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

Malaysian Spicy Fried Chicken

I tore this recipe out of one of the weekend newspaper magazines last month. It’s from Billy Law, a Malaysian cook who was on MasterChef back in 2011. I adjusted the recipe to use fewer dried chillies (2 instead of 5) and made a few other slight tweaks – spring onions instead of leeks because that’s what I had.

The result is a delicious, spicy chicken dish which should serve 4, but Matthew and I both went back for seconds and there was less than half left! The method is a bit more fiddly than the recipes I usually post, but it’s worth it. Definitely a keeper.

750g skinless, boneless chicken thighs cut into bite-sized pieces
3cm piece ginger, grated
2 Tbs soy sauce
2 Tbs mirin
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 cup potato starch (I used a packet of instant mashed potatoes)
1 egg
Vegetable oil for frying
1 small onion or ½ large one, chopped
2 dried red chillies, sliced
1/3 cup peanuts, toasted
Chopped fresh coriander
Chilli Oil:
¼ cup vegetable oil
5 cloves garlic, halved
2 cm ginger, peeled and sliced
1 leek or 8 spring onions, thinly sliced (use mostly the white part)
1 Tbs dried chilli flakes
Sauce:
2 Tbs soy sauce
2 Tbs sugar
1 Tbs vinegar
1 Tbs cornflour mixed with ¼ cup water

Mix chicken with ginger, soy sauce, mirin and pepper and leave to marinate for an hour. Mix in the potato starch and the egg. Heat about 2.5 cm of oil in a wok and fry the chicken pieces, in 2-3 batches, until golden brown and crispy all over. Remove and drain on paper towels. Wipe out the wok.

For the Chilli Oil, heat the oil in a frying pan and add the garlic, ginger and leek or spring onion. Stir fry until golden then remove with a slotted spoon to a small bowl. Add the dried chilli flakes to the oil and stir for a minute, then pour through a sieve, discarding the chilli flakes and keeping the oil.

Heat the reserved chilli oil in the wok and add the chopped onion. Stir until softening, then add the chillies and the sauce – soy sauce, sugar, vinegar and cornflour mixture – and stir till thickened. Add the fried chicken and the peanuts, stirring to coat for 1-2 minutes.

Garnish with the reserved garlic, ginger and leek mixture and fresh coriander and serve with steamed rice.

Serves 4

 

 

Creamy Polenta with Mushrooms

Now that there’s just the two of us we don’t eat a lot of carbs with our evening meals. Pasta, rice and potatoes were great for filling up the hollow legs of teenagers, but we find we can do without them. So most nights we have some protein – chicken, fish, beef or whatever – with a mountain of green vegetables or salad.

That regime can get a bit boring, so once a week we have a vegetarian meal and occasionally we’ll have pasta or polenta. This recipe from the New York Times caught my eye. I read through the comments people had made after trying the recipe and made a few adjustments according to their suggestions.The original recipe serves four, so I halved the polenta but not the mushrooms and it made enough for two, with a small amount left over. The original recipe includes half an ounce of dried porcini mushrooms, reconstituted in boiling water and mixed in with the fresh mushrooms. I didn’t have any so I left them out. This is comfort food, good for the cooler autumn evenings or Sunday night in front of the TV.

1½ cups water
1½ cups milk
¾ cup quick cooking polenta
Salt to taste
50g butter or 4 Tbs extra virgin olive oil
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
250g sliced mushrooms (ordinary ones or fancy ones)
1 tsp fresh thyme leaves (or ½ tsp dried)
1 Tbs soy sauce
1-2 Tbs cream (sour cream or creme fraiche)
Freshly ground black pepper
To serve:
Grated Parmesan cheese
Extra virgin olive oil

Place water, milk, salt and polenta in a medium-sized heavy saucepan. Bring to the boil, whisking, then continue to stir for 2 minutes or until thickened, Turn heat down as low as it will go, cover, then cook for a further 5-10 minutes until polenta tastes ready. Add a little extra water if it seems too thick and still tastes uncooked. Traditional polenta can take up to 45 minutes, but quick-cooking polenta only takes 5-10 minutes – see what it says on the packet. When it’s ready turn off the heat, check the seasoning, add half the butter or olive oil and let the polenta sit with the lid on.

