Tag Archives: food

The Miraculous Flour-Less Chocolate Cake

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In 1996 my mother bought me a cookbook.

The book titled ‘YUM’ by Terry Durack, a well known Australian food writer and critic, still commands prime position on my now heavily laden shelf, 20 years on. There are several reasons for this. The most important one being the recipe for his Miraculous Flour-Less Chocolate Cake.

The binding of the book has long fallen from its cover. There are smudges of chocolate over its pages. The paper it was printed on is looking a dull shade of white yellow, but still this book remains on my shelf. Why? Because it’s the best darn chocolate cake I’ve ever baked!

I practically know the recipe off by heart, (I’ve baked it so many times), yet I still take the book out each time and savour those smudges, those faded pages, and the reminiscing it invokes of all the times I’ve cooked and eaten this cake from this cookbook.

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I was a third year apprentice chef, learning the ways of the kitchen, and how to thrive in (at the time) a male dominated industry, when I was given this book. Lets say it has sentimental value. ‘Yum’ reminds me of long hard days working in professional kitchens, being young and free, learning to cook, and what makes a good recipe. And my Mother, it reminds me of my Mother.

But the Miraculous flour-less chocolate cake recipe, lets talk about that! I think it’s the fudge like consistency that I’m most attracted to. It’s never dry like some flour based chocolate cakes can be. The blending of melted chocolate, butter and almond meal feels strong, and then the folding of whisked egg whites makes it light. 

For me, the importance of good cook books are the memories they can invoke. We’ve all been exposed to many an average cookbook. You know the ones. Someone gains a little celebrity status and they then write a cookbook book full of over saturated recipes trying to make us believe they are experts in the felid of cooking. Those cookbooks leave me feeling uninspired.

‘Yum’ on the other hand is of a different era, where cookbooks were peoples life work; recipes they’d been cooking for years. Recipes of substance and worth.

To quote Terry Durack, in reference to his Miraculous Flour-Less Chocolate Cake recipe he says ‘I borrowed it from Jill Dupleix, who borrowed it from Elizabeth David, who borrowed it from the French. It taught me the value of borrowing recipes’.

And his words in turn taught me the value of sharing recipes. Enjoy!

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The Miraculous Flour-Less Chocolate Cake

(Adapted slightly from ‘Yum’ – Terry Durack)

200g 70% cocoa dark chocolate

150g caster sugar

150g butter, diced

100g ground almonds (almond meal)

5 free range eggs, separated

To Finish

Dutch cocoa or icing sugar 

Cream or ice-cream 

Pre heat oven to 175C Line a 20cm cake tin with baking paper.

Melt the chocolate, sugar and butter in a bowl sitting on a pot of simmering water.

Remove from heat, stir thoroughly to combine. Mix in the ground almonds, then beat in the egg yolks one by one.

Beat the egg whites until they form stiff peaks, and stir a couple of spoonfuls into the chocolate mixture to lighten it, before gently folding in the rest.

Pour into the cake tin, and bake for 40 minutes.

Leave to cool slightly before removing from tin. Dust with cocoa, or icing sugar, or eat as is. Serve with cream or ice cream.

 

Parsnip And Pear Soup With Crispy Sage And Brown Butter

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The humble parsnip, in all its creamy-white glory, benefits immensely from being cooked with something naturally sweet. I think of parsnips roasted with honey, yes please! Parsnips grated and baked into a cake, sure why not? Even this parsnip soup benefits from a little sweet kick.

This addition of a natural sweetener to parsnips makes perfect sense to me. Apparently if parsnips are picked before they receive a night or two of a cold frost the natural sugars don’t develop properly and then the parsnips lack the sweetness they deserve. I can only assume the parsnips I bought fell to this fate. But that’s where a little kitchen intuition and a piece of fruit – in this case pear – can come to the rescue.

Now! Enter the burnt butter with crispy sage.

Are you familiar with that moment when fresh sage hits foaming butter in a hot pan and it begins to froth and splatter, the sage crisping in front of your eyes? Or when the butter begins to turn to a shade of golden nuttiness and you just know it’s time to add a squeeze of lemon juice? Sigh! I love those moments. They don’t happen too often in my kitchen but for this soup it was the crowning glory, the finishing touch, the necessary addition. I imagine you’ll think so too.

