Monday, 9 December 2019

It's All about Christmas In My Kitchen



Here in Tropical North Queensland, our verandahs and patios become as much a part of our kitchen and eating area as our inside kitchen does. We spend a lot of time outside in our outdoor kitchen. So I thought as part of my In My Kitchen series for Sherry's Pickings, it was appropriate to showcase my latest orchid which is flowering in my outdoor kitchen. I had moved it to the front garden to hang under our mandarin tree, hoping that aspect would encourage it to flower and it has. However it is a sad part of life that passers by take a fancy to beautiful flowering plants in pots and walk off with them. Fortunately this hasn't actually happened to me but it has to other keen gardeners in our neighbourhood so I'm not taking any risks.. So my beautiful purple Vanda Pachara Delight is now brightening up my outdoor kitchen.

During the last couple of weeks, I have been preparing for Christmas. Christmas cooking has become a tradition for me each year, and most years as a minimum I  prepare a large pot of mango chutney, a large Christmas Fruit cake and a Plum Pudding. My dear Mum used to be the provider of all of these Christmas goodies each year, and whilst I really enjoyed the results, I regrettably couldn't be there to  be involved in the preparation. She also kept chickens, baked bread and preserved her own chutneys and relishes in abundance. However thankfully she handed down her recipes to me, and I have become her I think in some ways, not as good a cook perhaps, but taking on the same simple values. She was a wonderful role model for me, and each year as I spend time in the kitchen, and embrace our Christmas traditions, I think of her, and I also hope that I continue to be a good role model for my children as well. Because I have already shared the recipes for these goodies on my blog, I'll just share a few new photos and the links to the recipes for new readers. I am rushing to meet the deadline so that I can submit this to Sherry's Pickings In My Kitchen series. Heck, I've just realised I have until the 13th December, a reprieve, so that's good at least I've started and have a week to finish this. (Written a few days ago.)

It's mango season and it looks like it will be a good crop. Last week I was out picking green mangoes with a friend for the annual batch of mango chutney.

Here's moi picking mangoes
These are the unripe (very green)  Common mangoes collected sustainably from trees in a nearby park, peeled, ready to be chopped for the chutney.




A pot of Mango Chutney on the outdoor gas burner, simmering away for this year's edition of mango chutney. Here is my Mum's recipe if you would like to give it a try. It is delicious. I made 15 jars from this batch, I haven't labelled the jars yet so a photo of them would be pretty uninteresting.




My Mum says in her Christmas cake recipe if a spoon will stand up in the mixture, it is the right consistency. I love that old fashioned wisdom now. And in this photo, this is her original tablespoon used in all of her cooking, standing up in the mixture.


Here's the cake in her original very large Christmas cake tin,  ready to go into a slow oven. It cooked beautifully and I am still adding a little rum to it occasionally for preservation purposes of course. If you do look at my Christmas Cake recipe, I triple the amount of Rum these days. I think it must have been on ration when these recipes were written, ha, ha. In my recipe post link, I have cooked the mixture in smaller cakes for gifts, however it also works very well in a large square baking tin.


My plum pudding fruit mixture is still soaking in brandy on my kitchen table, with the newly acquired bottle of reasonably priced JP. Cheney French brandy sitting besides it for frequent topping up. I'll let it sit for about four days and then make the mixture and boil it. Here is the original recipe if you would like to take a peek. I have never deviated from this recipe as we all just love it, although this year I am making half the mixture as it will be a small family Christmas, the smallest for a long time.



Then at the end of a long cooking or working day, what could be nicer than a relaxing cup of Lavender Latte for a change. I first saw this promoted on Not Quite Nigella's amazing blog where she made a beautiful lavender, blueberry and lemon cake using this in the ingredients. I haven't made the cake yet even though I was intrigued, but I bought a couple of packets of the latte mix and it will be added to Christmas presents this year. I love Lavender, however we can't grow it well here.






Every year at Christmas we buy a bottle of Baileys Original Irish Cream, not the copycat stuff, as this  was a Christmas tradition for Mr. HRK's Dad to buy each year. So we have it already in the kitchen, and we will make a toast to him as we sip a wee glass of Baileys after Christmas lunch and Dinner.


