Saturday, April 25, 2009

ANZAC Biscuit, Wattle Seed and Macadamia Baked Cheesecake

This week at work we had an "Australiana" bake-off competition. If you couldn't guess by the name, we had to make a dish that best signified Australia. With around 250 people in my department, I saw it as a good opportunity to prove my cooking skills after talking up some of the more "extreme" items I've made (the 14 pie-pie, 16 choc cheesecake, 13 animal pizza, etc).

So I thought long and hard and came up with this.

Ingredients for the ANZAC Biscuits:
- 120g butter
- 2 tablespoons of golden syrup
- 1 tablespoon of hot water
- 1 teaspoon of baking soda
- 1 cup of rolled oats
- 1 teaspoon of salt
- 3/4 cup of plain flour
- 3/4 cup of sugar

- Mix the oats, flour, salt and sugar in a bowl.
- Melt the butter and golden syrup together in the microwave.
- Add the butter and syrup to the dry ingredients. Add the hot water and baking soda and it should start foaming.
- Mix ingredients together and set dough aside.

Ingredients for the cheesecake:
- 2 packs of cream cheese, softened
- 3 eggs
- 395g tin of sweetened condensed milk
- 1 tablespoon of toasted, ground wattle seeds
- 1 tablespoon of chopped macadamia nuts
- 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract

- Grease a medium sized springform tin. Press around half of the biscuit dough to the base. Bake in a 180 degree oven for around 8 minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool.
- In a mixing bowl, mix the cream cheese until soft and smooth. Then add in the condensed milk, wattle seeds, macadamias and vanilla extract. Mix, but don't over mix. Lumps are fine at this stage.
- Add in the eggs one at a time, mixing after each egg.
- Pour the mixture into the tin. Tear off teaspoon sized pieces of the remaining biscuit dough and drop into the mixture.
- Tap the tin on the counter to remove air bubbles. Bake in an 180 degree oven for 45 minutes.
- Turn off the heat and leave for 30 minutes. Then refridgerate until cold.

I thought my team would easily win with that, but we lost to a chocolate cake in the shape of a koala that may or may not have come from packet cake mix. Although when it came time to eat the food, the cheesecake was the first thing to go out of everything.

Sometimes life isn't fair. For those times, you need to take comfort in a thick slice of cheesecake.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Asparagus, Pea, Garlic and Leek Risotto

As I mentioned in the previous post, I'm still trying to eat as little meat at home as possible.

I noticed in my cupboard this morning that I had some risotto that's been there for a few weeks, so I decided to make a fairly simple vegetable risotto with some seasonal ingredients.

The temperature has dropped a little in the past week, so I wanted to make something comforting and a little rich.

- 1 leek, cup thinly
- 6 asparagus stalks, chopped with the wooden ends removed
- 1-2 cups of fresh peas (frozen will work if you can't get fresh)
- 6 cloves of garlic, blanched
- 2 cups of risotto rice
- 2 litres of vegetable stock
- A small amount of finely chopped herbs (I used thyme)
- A good amount of salt and pepper and a pinch of cayenne
- 100g of butter
- 2 tablespoons of mascarpone
- 1 cup of grated Parmesan or reggiano cheese

- In a large pot, start by cooking the leek and garlic in the butter until it softens and starts to get a bit of colour.
- Add the rice, peas and asparagus. Add the salt, pepper, cayenne and herbs and stir so everything is coated.
- Have another pot off to the side with your stock simmering away. Add a few ladles at a time and stir until the rice tastes close to done. Don't rush this step. Make sure the sauce is still very runny. You don't want it thick.
- Check the seasoning, you may need to add more.
- Add the grated cheese and mascarpone and stir. Let it sit for 1-2 minutes and it's done.

Serve with more grated cheese on top and maybe a dollop of mascarpone if you're feeling like going all out.

Saturday, April 04, 2009

The Future of Food & Ethiopian Lentil Stew

I've just started reading Warren Belasco's book, 'Meals to Come: A History of the Future of Food'. In it, he looks at articles from the past that have attempted to "predict" what people will eat in the future.

One of the most striking parts of the book is constant references made to the "inefficiencies" of meat, particularly beef. The key to it being just how much in grain/feed protein is need to produce that kilogram of meat that we consume. The shame about it all is that we don't get told these things.

People choose between beef and chicken on a whim sometimes, not really having a preference. It would be nice if we were educated about things like this and we knew that there is a huge difference between choosing beef, chicken or vegetables.

Needless to say, it put me in the mood for vegetarian food. But not just any vegetarian food. If I was going to cure world hunger with one dish then it would have to be filling.

- - - - - - - - - - - -

- 2 tins of diced tomatoes
- 2 litres of vegetable stock
- 2 cups of red lentils
- 4 cloves of garlic, crushed and diced
- Thumb sized piece of ginger, finely sliced
- 2 tablespoons of berbere (an Ethiopian spice mix, essential)
- 2 large carrots, peeled and sliced
- 2 medium onions, sliced

- Saute the garlic, ginger, onion and berbere in a large pot.
- Add everything else to the pot and simmer on a low heat until the lentils and carrots are soft.

Serve over cous cous. Makes enough to feed the third world.