Salted coconut caramel sauce

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I’ve dreamt about sharing a recipe for salted caramel sauce ever since this blog was just an idea (I won’t mention how long that idea took to come to fruition). It’s time dear reader. It’s time you got acquainted with salted caramel. I’m sure you’ve tasted it at any number of establishments. Good cafes are using it, respectable patisseries can’t get enough of it, and it’s often lurking on the final page of restaurant dessert menus. One of my favourite salted caramel experiences, and there have been many, is a chocolate and salted caramel tart at Black star pastry – it’s truly divine.

 

I’m taking my standard salted caramel recipe and giving it a twist, a slightly exotic twist, a coconut flavoured twist. Yes this recipe calls for coconut cream.

Now, what might you eat this exotic tasting, sweet yet salty, caramel flavoured toffee sauce with? Hmmm, lets see… just for starters, there’s a classic banana split sundae – I might of tried this once or twice before – split a banana, top it with ice cream, smoother it with salted caramel sauce, sprinkle with a fine grating of dark chocolate and a scattering of toasted almonds, but I must warn you – eat slowly to avoid brain freeze.

 

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I don’t use a thermometer to make my caramel sauce. Maybe I’m slightly old school. I like to watch the pot while it boils, and gauge for myself that precise moment the caramel darkens. It’s the moment you must swirl the pan, a little more watching, a final swirl, just as the edges start to look as if the caramel might burn – if you left it a moment longer -that’s the time to pour in the coconut cream.

 

And once that sauce has cooled, and even had time to thicken in the fridge, you must road test it with a smoothie. A banana salted caramel smoothie. Or if you’re tiring of the whole banana thing, try a date and salted caramel smoothie, whizz it together with ice cold milk, crushed ice and ice cream. Have I successfully persuaded you yet?

 

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Salted caramel coconut sauce

Ingredients

175g caster sugar (3/4 cup)

1/4 cup water

1/2 tsp salt

400ml can coconut cream

 

Place the sugar, salt and water in a large sauce pan. Bring to the boil stirring gently to dissolve the sugar. Once sugar dissolves, cease stirring. Fill a small bowl with water and using a pastry brush, gently brush the edges of the pan to remove any sugar particles. Allow sugar to boil rapidly.

 

After about 4-5 minutes the sugar will start to caramelise. This is the point you must trust your instinct. Swirl the pan and keep boiling – you want the caramel to darken enough that you get a rich flavoured sauce, but not darken too much so that the caramel burns. Swirl the pan a final time and when you see that dark golden colour, and it’s covering the entire the pan, quickly add the can of coconut cream – it will bubble madly.

 

Stir the sauce over the heat till smooth and well combined. Cook the sauce on medium heat for another 2 minutes, turn off the heat and set aside to cool. Once cool place in the fridge to thicken. This sauce will store in the refrigerator, in an air tight container, for up to 2 weeks.

 

Banana coconut salted caramel smoothie

Ingredients

1 banana, peeled and sliced

1/2 cup cold, full cream milk

3 tbsp (cold) salted caramel sauce

2 scoops of vanilla ice-cream

2 ice cubes

 

Place all ingredients in a blender and blitz till smooth. Serve in a chilled glass and drink loudly through a straw.

 

Asparagus and rocket penne – for two

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A number of years ago I worked in a cafe in  Surry Hills, called Lumiere. The kitchen was smaller than my bathroom, yet we churned out great food and made almost everything from scratch. This chicken and asparagus rocket pasta always featured during the months of spring, when asparagus was in season, and rocket was plentiful.  The rocket adds it’s signature peppery taste to the pasta and the parmesan and lemon juice join together to balance that peppery taste and give the dish a sharp edge.

 

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Making the rocket oil is simple. It’s similar to a pesto but cheaper to make as you leave out the pine-nuts, which can prove pricy. Lemon juice is essential in the oil as is salt. And as the lemon juice will oxidise the vibrant green colour of the rocket, it’s best to make it as close to serving time as possible. Or if you want to prepare the rocket oil ahead of time, leave the lemon juice out, and add it to the oil just before tossing through the hot pasta.

