Archive for September, 2010

Macaron mayhem

I should really stop posting about macarons, but I can’t help myself. This week I made macarons to sell to the general public, which is something I’ve been trying to do for a while. I finally found a place to sell them (Providore at Adelaide Central Market), and it has been all systems go since then. I made 1200 macarons (well, 1200 good macarons, quite a few extra that didn’t make the cut or got eaten) which means minimum 2400 individual shells. This was the first time I have done anything like this, I have learnt a few lessons already:

  • It is much harder to make 1200 macarons than 30 (sounds obvious right)
  • It takes a dogs age to seperate over 200 eggs
  • It takes a dogs age to sift kilogram upon kilogram of almond meal and icing sugar
  • It takes a dogs… I really could go on like this
  • If I opened a pattiserie I would eat my weight in desserts every day
  • If you take a slightly fuzzy photo it’s really easy to pretend you’re actually doing something with macarons rather than posing

The final product ended up looking rather snazzy with the addition of a brightly coloured label.

Having said that, I wish I had taken a photo of a box that didn’t have a broken red macaron in the bottom left corner.

I had a really positive response to the macarons, which is a good incentive to make some more. Thank you so much to everyone who came along, and to those who live interstate or couldnt make it, there will always be a next time. I’ll post again in the next couple days about something non-macaron related I promise. These are my peanut butter macarons (I also made chocolate, pistachio and beetroot, weird but good).

The glorious (but short lived) season of peas and beans

There’s something quite realxing about podding your own peas and beans. One of my favourite jobs when I worked as a kitchenhand was to pod peas, I could just turn on the radio or watch the chefs work and plod away. Before I knew it I would have enough peas to feed a herd of elephants (we often had elephants eat in the restaurant) and I could move on with the next task. This time of year, not only are peas at their best, but so are broad beans, borlotti beans, sugar snap peas, and snow peas. Sweet and crisp, I think they taste great on their own or with a little cooking you can turn them into something special.

To continue with my central market blogging, I had a chat to Bill Howison from House Of Organics, I even convinced him to hold a box of broad beans and hold still for a photo.

Bills bean/pea advice:

  •  When buying, fresh beans should snap when you bend them, the pod should be firm and crisp
  • Keep your peas/beans in the crisper, and not in a plastic bag (mine were given to me in a paper bag)
  • Fresh vegatables are generally far superior to a frozen product, but frozen peas are actually very good as they cook so quickly, but fresh peas are delicious raw.

My advice:

  • Don’t buy broad beans out of season, just don’t.
  •  This family of vegetables have a natural sweetness, and pair brilliantly with salty ingredients, such as bacon, or the goats cheese I have used below
  • Overcooked peas/beans discolour and turn mushy- which some people like but I much prefer them cooked quickly, brilliant green and retaining some texture.

 



One of my favourite dishes I cooked in the competition was the chicken and pea assiette I cooked in the finale, scoring straight 9’s from the judges. The dish can be seen at  http://www.masterchef.com.au/the-finale-gallery.htm photo 10/23

This risotto was a bit of an experiment, as usually if making a risotto with peas in it, they would just be stirred in at the last minute. I thought it would scream september if I instead made a pea puree and made the whole thing green! I would like to hear what you think. This recipe would also work if you just want to stir in whole peas at the end, and some crispy pancetta or other cured meat would be a nice addition. It is a great vegetarian meal also, you just would need to substitute chicken stock for vegetable stock. If using bought stock, try and use the salt reduced stuff, as otherwise with the addition of goats cheese and pecorino the dish can become too salty.

Ingredients:

  • 300g peas, podded weight (or frozen)
  • 100ml cream
  • 1L chicken stock, boiling
  • Handful of podded broadbeans
  • 2 shallots, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, diced
  • 1 T olive oil
  • 2 T butter
  • 1 cup arborio rice
  • 100ml white wine

To serve:

  • 100g fresh goats cheese
  • basil leaves or pea shoots
  • pecorino cheese, grated

Method:

