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Friday, 30 April 2010

Apple Crumble without the crumble!

I've been having trouble keeping up with my posts of late. There's a backlog of photos in my PC and some recipes I can't even remember. I've said this before and I'll keep saying it. Life gets in the way sometimes...

Time is always something that one never has enough off. Another thing that one can never get enough off is desserts! Just the other day, the kids asked The Lovely Wife if she could make them some Apple Crumble as she does make a mean Apple Crumble. She replied that Apple Crumble was only nice with Ice Cream and since both of them were having a little bit of a cough, The Lovely Wife said it wouldn't be such a good idea.

Now I have never equated Ice Cream with being bad for a cough or cold but I know a lot of people who subscribe to that thought that cold things are not good for coughs and colds. So no iced water, no cold drinks and no Ice Cream.

So rather than argue with The Lovely Wife, and risk giving the kids Ice Cream and finding that they DID get sick, I decided I'd just make them a dessert to enjoy after lunch. Apple Crumble without the Crumble!

I quickly pared and halved some Granny Smith apples and dusted them with a load of cinammon and brown sugar. I then left them to bake in the oven while I whizzed up some Caramel. As soon as the caramel was nice and amber, I pulled the pan out of the oven, poured the caramel over it and let the apples bake a little longer till they were nice and tender.
4 Granny Smith Apples - pared, cored and halved
2 tsps Cinammon
4 tsps Brown Sugar

5 Tbsp Castor Sugar
2 Tbsp water

Coat the apples in the mixture of brown sugar and cinnamon. Place in a baking dish and bake in a 220C oven for about 15 minutes. Meanwhile, make the caramel by heating the sugar and water till the mixture caramelises. Quickly remove the baking dish and pour the caramel over the apples. Return to the oven and bake for another 10 minutes or till apples are tender. Take care not to overbake or the apples will lose their shape and become mushy.

The kids were happy to have their dessert and they loved the caramel goodness over the tart taste of the apples. The cinnamon and sugar gave it a lovely aroma and taste as well while the juices from the apples mixed really well with the caramel.

I only regret not making more of this as the kids really, really enjoyed it. Best thing is, this would go really well with Ice Cream too. Maybe the next time when The Lovely Wife isn't around...or maybe I should just make sure they don't have a cough!

Friday, 23 April 2010

Focaccia the CPK way

My son is not a real fan of bread, although he will eat it when he has no choice. That is quite unlike my princess. She loves her bread, any which way and any kind. That is also quite unlike me and The Lovely Wife. We all love our bread and I'm wondering whose "I dont really like bread" gene my son picked up.

Having said that however, my son really likes the bread at California Pizza Kitchen (CPK). There is no need to use any coercion or a stern glare - he will actually ASK for the bread at CPK.

The Lovely Wife and I decided one evening that we were going to try the recipe from the California Pizza Kitchen recipe book that she has. The Lovely Wife has a fear of yeast and I don't blame here because I too used to have a fear of yeast. However, after making bread and breaded goods with the Daring Bakers, I am no longer afraid of yeast!

Like most bread recipes, this one is fairly long winded but I've edited it to make it simpler and left out the options of using a food processor - so that makes it a little shorter.