Mr. HRK roasts his own green coffee beans, and this batch are an Ethiopian bean called Yirgacheffe Special Prep. Here they are freshly roasted and waiting to be put in the coffee grinder for our morning cup of coffee. Our Rancilio coffee machine makes a delicious cup of coffee from these beans.





We are not really Coffee Snobs, this is just the name of the Australian company that gives us the best service and we can buy our beans very economically and sustainably through them. The beans arrive in zipped cotton bags, and I am thinking of converting these bags into beeswax wraps. Not pretty but quite frugal, don't you think?

When we need a second cup of coffee during the day we are now making a plunger coffee with our newly purchased plunger. Why buy instant when we can use our own coffee grinds in the plunger?




Yesterday, my day was turned upside down, in a good way really, when we realised that our beehive was ready for another honey extraction. Our local bee expert paid us a professional visit to advise Mr. HRK on a couple of things, and when the hive was opened it was obvious that the bees have been working very hard, despite the dry weather and all of the frames were full of honey comb. So Mr. HRK and I scraped the frames during the morning in the garage, strained the honey throughout the afternoon in the kitchen, and then started bottling last night. The photo below is some of the frames which have been scraped of comb and honey are ready to put back in the hive. Mr. HRK has just put them back in the hive this morning. So my kitchen has been the centre of our cottage industry honey operation since yesterday. We don't have a licence to sell honey as that gets complicated so some of it will be Christmas presents.Thankfully most of the work is now done and I have time to write this. Phew!



This is a tub of beeswax straining through a stocking, waiting to be melted down and purified in the slow cooker.


Next thing,  I need to prepare some sourdough for our next loaf of bread in a couple of days. But first I need a nice cuppa.

Best wishes

Pauline



Wednesday, 4 December 2019

Golden Almond, Pear, Raspberry and Maple Cake

Cakes are healthy too. You just eat a small slice.
- Mary Berry


This is a Matt Preston upside down cake recipe, which I found in his book, 187 recipes that will make you incredibly popular. That would be really nice Matt. I've already made the Burnt creamy cheesecake out of this book, and that made me quite popular at the time, and I think this cake might as well, it's a keeper. I'll be making it again.When I saw the recipe, I felt a cake challenge coming on as it steps outside my comfort zone, with ingredients like almond meal (no flour at all), oat bran,  canned pears, and frozen raspberries or fresh if you can get them. Then I discovered it has also been published online for Delicious magazine, albeit a couple of variations to the original printed recipe which I compared and then came up with this recipe. Once I managed all of that I decided it would perfect to bake for yesterday's afternoon tea and I'm so glad that I did,  as it was my turn to host Tuesday Mahjong.  Gosh it comes around quickly.

Yesterday was the hottest day we have experienced in Mackay for some time. At 36 deg. C and with the Mahjong ladies arriving at 1.00 pm the air conditioning was turned on for the first time and Mahjong was played in our lounge room. There were just four of us yesterday so we played for 3 hours, just stopping for afternoon tea and cake, and everyone won a couple of games  so it was a very enjoyable afternoon. We really moved into the Mahjong zone. Mr. HRK was the perfect barista on duty, and drinking his espresso coffee flat whites adorned with coffee art, and eating cake in the airconditioning was a treat. Do yourself a favour and make this cake, it exceeded my expectations and was delicious. And it was cinch to make. It is half fruit and half cake and the frozen raspberries make it blush unashamedly. I wasn't expecting so much colour. I couldn't find any fresh raspberries in the shops here this week, otherwise I would have served it with fresh raspberries as well and they would have made the photo even more attractive. Never mind, it tasted great.

Let's Cook:

Ingredients:

Serves 8-10 but only just as they will want two helpings

100 ml light olive oil, plus extra for greasing the cake tin
2 tablespoons good quality authentic maple syrup
3/4 cup (125 g) brown sugar (or white)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup (100 g) almond meal
1/2 cup (75 g) oat bran
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
350g of canned pear pieces, weight of fruit after draining the can (or two large poached pears)
40-60 g frozen raspberries, or fresh if in season ( I used 60 g frozen for this one, hence the blushing colour. 40 would be fine)
creme fraiche, ice cream or mascarpone to serve

Let's Cook:

Preheat the oven to 180 deg. C. fan forced
Lightly grease the sides and the bottom of a cake pan or loaf tin with olive oil or oil spray, approximately 30 cm x 12 cm, and line the sides and bottom with baking paper. (I used my large loaf tin which is these exact measurements that I bake my large loaf of bread in.)

