Thursday, November 17, 2005


Don't say I never gave you anything. Now you have two uses for quince- you have a use for that 'Q' tile in a Scrabble game and you have a recipe for a tasty little pie. There was a slight delay in getting hold of what seemed to be the elusive quince. My patience was rewarded when they turned up looking big and tasty. The next dilemma was deciding what to do with it. There have been a few articles recently that show numerous dishes to whip up using our lovely little quince but I wasn't in the mood for anything labour intensive. Since it's been chilly all week, something warm and sweet was needed.

I got three lovely little letters for you. P-I-E. Anytime is pie time. So it was decided that my pretty little quince was going into my belly (and unfortunately straight to my hips) in pie form. A little research into cooking with quince concluded with the unanimous decision of one that this bad boy needed to be poached to soften it up. Since everything I read said how unedible quince is in its raw state, I of course had to taste it. It wasn't as nasty as I expected it to be but it was slightly tough to cut up. It was dry tasting but you could taste a floraly appley peary flavour. Definitely a nice change from the usual apple or pie tart that cooked up fairly quickly.

The Boy hasn't tasted it yet as he gorged himself on the lasagne at dinner but I had a small slice last night and have been picking at it all day. A winner.


Serves 4-5


1 Quince cored and cut into eights
1 Pear cored and cut into sixths
225 g. Sugar
1 pt. Water
1 Cinnamon Stick
2 Whole Star Anise

For the pastry-
120 g. Butter
200 g. Plain Flour
1 Egg Yolk
2 tbsp. Sugar

Make the pastry first- blend the butter and flour until it looks like coarse breadcrumbs. Add the sugar and yolk. Roll into a ball, wrap in cling film and place in the fridge for 20 minutes.

Bring the water and sugar to a boil in a saucepan that is deep enough to fit the quince. Once the sugar is melted, add the cinnamon stick, star anise and the quince. Simmer for 30 minutes or until the quince is softened but not mushy. Remove from the syrup and allow to cool.

Preheat the oven to 200C.
Take the pastry out of the fridge and let it come to room temperature. Roll out onto a floured surface and make a disc slightly larger than the pie dish.

In an ovenproof pie dish (or any shape dish- mine was oval shaped), place the pieces of quince and pear in random order. Add a quarter of the syrup. Place the pastry on top and crimp the extra pastry along the dish. Slice a small hole in the middle so the steam can release.

Bake for 30-40 minutes until the pastry is golden brown.

Sunday, November 13, 2005


After last week’s 'Mom’s cooking' debacle-which extending beyond the confines of this website dear readers- I used this weekend as an opportunity to kill two birds with one pot. Going back to my Master List (the project formerly known as The Great Kitchen Challenge and formaly known as Around the World in 80 Plates), I have listed biscotti as another item I have never made myself. That is bird number one. Bird number two comes in the shape of a recipe my mother sent me last week for her biscotti. That’s one thing to tick for me and my mother now feels vindicated in the eyes of the world (or rather mine, hers and the three other people that I think actually choose to read this out of their own free will).

I didn’t have the exact ingredients that she called for in her recipe and had to tweak it slightly thereby creating a new flavour. I was feeling very generous when I made this on Friday and took a batch into The Boy’s office for afternoon tea. Needless to say, there were not any leftovers.

I have to agree with Anonymous who posted a note to say that making biscotti was easy (and I agree with you too mother). From start to finish I don’t think I spent more than an hour making these tasty morsels. The recipe can easily be doubled to add to gifts at Christmas or you can do as I did and double the number of biscotti by making them into mini pieces. Where the original recipe called for dried cranberries, I had to substitute have dried cherries and chopped cashews. It created a subtle twist on the usual flavours you get in the shops; in one bite you get the tart of the cherry and in the next the nuttiness of the cashew. This is definitely a recipe that allows you to get creative and develop your own signature flavour so long as you keep the mix-in amount to 1 ½ cups (12 oz.). The next time I make this I plan to try dried mango and chopped macadamia nut for a slightly more exotic taste.


