Chocolate Ganache with Hazelnut Spice Mix, Crème Fraîche and Orange Oil

I recently made this dessert from one of my favourite chefs, Yotam Ottolenghi. The flavour combination of chocolate, nutty spice mix, slightly sweetened crème fraîche and orange oil is amazing. But Ottolenghi says to bake the chocolate ganache and although I only baked mine for 8 minutes it was rather dry. And I don’t think you need the eggs or the sugar in the ganache.

So the second time I made my usual chocolate ganache (which unlike YO’s doesn’t contain eggs, uses cream instead of butter and doesn’t contain any sugar) and I didn’t bake it. You could still plate it as above but I served it in little tea light glasses with the crème fraîche, nutty spice mix and a drizzle of orange oil on top, as you can see in the second photo. I doubled the orange oil as there wasn’t enough the first time.

 

Chocolate Ganache:
250g dark chocolate (70-80% cocoa solids)
300ml thick or whipping cream
Creme Fraiche:
300g crème fraîche or sour cream
2½ tsp sifted icing sugar
Hazelnut Spice Mix:
2 tsp coriander seeds
¾ tsp black peppercorns
1 small cinnamon stick
1 whole star anise
8 cardamom pods
¾ tsp caster sugar
2 Tbs hazelnuts
Orange Oil:
Finely grated zest of 1 orange
2-3 Tbs olive oil
To serve:
Maldon salt flakes

Ganache: heat cream to boiling point in a saucepan. Add chocolate broken into squares, remove from the heat and allow chocolate to melt. Stir till smooth then scrape into a shallow bowl, cover and refrigerate for several hours or overnight.

Hazelnut Spice Mix: place all ingredients except sugar in a frying pan and stir for 2-3 mins until lightly toasted and fragrant. Transfer to a spice grinder or mortar and pestle and grind until fairly fine. Mix in the sugar.

Orange Oil: place both ingredients in a jar with a lid and shake.

Just before serving mix icing sugar and crème fraîche or sour cream. Don’t do this ahead of time as the sugar can make the cream go runny.

Check the chocolate ganache and if it’s rock hard remove it from the fridge a couple of hours before serving.

Arrange some hazelnut spice mix on 8 plates. Scoop a heaped tablespoon size portion of the chocolate ganache onto each plate, using a spoon dipped in hot water and re-dipping each time. Garnish with the crème fraîche and orange oil. Finish with a tiny pinch of salt flakes.

Alternative way to serve: pour chocolate ganache into 8-10 small shot glasses or tea light glasses and refrigerate. Serve topped with a dollop of cream, a sprinkle of the hazelnut spice mix and a drizzle of the orange oil. Finish with the salt flakes.

Serves 8

Rick Stein’s Vietnamese Duck Braised in Spiced Orange Juice

We watched Rick Stein make this dish on a TV cooking show recently. He described it as a Vietnamese take on Duck à L’Orange and said it was easy to make and delicious.  Matthew is not a big fan of duck, but I am, so he felt magnanimous in suggesting we make it.

The recipe calls for a 2.5kg duck but I bought a frozen one from Aldi for $14.99 which was 2.2kg. I also bought a bottle of orange juice with pulp from the same place.

The recipe says to cut the duck into six portions, but you can only get 4 decent portions from a whole duck – two breasts and two Marylands (leg and thigh). I used the wings as well, so I did have six portions, but there’s not much meat on them. A better solution, especially if you’re entertaining and want six decent portions, is to buy six duck portions. If you use a whole duck, remove the portions, then use the carcass to make stock for another meal.

I was left with more than a cup of duck fat which I poured through a sieve into a jam jar and put in the fridge. There’s nothing quite like potatoes roasted in duck fat – see last week’s recipe.

1 Duck weighing between 2 and 2.5kg
Or 6 duck portions
1 Tbs crushed garlic
2 Tbs peeled and chopped or thinly sliced ginger
1 litre orange juice
4 Tbs fish sauce
1 Tbs sugar
5 whole star anise
4 bird’s eye red chillies
2 lemongrass stalks, finely chopped
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
8 spring onions, finely sliced on the diagonal
½ tsp cornflour

Remove the breasts, legs and wings from the duck so you have four decent portions plus the wings. Heat a large heavy-based frying pan over medium to high heat. Cook the duck skin side down for 5 to 6 minutes until skin is crisp, then on the other side for 2-3 minutes, or until all the fat has rendered off. Once cooked, place in a deep saucepan and set aside.

