spiced dried chocolate oranges

June 25, 2011 § 8 Comments

Beware, these chocolate oranges are deliciously addictive. This is the third time I have made them in the last week and finally I have had a chance to photograph them before they are gobbled up. I got the idea for dried chocolate oranges the other day when I visited a little florist in Thornbury. On a shelf in the middle of the shop, hard to miss, there were little bundles of all different dried fruit. I was admiring the apples, glistening with a drizzle of toffee, when I spied the dried orange segments each lovingly dipped in chocolate. I was just about to take a beautifully wrapped package up to the counter when I saw the price… $13! Needless to say that was enough to put the stingy student in me off, I went out and bought some green and blacks chocolate, picked some oranges off our very own tree, sliced them up, dried them in the oven, melted the chocolate, ‘lovingly dipped’ each orange segment, waited impatiently for them to set, and then sat down and nibbled and nibbled and nibbled until… I thought, I better make some more.

Recipe for spiced dried chocolate oranges
(Note, it may be a good idea to make double)

2 oranges
3 Tbsp raw organic sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
Pinch cloves
150 g very good quality dark chocolate

Pre-heat oven to 110°C/250°F. Cut the oranges in half lengthways and then slice thinly (about 3 mm thick) as bellow.

Toss the oranges in a bowl along with the sugar and spices until evenly covered. Carefully place on a baking tray lined with baking paper and pop in the pre-heated oven until the rind becomes brittle and dry. About 2 hours, however this will vary considerably depending on your oven.

Melt the chocolate in a bowl over boiling water. Dip each orange segment into the chocolate. Allow to set on a tray lined with baking paper before devouring.


Labna and Whey

May 27, 2011 § 3 Comments

Traditionally eaten in Lebanon, Palestine, Syria and Jordan  labna is a wonderful and easy way to make your own soft white cheese. Labna is creamy and delicious and works equally well with savory or sweet things. For example, spread it on toast with honey or alternatively garlic, olive oil and tomato. Eat it with stewed fruit or next to curries and so on.

To make Labna, you need to separate the whey from yoghurt. You are then left with a beautiful soft cheese and whey.

Whey is incredibly nutritious. Sally Fallon notes in her book, Nourishing Traditions, that whey has been used to cure a variety of human ailments since the time of the ancient Greeks. It is full of minerals and one teaspoon taken in a glass of water is said to help digestion. It is also said to help keep your joints, muscles and ligaments young and movable.

So to separate your whey from your yoghurt, you will need to place your yoghurt in a muslin cloth.

And suspend over a bowl either in a sieve or hanging from a wooden spoon and leave in a cool place for 24 hours.

You should then be left with a good layer of whey in the bottom of your bowl and lovely soft white cheese. Store your whey in a glass jar in the fridge.

To store your labna you can roll it into balls and cover with olive oil (obviously not if you want to use it for something sweet).

Labna

When life hands you lemons: olive oil, lemon and cardamom muffins

May 14, 2011 § 4 Comments

A lemon tree grows outside my bedroom window bushy and tall, almost the height of the house. From my bed I can watch them ripen on the branches too high to reach. And when I can’t contain myself any longer, I head out with a ladder and pull them down. The skin is rich with its lemony oils that fill the house when they are brought inside.

How to make Olive Oil Lemon Cardamom Muffins 

1 1/2 cups castor sugar
1 1/4 cups olive oil
3/4 cup milk
2 eggs
3 cups plain flour
1 dessert spoon of baking powder
Zest of 2 lemons
1 1/2 tsp freshly ground cardamom
1 tsp vanilla essence

Pre-heat oven to 170°C. Stir all ingredients in a large mixing bowl until just combined. Cook for 1/2 an hour or until cooked through when tested with a skewer.

chilli orange chocolate cake

April 20, 2011 § 3 Comments

I should be studying. I am trying to write an essay. But every time I attempt it, I find myself wanting to throw my computer across the room. In an effort to relax, I have been dreaming up cakes and pottering in the kitchen.

So here is the result, a cake with bite. Inspired by a traditional brownie, it comes out crusty on top and soft, dense and moist in the middle, the chilli and orange a reflection of my mood. I have only used a subtle amount of chilli but if you want more kick you can add up to 1 tsp.

