Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Recipe: Panzanella

Each season has its own flavours and in summer we are particularly spoiled. Mangoes are for me sun in a skin. Peaches and cherries are Christmas. But summer, summer is sun warmed tomatoes and basil.

Each year I transform our tiny veggie patch into a tomato oasis, under planted with basil. And when it is full of sun warmed, perfectly ripe tomatoes I just love to make my version of the Italian bread salad, panzanella.

Traditionally panzanella is just bread, tomatoes and basil with a simple dressing. You use stale bread which you soak in water and squeeze out before making the salad. However, I like to add a few extra veggies and prefer my bread a bit more solid so skip the water step. I like to make this with a sourdough or Italian style bread. I recently made it with an olive sour dough and it was especially great.

This is not a traditional recipe but I think it is yummy. It goes really well with a simple steak or sausages, or just on its own.

(note I haven't included quantities because this recipe really is to taste. I try to have about equal amounts of bread to tomatoes) 

Day old bread

Olive oil (roughly 2/3 to 1/3 vinegar)
Red wine vinegar
crushed garlic
salt and pepper

 Cut or tear the bread into roughly 1cm cubes. Cut up the tomatoes to an equal size and add to the bread (along with any juice that comes out when you cut them up). Roughly tear up the basil and cut up the cucumber and capsicum to similar size as the tomatoes. Drizzel with dressing and toss to combine.

To make the dressing combine all ingredients in a screwtop jar and shake.

This salad is best made at least 15-30 minutes before eating so that the flavours have time to meld.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Valentine's Day

S and I have never made a huge fuss of Valentine's Day. We don't ignore it, but we also don't go over the top with huge presents and expensive dinners either. Instead we have always given each other a simple card and had a simple meal - often just homemade pizza eaten sitting on the couch. We love each other to bits every day of the year, but it is nice on this "day of love" to acknowledge it in some special way.

This morning, as I was getting ready for work, my bleary eyed beloved emerged from his sheet cocoon (honestly I don't know how he manages to wrap himself up like that) and presented me with the most gorgeously written card and a box of Turkish delight. It wasn't some special Valentines Day Turkish delight. It wasn't in a fancy box. It was in a plastic takeaway container - because that is how it comes when it is super fresh from the deli that I like - onto which he had stuck a sticker which made it look like there was a cat in there trying to get out.

Because that is what love is, knowing that amidst the sea of red roses and chocolates, what I would love is some simple fresh Turkish Delight with a funny cat sticker on it.

I hope your Valentine's Day was as romantic as mine.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Recipe: Messing with a classic - creating a Summer Tiramisu

There are a heap of recipes that have stood the test of time, that have earned the status of "classic". They are flavours that are known and loved, so if you mess with them, you better be prepared for the fallout.

With the bounty of fresh berries at the moment, I wanted to make something that showcased them but that was also a bit of a decadent dessert. So I came up with the idea of playing with the flavours of tiramisu. I replaced the traditional coffee and chocolate - flavours that I think of more as for winter - with light citrus and berries.

The reaction was, well, mixed. Everyone really enjoyed it but with the thought of tiramisu in mind they were confused. I got a lot of "I like it but it isn't tiramisu" comments. Maybe I should call this a creamy berry pudding or something - if you can think of a better name let me know in the comments!

There is quite a bit of booze in this (plus raw egg so definitely not one for pregnant ladies), but the liqueur is all about the flavour. The recipe uses both orange and raspberry liqueurs, I used cointreau and an amazing raspberry nectar made by Centennial Vineyards in the Southern Highlands of NSW, but there are a heap of options out there. And the lemon syllabub has both wine and brandy in it, but trust me, I could eat it by the spoonful, it is just that delicious, and adds a fantastic tart element to offset the creamy richness of the mascarpone.

I have no idea how people take good photos of tiramisu, presentation wise, it looked as it always does like a bit of a mess when spooned out, but then again it getting a photo would have been tricky as it disappeared very fast. So I may have messed with a classic, and it may actually need a new name, but it would appear this was a success.

Have you played with any classic recipes recently? How successful was it?

Summer Tiramisu
Juice of one orange
3 tbsp cointreau (or other orange flavoured liqueur)
30 (ish) sponge-finger biscuits
3 eggs, separated
1/2 cup caster sugar
500g mascarpone cheese
3 tbsp raspberry liqueur
1/4 cup caster sugar, extra
1/3 cup thickened cream
mixed berries (I used a punnet each of raspberries, blueberries and strawberries)
lemon syllabub (recipe below)

Place the orange juice and cointreau in a shallow bowl.

Beat egg yolks and sugar until light and fluffy. Fold in the mascarpone and raspberry liqueur until just combined.

Beat egg whites and extra sugar until soft peaks form. Gently fold into the mascarpone mixture and then fold in the thickened cream.

Dip half of the biscuits into the orange juice mixture and place in the bottom of a 8-cup capacity rectangular dish. Spread half the mascarpone mixture over biscuits, then sprinkle over with half the berries. Repeat with the remaining biscuits and mascarpone mixture but reserve remaining berries. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

An hour or so before serving top with lemon syllabub and remaining berries.

Lemon Syllabub
1 lemon
1/3 cup caster sugar
1 1/4 cups cream
1/3 cup white wine

Thinly peel lemon. Place the peel and juice of the lemon in a measuring cup and add enough brandy to make half a cup. Cover and let stand overnight.

Strain the juice/brandy mix discarding the peel and any pith from the lemon, add the wine and sugar to the juice/brandy and stir till dissolved.

Beat cream till soft peaks form then very slowly beat in the lemon mixture. When the cream holds its shape spoon over the tiramisu.