Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Recipes - Vanilla Cream Tart w Candied Blood Orange

This recipe stemmed from me buying blood oranges then trying to decide what to do with them.  Blood oranges lend themselves to well to both sweet and savoury dishes, so really, the options were endless!  I had a lightbulb moment of brilliance and decided to do a simple, sophisticated dessert - Vanilla Cream Tart w Candied Blood Oranges.  

I had some tartlette cases in my pantry that needed to be used.  While I recommend making your own pastry (as much as it is not one of my favourite things to do) these premade cases are good when you have a lot on or need to whip something up quickly.

2 blood oranges, sliced thinly
1 1/2 cups caster sugar
3 cups water
200g mascarpone
100g cream cheese
50g double cream
1/4 cup icing sugar
1 tsp vanilla bean paste
12 tartlette cases

Step 1 - Place sugar and water in a medium, heavy bottomed saucepan and place over a medium-high heat.  Stir until sugar dissolves, then carefully lower orange slices into the liquid.  Simmer rapidly for 20 minutes, turning oranges once. 
Step 2 - Reduce heat to low and slowly simmer for another 20-30 minutes, until oranges are transparent and syrup has reduced.  Remove oranges from syrup and place on a tray lined with baking paper.  Allow to cool.  Reserve syrup.
Step 3 - While oranges are cooking, place mascarpone, cream cheese, double cream, icing sugar and vanilla bean paste into a bowl and mix until combined.  Spoon vanilla cream into tart cases and refrigerate until required.

Step 4 - When oranges are cool enough to handle, drizzle tarts with orange syrup and place a slice of orange on each. 

Top 5 - Quick Meals

Haven't got a lot of time but want a delicious meal?  Try one of my top 5 quick meal recipes, they're all able to be made in under half an hour.

Tuesday, 29 November 2011


And the votes are in!  

Based on the facebook poll, the two dishes with the highest votes were:
  • Vanilla Cream Tarts w Candied Blood Orange
  • Gbejniet

These will be cooked, photographed and posted through the week so check back for some great recipes!  

Thanks to everyone who voted and for those who didn't, you'll have a chance to decide what I cook next Monday.

How To - Joint a Rabbit

Jointing a rabbit, or any animal, is really daunting the first time you attempt to do it. It is however, something that is relatively easy to master.  It can be a little off putting when you're presented with a carcass that still has head and some organs intact, but really, this is where food comes from and we all know it, as much as sometimes we don't like to think about it too much.  

The first time you attempt to joint the rabbit, take your time with it.  Have a good look at it and become familiar with where the meat, fat and bones are located. Think about where you are going to cut before you pick up your knife and remember, it doesn't matter if you make mistakes or don't make clean cuts the first few times as practice makes perfect! If you want to cook with rabbit but do not want to joint it, ask your butcher to joint it when you buy it.  A good butcher will be happy to oblige and will not charge you for it! 

WARNING: This post contains, what some people might consider to be, graphic images.  If you are squeemish, please navigate to another page now.

What you'll need:
  • A rabbit
  • A wooden chopping board
  • A sharp knife
  • A sharp pair of kitchen shears/scissors
  • A bowl to place the pieces of meat

Step 1 - Place the rabbit on the chopping board, take the knife and remove the head from the carcass.  Depending on what you are cooking you can either keep or discard the head.  For stews, keep the rabbit, brown it off with the other pieces and let it cook in the stew as it will impart a lot of flavour.  Discard before serving.  

Step 2 - Remove the offal.  Usually, the liver, heart and kidneys will be present.  The first two can be easily removed by hand.  The kidneys should be cut out with a knife, keeping the fat that surrounds them intact.  Offal can be discarded if or used at your discretion. 

Step 3 - Place the rabbit on it's back and starting from the lower end, cut up one side of the backbone until you are level with the top of the hind legs.  Cut around the hind leg, slicing through to the joint.  Pull the leg back towards the chopping board and cut through the joint, severing the leg from the carcass.  Repeat with the other hind leg. 

