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The Ultimate Fruit Salad

Posted on December 1, 2012 at 4:20 PM Comments comments (0)

 

Quite often the question arises "is a tomato a fruit or vegetable?" Well to answer the age old question, it is actually a fruit.

 

Confusion between fruits and vegetables usually arise because of their different usages. A lot of fruits may actually be referred to as vegetables because they are used in a savoury manor as opposed to sweet. The simple definition of a fruit is that it's a structure of a plant that contains its seeds such as a grapes, oranges, watermelon and apples. These can be removed from the plant and it still continues to grow. A vegetable is usually the plant itself such as carrots, potatoes, celery, and broccoli.

 

Here is a surprising list of 'not so common' fruits,

 

- eggplant

 

- zucchini

 

- pumpkin

 

- capsicum

 

- cucumber

 

- squash

 

- avocado

 

- tomato

 

- okra

 

- chillies

 

- olives

 

- almonds

 

- figs

 

- lemons

 

- limes

 

- coconut

 

So now when someone tells you they feel like a fruit salad, you have so many more options than the obvious one.

Top 20 Food Myths, Busted!

Posted on November 10, 2012 at 1:00 AM Comments comments (0)

 

They’ve been passed down from your mother who got it from her mother who also most likely got it from her mother too but is there any truth in some of these old myths? Does adding salt to water make it boil faster? Do potatoes really soak up excess salt? Does a spoon prevent champagne from going flat? Well you may be surprised that while some are quite true, some of these myths really are just old wives tales.

 

Here are a few common myths that have been proven to not be true, but hey, I'm not going to try and convince your grandmother otherwise.

 

It’s ok to let chicken thaw out on the kitchen bench.

Food needs to be kept in the correct temperature zone. If meat products sit between 5 and 60 degrees for too long (the temperature danger zone) they have a high risk of developing bacteria. This is even more critical when left in the sun to defrost. Even though the meat may still be frozen on the inside, the surface may be sitting at 10 - 15 degrees giving you a high chance of food poisoning.

 

The best way to defrost meat in overnight in the fridge.

 

Adding salt to water makes it boil faster.

Salt actually raises water's boiling point taking it slightly longer to boil, however, it will hold the boiling temperature longer and at a more stable rate. The amount of salt you would be likely to add though is too small to make a noticeable difference. Salt will add flavour to almost anything you're cooking so it’s definitely worth including it when blanching vegetables or boiling potatoes.

 

Leaving an avocado pit in the avocado keeps it from browning.

It’s the oxygen that actually makes the avocado go brown, as it also does to cut apples. The pit will keep any part of the avocado it's touching from browning, but not any other area that’s exposed to the air. This goes for guacamole as well, you’re better off covering with plastic wrap directly onto the guacamole itself.

 

Putting a spoon into the neck of an open bottle of champagne will prevent it from going flat.

There have been many experiments to test this theory but none have succeeded. Putting a spoon into the neck of an open bottle of champagne will not prevent it from going flat.

 

Cereal bars are healthier than chocolate bars.

Cereal bars can be as high in sugar as chocolate and you can end up eating the same amount of calories or more.

 

A potato will absorb excess salt in a soup or stew.

When you boil a potato in any liquid that contains salt, the potato will absorb some of the salty liquid, but it hasn't actually made the remaining liquid any less salty. The only way that this would work is that if you place raw potatoes into a stew it will soak up some liquid resulting in the need to add more liquid which would water down the original saltiness.

 

Slightly pink pork is not safe to eat.

Back in the day when pigs were fed garbage and lived in filth, it was common for them to become infected with diseases. These days their diet and conditions are better controlled and the meat is free from any harmful diseases allowing us to not have the need to cook it to a crisp but to eat it at a more palatable temperature where the meat is still moist and slightly pink.

 

The best temperature to cook pork to is around 65 degrees internally. This will ensure that the pork will maintain its moisture and tenderness.

 

Salads are always a healthier choice.

Most of the time salads are a healthier alternative to greasy burgers and chips, but not always.

 

Salads usually contain a dressing which can have a high fat content. The content of the salad may also be unhealthy too. Take a Caesar Salad for example, this salad contains pieces of bacon which may have been fried to crisp it up, croutons which also may have been fried or roasted but would almost certainly contain oil, the dressing is high in oil and salt and then there is the cheese.

 

So although a salad may seem like a healthier way to go, have a good look at what’s inside it first and take note of the dressing too.

 

Marinating meat will kill any germs.

Microbes have no taste buds. Spices like chilli powder or mustard taste hot to us, but have no influence on microbes. Likewise, alcohol is not efficient either. It is diluted by the juices from the raw meat and so has no real effect on the growing microbes.

 

Meat should be marinated in the refrigerator and be treated as though it is a plain piece of meat. If it looks bad to start off with, marinating it will only hide the taste of it and not the fact that it’s bad.

 

Fat free food is calorie free.

The misconception that fat free is better is the reason that so many products are labelled “fat free,” “low in fat,” “fat reduced,” etc. Many people who want to lose weight will choose these “low fat” foods thinking they are going to lose weight, they even sometimes tend to eat more of the low fat food than they would have if it were full fat. When fat is removed from food a lot of the flavour is removed as well resulting in the need of extra sugars, salt, flour, starch and chemicals to be added to give back the flavour. These ingredients are high in calories and may lead to weight gain, therefore, fat free food can often be far worse for you than regular full fat food.

 

Brown eggs are more nutritious than white eggs.

Egg shell colour has nothing to do with nutrient value of an egg. The eggs are brown or white depending on the breed of the hen that laid the eggs.

 

If food is organic it must be nutritious.

Manufacturers market organic food as a natural and healthy product free from harsh chemicals and pesticides. While this may be true, organic junk food is still junk food.

 

Lobsters scream with pain when boiled.

