Thursday, December 31, 2009

Christmas leftovers

As usual, I cooked way more turkey on Christmas Day than we needed, because I love having leftovers. Most of this has been eaten on sandwiches with a generous amount of my homemade cranberry sauce. With the last bit left over, I thought it was best to serve it hot as it was by then a few days old, so I chose the recipe below from Nigella Christmas. 'Twas good.

I changed the quantities of egg, sour cream and stock. I made up 1/4 cup of chicken stock, with the intention of measuring out 30ml, but got distracted and poured the lot in, so ended up adding an extra egg and a bit more sour cream. Those quantities worked quite well though, I thought.

Ed Victor's Turkey Hash
Serves 2 as a main, or 4 with green salad and a baked potato
  • 50g flaked almonds, toasted
  • 30ml olive oil
  • 15g butter
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 capsicum, deseeded and chopped into pieces approx. 1 x 2cm
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 250g turkey breast, shredded
  • 75g pitted black olives
  • 30ml sour cream (I added about 45ml)
  • 30ml leftover turkey stock (I used 1/4 cup chicken stock)
  • 1 egg (I used 2 eggs)
  • few dashes of Tabasco sauce, or to taste (I omitted this)
  • 75g flaked Parmesan
  • chopped flat-leaf parsley, to garnish (optional)
Heat the butter and in a pan and add the onions and capsicum. Stir over a medium to low heat for about 10 minutes. Stir in the garlic, then stir through the turkey and cook until piping hot. Add the almonds and olives and stir through.

Whisk together the egg, sour cream, and stock. Pour into the pan and give a quick to stir to combine along with the Tobasco sauce. Add the Parmesan and stir until starting to melt. Sprinkle with chopped parsley and serve.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Christmas 2009

Our family's Christmas celebrations were again divided into two this year - a simple dinner on Christmas Eve with my mother and grandmother followed by mass, and then lunch on Christmas day with hubby's parents. For the Christmas Eve dinner, my mum had roasted a turkey and brought that over along with bread rolls, and all I did was provide some salads (coleslaw and potato salad) and make some cranberry sauce. We didn't bother with dessert.

I made this cranberry sauce last year and it is very simple and really nice. The recipe is from Nigella's book 'Feast' - 'redder than red cranberry sauce'. Fresh cranberries are not available in Australia, so I use the frozen ones and it turns out fine. The packet I can get (Creative Gourmet brand) is 300g, so here are my amended quantities (the recipe calls for 340g cranberries).

Nigella's redder than red cranberry sauce
  • 300g packet frozen cranberries
  • 175g caster sugar
  • 40ml cherry brandy
  • 65ml water
Combine all of the ingredients in a saucepan.

Bring to the boil and let it bubble for about 10-15 minutes, until the berries have burst. Remove a small spoonful and taste to see whether it needs more sugar or some lemon juice to counteract the sweetness if too sweet. Cranberries naturally have lots of pectin so this sauce will set nicely into a jam as it cools, so take it off the heat while still liquidy.

Our Christmas Day lunch menu
  • roast turkey
  • marsala gravy
  • Nigella's redder than red cranberry sauce
  • Nigella's perfect roast potatoes
  • roast pumpkin
  • Jamie's 'carrots in a bag'
  • steamed green beans and baby peas
  • dinner rolls
  • Dessert: provided by my parents-in-law - steamed Christmas pudding, custard and ice cream
On the big day itself, we roasted a turkey buffe (breast on bone piece), and roasted pumpkin and cooked 'carrots in a bag' during the last hour while the turkey was cooking. Then while the turkey was resting under a tent of foil, we cooked Nigella's perfect roast potatoes and reheated the marsala gravy. The green beans and baby peas were cooked in the electric steamer towards the end. The oven was then turned back down slightly to reheat the dinner rolls. This is pretty much identical to our menu from last year, expect that last year I also made bread sauce to go with the turkey.

Jamie's carrots in a bag

This recipe is from Jamie Oliver's 'Ministry of Food'. I love it and make it quite often when we are having a roast dinner. The chopped carrots along with the other ingredients get packaged up into a foil parcel, and then just go into the oven with the roast for the last 50-60 mins of cooking time. If I am making gravy from the roast dripping, then I might put it in 30 minutes before the roast will be ready to come out of the oven, that way the roast can rest under a foil tent before carving, and the carrots can keep cooking while I am making the gravy. If I am just making a normal dinner for us at home, then I will put the parcel of carrots on one side of a baking tray, and do roast potatoes on the other half. For special occasions like Christmas though, we like to do Nigella's perfect roast potatoes, and these need a hot oven so get cooked after the roast and carrots have come out. So on Christmas Day, I roasted pumpkin on the same tray as the carrots.