 

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Parsnip and pear soup with sage and brown butter

Serves 4

2 tbsp olive oil

1 brown onion, diced

3 cloves garlic, chopped

3 sticks celery, diced

2 tbsp chopped fresh sage

600g parsnips, peeled and sliced into rounds

1/2 cup white wine

1 large pear, peeled and cut into large pieces

1.5 litres chicken or vegetable stock

1/2 cup Greek style yoghurt

For the burnt sage butter

75g salted butter

handful of picked fresh sage leaves

squeeze lemon juice

Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan; add the onion, garlic, celery, parsnip and chopped sage, season with salt and pepper and cook gently for 5 minutes.

Turn the heat up, add the white wine and cook for 1 minute. Add the chopped pear and chicken stock, bring to the boil then cook on a medium heat for 25 minutes.

Remove the soup from the heat, add the yoghurt and blitz the soup with a stick blender or food processor till smooth. Check the seasoning.

For the burnt butter, place a fry pan on a high heat, once heated add the diced butter, swirl the pan. As the butter melts and starts to froth throw in the sage leaves, swirl the pan as they crisp. Right at the moment the butter looks like it can’t froth any more, and before it turns too dark, remove the pan from the heat, squeeze in the lemon juice and swirl a final time.

Ladle the parsnip soup into 4 bowls and drizzle the crispy sage and burnt butter over the top.

 

Pork, Ginger And Coriander Dumplings With Garlic Chilli Oil

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I have to remind myself time-and-again to get the kids cooking in the kitchen. It’s too easy to fall into the pattern of – I can do it faster and cleaner – and weeks can go by before I realise they haven’t cooked a thing (apart from toast).

One of our most popular dinners are these pork and coriander dumplings. My ten year old in particular has taken a keen interest in homemade foods and declares that these dumplings are the best! Even better than the ones we eat out in Ashfield – the dumpling capital of the Inner West! (You’ve gotta love ten year olds for their biased enthusiasm).

Rolling dumplings is the perfect excuse to pull up a seat and sit with my son whilst we chat and prepare food together. I actually manage to get more than yes and no answers out of him and we both feel a sense of connection by the time the batch has been rolled. We get a production line going and I tell him once the dumplings are sealed he needs to shape the tops, reminiscent of the sails on the Opera House.

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It becomes an exciting week-night evening when dumplings are on the menu. My daughter takes great pride in setting the table. She lays out Asian placemats, chop sticks, tea cups, sometimes a candle is lit, and there is always a large pot of jasmine tea in the centre of the table.

The most important ingredient here is the pork mince. I only make dumplings when I go to my local butcher and get the pork freshly minced. So please don’t buy your mince from the supermarket, it’s often sat there for days with added preservatives to keep it going (and goodness knows what else other than pork has been minced through it too). Quality always comes at a cost, the cost of giving up convenience. But I am more than happy to do that when it comes to fresh food. And really, we all know free-range and fresh is best.

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Once you have the best mince you can get your hands on, you’ll need a dipping sauce. My preference is always to make a 50/50 mix of Chinese red vinegar with soy sauce, and them add measured amounts of my homemade chilli oil to that (recipe below). The chilli oil stores for weeks and can also be drizzled on all manner of other foods besides dumplings.

You’ll need a big bowl of steamed Asian greens, that I tend to quickly toss with fried garlic and a dash of oyster sauce. And if it’s your preference (sometimes we do, sometimes we don’t) some steamed rice.

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Pork, ginger and coriander dumplings with garlic chilli oil

For the dumplings 

450g free range pork mince

1 tbsp grated ginger

1 tsp grated garlic

2 tbsp chopped coriander stem

1 tbsp soy sauce

2 tsp Chinese red vinegar

1 tsp sesame oil

1 free range egg

large pinch ground white pepper

30 (1 pkt) Gow gee wrappers (available in Asian food stores)

Dipping sauce

equal quantities of soy sauce and Chinese red vinegar

To serve

Steamed Asian greens

Chilli oil

Steamed rice – optional

Place all the ingredients for the pork and coriander dumplings except the gow gee wrappers a large bowl. Mix till well combined.