In a large bowl combine the maple syrup, sugar, olive oil, vanilla and eggs.
Stir with a spoon or whisk until well combined.Stir in the salt, almond meal, oat bran, baking powder and cinnamon.

Dice 150 g of pear into small pieces and stir it through the cake batter.

Cut the other 200 g of pear into small wedges and arrange on the bottom of the pan in a row. (This might already be done for you in some brands of canned pear, it was for me.)






Scatter the raspberries into the cake pan and pour the batter on top.



Place in the preheated oven and bake for 40 minutes.

Remove your cake from the oven and leave it to cool for about 10 minutes. Run a  knife around the inside of the pan.

Place a serving plate or board over the pan, turn it upside down on your bench, and gently remove the pan. Because of the baking paper it will slide out easily.



Remove the baking paper.



Serve the cake warm or cold on its own, or with creme fraiche, mascarpone, or with ice cream if it is for dessert. I thought it tasted really delicious when it had cooled down on the kitchen bench with creme fraiche. Even plain Greek yoghurt as a healthier alternative would be delicious served with it.

To my blogging readers, keep cool in the Southern Hemisphere, and warm and dry in the Northern Hemisphere.

Warm wishes

Pauline








Saturday, 30 November 2019

Making our Beeswax Wraps the Easy Way

Life is the flower for which Love is the Honey:-
Victor Hugo



Our beehive and bees are doing well although Mr. HRK feels it might be ready for a new Queen quite soon. As the hive swarmed to our backyard sometime over the last Christmas period, and we don't know how old the Queen was then, we are calling in a professional beekeeper next week to give us advice. Meanwhile we have harvested two lots of honey, which is a lovely flavour and a nice colour, all of the first batch and some of the second has been gifted to friends and family, and we have made two lots of beeswax from the honeycomb. We have just made a small batch of beeswax wraps as a starter and we're researching the best way to make beeswax candles. Making and using beeswax wraps is just one way I can reduce the amount of plastic usage in our home and change the footprint that we leave on this earth. If you would like to catch up on how we moved our beehive and extracted the honey, my previous stories about this can be found at these links: Part One, Part Two, Part Three.

This is the story about our first attempt at making beeswax wraps, and overall we are happy with them. They wrap well, wash well, cling well to whatever they are wrapping, and firm up nicely in the refrigerator without cracking. However I feel there is still room for improvement in our tropical climate, as when folded and stored in a drawer they become  just a little bit sticky. If they are left to hang up with the air circulating around them they are not as sticky. Perhaps I need to store them in the refrigerator, I am open to advice on this my friends if you have made some already. I was inspired by the story that I read on Going Grey and Slightly Green, where Nanna Chel the talented blog author, attended a Beeswax Wrap making demo in Toowoomba, Queensland as part of a War on Waste workshop.  I have basically used the same recipe that the workshop presenter Suanne from Green Dandelion in Toowoomba  presented at their workshop.

However  Suanne said that achieving the perfect beeswax wrap consistency can be tricky. You are telling me Suanne. The wax coating needs just the right amount of stickiness to grip, and just the right amount of flex so that it does not crack when moulded. She also emphasised that the type of beeswax you use can make a difference.  Our remaining Beeswax after extracting all of the honey needed to be rendered. Mr. HRK boiled it in water to purify it, and the beeswax then floated to the top as it cooled. I think our beeswax is very good quality, with no additives at all, as Mr. HRK boiled it down beautifully, in water, and it came out looking pure and golden. It also brought a lovely, slightly sweet and gentle aroma to the house, very similar to a beeswax candle burning.

