Monday, May 31, 2010

Lemon Meringue Squares

I looooooove piping stuff. I also have a soft spot for my blowtorch. The piping bag and the blowtorch make a pretty sweet team when it comes to meringue. Kind of like Bonnie and Clyde without all the violence.

Pipe, scorch, pipe, scorch, pipe, scorch. The fire turns the meringue into a toasted marshmallow, the tang of the lemon cuts through the mallow sweetness like a knife through a pillow stuffed with feathers.

I don't really get to pipe many things, mostly because I'm not all that into cupcakes, or cake for that matter, I really prefer tarts or pies or anything that isn't spongy, with the exception of scones of course. I took out all my pent-up piping addiction on this slice, it was grand, good times were had.

The only problem with this recipe was the base. When I was blind baking it in the pan it shrunk, (a common annoying problem) and so when I poured in the lemon filling, the base floated up to the surface like some submerged lemon-sea-monster and the filling only just cooked underneath. I would recommend using a crushed biscuit base (not unlike a cheesecake base) for this recipe, instead of the pastry one. It turned out alright in the end but better to be safe than have a wierd floating base.

Lemon Meringue Squares:
Adapted from The Women's Weekly 'Cakes, Biscuits & Slices'

90g butter, softened
2 tablespoons caster sugar
1 egg
1 cup plain flour
1/4 cup apricot jam

Lemon Topping:
2 eggs
2 egg yolks
1/2 cup caster sugar
300ml cream
the rind of one whole lemon
the juice of a whole lemon

3 egg whites
3/4 cup caster sugar

Preheat oven to 180 degrees C.

Grease base of a 19cm x 20cm slice pan and the two long sides with baking parchment, leaving 2cm hanging over the sides.

Beat butter, sugar and egg in a small bowl with an electric mixer until pale in colour, stir in sifted flour in two batches. Press dough over base of the pan; prick several times with a fork. Bake about 15 minutes or until lightly golden in colour. Cool 20 minutes, spread with melted apricot jam (melt jam in a saucepan over medium heat).

Reduce oven temp to 150 degrees C.

Place lemon topping ingredients in a medium bowl, whisk until combined. Pour lemon topping over the base. Bake about 35 minutes or until set. Cool 20 minutes. Roughen Surface of topping with a fork so the meringue sticks.

To make meringue, beat egg whites in an electric mixer until soft peak forms. Gradually pour in sugar while whisking, until stiff peaks form and the meringue is glossy. Fill a piping bag with the meringue and slowly pipe it in little mounds over the whole of the slice. Scorch with a blowtorch until lightly browned. If you don't own a blowtorch you can place the slice in a 200 degree oven for about 3 minutes or until browned.

Sticky Slow-Braised Pork Ribs

Hey dudes.

How you going? Sorry it's been a while. I've been a bit busy drinking coffee that looks like this...

Ain't it the prettiest cup o' coffee you ever did see? I think so.

As for these...

Maybe lacking a bit in the pretty stakes (?) - feel free to object.

Anyway, it's a rainy Monday evening. And i'm taking you to rib town.

I'm going to poke you in the ribs for every rib you eat. For every sticky, dark, molten meaty rib you slide off the bone.
One rib? Poke.
Two ribs? Poke poke.
Maybe a little tickle thrown in there too. Everyone loves a good rib tickle.

Not that I want you to feel guilty or anything, a finger lick-able sticky rib is a primal right of humankind. Maybe these little piggies were tickled in the ribs and thats why they taste so good. Or maybe it's the plethora of spices and the entire flask of bourbon that was generously poured into the mix. Tickled pigs or not, I was tickled pink by these.