Jamie's recipe includes chopped bacon, which is nice, but I usually leave it out. This keeps the dish vegetarian if you have any vegetarians to cater for.

  • 800g carrots, peeled, trimmed and chopped into large pieces (leave whole if they are small carrots)
  • 1 rasher of bacon, finely sliced (optional)
  • 1 garlic clove, finely sliced
  • 2 sprigs of rosemary, leaves picked and finely chopped
  • zest of half an orange
  • 1 tsp marmalade
  • 2 knobs of butter
  • salt and pepper to season
  • juice of whole orange
Take a large piece of foil, about 60cm long, and fold it in half then open it out. Place the carrots on one side of the centre fold. Sprinkle over the bacon (if using), garlic, rosemary and orange zest. Dot the top with the butter and marmalade. Sprinkle over some salt and freshly ground pepper. Lift the sides of the foil to create a bowl and then pour over the orange juice. Fold the other half of the foil over the carrots and seal the edges to create a parcel. Bake for around 50 minutes in a 200C oven. Serve the carrots along with their juices.

Nigella's perfect roast potatoes

My family absolutely adore these roast potatoes. The yummiest roast potatoes are crunchy on the outside and soft like mash on the inside. This recipe achieves both of these qualities. Parboiling the potatoes, draining the water away, and then shaking the pan to rough up the outside of the potatoes is one way of increasing the crunchiness when they are roasted, but this recipe goes one further by coating the potatoes with a small amount of semolina which further enhances the crunch factor.

I deviate from Nigella's recipe though, which uses goose fat as the roasting medium. I have heard this is quite delicious, plus has the advantage of a high smoking point. Goose fat is not readily obtainable here in Aus, and even though it is Christmas, I would find it hard to ignore the saturated fat content. I have experimented with different oils, and have settled on sunflower as it has a high smoking point and is used for frying chips, but I think rice bran oil would probably work as well.

  • 2.5kg medium potatoes
  • 30ml semolina
  • 2 x 320g jars of goose fat or sunflower oil (enough to fill the baking dish to about 1.5cm deep)
  1. Peel the potatoes and cut each into 3 pieces at an angle (cutting a triangular shaped piece out of the middle).
  2. Put the potatoes into a saucepan of cold salted water, and bring to the boil and cook for 4 minutes. Drain the potatoes, then return them to the empty saucepan. Sprinkle over the semolina, clamp the lid on, and then shake the pan to fuzz up the edges of the potatoes. The potatoes can then be left at this stage for a few hours.
  3. Empty the goose fat or oil into a roasting tin and heat in the oven to 250C. Carefully remove the pan of hot fat from the oven, add the potatoes to the pan, and return to the hot oven. Roast for 25 minutes on one side, turn the potatoes over, then roast on the other side for a further 25 minutes.
  4. Remove the potatoes from the fat using tongs, letting it drain off, then serve.


These salads were part of the same dinner as the pomegranate ice-cream and chocolate-pistachio cake that we recently had with friends of ours (for the whole menu, see the pomegranate ice-cream post). These recipes are from the 'mezze feast' in Feast by Nigella Lawson. We had these as starters along with Turkish bread and grilled halloumi dressed with lemon juice and black pepper. The 22 month old went nuts for the pomegranate arils, picking them out of his own salad to eat and then poaching everyone else's as well! The cucumber and pomegranate salad is really nice and fresh. The bulgar wheat salad was very popular with everyone; the dressing is delicious.

Cucumber and pomegranate salad
  • 4 spring onions
  • 1 heaped tbs finely chopped mint
  • 1 cucumber
  • 1 pomegranate
  • 2 tsp lime juice
  • Maldon salt
Finely slice the spring onions and place into a bowl with the chopped mint. Peel the cucumer and halve it lengthwise. Quarter each half lengthwise and slice off the seedy edge. Dice crosswise. Add the cucumber to the bowl. Halve the pomegranate and bash out the seeds into the bowl using a wooden spoon. Dress with the lime juice and a spinkle of salt, and toss everything together.

Herbed bulgar wheat and nut salad

If the dried barberries are unavailable, Nigella suggests using dried cherries, chopped a little and added to the salad at the end when you are combining everything. I substituted craisins (dried cranberries).

