Tuesday, 19 January 2016

Tuesday feels.

So here is a little bit of link love.

I'd like to say this will become a somewhat regular thing where I add links to what I've been reading or watching and any insightful ideas or stories I might have, but truth be told I'm not sure if that'll be the case. But why not add another challenge to my week :)

To start with, I really loved this post which I read on 'The Vanilla Bean blog' that has a quote from Neil Gaiman about making mistakes this year, it's a refreshing way to look at the new year ahead.

This post and this post (dumplings and cheesecake... YUM!) from Amelia at Bon Appetempt made me purchase Ruth Reichl's book, My Kitchen Year from book depository and I can't wait for it to arrive.  You should also watch this video which her husband made of their son(s) - Congrats :)

Last week I discovered Tifforelie's youtube channel. I have been following her on instagram for a while now and when she posted she had a vlog channel on youtube, I couldn't click the link quick enough. It makes me want to pack everything up in the truck and leave yesterday!! I also want to try and make my version of the smores donuts she eats in vlog 2, they look indulgent and decadent mmmm.

pasta | salt sugar and i

On Friday night I made the most delicious dinner for one. It could have definitely fed two but since I was alone on a Friday night I thought I'd treat myself to a huge bowl of delicious baked eggplant, chilli, garlic and prawn pasta, on the couch while watching the end of Vampire Diaries seasons 6 (my guilty pleasure) with a large glass of chilled rose. If I can recreate the pasta it I'll post the recipe here because it was one of those little effort, huge flavour ones we all love.

This week, Luisa from The Wednesday Chef posted some behind the scene snap shots on her blog from her Classic German Baking book which she is working on. I feel like I've been hanging on for every post since she announced she was making one for more news and I have my fingers crossed for a springerle recipe. Springerle are a traditional Christmas cookie (see Luisa's post about them here) and my dad used to talk about having them as a kid so I'd love to bring back a family tradition. Plus everyone needs more cookies at Christmas time right?!

And finally since plums are in season I made the famous plum torte over the weekend with my bestie and I suggest you do too if your on this side of the world and plums are in season. Its easy, delicious and a great excuse for cake, not that we should ever need one.

Until next time x

Friday, 15 January 2016

Mexican Wedding Cakes and bringing in 2016.

A belated Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to everyone!

Over Christmas and New Years I ate and drank my body weight in food, bubbles and lychee martini's, times about a billion. My clothes feel like they're busting at the zippers and I have an extra layer to keep me warm for these stupid humid days Sydney has had this week. But it's a new year so that means a fresh start. I have a whole list of new years resolutions which I have written down on a scrap piece of paper and stored it in my laptop case in hopes no one will find it and see the long list I have written for myself. I'm am excited for what this year holds but there is a niggle of doubt I keep feeling now and then that I can't shake. What if I get to the end of the year and feel the same as last year which was to be honest... meh.

Mexican Wedding Cakes | salt sugar and i

Last year was a year of meh... I turned 27 and I didn't want to. I flat out wanted to skip it and stay 26 for another year then jump to 28 next year, good plan don't you think? 27 is an ugly number (sorry to everyone else who is also 27), I think I dislike this specific age also because I'm not where I thought I would be at 27. I know I know! Expectations aren't everything but I think it's a hard thing to come to terms with when you think you'll be somewhere and then you arrive at 27 and you are no where near it. But I know 27 isn't that bad in reality, if anything getting to 27 and realising there is more I wanted to do by now has given me a kick up the butt to get a move on. I've made a 'before 30' list.... scary!!

Mexican Wedding Cakes | salt sugar and i

One thing that came of 2015 is that I started enjoying baking and being back in the kitchen again. It could have been because I stole my mums stand mixer don't plan on giving it back or it could also be because I no longer work in a commercial kitchen. Do I miss working in a commercial kitchen? honestly... some days yes but mostly I'm glad thats not me anymore. Will I ever go back? maybe, maybe not but definitely not yet. Do I still love food and cooking? yes and if so, even more than before. Am I ready to find what else is out there? for sure! But what I want this year is not to worry about what I do to pay the bill and try to focus on what I do with my time. I want to live outside more, get my hands a little dirty, not worry about the small things, spend less on things I don't need, be grateful with what I have and enjoy my time with those around me, this world to so big and life is too short.

