Tuesday, 15 January 2019

Vanilla Apple Lattice Pie

This dish is from our mate Mel's recipe book. Mel moved from South Africa (where she also had a cooking school) to Brisbane in 2011. She opened up Vanilla Zulu in Wilston, but has recently moved to nearby Teneriffe. To celebrate the new premises, she has just published her book of recipes, tips and hacks: Culinary Quickies

Mel asked me to write a review for her website, which you can read at the bottom of this post.  My only proviso after using one of her recipes is that she really needed a good editor!  (Sorry Mel; and I'm available.)  I also like to see recipes that have the list of ingredients in order of use, but that is a small quibble.  I had to do a bit of guesswork to fathom this recipe out, and I made a couple of very slight changes, but it's pretty much Mel's dish as per her book.
  



our mate Ms PP holding up her piece of pie (cute toes)



Here is my ever-so-slightly adapted version of Mel's recipe:


Serves 8:

ingredients:


2 sheets frozen puff pastry, thawed (or make your own - now stop that cackling, folks)

3 tbs apricot jam

250 mLs really thick custard

70g. almond meal

1 tsp vanilla extract

100 mLs of thickened cream

2 large apples, sliced thinly - or use stone fruit of your choice

a pinch of cinnamon (optional)

50 mLs milk - to brush the pastry

2 tbs granulated (white) sugar - to cast over the top of the pie


Icing:

1 cup (125g.) of icing sugar

about 1 tbs hot water - maybe a bit more, or a bit less

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 tsp cocoa powder



Method:


Place one sheet of the thawed pastry onto a large baking tray lined with baking paper

Spread the apricot jam over the pastry, leaving a 2cm. border on all sides

Whisk the custard, almond meal, vanilla and cream together - it should be really thick; you don't want it to seep out the sides

Now spoon this mixture on top of the jam and spread it out

Place the apple slices neatly over the custard mixture, and throw on the cinnamon if using

Fold the second piece of pastry in half lengthwise and slice on the fold to make a lattice pattern, leaving a border of 2cm.

Brush around the custard and apple filling with milk, then place the second piece of pastry over the whole shebang (after gently unfolding it so you have one large piece again)

Press down the edges, and brush the pie with the rest of the milk

Sprinkle the sugar over the top, and bake at 200C for 15-20 minutes or till golden

Take the pie out of the oven and cool for a few minutes while you beat the icing ingredients together EXCEPT the cocoa powder

Reserve 2-3 tbs of the icing and mix the cocoa into it

Now drizzle all the white icing over the pie, then the reserved cocoa icing for contrast

Delicious hot or cold, with cream or icecream or nude (tee hee)




Notes:


You can buy 'thick custard' at the supermarket, or make your own, ensuring it is very thick - Mel says 'thick enough to bounce off a wall'

Try hazelnut meal for a change

Use red or green apples, as you wish - I used Royal Gala (red) 




spread the apricot jam over the pastry



stir the custard mixture together 



spread the custard over the jam


slice the unpeeled apples thinly



cut the lattice pattern into the fold of the pastry (Mr P. did it for me) 


layer the apple slices over the jam and custard  (with the pinch of cinnamon)


place the pastry over the filling and sprinkle on the sugar 


pour the icing over the pie


never mind the burnt bits :-)


golden and crunchy on top (well, just a bit burnt)


This pie went down well with everybody.  It was crunchy and golden on top, with a sweet, soft filling inside.  The apples had cooked perfectly, and the icing added an even sweeter dollop to the whole affair.  Yep, we had it with cream.  Well, why not gild the lily when you can? :-) 

red apple artwork by Sherry's Pickings



My review:

The book is written in her endearing and quirky style, but provides solid information and tips for the confident cook and the culinary novice. You'll find dozens of quickie recipes, and innovative ideas for meals. The recipe for Magical Moroccan Mince with pistachios and date gravel inspired this reviewer to take the brave step of letting the mince do its own thing without stirring and on a high heat, until the meat became brown and luscious - which kind of goes against your instincts but actually works. I now find myself using this technique often when cooking a protein, as does hubby.

