makdous and filling

makdous recipe

If I was told I had to ditch my uni job and enter full time work immediately, and that I could have any job I wanted, I’d probably choose a food magazine job – like a test kitchen chef or stylist (and I’ll attempt to fill in the photographer’s job when they’re on sick leave, too 😉 ) I mean it’s about time one of our food mags brought an authentic middle-eastern blogger into their kitchen to make things not often made… Oh when will we be recognised?! 😉

makdous jar

huh? what’s makdous? click the pic above find out! 🙂

Well… I mention this as I’ve been itching to try out a couple of things: making magdous & making a Syrian breakfast spread to photograph. Since I haven’t picked up my camera properly for many months now, I thought to combine the two opportunities and give my hand a go at styling and photographing – as though I was doing it for delicious. or Gourmet Traveller.

a typical syrian breakfast spread

…a typical Syrian breakfast spread… and that magazine shot I was aiming for 😉

So the story begins back in June of 2011 when my grandma who’d come all the way from Syria took me through the steps of making magdous. I captured her step by step technique and posted it here, and since then I’ve had so many messages & comments from people who’ve given it a go. (If this is your first time, I’d use that post for reference as my post below is more of a reflection of how I went making them alone.)

Naturally, I felt like it was time I gave it a go myself – to see if I could practice what I preached and if my grandma’s recipe really was as amazing as I’d made it out to be. And of course, over 4 years on, I’d developed a gnarling craving myself.

So, without further ado, here’s how I went solo…

makdous and filling

…makdous & its filling spiced with paprika, drizzled with olive oil & served as a dip with pita bread…

Yields: 12

Ingredients:

12 small eggplants

2 large red capsicums (bell peppers)

100g walnuts

2 -3 cloves garlic

~ 3/4 cup salt

~ 800mL olive oil

Method:

Begin by lining a saucepan with a tea towel or cotton cloth.

Pop your eggplants into the saucepan and wrap the cloth around them.

eggplants in saucepan

Add just enough water to immerse them – do not overfill as water may spill out while cooking.

Add a plate/small lid on top of the eggplants, enough to cover the entire pot. Bring the water to a boil then add a weight (mine was a smaller saucepan with filled with water; a heavy marble mortar could do the trick, too).

steps 2 and 3

Cook on medium heat for about 40 minutes, or until all eggplants are soft. (Personal note: some of my eggplants were still hard at 30 minutes, so I returned the saucepan for another 10. During cooking, you should keep a close eye on the saucepan as the water level will most likely rise (softer eggplants, more of your weight in the water = water displacement!) You may need to scoop some out and keep your weight in check to make sure it doesn’t move/fall.)

Once ready, drain from the water and leave eggplants aside to cool.

cooked eggplants

Once cooled, remove the green leaves from the tops of the eggplants.

Prepare a plate of salt for dipping. Beside it, line a sieve with a tea towel/cotton material.

making makdous

When the eggplants have cooled, cut a small slit along the centre (vertically).

Push through your index finger and rip any seeds/tissue (inner flesh) so as to make space for the stuffing to come later.

Dip your finger in the salt and spread along the slit (inside and out).

Dip the top of the eggplant in the salt and place it in the lined sieve.

Repeat this for all the eggplants. Be generous to avoid spoiling your eggplants!

Fold over corners of the tea towel/cloth in to cover the eggplants. Place the sieve on top of a plate. Place another plate on top of the eggplants (to act as a platform), and place a heavy weight on top.

draining the eggplants with weights

Here you’ve created a pressurised draining method to get all the water out of the eggplants.

Leave aside for at least 3 hours. You can leave these overnight so long they stay away from direct sunlight and the fridge! (Personal note: I didn’t stuff mine until 3 days later, so after the first night I put them in the fridge).

In the meantime, prepare the stuffing by adding chunks of a red capsicum into a food processor and lightly pulse with garlic cloves until finely chopped but not pasty/creamy.

Drain the excess water from the capsicum through a fine sieve pressing down with a spoon, or drain with cloth, you really want it as dry can be. Use your hands & paper towels to squeeze out any excess water.

eggplant stuffing

Place your filling in a bowl. Add finely diced walnuts and a pinch of salt. Mix, cover and set aside to allow the garlic to infuse.

making makdous steps 10-14

Remove the weight and check on your eggplants – now they should be ready to stuff.

Find the slit but be careful not to rip it any bigger than what it is already.

Stuff eggplants, using your finger to push the stuffing out of the way (left and right) so as to be able to fit in more. It should reach just about the size it was originally! Repeat until finished.

(Personal note: The original recipe calls for the same sieve to be lined with a dry tea towel. Once stuffed, place eggplants inside, wrap, add weights, and let drain for another 2-3 hours max before transferring to a jar. Now I forgot to pressurise my eggplants a final time, but they worked out anyway. Phew.)

Add eggplants into a jar that will cosily accommodate them. You want to stack the eggplants so they’re squashed up a little against each other and not swimming solo in oil.

Once filled, add olive oil to the jar and place in a cool, dark corner in the pantry without closing its lid. In fact, put the lid on the jar upside down!

