Donna’s Dessert 4

The first place my mind goes to . . . the dessert!

In quiet moments alone in the car, under the shower or sipping on a coffee my thoughts drift to the possibilities, the seasonal availability of produce, the likes & dislikes of the intended recipients.

This is a creative & expressive process for me and I probably enjoy it more than the actual cooking. I just love anticipating how it will look & how it will taste!

Pears & pastry with ginger chocolate and honeycomb/passionfruit ice-cream or Donna’s Dessert 4

  1. Fresh pears, peeled cored & halved – gently poach in a sweet syrup & serve some of the syrup with the pear( For my syrup I used low GI sugar, spice mix from pastry twists-below, dash of red wine, splash of masala, juice of a lemon)

        2. Chopped glace ginger mixed with melted dark chocolate & set into small free forms

      3.  Sweet pastry twists – brush strips of puff pastry with a little butter, sprinkle with spice mix(cinnamon, ginger,cardamom, all-spice) & panella. place crushed pinenuts & pistachios on pastry &     then twist. Place on lined baking sheet and again brush with just a little butter & sprinkle with sugar & spice.

     4. Homemade ice-cream – vanilla, cream, yoghurt, fresh passionfruit & crushed chocolate honeycomb

or

Good quality commercial vanilla ice-cream

Assemble all 4 components on a large plate & encourage eaters to use pastry to mop up pear juices & melting ice-cream

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The birthday cake was made by the very lovely Alex, partner of my very talented musician/artist brother. It is a dark chocolate(she used a block of 70%cocoa lindt)and pumpkin cake.

Perfect with coffee and perfect for post party late night snacks for this happy but tired cook. I await the recipe & will include on my next post.

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Love, gratitude and sweet things

This post is a compilation of three separate food experiences this week.

The first is a dessert I made for my parents on Wednesday night. I love being able to utilise seasonal produce in my kitchen and this weeks fresh figs were ripe for the picking.

A whole box of these gorgeous little bursts of flavour and texture for a few dollars at my local greengrocer, Martellis was to good to pass by.

Another foodie thing I love is being able to eat something just as you like it, not as it it should be or as it’s expected to be but just as you like it. . . allow me to explain.

Remember when you were seven years old and you ‘licked the bowl’ as a cake was being made. My best friend and I did this and vowed it definitely tasted better uncooked. We further added that when we grew up our cakes would be served uncooked, a la pudding style! I recently had the same experience with my step-son when we were making a cheesecake mix for his birthday and have since been longing for that sweet smooth creamy mix to be consumed in an appropriate dining experience. The opportunity presented itself with the prospect of my parents coming to dinner mid-week and my lovely little figs crying out to be consumed in the next day or two. I was to make a sweet cheese mixture to be eaten with figs & peaches.

Sweet  Ricotta  with  Fresh  Figs  &  Peaches

400g ricotta cheese(I used low fat on this occasion but I think full cream is yummier)

2 eggs

lemon syrup(juice of 1 lemon cooked over low heat with 1/4 cup sugar)

Combine ricotta & eggs in food processor until smooth and gradually add cooled lemon syrup

Serve with platter of seasonal fruit.

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The second experience was a lovely surprise from an ex-student of mine, a very beautiful lady called Antoinette who comes from the Philippines. She had remembered that I liked her coffee jelly dessert and had made a generous batch for me to take home to my family. I just love it when people remember what brings joy to others and the spontaneously act on this memory, presenting you with some un-expected delicious morsel to savour in your own time.

This jelly is made from gelatin & coffee(instant & no sugar) and set in a tray, then cut into cubes and placed in a mixture of evaporated skim milk and a little condensed milk. Refrigerate.

The magic happens when the coffee jelly and milks combine overnight, the coffee flavour infusing the milk.

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And the third sweet thing wrapped with gratitude was a food gift from Luke(my 19 year old daughter’s boyfriend). One afternoon as he arrived into my kitchen he gave me a ripe banana that he thought I could use in my cooking . . . he is so lovely! So this morning when I was having one of my  frequent ‘I just have to cook something moments’, I thought banana and I thought muffins. The only problem was I got to the end of the muffin making, the muffins were actually baking when I realised I had forgotten to add the banana.. . which was still in the fridge. However they were still great-oatbran & honey work harmoniously together with whatever flavour combinations you use.

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Banana,  date   &  apricot  oatbran  muffins

1 ripe mashed banana(remember to include)

1/4 cup each chopped apricots & dates

1 cup oatbran

1&1/4 cup SR flour

1/2 cup olive oil

1/2 cup milk

1/4 cup honey

1/4 cup raw sugar

1 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp ginger

1 tsp baking powder

(seed mix for topping – optional)

Combine all ingredients except seeds together in bowl until combined.

Bake at 160 degrees in muffin papers/tin sprinkled with seeds for 20 mins or until cooked & golden.

