Archive for the ‘Dare’ Category

Paella Negra

Paella Negra

There are decisions in life that we all make and we know that they can change our lives forever.  For me, one of them was deciding to move with my husband to Australia and leave the comforts of Manila behind.  Other decisions, you think are inconsequential but when you look back, you realize that choosing something else would have changed the course of your life in ways you would never imagine.

Ages ago, I briefly dated someone I thought had lots of potential.  Cute, smart, great conversations etc… you know what I mean.  On our first few dates, I would order “safe date” dishes – nothing you had to eat with your hands (ribs), made your breath stink (prawns in garlic sauce) etc.

Around our fifth or sixth date, I decided we were close enough that I would order Paella Negra – one of my favorite dishes.  It’s basically made of squid or cuttlefish, paella rice and sauteed in some of the squid ink.  It’s delicious but definitely not a first date dish.

So we ordered it and ate it.  After two bites I thought “well, here goes” and I flashed him a great big smile.  While he tried to keep his surprise in check, I did notice he was slightly taken aback.  I guess he didn’t realize that the ink from these cephalopod babies could stain your teeth.

Paella Negra

And things turned quickly from there.  He started getting self conscious (must have thought, well if her teeth are stained, so are mine!) and barely said anything throughout the meal.  What’s more, he cracked no jokes, bared no smile and when I tried to engage him in more conversation, got monosyllable answers.  Not very encouraging.

I decided then and there that this guy was not the one for me.  If he could not accept my mouth full of black teeth, he could not accept me.  Period.  That was it. Fast forward to today… when the daring cooks’ challenge was announced, I immediately thought of that date and how my decision to order the Paella Negra just changed my life completely… for the better of course!

The Daring Cook’s challenge for August was Rice with Mushrooms, Cuttlefish and Artichokes.   The original recipe was by Jose Andres but I have varied it so that the resulting dish was more of a Paella Negra.  Thank you to Olga for giving us the flexibility to do so.

Recipe (serves 2 to 3)


3 tablespoons olive oil

1 onion, diced

2 cloves garlic, crushed

1 tablespoon tomato paste

1 tablespoon squid ink

500 grams squid or cuttlefish

6 pieces fresh prawns, peeled but with head and tail intact

handful of mussels

1 cup calasparra rice

2 1/2 chicken stock

1/2 cup dry white wine

salt and pepper

aioli sauce

Equipment – Paella Pan


  1. Gently saute the onions and garlic with olive oil until the onions are translucent
  2. Add the cuttlefish and saute for another 3 to 4 minutes over medium heat
  3. Add the tomato paste, squid ink and cook it out
  4. Next, add the dry white wine and allow the alcohol to evaporate (2 to 3 minutes)
  5. Add the rice and spread over the paella pan
  6. Immediately add the chicken stock and bring to a simmer
  7. Leave to cook for 15 minutes.
  8. After 15 minutes, add the prawns and mussels on top of the rice and cover the paella pan with some foil and cook for another 5 minutes or until all the liquid has evaporated and the rest of the seafood is cooked through
  9. Serve with aioli and lemon wedges

Allioli (Traditional recipe)
Cooking time: 20 min aprox.

4 garlic cloves, peeled

Pinch of salt

Fresh lemon juice (some drops)

Extra-virgin olive oil (Spanish preferred but not essential)


  1. Place the garlic in a mortar along with the salt.
  2. Using a pestle, smash the garlic cloves to a smooth paste. (The salt stops the garlic from slipping at the bottom of the mortar as you pound it down.)
  3. Add the lemon juice to the garlic.
  4. Drop by drop; pour the olive oil into the mortar slowly as you continue to crush the paste with your pestle.
  5. Keep turning your pestle in a slow, continuous circular motion in the mortar. The drip needs to be slow and steady. Make sure the paste soaks up the olive oil as you go.
  6. Keep adding the oil, drop by drop, until you have the consistency of a very thick mayonnaise. If your allioli gets too dense, add water to thin it out. This takes time—around 20 minutes of slow motion around the mortar—to create a dense, rich sauce.

Daring Cooks’ Challenge August 2009

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Milano Cookies

The July Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Nicole at Sweet Tooth. She chose Chocolate Covered Marshmallow Cookies and Milan Cookies from pastry chef Gale Gand of the Food Network.