Sticky Slow-Braised Pork Ribs:
Adapted from

Serves 4

1.5kg pork spare ribs, quartered
lime cheeks, to serve

For the rub:
¼ cup olive oil
1 tbs brown sugar
1 tbs salt
1 tsp chilli powder
1 tsp smoked sweet paprika
1 tsp mustard powder
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp dried oregano leaves
½ brown onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

For the marinade:
1 cup brown sugar
250ml malt vinegar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp chilli powder
1 tsp mustard powder
1 tbs tomato sauce
1 tbs BBQ sauce
2 tbs Dijon mustard
125ml bourbon (I used Southern Comfort and it worked very well)
1/2 onion, finely chopped
1 tomato, finely chopped
2 bay leaves
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp smoked sweet paprika
1 orange, peeled rind

Combine rub ingredients in a large bowl. Add ribs to the bowl, using your hands, rub the mixture into the meat to coat completely. Place in a large ceramic dish, cover and set aside in the fridge for 2-3 hours to marinate.

Heat a BBQ or char grill plate over high heat. This step is important to gain that delicious smokey flavour. There is no need to add more oil to the meat or the BBQ as it is already in the rub mixture. Place ribs fat-side up and cook for 3-4 minutes each side or until sealed.

Place cooking marinade ingredients and 1 1/2 tsp of salt in a saucepan and bring to the boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook for about 15 minutes until thickened slightly.

Transfer ribs to a large, non-stick roasting pan and pour over hot marinade. Cover with foil and cook in the oven for 1 hour, turning 3-4 times and basting with the pan sauce each time to coat. After 1 hour, remove the foil so the sauce can thicken and cook for a further half hour. The meat should now be falling off the bone.

Serve ribs with lime cheeks.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Din Tai Fung - World Square, Sydney

I don't know why I think like this, but I always assume that no one really goes into the city other than to work. It's like this semi-annoying labyrinth where it costs $65 to park your car (that's not even a lie, thanks a LOT stupid intercom man) and it's nearly always raining.

I always expect there to be lines at the gold mine restaurants in Surry Hills, Bodega for example, where they stop taking names for the waiting list at 8pm. And don't even try rocking up to The Winery with 20 of your best mates at 7.30 on the weekend.

Therefore, trekking into the city on a rainy Saturday night for dinner, I expected absolutely no one to be there. But of course that was a completely irrational assumption as it was packed to the steel rafters. We wandered around looking for somewhere to eat past the bubble tea vendors and empty clothing stores, lo and behold we ended up at the end of the gourmet rainbow; at a pot of dumpling-dinner-gold that actually exists!

Din Tai Fung proclaims to serve the best dumplings in the world. IN. THE. WORLD. Pretty big claim.

It's true that we were skeptical. Who wouldn't be. But the instant we bit into the pork and prawn freshly-made dumplings and the piping hot broth spilled out from within the perfectly steamed folds, there was no turning back. Dumpling utopia! Next, a bowl of meltingly tender, braised beef noodle soup and cloud-like steamed pork buns rendered us so content that you could have rented us out as fields of daisies, (the bottle of wine may have also have been of assistance).

There is now a new excuse to get out of the Bodega line and into the city. HELL YES there is. Ignore the fact that nearly everyone is wearing a face mask and embrace the warm dumpling love that is Din Tai Fung.

Din Tai Fung
Shop 11.04 Level 1, World Square Shopping Centre
644 George St, Sydney NSW, 2000

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Brussels Sprouts with Lime and Almonds

Brussels sprouts aren't very popular. For years they have been vilified and ostractised everywhere and in every context. Kids who have never even tried them say they hate them because they heard that they were yukky on the Brady Bunch. Or at least I know I did when I was small.

They are like that one person who was invited to the party because the host's Mum said they had to invite them. The one from whom everyone averts their eyes politely and pretends they don't exist. The poor sprouts sit in the bowl on the dinner table with not a friend in the world.

