Thursday, July 23, 2009

Challenge Book #42 - Grilled Strawberries with Pimms

Last week I mentioned Masterchef a TV show that has drawn a record number of viewers here in Australia. I loved the show too. Most of all because it brought my favourite topic to the front and centre of general conversation. Everyone had an opinion on Poh's rhubarb pie or Chris's roasted pigs head. People were suddenly awake to the exciting possibilities open to them in their kitchens.

Hopefully, the show's finale won't dent this wonderful development. The surprising winner - Julie - was less than inspiring as she stumbled and bumbled her way to a cook book deal. I won't go into the ins and outs of it all (there is plenty of outraged commentary all over the internet), but it did make me think about what it is I look for in a cook book or recipe. What is my style of cooking? Why do I love Jamie Oliver's recipes but wouldn't lift a finger to cook a Gordon Ramsey dish (beyond personality issues)?

After much thought, I think it's the following:

1) I do not like overly fussy cooking. I am not willing to go through endless steps, processes and ingredients to end up with a plate of food. I have been known to go to ridiculous lengths for baking and desserts, but even that has limits.

2) I like classic dishes as they are meant to be. What I want is to be able to do them really, really well. I want to be able to make the best beef bourgnion, yorkshire puddings, lamingtons, scones etc that anyone has ever tasted. I am not interested in the dreaded 'twist' - where chefs try to differentiate themselves by adding stupid, pointless and/or surprising ingredients.

3) I like to cook with fresh seasonal local produce, but convenience has to come into it too. A few years back, I watched a cooking show done by Gary Rhodes. He insisted that you should pick and peel your own almonds for a particular dish. Good luck with that Gary. That is a very lonely road you are travelling right there!!!!

4) I like dishes that use ingredients that I haven't heard of before, but which are not ridiculously obscure or expensive. A few weeks back on The Cook and the Chef they made a dish using ponzu, a japanese citrus flavoured soy sauce. I now have a bottle in my pantry which I am all agog to try.

5) I like dishes that use familiar ingredients in a new and interesting way. A way that I have never thought of. And I sit there and wonder why I never thought of it. And finally we get to the subject of today's post

I must have eaten bazillions of strawberries in my time, but I have never in all that time thought to grill them. Why not? It seems like a perfect thing to do with strawberries. So when I spotted this recipe - Grilled Strawberries with Pimms - I was intrigued. I just had to try it for myself.

And so I ended up with the absolutely divine dish you see before you. The strawberries are sitting in a gorgeous sauce of Pimms, stem ginger, vanilla and juices (from the strawberries). It turns out Pimms and ginger were made for each other. I could have quite happily spooned it over ice cream, even before adding the strawberries.

As if all this is not good enough. It literally takes minutes to make. Add some good vanilla ice cream and you are done. So good, so simple and so me!!

This recipe is from Challenge Book #42 in the KJ wants a Kitchen Aid Challenge. I think this is the best book Jamie Oliver has produced. The sweet cherry tomato and sausage bake is beyond gorgeous. Not to mention the crispy and sticky chicken with squashed new potatoes and tomatoes. YUM! And of course the proper chicken ceaser salad which has featured previously. My mouth is watering just thinking about these dishes.

Grilled Strawberries with Pimms
(adapted from Jamie at Home)
500 gm strawberries, washed
two pieces of stem ginger, chopped
3 tbspn of stem ginger syrup from the jar
1 vanilla pod, split and seeds scraped
a few splashes of Pimms
vanilla ice cream
shortbread biscuits, crushed (optional)
Preheat the grill to high. Slice off the strawberry stems and place them in a bowl. Mix in the stem ginger syrup, vanilla seeds, Pimms and chopped ginger. Place strawberries on their flat ends, tips in the air, in a shallow oven proof dish.
Pour over the juices and pieces of ginger from the bowl. Wind the vanilla pods around the strawberries and place under the grill.
Grill for 3-5 minutes until bubbling. When the strawberries are hot and have softened, divide into bowls. Add a dollop of ice cream and a sprinkling of shortbread biscuit crumbs.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Challenge Book #41 - Orange and Banana Pancakes

There is a show on here in Australia at the moment called Masterchef. But don't be fooled by the name, it is nothing like its British namesake. Think more Biggest Loser with food. It's become a bit of a juggernaut. People were actually ringing talkback radio this morning over last night's decision to oust Chris.

Every Friday they suspend the competition for a masterclass, where the judges give a cooking demonstration. The dishes they make are generally mouthwatering. They could hardly be anything less than delicious with the mounds of butter, duck fat and other heart attack inducing goodies that are piled in.

Tonight they made a smoked chocolate mousse and poached stuffed tomato dessert. It looked intriguing. I am definitely going to try making the mousse. Not too sure about the tomatoes.

Anyway a few weeks ago the star attraction was crepes suzette. I was entranced and thought of nothing else for hours afterwards. Then I remembered a recipe I had seen which sounded awfully suzette like, with the added bonus of bananas.

This recipe is much simpler, as it avoids the terrors of caramel. And it is still a delicious outcome. The orange flavour is lovely and intense and complements the bananas. And are crepes ever a bad thing? I think not.

The Masterchef crepe suzette recipe is here if you are interested in the real thing. It looked divine.

This recipe is from Challenge Book #41 in the KJ wants a Kitchen Aid Challenge. I think this was one of the first cook books I ever bought. I still use it quite often. It has some great simple recipes. The recipe for macaroni and cheese just cannot be beaten.

Orange and Banana Pancakes
(adapted from Quick Short Recipe Cookbook)

2/3 cup self raising flour
2 eggs
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup water
60gm butter
1/3 cup brown sugar
3 tspns grated orange rind
1/4 cup orange juice
3 bananas sliced

Sift flour and make a well in the centre. Whisk eggs, milk and water together. Add gradually to the flour. Stir until it is combined and lump free.

Pour 2-3 tbspn of batter into a greased pan and swirl over the base. Cook over a medium heat until browned on the underside. Turn over and cook for another minute. Remove and keep warm.

Melt the butter in a saucepan and add the brown sugar. Stir over a low heat until the sugar is dissolved and the mixture is bubbling. Add rind and juice. Bring to a boil and then reduce the heat. Simmer uncovered for 2 minutes. Add banana and simmer for a further minute.

Divide the mixture between 8 crepes. Fold and serve.

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