Ingredients
100 g butter
250 g brown sugar
200 g good quality dark cooking chocolate
2 free  range organic eggs
1 tsp vanilla essence
rind of 1 orange
1/2 tsp chilli powder
1/4 tsp cinnamon
100 g plain spelt flour (or normal flour if you would prefer)
1/2 tsp baking powder

Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees C. Melt the butter and chocolate in a bowl over boiling water. Remove from heat and stir in the sugar, eggs, vanilla, orange, chilli and cinnamon.  Sift the flour and baking powder and add to the chocolate mix, stirring until just combined. Transfer to a lined and greased 20 cm diameter cake tin. Bake for 20 -30 minutes or until crusty on top but still moist inside.

homemade fig and pear semi-freddo

April 3, 2011 § 13 Comments

Over our back fence there is an overgrown lane-way. The grass is knee-high littered with old televisions and garden clippings sneakily dropped out of neighbours lives. This place seems long forgotten. Certainly no one seems to go there. And I wouldn’t either, if it were not for the huge fig tree that hangs beyond one lucky neighbours back-yard, the branches reaching deep into the lane. Once a week I have been jumping our fence, braving the long grass with the hidden electrical appliances and checking on the figs, waiting for them to turn soft and blushing purple. I’m glad I have been watching so closely, because all of a sudden they have hurriedly begun to ripen and split, the purple blush revealing delicious pink softly wrapped in white. My recent visits have had me returning with a wide sticky smile and pockets juicy and bulging. I have needed careful restraint in order for them to make it all the way to the kitchen with me. Luckily the idea of fig ice-cream has kept me determined to save a special few.

Semi-freddo is a lovely way to get the idea of ice-cream without all the bother, fluster and equipment needed to produce it.  Inspired by Jamie Oliver’s recipe in this book I have changed the quantities a bit, and adapted it to my own flavourings.

It’s probably obvious, I am making fig and pear semi-freddo because I want to impress someone. What could be especially delightful for my sweetheart just back from 5 months in Africa. This recipe is both seductive and gentle with the comfort of pears and flirtation of figs.

What you will need
400 g fresh figs
1 ripe pear
2 Tbsp fresh lemon or lime juice
pinch cinnamon
100 g brown sugar
1 vanilla pod
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
5 free range organic eggs separated
600 ml thick organic cream
pinch salt
1 Tbsp raw organic honey

Remove the stalk from the fig and cut into quarters. Remove the core from the pear and roughly chop. Place the fig, pear, lemon juice, cinnamon and sugar in a saucepan and stew until soft and caramelised. Allow to cool before pureeing.
Whisk together the egg yolks and vanilla.
In a second bowl whisk the cream until soft peaks form.
In a third bowl whisk the egg whites and salt until very firm peaks form.
Gently fold all ingredients together. Transfer to an old ice cream container or tupperware and drizzle with honey before placing in the freezer for about 4 hours or until partially frozen. Otherwise, freeze for longer and place in the fridge for 20 minutes before serving. Semi-freddo is Italian and literally translates to semi-frozen.
Serve in a bowl with fresh figs or a drizzle of honey.

Enjoy!

Other very tasty combinations:
Banana and cardamom
Apricot and almond
Chocolate and chili

Everything Pink: Chocolate Beetroot Cupcakes

February 22, 2011 § 3 Comments

Pink is beautiful! I have only just noticed this.

My love affair with pink has crept up and surprised me, slowly taking form, settling into the back-seat of my mind, organising itself, getting comfortable before revealing itself to me.

Perhaps the seed was planted recently when I loved the paper curtain in our laundry.

Floral and patterned and pink.

Or when I started taking photos of pink roses.

Velvety and creamy and pink.

Or perhaps it was some years ago when I bought this dress.

1950’s and vintage and pink.

Or way back when I admired the stain of beetroot on everything it touched.

Bright and earthy and pink.

Either way, I have been told that pink is the colour of universal love and you should bring pink into your life when you want calmness, relaxation, acceptance and contentment.

Well that suits me just fine. Any excuse to make Chocolate Beetroot Cupcakes in a pink dress!

