Getting back into cooking since 2009.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Chocolate pasta with creme anglaise

I'm sure that Italians would be horrified at such a bastardisation of their cultural legacy, but chocolate pasta with creme anglaise (that's 'custard' to you and me) is very, very tasty.

Chocolate pasta

This pasta dough probably serves 8 people or more

350g tipo '00' flour
50g cocoa
1 tbsp sugar
4 eggs and a yolk (you want about 270g of liquid, so if you have 67g eggs you only need 4)

Sift the flour, cocoa and sugar onto a clean board or bench. Make a hole in the middle, crack in your eggs. Mix well, then knead until silky smooth (this takes about 10 minutes of hard kneading).

Leave to rest in the fridge for half an hour or so wrapped in glad wrap, then cut in four and roll out using your pasta roller. I found that I could only take it down to a 6 or 7 on the rollers before it started to break up; the cocoa is not as pliable as a pure-flour pasta.

Creme Anglaise (aka sweet custard)
Serves 6 or so

This recipe comes from the very reliable Ratio by Michael Ruhlman.

250 ml
250 ml cream
1 vanilla bean, split down its length
115g sugar (1/2 cup)
115g egg yolk (7 yolks)

Combine the milk cream and vanilla bean in a sauce pan and bring to a simmer. Remove from the heat and let the bean steep for fifteen minutes. With a pairing knife, scrape the beans from the pod into the milk-cream mixture. Discard the pod (or store it in sugar).

Combine the sugar and yolks and stir vigorously with a whisk for thirty seconds or so (this will help the sugar to begin dissolving and will also help the egg to cook more evenly).

Fill a large bowl with a 50-50 mixture of ice and water, and place a second bowl into the ice bath. Set a fine-mesh strainer in the bowl.

Over medium heat, bring the cream just to a simmer, then pour it slowly into the yolks while whisking continuously. Pour the mixture back into the pan and continue stirring over medium heat until the mixture is slightly thick, or nappĂ©—it should be completely pourable but if you dip a spoon in it, it should be thick enough on the spoon to draw a line through it—2 to 4 minutes, depending how hot your burner is.

Serve a small amount (say 1/3 of a cup) of custard in the bottom of a bowl, top with a few strands of chocolate pasta. If you want to be extra ridiculous you can serve some white chocolate with a microplane at the table, to shave over like parmesan.

Chocolate Guinness Cupcakes

One week ago today.... Inspired by Apple's recent post about the lack of good cupcakes in her life/our town, I made some. The original plan was to deliver some to her at work but other things got in the way and I didn't make it, sorry Apple! This weekend looks to be a similar situation but hopefully the next week I'll come and visit... until then, here is a picture of what you missed & what everyone else got:

Chocolate Guinness (cup)Cake(s) - from Nigella Lawson's FEAST.

I'm not going to post the recipe, you should buy the book. The only change I made was less cooking time for the cupcakes - about 25 mins instead of whatever she says. Anyway. This cake never fails! I love it. It stays moist for a long time which is useful as it makes such a huge amount, and while it is super dark it isn't super rich or chocolatey. Also there is something scary/fun about melting lumps of butter in a pan of Guinness. Maybe it is guilt? Also I am a sucker for anything slightly ridiculous & presentation focused when it comes to food, in this case the icing making the cake look like a (short) pint of Guinness. Yay!

Monday, June 15, 2009

Vege Burgers

Pumpkin & chickpea vege burger patties, served on toasted soy & linseed with caramelised onions, brie, tomato & zucchini relish and coriander.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Salumi bleg

Who doesn't love cured meats (apart from vegetarians)?

(image courtesy of Flickr user Tashian via Wikipedia)

We're pretty fortunate in Perth to have high-quality salami, sausages, prosciutto, etc. produced by Mondo Doro and Princi. What we're missing is guanciale.