Mel’s book gives you starters, sides and mains, plus desserts and cakes. Her Little Black Book of Culinary Bling is included in this book, giving you even more ideas to brighten up your plates. There is nothing pretentious about her recipes, just good, honest food that is easy to make, and will appeal to your family and friends. I first encountered this dessert in one of Mel’s cooking classes - Vanilla Apple Lattice Pie: puff pastry, apple slices, custard and cream and sugar, all baked to perfection and glazed with a vanilla and icing sugar paste.

There are plenty of illustrations, and a guide called How to Shop which gives the basics for your pantry items. I like the fact that there are no apologies for using shortcuts like bought puff pastry. We all know the home cook is rarely, if ever, going to make her/his own! This is a handy and cheerful book, allowing you to try new recipes with confidence. You too will be able to cook fish with crispy skin, or end up with the perfect steak. As Mel says in her introduction: “you can almost have me right by your side guiding you all the way.” And yes, I think that’s exactly how you will feel! And while it’s not a huge tome, it is a useful and practical addition to your kitchen library.


Tuesday, 1 January 2019

In My Kitchen - January 2019

Happy New Year, dear blogger friends.  Hope you had a fabulous Christmas/Holiday break.  This is IMK Lite for January, so let's make it short and sweet.  I most likely won't get a chance to check out your posts till mid-month, just FYI :-)  Our Christmas was small and serene, and full of food and drink and friends.  I hope yours was too!


So, let's get cracking.  Here in my kitchen:




coconut candy


This was kindly given to me by Sandra from Please Pass the Recipe, after her recent trip to Vietnam and Cambodia.  Chewy but tasty.  Yep, the candy not Sandra.  It's made in Vietnam, from coconut milk and coconut cream.  I'm saying candy 'cos that's what's on the label!  But you know we don't use that term in Australia very often, if at all.  




as per the label ... :-) 


I love this little gadget!  I have a drawer full of gadgets (yes you, garlic wheel) that I don't often use, but this is such a cute implement.  I actually have it in the freezer right now, with parsley in it.  You just push it down as per the photo, and then grate off the herbs with a microplaner.  Not really a necessity, but a bit of fun now and then.  So just keep it for the occasional turn.  After all, you've paid a million dollars for your chef's knife already, haven't you? :-) 




another book about food for my shelves

This is not a cookbook as such; here Ruby is discussing food and how and what to eat.  She quit her job writing food columns with the Guardian newpaper mid-year of 2018, as she felt the food world was cynical, elitist and toxic.  Strong stuff!  I am looking forward to reading this one.



yep, more ceramics from Miss B., and a wooden spoon 

Miss B. gave me the pink mug and the green tumbler, and my sister gave me the wooden spoon.  I can hear you chuckling, Tiffin Fiona!  But you can never have too many spoons.  I think it comes from our childhood, where mum only had one (one I tell you!!) wooden spoon in her kitchen, and for all purposes - sweet and savoury.  In fact, my sister quizzically told me recently that her oldest daughter has separate wooden spoons for sweet and savoury.  I just looked at her, and at my two huge utensil jars full of spoons, one lot for sweet and one lot for savoury .... 

Well, that's it for this month.  I've been succinct I think :-)  But I'm saving the best for February.  Hope to see some of you here this month though.  Happy New Year, chums!



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Sherrys Pickings

Friday, 21 December 2018

Peanut Butter Truffles

Peanut butter - or maybe you call it peanut paste? - brings back childhood memories.  Slathering it on toast with butter dripping down your hand, or dipping your spoon into the jar evokes happy thoughts.  I like it crunchy and salty, but I've used a marvellous Byron Bay version here, which is 100% peanuts, no salt or sugar.