2 tsps dry instant yeats
1/2 cup lukewarm water
3 1/4 cups bread flour or plain flour
2 Tbsp honey
2 tsp salt
1/2 cup cold water
2 Tbsp + 2tsp olive oil
for the topping
1 small onion
Dissolve the yeast in the lukewarm water in a small bowl. Set aside for 10 minutes till it foams up a little. Combine the other ingredients (except the extra 2 tsp olive oil) in the mixing bowl of your electric mixer. Add in the yeast. Using the dough hook on the lower speed, mix the dough until smooth and elastic - about 2 to 3 minutes. Don't overmix or the dough will be tough and rubbery.
If using your hands, mix all ingredients together and then knead till the dough is only slightly tacky , barely beyong sticking to your hands.
Shape the dough into a ball and then lightly oil the dough ball with the remaining 2 tsps oil. Place the dough into a bowl and seal the top with plastic wrap. Set aside to proof until it rises to double its bulk - about 2 hours.
Punch down the dough and then reform it into a nice round ball. Return to the same bowl, cover with plastic wrap and put into the refridgerator to rise overnight for a retarded proof.
About 2 hours before you plan to bake the foccacia, remove the dough from the refrigerator. Divide the dough into 4 portions.
On a non floured surface, roll each portion of dough out back and forth to make a 9 inch long rope. Sprinkle a little flour over a clean smooth surface and roll out each rope to an oblong shape, about 2 inches wide.
Place the rolled out dough on a foil lined baking sheet - at least an inch apart. Lightly spray the tops of the dough with cold water and then distribute the onion and rosemary over the top, gently pressing into the dough. Sprinkle with salt and then drizzle a little olive oil on top.
Let rise for another 30 minutes for the final proof.
Bake the foccacias for about 10 minutes in a preheated 230C oven until golden brown.

This Focaccia is really soft with a lovely, delicate crumb. It goes well on its own and is great with a salsa or just chopped tomatoes. Although it takes quite a long time to make, the work is worth it as the bread is really delicious.

This has become a favourite in our household and it's just a pity that it takes so long to make as if it were quicker, we would be baking this far more often!

Monday, 19 April 2010

Beef Stew and Growing Older...

I must be growing old becuase I sound like my father. Phrases like "When I was young" seem to frequently pepper my statements. "Nowadays things are so..." is salt added to my sentences. "Remember when..." is the garlic that seasons many of my questions and "Those days things were..." is the spice that is added to many conversations. My father often starts sentences with those phrases and I guess I am becoming just like my father when I say similar things to my children. You know, like, "When Daddy was young, he didnt have a pair of football boots." Or how about, "Those days the only mushrooms we had came out of a can." And of course the proverbial "You dont know how lucky you children are, Daddy and Mummy didn't have {this, that and the other}. You get the picture! So I guess we all become our parents after a while!

One good thing about growing older is that you have a lot of memories - until your memory starts to fail that is. One fond memory I have is the Beef Stew that my mother used to make for all of us. Her stew was comfort food for us and was always looked forward to.

Like so many of the dishes I make today, the inspiration comes from the good food that my Mother would make for us. Although my mom's food was really good, I think that my own versions are better than my mother's! Then again, I had a good role model so improving on something that was already good is not too hard to do.

Mom's stew often had loads of potatoes in it but when I made this, I decided to do something a little different. I made mashed potatoes and served the stew atop a bed
of it. My little princess, who loves her mashed potatoes, loved how I served this!

This is how I make my stew.

1 tsp Oregano
1 tsb basil
2 bay leaves
2 cloves garlic -chopped
1 onion - chopped
800g Beef - sliced into squares
Plain flour
3 carrots -sliced
2 green capsicum - cut into large cubes
300g button mushroom - sliced
2 tomatoes - quartered

Coat the beef in some flour and then quickly brown on a hot skillet to seal the meat. Remove and set aside. In the same pan, Sautee the oregano, basil, bay leaves, onion and garlic till soft. Add in the mushrooms and cook till juices come out. Add in the beef and mix well. Add in the carrots and tomatoes and cook till carrots are soft. Season with salt and pepper. Toss in the capsicum. Add in some water and allow mixture to simmer and infuse all the flavours. If required, add in some corn flour to thicken the stew.

The beauty of a stew is that you can add almost any vegetables in to make the stew more hearty. Celery is always a good choice as is leek. As mentioned above, potatoes are always a good addition too.

I also served the stew with a dollop of mashed potatoes and some sliced bread. The bread is great to mop up all the juices. The stew goes really well with rice and even better with lightly buttered rice!