Makes about two dozen


2 ½ c. plain flour
1 tsp. Baking Powder
½ tsp. Salt
1 ½ c. Sugar
½ c. Butter- softened
2 Eggs
½ tsp. Almond Extract
1 c. Dried Cherries- roughly chopped
½ c. Cashews- roughly chopped
1 egg white

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Sift the flour, baking powder and salt into a medium size bowl. Cream the butter, eggs, sugar and almond extract in a large bowl. Add the flour mixture and cherry cashew mix in alternating batches until it is all evenly worked into the dough. Cut the dough mixture in half.

Using floured hands, shape each piece into a log directly on the baking sheet allowing two to three inches between the logs baking in two batches if necessary. Flatten the top of the log slightly by hand. Whisk the egg white and brush the top and sides of each log.

Bake 30-40 minutes until the top is golden brown. Allow to cool for 20 minutes. Slice each log into ½ inch slices. Bake the slices for 10 minutes then turn the slices over and bake an additional 5 minutes. Allow to cool before serving.

Friday, November 11, 2005


Ok people- by which I mean family members. Before anyone else tries to clobber me with a Kitchenaid because of my post about my mother's damn chicken episode, before anyone else tries to come to her defence whinging that she couldn't cook before she got married- wah wah, consider this. This episode did not happen when I was a wee baby and my folks were somewhat newlywed. I was old enough to know exactly what my dad was pissed off about and more importantly, old enough to agree with him. I'm not saying that his reaction was justified but come on people, if you had to eat the same thing day in, day out you would be a little fucked off too.

I was in my early teens when this incident happened. I was old enough to remember being a child, going to the library with my mother so she could copy recipes into her black and white notebook. I remember her making things then. I remember her baking a ham (not necessarily for any holiday either). The same ham that I recently reminded her of when she asked about a Thanksgiving dish from my childhood. I reminded her of exactly what she glazed it with. I remember her making gotlet chicken for us- boy did I love those little pieces of odd shaped chicken. To this day when I see them on the menu I can't order them because my mom's will always seem better. Does this sound like a woman who could only cook oatmeal? I didn't think so.

All I am saying is that I remember a time when she made an effort and I remember a time when she lost her way. It was that effort (and non-effort) as well as my dad's cooking and family celebrations that started me on this cooking journey.

Thursday, November 10, 2005


Being unemployed definitely has its benefits. In addition to not adding to the laundry pile because you can hang out in a bathrobe all day, it means that you can waste lots of time in the kitchen. Last night’s food episode revolved around tuna. Although I am not a fish lover, I did taste it and am pretty chuffed at the end result of this (and anyways, I still have a lot of wild rice to get through). The Boy gave this dish two very happy thumbs up.

The tuna only marinates for an hour or so; the result is that you can taste the different elements of the marinade in each bite. First, you taste the saltiness of the soy sauce, followed by the sweetness of the mirin and ending with the gentle hit of ginger. There is texture in this too. A slightly crunchy sesame seed coating on firm flakes of seared tuna gives way to a softer middle. It is a simple dish that served to guests will always look and taste much more complex that in really is. Simplicity is the key to this so I served it up with plain rice and sugar snap peas (mangetout or bok choy would work too).

The chunk of tuna I bought was for two so The Boy gets leftovers tonight. My idea (this morning at least) is to make some ramen (get your mind out of the gutter, not the 80 for $1 ones but the same kind of noodles in a light broth) with the last bit of tuna on top. Clean, simple and warming. Here is last night's dinner-


Serves 2


250g. Tuna steak cut in two
¼ c. Soy sauce
¼ c. Mirin
1 tsp. Sesame oil
Knob of ginger, finely grated
Two shakes of Nam Pla fish sauce (optional)
2 tbsp. sesame seeds
2 tbsp. Furiyake Japanese seasoning* (optional)

Mix the sesame seeds and Furiyake seasoning (if being used) and put to one side.

