Thursday, February 17, 2011

Scrambled eggs and tomatoes

I have 4 little notebooks of recipes. Looking back at my first notebook, the very first recipe that I wrote in it was this scrambled eggs and tomatoes recipe. This was the first recipe that I asked my mum to teach me as I knew it would be the easiest to learn. It’s a popular humble home style Chinese dish. It’s pretty much just scrambled eggs with tomatoes, it's very simple to cook but tasty. I love the acidity coming from the tomatoes and flavour the springs onions give to the dish, seasoned with a little fish sauce (I think I add a bit of fish sauce to everything!). 

Olive oil
5 eggs
3 tomatoes, roughly diced
2 cloves crushed garlic
1 sprig spring onion, finely diced
1 teaspoon soy sauce
2 teaspoons fish sauce
ground white pepper

Whisk the eggs with the spring onions and soy sauce.

Heat up some olive oil in a frying pan and add in the garlic and tomatoes, and stir fry for a bit. Cover the tomatoes for a few minutes until they soften. 

Then add in the eggs and stir fry until you get the consistency of scrambled eggs, season with salt and fish sauce.

This dish goes well with some fluffy steamed rice.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Portuguese Piri Piri Style Chicken

My first experience of piri piri chicken was from Nandos. It used to be a take away treat at home, my dad would buy a whole Nandos piri piri chicken and we would eat it with steamed rice.

I haven’t had Nandos in a while but I love the taste of piri piri chicken, which is basically chicken marinated in a hot chilly pepper marinade.

I researched how to make piri piri chicken and the most recipes contained some oil, garlic, chillies, salt, pepper and an acidic element such as lemon juice or vinegar which adds some tanginess and also tenderizes the chicken. Some recipes add various other flavourings, spices and herbs.

I wanted to make my own rendition of piri piri chicken.  I listed all the different ingredients that I had come across in piri piri chicken recipes, intending to add bits of each element in and taste to get my desired result. Here are the results, I ended up putting in a little bit of everything. 

Mix of chillies to desired hotness (2 long red chillies, 2 habenero chillies, 2 birds eye chillies)
5 cloves garlic 
2cm piece/~ 1 teaspoon ginger
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
2 teaspoons ground sweet smoked paprika 
½ teaspoon coriander
1 fresh bay leaf, torn
½ cup fresh parsley
1 tablespoon fresh oregano
3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
100 ml olive oil
1kg of chicken pieces with skin (mix of thigh, wing, drumstick)

Preheat oven to 180C. Slice the chillies in half and deseed, then place them on a roasting tray and roast for 10 minutes. Cool and roughly chop.

Place the chillies, garlic, ginger, salt, pepper, ground paprika, ground coriander, bay leaf, parsley, oregano, lemon juice, red wine vinegar into a blender, and blend until everything is finely chopped. With the motor still running, add the olive oil in a thin stream and blend until the mixture forms a puree/smooth paste.

Spread the paste over the chicken and marinate for 4-5 hours in fridge.

Take the chicken out of the fridge half an hour before cooking to bring to room temperature.

Preheat oven to 200C. Brush a roasting tray with olive oil to grease. Place the chicken pieces skin side up on the tray and roast for 25 minutes until the chicken is golden and cooked through. 


Chicken could also be cooked on the barbecue.

The chicken was wonderfully tender, due to the addition of acidity from lemon and vinegar.

I tasted the marinade before marinating the chicken and I felt that it would be ok. The end result was delicious! This probably isn’t a true piri piri chicken recipe, it’s a mash of everything that I found on piri piri chicken and it worked!

Monday, February 7, 2011

Bourke Street Bakery, Sydney

On my trip to Sydney last year I was very excited about the Bourke Street Bakery. I had read and heard so much about this place. It has become famous for its artisan bread, pastries, cakes and tarts. It is considered one of the best bakeries in Sydney and is also nationally recognised as an awesome bakery. For many foodies travelling to Sydney, the Bourke Street Bakery is definitely on the list of places to visit.

There are bakeries everywhere nowadays but a real good quality bakery is a rare find. They are few and far between.

I can bake cakes, muffins, biscuits and I do an alright shortcrust pastry but this is the extent of my baking. I haven’t tried baking bread yet and the thought of making puff pastry freaks me out. You can generally save your cooking in some way by adding some more ingredients or seasoning here and there. If you are making a pot of soup, it doesn’t matter if a little less celery is included or an extra onion is included, you will still have a pot of soup. This sort of adjustment does not apply to baking, not enough butter or too few or many eggs can result in complete failure. Baking requires accuracy. With a baked good, once you have put it together, it may be a batter or dough, and pop it in the oven, there is no turning back, there is nothing else you can do about the outcome but wait until the baking time has passed and just hope that it turns out ok…has my batter been sufficiently creamed? did I under or overmix? did I under or over knead?...

I recently read Michael Ruhlman’s The Making of a Chef: Mastering Heat at the Culinary Institute.  The chapter titled ‘Thermal Death Point’ detailed the experiences at the Culinary Institute of America’s baking skill development classes and during the class the bread baking skills instructor, Chef Coppedge would say “Dough is alive until we bake it. Steak has no opinions. This has an opinion until we bake it.” Coppedge could tell if dough had been properly mixed by the sound it made in the mixer. He told the class to mix dough not by direction but rather by “looking at it, feeling it and hearing it.” The chapter discloses how baking presents much more of a challenge than cooking and it can be a cause of much frustration for people. 