Mexican Wedding Cakes | salt sugar and i

Ah what a rant!

I originally started writing this post to share these Mexican Wedding Cake biscuits I made for work colleagues as a Christmas gift but seem to have got very side tracked in it being a new years rant and all that sha-bang. I also made these biscuits again the other day because when I first made them I only got to eat one (ok maybe 2) to make sure they were as delicious as Jessica from Sweet Amandine said they were. I adapted the recipe slightly but I think I did her proud. They are little balls of nutty shortbread coated in a thick dusting, actually more of a coating of icing sugar that practically explode when you bite into them. They are nutty and not too sweet. There isn't that much sugar in the biscuit itself but it's when you coat them in icing sugar while they are still warm is where the magic of these cookies happens. It starts to melt into a layer which coats the whole cookie, then you dust them a 2nd time for that pretty white snow-like look. The trick is to not touch them until they are completely cool, I put them int he fridge for 5 min.

Mexican Wedding Cakes | salt sugar and i

The first time I made them with toasted pecans but then when I made them the other day I burnt the pecans in the oven so made them with almonds instead. Both were delicious but I think I'm a pecan girl. I'm wondering if toasted macadamias would also work well, I'll have to give them a go and keep you posted. These make wonderful little gifts and go amazingly well with a cup of tea at about 3pm or really any time of the day, breakfast included.

Life's too short to not make and eat these little morsels of goodness, even if it does mean that the button on my jeans take a little longer to do up.

Here's to 2016 and it being less meh than 2015!!

Mexican Wedding Cakes | salt sugar and i

Mexican Wedding Cakes

makes about 40
(recipe adapted from Sweet Amandine)

225g butter, softened
70g icing sugar (plus approx. 250g extra for the sugar coating)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
250g plain flour
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
130g toasted and ground pecans (or almonds)

- Beat the butter, 70g icing sugar and vanilla until pale and fluffy, scraping the sides down to make sure everything is mixed well together. Then beat in the flour and toasted, ground pecans (or almonds) until well combined.

- Divide the dough in half and form each half into a ball. Wrap in cling film and refrigerate for at least 30 minuets or overnight. (If you chill the dough overnight you will need to let it sit at room temp for about 20-30 minuets before you can scoop it, but don't let it get too warm. It should be cold but scoop-able.)

- Preheat your oven to 180C (160C fan forced) or 350F and line a baking tray with baking paper. Then place your 250g of extra icing sugar into a bowl or pie dish.

- Now it's time to get rollin'! Remove one half of the dough from the fridge and using a level tablespoonful of dough for each cookie, roll it into balls using the palms of your hands and arrange them about half an inch apart on your lined baking tray.

- Bake for about 15-17 minutes, until the cookies are a flush darker on top and are golden brown on the bottoms. Cool the cookies for about 5 minuets on the baking sheet then toss them in the icing sugar then place them on a cooking rack. Do this to all the warm cookies then toss them in the icing mixture a second time to give them an extra coating. Repeat with the remaining dough.

- Wait until the icing sugar coated cookies are completely cool before storing (I placed the warm dusted cookies in the fridge for about 5 minutes to set the sugar coating). They will keep for up to a week in an airtight container - if they can last that long!

Monday, 21 December 2015

The only Coconut Cake with Coconut Buttercream Frosting recipe you'll ever need.

I have been obsessed with finding the perfect coconut cake recipe for over a year now. It all started when I went to a friends engagement party and they served one of the best coconut cakes I'd ever eaten and after admitting to the bride-to-be that I was on my third piece I've wanted to replicate it ever since. You'd think there are thousands of recipes for coconut cake out there online and in books but I found a lot of them are just a butter cake with some coconut sprinkled here and there or a plain butter cake with a teaspoon of extract added. That wouldn't do. I needed to find a recipe which would be the perfect coconut cake with an icing that had a hint of coconut but not too sweet and you could happily eat three pieces and still want more.

