerate the crust overnight prior to baking!). Anyhow, I find a decent (or so I thought) recipe for White Chocolate Mousse tart. I wanted to put my spin on it so I thought I'd throw in some dessicated coconut in the mix and then top it with mangoes.

The recipe for the filling called for thick cream, white chocolate and condensed milk. I had my reservations right from the start, wondering how the filling was supposed to set. I saw a few other similar recipes for mousse tart on the net which left me assured that mine should set after a four-hour stint in the fridge. Still, come the time when I made it, I actually used a teaspoon of gelatine just to be sure.

Everything was planned out for the day. I would make the crust first thing in the morning. By the time it has cooled down a bit, my filling should also be at room temperature and I could proceed to assembling my lovely dessert. This gives me five hours to let the tart set for a 2PM start.

2PM came and this is how the tart looked:
Ta dah!

Pretty heh?
Problem was, it couldn't be cut up. The filling was not set. A brave friend tried. Swoosh went the filling in every direction. 'Still tastes great', they said. 'We can eat it with a spoon', they tried to console. No, I wouldn't even touch it.
Still, after everyone has left, I didn't have the heart to throw it away.

The following day, my sister invites me to a small pool party at hers. What to bring, what to bring? I decided to scoop the filling out of the tart base. I cut up some mangoes, cubed some left-over madeira cake and threw everything into small tumblers. My sisters' guests enjoyed them, complete with oohs and aahs as they spoon the last of the 'custard' out of the glasses.

Now I'm going to be cheeky and still send this over to Cook Sister as my entry for this edition of Waiter, There's Something In My... . This popular food event's them for this month is 'tarts'.
Hey, this dessert started off as a tart. I hope they accept it.....
There might be a reader out there who'd like the idea and know exactly how to fix the non-set filling. I will certainly try it out again and add more gelatine next time.

Tropical White Chocolate Dessert

makes 8 portions

White Choc filling
2 c thick whipping cream
1 tsp gelatine granules
180 g white cooking chocolate, broken into small pieces
390g tin condensed milk
1/2 c toasted dessicated coconut

2 c madeira or pound cake, cut into 1cm cubes
2 c cubes of mangoes
zest from 2 limes
1 kiwi fruit for decoration

To make the cream filling, fill a metal bowl with 150ml of the cream. Sprinkle the gelatine over the cream.
Sit the bowl on top of a slowly-simmering pot of boiling water, stirring until the cream is hot (but do not let it boil). Take the bowl off the heat and add the chopped white chocolate. Whisk until the chocolate has been incorporated. Mix in the condensed milk and dessicated coconut. Let cool to room temperature.

Meanwhile, whip the remaining cream until stiff peaks form.
Slowly fold into the white chocolate mixture once it has cooled.

To assemble the dessert, spoon some of the filling into a cup or wine glass. Add a layer of madeira cake and then a layer of mango. Sprinkle zest of lime over the mangos and then top with a slice of kiwi fruit.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Roast Chicken and Vegetable Stuffed Mushrooms

A low- carb easy option for dinner during the week. These mushrooms were stuffed with left-over chicken and roasted vegetables. Any roasting vegetables would do, eg sweet potatoes, peppers, parsnips, carrots, etc.

Roast Chicken and Vegetable Stuffed Mushrooms
serves 2

2 large flat mushrooms
1/2 c shredded roasted chicken meat
1/2 c pumpkin, cut into 1cm cubes
1 small zucchini, sliced thinly
1/4 tsp minced garlic
1 Tbsp toasted pine nuts
5 sage leaves
10g butter, cubed
1 Tbsp olive oil
oil spray
salt and pepper to taste

Pre-heat oven to 180deg Celsius.

Carefully remove mushroom stems and chop finely.
In a small roasting pan, toss together the chopped mushroom stems,pumpkin, zuchinni, garlic and olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Roast until vegetables are tender, around 15minutes.

Place mushroom caps on a baking tray greased with the oil spray.
Take the vegetables out of the oven and stuff into the mushrooms.
Top with cubes of butter, sage leaves and pine nuts. Return to the oven and cook for a further 15 minutes or until mushroom is tender.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Zimtsterne (Cinnamon Stars)

Warning: Do not involve any 2 1/2 year olds in making these biscuits.

I was trying to get into the Christmas spirit early by doing some trial runs on stuff that will go in this year's gift hampers. I thought 'Hmm, why not make some of my beloved 'Zimtsterne', haven't had them since leaving Zurich a couple of years ago and these biscuits definitely make the holidays worth celebrating. Little did I know that after this little practice, I would be tempted to gift tins of Spam instead in order to spare myself the trouble.

My friends at Google offered a few recipes. The main ingredients were consistent enough- egg whites, icing sugar, almond meal. However, the ratios were all over the place as were the baking temperature and durations. So of course, I do the sensible thing and 'fuse' together a few recipes based on those which came with the best-looking photos. I might add that a couple of these recipes were in German. My second mistake. I am still in denial about my suspect command of the language.

Anyhow, I contracted my daughter to be my assistant. Her enthusiasm to help almost melted my heart. The beautiful picture of mother and daughter, side by side in culinary bonding dissipated all too quickly when a cup of icing sugar was knocked off the table. Deep breaths, a broom and some rags, and we were on our way again.