  1. Make the pea puree: Bring cream, peas and about 50-70 ml of the stock to the boil, then immediately transfer to a blender and blend for a minute or so until well pureed. Pass through a fine sieve and cool quickly over an ice bath (so the pea doesnt overcook and discolour). Reserve
  2. Bring a pot of water to the boil, chuck in the broad beans and blanch for one minute. Transfer beans to a bowl of ice water, then squeeze out of their light green skin- this technique is called double podding and is a good idea as the outside skin can be acidic or bitter.
  3. In a large pan sweat the shallots and garlic with the olive oil. When cooked but not coloured, add the rice and the butter and agitate the pan to coat the grains of rice in the melted butter. Deglaze with the wine and cook until reduced. Add two ladelfuls of the stock and cook on a medium heat. Whenever the stock reduces around the rice, add another ladelful. Don’t leave the risotto while it’s cooking, as you need to make sure the liquid doesn’t evaporate completely. The rice will take around 20 minutes to cook, if you run out of stock you may need to use more or you can use boiling water.
  4. When the rice is almost cooked, stir through the broadbeans. When the rice is cooked quickly stir through the pea puree, cook for another half minute or so to reduce the cream and stock in the puree, then serve immediately with the cheeses and basil/pea shoots.

September, Spring and the Sentral Market! (Hmmm…)

This month I have the opportunity to be the guest blogger for the Adelaide Central Market. As a market lover it was an offer too good to refuse! Hopefully I’ll be able to post a few useful recipes and tidbits for this fantastic (if a little wet) month of September! We are just at the start of Spring, so we are beginning to say goodbye to all those Winter vegetables, and hello to all those wonderful leafy greens, asparagus, peas, broad beans. Also, lamb is at its best at this time of the year.

Good Food and Wine launches this week, so I thought what better way to kick off than a post about cheese, one of my favourite things to eat (and it pairs rather nicely with wine).

I had a chat with Vanessa Wood of the Smelly Cheese company to get some ideas from someone with far more expertise than I.

 

Vanessa’s cheese tips:

  • Buy only as much cheese as you need- buy smaller pieces, more often.
  • In order to fully appreciate cheese, leave at room temperature for at least an hour before eating, this is especially important for softer cheeses!

My cheese tips:

  • You don’t have to buy a whole heap of different cheeses; I think three on a board is great. The best way to start is with a mould-ripened, a blue and a hard cheese.
  • I like to have cheese with good bread or water crackers, any flavoured biscuit will detract from the cheese. Pears and apples are great and in season at the moment, so having some slices on your cheese platter is a good idea. I’m a sucker for dried apricots. Grapes are good but not so much at this time of the year. Quince paste goes well with cheese, but I was once told that you only need quince paste if the cheese is crap!
  • Don’t be scared off quality cheese by the price tag. Sure, $60/kg sounds expensive, but considering you probably don’t need any more than 100 or 150 grams, $6- $9 is pretty good considering it will be far better than any pre-packaged stuff at the supermarket.
  • If you are enjoying a cheese platter, eat the milder cheeses first (fresh, mould ripened), as hard or blue cheeses will completely overpower your palate and you wont be able to taste the more subtle milder cheese.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask questions! Who knows the cheese better than the people selling it. Good cheese shops will let you try cheese before you buy it.

I have always been a big cheese fan but my knowledge about cheese left something to be desired. Fortunately during the competition I spent a day with cheese expert Will Studd, and I not only ate my own weight in cheese but also picked up some handy cheese-releated information.

This was the only photo I could find of the day, despite the photo I assure you I was really interested in what was going on!

One of my all-time favourite cheese recipes is really something very simple, and is a pasta inspired by one of my childhood and current heroes, Jamie Oliver.

Ingredients:

2/3 cup pine nuts

2/3cup good olive oil

Juice and zest of 2 lemons

Bunch parsley, leaves picked, shredded

100g Parmigiano Reggiano, grated

100g Pecorino, grated

Flake salt and freshly cracked black pepper

1 packet of good quality dried tagliatelle or your favourite pasta (or make your own- but that’s a recipe for another day)

Method:

  1. In a mortar and pestle pound up half the pine nuts to a paste. Stir in olive oil, juice and zest, parsley, the two cheeses and remaining pine nuts. Taste the mix, it should have a nice acidity as when the cheese melts it will mellow the flavour. If necessary balance the taste with more cheese, oil or juice. Transfer to a metal bowl over a bain-marie to heat gently.
  2. Boil a big pot of salted water and cook the pasta to al dente’. Drain the cooked pasta and toss through the warmed cheese mixture to coat in the cheesy sauce. Add a little of the pasta cooking water if you need to loosen the sauce. Serves 4

Don’t forget to get into the Market through September for your chance to win an exclusive tour with George and Gary from Masterchef. ‘Like’ the Adelaide Central Markets on Facebook to stay up to date with Market activities and promotions.

You can also follow me on twitter (@callumskitchen) or facebook (callum hann)