Monday, August 8, 2016

Simple Banana and Date Cake

Fact: the world is a better place with cake. In particular, a humble banana cake that retains the dense crumb of a banana bread while staying light and miraculous like all good cakes should, not to mention the added textural delight and indulgent pockets of dates and a Hawaiian-inspired caramel frosting.
It's simple, it's delicious, and it keeps for up to a week (not that you are likely to find out given the speed at which this number tends to be consumed).
250g unsalted butter
350g caster sugar
1 vanilla bean, seeds scraped
Pinch salt
4 eggs
200g crème fraiche
2 cups plain flour
1 tbsp baking powder
3 large ripe bananas
20ml maple syrup
½ cup dates, deseeded, roughly chopped
Penuche icing
100g butter
1 cup brown sugar
¼ cup milk
1 ¼ cups icing sugar

Preheat the oven to 200C. Grease and line a deep-sided square baking tin (approximately 25 x 25cm).
Whisk the butter in sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer until pale and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, until fully incorporated. Add the crème fraiche and vanilla bean seeds, and mix to just combine. Add the dry ingredients and beat to just combined.
In a separate bowl, mash the bananas with the maple syrup then stir through the cake batter. Gently stir through the dates, then spoon into tin. Bake for an hour or until evenly browned and a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean. Check at about the 30-minute mark, as the cake can take on quite a bit of colour. If looking too brown, cover with foil and continue baking.
For the icing, melt the butter and brown sugar in a saucepan, stirring constantly so it doesn't catch until the sugar has completely dissolved. Add the milk until the mixture is just starting to bubble, then remove from the heat. Add the icing sugar gradually, stirring with a whisk until you get your desired consistency. You may need more than suggested here depending on the consistency you like. Finally, ice the cake while the icing is still warm.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Food Bowls

I am not immune to the social media obsession with food bowls. Trends aside, they are a pretty spectacular way to eat - all that flavour, colour and texture, its hard not to love. Here are a few salad bowls I had the great fun of putting together for Myer Emporium. Enjoy them!

Slow roasted beef cheek winter bliss bowl with greens and cauliflower rice

There's nothing better than a hearty, good-for-you salad bowl, brimming with colourful roasted veggies, cauliflower rice and slow cooked beef cheek. Winter never looked so good.

1½ tbsp. olive oil
6 beef cheeks (about 280g each)
1.5 litres (6 cups) veal stock
200ml red wine
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
2 small white onions, peeled and chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
3 fresh bay leaves, crushed
1 generous sprig of thyme 
½ head of cauliflower
1 roasted sweet potato, chopped
½ small red onion, thinly sliced on a mandolin
1 avocado, hulled and halved
Micro salad greens
Juice of ½ lemon
Sunflower seeds
Preheat oven to 180C. Heat 2 tsp oil in a large frying pan over medium-high heat, season beef to taste and cook in batches, turning once, until browned (1-2 minutes each side). Transfer beef to a casserole, add stock, wine, carrot, onion, garlic, bay leaves and thyme, cover with a lid and braise in oven until very tender (3 -4 hours). Remove beef, set aside and keep warm. Strain liquid (discard solids) into a saucepan, reduce over high heat to a thick sauce consistency and keep warm.
For the cauliflower rice remove the outer leaves from the cauliflower, cut it into quarters and remove most of the thick core, then cut each quarter into two or three chunks. You don’t want to overload the blender, or it will struggle to blitz the cauliflower, instead work with about half the cauliflower at a time. Blend for 30 seconds or so, until the cauliflower resembles fine rice, or couscous.  Toss the rice in a drizzle of olive oil on a tray, then spread it out to a thin, even layer. Roast at 200C for 12 minutes, mixing it in the tray halfway through cooking. 

To make the salad toss the roasted sweet potato with the sliced red onion and put into a large serving bowl. Top with a sprinkling of sunflower seeds. Add the warm beef cheek, cauliflower rice, avocado and micro salad greens. Squeeze over the lemon juice to dress the salad greens and prevent the avocado from going brown. Season generously and serve.