(Personal note: back in 2011 grandma told me a reaction will take place which will cause the oil to spill over if the lid is on tightly. I managed to ignore her advise and close the lid of the jar. And sure enough within 2 days I had a pool of oil all over my pantry shelf. Put your jar in a bowl first, and check up on your magdous daily. The spill also could have happened to me because I didn’t give the eggplants that final pressurised drain.)

Now relax for a week and let the flavours infuse. Then pick up a bag of Lebanese bread as magdous are “mashed open” with it and eaten with the bread and a hot cuppa tea.

mashing open a makdous

…mashing open and enjoying a makdous…

No waste: once empty, use the oil to add an incredible tangy flavour to your other dishes when cooking. Spice left over filling with paprika, drizzle with oil and serve as a dip with pita bread.

Allergy? My partner can’t have walnuts (or pecans), so I split the stuffing and used almonds instead for his. I infused them in a separate container. If you’re allergic to walnuts but can have pecans, they’re the next best thing to use.

So… will you be brave and give these cured eggplants a go?

 

chicken pad thai

‘one pot’ chicken pad thai

There was a Thai restaurant near my uni which I used to enjoy eating at from time to time. Their Pad Thai in particular was the dish I enjoyed most, with requested peanut sauce on top (unconventional, but delicious!)

I recreated the dish once before with a store-bought sauce. A few years have passed before the craving has found its way back into my palette and I’ve had the chance to make it from scratch once and for all.

Atop the ‘made from scratch’ achievement, I also have the ‘one pot’ achievement for this recipe. Yay for 2 hypothetical medals! 😉 I am in a 2 person household, with no kids, and no major commitments but the thought of having to pack extra dishes in the dishwasher is dreadful… Imagine the scrapbooking I could be doing in all that time (hahaha 🙂 )

To my sweet sis, with a toddler, who loves one-pot dishes, and inspired this Pad Thai…

chicken pad thai

Serves: 4

Ingredients:

280g – 300g Pad Thai rice noodles (or enough for 4)

1 cup – 1.5 cups of chicken (breast or thigh) diced into strips/large pieces

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 tsp cornstarch

2 tbs soy sauce (I used Worcestershire sauce)

3 cups fresh bean sprouts

2 spring onions, sliced

1/3 cup fresh coriander, chopped

1/3 cup roughly chopped peanuts

1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper

2 eggs, to serve, optional

1/2 cup chicken stock, if necessary (see method)

Pad Thai Sauce (see tip at end of recipe)

3/4 tbs Tamarind concentrate

2 tbs fish sauce

1 tsp chilli flakes/sauce

3 tbs brown sugar

chicken pad thai

Method:

  1. Bring a large multi-purpose frypan/wok of water to a boil and dunk in rice noodles. Turn down the heat to low and cook for a few minutes until softened but still slightly crunchy. Drain and rinse with cold water to prevent sticking. Set aside.
  2. Make the Pad Thai sauce by combining sauce ingredients together in a cup. Stir well to dissolve tamarind and brown sugar, and set aside.
  3. Place chicken slices in a small bowl. Stir together the marinade of cornstarch and soy sauce and pour over chicken. Stir well and set aside.
  4. Warm up the same frypan/wok over medium-high heat. Add 2 tbs peanut oil plus garlic and chilli, if using. Stir-fry until fragrant (30 seconds). Add marinated chicken. If wok/pan becomes dry, add a little chicken stock, 1-2 Tbsp. at a time, to keep the chicken frying nicely, 5-7 minutes, until cooked is cooked (I did not need to do this).
  5. Add the noodles, and pour the Pad Thai sauce over. Use a gentle “lift and turn” method to fry noodles. Stir-fry for 1-2 minutes. If you find your wok/frying pan too dry, push noodles aside and add a little more oil to the bottom of the pan.
  6. Add the bean sprouts and and continue frying 1 more minute, or until noodles are cooked. Noodles are done to perfection when they are no longer “hard” or crunchy, but chewy-sticky wonderful.
  7. Lift noodles onto a serving plate. Top with generous amounts of fresh coriander, spring onion, and peanuts. Add fresh lemon/lime wedges to squeeze over each portion, and serve!

Pad Thai Tip: For even more flavour, I doubled the batch of the pad Thai sauce. Then, as I’m stir-frying the noodles, I’ll add more sauce until I’m happy with the taste. Any leftover sauce can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 3 weeks.

 

polenta fish n chips with tartare sauce

Being jet lagged was a classic. Waking up at 2am and sleeping from lunch time til the stars shine. It took a good week to readjust to the climate Down Under after visiting the two Holy Mosques in Saudi for my first pilgrimage ever 🙂

I had some preconceptions of what the place will be like, and how the people will behave, but despite all my mental preparation the experience was surreal and beyond expectations.

Photo's courtesy of my partner's friends :)

Photo’s courtesy of my partner’s friends 🙂

 

You’ve probably heard about “Hajj” – you know, that ritual where 2 million+ Muslims flock to the lands of Makkah in search of soul, faith, redemption. During the ritual itself, the men there dress in two white cloths symbolising two things: their burial cloths, and equality among each other… you could literally be walking next to a millionaire, orphan, or CEO and wouldn’t know it. Because the two of you have brought yourself back to the very basics of human life and the encompassing ideals of “humanity”.

