Sunday, August 22, 2010

Gingerbread Cookies

Beth gave me some really great cooking utensils and some Lindt Chocolate as well as Gary Mehigans 'Comfort Food' cookbook. Its got some great recipes in it, including "Green eggs and ham" - poached eggs on toast with hollandaise sauce with peas in it - Yum!

So I decided to use some chocolate for a cookies recipe, but I had planned to make gingerbread men and only had the ingredients for those. Though, I know someone who loves any of my cookies as long as they have chocolate in them so I decided to experiment.


2 cups white whole wheat flour
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup crystallised ginger, loosely packed
½ teaspoon ground cloves
½ teaspoon ground cardamom pods
½ teaspoon ground star anise
½ tablespoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon finely ground black pepper
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
1/3 cup dark natural cane sugar, or dark brown sugar, packed
2 medium eggs
1/6 cup organic unsulfured molasses (blackstrap)
1/6 cup real maple syrup
Butter for greasing
large grain sugar (muscovado) for decoration

In a medium bowl, sift together flour, baking soda, salt and spices. Set aside.

In a food processor, blitz the ginger into a paste.

In a large bowl with an electric mixer cream the butter until it is light and fluffy. Add the sugar and mix again until light and creamy. Blend in the eggs one at a time and then the ginger paste, molasses and maple. Add the flour mixture in two additions either by hand or on low speed. Wrap dough in plastic and chill for an hour or so.
Heat oven to 200 degrees Celsius, and grease two baking trays.

Roll the dough out onto a lightly floured countertop roughly 1cm thick and cut into gingerbread men (or other fun shapes). Transfer to baking sheets and sprinkle with sugar (optional). Bake for 7 -10 minutes; less for smaller cookies, more for larger. Make sure you dont overcook them - they become dry and crisp the more you cook them so it really depends on your preference - I like slightly chewy cookies so 7 minutes was good.

Variation: Chocolate Flecked Gingerbread Cookies (shown below on left) - Add in a handful of finely chopped dark chocolate when rolling out the dough.

Makes about 1 dozen four-inch gingerbread men or 50 little bite sized cookies.

Chocolate Ganache Cake

This cake is the first real chocolate cake I have made from scratch in a long time. I made a really nice flourless chocolate cake with Chrissy the other day though, which was similar to the ones I made with Mum from the Bourke Street Bakery Cookbook, and is actually my favourite type of chocolate cake, however Daniel specifically requested a cake with flour in it for his birthday. You can see why here , as he found my birthday cake (sunken but delicious flourless chocolate cake) hilarious.

So, I set about to make a real flour-full choclate cake with lots of real dark chocolate and some fresh delightful raspberries for a garnish. Beth gave me some real vanilla paste as a gift so I used that to whip the cream with - and that was the day I discovered I like cream! I never liked cream must have been the vanilla-kissed flavour.

On with the cake recipe.

200g good-quality dark chocolate, chopped
200g butter, softened
1 cup dark brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla paste
3 eggs, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups self-raising flour
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
1/2 cup milk
Chocolate Ganache:
150g good-quality dark chocolate, chopped
1/3 cup thickened cream
2/3 cup thickened cream, whipped (optional)
chocolate curls or shavings (optional), to serve (see note)


Preheat oven to 170°C. Grease and line base and side of a 6cm deep, 22cm (base) round cake pan.

Place chocolate in a metal or glass bowl or double boiler – place over a pan of simmering water and turn heat down. Melt chocolate – stirring constantly until smooth. Set aside for 10 minutes to cool.

Using an electric mixer, cream butter, sugar and vanilla until light and fluffy. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating after each addition. Add melted chocolate. Beat until well combined. Sift flour and cocoa together. Fold half the flour mixture into butter mixture. Add half the milk. Stir gently to combine. Repeat with remaining flour mixture and milk. Spoon into prepared pan. Smooth surface. Bake for 50 to 60 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.

Stand cake in pan for 15 minutes. Turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely. Spread ganache over top and side. Top with whipped cream and chocolate curls, if using. Serve.

To make chocolate ganache: combine chocolate and cream in a heatproof, microwave-safe bowl. Melt chopped chocolate the same way as above on stove, stirring every minute with a metal spoon, until just melted. Stir cream in until smooth. Set aside for 30 minutes or until thick enough to spread.


