Archive for the ‘Daring Cook’ Category


Almond Soba Noodles

July 14, 2010

The July 2010 Daring Cooks’ Challenge was hosted by Margie of More Please and Natashya of Living in the Kitchen with Puppies. They chose to challenge Daring Cooks to make their own nut butter from scratch, and use the nut butter in a recipe. Their sources include Better with Nut Butter by Cooking Light Magazine, Asian Noodles by Nina Simonds, and Food Network online.

It was a great challenge indeed, my instinctual leanings were towards sweet things, but then they always are. And, whilst that was an optional extra for the challenge I wanted to stretch myself. And, then my first thought was of course satay, but that doesn’t stretch me, I’ve done that before plenty of times. It’s a favourite dish for the Husband (especially in the form of a satay chicken pie…go figure). I liked some of the recipes on offer, especially the Chicken with Pecan Cream & Mushrooms but having provided a plethora of pasta dishes to the Husband of late I thought I’d go more noodley!

Having a huge stash of Almonds in my house ready for Cantuccio baking at all times I went there! I did an almond butter with soba noodle dish, I need to work on my photography and naming skills! Taste though? I think I got that!

Almond Butter

1 cup whole natural almonds, roasted
1/8 tsp. salt

In food processor with metal blade in place, grind almonds and salt until paste begins to form, I added about 1T of vegetable oil to mine as well.

Almond Soba Noodles

½ cup almond butter
2 tablespoons lemon juice
8 tablespoons hot water
Dried soba noodles
150g good quality steak – diced
Baby Carrots
Green capsicum
Chilli Flakes
1 tablespoon Oyster Sauce

Mix Almond Butter with lemon juice and water, until quite fluid.
Cook the soba in rapidly boiling salted water just until tender, then drain and rinse under cold running water. Drain.
Caramelise the onions, remove from pan. Pan fry the steak quickly then add in the capsicum, carrots and oyster sauce and chilli flakes.
In a large bowl combine the noodles with the almond mixture. Toss briefly before adding the meat mixture, tossing to fully combine. Serve.


June Challenge

June 18, 2010

Our hostesses this month, Evelyne of Cheap Ethnic Eatz, and Valerie of a The Chocolate Bunny, chose delicious pate with freshly baked bread as their June Daring Cook’s challenge! They’ve provided us with 4 different pate recipes to choose from and are allowing us to go wild with our homemade bread choice.

I was initially daunted, I’m not a pate person. I don’t like it, never had which is a shame because I do see the people enjoying it but then I was inspired by the 4 different pate recipes. It sent me on a search and I came up with a layered cheese pate which I loved!!

For the bread I went with a French Bread recipe from Crust and Crumb a bread that takes me 3 days to make!!! and I love it – despite my need to avoid yeast, this bread always destroys that I eat! and I enjoy! and its worth the pain!

The recipes I used follow, and I have no picture as of yet….its on the Husband’s camera, unprocessed and raw….I’ll add it as soon as I can! This was the 3rd time I’d made this dough, and the time that it was most successful. I must admit that I halved the recipe (the book comes with handy percentages so you can easily do this) but have provided it in it’s full form.

French Bread II (with Pate Fermentee)

Recipe By : Peter Reinhart, Crust and Crumb
Serving Size : 4 Preparation Time :0:00
Categories : Bread

Amount Measure Ingredient — Preparation Method
——– ———— ——————————–
454 gm Unbleached All-purpose Flour
454 gm Unbleached Bread Flour
1 tsp Malt powder
1 3/4 tsp active dry yeast
610 gm cool water(65-70F)
454 gm pre-fermented dough
2 1/2 tsp salt

In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the flours, malt, yeast and water. Using the dough hook attachment, mix on low speed for 4 minutes, or until a course dough has formed. Rest the dough for 20 minutes. (the autolyse)****