The true test of my age though is that I remember songs from a long time ago. Remember Supertramps The Logical Song?
When I was young, it seemed that life was so wonderful,
a miracle, oh it was beautiful, magical.
And all the birds in the trees, well they'd be singing so happily,
oh joyfully, oh playfully watching me.
But then they sent me away to teach me how to be sensible,
logical, oh responsible, practical.
And then they showed me a world where I could be so dependable,
oh clinical, oh intellectual, cynical.
There are times when all the world's asleep,
the questions run too deep
for such a simple man.
Won't you please, please tell me what we've learned
I know it sounds absurd
but please tell me who I am...

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

A Sandwich for The Lovely Wife

The Lovely Wife enjoys her Pesto and recently when Michael made Pesto, there was a good bit leftover. Another thing that The Lovely Wife enjoys is a good sandwhich - not white bread for her though!

Also quite recently, over lunch at work, I had enjoyed a roasted vegetable sandwich that had pesto as its base and then roasted capsicum, mushroom and eggplant. I had mentioned this to The Lovely Wife. She remembered what I had told her and asked if I could do something similar.

Well, as it was, there was no eggplant nor mushroom nor much of any other vegetable in the fridge besides capsicum. So... I pan roasted some capsicum, spread the bread with pesto and then sprinkled grated cheddar cheese all over it. I considered toasting the bread but The Lovely Wife said it looked great as it was - not to mention the fact that she was hungry!

A simple enough dish to make and tasty to boot! Any roasted vegetable would go well with this and I reckon that just a plain pesto sandwich would be just as good! Sometimes its quite remarkable how something so simple can be so good...

Wednesday, 7 April 2010

Lemon and Honeydew Chicken

This post has been one that should have been posted a long, long time ago. The Lovely Wife has been making this dish for quite a while and it has sat in my list of to-do posts for ever so long! That explains why I have two different shots of the food as well.

This dish ranks as one of my son's favourites. It's not just him that loves this dish though, it's the whole family. The trouble with this dish is that you can't quite stop eating it. Eat. Eat. Eat. That's what happens everytime The Lovely Wife makes this dish.

The best thing about this dish is that the Chicken tastes great with our without the sauce and the sauce tastes great with or without the Chicken! It goes really well with rice and I'm not having you on when I say you just can't stop eating this!

The recipe is based on the recipe from Simply Sedap by Chef Wan with just a little modification where The Lovely Wife leaves out the chicken stock granules that Chef Wan puts in the sauce.

4 boneless chicken breasts - cut into strips
2 Tbsp Oyster sauce
1 Tbsp Cornflour
2 Tbsp plain flour
1 egg - beaten
3/4 cup breadcrumbs
Lemon and honeydew sauce

Lemon and Honeydew Sauce
1/3 cup water
1/3 cup lemon juice
1/4 cup honey
2 tsps light soya soauce
2 tsps cornflour
200g honeydew melon balls

Marinate the chicken in oyster sauce and cornflour. Dust the chicken piece with plain flour and dip into the beaten eggs and then coat with breadcrumbs. Deep fry until golden brown. Drain and arrange on a plate.
Cover the chicken with the Lemon and Honeydew sauce.

Lemon and Honeydew Sace
Combine all ingredients except honeydew in a saucepan and mix together. Simmer till thick. Add in honeydew balls and heat through

The kids love to help by coating the chicken in the breadcrumbs and it's a lot of fun with the whole family in the kitchen helping out. As I mentioned earlier, the chicken on its own is really tasty and it has become The Lovely Wife's version of chicken fingers. The sauce can be served as a dip for the chicken although tomato sauce and chilli sauce go really well as a dipping sauce as well. This is great finger food!

It can be quite cumbersome to scoop out honeydew balls so sometimes, we just cut the honeydew into pieces. It doesn't affect the taste at all although it does look a lot better with honeydew balls.

No matter how you serve it, this dish has become a firm favourite in this household and it has become one of our comfort foods!


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