• To make chocolate curls, melt good quality chocolate and pour onto a sheet of bakign paper. When set at room temperature but not fully firm yet, run a clean potato peeler along it, allowing curls to form.


Sowing for Spring

I have been sowing many little seeds for spring planting. These are what I have planted so far:

Green Basil
Thai Basil
Purple Basil
Lemon Basil

My big pride is my assortment of Heirloom Tomatoes:
Yellow pear
Green Zebra
Smallest tomato in the world - mini red cherry
Yellow buttons
Purple Hermitage
Green Grape
Crimson Grape

I am a member of Diggers in South Australia and that is where I got my seeds from. I have also pre-ordered four different raspberry plants for next winter: golden raspberry (a rich golden coloured fruit) and three types of red raspberry that fruit at different times so we have fruit all the time!

We have been propagating them in trays that keep the moisture and warmth inside, and protect them from the frost!

The main success for our plants here on the porch is the wonderful Worm Tea that we have been feeding them from our worm farms.

Worm Farming

Dan has taken the lead role in learnign everything there is to know about worm farms and worms and we now have two Can-O-Worms in out laundry processing our organic waste from the kitchen and producing the amazing Worm Tea - liquid fertiliser!

My heirloom tomatoes and herb seeds are reaping the benefits - see here.

Dan has bought some big barrels to put the vermicast in and breed the bacteria to produce 'vermi-solution' another great fertiliser. We are experimenting on the hospital grass now with a variety of fertilisers (including worm tea, seaweed concentrate, osmocote and vermi-solution, to see what the results are. Dan is going to have different watering regimes and different concentrations of the fertilisers. The grounds keeper/gardener has agreed to be in on the plan and promised he wouldnt mow our lawn.

More on the worms to come in future.

Two Trout Techniques

Here in Dubbo the Seafood Man 'Garry' from "Deck to Door" Altlantic Fresh Seafood comes out on a Thursday in his truck from the Sydney Fish Markets with a variety of seasonal fish. The last two weeks I have purchased the rainbow trout from farms in Victoria - its a relatively sustainable fishing industry there and Trout are one of my favourite fish to eat. We don't buy fish from supermarkets, and being out here in Dubbo there weren't many other options until Geoff told me about this guy's truck (he parks right next to our work as well) so its a great chance to get some fresh.

Whole steamed Rainbow Trout
with Couscous and Ratatoullie

1 whole rainbow trout, gutted and scaled
1/2 cup couscous
1 eggplant
1 zucchini
2 tomatoes
1 red capsicum
1 clove garlic
2 sprigs parsely
1 whole lemon
2 sprigs dill
olive oil
Salt and pepper

Salt the inside of the trout and then rinse and pat dry with paper towels.
Place slices of the lemon inside with the dill and place into some foil in a baking dish.
Season well and drizzle with olive oil. Seal the packet of foil.
Bake in a preheated oven at 180 degrees C for 20-30 minutes.

Prepare the couscous by packet directions. Optional: add some fresh chopped herbs.

Meanwhile, slice the eggplant and salt the sides to allow some of the bitter juices to seep out.
Chop the zucchini, tomato and capsicum into bite size pieces. Wash the eggplant and pat dry.
Brush a small amount of olive oil onto the eggplant and grill till brown on both sides.
Chop the garlic finely and add to a hot pan with some olive oil and the tomatoes, cook for 5 minutes.
Add the zucchini and capsicum and saute on medium heat until soft.
Add the eggplant, chopped into bite size pieces, and the finely chopped parsely.

Season to taste and serve with the couscous and fish.

Pan Fried Whole Rainbow Trout
with grains and roast red vegetables

1 whole rainbow trout, gutted and scaled
2 tbsp plain flour
1 tsp chilli flakes
1/3 cup jasmine rice
1/3 cup white quinoa
1/3 cup pearl barley
3 sprigs parsely
1 tsp massell chicken stock powder
2 roma tomatoes
1 small sweet potato
Optional: 1 tbsp basil & rocket pesto
1/3 cup Grapeseed oil
salt and pepper

Prepare boiling water with stock powder and simmer the barley for about 15 minutes till it begins softening.

Cut sweet potato and tomatoes into chips, toss in olive oil and 1 tsp salt and bake in 200 degrees C oven until crispy.