Great beginnings and happy endings

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It’s well known in literary circles that if you have a good start and strong finish it does not mater too much as to what happens in between.

There is of course a culinary parallel about to be made here!

We started with bruschetta and drinks. I like informal starts to entertaining where everyone gathers around the main hub – usually the kitchen island. I take the inside position where I can deal with still to be attended to main course cooking matters and everyone else spills to the outside positions of the island, where they can watch & converse and unwind from the day that has preceded. . . the atmosphere begins!

I used italian pane de casa bread rolls brushed with a mixture of olive oil, butter, garlic and lemon juice lightly oven grilled until golden. Tomatoes were particularly flavoursome this week and I always enjoy making oven roasted tomatoes as they are so versatile – on bruschetta, pasta or as an accompaniment to schnitzel or meat dishes, oven roasted tomatoes make an easy but high impact statement to a meal. These roma tomatoes have been halved and placed on baking paper with a splash of olive oil, balsamic vinegar and few grinds of rock salt(diced shallots are optional). They are then roasted in a slow oven for about 30 mins or until they start to look soft & caramelised. The mushrooms are cooked at a high heat in a cast iron pan(cast iron is my favourite for pan cooking)with a little olive oil. I wait until they are almost cooked and then add some rock salt, squeeze or two of fresh lemon juice and a small handful of lemon thyme from the herb pot. The trick is to slightly squash the tomato onto the bruschetta just before eating so it doesn’t all fall off as you put into your mouth, as well as strategically placing the mushroom pieces so they look good.

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The desert is a coconut rum granita that is based on a recipe from the  food dept blog but I have added some mango juice to the mixture. My husband arranged a tropical fruit platter with papaya, pineapple, longans, peaches(okay, not so tropical) all squeezed over with lime & mint.

The main course – the ‘non-event’, was a barbeque with marinated meats so this dessert was welcomingly refreshing and sweet. . . the perfect happy ending.

The downside. Well, there were three . . .concern of the bacardi to the non-drinkers, the sugar to the diabetics, the cold night that left everyone shivering after their icy indulgences! But then. . . as long as the cook likes it, all is well.

Dinner with friends

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Saturday night was toward the end of my long summer holiday and I was looking forward to catching up with my friend Sandra.

Being the end of the holidays I was so much in un-wind mode that dinner at the local Thai with an offer of dessert and coffee was all I could manage.

I always love making a good baked ricotta cheesecake though. You can be creative with bases and toppings and know exactly what to expect from the baked ricotta section.

I resourcefully used left over Christmas shortbreads, a little cocoa and ginger and tasmanian butter for the base – just mix together in food processor.

The middle section is 500g fresh ricotta, small tub of light cream cheese, 2 eggs & 1/3 cup icing sugar. you can vary the amount of icing sugar depending on your need for sugar. These also get mixed together in food processor until smooth and creamy, which happens fairly quickly. The cake is baked at 160 for about 55 mins or until firm and golden.

The topping is a mixture of raspberries, a spoonful of marsala and a dash of icing sugar – put together in a saucepan and heated for a minute so the raspberries don’t lose their lovely form. The topping is poured over prior to serving.

The best thing about doing this dessert is that it tastes better the next day , so you get to enjoy the left overs as a true ‘cooks treat’.

PS – Other good toppings include:  * fresh date, pecan ,cinnamon & honey warmed together in a small saucepan * caramelised banana and pear  * chocolate ganache, white & dark chocolate shards with sour cherries

Sugar Hit

Pistachio nuts are one of the coolest ingredients ever – they are so beautifully green, with colour like that you just can’t go wrong.

When you cut through them it’s like adding little jewels into your food creations. Probably my favourite visual treat is cutting through chocolate panforte at Christmas time – ah the pleasure of seeing that distinctive pistachio green against the deep cocoa brown of the cake

On this occasion I had a handful of nuts left over and made a pistachio praline. For this I made a basic white sugar toffee in a saucepan, spread thinly over a paper lined baking sheet. Once fully set fold baking paper back over toffee and smash away with a mallet.

I also had some left over egg whites and it was a calm Saturday night crying out for some excitement in the form of a massive sugar hit. So i made some mini-meringues with the help of Stephanie Alexander’s ‘Cooks Companion’ and cooked them for a bit longer and slower than i usually do so the outsides went a great caramely brown and the inside was still stretchy. Yum!

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Then back to the pistachio praline, with a wooden spoon and a strong arm I mixed that through some fave vanilla ice-cream, set into mini-moulds and back into freezer for another hour or so to re-set.

For the plating up (oh that sounds so much more pro than the word ‘serving’. Thank you Masterchef) – Meringues decorated with some fresh cream and fruit and the praline ice-creams set on the top.

You know when a dessert is very good by the quietness of your male audience. Boys & men go very very quiet when they first taste a sweet they love. In this case the silence from my loving husband and my step-son said it all.