Coconut Cake with Coconut Buttercream | salt sugar and i

So a couple of weeks ago when a friend asked if I'd make her baby shower cake I thought it was the perfect opportunity to suggest maybe she would like a coconut cake, don't worry I did give more than one option :) Inside I jumped at the opportunity but I couldn't help the little negative-nancy inside me who was so worried I'd screw it up or worse, drop it at the last minute. Does anyone else have cake nightmares? or is it just me...

With a whole lot of googling and frantic cookbook flipping through books I trusted I found a recipe I was happy with for the cake and a recipe I was happy with for the icing and BOOM! The perfect combination for cake and icing!

Coconut Cake with Coconut Buttercream | salt sugar and i

It was moist (haha what a terrible word), had the perfect crumb and a great coconut flavour throughout the whole cake and then covered in dried coconut which looks like the cake was airbrushed with snow. It uses unsweetened coconut milk as the liquid and also unsweetened desiccated coconut that is soaked in boiling water to soften it so it didn't make the cake chewing that can sometimes happen when using dried coconut. The buttercream icing used coconut milk which evened out the sweetness from all the icing sugar and didn't overpower the flavour like some extracts can do.

The baby bunting cake topper was also homemade, my bestie and I had a craft afternoon the day before and made it using 'Honestly Yum' DIY blog post and it worked perfectly.

But most importantly the baby shower was lovely! We played a couple of guessing the bump and due date games, got to design a bib for the little mystery bub, drank a delicious champagne elderflower punch with fresh nectarine and cherries and ate sandwiches, cheese and cake. It was a perfect afternoon! The little one is due so so soon and I think we are all very excited to meet her/him when they arrive for the mum(& dad)-to-be as an early Christmas present.

Congrats TT and Dave! Can't wait to meet the little one :)

Coconut Cake with Coconut Buttercream | salt sugar and i

Coconut Cake with Coconut Buttercream Frosting

cake recipe adapted from Jane Hornby's 'What to Bake and How to Bake it' cookbook
icing recipe adapted from Jemma Wilson's (aka Cupcake Jemma) 'The Cupcake Book' cookbook

Coconut cake

50g unsweetened desiccated coconut
225g unsalted butter, softened
225g caster sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
5 eggs
300g plain flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
120ml full-fat coconut milk (from a can)

- Firstly, soak the desiccated coconut in boiling water for 15 minutes (or longer if you can) then pour into a sieve and press out the excess water.

- Next grease and line 2 x 8inch round cake tins with baking paper and preheat oven to 350F/180C.

- Using an electric mixer beat the butter and and caster sugar together until pale and creamy making sure you scrape the sides of the bowl down as you go. Beat in the eggs, one at a time until completely combined. If the mixture starts to look lumpy or split add 1 tablespoon of the flour and it should come back together.

- In a separate bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder and salt. Sift half into the butter and sugar mixture and fold it in using a spatular then fold in the coconut milk followed by the remaining sifted flour and the drained desiccated coconut.

- Divide the mixture into the two prepared cake tins and flattening and smoothing the tops.

- Bake for 25 minutes or until the cakes have risen, are firm and slightly shrunken back from the sides of the tin. Leave to cool in tins for 10 minutes then take cakes out of tins and cool on wire racks completely.

Coconut Buttercream:

300g unsalted butter, softened
675g icing mixture
5 tablespoons coconut milk (same as used for the cake, above)

- Beat butter until pale and creamy using an electric mixer. Add in one third of the icing mixture and beat on high until combined and then add the next third and do the same until all the icing mixture in mixed in thoroughly, scraping the sides and bottom of your bowl as you go.

- Add the coconut milk a table spoon at a time mixing really well after each addition. Once all the coconut milk has been incorporated beat on high for about 30 seconds to a minute.

- Use immediately or store in an airtight container in the fridge for 3-4 days then bring back to room temp and beat on high for 2min.