Meanwhile, salt the inside of the trout and then rinse and pat dry with paper towels.
Mix flour, chilli flakes, 1 tsp salt and 1 tsp pepper on a plate.
Lay fish in the flour and cover the outside only on both sides. Set aside.

When barley is almost soft add the quinoa and rice (both rinsed first). Top up with boiling water from the jug to cover the grains. Simmer for further 10-15 minutes until the quinoa has little curls and all grains are soft but not soggy. Taste as you go! Drain and add parsely to serve.

Heat grapeseed oil in a big frypan (big enough for the fish) so that it is about 1/2 cm up the sides.
When hot, place the fish into the hot oil and fry for about 7 minutes on that side till browned. Turn over and cook for a further 7 minutes of the other side. Check that the inside is done by inserting a knife into the backbone area and lifting the flesh gently.

Serve fish with grains topped with roasted red vegetables.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Freshly Rolled Ravioli Pasta

Sweet Potato & Pumpkin Ravioli with Thyme and Poppy Butter Sauce
Beetroot Mascarpone Ravioli with fresh Pesto Sauce
Spinach, Garlic and Ricotta and Rich Bolognese Cannelloni

On Sunday night I hosted a Pasta Making night with my new Pasta Roller I got for my birthday. We invited all the new interns that will be at Dubbo Base Hospital for the next two years - Kelly Greentree, Joel Petite, Chrissie Hayden, Dan Bunker, and Beth was visiting for the weekend who also came along to help.

Kelly and Joel came over early and helped me make the dough, and eggs were flying everywhere. Lots of fun.

The dough recipe we used is a simple but versatile Jamie Oliver recipe:

Pasta Dough
600g Strong Flour (high protien, high gluten, triple sifted)
6 free range organic eggs
1/2 tsp salt
Sift flour onto table with salt, make a well, add eggs, mix in with hands and knead for up to 10 mins until it is a silky texture. Add flour along the way if it gets sticky. Cover with plastic wrap and refridgerate 30 mins.

Once we kneaded and put the dough in the fridge to rest, we went foraging in our garden of pots for fresh herbs. We collected Marjoram, Parsely, Coriander, Rosemary, Dill, Thyme and Basil. We then started to prepare the Ravioli fillings and the sauces together.

Daniel was in charge of the Pesto sauce which primarily used the herbs from our garden. Joel worked on the beetroot and mascarpone filling, Kelly did the Sweet Potato and Pumpkin filling (mashed by hand!) and I prepared the spinach and ricotta and bolognese fillings for the Cannelloni. I made these in advance because I thought it would be too much to do on the night - which worked well so I had time to do the sauces.

Beetroot and Mascarpone Ravioli Filling:
1.5 cups of cooked (boiled or baked) pureed beetroots (can use canned beets but these have more liquid)
200g Tamar Valley Tasmanian Mascarpone
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Wholemeal breadcrumbs
Salt and Pepper to taste

With a spoon, mix the Beetroot puree with the mascarpone and parmesan and add breadcrumbs to achieve a paste consistency (so it is not runny). Taste for seasoning.

Sweet Potato and Pumpkin Ravioli Filling:
1 red skinned sweet potato, skinned and roasted
1/2 butternut pumpkin, skinned and roasted
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 tablespoon butter, room temperature
pinch of fresh grated nutmeg
pinch of mixed spice
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, finely grated
1/2 cup dried, fine breadcrumbs

Mash the Sweet Potato and Pumpkin and add the other ingredients, mixing well.

Spinach and Ricotta Cannelloni Filling;
Two handfuls spinach, wilted and chopped finely
200g fresh ricotta cheese
handful of marjoram leaves, chopped
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
salt and pepper

Combine all ingredients in a bowl mixing well.

Rich Bolognese Ravioli Filling:
300g lean beef mince
5 tbsp tomato paste
1 tbsp dried oregano
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
2 tsp brown sugar
1/2 cup water
Olive oil
Salt and pepper

Fry the mince in olive oil till browned and add the oregano and sugar and let caramelise for 5 mins.
Add the tomato paste, red wine vinegar and seasoning, and fry for another 5 mins.
Add the water and simmer till reduced back to a thick rich paste.

