Friday, April 18, 2014

Fluffy Easter Pancakes

Some of the fluffiest, nicest pancakes I've ever eaten are made with buttermilk. Buttermilk is the liquid that is left from churning butter or cream, and although you can buy buttermilk reasonably easily, it is not something that most people would have as a staple in the fridge. This means that if you decide to make buttermilk pancakes one morning, it is likely to involve a special trip to the shops to get it.

Today I'm sharing a recipe I use for pancakes that give the same result as the buttermilk kind, but is much less hassle to make -  with a technique for lightly souring the milk to create a perfect substitute for the buttermilk. These pancakes are deliciously light and fluffy and not overly sweet. You can of course top them with anything you like, but today I have topped mine with mixed berries and maple syrup.

These pancakes make a perfect Easter brunch, or even a simple dessert served with yoghurt, ice cream or any manner of toppings that you can dream up. I have also made small pikelets from this mixture and topped them with jam and cream to make a sort of Devonshire Tea style treat.

However you adapt them to your taste, this recipe is a keeper, with great results every time. Maybe give it a try this Easter long weekend?


Fluffy Buttermilk Style Pancakes
With Berries and Maple Syrup

You will need: 1 cup milk, 2 teaspoons white vinegar, 3 eggs, 2 cups Self Raising Flour, 1 Teaspoon Baking Powder, 2 cups mixed frozen berries, 2 tablespoons caster sugar, maple syrup to serve.

Method: Add the 2 teaspoons of vinegar to the milk, stir through and allow it to stand for a couple of minutes. This will lightly sour the milk.

Combine the berries and the sugar, microwave them for 1 minute and stir well. You could also do the berries in a small pan on the stove, but I find the microwave is quick and easy - and less cleaning up.

Whisk together the milk and the eggs. Add half of the flour and all of the baking powder to the mixture and whisk until smooth. Now add the remaining flour and whisk through, ensuring there are no lumps. If the mixture feels too thick, add a little extra plain milk. If it is too thin, add extra flour.

Allow the pancake batter to rest in the fridge for 10-15 minutes.

Cook the pancakes in a lightly greased or non stick pan. When bubbles appear on the surface, they are ready to turn over. The pan should be moderately hot - watch the temperature, as if the pan is too hot, the pancakes will be overcooked and dark on the outside and not cooked in the middle.

Serve the pancakes with the berries and maple syrup - or anything you fancy.

Makes 4 large or 8 medium sized pancakes.

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Sunday, April 6, 2014

Food Diary - Saturday Night Dinner at Home

There are few things I enjoy more than catching up with friends at home over a good meal and a glass of wine. We were long overdue in catching up with our friend Kim (who actually only lives close by - isn't that always the way!) so last night we did something about that and invited him over for a moochy Saturday night dinner at home.

To start, I came up with a dish that is basically posh eggs on toast - a crunchy base of toasted rustic garlic rubbed bread, piled with Prosciutto, fresh greens, a soft poached free range egg - and finished off with luxurious black truffle butter sauce. The combination of the crunchy bread, velvety eggs, salty Prosciutto and fresh greens created a gorgeous contrast of textures - and that decadent black truffle butter sauce created an entree that was wickedly good.


 Soft Poached Egg on Garlic Toast
With Prosciutto, Greens and Truffle Butter Sauce


I recently purchased a small bottle of Tetsuya's Black Truffle Salsa - which is designed to be used to create the famous truffle butter that he serves in his restaurant. I've been lucky enough to dine at Tetsuya's quite a few times now (in fact we are heading there in a couple of weeks for our wedding anniversary dinner) and the truffle butter is something we always look forward to. Lots of other people clearly think so too, so he now sells the base of it so that people can create their own. I decided to make up a batch of the butter and just warm it through, to create a luxurious sauce. The result was an eye rollingly delicious entree.

If you want to get your hands on some of Tetsuya's Black Truffle Salsa for yourself, you can find it in good gourmet stores, or online. If you are searching for it, it comes in a tiny jar that looks like this -


For the basis of main course, I chose something that I haven't cooked at home for ages - venison. Regular readers of Gourmet Goddess would know that I'm a big fan of game meat, and in the last week or so had been thinking that I wanted to get my hands on some venison to create a dish using Autumn produce. I used a beautiful piece of venison loin, which I marinated in olive oil, some garlic, a splash of raspberry vinegar, crushed juniper berries, pepper and allspice.

I then seared the meat in a very hot pan and transferred it to a 200C oven to cook for 10 minutes. After resting the meat, I carved it and served it with a rich, velvety puree of cauliflower and potato (I used the Dutch Cream variety), roasted beetroot ( which I cut into uniform circles with a cookie cutter, to improve the presentation), toasted hazelnuts, beetroot leaves and a jus that I made from beef stock and Pinot Noir jelly (similar to redcurrant jelly, but made with Pinot grapes) and flavoured with bay leaves from my garden. Yum.