Mix the soy sauce, mirin, sesame oil, ginger and nam pla (if being used) in a dish that is big enough to fit the tuna. Add the tuna and let marinate in the fridge for 30 – 60 minutes, turning over once halfway through.

When the marinating time is up, take the tuna out and place on a plate. Sprinkle the seed mix on all sides. Heat a skillet over medium-high heat. Add a dash of olive oil- just enough to lightly coat the pan. Once the pan is hot, add the tuna and cook for 2-3 minutes on each side (turn down the heat slightly if necessary). Two minutes will give you a medium rare fish; three minutes will be a more well done. Do not turn over the fish until the cooking time for each side is up.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005


I have been a busy little bee this week but have still managed to knock a couple of things off the list (if you are not familiar with the current hit list, please see the post entitled Memory Lane to get up to speed). Last night I finally used up my box of Wild Rice that’s been in the cupboard pleading to be used. This posed two problems for me. Problem number one- The Boy doesn’t like Wild Rice. Problem number two- nor does he like garlic. I had just used copious amounts of said ingredient on the herb crust I made for a rack of lamb. (Before you ask- it was only ok so no recipe). Essentially I needed to create a dish to distract the boy from the fact he was about to be fed two things he hates.

I cooked up the rice according to the instructions- 250g of wild rice and 900ml of boiling water brought to a boil and simmered for 50 minutes- and bought myself some time to come up with a plan. In the end I decided on what we will call The Early Thanksgiving Guilt Trip. Every year I get royally screwed because the Boy’s Christmas Party is on that most holy of American holidays (I never cease reminding him of this so-called coincidence). This usually entails me hanging out at home waiting for him to come home thinking we will have a late night turkey dinner. The reality is that he comes home late (to his partial defence he does have to mingle with clients at this thing) usually a few sheets to the wind and sick as a dog because he has eaten an egg roll or something that wasn’t supposed to have prawns (which he is allergic to).

Back to dinner. This is where I give you my kind of recipe. To go with my kind of American theme, I diced up half an onion and sautéed it in olive oil with an added knob of butter. I then threw in two handfuls of roughly chopped pecans and let them warm through. I added two handfuls of dried cranberries followed by a couple of scoops of rice and sautéed it a few minutes more. Simple and tasty. Even The Boy ate it.

One final word on wild rice- that 250g bag of wild rice is a lot of rice. The manufacturers say that the cooked rice can be frozen; most of it is now in my minuscule freezer and I will report back on how the frozen rice fares.

Tonight is the Tuna Steak Standoff. Report to follow.

Monday, November 07, 2005


Armed with my new weapon of mess and destruction- a shiny, orange Kitchenaid (thank you to Mom, Dad, Beryl, Dave and Mardon)- I am going to tackle several items on The Great Kitchen Challenge (the project formally known as Around the World in 80 Plates) list this week.

First on the hit list is Poppy Seeds; I know it isn't on the list of the first ten items but it will appear in the next batch so I don't feel like I'm cheating. I love Lemon Poppy Seed loaf but always get annoyed because there is never enough lemon tang to it so I eat the frosted top and then eat the not as nice dry half in between gulps of tea to moisten it. So goal number one with this challenge is to make a loaf that is citrusy. Goal Two is make it moist from start to finsh.

Taking the citrus aspect of the bread to another level, I have experimented by combining lemons and oranges which gives this the name St. Clements after a nursery rhyme. To keep it moist I have added an extra yolk. This discovery was entirely by accident but I am convinced that it had something to do with it (well that and the nice amount of butter in the recipe too). I had planned on using 3 eggs but had two double yolks in a row. I decided that rather then risk it being too rich, I only used the white from the last egg. The dash of almond extract hits you with a subtle flavour when you are halfway through eating a slice but does not overpower the citrus notes. Next time I try this I plan to substitute the almond extract with Orange Flower water which will give it a slightly floral smell and taste (if someone tries it before me please let me know).