Lobsters cannot scream. The sound you hear when dropping a lobster into boiling water is the air trapped in the shell. When heated, it expands and forces itself out through small gaps, causing the sound.

 

Processed foods are not as nutritious as fresh foods.

Many processed foods are just as nutritious or in some cases even more nutritious than fresh foods depending on the manner in which they are processed.

 

Frozen and canned vegetables are usually processed within hours of harvest. There is little nutrient loss in the freezing or canning process so the vegetables retain their high vitamin and mineral content. In contrast, fresh vegetables are picked and transported to market. It can take days or even weeks before they reach the dinner table and vitamins are gradually lost over time no matter how carefully the vegetables are transported and stored.

 

Some processed foods, such as breads and breakfast cereals, have vitamins and minerals added for extra nutrition. In fact, the growing interest in health and nutrition has brought on the production of a range of foods with added health and nutritional benefits.

 

Don't wash mushrooms.

It is perfectly fine to wash mushrooms but you should only do so directly before you use them. You can quickly rinse them under a running tap to remove any dirt but soaking them will cause them to absorb some of the water. It is even advisable to dry them with paper towel.

 

There is also no need to peel skin either.

 

All the alcohol burns off when you cook with wine or spirits.

While you won’t get drunk off a red wine sauce, all the alcohol doesn’t completely cook out. If you simmer for hours, most of the alcohol does go away but if you simmer for 10-20 minutes, you will only burn off about half of the alcohol. Flambéing will reduce the alcohol content but also won’t remove all of it.

 

You should sear meat to keep in the juices.

Searing meat may help keep in the juices but it definitely won’t prevent it completely. It will make little difference in the actual cooking process, however, for a better taste and presentation the meat should be grilled until golden brown. The reason many people say that food tastes better on a bbq is that the hot-plate can reach a higher temperature than you would normally get in a pan on the stove resulting in the meat ‘browning’ and also tasting a lot better.

 

Salting meat before cooking will draw out the juices.

Meat should be salted directly before cooking to give a better flavour. The salt will not affect the meat in any other way. However, salting meat and leaving for several hours will draw out the juices and actually start to cure the product.

 

Eating certain foods will burn calories.

Exercise burns calories. Foods do not burn calories.

 

Eating right before bed causes weight gain

The common rule of thumb is to stop eating at least an hour before you go to bed. However, researchers have found that this rule is not true. The most important thing is that you manage your total daily intake of calories.

 

It is true that you burn fewer calories when you sleep, but that doesn’t mean you’ll gain weight if you eat something right before bed. Overeating is overeating, regardless of when you put the food in your mouth. Manage your total daily intake of calories and you will be fine.

Feasting on Footy Finals Fever

Posted on September 8, 2012 at 7:25 PM Comments comments (0)

 

Footy finals have finally arrived and the nail-biting exciting finishes have begun to destroy the hopes and dreams of promising seasons for potential grand final contestants.

 

This month continues an amazing tradition of beer, bbq's and big headaches. Whether your team is in or out, the footy finals are always great entertainment and a great excuse for getting together with your mates and having a fun-filled weekend.

 

And what better way to soak up that excessive beer than a mix of party pies and sausage rolls. There is no reason to go out and raid the supermarket shelves and buy packet loads of below average products when you can easily make your own tasty ones at home.

 

The following recipes will send you well on your way to producing some amazing fingerfood perfect for grand final day. You can even try adding and removing some ingredients for some inspiring alternatives and variations.

 

Chicken, Cheese and Bacon Sausage Rolls

1 large onion

1 kg chicken mince

250g bacon

250g cheese, grated

1 egg

1 cup breadcrumbs

Salt & Pepper

1 packet of Puff pastry sheets

Egg yolk for glazing

 

- Finely dice and cook the onion in a pot with a little oil until it becomes soft with little colour. Let cool.

- Cut the bacon, including the fat, into small strips.

- Combine all ingredients well and divide into 6 even balls.

- Cut 3 pastry sheets in half to make 6 sheets and place the mix onto the pastry.

- Evenly spread the mix lengthways accross the pastry in the middle to make a long log shape.

- Brush a little water along one side of the pastry then roll the other side towards it to make a roll.

- Press firmly and then brush the opposite side to the join with egg yolk.

- Now cut each log into 8 even 'wheels' and place cut-side-down onto a baking tray leaving a 4-5cm gap between each one.

- Bake at 190C for 15 minutes.

- Makes 48 individual rolls.

 

Party Pies

500g onion, finely diced

1kg beef mince

70g tomato paste

50ml Worcestershire sauce

900ml water

50g cornflour

50ml cold water (for the cornflour)

salt and pepper to taste

1 packet of frozen short crust pastry sheets (available from supermarkets)

1 packet of frozen puff pastry sheets (available from supermarkets)

2 egg yolks for brushing on top of pies

 

- Saute onions with a little oil until soft and little colour.

- Add beef and cook until brown, stirring occasionally to break up the mince.

- Add tomato paste and cook for 5 minutes stirring regularly.

- Add Worcestershire sauce and water and simmer for 15 minutes.

- Add salt and pepper.

- Combine cornflour and water then stir into the mix. Bring to the boil then remove from heat.

- Cool completely.

- Grease a party pie tray or small muffin tray.

- Cut out circles of the short crust pastry large enough to line the tray.

- Place a spoonfull of the mix into the pastry 3/4 to the top.

- Cut out circles of the puff pastry large enough to fit on top of the pies without being too big.

- Brush with a little water and place wet-side-down onto the pies. Press edges firmly.

- Brush a little egg yolk on top.

- Bake at 190 degrees for 20-30 minutes until top is golden brown.

- Makes approximately 30 party pies.

 

Try adding some small cooked bacon pieces, sauteed mushrooms or even some cracked pepper to the mix.

 

And don't forget the tomato sauce!!!