Recipe for Chocolate Beetroot Cupcakes with Orange Spiced Chocolate Mousse Topping

200 g dark cooking chocolate, I used Green and Blacks Organic 85% Cocoa
80 g butter
200 g dark brown sugar
3 free range organic eggs
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
200 g raw beetroot finely grated
1 Tbsp natural yoghurt
Dash of milk if needed
80 g almond meal
80 g plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp cinnamon

Method

Pre-heat oven to 170°C/340°F

Melt the chocolate in a bowl over a saucepan of boiling water.

In a large mixing bowl cream together the butter and sugar. Add the eggs and vanilla extract and beat until fluffy. Mix in the grated beetroot, yoghurt and milk. Add the melted chocolate and combine well. Add the almond meal and sift in the flour cinnamon and baking powder. Stir until just combined.

Place 16 – 18 cupcake cases in a muffin tray. Spoon mixture into the cases until about 3/4 full.

Bake for 25 to 35 minutes or until cooked when tested with a skewer.

Chocolate mousse topping

100 g dark chocolate (85% cocoa)
200 ml sour cream
Zest of 1/4 orange
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
Pinch ground cloves
2 Tbsp honey

Method

While the cupcakes are cooling, make the topping by melting the chocolate along with the orange zest in a bowl over a saucepan with boiling water. Remove from heat and gradually stir in the sour cream. Add the cloves, vanilla extract and honey and smooth over the cooled cupcakes. Store in the fridge.

Enjoy!!

What it Means to be Perfect: Chocolate coated dried plums marinated in white wine and a hint of thyme

February 11, 2011 § 9 Comments

Chocolate coated dried plums

When in Belgium I went to visit my great aunty and uncle Yvonne and Jos in the small town of Bellingen. Oom Jos just turned 90 and Tante Yvonne isn’t far behind. We ate cake with a fork and knife before a dinner of witlof wrapped in ham and baked in snowy white sauce. This is a very traditional Flemish dish. As a child I was always glad witlof was so hard to find in Australia so it rarely ended up in my mother’s kitchen. But now I enjoy it in small amounts provided there’s plenty of ham and sauce to go around.

During the Flemish conversations around the dinner table I mostly daydreamed at the paintings on the wall and marvelled at the young spirit of my aunt and uncle gossiping and laughing about the local goings on. At one point, the conversation briefly turned to English and my uncle proclaimed,

Tante Yvonn and Oom Jos

‘No one is perfect.’

Then after reflecting on this statement for a while he continued,

‘Except for my wife! She is Perfect. She cleans and cooks all day. She is perfect… only problem is she has no time for making love. She is too busy. She never has time to kiss me.’

I am always struck when I see an old relationship full of humour, love and adoration like this one, a little reminder that life can indeed be great, full of warmth and happiness.

So because the conversation here is about love and perfection and because it is almost Valentines Day and because I am sadly alone with my darling still in Africa, I have decided it is most suitable I share this recipe so perfect and delicious it will make you weak at the knees and your heart melt. Well at least I hope so.

I got the idea of chocolate covered prunes from Stephanie Alexanders book The Cooks Companion. She stuffs them with almonds and soaks them in brandy. I have adapted it some by using white wine and adding a few little bits and pieces for extra freshness. I think the thyme and lemon zest brings something unique and light to the richness of the chocolate. I also changed the terminology a bit because for something with a valentine spirit ‘prunes’ doesn’t really have the right um… connotations in regards to some of its well known uses. Dried plums on the other hand….

Recipe for Chocolate Coated Dried Plums

You will need

30 pitted prunes

30 almonds

3/4 cup white wine

Juice of an orange

Sprig of thyme

Zest of 1/4 of  a lemon

200g dark cooking chocolate

Stuff an almond into each prune where the pip would have been and place in a bowl along with the white wine, orange juice, thyme and lemon zest. Allow to soak for 1 – 2 hours then drain well.

drain well

Melt the chocolate in a heat proof bowl over a saucepan of boiling water.

Melted chocolate

Dip each prune into the chocolate. Allow to cool in the fridge on a tray covered with baking paper until the chocolate sets.

Allow to cool on baking paper

Serve on a pretty plate and eat with someone special.

Enjoy!!

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