I was watching one of those kooky food shows on the Food Network the other day.  You know the one where they show you how commercial foods are made?  This was for a chocolate treat called Colts Bolts, from a company in Nashville.  I love chocolate and peanut butter together, so I decided to see what I could make with similar tones.




peanuts peanuts everywhere 


I was pondering how to make them, when I came across an old Australian Women's Weekly recipe (from the Dark Ages) for peanut butter truffles.  This gave me a great base, to which I added the almonds (as per Colts Bolts), and decided to roll them in melted chocolate and add bling.  But to be honest, these are not really like Colts Bolts at all, except for the PB and chocolate thingy going on.  And this is the AWW recipe on steroids. :-) 



Adapted by Sherry's Pickings:

Makes about 24 truffles

ingredients:


60g. (about 2 oz) almonds, roasted and chopped

2½ tbs brown sugar

1¼ tbs water

75g. (2.6oz) butter, chopped into chunks

125g. (4.4oz) dark chocolate (70%), melted and cooled slightly

155g. (5/8 cup) peanut butter (I used crunchy)

30g. (just over 1 oz) peanut butter chips (optional)

30g. dark chocolate chips

125g. (about 4.5 oz) crushed (finely chopped) peanuts for rolling

100g. (about 3.5 oz) milk (or dark) chocolate, melted - to roll the truffles

bling and sprinkles for decoration



Method:


Roast the almonds @170C for about 10 minutes till they smell toasty

Let them cool, then chop into small pieces

Place the sugar, water and butter into a small saucepan

Give them a good stir and allow to boil

Take it off the heat, and let the bubbles subside

Then add the melted chocolate, peanut butter and almonds

Stir well and put in the fridge for about 10 minutes to cool down - you don't want the chips to melt into the mixture

Take it out of the fridge and stir in the PB chips and chocolate chips

Scrape the mixture into a small bowl, cover with clingfilm and place in the freezer for about 30 minutes till it is firm enough to form into balls (truffles)

Grab a teaspoon, whack on a food-safe glove, and get rolling!

Make them walnut-sized or big enough to fit into a small patty pan

Roll some in just the crushed nuts, and dip some in the melted chocolate, then throw on some bling - I used chocolate crispies and glamour cake sparkles

Refrigerate for an hour or two 



Notes:  


I used raw almonds, skin-on, but feel free to use blanched if you wish

When melting the milk chocolate for the truffle coating, put it into a Pyrex jug so you can melt and dip in the one receptacle

Use one hand for the rolling, so you have a clean hand for grabbing things, moving things etc. :-)

I used ready-chopped nuts for rolling, but you could blitz your own in a food processor




sugar, water and butter into the saucepan 



yep, it really bubbles up so keep an eye on it  



tip in the nuts after stirring in the peanut butter and melted chocolate 



mixture cooled and ready for the chocolate chips 



in go the chips



mixture out of the freezer and ready for rolling 



rolling rolling rolling ... keep one hand clean  



some rolled in chocolate, some in nuts, some with bling 


I rolled some just in the nuts, while others were dipped into melted milk chocolate (use a Pyrex jug for the melting and the dipping) and covered in bling.  All equally delicious, and not as rich as you might think they'd be.  These took a bit of time due to the cooling and rolling, but they are fun and taste great.  Worth a go! 


This is my last post for 2018.  Thank you to everyone who has joined in the In My Kitchen link each month, and to all who have read and commented on my posts.  You make it all worthwhile.  Have a merry and very safe festive season, my friends.  See you for In My Kitchen (lite) on January 1!




nuts and more nuts - almonds and peanuts (artwork by sherry's pickings)

Friday, 14 December 2018

George Banks Bistro - Review

Yes you're on the right track here: George Banks, Mary Poppins and so on.  This new rooftop bar and bistro sits on top of an old bank in the regional town of Toowoomba.  Toowoomba used to be a quiet, conservative sort of place, full of farmers and countryfolk, but is rapidly heading towards being a hot-spot of bars, caf├ęs and restaurants equal to any in the big city.