Women cover as Muslim women generally do – wherever you look you cannot judge or compare as women viciously do. You build a kind of self-love because you forget what it feels like to see “the ideal [photoshopped] body image” plastered over billboards that reminds you of everything your body is not.

There, strange things happen. You meet people who don’t speak your language – yet you share lollies and smiles and maybe a goodbye hug. You hussle at the markets and you find yourself blabbering your summarised life story that you’ve craftily learnt to repeat to shop owners and other shoppers you meet.

When your soul searching journey is over and it’s time to head home, you realise how much you’ll miss the place (because bias-ly(?), your origins are from a country so similar!) Then you hit the sands of Down Under and smell the heat of a burnt through ozone layer and good ol’ humidity. Amalgamated with the smell of used canola oil and a freshly fried batch of fish’n’chips.

Polenta Fish and Chips

Only this time, it’s spruced up with a twist on the batter: polenta instead of breadcrumbs. And homemade tartare sauce.

 

Serves: 4

Ingredients:

1 cup polenta

1 egg

1 tsp garlic powder

2 tsps finely grated lemon rind

4 firm white fish fillets (about 150g each – I just used Basa)

1 tbs lemon juice

Canola or rice bran oil, to fry (or any oil you like to fry in)

Potato chips, to serve

Tartare Sauce:

1/2 cup quality whole-egg mayonnaise

1 tsp finely grated lemon rind

1 tsp finely chopped capers

2 gherkins, finely chopped

1 tsp chopped flat-leaf parsley leaves

 

Method:

First make your sauce:

Place mayonnaise, lemon rind, capers, gherkins and parsley in a small bowl. Season. Stir until well combined and refrigerate.

Tartare Sauce

Next, combine polenta, garlic powder and lemon rind in a plate; season with salt and pepper.

Whisk egg in a shallow bowl.

Dip 1 piece of fish in egg. Coat in polenta mixture. Place on a plate.

Repeat with remaining fish. I cut 3 of my fillets into cocktail sized bites for the kids.

Refrigerate fish for 10 minutes.

polenta fish (pre-cooked)

Heat oil in a deep frying pan over medium-high heat. Cook fish, in batches, for 3 to 4 minutes each side or until golden and cooked through. Transfer to a plate lined with paper towel to drain.

Serve with salad, tartare sauce and chips.

Polenta Fish, Chips, Tartare Sauce

honey teriyaki drummies & roast potatoes

You need to post more often[1].

Days and days do go by so quickly. Time and time does fly by so swiftly.

Minutes turn to hours to days to weeks to months. I last posted 8 months ago. So much passed since then – your recipes filled my inbox, my blog remained in a subtle hibernation, with the scarce WordPress notification downloading onto my app.

How do you wrap up eight whole months into a few short sentences, to perhaps try and justify your absence from something you once couldn’t abstain from for a day? Maybe you don’t. In fact, you probably just say a big bang hello and I’ve re-arrived at the party. And I brought some drummies and desirees along with.

roasted desiree  potatoes

But at the party my body of experiences doesn’t hold back. I tell you everything that happened in the 8 months I was gone.

From graduating university, to taking a semester’s break off work, to moving into an adorable townhouse and facing the reality of independent living with a loving partner, while missing the warmth of family back home.

But I have my own kitchen now.

Not that I hadn’t claimed the old one mine anyway.

I can cook whatever on earth I want to cook.

But on some days I don’t even want to cook.

That’s why I plan for leftovers from time to time.

Lie – I don’t plan it, I’m only feeding two mouths, yet only have experience cooking for 6.

 

Okay, enough. It’s a funny experience writing a blog post again after so long. I hope my readers are reading, and my blogging friends still around because I do plan on sticking around this time…

 

Drummies are on me. And the Desirees.

 honey teriyaki drumsticks

Serves: 4

Ingredients:

8 chicken drumsticks, skins on

 
For the marinade: 
1/2 cup teriyaki sauce
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 tbs honey
2 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp ground ginger
1 onion, minced
1 tsp peanut oil
1 tsp red pepper flakes
2 tbs parsley, chopped

 

For the potatoes:
6 red and 6 white desiree potatoes
2 cloves garlic, skin on, halved
a pinch of sea salt
a pinch of dried thyme
a drizzle of olive oil

 

Method:

Combine marinade ingredients in a large bowl with chicken drumsticks.
Marinate for 1 hour (up to ‘overnight’).
Arrange drumsticks in a flameproof baking tray and bake, uncovered, in 190 deg C preheated oven for 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, drain marinade through fine seive and place in a saucepan on low flame until reduced to 1/2 the quantity (to form a glaze).
Glaze drumsticks by brushing all sides and return to bake for a further 20 minutes or until juices run clear.
Place pan on stovetop to evaporate any excess juices, and glaze drumsticks again (excess juices can be poured out if tray is not flameproof).
Return to grill to char for a minute and dress with sesame seeds.
To roast potatoes, cut larger potatoes in half and place in a separate baking tray.
Drizzle with oil, add garlic, salt, thyme, and toss to coat.
Bake in 200 deg C oven for 30-50 minutes until tender in the middle and crisp on the outside.
Check on potatoes and toss at 30 minute mark.
Serve chicken and potatoes with salad.