Cut the pate fermentee into small pieces. Add the salt, ascorbic acid and the pate fermente one piece at a time, with the mixer running on low speed. Mix for 4 to 6 minutes, or until the dough is soft and pliable, tacky but not stick. Mix in extra flour or water(a few drops at a time) if necessary to achieve this consistency. The dough is ready when it passes the window pane test and is between 25 and 26C(neutral to the touch). If your machine is not big enough to handle a dough this large, complete the kneading by hand.
Place the dough in a bowl large enough to allow it to double in size. Mist the dough lightly with a cooking spray. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Let the dough rise for about 30 minutes. It should just begin to swell.
Turn the dough out on to a lightly floured work surface and knead by hand for a few seconds.
Cut off 454gm of the dough for a future pate fermentee, if you desire. Put it in a bowl with a plastic wrap or in a plastic bag and refrigerate or freeze it.
Shape the remaining dough into a ball and put back in the bowl. Mist the dough lightly with the cooking spray. Cover with plastic wrap. Let it rise for about 90 minutes or until doubled.
Scale, bench and shape the dough into loaves or rolls as desired. Place them on sheet pans or in baskets. If using pans, line them with parchment paper and dust with cornmeal or semolina for texture; if using
baskets, mist them with cooking spray and dust them with rice flour or
bread flour to prevent sticking. Lightly mist the top of the shaped dough with cooking spray to prevent
sticking and enclose the pans or baskets inside a large plastic bag. Let the dough rise for 15 minutes and then retard overnight in the refrigerator.
Prepare the oven for hearth baking, making sure to place the empty steam pan on a lower rack. Preheat the oven to 250C. Make sure your water sprayer is filled.
Remove the pan of dough from the plastic 15 minutes before baking, to allow the surface of the dough to dry slightly. Just before baking, lightly score the bread( as desired) about half an inch deep at a
45degree angle(Before scoring, you may brush the bread with water with a touch of salt added, or with egg white mixed with water and a touch of salt). Fill a measuring cup with 1 cup of very hot tap water. Put the
loaves or rolls in the oven, either on sheet pans or by peel directly on the stone. Then pour the hot water into the empty steam pan(EXERCISE EXTREME CAUTION). Quickly spritz the oven walls and bread, and close
the door.
After 2 minutes, quickly spray the oven walls and the bread again. Repeat in 1 minute. Then lower the oven temperature to 230C. Wait 10 minutes and check the bread(check rolls after 5 minutes). Rotate the bread, front to back, if it seems to be baking unevenly. When the bread has developed a rich, golden brown color, about 25 minutes, for loaves, 15 minutes for rolls, turn off the oven (or lower it to 175C if you plan to bake again). Leave the bread in the oven an additional 5-10 minutes, until it seems on the verge of over browning.
Remove the bread to a cooling rack and allow it to cool thoroughly before eating: 60-90 minutes for loaves, 20 minutes for rolls. The bread will taste best if eaten within 2 hours of cooling

****Using a 20 minute rest period when mixing dough with a machine minimizes mixing time, thus decreasing oxidation. Oxidation, caused by beating air into the dough, bleaches the flour, nullifying the positive flavour and aroma of the beta-carotene in the unbleached flour. This rest period is called the autolyse. While the dough rests, the protein fragments, glutenin and gliadin, continue to bond into gluten molecules, giving the dough its necessary structure.
The salt is added after the autolyse to allow the dough to hydrate more quickly(salt slows down hydration as well as fermentation). the pre-fermented dough is also added after the autolyse because it is already mixed and developed. You want it to have only enough additional mixing to incorporate it fully into the final dough.
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
Serving Ideas : Add pate fermentee(old dough pre-ferment)
NOTES : Using pre-fermented dough allows you to achieve a great loaf without retarding. There is also the advantage of having a finished loaf on the same day. However, the long, slow rise of overnight
retarding produces a a more spectacular loaf, richer in color, with a dramatic blistered crust.
By cutting off one pound of the finished dough, you can still make four 14 oz baguettes, leaving the pre-ferment for the next batch.