Pour all but 2 tbsp of the duck fat off and keep it (see Note below). Add the garlic and ginger to the frying pan and cook gently till soft, then add to the pan with the duck. Add the orange juice, fish sauce, star anise, chillies, lemongrass and season with black pepper. Simmer gently for 1 hour and 30 mins.

Remove duck and set aside, skim off any excess fat from the sauce then bring to a boil and simmer vigorously until reduced and concentrated in flavour. Mix cornflour with 1 tsp of water, mix into sauce and simmer for a further minute. Recipe can be made ahead to this point.

Put duck portions back into the sauce for a minute or to and heat through. Serve duck with rice and a green vegetable, garnished with the spring onions.

Serves 4 using a whole duck or 6 using portions

Note: After removing the duck portions from the carcass I had quite a few pieces of duck fat or fatty skin. I put them into a frying pan and cooked them gently until most of the fat had been rendered. I added this to the fat obtained when browning the duck portions and poured it through a sieve into a jam jar.

Roast Potatoes with Harissa and Garlic

Yotam Ottolenghi is one of my favourite chefs and this is another of his scrumptious recipes. These spicy potatoes roasted in duck fat with confit garlic have an unbelievable crunch, achieved by adding semolina. The best roast potatoes I’ve ever eaten.

Use Harissa, Sambal Oelek or any chilli paste you have and adjust the amount, according to how spicy you like things. If preferred, use olive oil instead of duck fat.

Don’t be tempted to halve the recipe, they’re too good.

2 large heads garlic, cloves separated and peeled
130g duck fat
4 sprigs fresh rosemary
6 sprigs fresh thyme
2kg roasting potatoes, peeled and cut into 5cm chunks
40g ground semolina
2 tsp caraway seeds, toasted and lightly crushed (I used cumin seeds)
1-2 Tbs Harissa (Sambal Oelek or another chilli paste)
2 tsp Maldon sea salt

Preheat oven to 150°C. Put garlic, duck fat and herbs in a small ovenproof casserole with a lid. Cover and roast for 40 minutes, until garlic is caramelised and soft. Remove from the oven and strain fat into a large heatproof bowl. Put garlic and herbs aside.

Increase oven temperature to 200°C Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil, add potatoes and parboil for 10 minutes, until half-cooked. Drain into a colander, shaking the potatoes to fluff up the edges, then leave to dry for 10 minutes.

Mix potatoes, semolina, caraway or cumin seeds, harissa and two teaspoons of Maldon salt into the bowl of reserved fat, then spread out on a large oven tray. Roast for 45 minutes, turning once or twice, until golden-brown, then stir in the confit garlic and herbs and roast for 10-15 minutes more, until potatoes are dark golden-brown and crisp. Serve hot, sprinkled with some extra salt.

Serves 6-8

Crispy Skin Salmon with Green Papaya Salad

On a recent trip to Europe we caught up with quite a few friends and family in Denmark, England and France. It was so nice to return to Copenhagen (12 years after we lived there) and find that our old friends still wanted to hang out with us. As we walked in the door the cork would pop off the first bottle of champagne, then we’d have a lovely time eating, drinking and being merry. Just like we’d never been apart. When we left a couple of days later they went back to their normal, more sensible, regime, while we moved on and started all over again.

This is why we like to spend a few days on the way back to Australia at a resort in Thailand, to recover. A week of swimming, reading, massage and early nights, with no wine and just the occasional beer or cocktail means we get home looking and feeling like we’ve had a holiday.

For the past few years we’ve stayed in Khao Lak, a 75 minute drive north of Phuket airport. It’s relatively quiet, the way Phuket was 20 or 30 years ago. I send an email to a taxi company called “Cheaper than Hotel” and when we walk out of the airport there’s our driver waiting.

Breakfast at the Chong Fah resort where we’ve stayed two years running is substantial, so we skip lunch and go out for dinner after a Happy Hour cocktail at sunset. The nearby resort named Casa de la Flora (which in correct Spanish should be Casa de la Flor) serves delicious modern Thai food. We dined there twice and both times ordered this dish which I have done my best to replicate. The recipe serves 4 as a light main course or 8 as a sharing plate.