 

10 Most Strangest and Amazing Restaurants

Posted on August 25, 2012 at 7:50 PM Comments comments (0)

Dining out is usually about the tasting of great food and maybe trying something different. It's often an opportunity to relax and be served while enjoying the company of others in a different atmosphere. Well some restaurants have taken the whole dining experience to the next level and made the surroundings the highlight of the show giving you an ambience that will possibly be remembered over the food itself.

In no particular order;

 

1) Pisa's Prison Restaurant - Pisa, Italy

This restaurant is located inside a top security prison and you are actually served by prisoners spending time for offences such as murder and robbery. Under the watchful eye of armed prison warders, a team of chefs, kitchen hands and waiters cater for up to 120 diners who have all undergone strict security checks.

Tables are booked up weeks in advance.

Visit Pisa's Prison Restaurant here.

 

2) O.NIOR - Canada

This restaurant invites you to try your dining experience in the dark. You sit, eat, drink and talk in complete darkness. The interesting thing about this restaurant is that the waiting staff are even blind. The idea behind this interesting restaurant is that without sight, the remaining senses are rewired to savour the smell and taste of food, and focus on conversation and sensation and after a few hours in complete darkness, you get an understanding of what it's actually like to be blind.

Visit O.NOIR here.

 

3) Minus 5 Ice Lounge - Sydney, Australia

Minus 5 is all about the art of ice. Everything inside is made of ice; the walls, the bar, the sculptures, the seats and even the glasses that you enjoy the famous vodka-based cocktails in. Guests are taken to an air locked 'warming room' and provided with parkas, ugg boots and double gloves to wear over your existing clothing. You are then issued with a 20-minute timer to wear around your neck before entering.

Visit Minus 5 Ice Lounge here.

 

4) Ithaa Undersea - Hilton Maldives Resort & Spa

This restaurant sits five meters below sea level in the Indian Ocean. The aquarium -style restaurant allows you to take in 360 degree views of reef and marine life while enjoying your fine dining experience. Unfortunately, Ithaa only seats 12 so bookings are essential well in advance.

Visit Ithaa Underwater Restaurant here.

 

5) Sehnsucht - Berlin, Germany

This is an unusual restaurant that focuses on its clientele to be anorexic. Even the chef and several of the waiting staff are anorexic. The menu items have names that don’t include words for food to avoid confronting anorexics with the fact that they are about to eat, for example, Pirate’s Eye is the name of a dish for 2 fish fingers and a fried egg. The Thieves Platter is a dish simply consisting of a fork, knife, and an empty plate and encourages the diner to steal (or share) from those dining with them.

Visit Sehnsucht here.

 

6) The Dining Dog Cafe - Edmonds, Washington, United States

The Dining Dog Cafe allows patrons to dine with their beloved pooch. They have a full table service menu including doggie cocktails, appetizers, entrees and desserts and even a birthday cake for that special day (which actually comes 7 times a year for a dog).

Visit The Dining Dog Cafe here.

 

7) Yellow Treehouse Restaurant - Warkworth, New Zealand

A scenic elevated tree-top walkway leads you to this bizarre but amazing pod-shaped structure built ten metres high in a redwood tree. It resembles a cocoon wrapped around a tree trunk and provides one of the most interesting built restaurants in the world. Just North of Auckland, this treehouse seats 30 for a seated dinner or up to 50 for a casual standing cocktail function.

Visit The Yellow Treehouse Restaurant here.

 

08) Dinner in the Sky - Australia and Worldwide

A take on high-end cuisine. Suspended 50 metres above the ground, you are strapped into a rectangular table surrounding the chef watching as he prepares your multi-course menu while drinking your favourite beverage and taking in the amazing views. There is a maximum of 22 seats with 5 staff to take care of you wherever you desire.

Visit Dinner in the Sky here.

 

9) Modern Toilet - Taiwan

Modern Toilet is so wildly popular through Taiwan that it has 12 locations throughout Asia. Guests sit on toilets and eat out of dishes shaped like toilets, sinks and bathtubs. The menu of noodle soups and Indian curries might look appetizing if not for the presentation. And to top it off, dessert is soft-serve chocolate ice cream brought to your table in a miniature toilet bowl.

Visit Modern Toilet here.

 

10) The Kayabukiya Tavern - Utsunomiya, Japan

This Japanese tavern employs two waiters with a special background, they are both monkeys. The monkeys will offer hot towels to newly seated customers and then bring them their drink orders. They are also well trained to remove dirty plates and glasses. The monkey waiters do not technically work for peanuts but for tips of boiled soy beans and will accept a cigarette. The monkeys do not have set work hours but you’ll have the best chance of seeing them in action early in the evening, though in line with animal regulations, they only work for two hours a day.

 

So if it's the experience and not necessarily the food that you're after, there are plenty of other dining options around for you to enjoy.

 

Feasting On.... Lavender

Posted on August 3, 2012 at 4:25 PM Comments comments (0)

Lavender is one of those flowers that we recognise more as a perfume or room refreshener rather than an ingredient that we cook with. It is also, for this reason, that a lot of us will tend to steer away from trying this unusual plant but lavender has been used in traditional English and European cooking for centuries.

 

There are many varieties of lavender and they all vary in fragrance. You should select the sweeter scented variety for cooking and while both the stems and flower can be used, the flower will provide a better flavour.

 

It goes well with meat such as lamb, chicken, pork and even game meats and it is quite often used in custard-based desserts and works very well with chocolate. Care must be taken when using lavender as it can prove to be quite over-powering. It has a flavour much like how it smells only a more milder taste with a slight citrus undertone and an amazing floral background.

 

Lavender Brulee (pictured)

6 egg yolks

50g sugar

500ml milk

8 buds fresh lavender

 

- Bring milk and lavender buds to the boil then remove from heat. Let sit for 10 minutes.

- Whisk the egg yolks with the sugar until it thickens and lightens in colour.

- Remove buds from milk and stir into the egg mixture with a spoon, do not whisk. It's alright if some leaves have stayed in the milk.

