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Sunday, April 26, 2009

Pumpkin damper with parmesan and sage


The past few weeks we've been having Soup Sundays. It hasn't really happened on purpose, but somehow Sunday rolling around had put me in the mood to make soup. I'm sure the cooler weather has had something to do with it!


The soup last Sunday was a vegetable and lentil soup and I wanted to bake something bready to have with it. Last week I flicked through old food magazines and ripped out recipes to keep so I could clear out the magazines. This was part of epic cleaning preparations - my mum and dad arrived yesterday for a month long stay.

Pumpkin damper with parmesan & sage

One recipe I kept was for a pumpkin, sage and parmesan damper. Damper is a traditionally an Australian soda bread that was baked in the coals of a campfire or put into an iron pot and buried in the hot coals. Apparently it’s called damper because the fire was damped to allow the bread to be cooked over the ash covered hot coals.

Pumpkin damper with parmesan and sage

It resembles a big scone (but with much less butter!). The pumpkin helps keep it moist, but doesn’t contribute much flavour wise. I thought it could’ve used a bit more salt, but it tasted much better after we had warmed it up and slathered it with butter. But of course, there is little that can’t be improved with butter.

I’m not sure if there will be Soup Sundays for the next few weeks as my parents are here and will be doing the majority of the cooking (yay!). By the time they go it'll be properly cold, so no doubt Soup Sundays will return!

Pumpkin damper with parmesan and sage

Pumpkin damper with parmesan and sage

From Good Taste magazine, September 2001

Melted butter, to grease
300g peeled, deseeded pumpkin, cut into 2cm pieces
450g (3 cups) self-raising flour
1&1/2 teaspoon salt
40g (2 tablespoons butter, at room temperature, cubed
60ml (1/4 cup) milk, at room temperature
1 egg, lightly beaten
25g (1/4 cup) finely grated parmesan
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh sage
8 fresh sage leaves, extra
Olive oil, to coat

Preheat oven to 190°C. Lightly grease a baking tray with melted butter.

Steam the pumpkin over boiling water for 10 minutes or until soft. Transfer to a bowl and set aside for 10 minutes to cool.

Meanwhile, sift the flour and salt into a large mixing bowl. Use your fingertips to rub in the butter until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs.

Mash the pumpkin until smooth. Add the milk and egg, and stir to combine. Reserve 1 tablespoon of the parmesan. Add the remaining parmesan and chopped sage to the pumpkin mixture and mix well.

Add the pumpkin mixture to the flour mixture and use a round-bladed knife to mix using a cutting motion until well combined. Use your hands to bring the dough together (add a bit more milk if it needs it to come together). Turn onto a lightly floured surface and knead gently 4-5 times or until just smooth. Shape into a 20cm disc, about 3cm thick. Place on the greased tray and use a sharp knife dipped in flour to mark 8 wedges.

Sprinkle with reserved parmesan. Dip extra sage in oil and press on top. Break in preheated oven for 30-35 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean and damper sounds hollow when tapped on the base.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Hunza Pie

Hunza Pie

Silver beet (swiss chard) is not something that I eat very often. In fact, when I bought a bunch of silver beet to make this Hunza pie, it was the first time I’ve purchased it. We didn’t eat silver beet much when I was younger – my mum had a friend who would give her bunches from her garden, but apart from that we weren’t exposed to it. I don't recall how my mum cooked it, but I don't remember it being very tasty.

Hunza Pie

I have to admit, I had grave misgivings about this recipe. The filling is basically just silver beet, brown rice, cheese and one egg. And... no onion and garlic! (Perhaps that's a sign that I use onion and garlic too much when I'm surprised by a recipe that doesn't contain those ingredients.) I had been cooking on autopilot and by the time I thought about what was in it, the pie was already in the oven. As it was cooking, the Boys could hear me muttering, "I don't know about this. This is going to be awful."

Hunza Pie

But you know what? I was wrong! I was so wrong! The pastry is made from wholemeal flour, and the nuttiness of the crust paired nicely with the filling. The edges of the pastry even crisped up nicely. I had been concerned that the filling would be bland, but fortunately it wasn't. Boy, was I pleasantly surprised, and we all went back for seconds (and maybe thirds...).

Check out for the recipe.

(Well, well. A bit of google time and the internets tells me that a Hunza pie is a rather classic '60s, hippie, vegetarian dish. I can see why it was a staple - it's good!)

Friday, April 10, 2009

Fig, berry and pistachio burnt-butter tart

Fig, berry and pistachio burnt-butter tart

Oh, fig season! It never seems to last long enough. Last year I bookmarked a recipe in Gourmet Traveller for this fig, berry and pistachio burnt-butter tart but didn't get around to making it before fig season ended. Well, I was determined to make it this year and finally had the opportunity to do so recently.

One of the important aspects of the recipe is the burnt butter. There was a nice tip in the magazine about listening to the butter as it cooks. As the butter becomes darker, the pitch of the bubbling becomes deeper, until it becomes almost silent. I was a bit dubious, but lo and behold, when the butter became dark nut brown it was almost completely quiet! Amazing.