Rendering our Beeswax
Below is the circular disc of beeswax after rendering waiting to be stored. It will still need to be processed further before it can be used. In the photo you can see a dead bee that has been caught up when the honey was being extracted. Throughout this process, unfortunately it is inevitable that a few bees will be stuck in the honey.




The only ingredient I needed to purchase to make the wraps was the Pine Rosin which is the ingredient which helps the wraps to stick and wrap better which after all is what they are meant to do. After some research, I purchased my Pine rosin online from Ballina Honey in New South Wales. I bought 400g of Gum Rosin Powder (Colophony, Pine Resin), for $26.00 plus $4.00 postage, from Ballina Honey, and it arrived within the week packaged in a brown paper bag (no plastic), in a sealed envelope. However if you want to give making beeswax wraps a try, I believe that premixed bottles of beeswax, coconut oil, and resin are available for sale at the Green Dandelion in Toowoomba, Queensland,  and no doubt at other places all over the world.

Firstly I bought some good quality cotton fabric (synthetic doesn't work) at Spotlight and washed it. Then we cut the fabric into squares using pinking shears to reduce frayed edges. In addition you will need a medium sized glass mason jar, Beeswax, coconut oil or you can use olive oil, avocado, argan or jojoba oil and the Pine Rosin. We used a solid glass Mason jar in a saucepan, and a small unused paint brush,  and double boiled the ingredients to mix and melt the ingredients together. Now there are several ways to make the wraps. You can do it in your kitchen oven at 150 deg. heat on a paper lined baking tray. Pour some of the melted beeswax onto the fabric and using a silicon brush or the back of a dessert spoon, spread the wax over the fabric. It doesn't need to be even as the oven will do the rest of the work for you.
My friends, the normal kitchen oven method isn't the method we used, oh no no no, not us,  as Mr. HRK wanted to be involved and suggested we process the fabric and beeswax in the barbecue outside on our patio. Part of the rationale behind this was to remove any risk of making a mess in our kitchen which I saw as valid, being our first attempt and the whole thing a bit of an unknown. So we melted the beeswax ingredients in a glass mason jar in a saucepan of water on the gas burner right next to our Barbecue, and brushed the beeswax onto the fabric on a large piece of granite leftover from our kitchen renovations. Hows that for innovation and further recycling eh? The thing is that all cottage industries, and projects completed at home can be changed to suit the people and layout involved. So here's how it went.

Tools laid out and prepared by Mr. HRK.



Beeswax recipe for making Beeswax wraps:

There are various ways to measure out the ingredients needed:

The Basic Ratio is 1 part Pine Rosin (2 heaped tablespoons)  to 4 parts Beeswax (8 Tablespoons) if you melt the beeswax first. Then add about 1 tablespoon of coconut oil ( or you can use Argan Oil, Olive Oil, Avocado or Jojoba), This is enough to make quite a few wraps, depending on the sizes you prefer.
If you want to start small and test if it works for you, the following is exacting and is enough to cover one piece of fabric measuring 25 cm x 25 cm. Just increase the amounts for the amount of fabric you wish to use:
  • 17 g beeswax
  • 5 g Pine rosin
  • 1/2 tablespoon coconut oil
Preheat the marble in the barbecue to about 150 degrees.

We placed the Pine Rosin, the Beeswax, and coconut oil in a mason jar in a saucepan of water and waited for it to melt. When melted, we turned off the gas, but left the jar in the saucepan so that it would stay liquid.



Meanwhile fabric was measured and cut by Mr. HRK with my orange dressmaking pinking shears.






Place fabric on the preheated piece of granite, and when the beeswax has completely melted, use a spoon and drizzle the mixture evenly over the fabric. Then using the paint brush or basting brush, spread the mixture quite thick and evenly over the fabric, including the edges and corners. If you put too much on, it will just stay on the granite after the wrap is removed and soak into the next one.



Leave the wrap on the granite or in the oven if you are using for about 2 minutes to reheat.This will also melt out any bumps or clumps. Remove wrap from the warm granite or oven tray and hang up to let set and to dry.

Here's our first Beeswax wrap hanging up to dry on a wire hanger on our patio. Looking good.



Another beeswax wrap featuring bees is finished.


Just continue with this process until all of the beeswax is used or you can store it with the lid on for later.