Meanwhile heat remaining butter or olive oil in a frying pan and cook the garlic and mushrooms for 3-4 minutes, until starting to brown. Add the herbs, soy sauce and cream and continue to stir for 1-2 minutes. Season to taste with pepper.

Divide the polenta between 2 or 3 serving bowls and top with the mushrooms. Garnish with grated Parmesan and a drizzle of oil.

Serves 2-3

 

Spicy Korean Beef with Rice

 

This is a good way to use up leftover cooked rice and leftover roast beef. If you don’t have either, cook some rice and slice about 300 grams of raw beef steak into thin strips. Stir fry the beef in the oil for a couple of minutes, then remove from pan, add the vegetables to the pan and proceed according to the recipe.

2 eggs
1 Tbs water
Salt and pepper to taste
2 Tbs oil
1 onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 carrot (coarsely grated)
1 red capsicum (pepper) cut into thin strips
2 cups leftover roast beef, cut into thin strips
1 Tbs Korean chilli paste (or substitute Harissa or Sambal Oelek)
3-4 cups cooked long grain rice
2 tsp soy sauce
2 tsp sesame oil
To garnish:
Chopped fresh coriander
2 tsp black sesame seed

Beat eggs withIn water and seasoning then make a thin omelette in a small omelette pan, using half the oil. Remove from pan onto a plate and cool, then cut into thin strips.

In a wok or large frying pan heat remaining oil and cook the onion, garlic, carrot and capsicum, stirring constantly, for 2-3 minutes or until softened. Add the beef, chilli paste, rice, soy sauce and sesame oil. Stir fry for a couple of minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning by adding salt and pepper or a bit more soy sauce. If it’s not spicy enough, add a little more chilli paste.

Serve in bowls, topped with the omelette, the coriander and the black sesame seeds.

Serves 3-4

Glazed Fig Salad with Feta and Pine Nuts

We’ve tried several times to grow figs at the farm. Each time, despite great care (deep hole, sheltered position etc) the tree doesn’t make it. So unfortunately figs are one of the fruits I have to buy.

They’re in season for such a short time and they don’t freeze well, so make the most of them while you can. Another delicious way to serve them in a savoury dish is with Smoked Salmon.

1 Tbs olive oil
12 fresh figs cut in half, stems removed
Mixed salad leaves
½ cup pine nuts, lightly toasted in a dry pan over moderate heat
100g feta cheese or goat’s cheese
Dressing:
2 Tbs balsamic vinegar
Juice of ½ a lemon
1 Tbs honey
¼ cup olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Heat oil in a large frying pan. Place figs in the pan, cut side down and cook until lightly browned and caramelised. Remove from pan. Place all ingredients for dressing in a jar and shake well. Mix salad greens with some of the dressing and arrange on a large, flat serving dish. Arrange the figs, cheese and pine nuts on top, then drizzle with more of the dressing.

Serves 4

Prawn Salad with Creamy Dressing and Herbs

This light, refreshing salad, which serves two as a main course or four as a starter, is perfect as an evening meal in the warmer months. Make it when the corn is at its sweetest.