Well that's all about to change. No longer will sprouts be the vegetable that people love to hate. From this recipe on you will love to love them. Gone are the days of boiling away their crispness leaving nothing but grey, sodden balls of flavourless potential. Roast the damn things! Splash them with a bit of lime juice, toss them with a glug of macadamia oil, throw in some almonds and bake the hell out of them! They will change completely, all memories of their previous un-coolness forgotten. All that is left is deliciousness and straight-up popularity. The ugly duckling will henceforth be known as Swan to all the haters out there.

Brussels Sprouts with Lime and Almonds:
an original recipe

serves 4 as a side

10-15 Brussels sprouts
1/2 cup blanched almonds
juice of 1 lime
2 1/2 tablespoons macadamia oil (or extra virgin olive oil)
salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 180 degrees C.

Rinse and trim the bottoms off your sprouts, removing any blemished leaves. Cut each sprout in half length ways and place in a bowl. Add oil, lime juice, almonds and salt and pepper to taste.

Place in a single layer on a parchment lined baking sheet and bake in the oven for 30-40 minutes or until golden brown, stirring once to avoid burning. Squeeze some extra lime over the top before serving.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Portuguese Tarts

There are some things in this world that make me cave in. Things like caramel coloured pups, shiny patent black ankle boots, macadamia oil and good dark chocolate. My new drawing of a giraffe (!) and a nice clean doona cover, $10 penguin classics, baby eggplants and a red wine on the terrace with the heater on. Pens that make my handwriting seem neat, pink nailpolish, liquid eyeliner and custard. Not necessarily in that order.

Custard is the one item on the list that I want to talk to you about today (EDIT: one quick side note about me new ankle boots, YUM!!). Portuguese custard tarts are something that I find nearly impossible to stand up to. If Amy and I are out to coffee and we spy these babies behind the glass case... they won't be there for long. I always try to resist them because the last thing I want is to grow sick of them, but Amy is pretty persuasive. She asked me to make them and I said yes before she could even finish the word Portuguese.

A rather interesting recipe courtesy of Bill Granger via Not Quite Nigella. The assembly of the pastry cups is a bit odd and I have never come across a similar method when making pastry cases, but clearly there is a mastermind behind Bill's madness because wow were they crispy. If there were ever a recipe to make store bought puff pastry more puffy, he has found it.

There is absolutely NO excuse for this tart to be sad. Maybe it's because we ate two in a row and he knew he was next. Unfortunately I don't know, I don't speak Portuguese.

Portuguese Tarts:
Adapted from Bill Granger via Not Quite Nigella

3 egg yolks
0.5 cup (115g) caster sugar
2 tbsp cornflour
230ml cream
170ml Milk
2 tsp Vanilla Bean Paste (or vanilla extract)
1 sheet store bought puff pastry
cinnamon, to dust

Lightly grease a 12-hole 80ml muffin tray.

Put the egg yolks, sugar and cornflour in a pan and whisk together. Gradually whisk in the cream and milk until smooth.

Place the pan over a medium heat and cook, stirring, until the mixture thickens and comes to the boil. Remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla paste. Transfer the custard to a bowl, cover the surface with cling film to prevent a skin forming and leave to cool.

Preheat the oven to 200C.

Cut the pastry dough sheet in half, put one half on top of the other and set aside for 5 minutes. Roll up the pastry tightly from the short end and cut the pastry log into 12 x 1cm rounds. Lay each pastry round on a lightly floured surface and use a rolling pin to roll out until each is 10cm in diameter.

Press the pastry rounds into the muffin tin. Spoon the cooled custard into the pastry cases and bake for 20-25 minutes, or until the pastry and custard are golden. Leave the tarts in the tin for 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Dust the tops with cinnamon before serving.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Apple Tarte Tatin

This tart is my new obsession. I have made it three times in the last two days and I could go on in this manner until I morph into a toffee apple. It is so delicious that you will absolutely not be able to stop yourself eating half the entire thing and spending the next 20 minutes chewing on the little toffee drips left over in the pan. I have clearly been wasting my time on scones when all I should have been doing is caramelising apples and tucking in puff pastry as if I was swaddling a little apple baby.