To assemble to cake:

- Make sure your cake is completely cooled and the icing is smooth and fluffy.

- Even out the two cake layers by thinly slicing the tops of them off using a serrated knife.

- Put a splodge of icing down on your serving plate and place a layer of cake down onto the splodge of icing. This icing is to hold the cake to the serving plate so it wont slide around so make sure your cake is also centred because you wont be able to move it around after this point.

- Next, spread about 1 cup of icing onto the centre of the cake evenly then place the other piece of cake, cut side down on top of the icing. Spread a thin layer of icing all over the cake - top and sides using a pallet knife and fill in any gaps you might have then place in the fridge for about 15-20 minutes. Once it comes out of the fridge, spread a thick layer of icing all over the cake as evenly as possible and place it back int he fridge for about 10 minutes - no longer!

- To get the coconut around the whole cake press very very lightly desiccated coconut to the sides of the cake with your hand making sure you have a large tray underneath to catch the excess and sprinkle the top generously. Be careful not to press hard as you'll put your finger through the cake. Place in the fridge until ready to serve then take out about 1 hour before serving.

Thursday, 3 December 2015

Pomodori al riso aka Tomatoes stuffed with rice from Five Quarters: Recipes and Notes from a Kitchen in Rome

I've become lazy and blank on this space.

We all have those days where everything you make/eat tastes meh...well I do. So my reason for silence and blank-ness is that everything I make lately is meh and there are thousands of food blogs out there with flashier photo's and a much broader recipe base, not just about what I made (& ate) for dinner which lately has been meh for you to read and drool over. Saying I feel lost in cyber space is an understatement.

Brain fart, sorry.

The last tasty thing I made was a couple weeks months ago now and I still can't stop thinking about it. Pomodori al riso aka Tomatoes stuffed with rice from 'Five Quarters: Recipes and Notes from a Kitchen in Rome' by Rachel Roddy who writes the blog Rachel Eats. I have a thing for stuffed vegetables... stuffed anything really. If you can fill it and bake it, why not!? isn't everything better when its stuffed and baked?

You don't see recipes that double carb it much these days with all the 'super foods' and 'clean eating' shenanigans around but it was nice to read a recipe that was just honest home cooked food. Nothing there to convince me what health benefits it would have on me other than to fill an empty tummy and serve to friends with a nice side salad and a good bottle of wine.  I mean the first ingredient is 8 firm, fruity, fleshy and flavoursome tomatoes... how can you not want to make this instantly??

With a little bit of prep and planning, once it is all assembled and ready to go in the oven you can forget about for 1-1 1/4 hours and then once the timer goes off you have another 30 minutes to fix your hair (also so the tomatoes, which are pyroclastic-ly hot don't burn the roof of your mouth) before you serve a dinner that looks impressive and isn't shy on flavour. The recipe says you can leave them until they are at room temperature as it allows the flavours to settle and get better but I'll be completely honest with you, I only left mine long enough so I didn't singe my mouth off because as always... hunger wins! Next time I'll wait though, all the little grains of rice soak up the olive oil and tomato juice and have time to mingle with the basil. I had leftovers for lunch the next day and it was perfect! I love how this meal is honest home cooking that doesn't skimp of taste. No flashy ingredients or techniques, just a damn delicious dinner. I make again and again over summer, just have to wait for the big juicy tomatoes to come into season... bring on summer!

Tomatoes stuffed with rice | salt sugar and i

Pomodori al riso aka Tomatoes stuffed with rice

from Five Quarters: Recipes and Notes from a Kitchen in Rome by Rachel Roddy
(recipe adapted ever so slightly to avoid the washing up of extra bowls)

8 firm, fruity, fleshy and flavoursome tomatoes
2 garlic cloves, finely sliced
8 basil leaves, torn
10 tablespoons risotto rise (I used Arborio)
100ml extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for the potatoes
1kg potatoes
salt and freshly ground pepper

- Preheat your oven to 180C/400F.

