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

 

 

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

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.

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

 

Roast Chicken with Walnut and Bacon Stuffing

A whole chicken cooks more quickly if you butterfly it. While some supermarkets sell butterflied chickens, it’s easy enough to do it yourself. Cut along each side of the backbone with poultry shears and discard it, then flatten the chicken by pressing it with the flat of your hand.

I hate throwing food away, so whenever I have any stale bread, especially delicious sourdough, I whiz it in the food processor, then tip the coarse crumbs into a plastic bag and keep them in the freezer. They are useful for making stuffing or for topping recipes such as Seafood Mornay, one of my all-time favourites.

This makes a tasty family meal, served with salad, and any leftovers are good for sandwiches next day.

1 whole chicken, butterflied (as described above)
1 cup chunky stale breadcrumbs
½ cup chopped walnuts or pecan nuts
½ cup finely chopped parsley
½ cup diced bacon
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
2 Tbs olive oil
2 Tbs soy sauce

Preheat oven to 180°C. Place chicken in a roasting pan. Mix breadcrumbs, nuts, parsley and bacon and season to taste. Run your fingers under the skin of the chicken, to separate it from the flesh. Go as far as you can into the thighs and drumsticks, being careful not to break the skin.

Push the stuffing under the skin, spreading it out as evenly as you can. Mix olive oil with soy sauce and brush all over the chicken. Roast for 45 minutes to an hour, or until cooked and nicely glazed. Check by piercing the thickest part of the thighs – juices should run clear.

Serves 4-6

Creamy Tuscan Prawns with Spinach

This quick prawn dish is delicious on its own or served with rice, pasta or crusty bread. I made half the recipe.

2 Tbs butter or olive oil
6 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 kg green prawns (About 500g peeled weight)
½ cup white wine (if preferred use some stock)
100g sun dried tomatoes
3-4 cups baby spinach leaves, or big leaves torn up
1 tsp dried oregano (or 2 tsp fresh)
1 tsp dried thyme (or 2 tsp fresh)
1 Tbs chopped fresh basil
1 Tbs chopped fresh parsley
1 cup cream or coconut cream
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
2/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese

In a large frying pan, melt butter and fry garlic and onion until soft but not brown. Add the prawns and cook, stirring, until they turn pink. Add the wine and cook for 2-3 minutes over high heat to reduce a bit. Add sun dried tomatoes, cut into thin strips, spinach, herbs and cream. Cook, stirring for 2-3 mins or until spinach has wilted and sauce has thickened a bit. Season to taste then serve topped with the grated cheese.

Serve with rice, pasta or crusty bread.

Serves 4

Variation: use cubes of chicken breast instead of the prawns.

The Perfect Quiche

A friend I’ve known for ages who is a very good cook told me the other day that she can’t make pastry, so I’ve offered to invite her round one day for a quick demo. Pastry was one of the first things I learnt from my paternal grandmother, when I was about 11, although being Scottish she didn’t teach me to make a quiche.

Quiches can be made with a variety of fillings, but the best known is Quiche Lorraine, made with bacon, eggs and cream. It’s definitely the most popular in our house, closely followed by Onion Quiche.  Quiche Lorraine originates in Alsace-Lorraine. My French friend Sigrid, who comes from that region of France, says that a true Quiche Lorraine doesn’t have any cheese in it, but I always add a bit.

Quiches can be frozen at any stage of the preparation. You can freeze the uncooked pastry, the uncooked quiche shell or the partly cooked quiche shell, with or without the uncooked filling poured in. While you can freeze a fully cooked quiche, I prefer to freeze them at the point where the filling has just been poured into the partly-baked pastry case. Place the quiche in the freezer until it has frozen completely. Then wrap it in a plastic bag to stop the filling from sticking to the bag which would happen if you wrapped it before it had frozen.

When needed, put the quiche straight from the freezer into the oven and allow about 25% longer cooking time. Use a dish which can go straight from the freezer to the oven – most dishes are fine and you can of course make quiches in metal pans rather than ceramic.

Alternatively you can make lots of mini quiches for drinks parties, lunch boxes or picnics. Follow this recipe for Mini Leek Quiches and if preferred use a different filling such as the Lorraine or Onion fillings below. With mini quiches it’s not necessary to bake the pastry cases blind before filling them and rather than putting the grated cheese on top, which is a bit fiddly, mix it into the rest of the filling.

If you make two batches of the shortcrust pastry recipe below and divide it into 3 equal balls it will be just enough to make three large quiches. I usually do that and use one ball and freeze two for another time, wrapped in plastic wrap. If you only make one batch of pastry you will have enough for one large quiche with some leftover. Use this to make some little tart cases. Cook them completely while empty, then fill with Lemon Curd or Raspberry Jam.