The sugar must be dark and molasses-like, caramelised to just before burning point, the slight bitterness of the sugar is actually great paired with the soft and gooey, chewy apples. Baking the tart upside down ensures a light, flaky and cripsy crust that you dont really get with normal tarts. Just don't forget that the whole pan had actually been in the oven and try to pick it up with your bare hand, Ouch.

Apple Tarte Tatin:

3 Pink Lady apples
1 tbs lemon juice
½ cup caster sugar
20g unsalted butter, chopped
1 Ready-rolled puff pastry sheet
Cream, to serve

Preheat oven to 220ÂșC.

Peel apples and cut them into quarters with the cores removed. Cut each rounded side so that it has a "flat"side. Toss the quarters in a large bowl with the lemon juice and 1 tablespoon of the sugar.

Using a 20cm oven-proof frying pan as a guide, cut pastry into a round slightly larger than the pan. Melt the butter in a 20cm non-stick frying pan over medium-high heat. Cover with the remaining sugar. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring the pan occasionally to spread around any dark spots that appear, until a rich caramel forms (about 4 mins).

Place apple quarters into pan, rounded side down, arranging them around the pan. Cut remaining apple to fill any gaps. Cook the apples over medium heat for about 5 minutes until caramel is bubbling, shaking the pan occasionally to prevent burnt spots. Lay the pastry over the apples, tucking any protruding edges around edges of pan.

Place the pan in the oven, cook for about 25 minutes, or until the puff pastry has risen and cooked. The pastry should be dry and flaky. Stand tarte in pan for 10 minutes before carefully turning out onto a serving plate, this will ensure that the apples stick to the pastry. Serve with cream.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

White Truffle Popcorn

I've mentioned this popcorn before, Jonah's at Whale Beach showcased this fantabulous idea at Taste of Sydney earlier on in the year and I haven't been able to get it out my mind ever since. The scent of buttery truffles seemed to have wiggled it's way into my subconsious whispering "maaaake meeeeeeeeeee or elseeeeee" so for once I listened to the voices in my head and truffle buttered the hell out of some popcorn.

Truffles are something that you either love so much you could drench everything you eat with it, or something you absolutely can't stand. Ed think's it smells like detergent, (I nearly fainted when I heard that little remark). I was lucky enough to be given some fresh black truffles from work - aparently no on else wanted them? - I happily tucked them inside my lunchbox and whisked them off home to experiment with a plethora of dishes; Black Truffle and Mushroom Risotto, Truffled Butter Beans with Grilled Snapper and finally this popcorn (using white truffle oil instead of the fresh black ones), all of which I will post at a later date. For now you can all chow down on an incredibly morish pre-dinner snack, and FYI it does NOT smell or taste like detergent, it smells like heaven.

White Truffle Popcorn:
Inspired by Jonah's at Whale Beach (although I just made up the recipe)

25g unsalted butter
1 tablespoon white truffle oil
3/4 cup popping corn kernels
sea salt

Melt half the butter with half the truffle oil in a large pan over medium heat. When the butter has melted, pour in the popping corn and put the lid on. Keep the lid on until the kernels have stopped popping (about 3 mins) and pour into a heat proof bowl. Melt the remainder of the butter in a pan and mix with the remaining truffle oil. Pour over popcorn and stir to coat with a wooden spoon. Add sea salt to taste and serve.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Lemonade Scones

Scones mesh into a hell of a lot of occasions. They fit snugly on a tiered high-tea platter amongst the smoked salmon sandwiches, slightly overlooked beside the more glamorous options. They sit tall when stuffed with pumpkin or a sharp cheese, blueberries or raspberries. They go down extremely well with a cup of tea at the cricket at half time (the boarding school I went to used to host afternoon tea in the dining hall at half time on the weekends, we used to sneak in before the parents and leave through the back door laden with about six jam and cream scones before anyone noticed).