Lay out 6 gow gee wrappers on a clean bench. Dip a pastry brush in water and lightly wet the outer rim in a circular motion around the pastry.  Place less than a tbsp (more like two heaped tsp) of pork filling in the centre of each wrapper. Fold the wrapper over, and pinch to seal. Sit the base of the dumpling on the bench as you use both hands to crimp the top the pastry into a pinched pattern. Set aside on a clean tray and repeat process with remaining ingredients till all dumplings are rolled.

Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil, gently add the dumplings and stir to keep them from sticking to the bottom of the pot. Boil for 3 – 4 minutes. Drain and place on a platter. Serve with dipping sauce, chilli oil (see recipe below), steamed greens and optional steamed rice.

For the chilli oil 

It’s important here to buy large dried chillies best found in Asian market stores. The larger ones are not as hot as the smaller variety and have a sweeter taste, perfect for this chilli oil.

20g (about 15) large dried red chillies

2 cloves garlic, grated

1/2 tsp salt

1 cup rice bran oil

Place the whole chillies in a bowl, cover with boiling water and soak for 20 minutes. Drain and squeeze remaining water from the chillies, roughly chop them and place in a small blender with the garlic, salt and half the oil, blitz till chilli is roughly chopped.

Pour the chilli oil into a small sauce pan, add the remaining oil and turn the heat to very low, cook the chilli oil on a low heat for at least one hour, stir occasionally. Set aside to cool. Store in a clean glass jar for 4-6 weeks.

Add a drizzle of the chilli oil to the soy and vinegar dipping sauce and lather the dumplings with this.

(C) Recipe and photography copyright 2016 Food From Michelle’s Kitchen

Everyone loves corn fritters

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Lets face it, sweet corn doesn’t win any awards for being exotic – it’s not fancy and it’s not gourmet. But that’s part of it’s beauty – it’s a simple vegetable. In Australia, spring is the season for sweetcorn, and at $1 a cob it makes for budget cooking. And what better dish to make with your cheaply purchased corn? Corn fritters of course.

 

Everyone loves corn fritters – even my kids will eat them. Though, when serving my kids corn fritters, I have to call them “pancakes with corn”, but hey, if it means they eat something with vegetables and don’t complain about it while they’re doing it, I’ll call them anything they want me to.

 

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Why make them?

Because they’re fast and easy.

The cooked corn kernels burst in your mouth like pockets of sweetness.

They taste so good when eaten hot from the pan.

They are light and fluffy and good for a snack.

 

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Back when I could still claim to be a chef (it’s been four years since I’ve worked in a professional kitchen), every cafe had corn fritters on the menu. You could get corn fritters with crispy bacon, corn fritters with spicy chilli jam, corn fritters with smoked salmon and poached eggs… Argh… too many corn fritters. Now days, those repetitive weekends stuck behind hot stoves are just a distant memory. Corn fritters have found their way back into my repertoire. I can even smile while I make them, and eat them.

 

I’ve learnt a thing or two about corn fritters –

1. Use fresh corn, cut straight from the cob.

2.  Whisk the egg whites separately, so the batter is light and fluffy.

3. Use a high ratio of corn to flour, so you actually taste the corn.

4. Cook fritters in olive oil and butter so they get a crispy edge and cook with a golden colour.

 

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Sweetcorn and zucchini fritters – makes about 12 fritters

Ingredients

2 cobs of sweet corn

1 zucchini, coarsely grated

6 green spring onions (scallions), sliced thinly

1/2 cup wholemeal self raising flour

1/2 tsp caster sugar

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp white pepper

2 eggs, separated

50g melted butter, plus extra for frying

1/4 cup milk

Olive oil, for frying

 

Remove the kernels from the cobs of corn, place in a large bowl. Add grated zucchini and sliced green spring onions. Add flour, sugar, salt and white pepper.

 

Place egg yolks and milk in melted butter and whisk to combine. Pour this mixture on to the corn and stir till combined.

 

In a separate clean bowl, whisk egg whites till soft peaks form. Add to corn and flour mixture and fold gently till well combined.

 

Heat a large non-stick fry pan with 1 tbsp oil and 1 tbsp butter. Cook the fritters in batches of four or five. Spoon fritter mix into pan and cook on a low heat till golden on both sides.  You can keep the fritters warm in a low oven whilst cooking remaining fritters.

 

Fritters are best eaten whilst still hot. Don’t know what to serve them with? – try avocado mash and salad.