The rabbit I was using was quite large and had a lot of meat on it so I decided to cut the hind legs into two pieces.

Step 4 - Cut all the way along one side of the backbone, using the knife or shears, which ever you find easier. 

Step 5 - Turn the two carcass pieces over so the fleshy side is up and remove the fore legs.  Then, score the flesh in about 2-3 places, depending on the size of the rabbit.  Evenly place these score lines as they will be the places you cut through and you want to end up with 3-4 pieces of equal size.

And that's it!!  Here are the images, the order of which correspond with the instructions above.

Did you know?

Scientist in Japan have genetically modified watermelons to be square.  Why?  It makes them easier to stack and cut.  

Monday, 28 November 2011

How To - Sweet Shortcrust Pastry

Making pastry is not something I enjoy, however, this recipe is so easy that I don't seem to mind as much anymore.  This is my fail safe as I've made it a few times, and while it can be a bit delicate, it always produces a sweet, short, buttery pastry that crumbles in your mouth, not in your hand. 

Photos will be posted soon!

2 cups plain flour
3/4 cup icing sugar
160g chilled butter, cubed
1 egg yolk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tbs chilled water

Step 1 - Place flour, icing sugar and butter in a large bowl.  Rub between finger tips until mixture resembles bread crumbs.  
Step 2 - Make a well in the centre and add egg yolk, vanilla and water.  Combine with a butter knife until dough just comes together.
Step 3 - Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until mixture has formed a smooth dough.  Roll into a ball, flatten slightly, wrap in cling wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

And that is basically it!  What you cook will determine what shape and thickness you roll your dough to and at what temperature it is cooked. 

Pictured here as base for Rich Chocolate Tart
Tips for working with pastry:

  • Temperature and humidity will affect the dough.  Pastry works best when cold, which is why the recipe calls for chilled butter and chilled water.  Cold hand and bowl will also produce a more superior result.  
  • Work quickly!!  This will prevent the butter from getting too warm and it will also prevent the glutens in the flour from developing too quickly.
  • Warm pastry means melted butter.  If the butter is too warm, you will not achieve the desired texture.  This is why it is important to place the pastry in the freezer for 15 minutes before placing in a hot oven.
  • When rubbing the butter into the flour and sugar, lift and drop from a height as you rub.  It will assist in aerating the dough.
  • After kneading, the dough must be relaxed in order to allow the glutens to react with the water.  Wrap in cling wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. This will create a beautiful elastic dough that will easily roll out.
  • Unbaked pastry that is firmly wrapped can be kept in the fridge for 3 days or in the freezer for up to 3 months.  Bring to room temperature before rolling out and baking.
  • When baking, preheat a tray with the oven and place the tart case on this when you are ready to bake.  This will allow the base of the tart to cook evenly.

Recipes - Stuffat tal Fenek

Stuffat tal Fenek, Rabbit Stew, may be Malta's nation dish.  As there is not a lot of land mass in Malta, and therefore not a lot of room for grazing animals, rabbit is a popular protein on the island.  In Australia, and many other western cultures, rabbit is not considered to be a popular meat to cook with.  Most people I've encountered do not even have the inclination to try it, thinking of rabbit as a pet not a source of food.  For me, I grew up eating rabbit stew and it has always one of my favourite things that my Nan prepares.  I felt so honoured when she gave me her recipe 5 years ago.  This is awesome.  Enjoy.

NB: Wild rabbits are available at select butchers, however, wild rabbit can be tough, with a gamey flavour.  Farmed rabbits have a much milder flavours, are usually more tender and are the best choice for cooking.  It can be difficult to get your hands on farmed rabbit but is well worth the effort.

