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Posts Tagged ‘recipe’

Olives marinated in orange and thyme infused olive oil

Olives marinated in orange and thyme infused olive oil

My friends have been known to say that I like to complicate things.    I once complained to my husband that there was too much sun coming into the bedroom window which was waking me up earlier than I wanted.  I thought long and hard about how to fix this and finally I decided that I was going to buy large sheets of black paper and sticky tape and cover the windows to block out the morning sun.  So off I went to buy the supplies and was excited to show my husband my handiwork.

“What are you doing??”  My husband asked when he entered the room.

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Tortilla Española (Spanish Potato Omelette)

Tortilla Española (Spanish Potato Omelette)

Very early on Saturday, with my husband still in a deep slumber, I snuck out of bed, put on my thickest pair of socks and tiptoed down to the kitchen.  I held my breath as I passed the guest room, fearing that even my breathing would be loud enough to be heard.   The wagging of the dog’s tails against the wooden walls magnified across the hallway and I tried to calm them down to prevent anyone from waking.

Finally, I got to the kitchen… “I made it!” I thought.  I was finally going to have a few hours in the kitchen all to myself!

Because as you all know, when Mom’s are visiting – you pretty much have to give up whatever rights you have in the kitchen because, when they’re around the kitchen ain’t yours… it’s theirs!

I wanted to make this this Tortilla Espanola (Spanish style Potato Omelette) for a tapas party I was throwing for New Year’s day.  Made with only four very accessible ingredients (eggs, potatoes, onions and olive oil), a really good tortilla is guaranteed not only to bring any Spaniard to their knees, it’s also sure to please any guest for a tapas party. It’s also great eaten cold or at room temperature so you can make it in advance for any occasion.

And whatever happened to my covert CIA operation? It pretty much lasted a whole five minutes before I turned around, saw my Mom and heard her ask “Can I help?”

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Queso de Bola Spread

Queso de Bola Spread

Because the holiday season is already so stressful, there are some things that you should never do in December.

Getting married is one of them.

This of course is from first hand experience when eight years ago, three days after Christmas, I said “I do.”  When I got engaged my then fiancé said “pick a date” and there was no doubt in my mind that we would get married around the Christmas holidays.  I had visions of a string quartet playing Christmas carols at the wedding reception, pointsettias hanging around the ballroom and because my Mom was taking care of the catering, I asked for a Holiday themed menu including glazed hams and roast turkeys.

The stress started as early as September when the dressmaker told me that because I wanted a beaded dress, whatever my current weight was then was what my weight had to be at my wedding.  There was no room to put on any holiday weight as this would mean major adjustments to the dress.

It was hard to enjoy engagement parties and holiday get togethers when every time I’d want to stuff myself silly I’d envision a little bubble over my head and inside was the dressmaker shaking his head saying “Tsk… tsk… I told you not to eat so much!”

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Strawberry and Macaron Trifle

Strawberry and Macaron Trifle

If you regularly read my blog (and if you don’t: why not?!?!), you might know that this year I started teaching macaron making at The Essential Ingredient.  It’s been a fantastic and rewarding experience (especially when I get sent pictures of finished macarons from former students) and I look forward to more classes next  year.  One question I get asked frequently is “What macaron book do you recommend?”  I’ve probably bought all the books on macarons ever published.  I have even bought two macaron books written in French (Christophe Felder and Pierre Herme) to learn as much as I can (on a few occassions I have even translated a few recipes).  With the craze of macarons in the year or so, a number of books in English have also been published.  None of them I have been completely happy with.

That is of course until last week, when, by some happy accident (meaning I went to the bookstore without intending to buy anything) I found Jose Marechal’s Secrets of Macarons.

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Strawberry and Watermelon Cake

Strawberry and Watermelon Cake

When I was a kid I wanted to be a gymnast.  I remember watching a movie on Romanian Nadia Comaneci and how she scored a perfect 10 on the uneven bars in the 1976 Olympics and thought to myself that I was born to be a gymnast. 

So my best friend and I started teaching ourselves cartwheels, back bends and once even decided to create our own  dismount station on the side of my brother’s bed so we could practice somersaults (I shrudder at the thought of our bravery then!).  During long car trips my Dad would play classical music and I would close my eyes and pretend to do a floor routine to the music of Mozart and Tchaikovsky.

So the logical thing to do was ask my parents permission to take proper gymnastic  lessons – and I was devastated when they said no. I am assuming they thought it was too dangerous.  Maybe they thought I wasn’t ready… maybe, they weren’t ready.  I brooded over what to do next for months.  Finally, I decided to write them what I thought was a tear jerker of a letter asking them to reconsider their decision.  And what a letter it was.  I’m pretty sure the phrases “this is my dream” and “please, please, please” came up many times.  The next day, they relented.