The following three recipes each fill a quiche dish 25cm in diameter and 3.5 cm deep. Serve warm or at room temperature, not piping hot. The first photo shows mini Onion Quiches ready to go into the oven, the second is a Quiche Lorraine and the third is a Cauliflower Cheese and Bacon Quiche.

With large quiches baking the pastry case blind – before you add the filling – is the secret to avoiding a soggy bottom!

 

Quiche Lorraine
1 batch of shortcrust pastry
4 eggs
1½ cups cream
½ cup milk
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
200g lardons (chunky bits of bacon cut from smoked speck)
60g grated cheese, traditionally Gruyere or Emmental but Cheddar will do

Preheat oven to 180°C. Roll out pastry and line quiche dish then bake it blind. To bake blind, line the pastry case with a piece of aluminium foil, pressing it down to fit, then tip in something to weigh it down and stop the pastry from rising in the middle. I use corn kernels which I keep in a jar and use over and over again. Dried beans or rice will also do the trick.

Bake quiche shell for 5-10 mins, then remove the foil and corn and bake it for a few more minutes until pale golden brown.

Heat a smidgen of oil in a non-stick frying pan. Add lardons and cook until golden then drain and sprinkle over the partly cooked quiche shell. Don’t overcook or they will shrivel up to nothing. Beat eggs with cream and milk, season to taste and pour in. Can be frozen at this stage.

Sprinkle with grated cheese and bake for about 45 minutes or until puffed and golden brown. Serve cold or at room temperature.

Serves 6-8

Onion Quiche
1 batch of shortcrust pastry
1 kg onions, thinly sliced
50g butter
1 Tbs olive oil
1 Tbs flour
2 eggs
¾ cup cream
1 tsp salt
¼ tsp nutmeg
Freshly ground black pepper
60g grated cheese, preferably Gruyere or Emmental

Preheat oven to 180°C. Roll out pastry and line quiche dish then bake it blind. To bake blind line the pastry case with a piece of aluminium foil, pressing it down to fit, then tip in something to weigh it down and stop the pastry from rising in the middle. I use dried corn kernels which I keep in a jar and use over and over again. Dried beans or rice will also do the trick.

Bake the quiche shell for 5-10 mins, then remove the foil and corn and bake it for a few more minutes until very pale golden in colour.

Meanwhile for the filling heat butter and oil in a large frying pan, add onions and cook very gently for about 45 minutes, or until tender and pale golden, stirring regularly. Add flour and cook, stirring, for 1-2 minutes, then cool.

In a mixing bowl beat eggs with cream, add the cooled onions, salt, nutmeg and black pepper to taste and pour into pastry case. Can be frozen at this stage.

Sprinkle with grated cheese and bake for 45 minutes or until puffed and golden brown. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Serves 6-8

Cauliflower Cheese and Bacon Quiche
1 batch of shortcrust pastry
1 small cauliflower or half a very big one
1 Tbs olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
100g bacon, chopped
300ml thick cream
3 eggs
180g grated cheddar cheese
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 180°C. Roll out pastry and line quiche dish then bake it blind. To bake blind line the pastry case with a piece of aluminium foil, pressing it down to fit, then tip in something to weigh it down and stop the pastry from rising in the middle. I use dried corn kernels which I keep in a jar and use over and over again. Dried beans or rice will also do the trick.

Bake the quiche shell for 5-10 mins, then remove the foil and corn and bake it for a few more minutes until very pale golden in colour.  For the filling, cut the cauliflower into large florets and cook in boiling salted water for about 5 mins or until just tender. Drain well. Heat olive oil in a non-stick pan and cook the onion and bacon for 3 mins or until onion is soft and bacon starts to brown. Spread into the partly baked pastry shell and arrange the cauliflower over the top. Beat eggs with cream and season to taste. Pour into the quiche and top with the grated cheese. Bake for 35-45 mins or until nicely browned all over.

Serves 6-8

Tips:

  1. To avoid ending up with tough pastry don’t over-roll it,  treat it gently – not like bread dough – and don’t use too much flour.
  2. A problem some people encounter with quiche shells is that it looks fine until it’s been baked blind. You take it out of the oven only to find that it has shrunk down at the sides so there’s nowhere to put the filling! The way to avoid this is as follows. When rolling out the pastry to line the quiche dish, make sure you don’t put it in when it’s just been stretched because it will ping back again as it cooks. Lift the pastry each time you’ve rolled it, so it can relax. Make sure the pastry goes right to the edges of the dish, then up the sides, then fold it back down again, so the sides are double thickness. Then go round with fingers and thumb, squeezing the sides so they are not quite so thick, but still slightly thicker than the base. Then go round with a sharp knife and, cutting away from you, cut off the excess pastry. Another way to avoid shrinkage is to put the dish into the fridge for a while after you’ve lined it with pastry. This may sound like a long-winded explanation, but it’s much easier to show someone than to explain in writing.