Prep Time: 20 min
Inactive Prep Time: 0 min
Cook Time: 1 hr 0 min
Serves: about 3 dozen cookies

• 12 tablespoons (170grams/ 6 oz) unsalted butter, softened
• 2 1/2 cups (312.5 grams/ 11.02 oz) powdered sugar
• 6 egg whites
• 2 tablespoons vanilla extract
• 2 tablespoons lemon extract
• 1 1/2 cups (187.5grams/ 6.61 oz) all purpose flour
• Cookie filling, recipe follows

Cookie filling:
• 1/2 cup heavy cream
• 8 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
• 1 orange, zested

1. In a mixer with paddle attachment cream the butter and the sugar.
2. Add the egg whites gradually and then mix in the vanilla and lemon extracts.
3. Add the flour and mix until just well mixed.
4. With a small (1/4-inch) plain tip, pipe 1-inch sections of batter onto a parchment-lined sheet pan, spacing them 2 inches apart as they spread.
5. Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 10 minutes or until light golden brown around the edges. Let cool on the pan.
6. While waiting for the cookies to cool, in a small saucepan over medium flame, scald cream.
7. Pour hot cream over chocolate in a bowl, whisk to melt chocolate, add zest and blend well.
8. Set aside to cool (the mixture will thicken as it cools).
9. Spread a thin amount of the filling onto the flat side of a cookie while the filling is still soft and press the flat side of a second cookie on top.
10. Repeat with the remainder of the cookies.

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July’s Daring Cooks challenge was hosted by Sketchy and was called Skate, traditional flavors…

Skate, Traditional Flavours Powderedwith changes

  • 4 skate wings
  • * Beurre monte
  • * 300g fresh green beans
  • sea salt/kosher salt
  • 454g butter – 4 sticks
  • 300g lemons
  • 5g citric acid/vitamin c tablet
  • 150g cilantro
  • 150g parsley
  • 100g dried banana chips
  • 300g powdered milk
  • 100g cup minced red onion
  • 200g capers (brined, not oil)

* For green beans, slice each beans into very thin rounds (2 mm)
* Beurre Monte – 454g butter cubed and cold, 60g water. In a small saucepan, bring the water to a boil, remove from heat and whisk in the butter 1 cube at a time. This should from an emulsion. Keep this heated, but under 90C. The emulsion will not break – this is your poaching liquid.

Powders – prepare ahead of time
caper / onion
lemon powder
cilantro/parsley powder
‘brown butter’ powder

once dried, all powders should be pulsed in a coffee grinder/spice mill/morter and pestle then passed through a chinois or fine mesh strainer.

Citrus powder
300g lemons
1000g simple syrup (boil equal parts water and sugar until dissolved)
5g citric acid/vitamin c tablet

Zest 300g of lemons (10.6 oz), remove the pith from the zest and poach in the simple syrup three times. dry with paper towels and move to the oven. 70C for 2 hours. pulse the zest in a coffee grinder, and mix with citric acid/vitamin C powder.

Cilantro/parsley powder
150g cilantro
150g parsley

Blanch the parsley in boiling saltwater for 1 second, submerge the leaves in ice water for 3 minutes. Dry on paper towels and place in oven. 70C for 2 hours. Grind.

onion powder
100g cup minced red onions

Place in oven for 2 hours at 70C. Grind.

Caper powder
200g capers (get the ones packed in brine/vinegar)

Run the capers under cold water for two minutes to remove some of the brine.
Dry on paper towels and place in oven for 2 hours at 70C.

Brown Butter powder

100g Dried banana chips (unsweetened if possible – many are coated in honey – the freeze dried ones would be brilliant)
300g powdered milk

Grind the banana chips in a coffee grinder and mix with the toasted milk powder. Heat the powdered milk with the ground dried banana in a pan. Be cautious and make sure it does not burn.

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The June Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Jasmine of Confessions of a Cardamom Addict and Annemarie of Ambrosia and Nectar. They chose a Traditional (UK) Bakewell Tart… er… pudding that was inspired by a rich baking history dating back to the 1800’s in England.

Bakewell Tart…er…pudding
Makes one 23cm (9” tart) OR 8 mini tarts
Prep time: less than 10 minutes (plus time for the individual elements)
Resting time: 15 minutes
Baking time: 30 minutes
Equipment needed: 8 mini tart pans, and a rolling pin

One quantity sweet shortcrust pastry (recipe follows)
Bench flour
250ml (1cup (8 US fl. oz)) jam or curd, warmed for spread ability
One quantity frangipane (recipe follows)
One handful blanched, flaked almonds

Assembling the tart
Place the chilled dough disc on a lightly floured surface. If it’s overly cold, you will need to let it become acclimatized for about 15 minutes before you roll it out. Flour the rolling pin and roll the pastry to 5mm (1/4”) thickness, by rolling in one direction only (start from the centre and roll away from you), and turning the disc a quarter turn after each roll. When the pastry is to the desired size and thickness, transfer it to the tart pan, press in and trim the excess dough. Patch any holes, fissures or tears with trimmed bits. Chill refrigerator for 15 minutes.

Preheat oven to 180C.

Blind bake pastry for 7 to 10 minutes at 180C then remove from oven and add a layer of jam to the pastry base. Top with the frangipane mixture and pop in the over for 20 minutes.


The finished tart will have a golden crust and the frangipane will be tanned, poofy and a bit spongy-looking. Remove from the oven and cool on the counter. Serve warm, with crème fraîche, whipped cream or custard sauce if you wish. When you slice into the tart, the almond paste will be firm, but slightly squidgy and the crust should be crisp but not tough.