"If you're short on time, you can whip these up in a flash by purchasing some of the ingredients. If you're going to pre-purchase falafels, be sure to opt for good quality deli versions."
Serves 4
1 ½ cups tinned chickpeas
½ cup cooked quinoa
½ cup almonds
½ cup frozen peas
1 green onion, very finely chopped
5 cloves garlic
1 cup flat leaf parsley leaves
1 cup coriander leaves
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
½ tsp baking powder
2 tbsp buckwheat flour
Grapeseed or vegetable oil for frying

1 beetroot, peeled, finely sliced and cut into batons
Seeds of 1 pomegranate
¼ red cabbage, very finely sliced
2 tablespoons of a good quality salad seed mix (sunflower seeds, pepitas)
1 bunch broccolini, rinsed and diced
¼ bunch flat leaf parsley, chopped
¼ bunch coriander leaves, chopped
2 avocados, halved
½ cup sauerkraut (I used a combination cabbage and beetroot version)
4 tbsp turmeric cashew cheese
½ small pumpkin, thickly sliced and slow roasted
Japanese red sorrel and nasturtium leaves to scatter (or use any fresh in season herbs, leaves)

For falafels, rinse and drain the canned chickpeas. Add to a food processor along with other falafel ingredients except baking powder and buckwheat flour. Process to a semi-coarse paste. Turn out into a bowl and season generously. Add baking powder and buckwheat flour and stir to combine. Roll the falafel mixture into 20 golf ball sized rounds. 
Pour oil into a heavy based saucepan to about 5 cm deep and then place over high heat. When oil reaches smoking point, reduce heat to medium and add 1-2 falafels. They should instantly rise to the surface. Cook, turning gently until evenly browned. Remove from oil and drain on paper towels. Repeat this process with remaining falafels. If frying 2-3 at once, make sure you adjust the heat as the more falafels you have in the pan, the colder the oil gets. 
As falafel are cooling, combine the beetroot, pomegranate and red cabbage in a small bowl with the salad seeds and toss to combine.
In another bowl, combine broccolini and herbs and toss to combine.
To assemble: place a handful of each salad in a bowl along with a tablespoon of cashew cheese, a slice of roasted pumpkin and half an avocado. Top with falafels and sauerkraut and serve immediately.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Basic Moulding Steps for chocolate

So the lovely folk at Nestle sent me some of their new baking chocolate range to use, which I did. Of course I did. Who wouldn't? I made these individual white chocolate, vanilla, cardamom and rose cakes with white chocolate butter cream and Persian floss. I also played around with some chocolate buttons and it got me thinking, its actually fairly hard to find accurate information out there on some very basic moulding steps with chocolate. So here are a few tips from me to you. I'll be posting the recipe for the cake later this week, in a cake baking post extravaganza.

Basic Moulding Steps

1. Melting Chocolate.
My method of choice is a double boiler. Yes you can use a microwave, but its best to have complete control over the heating process. Simmer water on low heat in a saucepan. Place a bowl over the top, add the chocolate and stir until melted and glossy.

If you are using pure chocolate then it needs to be tempered. You need to heat the chocolate to 49C, slightly higher for dark chocolate, allow chocolate to cool quickly and evenly by adding chocolate until near set and a crust will form at 31C. Then warm to a working temperature of 33C. 

2. Fill the mould.
Tips. GO SLOW. You do not want to over-fill or allow the entry of air, water or steam. Tap the mould on a bench to eliminate air bubbles and also to give a smooth base.

3. Chill the mould. 
In the fridge for about 10 minutes. If the chocolates are not set, a wet patch will show on the underside of the mould preventing a clean and easy unmoulding. Return to the fridge until set.

4. Tap out
Onto a soft surface. Only a gentle tap is required. 

A few other handy tips.
Layers - a layered effect can be achieved by separate colours or painted sections to set in the mould before adding the next layer. Make sure layers are not too thin or transparent.

Nut centres - cover the base of the mould with a small amount of the melted chocolate. Tap to eliminate air bubbles, place a nut in the mould and fill with chocolate. Tap again for flat base.

Cleaning - use a dry cloth or wash in warm water and dry thoroughly. DO NOT use detergents, boiling water or dishwashers unless you want to say bye bye chocolate mould.