They may be eaten for breakfast or morning and afternoon tea. They can be dense, light, rock hard or soft. There is no end to the versatility of these simple little mounds of bread. When they rise properly it should be easy to pull them apart at the waist into two perfect halves.

My Grandma was staying with us for a week and asked me to make her a batch of the most light, delicate, gorgeous lemonade scones, the likes of which she had tried at a party once. No pressure or anything…

The winner in this recipe is the lemonade. It’s comforting to know that flour, lemonade and cream, three simple ingredients, will create a ball of the softest dough in the world. I don’t think you will find any baby’s bottom out there that is as supple. These scones might not be fancy; alas they are not spiced with exotic elixirs from Nicaragua, but they are a far cry from ordinary. I wouldn’t drown these in jam and cream, I would bust out your best butter, as to not mask the true, delicious flavour of the scones themselves. This recipe wins the short and sweet award hands down.

Lemonade Scones:
a recipe from an old boyfriend's mother

1 cup lemonade
1 cup pouring cream
3 cups self raising flour

Preheat oven to 220 degrees C.

Mix all ingredients in a bowl until a soft dough forms. Place on a lightly floured bench top and roll out with a lightly floured rolling pin to about 3cm thick (depends on how large you want your scones). Cut out rounds with a cookie cutter and place on a baking tray lined with parchment. Lightly brush the tops of the scones with milk and bake in the oven for 15 minutes or until golden brown. Serve warm.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Georgie's Raspberry Creme Brulee

This here is a recipe for the most delicious creme brulee I have had in a long while. I was invited over to the house of two gorgeous friends; Rach and Georgie. Rach has recently turned the non-gluten corner and Georgie has been looking out for yum gluten free recipes so Rach can eat something other than rice. The dinner was spectacular; a silky, lemony, whole cooked eggplant salad followed by this magnificent, slightly coconut scented desert. I admit that yes I had to unbutton my shorts halfway through plunging my spoon into its creamy custard belly.

There are not many cooking utensils that give quite as much joy and satisfaction as the blow torch. It is a very addictive process, firing up the sugar so it melts and crystallises to form the requisite snap and crunch of a golden toffee crust. I could literally spend hours making sure every single sugar crystal was melted to caramelised perfection, probably inhaling about half the contents of the butane can in the process.

The creme brulee is intensely rich, although the pocket of fresh raspberry cuts through the richness with a fresh zing. Coconut mellows into the background without trying to stage a coup on the raspberries. The combination is irresistible.

Note: I have recently joined twitter, mainly to see what the fuss is about. You can find me at @sophmccomas

Georgie's Raspberry Creme Brulee:
Thanks to the talent of the gorgeous Miss Georgia Wilson

600ml cream
3/4 cup sweetened condensed milk
1/4 cup coconut milk powder*
1 tablespoon cornflour
3 egg yolks
1 cup of raspberries, extra for top
brown sugar for toffee crust

Spoon a tablespoon of raspberries into the base of 6 creme brulee ramekins.
Combine cream, condensed milk, coconut milk powder and corn flour in a heavy based saucepan. Stir continuously over a medium heat until the mixture is smooth and starts to thicken.
Once the mixture is thickened, remove from heat and instantly beat in egg yolks.
Pour mixture, over the raspberries, into the ramekins.
Top each with a few extra raspberries and sprinkle with brown sugar.
Refrigerate until you are ready for dessert! Just before serving use a brulee torch to melt the brown sugar and serve.

* sometimes quite hard to find at the supermarket... usually with the asian ingredients. Coconut cream powder also works.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Chocolate Dipped Mandarin Florentines

David Lebovitz is a pretty rad guy.

Not only is he a world renowned desert and pastry chef, specialising in chocolate, but he has written no less than six cookbooks (one entirely about ice-cream! cue damsels fainting in awe all over the town). Better yet, he lives in Paris! And writes the most fantastic blog where he doles out tips on the best knives to buy, the best food markets, restaurants, cafe's and patisseries in Paris, and the most wonderful florentines in the world.