- Cut the tops of the tomatoes, keeping the little lids aside and one by one hold each tomato over a bowl and, using a teaspoon, scoop out their insides - flesh, seeds and juice - into the bowl. Sprinkle a little salt in the inside of each tomato then turn cut side down onto paper towels, set aside.

- Process the tomato flesh, seeds and juice in a food processor or blitz with a hand blender. Add the garlic, basil leaves, rice and olive oil to the pulverised tomato flesh, season generously with salt and pepper. Stir everything together well and then let sit for at least 45 minutes so the rice soaks up all the juices.

- Meanwhile, cut the potatoes into 1cm thick, 3cm long matchsticks. Place them in large baking dish, pour over a little love oil, sprinkle with salt and using your hand toss the potatoes until they are well coated. Spread them out evenly on your baking dish and place the hollowed out tomatoes in amongst them.

- Spoon your rice mixture into the hollow tomatoes until they are 3/4 full then place the lids on top. Slide the tray into your pre-heated oven and bake for 1-1 1/4 hours, or until the tomatoes are soft and just starting to shrivel, the rice is plump and tender and the potatoes are soft and golden. Allow them to sit for about half an hour before eating.

Warning - the tomatoes are blistering hot when they come out of the oven (no joke!) so I advise you don't skip the last step and let them sit and cool down slightly before digging in.

Sunday, 11 October 2015

Roasted Brussel Sprouts with a Fish Sauce Vinaigrette from Food52's Genius Recipes cookbook.

When you read enough food blogs you realise everyone has 'the' recipe for you and I am guilty of that too. There are these recipes that flood the internet every now and then that nearly every food blog has a slightly adapted version of it on there, again I am also guilty of this. Most of those recipes which are worth writing about again and again are worth making and the ones which pop up the most end up on bigger sites then just little old food blogs, some even end up in cookbooks.

The other day I write a whole post on brussel sprouts. Yep thats right. I had a whole lot to say about them but then when I re-read it back I sounded like a sales woman for this recipe that I had stumbled across in Food52's Genius Recipes. And for goodness sakes there brussel sprouts right? You either love them or hate them. I sit somewhere in the middle and until about 2 weeks ago I didn't know how else to cook them except put them in a microwave safe dish, cover with cling film and press the fresh vegetable button on the microwave. When the microwaves beeps, smother them in butter with pepper and salt and you're done, right? Well, did you know you can roast them? I didn't until I read the recipe for Roasted Brussel Sprouts with Fish Sauce Vinaigrette so maybe thats what I was trying to sell in my previous post that will never be published. You can bake them!

Roasted Brussel Sprouts with a Fish Sauce Vinaigrette from Food52's Genius recipes | salt sugar and i

You literally toss them with some olive oil and place them on a baking tray and bung them in the oven. That easy.

They were completely unexpected - sweet from being roasted but salty and spicy from the fish sauce vinaigrette. I even used the vinaigrette later in the week for other roast vegetables like carrot, broccoli and mushrooms and it was so good. The recipe makes alot and you only need a couple of table spoons drizzled on top but it does keep well in the fridge for a few days. Plus the washing up was minimal which is always a good thing.

To sum this recipe up, they were kick-ass sprouts which will impress anyone you serve them to, even Tristan who is Brussel Sprout hater loved them or if I haven't convinced you with the sprouts, do the same with broccoli. It's worth it!

Roasted Brussel Sprouts with a Fish Sauce Vinaigrette from Food52's Genius recipes | salt sugar and i

Roasted Brussel Sprouts with a Fish Sauce Vinaigrette

Recipe from Food52's Genius Recipes cookbook which is lights adapted from Momofuku by David Chang and Peter Meehan. Below is slightly adapted, find original recipe here.

Serves 4

Fish sauce vinaigrette (see below)
2 tablespoons finely chopped coriander stems & 1/2 cup leaves
3 tablespoons chopped mint
900g brussel sprouts
2 tablespoons light olive oil (or any other neutral oil)

- Preheat oven to 400F/190C.