- Pour into moulds and place these into a dish with about 2cm of water on the bottom.

- Place carefully into a pre-heated oven at 130 degrees for approximately 1 hour.

- Brulees will be ready when you tap the sides and it holds like a jelly. There should be no liquid.

- Remove from water and let brulees sit for 30 minutes.

- They can be chilled if desired.

- To finish the top, sprinkle lightly with castor sugar and use a small blow torch to caramalise the sugar. You can also heat up an old spoon in a gas flame until really hot then run smoothly over the sugar.

 

Lavender Shortbread

5 buds of fresh Lavender

250gm softened butter

1 cup castor sugar

2 cups plain flour

 

- Break flowers and beat into butter.

- When smooth mix in icing sugar - beat well. Then add the flour and mix in well.

- Roll into small balls and press down with a fork.

- Place on non-greased tray and bake in moderate oven for 10–12 minutes until colour has changed slightly.

 

The Truth Behind The Truffle

Posted on June 24, 2012 at 5:50 PM Comments comments (0)

Australia’s fresh truffle season is late May to early August. Truffles are now well into their season and we are seeing lots of inspired dishes apperaring on restaurant menus throughout Australia. But, the big question on most peoples lips is "what actually are these truffles?"

 

Black truffles are a type of fungus which grow at the roots of specially inoculated oak trees. Each truffle is found by specially trained dogs who smell truffles from the aroma they emit when ripening which are located from 5cm to 30cm below the ground.

 

The black truffle or Tuber Melanosporum, also known as the Perigord truffle grows mainly in France and Italy and is the variety most commonly cultivated in a truffle orchard or trufferie. Truffles in Europe occur under their native woodland trees of oak, poplar, willow and hazelnut. In the regions of France and Italy where truffles occur naturally the truffle harvests are decreasing over time. Because of this, in the 1970’s a major initiative began in France to cultivate truffles. There are now also established trufferies in Spain and Italy. Outside of Europe, the first black truffles were produced in 1991 on specially inoculated oak trees in Oregon, USA. In the southern hemisphere, the winter of 1993 saw the first production of commercial truffles in New Zealand, and in 1999 black truffles were produced in Tasmania to further confirm their production feasibility in the southern hemisphere. Western Australia has also taken full opportunity with two major producers in it's southern region.

 

The taste and smell of a truffle is quite unique with many different descriptions often being told but if you can imagine a mix of wet dirty leaves around a clove of garlic and you might get close to the smell. The best way is to just get your hands on one of these amazing wonders of the world and try it for yourself.

 

Truffles go best with simple dishes involving eggs, mushrooms, chicken, pasta, potatoes, risotto and work well with beef. They are best stored in the refrigerator in a large jar, each wrapped in a paper towel to prevent them getting wet. If they grow a little white mould, brush it off under running cold water and dry the truffle before replacing it in the fridge. Truffles lose moisture (weight) and aroma continually. You can expect to pay an astonishing $1500 to $3000 a kilogram but keep in mind that a 100 gram truffle is about the size of a tennis ball and will last for several dishes. They should be shaved as thinly as possible as the greater the surface area exposed, the greater the aroma from the truffle.

 

Several products have been produced to further enhance your truffle cooking experience such as truffle oil, truffle salt, truffle butter, truffle mustard, truffle flour and truffle honey. These products are a great cheaper alternative to introduce yourself to the truffles' magnificent flavour.

 

The most simple ways to enjoy the truffle is by drizzling some truffle oil over a nicely cooked thin piece of eye fillet or folded through creamy mash potato. It also works very well driddled over scrambled eggs. Even over the tom of a mushroom risotto. Try topping all of this off with some freshly shaved truffle.

 

 

Truffle Infused Field Mushrooms served with Truffled Polenta and Wilted Spinach

This is an amazing dish that really embraces the beautiful taste and aroma of truffles. It makes a great entree and suits a vegetarian option too.

 

Truffle Infused Field Mushrooms

4 large field mushrooms

75ml Truffle oil

2 Garlic Cloves, crushed

salt and pepper

 

- Remove the stem from the mushroom.

- Combine the garlic and truffle oil and drizzle around the underside of the mushrooms.

- Place onto a greased oven tray then into a 180 C oven for 8-10 minutes.

 

Truffled Polenta

250ml water

250ml milk

1/2 teaspoon shaved truffle (optional)

75ml Truffle Oil

200g polenta

75g finely grated parmesan

 

-Bring the water and milk to the boil in a large heavy-based saucepan over high heat. Gradually add the polenta whisking constantly until the polenta is incorporated.

-Reduce heat to low and cook, stirring constantly, for 10 minutes or until polenta is soft. Remove from heat.

-Add the parmesan and stir to combine.

-Stir in the truffle oil and truffle.

-Season with salt and pepper.

- Place into a piping bag and pipe little cones with the base being a little smaller than the size of the mushroom.

- Set aside for 5 minutes.

 

Wilted Spinach

100g spinach

80g butter

salt

 

- Melt butter in a fry-pan then add the spinach.

- Cook for 3-5 minutes until spinach is just wilted.

- Season with the salt.

 

The Dish

Place the mushroom onto the centre of a plate. Add the spinach and top with the polenta.

Serves 4 as an entree.

Spicing It Up In The Kitchen

Posted on June 17, 2012 at 3:20 AM Comments comments (0)

 

Spices are in use all over the world, from the very familiar black pepper to the more obscure cambodge. With such a wide range of flavours, textures, pungencies, colours and intensities it can become overwhelming on what to buy and how to use them.

 

Spices are made from the bark, seeds, fruit, roots, resins, and buds of plants. They may be dried for storage or used fresh. They are used as a food additive for flavour, colour, texture or as a preservative that kills harmful bacteria or prevents their growth. Spices are distinguished from herbs which are the leafy, green plant parts used for flavouring.