4 salmon fillets, skin on
Salt and pepper
1 Tbs oil
Salad:
½ a small green papaya (about 200g), or 1 green mango
2 carrots (about 200g)
2 spring onions, thinly sliced on the diagonal
6 green beans cut into 2.5cm lengths (or use snow peas)
½ cup dried shrimp (from Asian stores) (optional)
1-2 dried chillies, chopped, or chilli flakes, to taste
8-10 cocktail tomatoes, halved
Dressing:
1 Tbs Thai Sweet Chilli Sauce
1 Tbs lime or lemon juice
1 Tbs fish sauce
1 Tbs brown sugar or palm sugar
To garnish:
1 lime
2-3 Tbs toasted peanuts

Pour boiling water over the dried shrimp. Leave for 15 mins then drain. Cut the papaya and carrots into julienne strips. Mix all ingredients for salad. Mix dressing and add to the salad.

Season salmon then place in a non-stick frying pan, skin side down. Turn on the heat to moderately hot and cook for 3-4 minutes, until skin is crispy, then turn over and cook for another 3-4 minutes, or until done to your liking.

Divide salad between 4 serving plates. Top with the salmon and garnish with the lime, cut into cheeks or wedges and the peanuts.

Serves 4

 

 

 

 

 

 

Salted Caramel Macadamia Tart with Chocolate Ganache

Matthew loves anything with salted caramel, so I knew this would be right up his alley.

I used a 28 cm metal flan tin with a loose bottom. If your tin is a bit smaller the filling will be thicker and you may have a bit more pastry left. Use a shallow tin rather than a deep one you would use for a quiche.

1 batch of Sweet Shortcrust Pastry made into a 25-30 cm pastry shell
Or 1 bought pastry shell
400g macadamia nuts
Salted Caramel:
1 cup sugar
¼ cup water
1 cup cream
80g unsalted butter
1 tsp salt
Chocolate Ganache:
1 cup cream
1 Tbs liquid glucose (corn syrup)
300g dark chocolate
30g unsalted butter
To serve:
Sea salt flakes
Whipped cream

Make pastry according to the recipe at the link. Follow the instructions down as far as refrigerating for 15 mins. Bake 10 mins, remove paper and weights, then bake for a further 8 minutes (instead of 3 minutes), or until fully cooked and golden. Place macadamia nuts in a large non-stick frying pan and stir over moderate heat until slightly coloured. Spread over the base of the pastry shell.

For the salted caramel, heat sugar and water in a saucepan over medium heat until sugar dissolves, then cook, without stirring but swirling from time to time, until it turns into a rich amber caramel (10-14 minutes). Carefully add cream and stir until smooth. Remove from heat and stir through butter and salt. Spoon evenly over the nuts in the tart shell, then leave to set.

For chocolate ganache, bring cream and glucose to the boil in a saucepan then remove from heat. Add chocolate broken into squares and butter, stirring until melted. Allow to cool for a few minutes, stirring occasionally, until glossy. Spread ganache over the salted caramel, then stand in a cool place until set. Serve at room temperature or chilled with flakes of sea salt scattered on top. It’s very rich so cut into small servings. Whipped cream is optional.

Serves 12-16

Beetroot Kebabs with Labneh and Dukkah

I’m a big fan of beetroot, labneh and dukkah, so when I saw a recipe in Gourmet Traveller using all three, I knew I would like it.

 

500g Greek-style yoghurt
1 tsp salt
3-6 beetroot, depending on size, peeled, halved lengthwise or left whole if smaller
1 Tbs olive oil
50g butter
Dill sprigs
3 Tbs Dukkah

To make the Labneh, mix salt into yoghurt then scrape into a sieve which has been lined with muslin or any thin fabric. A man’s handkerchief works well. Place the sieve over a large bowl, cover then refrigerate overnight to drain. Discard the liquid before serving.

Thinly slice beetroot using a mandoline or slicing blade on a food processor, then mix with the olive oil and salt to taste. Use your hands to make sure the oil is thoroughly distributed. Wear gloves if you’re concerned about the colour, although it does come off quite quickly. Thread onto skewers, allowing one or two skewers per person, folding beetroot if necessary, leaving smaller slices unfolded. Can be prepared ahead to this stage.

Preheat grill or barbecue to high, then cook the kebabs, turning occasionally, for 5 mins, or until lightly charred all over.