- Combine vinaigrette (see below), coriander stems and mint in a bowl and set aside

- Peel away any loose or discoloured outer leaves, trim the dry end of the stems with a knife, and cut the sprouts in half. Cut any especially large ones in quarters. Do not wash, but if they are really dirty and you need to make sure you dry them very well.

- Toss the sprouts with the olive oil and spread them on a baking sheet, cut sides down. Roast in the oven, checking for browning every 10-15 minutes, tossing them around with a spatula only once they start to brown nicely. The sprouts are ready when they are tender but not soft, with nice, dark brown colour.

- Serve them warm or at room temperature. When ready to serve, divide the brussels sprouts among four bowls (or serve it all out of one big bowl), top with the dressing (about 3-4 tablespoons) to taste and coriander leaves, and toss once or twice to coat.

Fish Sauce Vinaigrette
Note: I halved the recipe below as the original makes alot.
1/4 cup fish sauce
2 tablespoons water
1 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
juice of 1/2 lime
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 garlic clove, minced
1 birds eye chilli, thinly sliced (or a good pinch of dried chilli flakes)

- Combine the fish sauce, water, vinegar, lime juice, sugar, garlic, and chiles in a jar.

- Taste; If too salty, add more water and/or lime juice. This vinaigrette will keep for up to a week in the refrigerator.

Saturday, 12 September 2015

Spicy Tuscan Kale, a recipe that keeps the mad index flicking away.

For the past few weeks we've been getting a mixed fruit and vegetable box from a Sydney based fruit and veg company which only supplies Australian produce. We pay a specific amount, choose the ratio of fruit to veg, our favourite items and items we never want in our mixed box and it arrives on a Tuesday after work. It's a great surprise and the produce is much better than what the supermarket stocks. The only down side of it is that I find it really hard to meal plan for the week. Yes I can select my preferences but it doesn't mean for certain I'm going to get an eggplant if I favourite an eggplant that week or mushrooms if I select them. What is does mean is that I end up flicking through cookbook indexes like a mad woman trying to work out what to do with a vegetable I hadn't planned for. I want to say I sit there and flick through my collection gathering inspiration from here and there but reality is on a Wednesday night when I'm hungry, I'm hungry.

Spicy Tuscan Kale | salt sugar and i

Last week it was a bunch of kale that was getting me into a grump and here's the thing, I like to have 'go to' recipes when I'm hungry and lacking in time. A recipe I almost don't have to think about and can just find the page in a book or know in my head. I know there are hundreds of kale recipes out there and I'm going to make a broad statement here, most of them are salads or smoothies. I love a good kale salad (see here) but on a cold night I want something warm and comforting, a salad just doesn't kick it for me let alone a green smoothie.

I remember seeing a recipe for Spicy Tuscan Kale by Ruth Reichl on Luisa Weiss's blog The Wednesday Chef a few weeks ago and really wanting to give it a go but I didn't have any kale on hand, hoorah! now I did. When I looked at the recipe again she uses three bunches of lacinato kale. I had one bunch of curly kale. I felt the desperation of index flicking creep upon me as it so often does these days, then I thought, stuff it! I'm going to make it with what I have and you know what? I now know what to do with kale when I see it in my mixed box. The desperate search through indexes like a mad woman for kale is over. I found it. My 'go to' kale recipe.

Spicy Tuscan Kale | salt sugar and i

It starts with blanching the kale in boiling water and then draining. I cheated by pouring freshly boiled water from the kettle over the kale and letting it sit for about 3 minutes, it saved me washing up a colander. I just tonged the kale out of the water and straight into the frying pan of olive oil doused fried onions and melted anchovies with some chilli flakes and garlic. Don't turn your nose up at the anchovies, its like a rude word for some. They melt down to nothing and give everything a rich saltiness that you can't get from just adding salt. It's all left to cook for about 10 min until the kale has cooked down and is a deep dark green. It's then topped and tossed with toasted breadcrumbs and parmesan. A winner in my books on all accounts. Also thinking I might try tossed with some spaghetti with a little crispy pancetta next time... mmm yum.

I now have my go to kale recipe... breathe.