It's a wrap, and covering a bowl as it is meant to do, instead of Glad Wrap.



A few tips for using them:

To use beeswax wraps,  wrap up cut up fruit and vegetables, lunches including sandwiches and bread rolls, and use them to cover your plates and bowls.
To wash them, use a mild detergent in cool water. Pat them dry with a clean tea towel and dry them in the fresh air.
These aren't suitable for the dishwasher, the microwave, or the washing machine.
Better not to use them for covering raw meat.
Keep them out of direct sunlight, such as on the washing line.

Using Beeswax wraps is a different concept to what we have been used to with plastic. This is our first attempt at this and went well considering. I would love to hear from you if you have any other tips or tricks or experiences with them, and we are keen to make some more. If I am making the next lot on my own without Mr. HRK's help, I might try making them using the oven method.

When you have enough of these for your household use, they can also be incorporated into a gift and used as wrapping paper.

Thanks for dropping by,

Best wishes

Pauline



.

Monday, 25 November 2019

Ratatouille, Chicken, and Halloumi Traybake

"It's not how much we give, but how much love we put into giving."
Mother Teresa


This traybake ratatouille is based on a healthy Mediterranean combination of vegetables, and is my go to when I have fresh eggplant and capsicums on hand. I cook it a lot. I've added chicken fillets to the original vegetarian ratatouille recipe here, however just serving the vegetables and halloumi with a grain such as Burghul or brown rice is delicious for dinner. This dish is so versatile and can be served warm or cold, and also makes a simple  packed lunch.   I only ever use eggplant purchased from the farmer's market, or which is gifted to me or grown in our garden, as it must be fresh to avoid the bitterness which develops with age. Of course it can be salted to remove the bitterness if necessary, but that is another step.

I love a  tasty Traybake, so easy if you are cooking for friends or family, and not much cleaning up afterwards.

Let's cook:

Ingredients:

Serves 4

3 chicken breast fillets, each one sliced into 3 pieces
225g halloumi cheese, cut into 8 slices
2 capsicums  ( 1 red and 1 yellow) if you are impressing guests, but two red will work, deseed these and cut into chunks
250 g eggplant ( about 1 medium sized eggplant) cut into chunks
1 medium peeled onion, cut into 12 wedges
3 tablespoons Extra Virgin olive oil
2 Australian garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
Handful fresh basil leaves, torn or sliced thinly, plus extra to serve
1 x 400g can chopped tomatoes
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

Let's cook:

Preheat the oven to 220 deg. C fan forced, or 200 degrees C.

Place the  onion, capsicums and eggplant in a shallow baking dish. Add 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and season with sea salt and ground black pepper. Toss everything together with your hands and arrange into a single layer in your baking dish.

Add the sliced chicken fillets (9 pieces)  throughout the vegetables ensuring the chicken is covered with the vegetables. Bake for 25 minutes. Take the dish from the oven, and if needed turn the vegetables and chicken over, then cook for a further 5-10 minutes until softened and lightly browned. Sometimes I eliminate this step if it looks ready for the next step.



Remove the dish from the oven, carefully stir in the basil, dried oregano, garlic and can of tomatoes.
Arrange the halloumi on top, drizzle with the remaining oil, and season with more ground black pepper and return to the oven for a further 15 minutes. Remove from the oven when the halloumi is hot and lightly browned.

This recipe is adapted from the The Fast 800 Recipe Book which is based on low-carbohydrate Mediterranean style recipes, by Dr. Clare Bailey and Justine Pattison. If you make the vegetarian version of this without the chicken, you can pat yourself on the back that it is only 321 calories.That leaves plenty of room for treats later with Christmas on the horizon. Also different vegetables such as zucchini or cauliflower or broccoli could also be substituted. I'm all for using what I have on hand in a traybake. This is such a versatile recipe and so delicious, and Mr. HRK doesn't even notice that it has eggplant in it. Another of my recipes with eggplant working undercover and absorbing beautiful flavours.

It would also be delicious, served with the Rosemary and Garlic sourdough Cob bread from my last post.

Hope your week is going well and that you enjoy this simple recipe.