 

☆ my 2013 resolution | recipe roundup from my blogroll ☆

Since it’s year’s end and blog posts are trending around the topic, I thought I’d join the party and post:

a warm welcome to all my new subscribers – I hope to dish up delicacies that’ll tickle your taste buds this coming year;

a tribute to my blogging friends… a roundup of some of the dishes I’ve made from some of my beloved blogging friends. I enjoy receiving your recipes and droolworthy photos right to my inbox; and

my 2013 “new year’s resolution” for the blog to be freshly pressed which never happened!

I’m one of those people that “don’t do”. I don’t do this, I don’t take part in that, etc etc. and new year’s resolutions are one of those things that I don’t really do. Because they’re always a failure. Since “losing weight” has broken the records for being the most wanted, consecutive resolution for the past decade, 2013’s shifted towards the blog in hope that since I’m not losing weight when I set a goal to, I may lose weight in lieu of the blog not being freshly pressed. Did it work? I won’t tell you. 😛 Because there’s either a problem with my posts, the freshly pressed editors, my scales, or eating habits.. or perhaps all 4 things. 😉 I s’pose there’s still 20 minutes to go on my side of the globe, so there’s still hope 😉

 

Most of my 2013 was spent tearing my hair out to graduate from my bachelor, so my cooking frequency dropped, and so did my posts, but I have been on your blogs, and I have fulfilled my promises. When I say “bookmarked for later cooking”, I truly mean it.

Despite losing many photos of dishes I’ve made, I’ll be sharing what I can today.

~★~☆~★~☆~

This past year, and the couple before, I’ve craved, sighed in desire, been inspired by, and eagerly awaited posts from my blogroll, from Samah’s Good Cooks, to Sawsan’s Chef in Disguise, to Ksenia’s Saffron & Honey and more.

~★~☆~★~☆~

To begin, I’m going to share with you Rufus’ Stir-fried chicken with basil, mushrooms and chilli. Rufus was my first commenter, and subscriber and his ongoing presence really boosted my confidence and willingness to continue blogging. I’ve spent far too many late night flicking through Rufus’ daily posts, and have managed to learn a lot of new things from the blog. Thanks, Rufus & co.

Chicken Basil

This chicken basil recipe was delicious, and I thoroughly enjoyed the combination of flavours – minus some of the chilli as the girls around here can’t stand too much spice. Definitely give this recipe a go, all of you, it’s not to miss!

What’s comes after a really good meal? A really good dessert, of course! I cannot begin to explain how comforting, Rufus’ Brie and strawberries “pie” is, or how ridiculously tasty it is, or how simple to make it is. What’s not as simple as I thought though, is the cheese used in this dessert. And particularly, how it’s pronounced. Brie is apparently said Bree and not Bry like “dry”. Sorry, let me insist English is my second language to avoid the embarrassment! 😉

Brie and Strawberries

 

As I was not going to compete with Katherine’s talent, instead of roses and leaves on a rounded Brie pie, I folded over a what looked like a little bundle, and cut out (freehand) letters to spell … well you can see that for yourself! This was a perfectly timed dessert which I shared with the extended family after the birth of a little baby boy to my aunty. The only problem with this dessert is that it’s not enough. The next time I make this, I’m buying an extra large wheel of Brie so I can satisfy my portion needs of desserts this tasty. 🙂

~★~☆~★~☆~

Next I present to you Five Euro Food’s Roasted Beetroot Dip. Five Euro Food is run by Charles, also one of my early commenters and followers, who had to wait a really long time before I decided to check out who this loyal follower was. Since then I fell in love with the Swedish, French, English and all-things-in-between recipes he’d post.

Roasted Beetroot Dip

 

Charles had creative ideas when it came to beetroot which was fantastic for me – because I love beetroot, and, well sometimes my grandpa would buy far too many to just be disappointedly boiled or pickled. The roasted beetroot dip was delicious, although I’ll be roasting the garlic with the beetroot when I make this again. Perhaps our Aussie garlic tastes really strong, but any left over dip will have a super garlicky taste the next day – so enjoy it freshly made, it’s really hard not to finish in one sitting anyway!

If dips aren’t your thing, and you like the chips instead, then go no further than the Hand-cooked beetroot chips also at Five Euro Food.

Beetroot Chips

The littlest one here absolutely loves beetroot chips, so I just had to give these a go, and they were delicious, and far better than the store-bought packs. Be sure to pat your slices dry before frying to get a delicious crisp 🙂

~★~☆~★~☆~

Now if you haven’t headed over to My Ninja Naan, you’re really missing out. I’ve just about made all the smoothie recipes on this blog, and can’t get enough of them! I lost all the photos I had of the smoothies I’d made, but when I coincidentally found myself making yet another Date and Banana Smoothie, I put my glass down beside my window and grabbed my camera for a quick shot. If dates aren’t your thing, then you have to sip the strawberry banana smoothie instead. Both are so delicious! 🙂

Date & Banana Smoothie

Check out the texture on that date 😉 Definitely use medjool dates are they’re soft and will blend smoothly. When I made this one I only had small dried dates, but if you love a bit of texture, then by all means throw ’em in!