Spicy Tuscan Kale | salt sugar and i

Spicy Tuscan Kale

Recipe adapted from Ruth Reichl found on The Wednesday Chef.
Serves 2-3 as a side

1 bunch curly green kale, stems removed and leave torn into large pieces
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 anchovy fillets in oil, minced
1 small onion, roughly diced
1/2 teaspoon chilli flakes
2 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced
pinch salt
generous grinding of freshly cracked black pepper
1/2 cup parmesan cheese, finely grated
1/4 cup toasted panko bread crumbs *

- In a large frying pan heat one tablespoon of the olive oil over medium heat and add the anchovies, pressing them into the pan so they almost disintegrate. Then add your onions and cook until translucent, about 5 -8 minutes.

- Meanwhile, boil the kettle and place kale in a large bowl. Pour over the freshly boiled water and let sit for about 2-3 minutes. Try and time this so all you have to do next is tong the kale into the frying pan with the translucent onions to save on washing up. If not, drain the kale, rinse under cold water and add to the pan once the onions have done their thing.

- After adding the drained kale into the frying pan add the chilli, garlic, salt, pepper and remaining olive oil. Cook for about 10-12 min, stirring occasionally until the kale has cooked down and is a deep green colour.

- Remove from the heat and toss through half of the parmesan and breadcrumbs. To serve, add the remaining parmesan and breadcrumbs on top, this keeps the texture of the breadcrumbs crispy.

* To toast the panko breadcrumbs; heat 1 teaspoon olive oil in a small pan with a pinch of salt, stirring frequently over a low heat until the breadcrumbs have become darker and fragrant. Be careful and don't turn your back on them, it's like toasting nuts; can be fine one minute then burn the next.

Saturday, 29 August 2015

Comfort food for cold toes. Saffron risotto with silky baked eggplant and thyme mushrooms.

I came home on Thursday night from work with a brain that felt fried and an appetite for home-cooked comfort food. I watched a storm roll in from our bedroom window that turned the skies black in almost an instant, waiting in hope for the fireworks of lightening to start. I love a good storm. The blinds were swaying from the welcoming breeze and my toes were freezing. Arthur however, couldn't decide if he wanted to catch the blind cord which was knocking against the window edge or start biting my ankles for dinner. Yes my cat bites my ankles if I don't feed him quick enough, it's a serious case of hanger. Must take after his mother.

Saffron risotto with baked eggplant and mushrooms | salt sugar and i

With a crisper full of veggies for more then two people can possible eat before the next weekly veggie box delivery and a brain that can't think past the saffron risotto my parents made, I knew that sitting and watching the storm was not going to get me dinner. I was thinking baked eggplant (like this), saffron risotto that I used to eat growing up (I called it yellow rice) and thyme and garlic mushrooms that always went will the yellow rice.

After I fed Arthur his nibbles to save my ankles I roughly halved and quartered a bag of button mushrooms and threw them in a lined baking tray along with a huge clove of roughly chopped garlic, some fresh thyme leaves that have been floating around the fridge for a couple of weeks but are surprisingly still green and a generous grinding of salt and pepper. I halved a medium sized eggplant and rubbed the cut side with a mixture of olive oil, garlic, chilli, lemon zest, salt and pepper and placed it cut side down on the baking tray nestled in between the mushrooms. Bunged it all in a preheated (180C) oven and forgot about it for 30 minutes while I cooked the saffron risotto.

Kitchen | salt sugar and i

I feel I'm in good hands when a recipe starts with cooking onion and garlic until it's soft and fragrant, I don't know what it is about the smell but it promises a good meal and gets the hunger rolling (if it hasn't already started). I can have just started cooking dinner and only have the garlic and onion cooking in a pan when Tristan walks in saying 'Yes! it's out apartment that the smell is coming from!' then proceeded to snack on whatever is edible on the chopping board as swipe his hand out of the way.