I've never seen guanciale in Perth. It's cured pig's jowl and it's used in various pasta dishes in place of pancetta or bacon: pure piggy awesomeness. Mario Batali has led a guanciale craze in America, but small goods manufacturers here don't seem to have caught on.

I've been tempted to get into making my own basic cured meats, following some of the simpler recipes from Ruhlman's Charcuterie , but I don't think I'll get past cured salmon, duck breast or maybe bresaola. Pig jowls are a step too far, I don't think Soda could handle a cured jowl drying on a hook in the kitchen.

Matt from Abstract Gourmet is on the case, but if anyone else can point me towards some guanciale (or any other semi-obscure cured meats) in Perth then I'd be very grateful.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Public holiday cooking #1

I love a well-written book about food. It turns out that some of them even come from America, despite my initial misgivings ("They use different measurements! They have different names for things! Americans don't know anything about food!"). I now have a whole continent full of cookbook authors to feed my habit, and I'm not holding back.

One of my favourite food authors (American or otherwise) is Michael Ruhlman. His new book Ratio is great, a sort of 'anti-recipe' book that tries to teach you the underlying relationships between ingredients that make up particular foods, and then builds on those relationships with all sorts of variations, modifications and improvements. It's kind of like those old CWA-style cookbooks that tell you how to cook an omelette in very terse terms, and then suggest variations on the omelette (omelette with onions! omelette with kidneys! etc).

It appeals to me, as I feel like I want to get some kind of grounding in basic kitchen techniques rather than just going through a rote process of emulating various cookbook authors’ recipes.

Anyway this is all a pre-amble to my real topic, the food I cooked on my day off. I love minor public holidays; they're days with none of the family obligations or pre-ordained activities of the big days off (Christmas, Easter, to a lesser extent Australia Day) and without the guilt, solemnity and cringe-inducing AFL 'tribute round' of Anzac Day. The minor days (Queen's Birthday, Foundation Day, etc) are unencumbered days off to spend however you likel. For me, that means cooking.

Faced with a free day, I knew I wanted to give bread another try. I'm very happy with my pizza dough and (to a lesser extent) my focaccias (
focacce?), but I've never been completely satisfied with any of the proper loaves I've attempted in the past.

I'm not sure if the problem is our shitty old oven (it only goes to 220c), the yeast (I've tried sachet and instant dried yeast), the flour (I've tried Tipo 00, All Purpose, Brown and Bread flours), the temperature, the proving time, the kneading time...

There are so many variables involved in baking bread that it gets a bit overwhelming. People devote their lives to cultivating the best sourdough starters and developing their techniques, but I just want a passable loaf.

I find Ruhlman's approach in
Ratio comforting. He takes things back to basics. A simple bread is just 500 grams flour, 300 mL water, ~5 grams yeast and a pinch of salt. Any variations beyond that (oil, nuts, herbs, sugar/honey, etc) are just modifications of the basic recipe, and even the basic recipe can be altered a little (as he says, any amount of yeast will leaven any amount of flour, it will just take a different amount of time). I already knew this ratio, but I think I'd scared myself by reading too many divergent bread recipes, all with their own modifications and deviations.

I tried the basic loaf with his sage and browned butter modification, in which you omit some of the water and replace it with a bit of butter and chopped sage, browned then cooled. The dough is proved as usual, and then baked in an enamelled cast iron pot. This apparently helps the dough retain some moisture as it cooks, making a reasonable replacement for the steam vents in a commercial bakery oven.

The result was definitely the best loaf I've made. The photo on the left is a bit terrible, which is why it's small (I don't know how to take a good food photo).

The crust was firm and distinct, helped along by the cast iron pot. However, the texture of the bread itself was still a bit 'cakey' for my liking, too dense and crumbly, not airy enough. I think this is either the result of not enough proving time, or insufficient kneading. I'll try it again, knead the absolute hell out of it and leave it overnight in the fridge.

Anyway, with the help of a basic ratio, I've already improved my bread baking skills.

Next stop: rhubarb jam and a sweet tart.