Easter Chocolate Cream Pie with Strawberries

April 22, 2014 Leave a comment

What a better way to celebrate Easter than with chocolate! This pie is rich and full of dark chocolate flavour, off-set with sweet whipped cream and strawberries. The pastry base is a basic butter crust. I won’t bother with a recipe, as I think I’ve written about it before. The great thing about this time was that I used pastry that I made about a month ago and froze! I merely took it out of the freezer a couple hours before and when it was soft enough to roll, pastry dough! So easy. Bake the dough for about 20-25 minutes at 200 C (400 F) , with beads/beans/pie tin on top of the dough, and let cool. Pour the cooled, richly chocolate custard in the pie, top with sweetened whipped cream, and finish with strawberries. Enjoy. Here’s some photos and details:

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Chocolate custard base

2 cups whole milk

7-8 oz (200 g) dark chocolate (70% min.)

8 egg yolks

2 Tb white sugar

1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

pinch of salt

Sweet whipped cream

2 cups (500 ml) full-fat cream

1/4 cup icing sugar

1 tsp vanilla extract

pinch of salt

For the chocolate custard base, heat the milk and chocolate (cut in small pieces with a knife) in a double-boiler until steaming (but not boiling). Alternatively, heat the chocolate with a bit of water in short 30s bursts in the microwave followed by mixing, until the chocolate is melted. Mix with the milk once it is warm, then continue to heat until steaming (but not boiling). If no double boiler is available, use the microwave method and only heat the milk on low heat. Meanwhile, whisk the egg yolks, sugar, cinnamon, and salt together until light and creamy. While continuing to whisk, slowly add the hot milk-chocolate mixture in a steady stream to the egg yolk mixture. Once added, return to the stove and heat on low, stirring until the chocolate curd begins to thicken. Remove from the heat, pour into a cool container, let cool for a while at room temperature and then place in the fridge to cool further. For the whipped cream, whip all ingredients on high until the whipped cream begins to thicken to soft peaks. Once the pie base is cool, add the chocolate custard, then the whipped cream, and top with sliced strawberries.

BBQ Lamb ribs

April 12, 2014 Leave a comment

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I’ve posted these lamb ribs through Instagram, but just the photo. Here’s the monologue and recipe (and doesn’t include details on the grilled chicken thighs, bottom right of the photo).

I’m not sure how common lamb ribs are for people? Personally, I wasn’t properly introduced to lamb until I lived in England, but my indulgence of lamb began in Australia, helped by the fact that I live near Oakleigh in Melbourne, which has a very large Greek community and more butchers selling lamb than you can imagine. And when you can get ribs at $10/kg ($5/lb), it’s hard to resist. My love of ribs started with the pig, and while if pressed I would choose the pig over the lamb, lamb ribs are undeniably beautiful when BBQ’d well (a discussion of the best animal ribs will have to be discussed in another post). I may have posted recipes for lamb ribs previously, but here is another recipe. I find lamb ribs tend to be a bit fatty, so I prefer to braise first, let cool, then BBQ with basting for optimal caramelised flavour and tender and moist meat. If planning ahead, braise the day before, let cool, separate the ribs from the liquid, and keep both in the fridge. So here goes:

1 kg (2 lb) lamb ribs (enough ribs for a family of 4, with extra)

1 can (225 g, 16 oz) diced tomatoes

1/4 cup apple cider vinegar

1/4 cup brown sugar

1 medium brown onion, roughly cut

4 cloves garlic, roughly cut

2 bay leaves

2 Tb dried oregano

2 Tb ground coriander seed

2 Tb sweet paprika

2 Tb ground cinnamon (or 1 stick)

1 tsp ground black pepper

1 Tb sea salt

Pre-heat the oven to 200 C (425 F). Mix all the ingredients (except the lamb) in a deep oven dish. Add the lamb ribs and mix thoroughly. Add enough water so that the level of water is just below the level of the ribs (this will likely be about 1 cup, depending on the oven dish). Cover the lamb ribs with a layer of baking sheet (parchment paper), followed by a lid or layer of aluminum foil. Place the dish into the oven and cook about 2 h. At the 2h point, check if the lamb is fork tender. It should be, but if not let cook no more than 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool (removing the lid and aluminum foil will help) for an hour. At this stage the lamb ribs can be removed from the cooking liquid and placed in the fridge for later, if necessary. Ideally, strain the remaining liquid through a sieve into a container for later, else set aside without straining. When ready to serve, grill the lamb ribs on a pre-heated BBQ grill for about 15-20 min, basting regularly with the retained braising liquid. If the meat and liquid were chilled in fridge overnight, the basting liquid will solidify due to the fat content and need to be heated prior to basting (1 min in the microwave solves this!). Trust me, these are great!