 

Here is a comprehensive list to get your taste buds educated and further below is a list of common spice blends that can be incorporated into your everyday cooking.

 

Allspice

This spice's flavour resembles cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg combined. Use it in baking, puddings, and with fruit. It is also good with meat, fish, seafood, duck, and eggs. It is almost a necessity in mincemeat, pickles, relishes, chutney and preserves,

 

Anise

This is the herb so common to European sweet bakery goods. Its liquorice flavour enhances the flavours of breads, stews and seafood, as well as root vegetables.

 

Bay Leaf

These leaves have a mild flavour and are best used dried. They are a wonderful addition to meat, potatoes and root vegetables. They are also a good flavouring for sugar, which can be flavoured by placing the leaf in the container of sugar for a few days. Such sugar imparts a fullness of flavour to flans and other custard dishes. Try them in chowders, in marinades, or to the water which will cook your frozen vegies.

 

Caraway Seeds

These gray and white striped seeds have a sweet nutty flavour and are best when used whole. It's the flavour most common in rye breads and has a flavour reminiscent of a combination of anise and dill. They're used in salads, pickling, and with game meat and you can also use them in apple sauce, cakes, cookies, herbal vinegars and also in Hungarian Goulash. The sweet root of the caraway plant can be served like parsnips.

 

Cardamom

At one time, this spice ranked just behind saffron as the world's most expensive spice. Their warm taste is perfect for curry and pork dishes. Crush whole pods before using and use sparingly.

 

Cayenne Pepper

Used lightly this red pepper adds interest to bland foods like beans, eggs, sauces and meat. It is one of the most important spices in American sausage and if added in quantity to vinegar it can make a fine substitute for Tabasco. You can use this in anything that you want to make spicy and hot.

 

Cinnamon

Cinnamon is one or the most popular spices in the world. It's the flavour treat for breads, cakes, stews, curries and sweet dishes. It’s also an amazing flavour addition to tomato sauces or meat dishes. It is often used in combination with cloves, as the two complement each other well in dishes.

 

Cloves

The flavour of the cloves are essential to gingerbreads, spice cakes, fruit cakes, mincemeats, curries, ham, and certain vegetables. Studded into an onion, they add their essence to soups and stews. They are also used to scent soaps, candles, potpourris and sachets. For a temporary help for a toothache, place a clove near the tooth in question and bite down, holding the clove in place, it will naturally numb the area.

 

Coriander Seeds

They are mild and have an aroma similar to a cross between lemon, sage, and caraway. Used in baked goods, curry blends, pickling, special drinks, and soups.

 

Cumin

Peppery flavour, best used ground or whole. Use in stews, sauces, soups, in bread and with fish but use sparingly.

 

Fennel Seed

Has a taste like anise but a little sweeter, fresher and lighter. It's best used raw or cooked. Use in soups, stews, salads or as an addition to a spice blend. Also said to cure bad breath.

 

Fenugreek

The dried seeds of this plant have a sort of caramelized sugar taste, but the stems and leaves of this plant are also used for flavouring. Use in moderation with meat and stews.

 

Galangal

Galangal is a root with culinary and medicinal uses, best known for its appearance in Thai cuisine but also common in recipes from medieval Europe. It resembles ginger in appearance and taste but has an extra citrus aroma, with a slight hint of soapiness.

 

Garlic

The bulb of this plant is sought after for flavouring almost anything. It lends itself well to almost all non-sweet dishes. Use in pasta sauces, pork roasts, herb butter, stuffing and marinades. It's especially good when blended with melted butter and served as a sauce for seafood.

 

Ginger

Has the flavour of a mix of pepper and sweetness, best used as a dried powder or freshly grated. Use in breads, cakes, cookies, teas and also Asian dishes.

 

Horseradish

A bitter hot herb with a very sharp flavour similar to mustard. Use fresh or jarred as a condiment or to flavour fish, beef, sausages and potato salads. It has been cultivated for centuries and ads bite to bland dairy, meat and fish dishes. Finely chopped leaves may also be added to green salads.

 

Juniper Berries

They have a pungent and piney flavour, best used as a dried berry. Use with wild game cooking, beef and pork, or with marinades and sauces. The purplish coloured berries of the juniper have long been used for flavouring because they remove the strong flavour of game meat. They should be crushed before using to release the flavour. They are also an inseparable part of gin.

 

Liquorice

Used for generations, this plant is a member of the pea family with pale violet or blue flowers. Its dried root or an extract of the root is used in medicines, tobacco, cigars, cigarettes, beverages, chewing gum, and candy. In cooking in the home, anise is usually a substitute for the flavour of liquorice.

 

Marjoram

Has a delicate flavour, best when used fresh or dried. Use in stews, soups, marinades and at the end of cooking to conserve flavour. It has a spicey sage-like flavour and is often used with oregano in cooking and looks similar in habit. The leaves are a wonderful addition to any non-sweet food to which you might want to add a little flavour to. Try adding some to your favourite bread or biscuit dough.

 

Mustard Seed

Has a nice spicy, aromatic rustic taste and can be used in any meal. Best used whole or as a ground powder.

 

Nutmeg

Nutmeg has a warm sweet flavour which is used when grated or ground off the nut. It adds the characteristic flavour to egg nog, as well as being delicious in egg custards. Use in cakes, cookies and also on sweet potatoes. It's also fantastic in mash potatoes.

 

Paprika

This is the ground dried pods of bell peppers and while usually made from sweet bell peppers, the flavour and pungency can vary from variety used. Some paprika, like Hungarian rose paprika is made from red capsicum pepper. It is used as a seasoning and garnish and can be used in practically all non-sweet foods. This spice will pick up moisture from the air, so must be kept dry and tightly closed. Paprika is one of the few herbs and spices that will attract insects.

 

Pepper

Pepper has a hot flavour and is best used ground, especially freshly ground. It is a basic flavour enhancer, combined with salt, for most dishes.

