Sunday, January 30, 2011

Caramel Sesame Snaps

Toward the end of August a couple of years ago, in a windowless/kind of horrible dorm in Positano on the Amalfi Coast, we were sitting on the balcony with a group of other travellers having a beer or two and chatting before dinner, if you have ever done the backpacking thing you will know what kind of chat I mean; "so where are you from? How long are you traveling for? Where are you off to next? Oh you're from Australia! Do you keep Kangaroos as pets there? How much could I buy one for?" A little boy once tried to convince me that you couldn't live in Australia because "it's too sandy there."

Anyway, this hodge podge group of people and I got talking about Movember and how ridiculous everyone looks with moustaches. Now I don't know why I said this, maybe because many-a-beer drastically interferes with the filter between my brain and my mouth, but I started to giggle and blurted out "you know what they have in Australia for girls instead of Movember? FANUARY! No bikini waxes for a month! haha!"


I tried to say I was joking, which I was, but no dice. Their first impression of me went down like a lead balloon. I thought it was so funny! Clearly not funny (to some people), just gross. Ed was so embarrassed he nearly jumped off the balcony. I wish I had a bag of these snaps to shove in their dropped jaws at that moment. It wasn't pretty.

In Australia, and other places I'm sure, sesame snaps are passed off as a health-food. They are stocked in the supermarket near the muesli bars and nuts, even though they hold about as much nutritional value as a toffee apple. If you tried to pass them off to the Europeans as a healthy snack, you would stumble through a minefield of dirty looks. It's rude to say something is healthy when it's not, not dissimilar to mentioning fannies in public. So I added caramel to the title of this post, because it's true; you're not getting healthy, you're getting a sugar hit, and a great one at that. The only silence I want to hear from you is the moment when you taste these... because they are astonishingly crispy, caramelized and wonderful. A good foil in case you ever embarrass yourself in front of a huge group of strangers. Keep some in your pocket at all times.

Caramel Sesame Snaps (aka Benne Wafers):
Adapted from The Wednesday Chef

makes approx 20 snaps

1 1/2 tablespoons of cool (but not cold) butter
1 cup brown sugar
1 egg
2 tablespoons plain flour
1/4 teaspoons sea salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup sesame seeds

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C.
Cream the butter and the sugar together in a medium bowl with an electric mixer until all combined, light and fluffy. Add the egg and beat until the mixture is smooth. Add flour, salt and vanilla extract and beat on low speed until combined. Stir in the sesame seeds so they are evenly distributed.

Spoon 1 tablespoon drops of mixture onto a parchment lined baking sheet, space them about 4cm apart, they spread a lot. Flatten them with a knife dipped in iced water. Bake in the oven for 6-15 minutes until they are flat (they puff up a bit before smoothing back out) and golden brown, a little darker around the edges. Pull the parchment straight onto a wire cooling rack and cool for 5 minutes to ensure they crisp up.

As soon as they are cool store in a sealed container, or they become soft. Now that I think about it, these would be lovely crushed over roasted peaches.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

One Year Wiser

I completely missed the one year anniversary of this little space inside the World Wide Webby!

Happy birthday Stovetop, here's to another season of The Sophie, Her Friends and Their Stomachs Show.

Thank you all so much for reading. If this is your first browse around, or if you are one of the few who have been here since the first whiff of butter, you da best, I loves yuh.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Sage and Basil Pesto

Growing things from seed is a little more complicated than I thought. Remember when I told you I was growing cherry tomatoes from seed and promised I would fill you in on their progress as I reaped the millions of tomatoes they would produce? Well if they had grown heavy with a great crop you wouldn't have heard the end of it, but guess how many the plants managed to squeeze out... 

Three measly little fruit.

There isn't much you can do with three cherry tomatoes except pop them straight into your mouth. It was a pathetic effort. The same thing happened to my friend James, who nurtured a seemingly thriving heirloom tomato plant for months and ended up with just one (delicious) tomato. It's not fair! 
How do you do it? Have you grown tomatoes from seed before? Got any tips? I'm blaming it on the rain.

What makes me feel a little better are the herbs. You should see the size of our oregano and sage bushes (yes, bushes), they are magnificent. The problem is knowing what to do with it all, there is only so much oregano you can put on a pizza. The basil plants are also going fairly well and after hoarding jars for so long I figured I would put two and two together. I added a handful of sage to the basil as it was begging to be used, and it's really rather great.