~★~☆~★~☆~

Next up is Eva from Kitchen Inspirations. I’ve made more recipes from Eva than I’ll list here, but I’ll share with you my attempt at making Eva’s Rösti potato. I wasn’t very confident when I made this back in January(!) so my rösti didn’t have the gorgeous streaks of browned potato throughout. But it was delicious nevertheless, and was eagerly welcomed into the tummies of the family.

Rosti Potato

From Eva’s blog, I’m also going to share with you her Lovely, flaky buttermilk cheese scones. To be honest with you, my scones weren’t as flaky as Eva’s but they tasted so delicious, I took them along to a family dinner they vanished before anything else did.

Cheese scones

~★~☆~★~☆~

I’ll end my little roundup with Dawn from First Look then Cook. I made her Chive and black pepper pop overs without having ever known what a pop over was. I learnt about these beauties from her blog! 🙂

Pop Overs

With so much batter I made large ones in the 12-case muffin tins and and mini ones in the 24-case muffin tins. The chives and black pepper really complemented each other, and I can only say I’m so lucky to have been introduced to such yummy little treats!

I hope you’ve enjoyed my little roundup. I can’t wait to list another, with recipes ranging from MJs Kitchen to Very Culinary‘s! 🙂

Until then, stay safe, keep well, and bon appétit! 🙂

croissant au beurre

croissant au beurre || a spiel & recipe

Somewhere between last Saturday and now, I managed to realise I am the most pathetic human being alive. When I say this, I am referring to empathy, i.e. I am empathetic – but empathy has so much sociocultural connotative baggage involved with it, I like to use the concept pathos from Aristotle and mirror it so that I’m the one being emotionally moved and persuaded by others (and not vice versa).

 

Since childhood I’ve known myself to be a sensitive creature, who cramps when the guy in the movie gets punched, who cries when she sees someone else in trouble or upset, and who will make it her responsibility to ensure everyone she loves is happy, regardless of her own personal state. And I admit right now, this is a very dangerous wadi to be in because of just how unstable it can leave you at the end of the day. The danger extends beyond that, however. You see, I’m very good at listening. I will listen to your entire life’s story if you wanted me to know it, but I am the worst person at helping. I will not know what to say. I will not respond properly. I will in fact sit and cry with you. Cry when you leave. Cry all night long. And probably the next morning, too. If I try to help, I’d attempt to get your mind off your problems by chatting with you about petty things (perhaps my life story), or attempt to bribe your worries away with food. Usually that doesn’t work. And we end up crying anyway – I more than you. But in light of food, which is what I’m best at doing, I will be happy to cook things out of my comfort zone if it means I have to.

before baking

before baking

 

Now if you’ve ever promised a Frenchman a French delicacy, you’d know the sort of pressure I put on myself making these croissants. I have, indeed, read all your Darking Bakers challenge blog posts with recipes, I have watched at least 15 YouTube videos on how to make the crescent shaped croissant au beurre. I dreamed about these darlings for nights on end. I shopped for them. I took a deep breath. And got to work. And work started with transcribing Chef Bruno’s (who’s accent can’t be missed) Taste of Paris video by hand into my little notebook, with macarons on it!

 

home-made or store-bought?

after baking

 

That’s right. making these had to be done properly the first time round and I was going classical with a proper recipe on paper and memorising all the “tour double”, “tour simple”, and whatever else turns and folds were involved!

I realised after making these that the croissant itself is not difficult to make in the sense that it’s steps are almost basic baking steps you might do in any baking recipe, the waiting involved (and the realisation of how enormous these croissants can go) is what lets croissant making seem such a dragged out process. This being my first go at making croissants, I ran to the local bakery and grabbed  croissant to compare. And I honestly could not tell the difference – except that some of mine were a little more buttery tasting than the bakery one. That’s a plus, surely? 🙂

 

croissants before and after

before and after baking

 

The croissants themselves were delicate, flaky and crispy, but they need to be left in an airtight container to keep their crispiness, running around with them in a Japanese basket and brown bag won’t help maintain the delicate crisp. I made three batches, one was absolutely massive, the other two looked exactly like the ones you’d pick up from a local bakery. I only managed to photograph the final proofing (sounds so dramatic) as I was far too busy ensuring perfection during all other stages.

I hope you have a go at croissant making sometime soon. I highly recommend you watch Bruno’s video linked above. I enjoyed a croissant pressed in the sandwich press, stuffed with some fetta, dried mint and black seed (you need to try this with some cold watermelon: divinity between your hands).

 

homemade croissants

Yields: 10-14 croissants (depending on size)

Ingredients:

Pâton:

1 cup lukewarm tap water

4 tsps active dry yeast (2 packets fresh yeast can be used, just add to water & proof instead of flour)

3 1/2 cups unbleached bread/plain flour

3 tsp kosher salt

1/4 cup granulated sugar

100g (6 1/2 tbs) softened unsalted European-style cultured butter

Tourage:

250g (16 1/2 tbs) softened unsalted European-style cultured butter

 

Method:

Combine active dry yeast, salt, sugar and flour in a large bowl.