 

Poppy Seeds

Have a nutty flavour, best used dried or whole. Use in cakes, salads dressings and in muffins.

 

Saffron

The small orange stigmas from a crocus plant that are used in paella, rice dishes, soups, curries, stews, sauces and in some bakery products. Saffron adds to the colour and flavour of a dish and is very pungent. Saffron is available as threads and as grains, the threads are considered best but are far more expensive.

 

Sesame Seed

Has a nutty flavour, best used whole. Use in breads and cookies and also salad dressings. It is a great addition to tuna dishes.

 

Star Anise

A plant, Illicium verum, used primarily for its star-shaped seed which resembles anise in scent and flavour. It is valued for its decorative shape as well as its flavour. Used to flavour curries, soups, stews, teas and also used in desserts.

 

Sumac

Dark purple-red berries with a pleasantly fruity, astringent taste (similar to lemon). They are very much present in the Middle-Eastern cuisine, complementing everything from fish to meat to vegetables.

 

Turmeric

Has a pungent and somewhat bitter taste. Best used dried and ground and in curries.

 

Tamarind

A fruit used as a souring agent. It can usually be bought as seeds pressed into bricks. It’s popularly used in chutneys, curries and Worcestershire sauce.

 

Vanilla

Sweet and highly aromatic. Best when used from whole dried beans or as an extract. Use with coffee, in desserts, ice cream, puddings and cakes.

 

Wattleseed

An aromatic and flavourful seed derived from the wattle tree. It has a hazelnut coffee-like flavour and can be used to flavour ice-cream and desserts and also can be used with strong meats such as venison and kangaroo.

 


These spices are great to use on their own or they can be combined to make familiar blends to use on favourite dishes such as the following.

 

Curry Powder

Curry powder is used to flavour soups and stews, and is great for adding a kick to all kinds of sauces and marinades.

 

2 tablespoons ground cumin

2 tablespoons ground coriander

2 teaspoons ground turmeric

½ teaspoon cayenne pepper

½ teaspoon mustard seed

½ teaspoon ground ginger

- Blend all ingredients in a food processor.

 

Taco Seasoning

Add to standard recipe for tacos in place of packaged seasoning.

 

1-2 teaspoons chilli powder

1½ teaspoons cumin

1½ teaspoons paprika

1 teaspoon onion powder

1 teaspoon garlic powder

¼-½ teaspoon cayenne pepper

- Combine all ingredients.

 

Ras el Hanout Moroccan Spice

This spice mix is not only used to add to tagines but try adding half a teaspoon to some couscous or rice when cooking. It can also be used for a rub for grilled meat or mix with yoghurt or lemon juice and use as a marinade.

 

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon ground ginger

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon turmeric

3/4 teaspoon black pepper

½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

½ teaspoon ground coriander

½ teaspoon cumin

½ teaspoon cayenne

½ teaspoon ground allspice

¼ teaspoon ground cloves

- Combine all ingredients

 

Dukkah Spice

An Egyptian spice blend usually eaten by dipping bread into olive oil and then into the mixture. It can also be used as a crust for lamb.

 

½ cup hazelnuts

¼ cup coriander seeds

3 tablespoons sesame seeds

2 tablespoons cumin seeds

1 tablespoon black peppercorns

1 teaspoon fennel seeds

1 teaspoon dried mint leaves

1 teaspoon salt

- Combine all ingredients in a food processor.

 

Garam Masala

An aromatic mixture of ground spices that's used as the base for many Indian dishes.

 

1 tablespoon ground cumin

1 ½ teaspoons ground coriander

1 ½ teaspoons ground cardamom

1 ½ teaspoons freshly ground black pepper

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

½ teaspoon ground cloves

½ teaspoon ground nutmeg

- Combine all ingredients.

 

Chinese Five Spice

Five-spice powder is a mixture of five spices. It encompasses all five flavours of sweet, sour, bitter, pungent, and salty. It is popular in Chinese cuisine, but also used in other Asian cookery.

 

1 teaspoon ground Szechwan pepper

1 teaspoon ground star anise

1 ¼ teaspoon ground fennel seeds

½ teaspoon ground cloves

½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

½ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon ground white pepper

- Combine all ingredients.

 

Harissa Spice

A North African hot paste, usually served with couscous.

 

25g small hot red chilli's

2 red capsicums grilled and skinned

2 cloves garlic

2 teaspoons cumin seeds

½ teaspoon coriander seed

sea salt

Olive Oil

- Combine all ingredients in a food processor.

 

Mixed Spice (Pudding Spice)

Used in a variety of cakes and puddings, such as fruit cake, gingerbread and Christmas pudding.

 

1 tablespoon cinnamon, ground

1 teaspoon coriander, ground

1 teaspoon nutmeg, ground

½ teaspoon ginger, ground

¼ teaspoon allspice, ground

¼ teaspoon cloves, ground

- Combine all ingredients.

 

Berbere Spice Mix

A spicy, hot Ethiopian blend, Berbere is delicious with many combinations of legumes, rice or vegetables. Serve sparingly as a condiment with grilled beef and poultry and add to soups and stews.

 

2 teaspoons ground fenugreek

1 teaspoon ground cardamom

1 teaspoon ground coriander

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon ground black pepper

½ teaspoon ground allspice

¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon

¼ teaspoon ground cloves

¼ cup red chilli flakes

¼ cup hot paprika

2 teaspoons ground ginger

½ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

¼ tablespoon salt

1 teaspoon turmeric

- Add first 10 ingredients to dry frying pan and cook over low heat, stirring constantly, for 2-3 minutes or until fragrant. Remove from stove and combine with ginger, nutmeg, salt and turmeric.

 

Baharat Spice Mix

A North African spice mix used to season lamb but is an all-purpose flavour enhancer useful for fish, chicken, beef, tomato sauces and soups. It’s a great addition to lentil dishes, pilafs and can even perk up plain old meatloaf. We find it useful as a rub for virtually anything on the barbeque.