The best pesto I ever had was in the Cinque Terra on the Northern coast of Italy in the dry heat of early September. We had rented a tiny little apartment at the top of the hill and had a light, makeshift dinner of pasta with fresh Pesto Genovese tossed with torn summer tomatoes and cold buffalo mozzarella, the perfect ending to a day baked hot by the sun. Sitting on the tiny terrace with a cold beer in hand underneath our swimming costumes hung on a makeshift clothesline and that pasta dish, a feeling emerged that I have been trying to recreate ever since, the complete sublime.

Sage and Basil Pesto:
an original recipe

makes one jar

1/2 cup unsalted cashew nuts
approx 1 1/2 cups freshly picked basil
approx 1/2 cup fresh sage leaves
1/2 cup finely grated Parmigiano Reggiano parmesan cheese
juice of 1/2 a lemon (or to taste, I like it quite lemony)
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and halved
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
freshly cracked black pepper

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C and roast the cashews on a baking tray for 10 minutes or until fragrant and lightly golden. Cool.

Rinse and drain the herbs and place in a food processor with the Parmigiano, lemon juice, garlic and cashew nuts. Process for about 20 seconds until the herbs are broken down. With the motor still running, add the olive oil in a thin stream. Scrape down the sides with a spatula to ensure all ingredients are well combined. Process for a further 20 seconds until all ingredients are combined and resemble a pasta sauce, taste and add a pinch of black pepper.  

Add more oil or lemon juice if it looks too dry, it should be relatively smooth and not too thick.
Pour into a sterilised glass jar and pour about two tablespoons of olive oil on the surface to keep out the air so the pesto does not turn brown. Place the lid on the jar and keep in the fridge for up to 3 weeks.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Bill Granger's Lemon Soufflé Cakes

What you see here ladies and gentlemen, is lamb dressed as mutton. 

To think of them as lowly pancakes would be an exercise in the ridiculous, and an exercise in lying, and we all know what happens to liars around here don't we (you are hung up by your fingernails and dipped in an enormous tin of piping-hot vegetable oil.)

The lemon-scented, pillowy belly of these babies is oh-so-cleverly disguised under the lacy-edged exterior of what could easily be your average Sunday morning breakfast. Ha HA! Fooled you again! Pancakes shmancakes, this is pretty lady food, soufflé cakes to be precise.

When my sister Maddie was little, she was a gorgeous little butterball of squish, she had this squinty eyed smile that would make the most hardened person fall in love with her. We used to call her Pudding, not in a mean way, just in a way that made you want to go cuddle her until she squealed. At her 21st birthday last year we told the guests, and they all agreed, that Maddie had grown up; from a little pudding to an elegant soufflé.

These cakes, like Maddie, are all grown up. 

Why put the lemon on the outside when you can put them on the inside? Smart! The scent is intoxicating as you cook these, if you are patient enough, I would wait half an hour before adding the egg whites so the lemon can infuse itself deep into the batter. 

Bill Granger's Lemon Soufflé Cakes
adapted from "bills Sydney Food"
serves 4 

3/4 cup buttermilk
2 egg yolks
2 tablespoons lemon juice
3 teaspoons lemon zest
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
25g unsalted butter, melted
3/4 cup plain flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
3 tablespoons brown sugar (bill uses caster, brown gives a more caramel flavour)
a pinch of salt
2 egg whites

Place buttermilk, egg yolks, lemon juice, zest and vanilla essence in a medium bowl and stir to combine. Add melted butter and mix well.
Sift flour, baking powder, sugar and salt in a large bowl and whisk to combine, make sure there are no lumps in the brown sugar. Make a well in the centre and gradually whisk in the wet ingredients until they are combined, taking care not to over-work it.
Whip the egg whites in a clean, dry bowl to soft peaks then fold them into the buttermilk mixture using a large metal spoon.

Heat a large frying pan over medium heat, melt a teaspoon of butter in the bottom. Add a spoonful of cake mixture into the pan and cook until brown on the bottom and dry around the edges, flip the cake over and cook until golden brown on both sides. Keep warm under a piece of foil while cooking the rest. Serve with an extra squeeze of lemon juice and a drizzle of maple syrup.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Jamie Oliver & Ushi Interview

Poor Jamie Oliver being thoroughly embarrassed. It's so awkward at the end.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Gingered Trout Ravioli

After spending four days camping out in the musical dustbowl that is the Lorne Falls Festival, eating my way through the wide, and I mean wide, spectrum of festival snacks; from the best lentil burger I have ever had the pleasure of scooping into my mouth, to the sloppiest, runniest excuse for a 'breakfast burrito' this side of Cancun, I was ready for some freshness. Fresh clothes and fresh fish to be exact.