  • 150g bulgar wheat
  • 25g dried barberries
  • 750ml boiling water
  • 15ml pomegranate molasses
  • juice of half a lemon
  • 45ml olive oil
  • 1/4 tsp ground allspice
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp Maldon salt (or 1/4 tsp table salt)
  • 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 50g shelled pistachios
  • 50g natural (unblanched) almonds
  • 1.5 tbs chopped parsley
Put the bulgar wheat and barberries into a bowl and pour over the boiling water; cover with plastic wrap and leave for 20 minutes. Drain in a sieve, and squeeze out excess water. Put the pomegranate molasses, lemon juice, olive oil, allspice, cumin seeds, salt and cinnamon into a bowl and whisk together to make the dressing. Roughly chop the pistachios and almonds and add them to the drained bulgar wheat along with the dressing and chopped parsley. Fork everything through to combine. Tip into a serving bowl and sprinkle over some extra chopped parsley, if desired.

Chocolate malteser cake

This is the cake I chose to bake for my hubby's birthday. I have made it before a few years ago, and remember thinking it was a little dry/ rubbery, but thought perhaps I had done something wrong and should give it another go. Unfortunately, I still wasn't happy with it. The flavour is great, but it does seem rubbery and not finely textured. On looking at the recipe again, I think it is because the cake doesn't have much fat added to it in the form of butter or oil, which I guess is great from a dietary point of view, but from a pure enjoyment viewpoint, it lets the side down a little. Still, the flavour is so good I am determined to try it again soon, but rework the quantities of ingredients to something closer to a Victoria sponge cake. If you like Maltesers, then you'll love the buttercream icing. Making a normal chocolate sponge cake and icing it with the choc-malt buttercream icing would be a delicious alternative to making the sponges as they are in this recipe.

I actually found it a little better the next day - whether this was because I had had time to get over my disappointment, or whether the texture did indeed improve overnight, I am not quite sure. My hubby and the boys loved it anyway, and it is a very presentable cake.

For the cake:
  • 150g soft light brown sugar
  • 100g caster sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 175ml milk
  • 15g butter (yes, that is correct)
  • 30ml Horlicks
  • 175g plain flour
  • 25g cocoa, sieved
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp bicarb soda
Preheat the oven to 170C. Grease and line two 20cm loose-bottomed sandwich tins.

Whisk the sugars and eggs until light and frothy. Assuming you have a free standing mixer, while this is happening, heat the milk, butter and Horlicks in a saucepan until the butter is melted and the mixture is hot, but not boiling. Beat the Horlicks mixture into the eggs and sugar, then fold through the remaining dry ingredients. Divide the mixture evenly between the two tins and bake for around 25 minutes, or until the cakes spring back when lightly pressed. Cool on a rack for 5-10 minutes before turning the cakes out of their tins.

For the icing:
  • 250g icing sugar
  • 1tsp cocoa
  • 45g Horlicks
  • 125g soft unsalted butter
  • 30ml boiling water
  • 75g Maltesers
Put the icing suagr, cocoa and Horlicks into a food processor bowl and blitz to remove any lumps (saves sifting - yay!!!). Add the butter and process again. Pour the boiling water into the funnel with the motor running until a smooth buttercream has formed.

When the cakes are cold, ice one cake with half the icing, sandwich the other cake on top and spread with the remaining icing. Decorate with the Maltesers.

Source: Feast, Nigella Lawson.

I had to include this pic as I love my Nigella loose-bottomed sandwich tins! I love that they have the dimensions printed on the side. I wish all cake tins had this.

ready to bake; freshly baked

Chocolate-pistachio cake

I made this recently for dessert for a dinner with friends of ours, to have as well as the pomegranate ice cream. I actually have not made this cake for 5 years, when I made it for the same friend's 30th birthday. I have not avoided making it since then because I didn't like the recipe, but just because I found shelling the nuts a chore. Shelled pistachios are now more readily available, so I am going to have to make this cake part of my regular repertoire, because it is seriously delicious! The recipe is from How to be a Domestic Goddess by Nigella Lawson.