Layered Cheese Pate

2 packages cream cheese, softened
1 1/4 teaspoons dried Italian seasoning
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1/2 cup shredded Gruyere cheese
1/4 cup finely chopped pecans
3/4 cup chopped fresh parsley, divided
1 package Stilton
How to make Layered Cheese Pate
Combine cream cheese, Italian seasoning, and pepper in a mixing bowl, beat at medium speed of an electric mixer until smooth.
Line 2 lightly oiled 3 x 2 inch loaf pans with plastic wrap, leaving a 1-inch overhang on each side.
Carefully spread about one-third of cream cheese mixture in loaf pan, smoothing to corners of pan.
Next, layer Gruyere cheese and chopped pecans, top with half of remaining cream cheese mixture.
Then layer 1/2 cup parsley and Stilton cheese, top with remaining cream cheese mixture, pressing mixture firmly.
Cover with overhanging plastic wrap, and allow cheese loaf to chill at least 8 hours.
To unmold, lift cheese loaf out of pan using the plastic wrap.
Remove plastic wrap, and I rolled it one in parsley and one in some chilli, then stacked them on top of each other.
Let cheese loaf come to room temperature before serving.


Green Chile & Grilled Chicken Enchilada

May 14, 2010

Our hosts this month, Barbara of Barbara Bakes and Bunnee of Anna+Food have chosen a delicious Stacked Green Chile & Grilled Chicken Enchilada recipe in celebration of Cinco de Mayo! The recipe, featuring a homemade enchilada sauce was found on and written by Robb Walsh.

I must admit I was both excited and saddened by this challenge. I love Mexican food, though my love affair with Italian cuisine is well documented, so the thought of giving this a go was exciting. I have a burrito mix that we use fairly regularly and is enjoyed by the Husband immensely so was certainly excited to give this a go. But, then, we face the reality that is my inability to locate some of the ingredients! Locating tomatillos would just be a joke! I could manage a bunch of the other ingredients but those would prove my downfall. Of course we were adviced of some variations thanks to Audax – and I could get my hands on some green gooseberries!

I loved roasting the green Chiles, the flavour of them really pops after you do. I didn’t make my own tortilla I must admit. Went with a store purchased variety, but, all in all I think that it worked out really well. The Husband loved it, only thing is I wished it was a bit of a deeper shade of green! I have seen some variations since creating mine, with people going an all vege option which I think would be great, or using pork which I think the Husband would love. But, I did stick to the original – chicken!



February 14, 2010

The 2010 February Daring Cooks challenge was hosted by Michele of Veggie Num Nums. Michele chose to challenge everyone to make mezze based on various recipes from Claudia Roden, Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Dugid.

AND it was one of the most delicious things I’ve had in a long time! it was enjoyed by my whole family. It was perfect! my pita didn’t turn out the best not as fluffy as I would have liked, but taste wise it was brilliant! Even the gluten free pita I adapted for my Grandma worked out quite well.

I had a lot of fun making this, it was a lot of fun to have the different options to go with it. I was able to cater for the different tastes of the people I had. It was really great, my mum had flown over from the other side of the country to celebrate the Husband finishing university. My grandparents had come up because of this as well, but also to house sit for my impending European Holiday. So, I had to cater to the tastes of 5 people. We do have some similar tastes but not always with everything. So this was perfect! we all loved it!

Oh, and we are missing the tabouleh in this picture (made with couscous for the GF Gma). But, my mezze was a giant bowl of hummus, baba ganoush, falafel, 3 types of sliced meat, sweet corn, sun-dried tomato, olives, roasted capsicum, caramelised onion and 3 dolmades for my Grandma.

This will be my last Daring Kitchen for awhile now….I return to my home on the 5th April so will pick it up again then!


Satay Chicken

January 14, 2010

The January 2010 DC challenge was hosted by Cuppy of Cuppylicious and she chose a delicious Thai-inspired recipe for Pork Satay from the book 1000 Recipes by Martha Day.