The rest of the recipe was pretty easy - whisking eggwhites until firm and then folding in icing sugar, flour, ground pistachios, lemon rind and finally the burnt-butter.

Fig, berry and pistachio burnt-butter tart

Upon tasting the tart, I felt that it was just ho hum. Perhaps that was my fault though - I didn't have any raspberries, so I substituted with blueberries. The tartness and colour of raspberries would most likely have worked better. I also didn't feel that the figs had any presence in the tart, almost as if they could've been left out with no noticeable difference. Apart from those criticisms there wasn't anything really wrong with it - it just didn't live up to expectations after waiting a whole year to make it. Perhaps it could be improved with some tweaks, but I certainly don't have the patience - it will most likely go into the "will probably never make again” pile! (Perhaps someone out there has more patience than me?)

It did look pretty though!

Fig, berry and pistachio burnt-butter tart

Fig, raspberry and pistachio burnt-butter tart

From Gourmet Traveller magazine - February 2008

Serves 6-8

120 grams cold butter, coarsely chopped
1 vanilla bean, spilt and seeds scraped
3 eggwhites
225 grams pure icing sugar, sieved
70grams plain flour
60grams pistachio kernels, ground
plus whole kernels to garnish
1 & 1/2 tablespoons finely grated lemon rind
125 grams raspberries (I used blueberries)
6 figs, quartered
165grams caster sugar
80ml dessert wine
Thick cream to serve

Cook butter and vanilla bean and seeds over a medium-high heat until dark nut brown (around 5 minutes). Cool and remove vanilla bean.

Preheat oven to 160°C. Whisk eggwhites and a pinch of salt until firm peaks form. Fold in icing sugar, them flour, pistachio and rind.

Fold in burnt butter and spoon into a greased base-lined and floured 11.5cm x 35cm fluted loose-bottomed tart pan. Scatter a quarter of the raspberries over, top with overlapping figs and bake for 30 minutes or until golden and firm to the touch. Stand in pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes, then remove from pan and cool completely on a wire rack.

Meanwhile, combine caster sugar and 50ml of water over medium heat and stir until the sugar dissolves. Bring to the boil and cook, brunching down sides of the pan with a wet pastry brush, for 4-5 minutes or until caramel in colour, remove from heat and add wine, swirling to combine (be careful as mixture will spit). Add the remaining raspberries and stir to combine, then cool.

To serve, drizzle raspberry-caramel over tart, scatter over pistachios and raspberries and serve warm or at room temperature with extra raspberry-caramel and thick cream.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Birthday French Toast

Avalon Airshow - Connie

March in Melbourne is always a busy month. Lots of festivals and major events seem to be scheduled for March - Melbourne Food and Wine Festival, Moomba, the Avalon Airshow, the Greek Antipodes Festival, the L'Oreal Melbourne Fashion Festival, and the Grand Prix to mention a few.

We didn't do most things, but we did go to the Avalon Airshow. What's that? You didn't realise I was into planes? You thought it was just about the food?

Avalon Airshow - FA-18 Hornet

Well! The truth is that I'm not really into planes. But those of you who know Alastair personally won't be surprised to hear that he likes them! We picked the worst day to go to the Airshow. It rained - A LOT - in fact the equivalent amount of rain fell that day as during the first two months of this year. And were we prepared? Hell no! We had one umbrella and one plastic backed picnic blanket between four of us. Fortunately the weather cleared for a couple of hours, so it wasn't a complete washout. For anyone interested in planes and jets, the rest of the photos can be seen at flickr.

Apart from festivals and events, during March there is also Alastair's birthday and our wedding anniversary.

Birthday French toast

Both were very quiet events this year. For Alastair's birthday, we celebrated with Birthday French Toast in the morning. Bro and I bought him a joint present this year - an introductory helicopter training flight - a pretty freaking awesome gift for him, if I may say so myself!

Birthday lasagna Birthday lasagna

That evening, dinner was Birthday Lasagne. It's a tradition - every year Alastair wants lasagne on his birthday. Since it's easy to whip up, and only a little time consuming, I'm always happy to oblige.

You'll notice that there's no mention of birthday cake. I didn't get around to it this year! Hell, we're not that into cake anyway, so I figured the Birthday French Toast, awesome present and Birthday Lasagne was enough. (It was!)

Birthday French toast

Birthday French Toast

1 Birthday
3 eggs, lightly beaten
2/3 cup milk
1 tablespoon caster sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 pieces of thick white bread (preferably day old)
Unsalted butter for the frying pan
Maple syrup, icing sugar and bacon (optional) to serve

In a shallow dish, mix together the eggs, milk, caster sugar, cinnamon and vanilla extract.
Melt a good sized pat of butter over medium-high heat in a frying pan.
Dip a slice of bread into the egg mixture, ensuring that the bread is well soaked through.
When the pan is hot, fry the bread on both sides for a couple of minutes or until crisp and golden.
Repeat the dipping and frying for all slices of bread (don't forget to melt more butter in the pan and be generous with it! It is a birthday after all).
Dust lightly with icing sugar and serve with maple syrup and bacon.
Have a happy birthday!

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