Add in the water and 100g of butter and continue kneading until just combined.

Transfer the dough to your work surface without additional flour and use your palm to knead the dough for five minutes.

When the dough comes together as a smooth, soft malleable ball, place in the bowl and let rise. This is the ‘first rise’ and should happen at 24 degrees C, that’s 75 degrees F, and should be left for roughly 2 hours to double in size.

Lightly dust your work surface and dough with flour. Deflate the dough and pat it (with your hands!) into a rectangular shape. Fold it over into thirds, then in half, wrap and refrigerate overnight. This is the ‘second rise’ and will allow the flavours to develop, adding depth and complexity. It allows the dough to relax and lose its stretchiness.

In the meantime, make your slab of butter by softening it slightly. Place the butter in a 7 by 8 inch sandwich bag and roll to the edges until you have an even thickness. Chill then trim off any thin edges.

Let the butter soften before beginning the tourage. When soft enough, remove the dough from the fridge and deflate.

On a floured surface, roll the dough into a 15 by 7 inch rectangle and place the butter slab on one half of the dough. Cover over with the other half of the dough. Tap the dough gently with a rolling pin then roll from the centre out until you have a 24 inch by 8 inch rectangle.

Sweep off any excess flour; fold the left third over to the centre, then fold the right over so the two ends meet. Readjust the thickness of the pâton (dough) by rolling over it then fold in half like a book. This is your double turn (called tour double).

Repeat the previous step, rolling out until you have a 24 by 8 inch long rectangle. Fold the dough into thirds, making your simple turn, then wrap and refrigerate for one hour.

When chilled, remove and roll out slightly. Cut in half and return one half to the fridge. The croissant dough should always be cool while being worked with. Roll the half you’re working with to an 18 by 9 inch rectangle with a 1/8″ thickness (~3mm).

 

the pâton

 

Cut the dough into six large triangles and roll into the familiar crescent shaped look.

Place croissants on lightly greased baking paper and brush with an egg wash (1 egg beaten with a pinch of salt).

Repeat with other half of dough.

the last proofing

Leave croissants on a counter top to proof for 2.5-3hrs until puffed and spongy.

Brush with an egg wash again and preheat the oven to 400 degrees F (205 C) and bake for 10 minutes.

Turn down the heat to 375 degrees (190 C) and bake for another 12 – 15 minutes until golden brown.

Serve the delicious, buttery, flaky croissants as you please. Just enjoy and never go back to a store bought croissant again!

garlic prawns

food[ident]ity crisis – a celebration of pescetarism & garlic prawns

Since chatting with a class mate a couple of weeks ago about food and all the -ians that come with it, I’ve been trying to put together a post in my head, but I’m finding it incredibly difficult to get my creative juices flowing. I do sincerely hope I say everything the way I intend it to mean – but do pitch in with your thoughts, too.

 

So it all started when I accidentally shared a link to a seafood restaurant promoting a discount. Really, that accident became the pivot point at which I realised I’m having one of those identity crises where I can’t put to definition some aspects of who I am. You know what I’m talking about – everybody has those moments when they don’t know what religion they are, don’t know what their family or work role is, don’t know what xyz aspect of them is – and they suddenly feel a sense of “my entire life’s a mess”.

 

Now it wasn’t that dramatic for me, I promise, but I realised I probably seemed hypocritical when I linked them to my blog, after telling them I’m pescetarian. Like whatever that is 😉 A pescetarian is a person who only eats seafood and otherwise eats what a vegetarian would. And to about a 70% extent, I am exactly that. Note I still enjoy my eggs, milk and butter, so I’m not vegan in any way.

 

Now what ever happened to that last 30%? Well my problem extends beyond that. Because now I have multiple foodie identities…

Identity 1: Vegetarian

You see, all my doctors think I’m a vegetarian. Because it’s easier to tell them that than trying to pronounce that P word. And also because – whilst I eat seafood – I don’t do it that often. And telling them I’m vegetarian quickly helps them understand why I’ve forever been slightly iron deficient… “because you don’t drink blood, of course!” …that’s what one of them told me (yes, they’re a vegetarian).

The lie in it

Now I’m a “vegetarian” largely because I don’t like the texture of red meat – most of which was lamb during my childhood. So it’s rare that I ever am in the mood to eat red meat, or crave it. It wasn’t until very, very recently that I learnt the “b” word in meats, and all the different steaks, stews and barbecues that you could make with it. And being outright honest, yeah, beef tastes a lot better than lamb. But I still only consume red meats when they’re put on my plate, or when I’m somehow in the mood for them. Which again isn’t often.

Whilst texture and taste is my biggest reason for not enjoying meat – the other would be preparation. I mean right from birth to supermarket. After watching a documentary, Food Inc., I was quite shocked to learn the manner which animals are treated. My uncle worked at abattoirs here in Australia, too, and I learned of the process that involved electric shocks and other unmentionable things. So all of this makes me feel quite uncomfortable – but I don’t actively fight against it, or persue the matter much – just give me my freerange chicken meat and I’ll be a happy supporter that way. Perhaps this is just laziness on my part.