 

2 tablespoons fresh ground black pepper

2 tablespoons paprika

2 tablespoons ground cumin

1 tablespoons ground coriander

1 tablespoons ground cloves

1 teaspoon nutmeg

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

½ teaspoon ground cardamom

- Combine all ingredients.

 

The Ultimate Mother's Day Menu

Posted on May 2, 2012 at 7:20 PM Comments comments (0)

Mother's Day is that time of the year where you should spoil your mum and thank her for putting up with you throughout the rest of the year. But instead of dining out this Mother’s Day, why not impress your Mum with some amazing food cooked right from your own kitchen.

 

These dishes are light yet substantial containing several ingredients that your mother would more than likely consider favourites throughout the year. The dishes are designed to create amazing bursts of flavour throughout the courses while providing different textures and combinations that will sure to please anyone. They are simple to master but the result will definitely make you look like a professional.

 

Starters

Champagne Jelly Oysters

1 gelatine leaf

100ml champagne

 

- Warm champagne in a saucepan and add gelatine leaf.

- Remove from heat and stir until dissolved.

- Pour into a mould and chill for 3-4 hours.

- To make different colours add a shot of liqueur such as Midori, Blue Curacao, etc.

- Roughly mix together some different colours with a fork.

- Place a teaspoon of the jelly onto the fresh oyster and serve immediately.

 

Oysters Kilpatrick

This is a slightly altered recipe from the original Kilpatrick sauce. The bacon has been replaced with chorizo, a spicy pork sausage typically from Spain and the bbq sauce adds a more flavoursome background as opposed to the tomato sauce.

 

100g diced chorizo

2 Tablespoons Worcestershire sauce

2 Tablespoons bbq sauce

several drops of tobasco sauce (optional)

 

- Combine the liquid ingredients.

- Generously sprinkle a baking tray with rock salt and place oysters on the salt.

- Top oyster with diced chorizo and then a drizzle of the sauce.

- Place under the grill and grill until crisp. Serve with a wedge of lemon.

 

Entree

Cuttlefish Bouillabaisse

Cuttlefish are often mistaken for calamari or squid, and while they are all closely related, each has its own characteristics. The cuttlefish has shorter tentacles and a rather large, wide body and is distinguished by the calcified inner bone. This bone can be often found washed up on the beach and many people will feed these to their birds for a source of dietary calcium. They have more flavour than their cousins and their ink sacs are highly prized in Italy and Spain. The taste is richer than squid but lighter than octopus and is usually a lot more tender out of the 'Cephlapod' family.

 

This recipe combines the base of a bouillabaisse with the cuttlefish to create a variation of a classical dish providing a flavoursome meal great for an entree or a warming dish for the cooler months.

 

A bouillabaisse is traditionally a fish soup containing different kinds of cooked fish, shellfish and vegetables, flavoured with a variety of herbs and spices but this is a simplified version concentrating on bringing out the rich flavours of the dish and the delicate flavour of the cuttlefish.

 

2 large cuttlefish

100ml olive oil

1 large onion, thinly sliced

3 cloves garlic, finely sliced

3 sprigs thyme, stalks removed

4 large tomatoes, peeled then chopped

1/2 cup white wine

6 saffron threads

3 cups water

1 small carrot, cut into large julienne

1 celery stick, cut into large julienne

cracked black pepper

sea salt

 

- Clean the cuttlefish removing the ink-sac and bone. Open up and score a diamond-shaped pattern on the inside. Cut into 1cm x 5cm strips.

- Remove the core of the tomato with a small sharp knife and cut a small cross in the opposite end. Place into hot boiling water for 30 seconds then place straight into ice cold water. The skin will now easily peel off.

- Sweat off onion with olive oil until transparent.

- Add thyme leaves and garlic and cook for 2 minutes.

- Add tomatoes and cook for 5 minutes then add the cuttlefish.

- Add white wine and saffron and cook for a further 3 minutes before adding the water.

- Bring to the boil and simmer for 5 minutes.

- Season with salt and pepper then finally add the carrot and celery.

- Toss the tentacles in some cornflour and deep-fry until crisp.

- Serve immediately, garnished with the tentacles and flat-leaf parsley.

- Serves 2-4.

 

Mains

Lamb Rump, Caramelised Peach and Sage Salad served with a Blue Cheese Panna Cotta

This dish is like a lightning strike on your taste buds. Every bite adds another taste sensation that keeps your palate excited and demanding more. The combination of the warm salad and the chilled panna cotta completes this wonderful dish.

 

Lamb Marinade

1 kg lamb rump

6-8 large sage leaves, finely sliced

1/4 peach, skin removed and pureed

100ml olive oil

1 teaspoon cracked black pepper

 

- Combine all ingredients and marinade for 2-4 hours.

 

Blue Cheese Panna Cotta

1/2 onion, roughly chopped

2 cloved garlic, squashed with the back of a spoon

4 sprigs thyme

1 Tablespoon salt

6 peppercorns

100ml white wine

500ml full-cream milk

500ml cream

300g blue cheese

2 1/2 gelatine leaves

 

- Lightly sweat onion, garlic and thyme in a saucepan until onion is transparent with no colour.

- Add white wine and simmer until wine has almost disappeared.

- Add milk, cream, salt and peppercorns and slowly bring to the boil.

- Once it has boiled, remove from heat immediately and let sit for 5 minutes.

- Strain and then add blue cheese and crushed gelatine leaves.

- Stir in with a spoon until cheese and gelatine has completely melted.

- Pour evenly into 4 lightly greased moulds and place in the fridge for 5 hours to set.

- Take out of the fridge for 30-60 minutes before serving.

 

Caramalised Peach

- Slice peach in half turning the stone over a knife. Twist both sides to separate.

- Cut thin slices and place onto a baking tray.