12-16 large raw prawns, shelled and deveined
1 Tbs oil
Salt and pepper to taste
Finely chopped fresh tarragon (or another fresh herb)
2 cobs of fresh corn
3 Tbs sour cream  (or plain yoghurt or coconut cream)
1 Tbs lemon juice
1 Lebanese cucumber, quartered lengthwise then sliced
2 spring onions, thinly sliced on the diagonal
½ small red onion, thinly sliced
3 Tbs coarsely chopped fresh coriander
3 Tbs coarsely chopped fresh mint
Finely chopped fresh chilli, or a pinch of dried chilli flakes, to taste (optional)
Extra virgin olive oil

Lightly season prawns on both sides with salt, pepper and finely chopped fresh tarragon. Heat oil in a small frying pan and fry prawns for 2-3 minutes each side. Turn off the heat and leave to cool. Cook corn cobs in boiling water to cover for 7-10 minutes then drain and cool.  With a very sharp knife, cut the kernels off the cobs, leaving some joined together.

Mix sour cream with lemon juice. Add the cucumber, spring onions, most of the red onion, most of the herbs, most of the corn, chilli to taste and seasoning to taste. Arrange on serving plates, then arrange the prawns on top and garnish with the remaining red onion, corn kernels and herbs. Drizzle a little oil around each serving.

Serves 2 as a main course or 4 as a starter

Substitutions: use cooked, peeled prawns instead of raw ones

Salmon with Macadamia Nut Crust and Zucchini Ribbons

I made this dish when our friends Fiona and Mark came to the farm for the weekend recently. It was inspired by a meal we enjoyed in Tuscany last year. Fiona says she’s made it four times since then, so I thought I had better make it again and record it on the blog, before I forget about it.

The recipe is very quick. Quantities depend on how many you’re feeding.

Salmon portions, with or without skin (about 180g each)
1 heaped Tbs macadamia nuts per person
1-2 Tbs parsley per person
Drizzle of extra virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1-2 small zucchini (courgettes) per person
Olive oil or butter
Salt and pepper

Line a shallow baking tray with baking paper and arrange the salmon portions on top. Preheat the oven to 200°C. Place the macadamia nuts and parsley in a food processor and pulse until chunky. Add a drizzle of oil through the feed tube with the motor running. Season to taste then spread over the salmon pieces. Bake for 8-10 minutes. Don’t overcook as the nuts will burn.

Top and tail the zucchini then cut into thin ribbons using a vegetable peeler. Discard the first and last slice which will be all skin. Steam for 4 minutes or until al dente. Drain thoroughly then add butter or olive oil and season to taste.

Arrange salmon in the middle of serving plates and surround with the zucchini ribbons.

Variations: use pine nuts instead of macadamias and use chives or basil instead of parsley, or a mixture of two herbs.

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.

Asian Steak with Zucchini

With zucchini growing in the garden at the moment I am on the lookout for new ways to use them.

This recipe appeared in a recent Weekend Australian magazine as a salad. I have adapted it by adding the rice and heating the marinade (rather than discarding it) and pouring it over the finished dish. This recipe is quick but delicious.

1 medium zucchini (courgette)
250g steak (two small steaks or one large one)
Marinade:
1-2 Tbs white or brown sugar or honey, to taste
4 Tbs water
4 Tbs soy sauce
2 tsp grated fresh ginger
Juice 1 lime or ½ a lemon
Pinch chilli flakes, or fresh diced chilli, to taste
2 tsp sesame oil
To serve:
Steamed rice
3 Tbs roughly chopped coriander
1 tsp sesame seeds
1 Tbs dried shallots (available in the Asian section of most supermarkets)

Place sugar and water in a saucepan and bring to the boil, stirring to dissolve. Add soy sauce, ginger, lime juice, chilli and sesame oil. Using a vegetable peeler, slice the zucchini  into long, thin ribbons. Cut steak into thin slices downwards, across the grain. Marinate the zucchini in half the dressing and the meat in the other half for about 5 minutes.

Drain meat (keep marinade) and stir fry in a large non-stick frying pan over high heat for 2-3 minutes. Drain the zucchini and keep the marinade. Place some steamed rice in two serving bowls. Top with the meat, then the zucchini ribbons. Place both lots of reserved marinade in the frying pan, bring to the boil, then pour over the top.

Garnish with coriander, sesame seeds and dried shallots.

Serves 2

 

 

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