So to the beach we went, a Christmas pasta machine under my arm.

The second half of my holiday pretty much consisted of a strictly enforced routine that I have coined
The Palm Beach Method:
  1. Beach
  2. Pasta
 3. Pool
  4. Pasta
5. Nap
 6. Pool
  7. Pasta

Sounds tough doesn't it but I made it through unscathed, apart from some odd tan lines and a light dusting of flour, I'm pretty much still the same person. 

Not unlike the Christmas ham, a staple in our celebration menu is smoked trout. We had nearly a metre long slab of smoked trout left over in the fridge that we turned into every dish possible trying to use it all up. Trout Nicoise salad, smoked trout dip, did I mention salad? Got pretty sick of the salad. We were running out of options fast, and so the trout ravioli was born.

I have given a run down on pasta before and I have used the same method here, although I mixed the dough by hand this time, rather than using a mix master, which worked extremely well. I also found it easier to use a ravioli cutter, rather than a ravioli roller as it gives you more consistency and control over the size of the squares.  If you are not going to eat the ravioli within the hour, I would freeze it in a single layer on a baking sheet, as the pasta tends to get very sticky and soggy, freezing does not change the texture or quality of the pasta one bit.

This ravioli filling is very simple, perfect for a light summer lunch tossed with some fresh pesto. The trout is given some zing with fresh ginger, lemon zest and juice, and finely chopped spring onion. If you're feeling like you need a pick me up after stuffing yourself with gingerbread houses and mince pies over the festive season, slow down, make some pasta, float in some water, drink fresh lemonade. Enjoy.

A couple more holiday snaps here
Gingered Trout Ravioli:
an original recipe

Pasta Dough

(this recipe serves about five, you can alter the measurements easily - approx 100g flour and 1 egg per person)

300g plain flour, sifted
3 eggs, room temperature

To make the pasta dough place the flour into a large bowl, make a well in the centre and crack the eggs into the well. Incorporate together with a fork and bring together to form a rough, shaggy ball. Take the ball out of the bowl and kneed on a lightly floured bench top until the dough is smooth. Good pasta dough should not stick to your hands at all, it should be smooth. Cover and leave to rest for 30 mins.

Meanwhile, while the pasta is resting, make the trout filling.


approx 300g fresh smoked trout, skin removed
4cm knob fresh ginger, peeled and finely grated
zest and juice of 1 lemon
2 spring onions, finely diced
sea salt and pepper

Flake the fish into a medium sized bowl, add the rest of the ingredients and using your fingers, mix until the fish is all broken down and there are no big chunks and all the ingredients are incorporated. Set aside.

Cut the pasta dough into three pieces so it's easier to handle. Set your pasta machine to the widest setting and feed the piece of dough through, fold it in half and feed it through again, keeping the same width open. Repeat this about 5 times until you have a smooth rectangular piece of dough. Turn the pasta dial down one setting and feed the dough through, turn the dial down again and so on and so on until you have a nearly translucent long piece of flat pasta (on my machine it went down to setting three out of seven numbers, you should just be able to see the outline of your hand through the dough). Cut the pasta in half.

Each half of the pasta will act as either side of the ravioli. On one side, make indents with your ravioli cutter, do not cut all the way through, this is just so you have a rough guide where to place your filling. Once you have filled the pasta up with squares place about 1 tablespoon of trout filling inside each square. Once all the squares are filled, dip your finger in water and wet all four sides of the squares so the top layer of pasta will stick. Gently place the other sheet of pasta on top of the other, pressing your fingers around the filling, making sure there are no air bubbles trapped inside. Cut out your squares around the filling (like the above picture) and lay the ravioli on a lightly floured baking sheet or flat platter in a single layer.

If you are not going to eat the pasta straight away, cover it with cling wrap and place it immediately in the freezer so it doesn't get soggy. Boil a large pot of lightly salted water and boil the pasta for about 5 minutes (extra flour will come off in the water so don't worry about that), test a piece when it has been floating for about a minute and it should be al dente. Toss with fresh basil pesto and serve immediately with shaved Parmesan.