Melt butter in a small saucepan, then allow it to turn golden brown (3-4 mins). Mix in the dukkah.

Serve beetroot kebabs with a dollop of labneh to the side. Scoop out a little of the labneh to make a nest and fill it with some warm dukkah butter. Sprinkle a little dukkah around and garnish with dill sprigs.

Makes about 8 kebabs serving 4 or 8

Lemon Curd & Almond Bread & Butter Pudding

When I was growing up in England bread and butter pudding was a popular dessert. My mother made it regularly, using stale bread, butter, dried fruit, sugar, milk and eggs. Nothing fancy, but always one of my favourites. Using up stale bread, rather than giving it to the birds or throwing it away, was something you did automatically if you had lived through the Second World War.

This version is slightly more complicated with the addition of cream, nuts and lemons. Home made lemon curd provides an added zing, but if you don’t have time buy a jar from the supermarket. If you do find time to make a couple of jars it will keep in the fridge, unopened, for a couple of months and is a useful addition to a number of easy desserts such as Blueberry Parfaits.

1 loaf brioche bread
About 1 cup lemon curd
2 cups cream
½ cup milk
Finely grated rind and juice of 1 lemon
4 eggs
4 heaped Tbs sugar
Flaked almonds
Almond Butter:
150g blanched almonds (whole or slivers)
60g butter at room temp
1 heaped Tbs sugar
Finely grated rind and juice of 1 lemon
pinch of salt
To serve:
Fresh cream or crème fraiche
Icing sugar

Make or buy the lemon curd. Make the almond butter: place almonds in food processor and process till fine, then add remaining ingredients and mix well.

Slice brioche into 1 to 1.5cm slices. Use a cookie cutter to cut rounds as big as you can from each slice. Butter a deep 8-10cm pudding tin or dish. Place all the cut offs from the brioche in the bottom then spoon about half the lemon curd over the brioche. Spread one side of each brioche slice with some almond butter and arrange over the surface, nut butter side down and slightly overlapping, if you have enough slices to do so.

Place cream and milk in a small saucepan and bring to the boil. In a bowl whisk eggs, sugar, lemon juice and rind – just enough to combine, using a hand whisk. Pour in the hot cream and whisk to combine. Pour this mixture evenly over the brioche. Sprinkle with flaked almonds and set aside for an hour or more. Dessert can be made several hours ahead or even the day before and kept refrigerated and covered. A shower cap makes a great cover!

Preheat oven to 170°C. Bake dessert for 30-40 minutes or until puffed and golden. If it starts to get too brown, cover loosely with a piece of foil and/or turn the oven down a bit.

When cooked, spoon remaining lemon curd over the top, dust with a little sifted icing sugar and serve with cream.

Serves 8

 

Crème Caramel

Crème Caramel and Crème Brulée are my two favourite desserts. They’re quite similar in terms of ingredients, but one has a liquid caramel sauce while the other has a crunchy caramel topping, achieved with a blow torch.

The raspberries you can see in the photo were ones I had frozen from our garden a couple of months ago. I took them out of the freezer about half an hour before serving, so they just had time to thaw, but not to go squashy.

My Dad lived to the ripe old age of 90 and this was what he had for his last meal. I can see his face now, savouring every mouthful. I can’t think of anything I’d rather have for my Last Supper.

¾ cup sugar
1/3 cup water
5 eggs, thoroughly beaten with a fork
1 tin sweetened condensed milk
3 cups fresh milk (or a mixture of cream and milk)
1 tsp vanilla essence
To serve:
Thick pouring cream
Fresh or frozen berries, just thawed
A dusting of icing sugar

Preheat oven to 170°C. Heat sugar and water in a heavy saucepan and stir until sugar has dissolved. Boil without stirring until you have a rich caramel, swirling the pan so that it colours evenly without burning. Tip into a lightly oiled ovenproof dish with a capacity of 1.5 to 2 litres (I used a metal ring mold) and swirl around so that it coats the sides of the dish as well as the bottom.

Beat remaining ingredients together thoroughly with a balloon whisk, then pour through a sieve on top of the caramel, discarding any bits of egg in the sieve. Place the dish in a baking tin and add enough boiling water to come halfway up the sides. Bake for 50 minutes, remove and cool, then chill for several hours or overnight.