This risotto starts with finely diced onion, celery and a clove of crushed garlic sweated down in some olive oil until translucent and shiny. I then add the rice and cook for a minute or so until I hear a sizzle then pour two generous glasses of white wine, one for the pot and one for me. Once the wine cooked away I gradually added in the stock and a teaspoon of veggie stock powder (I know, don't turn your noses up. It won't taste like the one from my childhood if I leave this step out - stock cubes were the only stock I knew growing up) stirring pretty much the whole time. In a small ramekin I soaked a pinch of saffron threads in some freshly boiled water from the kettle and let it sit for about 10 minutes until it becomes a vibrant yellow. The saffron water went into the rice, tasted, seasoned then turned the heat off. Added a couple of knobs of butter, a large handful of freshly grated parmesan cheese and let sit for about 5 minutes with the lid on so it went all oozing, buttery and delicious.

Saffron risotto with baked eggplant and mushrooms | salt sugar and i

Everything came together at about the same time. The eggplant was a revelation. It had turned silky and just melted away from its skin when scooped out and it had soaked up all the flavours of the garlic, chilli, olive oil and lemon zest perfectly. The mushrooms were better baked then pan-fried like I normally do them, it was like their flavours intensified and they were more mushroomy if that makes sense. I served the scooped eggplant flesh along side the baked mushrooms and saffron risotto, a perfect meal when craving comfort food with cold toes.

To my disappointment the storm passed with not a single drop of rain over head or a flash of lightening, as quick as it came, it went.

Saffron risotto with silky baked eggplant and thyme mushrooms.

serves 3

For the mushrooms:
300g button mushrooms, halved or quartered
2 sprigs fresh thyme
1 large garlic clove, roughly chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
salt & pepper

For the eggplant:
1 medium eggplant, halved lengthways
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1/2 teaspoon chilli flakes
salt & pepper
sprinkling of lemon zest

For the risotto:
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium-small onion, finely diced
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 stick celery, finely diced
1.5 cups arborio rice
1 regular wine glass of white wine
1 litre chicken stock
1/2 teaspoon veggie stock power (or stock cube)
pinch saffron threads 
salt & pepper
1 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons butter

- Preheat your oven to 180C.

For the mushrooms:
- Toss all ingredients together and scatter into a lined baking tray large enough to fit the eggplant in as well.

For the eggplant:
- In a small bowl, mix together the olive oil, garlic, chilli and a generous grinding of salt and pepper.

- Rub this all over the cut side of the eggplant and a sprinkling of lemon zest as well. The eggplant will soak up the olive oil which is what will make it go silky as it cooks. Place cut side down in the same baking tray you put the mushrooms and place in a preheated oven for about 30 minutes. 

Meanwhile, for the risotto:
- In a medium sized pot, heat olive oil over a moderate to low flame and fry the onion, garlic, celery and 1/2 teaspoons fine table salt for about 5-8 minutes, until the onions are translucent but haven't coloured.

- Meanwhile, soak you saffron threads in about 1/3 cup of freshly boiled water and set aside for about 10 minutes or until the water becomes a vibrant yellow then add it to your rice.

- Next add your rice to the onions and garlic, stirring constantly until it you hear a sizzle, about a min or two. Then pour in your wine, once that had been all soaked up add 1/2 cup of stock and stock powder, give it a good stir then let the rice soak up all the liquid before adding another 1/2 cup of stock. Keep adding the stock like this on a low simmer, stirring after each addition until all the stock has been added. If you haven't added your saffron threads and water, add them now and give it a good stir so the yellow colour goes through the whole dish.

- Taste and check the rice still has a tiny bite left in it. You don't want a soggy mess, you want the rice to hold its shape and still have a tiny dot of white in each grain when bitten in half. Season with extra salt if you think it needs it then turn the heat off and add 3/4 of you parmesan cheese and the butter. Stir it through then clamp on a lid and let it sit for about 5 minutes.

- Everything should have come together roughly about he same time. If your eggplant and mushrooms are done a little earlier then turn the oven off and let them hangout there. Scoop out the eggplant flesh and serve along side the mushrooms and saffron risotto. A sprinkle of cracked black pepper and some more parmesan cheese on top and you're ready to dig in.