For the cake:
  • 150g dark chocolate
  • 150g caster sugar
  • 150g pistachios
  • 150g soft unsalted butter
  • 6 large eggs, separated
  • 1/2 lemon
  • pinch salt
  1. Grease and line a 23cm springform tin. Preheat the oven to 190C.
  2. Melt the chocolate in the microwave on medium. Leave aside to cool slightly.
  3. Process 50g of the sugar with the nuts until they are like dust. Add the butter along with another 50g of the sugar; process until smooth. Add the yolks one at a time, pulsing after each addition. Then, with the motor running, slowly pour in the chocolate.
  4. Wipe the inside of a bowl with the lemon half (I didn't bother with this step, but the bowl must be scrupulously clean and free of any fat to allow maximum aeration of the egg whites). Whisk the egg whites with the salt until peaks are starting to form. Then slowly add the remaining 50g of sugar while still beating until the egg whites form firm peaks.
  5. Add a large dollop of the egg whites to the cake batter and pulse to lighten the mixture. Then add the cake batter to the whites, one third at a time, and fold in gently but firmly.
  6. Pour into the prepared tin and bake for 20 minutes. Then turn the oven down to 180C and bake for a further 20-25 minutes, or until cooked. The cake will be starting to come away from the sides of the tin when it is ready.
  7. Cool in the tin for 15 minutes on a wire rack before removing from the tin. Wait until the cake is completely cooled before icing it.
The icing:
  • 150g dark chocolate
  • 150ml cream
  • drop of orange-flower water (optional)
  • 2-4 tbs coarsely chopped or slivered pistachios
Add chocolate, broken into pieces, and cream into a saucepan, along with the orange-flower water. Stir over a low heat until the chocolate is melted. Keep stirring off the heat until the ganache is thick enough to coat, then pour over the cake. Sprinkle over the pistachios.

Serve with either plain creme fraiche, or with a little orange-flower water whisked in. (When I made this for my friend's 30th, I made Turkish Delight Syllabub to serve as alongside the cake - recipe from Nigella Bites - you can view the recipe here).

pistachios and sugar; pistachio meal

adding butter and sugar

adding yolks

adding chocolate; cake batter

left: the cake once cooked - note the cake is pulling away from the sides; right: once cooled, flourless cakes like this tend to sink in the middle and are then deliciously fudgy in the centre

Friday, December 18, 2009

No churn pomegranate ice cream

I am cooking dinner for a couple of friends tomorrow night. I received my first order from Herbies this week, which included pomegranate molasses, ras el hanout and za'atar - all ingredients I have not been able to easily procure, so I was eager to incorporate them into the menu. So not surprisingly then, I have a bit of a Middle Eastern theme going on. This is the menu I have planned... I hope I get it all done.

Turkish bread (bought the bread; I am going to brush it with olive oil and sprinkle it with za'atar before baking it)
Fried halloumi with lemon juice and pepper
Cucumber and pomegranate salad (recipe from Feast, Nigella)
Herbed bulghur wheat and nut salad (another recipe from Feast)

Lamb and apricot tagine served with either couscous or rice (think I will cook the couscous in chicken stock with a little ras el hanout - maybe - otherwise plain)

Chocolate and pistachio cake (recipe from How to be a Domestic Goddess, Nigella)
No Churn Pomegranate ice cream (recipe from Nigella Express)
bought Turkish Delight (yummy stuff made in Cyprus with pistachio nuts in it)

I had hoped to get the cake made tonight, but went grocery shopping too late, so that will be on the list of things to do first thing tomorrow. I did however get the pomegranate ice cream made, so that is one less thing to worry about tomorrow. It's a bit of an indulgence, as pomegranates aren't cheap, but I wanted it to be a special meal. This recipe is super easy - no custard-making required, and no churning (not that churning bothers me, being the proud owner of an ice cream machine, but for those without a machine, this is a definite bonus). I have previously made Nigella's orange ice cream (recipe in Nigella Bites), and this is basically the same recipe. The orange ice cream was fabulous, so I am confident this will be good too.

  • 2 pomegranates (plus seeds from a 3rd for decoration, optional)
  • 1 lime
  • 175g icing sugar
  • 500ml double cream
So simple. Juice the pomegranates and lime and strain the juices into a jug. Add the icing sugar and stir to dissolve.

Whisk the cream (I employed the assistance of my KitchenAid here, but I am sure you could do it with a whisk and some elbow grease without too much hassle, thereby burning off some of the kJs you intend to consume!) until soft peaks form. Fold in the fruit juice syrup and continue whisking until the cream thickens again to form soft peaks. Pour into a suitable airtight container and freeze for a minimum of 4 hours. Sprinkle with pomegranate seeds to serve, if using. C'est tout.

strained pomegranate and lime juice; adding the icing sugar

Once the icing sugar dissolves, the mixture forms a syrup-like consistency.

Ready to freeze. I love the beautiful pink colour!