I am happy to pay for someone else to undergo all the stress that can come with baking and provide my with bread, baguettes, sourdough, croissants and danishes etc. because baking is a science, you can’t really wing it. Not to mention that professional bakers would have to be up at insane hours of the morning to get baked goods ready for service. Hats off to that!

As we walked to the Bourke Street Bakery I felt like a kid going to a candy store. Walking along Bourke Street, passing so many beautiful old terrace houses, I was constantly asking my friend “are we there yet?” 

When we arrived there was a bit of a queue, but luckily the line moved fast. I was quite surprised at how small the bakery was. There were some window tables inside and a few tables along the street against the walls but I think you would have to be extremely lucky to ever get a seat at this place considering how popular it is.  

I went to the Bourke Street Bakery with pretty high expectations so I would have been easily disappointed. 

I was not disappointed, I was a happy camper. Everything I ate was delicious. I bought a lamb, harissa and almond sausage roll, and a vanilla brulee tart with strawberry puree. When one of my friends went to line up for a coffee, I snuck back into line and got a chocolate mousse tart. 

The most outstanding aspect for me was the pastry. The puff pastry for the roll was extremely light, full of buttery goodness, puffy and flakey. The short crust party for the tart was buttery, crisp and crumbly. The fillings were also amazing. The harrisa lamb almond combination was delicious, packed with flavour and texture from the almonds and currants. The custard for the vanilla brulee tart was delicate and the caramelised top and strawberry puree on the bottom of the tart provided unity. The chocolate mousse tart was luscious and velvety, and I loved the addition of fine chocolate cake crumbs on top.

I was so impressed by the Bourke Street Bakery that when I got home, back to Perth, I bought the book and to my delight there are recipes for everything that I consumed and more, much more. I will be working my way through this book. I have started off with something relatively easy, a carrot cake. You can see the results here.

Bourke Street Bakery on Urbanspoon

Carrot Cake

Recipe from the Bourke Street Bakery: The Ultimate Baking Companion

I have baked a carrot cake before but this one is definitely more delicious. There is a nice balance of different spices and the right amount of walnuts and carrots within the mix. The cake has a very light texture and the incorporation of the egg whites provides a crisp meringue like top on the cake. 

My mum liked this cake so much she asked me to bake another one, she told me that it was the best cake that I have ever made.

To make an awesome carrot cake...all you need is a good recipe. See below.

70g walnuts
150g self-raising flour
1/8 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 baking soda
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teapsoon ground cloves
1/8 ground nutmeg
¼ teaspoon salt
55ml eggs whites (around 2)
60g caster sugar for egg whites
1 egg
1 egg yolk
160g caster sugar for egg yolks
170ml extra light olive oil
125g carrots, peeled and grated

Cream cheese frosting
20g icing sugar, plus extra for dusting
20g butter, softened
145g cream cheese (preferably Neufchatel) I used Philadelphia.
40ml pouring (whipping) cream (35% fat)

Preheat the oven to 200C. Grease an 18cm round cake tin and line the base and side with baking paper.

Place the walnuts on a baking tray and roast for 4-5 minutes, or until lightly toasted. Cool and cut into thirds. Sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, spices and salt into a bowl. Repeat to ensure that they are evenly mixed.

In a bowl (or electric mixer), beat the egg whites on high speed until soft peaks start to form. Slowly pour in the sugar for the egg whites, being careful not to overmix – the meringue should reach soft peak stage. 

In a bowl (or electric mixer), beat the egg and egg yolk with the sugar for the egg yolks. Mix on high for 3-4 minutes, or until the mixture doubles in volume and is quite airy. Continue beating and slowly pour in the oil in a thin stream being careful that it doesn’t split or deflate too much.

Gently fold in the flour mixture into the egg yolk mixture until just combined. Fold it the carrots and walnuts. Quickly and lightly fold in the meringue – do not fold it through completely, you should still be able to see streaks of meringue through the mix. 

Pour into the prepared tin and bake for 1 hour and 10 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean. You may need to drop the oven temperature to 180C after the first 30 minutes if the top is browning too quickly. (I baked my cake for approximately 55 minutes).

Meanwhile, make the cream cheese frosting. Cream the icing sugar and butter until pale and smooth. Add the cream cheese in small amounts, allowing it to be completely incorporated before adding the rest. Scrape down the side of the bowl during this process to ensure even mixing. Add the cream and mix until smooth, being careful not to overmix at this stage or the cream may curdle and separate. In the book, it says that if a different type of cream cheese is used, you may need to add a little more cream  - the frosting needs to be of a spreadable consistency but not all runny. I used Philadelphia cream cheese and it worked fine.

Remove the cake from the oven and allow to cool in the tin for about 30 minutes before turning it out onto a wire rack to cool completely. Using a serrated knife, slice horizontally through the centre of the cake to form two even-sized layers and fill with cream cheese frosting. Dust the top of the cake with icing sugar to serve.