Our Insta friend who lives there, made noises about wanting to check out George Banks so I surprised her by saying "Okay, we're heading up in a couple of nights."  And so we did, and we tried out this very new place (our waitress said it had opened only two weeks before on 2 November.)  Once you pass inspection by the security officer, you head up in the lift to the rooftop where you can partake in a drink at the bar, or head into the bistro for a sophisticated meal.




looking into the kitchen from the bistro - love those pendant lamps


The bistro looks like a boardroom, (intentionally I guess) with heavy armchairs (a bit hard to pull up to the table in fact) and bright lighting.  The bar is outside, and had lots of happy Friday night customers.  Our waitress was friendly and helpful; sad to say we couldn't leave her a tip as their cash register system didn't allow it. 



sparkling water $8 per bottle

lemon lime and bitters $3.80

prosecco $9

We started with a drink - Prosecco for me; lemon lime and bitters for our Toowoomba friends, while Mr P. had a cranberry drink ($3.80).  Oops no photo of his glass.  



black olive crisp

barley sourdough


cultured butter


We moved on: there was a serve of barley sourdough with cultured butter ($7), and black olive crisp ($6) with smoked almond, chickpeas and pomegranate.  The bread was crusty and fresh, the butter was tangy, and there was a little bowl of Marmite gel (?) which tasted zippy on the palate.  I think I was the only one at our table to try it, and I really loved it.  (Yep, I ate it all.) 
The black olive crisp was just that - black and crispy, with a chunky chickpea dip.  Our friends shared that one, and really liked the rustic dip.  You could taste the earthy chickpeas, which lent a slightly grainy (but delicious) aspect to it.



you guessed it!  our cutlery 

I have to show you this, folks.  To be honest, Mr P. and I really didn't like the cutlery.  It was narrow and unwieldy, and just weird.  My blogger friend Sandra from Please Pass The Recipe told me that these are all over the place lately.  Eek!



yellowtail kingfish $16


I chose the kingfish for a refreshing start to the meal.  The waitress explained that it was a cold dish; I can only assume that the good countryfolk of Toowoomba had been surprised by this.  It was dressed with tomato, guanciale, mandarin and wattleseed.  This was refreshing and interesting.  The fish was dense and meaty, the accompaniments added a tangy balance, and the dressing was zesty.  The tiny jellied cubes were a fun item on the plate.  Oh, and pretty - did I say pretty with the flowers?   



buffalo labneh $17


Our friends shared the buffalo labneh - served with watermelon, pickled onion, brioche and bitter leaves.  They said the contrast of smooth labneh went well with the crisp leaves, the crunchy croutons and the pomegranate seeds.  No, hang on, I'm saying that, but that's what they meant :-) 



King salmon $38


The salmon, which came with baked celeriac, white bean, asparagus and hazelnut milk was a huge hit with our lady friend Madam S.  She said it was superb and deliciously moist, and cooked perfectly.  Not everyone gets this right, but GB did.    



wagyu rib fillet $39


Mr PE. went for the wagyu steak, which they happily cooked 'medium' without a murmur.  No throwing of plates and ordering him out of the restaurant for daring to have other than 'medium rare'.  It actually came out a bit more to the medium rare side, but he ended up loving it as it was.  Chunky chips came with it, and were readily devoured.



wagyu brisket $55


Extraordinarily, Mr P. suggested we share the brisket.  I nearly fell off my chair:-)  He usually eats vego when we are out, and is never one for huge lumps of meat.   Well, my friends, 'quelle surprise', as the French say.  It came out on a large plate, as one massive bit of cow.  And no steak knife.  Fortunately, it was tender and I could mostly pull it apart with my knife and fork, though Mr PE lent me his steak knife.  We enjoyed the flavour and the texture, though it was slightly drier than I expected.  I guess I'm just not used to big hunks of meat, but it was worth trying and I think many people would adore it.  



flatbread and yoghurt came with the brisket

Pickles were meant to come with this, but I think we may have missed out on those.  



a side of greens $10

The side of greens was garnished with salted lemon, almond tarator, buckwheat and egg yolk.  Mr P. and I shared a side of wagyu fat potatoes ($11), which came as chunky wedges.  They were delicious, and unctuous - sorry, I hate that word, but you know what I mean.  Oops again, forgot to take a photo.