Makes 1 loaf


(For loaf)
225g. Butter
175g. Caster sugar
3 eggs plus 1 extra yolk
350g. Plain flour
3 tsp. Baking powder
Pinch of salt
¼ tsp. Almond extract
Rind and juice of 1 orange and 2 lemons
50g. Poppy Seeds

(For icing)
Juice of 1 orange and 1 lemon
Icing sugar

Preheat oven to 180C. Grease and line a loaf tin. Sift the flour and baking powder together and put aside. Mix the first 8 loaf ingredients listed above until well blended and smooth. Fold in the poppy seeds. Pour mixture into the loaf tin and smooth the top so it is even. Place in the oven and bake 55 minutes; at this point check if it is cooked in the middle. If not, bake for an additional 5 minutes. Once slightly cooled, remove from tin onto cooling rack and leave to cool for about 30 minutes.

While the loaf is cooling, mix about 5 tbsp. of icing sugar with 1 tbsp. of juice (to start). The consistency should be a thick glaze that will not run completely off the loaf. Add more sugar or juice as necessary and to taste. Once the loaf is cooled, drizzle the mixture over the top of the loaf.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005


One food memory from my childhood, that still impacts my cooking philosophy, was the time my father became a chicken discriminator. My mother could be complacent with her cooking at times (sorry Mom) and had a thing for cooking chicken constantly. I vividly remember one evening where, after a week of chicken every night, my mother plated up BBQ chicken for four. My father went a little ballistic and moaned about 'God damn chicken everyday, always chicken' (there were a few other choice words said but just in case any kiddies read these I will leave it to your imagination). He then banned my mother from cooking chicken for a long while.

At the time it made me wonder why she had to cook the same thing all the time. No doubt the reasons were financial but surely there were ways to mix it up a bit. Although the memory stayed with me, I never really thought about the impact that one episode has had on me until a few years ago.

Which leads me to my first kitchen adventure which I have given the cheesy working title- Around The World In 80 Plates. I have drawn up a list of the top 80 dishes and ingredients that I have wanted to work with but for one reason or another never have. The first 10 items to conquer:

1. DUCK - One of my favorite dishes to order at a restaurant but has never made an appearance in my kitchen. (SORTED! Please see In the Doghouse for details.)

2. QUINCE - If apples and pears made babies- it would look like this. Quince has been around since the Romans and is popular in Asia and the Mediterranean. In its raw form it has an astringent, tart flavour and tastes better when cooked. The most common version of this fruit is a membrillo, a firmish pelly eaten with Spanish Manchego cheese but goes well with other cheese too. (SORTED! Please see Get 51 on a Triple Word Score for details.)

3. RICOTTA - A key ingredient in Italian savoury and sweet dishes, this fresh cheese is a tad grainy with a slightly sweet taste.

4. SOUFFLE - Light and airy, savoury or sweet, this is definitely a dish for special occassions and even then it seems like one hell of an effort to make. However, it seems like a good laugh whatever the result. Watch this space...

5. JERUSALEM ARTICHOKES - Not an actual artichoke but a tuber related to the sunflower. Sometimes called Sunchokes in the US, it can be eaten cooked or raw.

6. TUNA - Tuna is a member of the Mackerel family and can be found in canned and fresh forms. For this project, I am interested in cooking fresh tuna. (SORTED! Please see Tuna Steak Showdown for details)

7. BISCOTTI - Crunchy and twice baked Italian biscuits that can be dunked in coffee or dessert wine. It is first baked as a loaf and then sliced and baked again. (SORTED! Please see This One Goes Out To Jeri for details)

8. CHESTNUTS - Available fresh in the Autumn and Winter (bought from street vendors, they are a tasty treat to warm up), these nuts can also be found canned in sweetened and unsweetened forms. I usually buy them fresh and roast them but have never used them in a dish with other ingredients.

9. FRESH PASTA - There are plenty of places where you can get great fresh pasta but maybe I will have greater appreciation for my local pasta man if I give it a go myself.

10. WILD RICE - There is no particular reason why this is on my list other than I like to eat it and I have some in the cupboard that I have never made. (SORTED! Please see Wild Wild Rice for details)