slow cooked bbq chuck steak on the bone

March 23, 2014 Leave a comment

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The next cut of meat up for slow cooking is chuck steak on the bone. Each of these pieces weigh in at nearly 2 lb (just under 1 kg). I have dry rubbed these steaks with a mixture of sumac, cumin, anaheim chile, guajillo chile, allspice, cinnamon, oregano, garlic and salt. For those of you interested and perhaps wondering about sumac, it is a berry from the sumac tree, a sour, acidic yet fruity berry used in middle eastern cuisine. It is high in malic acid, so it has a similar effect on meat as other acids such as vinegar or citrus, helping to cut through the fat and tenderise the meat. Sumac also pairs well with spices such as cumin, coriander and cinnamon, so it’s unfortunate that it is not utilised more in American style BBQ. The anaheim chile is mild, slightly sweet and versatile. The guajillo chile is robust and rich, and slightly spicy, often used in mole sauces.  The plan is slow cooking on the BBQ, about 3-4 h, until the meat is tender. I’ll update this post with photos later. For those interested in the exact ratios of the dry rub, here it is:

2 Tb each of sumac, cumin and salt

2 dried, whole anaheim and 1 dried, whole guajillo chile, roughly ground

1 Tb dried oregano

1 tsp ground allspice, 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

4 medium sized garlic cloves, finely minced

Here’s the photo of the cooked chuck steak on the bone. The meat literally pulls off the bone. Pulled chuck.

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Pan-fried salmon on a bed of brown rice and red quinoa, with grilled broccoli, carrot and asparagus

I love salmon, and the crispy skin. Salt and pepper alone are good, but I also like a simple marinade with a couple more flavours, 30 min prior to cooking. And I thought I would do a 50:50 mix of brown rice and red quinoa.  The nuttiness of the red quinoa matches well with the brown rice. And who doesn’t like roasted vegetables? It all goes so well together.

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Salmon

500 g (1 lb) quality salmon fillet, skin on

1 Tb ground cumin

Juice of half a lime

Salt and black pepper to taste

Brown rice and red quinoa

1 cup brown rice

1 cup red quinoa

4 cups water

lob of butter, salt and pepper to taste

Roasted vegetables

Broccoli florets, thinly sliced carrots on the angle, baby asparagus

light oil, salt and pepper to taste

 

For the salmon, mix all the ingredients with the salmon in a bag and let marinade for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, pre-heat the oven at 350 F (180 C). Bring the brown rice and quinoa to a boil, cover and reduce to low, and cook for 25 minutes, followed by resting for 5 minutes. Toss the broccoli and carrots in a bit of oil, salt and pepper, and spread on an oven tray and place into the oven.  After about 20 minutes, add in the asparagus, mix together, and cook another 5-10 minutes. Back to the salmon. In an oven-proof pan with a bit of oil on medium heat, place the salmon, skin side down. Cook about 3 minutes, turn the salmon over, and place into the oven for about 5-7 min. Drizzle the remaining juices over the salmon and rice, and enjoy.

Fruit bowls

February 20, 2014 Leave a comment

Are fruit bowls in the past? Does anyone still keep a large bowl with mixed fruits, not only looking delicious, but tasting delicious? Personally, I think having fruits on display, the contrasting colours, textures and aromas, entices you to eat them. And if you’ve got kids, I think it’s an extra bonus to promote healthy eating habits. Give the kids open access to all those nice fruits!  My favourite in this particular photo are these baby pears that are just slightly larger than a walnut. Passion pears, they were called, and I found them at the local fruit market. Seasonal. Sweet as honey. Crisp. Finished in 3 bites. Kids love them.

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Spinach and cheddar quesadilla with sour cream and hot sauce

February 14, 2014 Leave a comment

There’s nothing like a simple quesadilla. I’m happy with some fresh mozzarella alone, but it’s good to throw in something green and a sharper cheese. And if your going to throw in some spinach, throw in a bunch! Let’s say about 4 oz, 1/4 lb, 225 g. And a good amount of sharp cheddar! Fry the quesadilla in a bit of oil (or butter for extra flavour), then top with a healthy mound of full fat sour cream and hot sauce.  That simple!

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Grilled lamb cutlets and broccoli

February 14, 2014 Leave a comment

There is not much you can say against lamb cutlets.  When perfectly grilled, they are slightly caramelised on the outside and tender, moist and succulent on the inside. Hard to resist, especially with the right marinade! And what grills perfectly with lamb? One of my favourite vegetables. Broccoli. Lately I’ve been roasting broccoli, but this time I tossed it on the BBQ! Here’s the simple recipe:

Lamb marinade (for 12 lamb cutlets)

2 Tb ground cumin

2 garlic cloves, minced

Handful of fresh parsley, roughly chopped

Juice of 1 lemon

1 tsp black pepper (or to taste)

1 tsp salt (or to taste)

Toss the lamb cutlets in the marinade for at least 1 h before grilling, ideally 6-8 h or overnight. For the broccoli, just toss in a bit of oil, salt and pepper to taste. I recently replaced some parts to my BBQ, including the flare guards which now protect the meat a bit more from the open flames.  So I find it best to pre-heat on high, and then keep the flames on high for a quick cooking meat like lamb cutlets.  On a high heat, 2-3 minutes on each side is enough.  To cook the broccoli, toss the broccoli on the grill for about 5 min, and then set aside away from the heat while you cook the lamb. And if there are any leftovers, I think both a great cold!

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