- Sprinkle lightly with castor sugar and place under the grill.

- Leave for 5-10 minutes until the peach slices turn golden brown.

 

The Dish

- Sear the lamb in a hot pan and cook for 5 minutes each side until medium.

- Slice thin slices against the grain and toss with some peach slices and some fresh sage leaves.

- Carefully tip the panna cotta onto a plate and top with the lamb, peach and sage salad.

- Garnish with some extra fresh sage leaves.

- Serves 4.

 

Dessert

 

Macadamia, White Chocolate and Malibu Cake

200g butter

1 ½ cups sugar

3 eggs

1 cup (200g) white chocolate buds

1 cup (150g) chopped roasted macadamias

1 ¾ cups SR flour

1 cup milk

Pre-heat oven to 180 C or 160 C for fan-forced ovens.

 

- Cream butter and sugar until light.

- Add eggs one at a time beating well.

- Add white chocolate and macadamias and fold in flour and milk to make a smooth batter.

- Pour mixture into a 25cm lined and greased cake tin.

- Bake for approximately 1 hour.

- Poke with a wooden skewer and it should come out clean.

- Cool on a wire cake rack.

 

Malibu Ganache

A general guideline for making ganache is 1 part cream to 3 parts chocolate.

 

1 cup white chocolate

1/4 cup cream

2 shots of Malibu

 

- Bring the cream and Malibu to the boil in a saucepan.

- Remove from heat and stir in the chocolate until fully combined.

- Let sit to cool down then spread over the cake.

- Garnish with some melted white chocolate drizzled over the top.

 

Famous Treats for Anzac Day

Posted on April 21, 2012 at 11:15 PM Comments comments (0)

The acronym ANZAC was born in 1915 when Australian and New Zealand soldiers were training in Egypt and has become associated with their landing at Gallipoli on 25 April 1915.

 

The ANZAC biscuit come about during the first world war due to the soldiers families concerned with the condition and nutrition of food that was being supplied to them. The food was carried on slow travelling ships with limited refrigeration facilities for up to 2 months. Because of this, the families come up with a biscuit that contained ingredients that didn't readily spoil. The main difference is that the biscuits did not contain eggs and were binded together using golden syrup or treacle.

 

These days ANZAC biscuits are still a popular choice and are found on supermarket shelves all across the country. They also provide an easy recipe that is made quite regularly in the family kitchen. Around ANZAC Day, these biscuits are also often used by veterans' organisations to raise funds for the care of aged war veterans.

 

Anzac Biscuits

1 cup rolled oats

1 cup plain flour, sifted

1 cup caster sugar

1 cup desiccated coconut

125g butter, chopped

1 Tablespoon golden syrup

2 Tablespoons boiling water

1 teaspoon bi-carbonate of soda

 

Preheat oven to 160ºC

Combine oats, flour, sugar and coconut.

In a small saucepan, combine butter and golden syrup on a low heat until melted.

Combine water and bi-carb soda and pour into butter mixture.

Combine well the dry mixture with the wet mixture.

Roll small balls about the size of a golf ball and arrange onto a greased tray leaving approximately a 4cm space in between each one. Press lightly to flatten.

Bake for 15-20 minutes or until golden brown.

Stand for 5 minutes before transferring them to a wire rack to cool.

Makes approximately 35 biscuits.

 

Anzac Slice

1 1/2 cups rolled oats

1 cup plain flour

1/2 cup SR Flour

1 1/2 cups castor sugar

1 1/4 cups dessiccated coconut

175g butter, melted

2 Tablespoons golden syrup

1/4 cup water

 

Combine oats, sifted flours, sugar and coconut.

Add butter, golden syrup and water and combine well.

Mixture will be reletively wet.

Place into a lined tray and bake for 40 minutes at 180 C until it is brown and firm.

Cool before cuting into squares.

A Traditional Easter Treat

Posted on April 2, 2012 at 5:10 AM Comments comments (0)

What better way to enjoy this Easter than with a round of fresh hot cross buns!

 

There are mixed stories behind the history of the hot cross bun but in many historically Christian countries, the buns are traditionally eaten on Good Friday, with the cross standing as a symbol of the crucifixion. These days, they are enjoyed all through the Easter period.

 

Great on their own or laced with butter.

 

Hot Cross Buns

4 cups plain flour

2 x 7g sachets dried yeast

¼ cup caster sugar

1 ½ teaspoons mixed spice

pinch of salt

1 ½ cups currants

40g butter

300ml warm milk

2 eggs, lightly beaten

 

Flour paste

½ cup plain flour

4 to 5 tablespoons water

 

Glaze

1/3 cup water

2 tablespoons caster sugar

Preheat oven to 190°C.

 

Combine flour, yeast, sugar, mixed spice, salt and currants in a large bowl.

Melt butter in a small saucepan over medium heat and add milk.

Add warm milk mixture and eggs to currant mixture. Use a flat-bladed knife to mix until dough almost comes together. Use hands to finish mixing to form a soft dough.

Turn dough out onto a floured surface. Knead for 10 minutes until dough is smooth. Place into a bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Set aside in a warm place until dough doubles in size.

Line a large baking tray with non-stick baking paper. Punch dough down to its original size. Knead on a lightly floured surface until smooth. Divide into 12 even portions. Shape each portion into a ball. Place balls onto lined tray, about 1cm apart. Cover with plastic wrap. Set aside in a warm place until buns double in size.

 

Flour paste: Mix flour and water together in a small bowl until smooth, adding a little more water if paste is too thick. Spoon into a piping bag with a fine nozzle and pipe flour paste over tops of buns to form crosses.

Bake for 20 to 25 minutes until buns are cooked through.

 

Glaze: Place water and sugar into a small saucepan over low heat. Stir until sugar dissolves. Bring to the boil and boil for 5 minutes.

 

Brush warm glaze over warm hot cross buns.

 

Serve warm or at room temperature.

 


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