Loosen around the edges with a thin-bladed knife, then tip the Crème Caramel onto a serving plate. If all the caramel doesn’t come out, place the baking dish or tin in a bowl of very hot water to melt it, then pour it over the dessert. Serve with cream, fresh berries and a dusting of icing sugar.

Serves 8-10

Scallops with Champagne Grapes and Almonds

We planted two grapevines at the farm, one red and one white. We didn’t pay a great deal of attention to the varieites and now discover that the black grape is what’s known as a Champagne Grape.

This has nothing to do with Champagne – either the region or the beverage – it’s just the name. The fruit of the Champagne grape is small and round and looks more like a blueberry than a grape. It’s the variety which is dried to make currants, which aren’t really currants at all. Traditionally used in Christmas cakes and puddings, currants are also known as Black Corinthian Raisins or Zante raisins.

We’ve been eating these small sweet grapes fresh for dessert or breakfast, with a dollop of Greek yoghurt. I also dried a few as you can see in the photo. Left on a tray in a sunny spot they were ready in a few days.

The last few Champagne grapes went into this recipe for scallops from a New Zealand website called Epicurious. Matthew declared it was Business Class food, which I think he meant as a compliment – something Neil Perry who plans the menus for QANTAS might approve of?

8 to 12 large scallops without roe (see note below), thawed if frozen
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 Tbs butter
3 shallots, peeled and finely chopped
2/3 cup Champagne grapes (or small seedless black grapes, halved)
1½ Tbs lemon juice
1/3 cup flaked almonds, toasted
2 Tbs chopped parsley

Dry scallops thoroughly with paper towels then season with salt and pepper on both sides. Heat half the butter in a frying pan large enough to cook the scallops in one layer. Let the butter brown slightly then add the scallops and cook them for 2 minutes each side over moderately high heat, until nicely browned. Remove scallops to a warm plate and cover with foil.

Turn the heat down a bit then add the remaining butter to the pan with the shallots. Cook, stirring for 2 minutes or until soft. Champagne grapes are the size of blueberries so if yours are bigger cut them in half. Add grapes to the pan with the lemon juice and most of the almonds and cook, stirring for about 2 minutes. Add most of the parsley and any juices which have accumulated on the scallop plate, then divide among 2 plates (main course) or four plates (starter) and top with the scallops, the reserved nuts and parsley to garnish.

Serves 2 as a main course or 4 as a starter

Note: as a main course for 2 you will need 8-10 scallops and as a starter for 4 you will need 12.

Substitutions: use the white part of spring onions (scallions) instead of shallots; use dried currants, (reconstituted in some hot water for 30 minutes, then drained) instead of the grapes; use pine nuts instead of almonds.

Sweet Potato & Spinach Salad with Rice and Cranberries

Lunch with our dear friends Lorna and Jim is always a pleasure.  At our recent catch up Lorna served this delicious salad with confit salmon, followed by strawberries and ice cream.

The original recipe said to leave the skin on the sweet potato, but I decided to peel mine as it was rather blemished. If you’re missing one or two ingredients don’t worry, I’ve listed some substitutions which would work.

1 medium sweet potato (about 500g)
2 red onions, peeled and cut lengthwise into 6ths or 8ths
2 tsp olive oil
1 cup brown basmati rice
1½ cups water
100g baby spinach leaves
½ cup dried cranberries
½ cup pistachios
100g feta cheese, crumbled
Dressing:
¼ cup olive oil
1-2 Tbs red wine vinegar
2 tsp honey
½ tsp ground cinnamon
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 180°C. Scrub sweet potato or peel if preferred, then cut into 1.5cm cubes. Mix with the onions and 2 tsp olive oil then spread out on a baking tray lined with baking paper and bake for 25-30 mins. Remove from the oven and cool.

Meanwhile place rice in a saucepan with the water and a pinch of salt. Bring to the boil then cover and turn down the heat as low as it will go and cook until water has been absorbed. Turn off heat and leave to continue steaming. Cool.

Place dressing in a jar with a lid and shake.

Place all the ingredients in a large salad bowl. Add the dressing and toss.

Serves 6

Substitutions:
Pumpkin instead of sweet potato
White onions instead of red
White rice instead of brown
Rocket instead of spinach or half and half
Sour cherries or raisins instead of cranberries
Pine nuts (toasted) instead of pistachios
Goat’s cheese instead of feta
Cider vinegar or lemon juice nstead of red wine vinegar