And let me tell you it was delicious! It was highly amusing for me to see this be the challenge for the month. Because the day before it was revealed my family went and purchased some local takeaway and that takeaway included a beef satay. Which they felt whilst nice, was not “right” it didn’t hit the spot and they requested that I find a recipe to find that right spot! So I had in essence already been set a challenge by my family. So cue the next day and I log on eagerly to see what the Daring Kitchen had in store for me. And voila! How fortuitous!

Now I waited patiently to actually try it out on them, I wasn’t going to start it straight away, not with all the indulging they were to do in a few days, I thought it was worthwhile making them wait until after Christmas and they’d settled back into “normal” foods and make this a little treat.

I did a chicken version instead of a pork, because I was also feeding my grandma who (if you’ve read previous posts) is a ‘vegetarian’ and whilst I considered a tofu option, the Husband would’ve protested and I didn’t fancy doing multiple this time around so I just went with chicken.

I did the long version and marinated the chicken for about 9 hours and did add a bit of chilli and fish sauce but not too much chilli because whilst I wanted a little bit of a kick, I didn’t want it to knock out the grandma who has a sensitive palate!

I also – did not put them on skewers, I know the recipe called for this, but if there is one cooking thing I’m bad with, it’s skewers. I never use them, I can’t do it – I find it frustrating to threat on meat to a stick, just to have people pull it off. I know it looks “cool” but I can present on a plate nicely without them (or at least I think so!)
Verdict? It was perfect! They said it hit that spot and the flavour depth and quality was just the right amount of nuttiness. I also served it with a soba noodle with vegetable mix because of the grandmother’s dietary requirements.

The only thing that the family said to me upon eat it, was that they wished there was a bit more of the sauce to go about. I think that is just a bit of a habitual thing for this family, being used to copious amounts of sauce on things that have a sauce. Rather than a true reflection of the cuisine. Having said that though, part of what I love and enjoy about cooking is the opportunities to take a cuisine and adapt it to suit the tastes of my family as well – so I guess I would be being true to my passion by giving them that extra sauce?


Salmon en Croute

December 14, 2009

The 2009 Daring Cooks challenge was hosted by Simone of Junglefrog Cooking. Simone chose Salmon en Croute (or alternative recipes for Beef Wellington or Vegetable en Croute) from Good Food Online.

This month facing the Daring Kitchen I thought I’d try and be a little bit clever. My grandmother is up visiting for the various events of December and she is a gluten and dairy free ‘vegetarian’ which presented a challenge. However, as salmon is her favourite thing to eat I felt I needed to give it a go! So for a Clan event I ran quickly to the kitchen to commence.

Firstly, I needed to make the pastry – gluten free. Now, pastry alone is a bit of a challenge for me. I’m not sure why, but it never turns out exactly the way I want it. It’s not bad, but its not perfect either. So adding this extra layer of complexity sure was fun! I followed a basic shortcrust recipe, just adding a touch more butter and a little bit of xanthium gum to try and create some elasticity. I made this a day in advance and chilled it overnight.

Next challenge, no dairy – answer Tofutti better than cream cheese , not exactly the same, but actually not so bad.

Apart from those adaptations I followed the recipe to the letter. And the result? It was ok. The pastry was gluten free and you could taste it, normal pastry gets enough after a little while, this….got enough after half that amount of time. It also failed miserably at being happy to be rolled out without crumbling. I ‘cheated’ and rolled it out between two sheets of baking paper and then used the bottom sheet to roll the pastry over the salmon, which whilst effective, wasn’t enough really. The insides were divine though, and quite well received. We had option of baked ham or Salmon en Croute, and half the table had a bit of both, which surprised me.

And, in fairness my grandmother did keep some for leftovers the next day – so it couldn’t have been all bad right?


Nigiri attempt

November 14, 2009

I tried I really did….I tried for a good 3 hours before I sighed and resigned myself to the fact it just wasn’t going to happen Daring Kitchen got the better of me

The November 2009 Daring Cooks challenge was brought to you by Audax of Audax Artifex and Rose of The Bite Me Kitchen. They chose sushi as the challenge.

