Saturday, February 27, 2010

The choc chip bickie adventure begins...

One of my quests in life is to make the perfect chocolate chip biscuit. And I'm not there yet. But boy is it fun trying. I've tried my mum's version, with cocoa, raisins, nuts and chocolate - too fudgy, too intense. I've tried the Kitchy Kitchen's with pulverised oats - too flat, too much mixture. I've tried some of Joy the Baker's peanut butter choc chip cookies - again flat and I'm not sure about the peanut butter. The recipe I return to again and again is from a church cook book. The recipes in there are all family friendly as they are made by mums who are busy running after hoards of children. They need to work, and they need to work fast.

So these bickies almost cut the mustard. I would like them a little thicker. But not too thick, and not too chewy or too dry either. Tough, I know. This week I have been inspired to whip up these ones again after buying what was purported to be a home made choc chip cookie to have with a coffee. The cookie crumbled, literally. Simply fell apart when I ate it and messed up my shirt. Now surely I can make a better biscuit than that!

Want to come on a choc chip biscuit making quest with me? Hurrah!

Chocolate Chip Biscuits
Makes 36 or so

1/2 c brown sugar
1/2 c white sugar
125 g butter or margarine
1 tsp vanilla essence
1 egg
1 3/4 self-raising flour
2 c chocolate chips

Pre-heat oven to 180* C. Line two baking trays with paper.

In your mixer, cream together sugars and butter. Mix together until light and fluffy, around five minutes. Add the vanilla essence and mix briefly. Add the egg and mix to combine. Sift in the flour, mix briefly to just combine. Stop the mixer, add the chocolate chips and combine with a wooden spoon.
Place the mixture into the fridge for 30 minutes to harden slightly. Place drops of dough onto the prepared baking tray, around 2 cm in diameter, evenly spaced. Bake in oven for 8 - 12 minutes, it really depends on your oven. Some of mine have taken only 8 minutes, others I've needed to rotate the trays and cook for up to 12 minutes.
Remove from oven, cool on tray for 5 minutes. Remove to a wire rack and cool. Repeat cooking process as needed. Store in an air-tight container for as long as they last.

Monday, February 22, 2010

This little pigy went to market...

Off to market we went, exploring the joys of the Vic Markets on a cold Saturday morning. Yep, despite it being summer, it was cold - as it always is at the markets. Apparently the markets were build on an old cemetery, so you could think of the cold as the spirits blowing up unsettled from the ground. Or rather it is an open space that the fresh wind rushes through.

Now these markets are great. There is the usual souvenir rubbish, most of which is made the China. Then there are live ducklings and chicks, rabbits and goldfish. There is an organic vegetable section, a few covered pavilions of the freshest fruit imaginable, a deli hall, eels and muscles in the fish section, a food court and a few stalls that sell bratwurst. Delicious! I think I will get one for lunch...

As previously mentioned, the fella went nuts with pork. He found a leg selling for $5 per kilo. What he was to do with it, I'm not sure. He wants to master the roast, and is always hankering after some crackling. But I convinced him that what we should make is a slow cooked vindaloo, with the bone added for flavour. Spices, marinating the flesh, slow cooking to produce tender falling apart meat, hot rice and lots of left overs. He agreed and spent considerable time dicing the meat. What a star!

To make your own delicious vindaloo a pork leg is not necessarily needed. I've made it with beef, you could try chicken on the bone also. And the bone is not particularly needed, but I love the wholeness of cooking with the bone, and I imagine that it imparts considerably more flavour. Whether it actually does is another story for another day.

Pork Vindaloo
Serves 6

1 kg pork diced, plus pork bone
6 cardamom pods, crushed to remove seeds
1 tsp peppercorns
4 dried chillis
1 tsp cloves
1 stick cinnamon
1 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 tsp ground turmeric
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp fenugreek seeds
4 tbs white vinegar
2 tbs brown vinegar
oil - a good splash
2 onions, sliced
3 cloves garlic, sliced
5 cm piece ginger, sliced
400 g tin whole tomatoes
4 red chillis, chopped
2 tbs brown sugar

Combine the spices - cardamom, peppercorns, dried chilli, cloves, cinnamon, cumin, turmeric, coriander and fenugreek - and blend until somewhat ground. I use a heavy mortar and pestle, but you could use a small food processor. Add the vinegars to the spices and pour this fragrant mix over the meat (don't worry about including the bone at this stage). Mix it together well, cover and refrigerate. Marinate for at least 6 hours, but but to 2 days. The longer the better.

Heat the oil in a large pan over medium heat. Add the onions and cook until lightly browned. Add the garlic, ginger, tomatoes and chilli. Stir to combine and cook until fragrant. Add the pork with its marinade, increase the heat to high and fry to seal the meat. Reduce the heat back to medium, add 250 ml water and return to the boil. Add the brown sugar and pork bone. Cover the mix, reduce the heat to low and simmer for a few hours, stirring occasionally.

To serve, discard the bone, pour over rice and add a dollop of natural yoghurt on the side.

Adapted from A Little Taste of India published by Murdock Books.

Friday, February 19, 2010

To market, to market

Being back in Melbs has changed my cooking priorities. Cold weather plays a part. The variety of produce is overwhelming. Costs are lowered. But mangoes are expensive. And Asian greens are not in abundance. But the Victoria Markets are just down the road!

With the fella, I've had an adventure to the markets and loved it. Stocked up on pulses for slow-cooked winter stews. Bought an abundance of stone fruit, which is my absolute favourite. The fella was won over by an incredibly large leg of pork. And I couldn't resist the rhubarb.

Mmm, rhubarb. How I love it. It is pink. It has leafy greens at the top (poisonous though). It is tart. It is wintery and loves a slow cook.

This is one of my favourite ways to cook the stuff. Does it really need a recipe? Not particularly. Serve with muesli or porridge for breakfast. With custard or billowing cream for dessert. Or as pictured with berries and figs. Luscious.

Slow-cooked rhubarb
Makes c. 8 serves.

1 bunch rhubarb
1 - 1 1/2 c sugar
Zest of 1 lemon

Pre-heat oven to 190 * C.

Wash and trim rhubarb. Cut into 3 cm lengths Place in a large shallow baking dish. Sprinkle the sugar over followed by the lemon zest. Using your hands, mix the deliciousness together.

Cover the baking dish with foil and bake for 1 hour. Remove from the heat and keep covered until cool. The residual heat of the rhubarb will cause the mixture to sweat and make a thick syrup. Once cool, decant to a suitable fridge container and store until ready to eat.

Adapted from Nigella Lawson's Feast.