Best wishes

Pauline






Saturday, 23 November 2019

Roasted Garlic and Rosemary Pull apart Sourdough Bread

"There is no sincerer love than the love of food"
GEORGE BERNARD SHAW



The aroma from a sourdough cob loaf, fresh from the oven can only be improved upon by adding long sprigs of rosemary,  and roasted garlic and butter and reheating it a day later. I had all of the essential ingredients to make this after I had made three loaves of sourdough bread the day before, and the cob loaf had turned out beautifully. I had locally grown Eungella garlic, a large rosemary bush growing in our garden,  a couple of bush lemons in the crisper from a friend's lemon trees, and all of the other ingredients which are staples in my pantry so it was meant to be when I saw this recipe in the monthly edition of the Mindfood magazine. My goodness it is so good to be alive and to be able to enjoy this Mediterranean taste sensation, made from sustainable local produce and simple homemade bread, however a bought artisan cob loaf would still taste great and do the trick.

My bread making day seems to have evolved into Thursday, sometimes fortnightly, which means we have nice fresh bread for the weekend. I hate wasting any of the sourdough, despite what my recipe says,  so often I end up making more bread than we need.This means a loaf goes into the freezer sliced, and I can also play around with making a cob for fun and experimenting. This cob and the subsequent rosemary garlic bread has been a  fun thing to do, with a very tasty result. Beware my friends, breadmaking can become quite a passion.

I adjusted the ingredients in this recipe to suit a single cob,  when catering for my family, however just double the ingredients for two cobs or more if you are entertaining friends. One cob easily feeds 10 people for a dinner party as a side to the main meal.  In my books you can't have too much garlic or rosemary flavour so add a bit more to this if you like it as well. Next time I will add two sprigs of rosemary to each incision, as I have so much of it growing here. However just three sprigs per loaf still infuses the loaf with an amazing flavour.

My sourdough is turning out really well at the moment, thanks to the warmer weather I think, so this version of garlic bread was delicious. I am using my homemade creation of a banneton, the basket used by artisan bakers for making cob loaves. I will invest in a real banneton at some point. However at the moment so that the bread will keep it's shape whilst it is rising, I use a round cane basket, originally a Christmas basket, line it with a thick tea towel dusted with flour, cover it with a clean shower cap to keep in the heat and moisture, and then cover it with another tea towel and rise it in the morning sun. If you haven't seen my rye sourdough recipe, you can find it here.  For a cob loaf, I often replace half of the rye flour with white breadmaking flour so that it is lighter.

Here is my garlic rosemary cob loaf straight out of the oven and heading for the dinner table. Remove the rosemary, place it on a nice serving board, slice it up and enjoy.



 Ingredients:

1 garlic bulb
1/2 tablespoon sherry vinegar
1/2 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 large cob sourdough loaf
75g  butter, softened
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
3-4 long rosemary sprigs
salt for seasoning

Let's cook:

Preheat your oven to 200 deg C (180 deg fan forced). Place the garlic bulb on a thick sheet of foil, you might need two sheets to prevent leakage.

Drizzle the garlic with the sherry vinegar and oil and then season with salt.

Wrap the foil securely around the garlic, then place on a baking tray and place in the oven. Roast for 20 minutes, or until garlic is tender. You could bake two garlic cloves to use in something else or just add more to your bread if you love it.

Meanwhile, make three incisions along the top of your cob loaf, being careful not to slice all the way through.  Place your loaf on a lined baking tray.

Wait for your garlic to cool off slightly so as not to burn your fingers, and then squeeze the roasted garlic cloves out of their skins, into a small bowl.They will just pop out.

Add the butter and lemon zest and mix to combine.

Spread the garlic butter into the incisions in the bread, and press in the rosemary sprigs.

Season pepper and sprinkle some salt flakes or Himalayan salt across the top of the cob.

Increase the oven to 220 deg. C (200 deg C fan forced). Bake your beautiful loaf for 10 minutes, until crisp and golden on the outside and delicious on the inside whilst the aroma permeates your whole house.

Thanks for dropping by, and I hope you have a great weekend doing whatever you have planned.