Sweet shortcrust pastry
Prep time: 15-20 minutes
Resting time: 30 minutes (minimum)
Equipment needed: bowls, box grater, cling film

225g (8oz) all purpose flour
30g (1oz) sugar
2.5ml (½ tsp) salt
110g (4oz) unsalted butter, cold (frozen is better)
2 (2) egg yolks
2.5ml (½ tsp) almond extract (optional)
15-30ml (1-2 Tbsp) cold water

Sift together flour, sugar and salt. Grate butter into the flour mixture, using the large hole-side of a box grater. Using your finger tips only, and working very quickly, rub the fat into the flour until the mixture resembles bread crumbs. Set aside.

Lightly beat the egg yolks with the almond extract (if using) and quickly mix into the flour mixture. Keep mixing while dribbling in the water, only adding enough to form a cohesive and slightly sticky dough. Form the dough into a disc, wrap in cling and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes

Prep time: 10-15 minutes
Equipment needed: bowls, hand mixer, rubber spatula

125g (4.5oz) unsalted butter, softened
125g (4.5oz) icing sugar
3 (3) eggs
2.5ml (½ tsp) almond extract
125g (4.5oz) ground almonds
30g (1oz) all purpose flour

Cream butter and sugar together for about a minute or until the mixture is light yellow in color and very fluffy. Scrape down the side of the bowl and add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. The batter may appear to curdle. In the words of Douglas Adams: Don’t panic. Really. It’ll be fine. After all three are in, pour in the almond extract and mix for about another 30 seconds and scrape down the sides again. With the beaters on, spoon in the ground nuts and the flour. Mix well. The mixture will be soft, keep its slightly curdled look (mostly from the almonds) and retain its pallid yellow color.

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Just recently joined the Daring Cooks’ Challenge and nearly missed posting my attempt at Chinese Dumplings/Potstickers. I am glad that I managed to give it a go as making home made potsticker dough was something I would have never dared try if not for this challenge.

The challenge was hosted by Jen of use real butter (userealbutter.com). Recipe below:

shrimp filling:
1/2 lb (225g) raw shrimp, peeled, deveined, and coarsely chopped
1/2 lb (225g) ground pork
3 stalks green onions, minced
1/4 cup (55g) ginger root, minced
1 cup (142g) water chestnuts, minced
1 tsp (5g) salt
3 tbsp (40g) sesame oil
2 tbsp (16g) corn starch

Combine all filling ingredients in a large mixing bowl and mix thoroughly (I mix by clean hand). Cover and refrigerate until ready to use (up to a day, but preferably within an hour or two).

dough: (double this for the amount of filling, but easier to make it in 2 batches – or just halve the filling recipe)
2 cups (250g) all-purpose flour
1/2 cup (113g) warm water
flour for work surface

Make the dough, Method 1: Place the flour in the work bowl of a food processor with the dough blade. Run the processor and pour the warm water in until incorporated. Pour the contents into a sturdy bowl or onto a work surface and knead until uniform and smooth. The dough should be firm and silky to the touch and not sticky.[Note: it’s better to have a moist dough and have to incorporate more flour than to have a dry and pilling dough and have to incorporate more water).

Both dough methods: Knead the dough about twenty strokes then cover with a damp towel for 15 minutes. Take the dough and form a flattened dome. Cut into strips about 1 1/2 to 2 inches wide. Shape the strips into rounded long cylinders. On a floured surface, cut the strips into 3/4 inch pieces. Press palm down on each piece to form a flat circle (you can shape the corners in with your fingers). With a rolling pin, roll out a circular wrapper from each flat disc. Take care not to roll out too thin or the dumplings will break during cooking – about 1/16th inch. Leave the centers slightly thicker than the edges. Place a tablespoon of filling in the center of each wrapper and fold the dough in half, pleating the edges along one side. Keep all unused dough under damp cloth.

To boil: Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add dumplings to pot. Boil the dumplings until they float.

To steam: Place dumplings on a single layer of napa cabbage leaves or on a well-greased surface in a steamer basket with lid. Steam covered for about 6 minutes.

To pan fry (potstickers): Place dumplings in a frying pan with 2-3 tbsp of vegetable oil. Heat on high and fry for a few minutes until bottoms are golden. Add 1/2 cup water and cover. Cook until the water has boiled away and then uncover and reduce heat to medium or medium low. Let the dumplings cook for another 2 minutes then remove from heat and serve.

To freeze: Assemble dumplings on a baking sheet so they are not touching. It helps to rub the base of the dumpling in a little flour before setting on the baking sheet for ease of release. Freeze for 20-30 minutes until dumplings are no longer soft. Place in ziploc bag and freeze for up to a couple of months. Prepare per the above instructions, but allow extra time to ensure the filling is thoroughly cooked.

To serve: Serve dumplings or potstickers hot with your choice of dipping sauce combinations.


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