Finally the dough was ready. One recipe actually warned that the dough is quite delicate and that the biscuits are quite messy to make. Major understatement (upon hindsight). So, although the dough looked quite runny, I foolishly tipped it out onto the table for kneading. Before I could even say anything, the little girl dove in there with both hands and started shrieking when she couldn't shake off the sticky mess that covered her up to the elbows. More deep breaths and mentally humming 'The Twelve Days of Christmas' got me thru somehow and after adding flour (which wasn't in any of the recipes), we managed to get a workable dough.
When the biscuits were finally in the oven, my husband, all too aware of all the prep and cleaning a couple of trays of these biscuits entailed, sensitively remarked 'Those biscuits are only like 2Francs ($2.50) a kilo from the shops'. Thanks, honey. You'll have to travel 10,000 miles now though to get to those shops. So hah!

He redeemed himself later on. After one bite of the fluffy and chewy gems that came out of the oven, he gingerly declared 'These are not bad'. Now, anyone who knows my darling boy will recognise this as a compliment of the highest order. Ah, bless his heart.

The biscuits were indeed delicious. The cinnamon and lemon zest are the perfect festive flavours for the nutty meringues.

Ok, maybe I won't be giving out Spams after all.

Cinnamon Stars (or Hearts, or Moons, etc)
makes around 40 biscuits

4 egg whites
a pinch of salt
300g icing sugar, sifted
200g ground almond
200g ground hazelnut *
1 Tbsp lemon zest
2 tsp cinnamon
1Tbsp lemon juice
1/2c to 3/4 c plain flour

Preheat oven to 220deg Celsius.

Whisk egg whites and salt until soft peaks form.

Slowly add the icing sugar and continue whisking until the mixture is quite stiff. Put aside half a cup of the meringue mix.

Add the ground nuts, lemon zest, cinnamon and juice. Carefully incorporate using a palette knife.

Add the flour in small amounts until you get a workable dough.

Turn out onto a floured surface and pat flat to around 8mm thick.

Cut shapes out of the dough using a cookie cutter and transfer biscuits onto a tray lined with baking paper.

Brush the biscuits with the reserved meringue mixture.

Bake in the oven for around 5minutes or until the icing just starts to colour.

The biscuits will be quite soft when they first come out so do not handle.
Leave to cool on the tray.

These will keep in an airtight container for around 2 weeks.

*The biscuits can be made with all ground almond instead of mixing with hazelnut.

Udated 24/12/2007- after experimenting a little bit more with these cookies, here's some tips:

1. Refrigerate the cookies for 30mins before baking. This prevents the
icing from browning too quickly
2. Bake at 150deg C for around 10-12 minutes. The icing stays white.

I do believe my friends would love these and they will certainly make a great addition to any Christmas hamper. I am sending this first batch of cookies over to Zlamushka for the fun 'A Spoonful of Christmas' event she is hosting. Be sure to check out the round up for lovely edible Christmas gift ideas.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

WHB#108 - Beef and Pumpkin Stir-fry

Stir-fries are wonderful as one can be as creative as they wish with them. A change in the marinade flavours, in the combination of vegetables or vary the herbs and you need not make the exact same dish twice.

We do at least one stir-fry a week in our house. This time, it's beef with lots of vegetables , lifted by the sweet, anise flavour of Thai Basil.

Thai Basil (Bai Horapa in Thai) is extensively used in Thai, Vietnamese and Cambodian cuisine for curries, stir-fries and salads. Just like the Meditteranean/Western Sweet Basil, this herb is best used fresh as cooking tends to destroy its flavour. When I buy these from the vegie shop, they always come in trays rather than in small bunches as do the other herbs. Apparently, this type of basil is more often used as a vegetable, rather than herb in Indochine cooking. They are thrown in with seafood, meat or in salads by the handful.

This herb is distinguished by its green leaves but purple stems and buds (which are also edible) . The leaves are smaller than those of Sweet Basil, are more pointy but narrower. They make quite a pretty potted plant. Last summer, I grew Thai Basil in one big pot along with the Sweet and Purple kind. The effect was quite lovely by mid-season.
Here's a picture of Thai Basil from a related article in Wikipedia:

Beef and Pumpkin Stir-Fry

300g Oyster Blade steak, cut into strips
200g pumpkin, cut into small pieces
1 medium red onion
1 bunch green asparagus, cut into 3cm pieces
1 red capsicum, cut into strips
1 c Thai Basil leaves
3 Tsp peanut oil

2Tbsp oyster sauce
1Tbsp soy sauce
2Tbsp sugar
1 clove garlic, minced

Mix all the marinade ingredients in a bowl. Marinate the beef strips for at least one hour prior to cooking.

Steam or microwave the pumpkin pieces until tender, then pat dry with paper towels.

Heat up the oil in a wok or large non-stick pan. Toss beef into pan and stir-frequently until well browned and the marinade juices have dried up. Add the pumpkin and onion, stir around for two minutes. Add the asparagus and capsicum and stir around until vegetables are cooked but still crunchy.

Turn off the heat. Add the Thai Basil prior to serving.

*I quite liked this as a dry stir-fry. If you like yours 'saucy', double the marinade quantity, thicken with a bit of cornflour and add when the beef is cooked.

*The quantities served two adults and a toddler with a big appetite :-)

I am sharing this over at The Expatriate's Kitchen, who's hosting this week's round of Weekend Herb Blogging. Be sure to check out the round up for interesting ideas on using your favourite herbs, fruits and vegies!