Loin of Venison with Cauliflower & Potato Puree, 
Roasted Beetroot, Hazelnut and Pinot Noir Jus


Venison is a fantastic flavoursome and super lean meat that is not hard to cook with, as long as you choose the right cut for the kind of dish you are making. I chose the loin of the venison, which is cooked for a short time and served medium rare, to rare. The only real thing that you really need to watch for is overcooking. It isn't a meat that is really suited for people who like their meat well done, so if you are making it at home, know your diner's preference. Cooking venison to a well done order will just result in a grey, tough piece of meat. A waste of really excellent produce.

I decided not to make a dessert and to serve a selection of cheeses, fresh pear and some quince paste - but after what was a rich entree and main, we decided that we were all satisfied, and that a cheese plate would just be overkill. The cheese platter might end up being Sunday lunch.

If you like game but have never had a go at cooking venison at home, I really encourage you to give it a try. It isn't hard and makes a great key ingredient for a special meal, whether you are sharing it with guests or not.

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Thursday, April 3, 2014

Simply Delicious - Pea and Pancetta Linguine

Tonight's recipe ticks all the boxes for a fast, simple and delicious meal that you can knock up when you get home from work - but is nice enough to quite happily serve to guests as a great no drama dinner party dish. It uses very few ingredients, and doesn't require a lot of kitchen skill - but really delivers on taste.

We love this dish in our house and it is a real favourite. A simple combination of salty, punchy tasting Pancetta (salt cured and spiced pork belly) and the sweet peas are just gorgeous. I only use a small amount of Pancetta (200g) as it's richness is more than enough to carry through the pasta. The sauce is created by simply stirring the Pancetta, peas and Parmesan/egg mixture through the hot, freshly cooked pasta. Talk about low maintenance!

I made this whole dish tonight in well under 30 minutes. It is not a do ahead kind of thing - it needs to be cooked and served right away. So, gather everyone around the table, get the pasta pot boiling and enjoy this Gourmet Goddess favourite.

We are now in Autumn here in Australia, and it is my favorite time of the year. I love the cooler days, all the nature colours around us, and the lovely Autumn produce. Check out my "What's in Season" section to get some inspiration and to see what is at it's best right now. Even better, head out to your nearest farmers market if you have one close by, and check out what you can find - as well as top notch, seasonal produce, you also get the pleasure of dealing with the folks who actually grow the food.

Autumn is also the time I start to plant vegetables for harvesting in the winter. I've been a bit slack and have not been out in the garden to do this yet, or even actually decided on what I will plant this time around. I plan to get organised and make this all happen in the next couple of weeks. There is so much pleasure in growing your own food, regardless of whether you have a big kitchen garden - or like mine, just a collection of pots, hanging planters and odd bits and pieces in my little inner city patch of green.

Until next time - live and eat well!


Pea and Pancetta Linguine


You will need: 200g piece of Pancetta diced into cubes, 1 small finely chopped onion, 1 clove of garlic, 1 1/2 cups cooked peas, 4 eggs, 1/3 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese, 1 tablespoon olive oil, salt, pepper, 250g linguine (or spaghetti.)

Note: If you cannot buy Pancetta, you can substitute Speck, Prosciutto - or even good bacon.

Method: Heat the oil in a fry pan and add the onion. Cook for a few minutes until it starts to become translucent. Add the Pancetta and cook until the it begins to get crisp at the edges. Add the garlic and the peas, toss through for a couple of minutes. Turn off the heat and set aside.

Put a large pot of well salted water on the stove to boil. While that is happening, whisk together the eggs and Parmesan. Season generously with salt and pepper.

Once the water is boiling, add the pasta and cook until al dente. Working quickly, drain the pasta and return it to the original pot. Add the egg mixture and the peas and Pancetta and stir it all together thoroughly. As you stir, the egg will cook, creating a fine coating on the pasta. The heat of the pasta will do this, and you should not need to return it to the heat. It will take about 5 minutes.

Serve right away with cracked pepper and a little more Parmesan.
Makes 2 generous mains or 4 entree sized serves.

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Sunday, February 16, 2014

Melting Moments

From a really young age I always loved being in the kitchen and this was where my lifelong love of food and cooking began - watching my mum cook and picking up basic skills that I built on as I got older. There were surprisingly few cooking disasters along the way (the notable exception being a misguided attempt to make honeycomb which resulted in the totally trashed, burnt saucepan being buried in our back yard in suburban Perth to hide the evidence. It's probably still there!)

Today's recipe goes way back to my childhood and early cooking days - and is one of the first things that I remember making all by myself. Andrew has been asking me to make biscuits for him to take to work this week, so I thought I would dig in to my childhood repertoire and make a batch of Melting Moments.