Florentines bought from bakeries are more often than not, the size of your face. It is a commendable feat to finish one up in a single sitting. Therefor I present to you a completely radical idea.... The Bite Sized Florentine. Don't freak out, I know it's different and a little strange sounding, but I promise you will like them. I also promise you will eat one every time you walk past the bowl.

I didn't have any oranges on hand, so I used mandarin zest instead. I was really pleased with the result, mandarin season is a grand time of year, the zest is a little something different than plain old orange. Make sure they are thoroughly browned through or they will not be crispy, and they must be crispy.

Chocolate Dipped Mandarin Florentines:
Adapted from David Lebovitz's blog

1 large egg white, at room temperature
1/3 cup icing sugar
1 3/4 cup blanched sliced almonds
a good pinch of flaky sea salt
grated zest of half a mandarin (washed)

Preheat the oven to 300F (150C).

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and brush very lightly with neutral vegetable oil.
In a bowl, mix together all the ingredients. Keep a small bowl of cold water and a fork near where you're working.
Dip your hand in the cold water before lifting each portion of almonds, and place heaping tablespoon-sized mounds of the batter evenly spaced on the prepared baking sheet.

Once you've covered the baking sheet, dip the fork in cold water to flatten the cookies as much as possible. Try to avoid having many gaps between the almonds. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes, until the cookies are golden brown. Exact time will vary based on how large your cookies are. The authors recommend lifting the bottom of one with a metal spatula to check and see if they're cooked through. If they're not brown across the top and bottom, they won't be agreeably crispy.

Let cookies cool, then lift with a thin metal spatula and place them on a cooling rack until crisp.

To coat one side with chocolate, melt a few ounces of chopped dark chocolate in a clean, dry bowl, stirring until smooth. Use a brush or metal spatula to coat the underside of each cookie with a thin layer of chocolate. Let cool in a cool place or the refrigerator until firm. Once firm, store Florentines in an airtight container at room temperature.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Cheddar Cheese Sables

By now i'm sure you are all painstakingly aware of my love for all things cheese. Well I'm thinking I might have to alter that statement a little so it doesn't include all things cheese. My love definately does not have room for cheese in a can that's for sure.

Who invented this stuff! And who the heck eats it? I bet there are people out there who spray this stuff straight from the can into their mouths. I shudder at the thought. Us folks (the puppy and me) here at Stovetop, like our cheese a little more....real?

These thin, crispy and slightly spicy little bites of cheese are such an explosion of flavour that you may fall over, so please eat them sitting down, prefferably very close to a nice glass of McLaren Vale Shiraz Grenache (the magazine is rubbing off on me), and the weekend Sudoku.

I found it very hard to step away from this bowl, my mum had been begging me to make them for ages since they are so expensive in the shops and we have them at least every week. Of course it would be cheaper to grab a bottle of Easy Cheese..... gag.

Cheddar Cheese Sables:
Adapted from

1 1/2 cups finely grated extra sharp Cheddar cheese
55g unsalted butter, softened and chopped.
3/4 cup plain flour, plus more for dusting
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon crushed red chilli flakes (crush them with a mortar and pestle)
1 tablespoon milk

Preheat the oven to 170 degrees C.

In a food processor, pulse the cheese, butter, flour, salt and red pepper until it resembles coarse breadcrumbs. Add the milk and process until the dough comes together into a ball, about 10 seconds.

On a lightly floured surface, using a lightly floured rolling pin, roll out the dough until it is about 2mm thin (the thinner the better because the biscuits do puff up in the oven). Press out the sables using a small, round cookie cutter. Transfer the sables to a parchment lined baking sheet and prick each one twice with a fork.

Bake the sables in the middle of the oven for about 15 minutes or until lightly golden brown. Cool on a wire rack before gorging yourself.