The verdict

All in all, I suppose I’m a true vegetarian about 6% of the time. And whilst I don’t eat meat much, I still prepare and cook it for others.

 

Identity 2: “Omnivorian”  (I’ll coin the word to keep the -ian trend going)

My immediate friends and family know me as an omnivorian (i.e. an omnivore). Because I’m an all-eater. Who loves chicken pad thai, mince meat pies, pan-fried salmon, all-veggie fattoush, cookies, cream, toast and crumbs. This is largely due to my cultural upbringing where “whatever mum serves, you eat” regardless of whether you enjoy it or not. It wasn’t until recent times that I started cooking when I started to enjoy meats more – as I’d flavour them to my own liking and cook them my own way.

The truth in it

I guess being an omnivorian is closest to the truth as possible, it’s just that I don’t eat certain foods as much as I do of others. I don’t like to promote myself as an omnivore but I don’t like stating I’m a vegetarian either because of all the baggage attached to being one.

The verdict

I’m probably an omnivore 22% of the time, yet one that flicks aside the meat when no one’s looking if I’m really not enjoying it.

 

Identity 3: “Carnivorian” (see bracketed heading above)

No one’s ever known me to be a carnivore unless when very specific meals are dished up. I become a meat loving muncher when sfeeha  (the proper ones), mince meat pies (the proper ones), stew/soups  (the proper ones) are dished up. Did I mention they all have to be proper? Meaning taste nice. Meaning of the type that fati loves eating…?

The deceit in it

My behaviour change is often only witnessed during colder months when comfort food is a necessity.

The verdict

I probably display my carnivorian characteristics about 2% of the time – they’re a fad that come and go quickly.

 

Identity 4: Pescetarian

“Everyone else” knows me as a pescetarian. I love seafood and all the different things you can make with it! After all, that picture of the lobster from the restaurant that I shared with my class mate is what started all this! I enjoy the array of flavours, textures and cooking methods associated with seafood and I consider it a cuisine of it’s own. It really needs careful preparation and lots of respect to get the most out of it, though. I enjoy making garlic prawns, chermoula prawns, pan-fried salmon, baked basa, grilled (or battered/fried) fish, seafood salad, and so much more.

The catch in it

Really, I’m a happy muncher of seafood and will forever be – I think! It’s one of those things I worry I’ll one day eat a dish of that will turn me off seafood for a long time.

The verdict

Put me in an all-you-can-eat seafood buffet and I’ll eat a plate and say no more, thank you. Because – yes – I’m probably 70% pescetarian, but I don’t overkill… if you know what I mean.

 

I think that wraps up who I am food-wise. So a bit of everything, really, which an “omnivore” would easily cover – but I can’t bring myself to label myself like that… So if you want to give it a name for me, do let me know, or perhaps I should print business cards which explain my eating habits to give to those who bring it up 😛

 

But in celebration of 70% me… in celebration of a little seafood… I’ll end today’s post with a recipe I enjoy making because it’s quick, delicious, & easy to whip up for a weekday dinner. 🙂

 

garlic prawns

 

Serves: 4

Ingredients:

1kg uncooked green prawns, tails intact and deveined (no less than 35 prawns)

1 small-medium brown onion, finely sliced

1/2 medium-large green capsicum, finely sliced (try red capsicum for a tangy alternative)

2-3 large garlic cloves, crushed

1 teaspoon sweet chilli sauce (optional)

pinch of white pepper, cyenne pepper, dried dill, lemon pepper seasoning

squeeze of lemon, drizzle of oil

 

Method:

If prawns are frozen, thaw and drain. Set aside.

Drizzle oil into a large non-stick pan on medium-high heat.

Once heated through, add onions into pan and sauté for one minute, until beginning to soften.

Add in the capsicum and sauté with the onion on medium heat until capsicum begins to soften.

Add in the prawns and sweet chilli sauce and cook, stirring often, until prawns begin to turn pink at the tail.

Add in the remaining spices and cook for another minute, or until prawns have cooked through (be careful not to overcook the prawns as they will harden. If this happens reduce the heat to low and cook covered for another 10-15 minutes or until prawns soften again).

Serve with crusty bread and lemon wedges.

 

pizza margherita [and base]

Now that I’ve reached my first university holiday of the year, I’ve taken out the time to post – as promised – my pizza base recipe (and a Margherita at that) 🙂

If you remember many months ago I complained that my oven always gave me hard-as-rock pizza crusts… which lead me to make a naan bread pizza base which is so tasty – but perhaps a little time (and ingredient) consuming compared to this one 🙂

pizza margherita

So my story goes: my oven still gives me rock hard pizza bases, and to overcome this I always add 1 or 2 tbs of milk to any baked dough recipe I use (that doesn’t call for some), and reduce 1 or 2 tbs of the liquid (usually water). You can instead use a tbs of powered milk diluted in 3 tbs of the water you’re going to use (not extra water).