Best wishes

Pauline













Thursday, 14 November 2019

Basque Burnt but Creamy, Creamy Cheesecake


This cheesecake is the signature dish of the La Vina restaurant in San Sebastian, located in the northern Basque country of Spain. Whilst most locals know this as the epicurian region of Donostia,  famed for it's pintxos, pronounced "Pinchtoz", a kind of tapas, this cheescake is the signature dish of the La Vina restaurant, located in the narrow alleyways  of the old town of San Sebastian .

Recently a friend of mine holidayed in San Sebastian and ate Burnt Basque cheesecake which she said proudly, tasted just like the one she  makes quite regularly from this recipe in Matt Preston's COOK BOOK of 187 recipes. He says in the book he was given the recipe by the owner of the La Vina restaurant, Santiago Rivera, and after a few tweeks he is happy that this cheesecake tastes just like La Vina's masterpiece, and is unlike any cheescake he's had anywhere else in the world. The surface is glossy dark, and yet inside is creamy and soft. You are allowed to burn it just a little bit. It's a winner my friends.

When I think of beautiful San Sebastian, I think of food of course, as I attended an incredible Basque Cooking Masterclass there five years ago with my daughter Miss S. She is now Mrs. S. It was held by SSF San Sebastian Food in a fully fitted out underground kitchen. Mr. HRK decided to climb hills and take photos instead.  Miss S and I had an amazing time, we loved it,  and were the only two in the class, such fun. I've just found the recipe book from the class again, called the Basque Cooking Masterclass and am feeling inspired to cook another dish from the class in the not too distant future, so stay tuned for that. Here are a couple of photos taken at our Spanish cooking class.

This is the beautiful Miss S. in the foreground doing some preparation with one of our chefs cooking in the background.




The temperature rose in the kitchen when our chef started to flambe prawns in whisky. They were delicious.



Below is an authentic San Sebastian pintxos, named The Gilda, one of the most famous pintxos ever. It appears on every bar in San Sebastian and was named after Rita Hayworth's title character in the 1946 film. The ingredients are Anchovy fillets, green pitted olives, guindilla or pickled green peppers, eaten with toothpicks. We made some of these at the cooking class. Then I made them a few months after we returned from Spain and they were delicious. The Gilda recipe didn't make it to the blog so I should rectify that.


Basque Burnt Cheesecake

So here I have an amazing and very easy authentic Spanish cheesecake recipe for you to try on the weekend, if you feel like spoiling yourself with something soothing and not so sweet. Honestly it doesn't taste too sweet at all and is a cinch to whip up, doesn't need too many ingredients, and has an interesting story attached, don't you think? I love it, and I know you will too.

Ingredients:

600 g cream cheese, at room temperature
4 large range free eggs
300 ml double cream
260 g sugar
3/4 tablespoon flour

Let's cook:

Preheat your oven to 220 deg. C. Line a 23cm springform cake pan with baking paper, ensuring that the paper is at least 3 cm above the tin. The cake will rise like a souffle during cooking.  Don't be too disappointed when it falls, it still looks and tastes great.

Leave the cream cheese out of the refrigerator the night before if you think of it, otherwise just let it lose it's chill so that it mixes up quickly. Beat the cream cheese in the bowl of your electric mixer until it is smooth and creamy. Add the eggs one at a time, incorporating each one into the cream cheese before adding the next one.

Meanwhile in a separate bowl combine the cream, sugar and flour. When all the eggs have been added to the cream cheese by your mixer, add the cream mixture and beat until your mixture is smooth and lump free. Ensure the cream cheese at the bottom of your mixer bowl is completely mixed in.

Pour the mixture into your lined cake pan and bake in the preheated oven for 35-40 minutes. The cake will still be wobbly in the middle but if a skewer inserted through the middle comes out clean the cake is ready. However if it is cracking slightly across the surface, it should be cooked.

Now here's the interesting thing. Your cheesecake should have an authentic, glossy brown Basque crust on top looking slightly burnt, but be careful not to let it burn.

Remove from the oven and leave to cool before removing it from the cake pan.

The cake is best eaten on the same day of making it. However the next day after being refrigerated, leftovers still taste amazing.