These biscuits are simple to make, but require a light touch. The mixture is super soft, but cooks to a gorgeous, melt in your mouth consistency once cooled. I played around a little with the the filling - normally I would just make a basic icing with lemon juice and icing sugar  - but I had some lemon curd in the pantry, which I added along with lemon rind and some fresh lemon juice. The result was a lovely tangy filling with a much richer depth of flavour than the standard one. Passionfruit is also great as a filling flavouring if you have any. My recipe makes 12 generous sized Melting Moments - but you could make little bite size versions if you wanted something a bit more dainty. Here is what mine looked like -


Melting Moments
With Lemon Curd Icing Filling

In other news, regular readers might have noticed my new blog header banner at the top of the page. I had been thinking about refreshing the design for a while, when out of the blue my gorgeous and highly talented artist and designer friend Blair Parkinson sent through a new design he had been working on to get my feedback. Well of course I absolutely loved it, and it now holds pride of place here at Gourmet Goddess. Blair specialises in Opera design, as well as having a considerable portfolio of evocative and beautiful original works, many based on ancient mythology. As if that wasn't enough, he also offers a design service. He really is a man of many talents. His work is available for sale and he also takes commissions, so check out his website for more - http://www.blairparkinson.com/

It's struck me that I've been posting a lot of sweet things in the past few months, so I'm hoping to balance things with some more savoury dishes very soon. We are nearing the end of Summer here in Australia, so we will be seeing a change in the produce available too - always great inspiration for new dishes. In the meantime, enjoy these delicious Melting Moments....

Melting Moments
You will need: 
For the biscuits: 250g butter, 1/2 cup sifted icing sugar, 1 teaspoon vanilla. 2 cups plain flour, 1/3 cup cornflour.
For the filling: 3 Cups Icing Sugar, Rind of 1 lemon finely grated, 3 tablespoons lemon curd, Juice of 1 lemon.

Method: 
Preheat the oven to 160C. Line two baking trays with baking paper or silicone baking mats.

Beat together the softened butter, icing sugar and vanilla until light and pale. Fold in the plain flour and cornflour to make a super soft dough.

With floured hands, lightly roll the dough into balls and place on the baking trays, leaving at least a couple of finger widths of space between them. With a floured fork, gently press the balls down to form disc shapes.

Bake for 15 minutes. Allow to cool on the trays completely before filling them.

To make the filling, mix the icing sugar, lemon curd and rind well. A teaspoon full at a time, add the lemon juice until the mixture forms a firm icing (you may not use all of the lemon juice, that's ok)

Put a spoonful of the filling onto half of the biscuits and put the remaining biscuits on top. Cover and refrigerate for at least 20 minutes to set.

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Friday, January 24, 2014

Too Many Plums!

Well, I got a little over enthusiastic at our local growers market last weekend and came home with a very large bag of sweet, dark plums. Although I've eaten them with my lunch every day for the last week, today I found myself with a fruit bowl full of them, that were super ripe and needing to be eaten pretty much right away. The thought of eating 8 plums today was rather daunting so I decided to come up with a more creative way to use them.

What I came up with is a golden plum cake, that would be lovely for morning tea - or even served warm as a pudding with some cream or custard. I used the same concept as an upside down cake, laying some of the plums on the bottom of the cake tin, so that when you turn the cake out to cool, you get the effect of the gorgeous ruby colour. I also chose to bake the plums with a little sugar first, instead of just chopping them up and adding them to the cake batter. What this does is to intensify the flavour and also the colour of the plums.

I think this cake would work really well with any stone fruit - peaches, apricots or nectarines - or even with mangoes. Just see what you have in your fruit bowl if you don't happen to have plums.



Golden Plum Cake
 

You will need: 8 medium sized plums, 2 tablespoons caster sugar, 250g butter, softened, 1 cup caster sugar, 2 teaspoons vanilla extract, 3 eggs, 2 1/2 cups self-raising flour, 2/3 cup milk.

Method: Heat the oven to 200C.

Remove the seeds from the plums and cut them roughly into quarters. Line a baking tray with baking paper and place the plums on the tray. Sprinkle the 2 tablespoons caster sugar over the plums and bake for about 20 minutes. Remove the plums from the oven and allow to cool a little.

Gently spoon the plums into a bowl, trying not to break them up too much. I use a slotted spoon for this, as it helps the extra moisture drain away - you don't want too much of the plum juice in the cake, just the cooked flesh. Set the plums aside.

Reduce the oven to 180C. Grease a cake tin and line the bottom with baking paper.

Using an electric beater, cream together the butter, caster sugar and vanilla until it becomes fluffy and a little lighter in colour.

Add the eggs one by one and beat till all combined. Now stir in half the flour and half the milk (a spatula is good for this) Repeat with the rest of the flour and milk.

Take the plums and place a few of them on the base of your cake tin - this will end up being the top of the cake and the "presentation" side. Now gently fold the remaining plums through the cake mixture.

Pour the mixture into the cake pan. Bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour (this will depend on your oven, so just keep an eye on it) It will be cooked when a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Allow the cake to rest in the pan for 10 minutes.

Turn out onto a wire rack and gently peel away the baking paper. Allow the cake to cool and serve as it is - or with whipped cream, ice cream or custard.


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