As asparagus is a spring time vegetable, only buy it when it’s in season to make sure you’re not buying a vegetable that’s been shipped from the other side of the world.

 

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And two of the most important tips to live by when cooking pasta are: use a quality pasta – the cheapest is often the worst, and only ever cook it to al dente – this might mean standing over the pot and continually checking the done ness, but it will be worth it in the end as over-cooked pasta is horrible and must be avoided at all costs.

I often make this pasta dish without the chicken –  frozen peas are good, use half a cup- these can be added with the asparagus and boiled for one minute,

or: half a punnet of cherry tomatoes – halved and lightly sautéed in extra virgin oil for 2 minutes before adding the white wine. Yum,yum!

 

Asparagus and rocket pasta with chicken and lemon

Ingredients

250g free range chicken breast, diced

1 lemon

2 cloves garlic

1/2 cup white wine

1 bunch of asparagus, cut into 2cm lengths

1 bunch rocket, washed, picked and chopped

1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

1/2 cup grated parmesan, plus extra for garnishing

1 1/2 cups wholemeal penne, or any other quality pasta

Place a medium pot of water on to boil. Place the chicken in a small bowl, add the zest of 1 lemon, 1 tsp olive oil, 1 grated clove of garlic, salt and pepper, set aside for 10 minutes. Heat 1 tsp olive oil in a large fry pan, add chicken, cook on a low-medium heat so as to not burn the garlic. Once chicken is almost cooked add white wine and simmer for 1 minute. Turn off the heat.

Meanwhile, cook pasta to al dente. One minute before draining pasta, add asparagus and boil for 1 minute then drain.

To make the rocket pesto  (do this whilst pasta is cooking- it’s all about timing), place rocket, 1 grated clove garlic, juice of one lemon,parmesan cheese, salt and pepper, and extra virgin olive oil in a food processor, blitz till smooth.

Add the drained pasta and asparagus to the fry pan with chicken (off the heat), add rocket pesto, salt and pepper, toss or stir till well coated, divide between two bowls, garnish with extra parmesan cheese and eat immediately.

Pear and Date Chutney

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Keeping homemade chutney in the pantry or fridge is like having a jar of flavour on hand. A good chutney is vinegary, slightly sweet, and subtly spiced. It should be cooked till it’s thick and coloured.

The simplicity of throwing everything in the pot, all at the one time, has me making this pear and date chutney time-and-time-again.

The possibilities are endless as to what you might serve this fruity pear and date chutney with. I love it with cheese – camembert, goats cheese, aged cheddar, basically any cheese, a strong blue is charming sweetened with a dollop of this chutney. Spread it on your favourite sandwich, smear it on fresh sourdough, eat it with double smoked ham. Last weekend, whilst on a yoga retreat, I served this pear and date chutney with chickpea and pumpkin fritters to the delight of all who ate them. There are no rules to what you can or can’t eat this sweet chutney with. I’d even be so bold as to say, have it with a spicy curry.

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Pear and Date Chutney

Ingredients

1.5 kg firm green pears

200g dried dates

4 roma tomato, diced

2 tbsp mustard seeds

5 cloves

3 star anise

2 tsp fine salt

2 cups apple cider vinegar

1 cup brown sugar

1 cup water

Dice pears and place in a large heavy based pot, add dates and the remaining ingredients. Stir and place on the heat. Bring to the boil, cook at a medium – low  heat till chutney thickens and liquid evaporates – 50-60 minutes. Once chutney is cooked you can use a potato masher to slightly mash the pear, or leave as is for a chunkier version.

Spoon the hot chutney into sterilised jars. Seal the lid whilst chutney is still hot. Set aside to cool completely. Store in a dark cupboard for up to three months. Refrigerate after opening.