To serve:

I served the cheescake with chopped strawberries macerated for a few hours in balsamic vinegar. A delicious contrast of flavours. Apologies I have no photos of the finished product with strawberries, I was just keen to get it to the table and forgot about a photo. Next time.

Thanks for dropping by,

Best wishes

Pauline


Sunday, 10 November 2019

Reviving the Prawn Cocktail, drizzled with Marie Rose Sauce



  When done right, a Prawn Cocktail is the perfect starter for Christmas lunch or dinner or anytime. Combining a delicious seafood sauce named Marie Rose with a small salad of crunchy Iceberg or Gem lettuce, it might be a bit retro from the 1970's, but it is still one of the most delicious ways to serve freshly cooked prawns, a perfect Summer starter. On a hot Saturday, when cooking wasn't appealing at all, I revisited this dressed up prawn salad. Whilst it is traditionally served as a first course, it can easily be upgraded to the main event by adding a few more prawns, some fresh oysters if you love them like I do, and a little more salad as your base. I am fortunate to have access at this time of year to delicious locally caught prawns, however it doesn't matter whether the prawns are small or large. I sliced my larger prawns into three for easier eating.

This delicious Marie Rose sauce is the secret to a memorable prawn cocktail. Nigella Lawson says that the Marie Rose sauce originating in England, is the same as the Thousand Island Dressing, however the latter is the condiment spread on the Reuben sandwich, whilst Marie Rose is traditionally served with the Prawn cocktail. It was invented by British cook Fanny Cradock, but who was Marie Rose, I am still searching.

The legendary Margaret Fulton, back in 1968 in her signature Cookbook, suggested serving a seafood cocktail with 2 chilled oysters, and 1/3 cup cooked prawns, drizzled with cocktail sauce. I prefer to eat my oysters separately au naturel with just a squeeze of lemon juice rather than in the cocktail,  and 1/3 cup of prawns just doesn't seem enough anymore, however it depends on how many you are catering for I suppose, and the cost and availability of prawns. I allow 3-4 prawns per person and added four oysters on the side for good measure. Mr. HRK detests oysters, his aversion matches my passion for them, all the more for me I say. So I gave him a couple of extra prawns to compensate.The appealing thing for me about this dish besides it's deliciousness, is that no cooking is involved, the sauce can be prepared up to 3 days in advance, the salad prepared in the morning and the prawns shelled the same day as well. Just assemble, adorn and eat. It's that simple, enjoyed with a nice chilled white wine of course.

Prawn Cocktail:

Serves 4

1/4-1/2 of  a freshly washed crunchy, and chilled Iceberg or Gem lettuce, sliced thinly
1 Lebanese cucumber halved lengthways,  seeds removed, and sliced thinly across
16 prawns
12 fresh oysters if you like them

Marie Rose Seafood Sauce:

This is my recipe for Marie Rose Sauce which I often make well in advance allowing it time to chill and the flavours to infuse.It can also be served in a bowl as a delicious sauce to accompany a seafood platter.

Serves 6 easily

Ingredients:

1 cup (300g) whole egg mayonnaise
2 tablespoons Tomato Sauce or Ketchup
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice (definitely not bottled)
2 teaspoons Lea & Perrins Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon ground paprika

Method:

1. Combine the mayonnaise, tomato sauce, lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce and paprika in a small bowl or a decorative mug, if you are serving it on the side for a seafood platter.

2. Cover and place in the refrigerator to chill. This sauce recipe will keep covered in the refrigerator for a couple of weeks.

If it is hot weather, I place my serving glasses in advance in the refrigerator to chill as well.




Assembling your Prawn Cocktail;

Fill your serving dishes 3/4 full with lettuce and sliced cucumber.

Top the lettuce with the chopped prawns, and drizzle over enough sauce to cover the prawns. Sprinkle very lightly with a little more ground paprika.

Add a sliver of lemon to the side of the glass, and a wedge on the plate, and add an edible flower for some extra adornment if you wish. My nasturtiums are in flower so I added one of those to each glass to match the prawns.

Thanks for dropping by and please stay safe away from bushfires if you are an Aussie.

Best wishes,

Pauline