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Bacon, Carrot and Cheese Cake

Bacon, Carrot and Cheese Cake

On my last trip to New York I stumbled upon a book called Cakes and Loaves by Ilona Chovancova.  It’s been seven months since I managed to use a recipe from it!  I remembered the other day that the book had a basic savoury cake recipe that I wanted to share for The Cooking Basics series.   This is a fantastic and delicious basic recipe from which you can vary ingredients depending on what you feel like eating, what’s available or what’s in season.   Making the cake is effortless – no need for multiple bowls, no need for a mixer (a grater and wooden spoon will do) and I promise it would probably take you less than ten minutes to put together.  These cakes can be eaten any time of the day – great for breakfast on the go, for lunch, an afternoon snack or even a light dinner with a salad.

Some tips should you choose to make your own savoury cake:

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Mango Weiss Bar

Mango Weiss Bar

Sometimes I think I am in over my head asking chefs for their recipes.  Last week I had a dream that I asked Gordon Ramsay for his Caesar Salad recipe and he screamed at me.  He said there was no way he was going to give it to me and I should just wait for the release of his next book where I could find it!  I swear, I woke up in a sweat and my heart racing.

Howard from Eat Show and Tell and another friend had Dared Me to get  Sepia‘s famous Mango and Vanilla Weiss Bar and so I approached the restaurant for the recipe.  I made contact with Vicki Wild not only who manages the front of house but is also partner to Head Chef, Martin Benn.  I thought, if anyone could charm Chef Benn into parting with such a coveted recipe, it would be her.  And luckily, Vicki Wild is much more charming and accommodating than Gordon Ramsay.

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Relleno Alimasag (Philippine Style Stuffed Crab)

Relleno Alimasag (Philippine Style Stuffed Crab)

One of the greatest food writers in the Philippines was a lady by the name of Doreen Fernandez.  When I was in the Philippines I took for granted her contributions to our cuisine and so I rarely paid any attention to her works which was a pity since I have been crazy looking for some of her books which are almost impossible to find.  Last month in Melbourne I went to a store called Books For Cooks where tucked in a corner was one of Doreen’s books.  I couldn’t believe my luck!  The book is called Palayok (a type of native cooking pot) and while not a recipe book, is filled with valuable information on what and how our cuisine has come to where it is today.  The chapter I’m reading now for instance, is on the Spanish influences on food.

This influence is  of course inevitable considering we were a colony from 1521 to 1898 (I tell everyone we were colonized for around 300 years, but now I realize it’s 377!).  The first Spanish settlers were officials and their families then later on, friars.   Ingredients in the Spanish kitchen often make an appearance in our food like chorizo (sausages) and jamon (ham). Another example, is in our cooking methods.  To saute in the Philippines is called “gisa” from the Spanish word guisar.

Another cooking process commonly used in the Philippines, is called relleno which means to stuff.  With some types of relleno, the Spanish influence is much clearer, for example,  rellenong manok (stuffed chicken) will typically be stuffed with pork, chorizo and ham.  Other relleno has been adapted to the produce more easily available in the Philippines, for example, rellenong bangus or stuffed milkfish (milkfish is very accessible in the Philippines).

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Coconut Custard Jam

Coconut Custard Jam on toast with butter

“Are you trying to kill me?” My husband asked as I put a plate infront of him.

“Ha!  Not yet.” I told him.  “I have get some life insurance on you first!”

The reason for his outburst was because infront of him was this toast, slathered with a caramelized coconut custard and a considerable amount of sliced butter.  I had been finding ways to use up my twenty egg yolks from my last macaron class and had started with making pasta with six egg yolks.  Then I made some portuguese custard tarts (another four there) and used up six to make some ice cream.  All this time my husband was the lucky recipient of all the egg yolk laden dishes.

So down to four egg yolks I decided to make some Coconut Custard (Kaya Jam).  I learned about a recipe from Amy Beh which I had seen floating around the internet and was keen to try.  I must confess that I used the thermomix to make this as I have no patience to continuously stir for more than an hour which is what the recipe requires.  I used the first two egg yolks for the first test batch where I followed Amy’s recipe but thought the resulting custard wasn’t caramelized enough for my liking.  The next batch I caramelized the sugar and poured hot coconut milk into the caramel creating a darker and richer base for the custard.  The result was what I was hoping for – my husband enjoyed it and mentioned that it tasted like latik which is a  highly addictive Filipino fried coconut milk curd.

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