We were being asked to make 3 types of sushi Dragon sushi roll (inside-out rice roll with a tasty surprise filling), Decorative sushi (nori-coated rice roll which reveals a decorative pattern when cut) & Nigiri sushi (hand-shaped rice rolls with toppings). When I first saw this challenge I originally balked, let me explain…

Just prior to getting married to the Husband he was “diagnosed” with a range of food sensitivities/allergies. He went to a specialist, got the fun prick test done on his arm, and spent a few days itching like made, doped up on anti-histamine. The long and the short of it was that whenever the Husband consumed: egg, soy, wheat, potato, tomato or corn, he broke out in a lovely rash of hives on his body. This resulted in a MASSIVE change in diet, especially with the removal of potato as an option. My grandmother is a vegetarian who can’t eat wheat (can eat gluten, just not wheat) or anything dairy, so I’d had a little bit of a “precursor” into the world of no wheat eating. However, the removal of corn and soy through a major spanner into my works – so many of the substitutes had these ingredients, and then take away potato as well…what were we left with? Essentially….rice!

Fast forward 18 months of eating rice everything….rice with all mains as his “carb”, rice noodles, rice pasta, rice flour baked goods, rice rice rice…….the Husband was over it big time. Thankfully, he was told to start giving these things ago again because it had been a bit of an odd on-set of this sensitivity/allergy and so he dived on the potato, no reaction, it was like all his Christmas’s had come at once. Slowly we began the reintroduction of the other ingredients. Fast forward 3 years and I now have a husband who essentially will not touch rice with a ten foot pole.

Sure he’ll eat it with sweet and sour chicken/pork, and when we have Chinese he wants the fried rice. But, try and serve it to him with a curry or stirfry and he looks at you like you’ve killed the cat. He’s not interested in the slightest, so with this challenge I wondered to myself what would I do with all of this sushi? Who was going to eat it? I couldn’t eat it all, and actually I’m not a big fan of it at any rate. Occasionally I get a craving and I’m good to go, but for the most part? Thanks but no thanks, I’m not a big starchy/carby eater really and so when I do have it, I find that I get full very quickly.

Dilemma then yes? Well I spoke to the Husband, explained the dilemma and in his wonderful way he consented to “giving it a go” so rubbing my hands together I headed to the shop to buy all the consumables required and then set to work.

I thought to start with what I thought was the easiest, the Nigiri, which are the ones in the photo. I chose a smoked chicken and wasabi for one and a roasted capsicum for the other. That worked for the most part, they weren’t beautiful but they held there shape and tasted good, isn’t that the important thing here?

Then I moved on to the dragon roll, and here I met my defeater. For nigh on 3 hours I laboured, I tore nori, I had my rice be too thin or to thick, the nori wouldn’t stay rolled together, problems, problems everywhere. And after all that time, I sat down looked at my pile of mess and gave up. I couldn’t do it anymore, I just couldn’t. I tried to read the decorative sushi instructions, but it all seemed like Japanese to me at that point and I gave up before I even tried that one.

Perhaps my heart wasn’t in it? I’d waited and waited to do it until I felt like I wanted sushi but that feeling never came, I was at the weekend prior to the reveal date and I knew I’d have no time during the week so it was my final opportunity. I also knew that the Husband was only going to try it out of the goodness of his heart and his love for me, so it felt like such a mission for something that neither of us really wanted.

In the end, we both enjoyed the Nigiri it was tasty and simple on the pallet, and I love wasabi so it was a nice little punch to the dish. But, the others? They all ended up in the bin, which did feel like a bit of a waste of food, but after working with it for so long, the smell of the nori turned me off, and there really wasn’t much rice left over once I’d struggled with it for so long.

I persevered which I feel was very important, and the reason I joined the Daring Kitchen was to push myself, learn new skills and improve. So I did feel like I learnt something from this challenge that was valuable. I just didn’t get a great deal of food out of it!