Well, I’m sure you all have your own pizza dough recipes.. and perhaps your own pizza margerita recipes, too, but there’s no harm in a little sharing; perhaps my version will inspire you 🙂

pizza margherita

Yields: 2 x 25cm pizzas

Ingredients:

150mL – 180 mL store-bought tomato passata (use more or less to your liking)

2 tbs chopped basil leaves, plus small leaves to garnish

1 garlic clove, finely chopped

4 bocconcini, sliced 1cm thick

4 tbs freshly grated parmesan, divided (2tbs x 2tbs)

8 cherry tomatoes, halved

1 teaspoon salt

Extra virgin olive oil, to drizzle

Pizza base:

2 cups plain flour, plus extra to dust

1 1/2 tbs dry active yeast

1 teaspoon caster sugar

200mL warm tap water, minus 2 tablespoons

2 tablespoons milk (lactose free, low fat, skim, etc. up to you)

1 tbs olive oil (optional), plus extra to grease

 

Method:

Start with the pizza bases by sifting the flour into a large bowl.

Stir in the yeast, sugar and salt. Make a well and add milk, oil and half the water.

Bring together then continue adding water until the dough comes together nicely.

Knead on a floured surface for 5 minutes until smooth.

Lightly grease the bowl and return the dough. Cover with a tea towel and leave aside for an hour or until risen.

Meanwhile make the sauce by combining passata, basil and garlic.

Preheat oven to 220 degrees C.

Knock back the dough by punching it to remove air and divide into 2 balls.

Roll the dough out on a floured surface until you have 2 thin pizza bases. Carefully transfer to 2 lightly greased baking trays.

Spread sauce over pizza bases then divide the bocconcini between bases.

Scatter over the parmesan and cherry tomatoes (cut side up) and drizzle with olive oil if desired.

Bake for 10-12 minutes until cheese has melted and pizza bases are crisp and a light golden brown colour.

Garnish with basil leaves and serve immediately.

karen’s smoked salmon pizza

So I’ve never actually seen Karen’s salmon pizza. Tasted it. Or smelt its aromas. But I’ve certainly been told about it 🙂 And boy it sounded like something I’d devour any day! So why do I confess this? Because my version might not exactly look like hers, or taste 100% like hers, but perhaps it’s close enough to give it a shot and share it with everyone here 🙂

I also confess I’ve added a few things that weren’t in the original recipe – but that’s a personal taste thing, this pizza is very easy to make, and quite an enjoyable one to dine on. 🙂 I’m imagining you could do these canape style, with small rounds of dough, 1 piece of salmon, and a dollop of cheese and tomato on top… How delicate! 🙂

smoked salmon pizza

Serves: 4

Ingredients:

1 x average pizza base (I make my own, recipe coming soon here)

20-30 grams smoked salmon (basically a few slices), torn into pieces

2 tbs each tomato sauce, barbecue sauce

4 cherry tomatoes, quartered

1/3 cup grated mozarella cheese

1/4 cup cream cheese

juice of half a lemon

paprika, white pepper, and/or lemon pepper to season

 

Method:

Preheat the oven to 210 degrees celsius (this should be altered if you are using a pre-packaged pizza base, or your own recipe. Heat the oven to what you would normally when baking a pizza).

Toss smoked salmon pieces in lemon juice and set aside for a few minutes.

Roll out your dough on a floured surface, transfer to a lightly greased baking tray and spread sauces.

Sprinkle over mozarella cheese and then the salmon, making sure to drip off excess lemon juice.

Top with quartered cherry tomatoes, and dollop cream cheese.

Season to taste and bake for 12-15 minutes, until golden brown.

Serve hot from the oven and enjoy!

Reheat by placing the pizza on the lowest shelf of the oven, under a broiler or for a couple of minutes in a non-stick tefal pan on medium heat.

pan fried salmon steaks

With uni back in full swing, there’s been little time to cook – so I’ll be sharing a few recipes I managed to cook up during the summer 🙂 I love salmon – it’s one of my go-to choices when nothing on a menu tickles my fancy, or when I feel the need for something a little gourmet but easy to make.

I fry my salmon steaks on a flat-based, non-stick tefal pan, it cooks like a bbq plate, just without all the cleaning before and after. Feel free to use what you have handy, and to cook the salmon to your preferred level of doneness. I garnished my salmon with coriander, chilli and pan-fried zucchini. I had cored zucchini and fried the cores in the same pan as the salmon, the flavours infused into the zucchini beautifully. If you don’t plan to garnish with kecap manis, add a tablespoon or two into the marinade. And leave the garlic on the steaks while frying for the extra flavour.

pan-fried salmon steaks

Serves: 4

Ingredients:

4 salmon steaks (between 650-850 grams in total)

2 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced

juice of half a lemon

a dash of olive oil, extra for frying

to taste: salt, ground white pepper, paprika, ground tumeric, dried dill

kecap manis (or similar), to serve

 

Method:

Marinate the salmon steaks with the garlic, lemon juice and olive oil for 30 minutes minimum (up to three hours maximum).

Add the spices prior to frying, and mix well.

Heat olive oil in a flat-based pan on medium-high heat.

Add salmon steaks, skin side down, and reduce the heat to medium.

Cook steaks, turning every few minutes until pink in colour, flaky and firm when pressed with the back of a fork.

Serve with an extra sprinkle of dill and tumeric, and kecap manis.

Devour!