Ravioli Herb Pesto (from the Garden)
2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed

1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, finely grated
½ tsp sea salt & 8 black peppercorns, ground
Two big handfuls fresh basil leaves
Two big handfuls fresh rocket
Few sprigs fresh parsely
1 tsp unsalted butter
Juice and zest from ½ lemon
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil to make a paste

Add all ingredients to the food processor, except the olive oil, and process till finely chopped. Add oil in a thin stream to the pesto until just combined. Dont process for too long because it may emulsify the olive oil and make it frothy.
Thyme and Poppy Butter sauce
2 tbsp butter
1 tbsp olive oil
1/4 cup poppy seeds
1/4 cup fresh thyme leaves
1 tbsp hot pasta cooking water

Fizz the butter in a saucepan on the stove then add the other ingredients and toss through fresh pasta.

Tomato Cannelloni Sauce
knob of butter
8 Fresh Roma Tomatoes
2 cloves garlic
1 cup hot water
pinch of sugar
salt and pepper

Fry the tomatoes in the butter on high heat to caramelise, about 5 mins.
Add the sugar and garlic and fry another 3 mins.
Add the salt, pepper and water and bring to a simmer, reducing down to a loose tomato sauce.
Spoon into Cannelloni baking tray and place Cannelloni tubes on top.
Tear basil and pour over the cream, finishing with parmesan and slices of mozarella.
After all our fillings and sauces were ready and extra ingredients laid out we started pasta rolling!

Joel already had experience with his own pasta roller so he was really good at judging when the dough was 'right' - when it was silky and worked well enough through the first setting that we could proceed down the thicknesses to get paper thin ravioli pasta.

Chrissie, Bunker and Beth also came over and joined in the pasta rolling, and everyone helped so I was really really impressed. The ravioli maker attachment didnt work very well at first because of a few possible reasons: we put too much filling in, the pasta sheets were not wide enough, we didnt flour the sheets enough to stop them sticking and we needed to roll through the double sheets a  bit before putting any filling in. Beth ended up cleaning it and successfully rolling out some little square ravioli!
We became really good at rolling the sheets of dough so we decided to start also making ravioli pillows by hand, because we could get more filling in that way! For one ball of dough we added finely chopped marjoram and then rolled it out and used it to make beetroot pillows.

The Cannelloni needed to go in the oven so we rolled out a long strip of plain dough and cut squares from it to roll the Spinach and Ricotta and the Bolognese fillings. The tomato sauce was spooned into Daniels new baking dish and the Cannelloni were placed on top, with cream, parmesan, torn basil and big slices of Mozzarella. Into the oven it went for 20 mins.

Meanwhile, Beth ended up working out how to use the ravioli maker without it sticking and got a few handfuls of little ravioli from it. They were good but very small and we had so much filling left so we decided to continure making more by hand (with a roller cutter to make zigzag edges) and that was fun to do. A few minutes in boling salted water and they were done! We tossed half in pesto and half in the Thyme and Poppy Butter sauces.

It had taken a bit longer than expected, so we were really hungry, and it was well worth the wait and the effort.


The leftover Ravioli dough to make Semolina Spaghetti for another nights meal, by adding some semolina flour while rolling it out. It has made a wonderful rugged spaghetti, that will, I am sure, catch the sauce of a nice Rabbit Ragu I plan to make this weekend. 

Semolina Spaghetti

This Spaghetti is a recipe uses dough left over from a pasta making night. I created a more rustic dough by adding semolina flour while rolling and produced some wonderful Spaghetti that will hold a good Ragu' sauce. This recipe is a winner.

Semolina Spaghetti ingredients:
300g strong flour
3 free range organic eggs
100g Semolina flour for dusting and rolling
Pour the flour on the table and make a well in the centre for the eggs. Mix together with hands and knead, adding semolina flour if sticky, till soft and silky, approx 8 minutes.

Use a pasta roller or rolling pin to roll out the pasta dough, dusting with more Semolina, and cut Spaghetti with a roller. If you don't have a pasta roller, consider cutting a different type of pasta that will still do the same job of holding a great sauce - such as Tagliatelle (0.65-1cm ribbons).

Cook for 3-5 mins in boling salted water immediately, or hang over chairs on tea towels till dry and store in airtight containers in fridge for up to a month.

I imagine it will make a nice cold pasta salad in summer, with a tangy dressing and freshly podded green peas, parmesan and new season olive oil.

While its still winter, I think this spaghetti will go really well with a rich meat sauce that it can catch with its texture; such as Rich Rabbit Ragu.