We decided to head off to the nearby gelati place for dessert, as the noise and bright lights were affecting our poor old brains and ears.  We stood out in the bar area for a few minutes, to check out the scene.  It was dark; it was moody and merry and full of happy Toowoomba-ites, having a Friday night tipple.  A fun place to be.  


Picking's Verdict:  great food and friendly service; ambience with the bright light, heavy chairs and noise a tiny bit off-putting for these ancient folk.  A funny ending to our meal: an elderly couple were getting into the lift with us; as we stepped in, she turned to us and said: "I've had better!"  We chortled...




glorious chandelier


This amazing umbrella-shaped chandelier is in the bar area.  How very magical, how very Mary Poppins! 




looking up at the bar


Cnr of Ruthven & Margaret Streets,
Toowoomba 4350
Ph: 07 4580 0808



George Banks Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato 

Friday, 7 December 2018

Beetroot, Orange and Smoked Fish Salad

Like the good Aussie I am, I love pickled beetroot.  You just can't call it a hamburger unless there is a slice or two of beetroot on top of the meat pattie!  Not that this recipe is for a hamburger, but for a refreshing, tangy salad which is just what we need during this heatwave we're having.  It is going to be 36C today, and very dusty and windy.  The fires up north are still burning, so it's a wee bit scary too.

I saw that Lorraine (Not Quite Nigella) had recently made a roasted beetroot salad, which reminded me to put up my version.  I had been meaning to do this for yonks!  So my recipe is inspired by an ancient red onion and orange recipe ripped out of a Cuisine NZ magazine, a huge whack of inspo from a recent Woolworth's Fresh magazine, and a wee kick up the backside from reading Lorraine's:-) 




juicing the orange (I grated mine) 



Serves 2-3 people as a main, or 4 as a side:


(Start preparing the onion about an hour before serving)


ingredients:


1 small (or half a large) red onion, finely sliced

1 tbs red wine vinegar

2 tbs lime or lemon juice

1 small orange (or half a large) - zest and juice

1 baby cos lettuce, torn into pieces 

100g. walnuts, toasted @ 170C for about 10 minutes

500g. of cooked beetroot - I used ready-cooked, vacuum packed

1 small Lebanese cucumber (approx 140g.), cut into chunks OR one apple, chopped into large chunks

200g. smoked salmon or ocean trout, roughly chopped (use scissors - it's easier)

a big handful of fresh parsley, chopped with scissors

2 tbs fresh dill, chopped

black pepper to taste


Dressing:

2-3 tbs plain Greek yoghurt

1/2-1 tbs tahini

1-2 tsp grain mustard

1 tbs lime or lemon juice

salt and ground black pepper to taste


Method:


Place the onion slices in a small, non-corrosive bowl

Stir in the vinegar and lime juice

Cover with a tea towel and let it sit for an hour

When the onion is done, place the orange zest and juice, lettuce, walnuts, beets and cucumber (or apple) in a large salad bowl and stir gently together

Mix the dressing ingredients together, and dollop it over the salad

Toss gently if you feel inclined

Now sprinkle the fish and herbs over the salad

Grind the pepper over the bowl

Serve as is for a main, or with baked potato etc. as a side


Notes:

Feel free to cook up your own beetroot, but this is so easy on a hot, steamy night with pre-cooked beets - just make sure they're 100% beetroot and nothing else

For extra tang, toss the cucumber slices/chunks into some vinegar for 10 minutes before adding to the salad




marinate the red onion in vinegar and lime juice for about an hour 



zest and juice the orange


pile the ingredients into a large salad bowl



mix the dressing



dollop over the salad



snip the fish over the salad 



I threw a bit of this over the salad  




beetroot artwork by sherry's pickings