1 rabbit, cut into 12-15 pieces
3/4 cup red wine
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 1/2 tsp mixed spice
3/4 tsp all spice
3/4 tsp garam masala
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp cinnamon
500g pork spare rib, cut into 1 inch pieces
2 onions, finely diced
3 potatoes, chopped
1 1/2 tbs tomato paste 
1 tsp white sugar
1 cup beef stock
1.5 cups water
3/4 cup peas
1kg spaghetti, parmesan cheese and bread - to serve

Step 1 - Place rabbit pieces and offal in a large bowl.  In a small bowl, combine garlic, 1/2 cup red wine, 1/2 tsp mixed spice, and a 1/4 tsp each of all spice, garam masala, nutmeg and cinnamon.  Combine well and pour over rabbit.  Cover with glad wrap and marinade for at least two hours, stirring every half an hour or so.
Step 2 - Heat a good whack of olive oil in a large, heavy bottomed sauce pan.  Add a single layer of pork spare rib pieces and fry for about a minute on each side.  Remove from pan and place on a large plate.  Fry off remaining pork spare ribs in as many batches as necessary.  Remove from pan and place on plate.
Step 3 - In small batches, fry rabbit pieces and offal in pan for about 1-3 minutes on each side, depending on the size and thickness of the piece, until well browned.  Set aside on the plate with the pork.  Reserve marinading liquid.
Step 4 - Throw onions into pan and cook until soft and translucent.  Add a little more oil if necessary.  Throw spices in the pan and cook well, stirring until spices are fragrant.  
Step 5 - Add tomato past and sugar, and cook, stirring, until tomato paste has darkened in colour significantly.  Remove from heat and pour in marinading liquid and remaining wine.  Stir until well combined then add potato, beef stock and water and return to heat.  Bring to boil, cook for 2-3 minutes, then reduce heat to low.   
Step 6 - Return rabbit and pork to the pan, season well with salt and pepper and slowly simmer for 2-3 hours, until sauce is thick and meat is falling off the bone.  In the last 5 minutes, add peas to the pot.
Step 7 - When ready to serve, cook spaghetti as per packet instructions.  Place spaghetti on serving plate, top with one or two pieces of rabbit and spoon over a generous amount of sauce.   Serve with parmesan cheese, fresh cracked black pepper and thick slices of crusty bread on the side.

Sunday, 27 November 2011


This week's poll is up and running!!  Head over to my facebook page, Five Senses Cooking, and vote for what I cook this week.  Vote for as many as you like or add your own!


I just bought these beautiful blood oranges and I am trying to decide what to do with them.  Sweet or savoury?  Fresh or cooked?  Segmented or sliced?

And then it hit me.....

Vanilla Cream Tart w Candied Blood Oranges.  

Saturday, 26 November 2011

Recipes - Fruit Mince

I have never been a fan of fruit mince until last year when my friend invited me to make fruit mince with him.  He has been making steamed Christmas puddings for over eight years and over this time has developed the most delicious recipe for the fruit mince.  There was so much that not only did we make heaps of steamed puddings, of varying sizes, we also made fruit mince pies, fruit mince pinwheels, fruit mince tarts, fruit mince and custard muffins and a whole bunch of other delicious fruit mince desserts.  So, without further ado, here is the best recipe for fruit mince you will ever find ever! 

NOTE: This fruit mince needs to be started 4 weeks in advance!   There is room to alter the ingredients to suit your tastes.  If you don't like dried apricot, leave it out and add more of something else, like craisins or dried apples.  This is very much one of those old fashioned 'throw in what you have in the pantry' kind of recipe.

1kg sultanas
1kg raisins
300g currants
500g dried apricots
500g dried apple
500g prunes
500g dates
300g craisins
250g dried figs
100g dried blueberries (optional)
200g walnuts 
200g pecans
100g crushed peanuts
100g slivered almonds
2 x carrots, grated
2 x apples, grated
1 orange, zested
1 cup fresh orange juice
1 cup brandy
1/3 cup orange marmalade
1/3 cup jam
                                                                              1 cup dark brown sugar

Step 1 - Throw sultanas, raisins, craisins, currants, blueberries, slivered almonds, crushed peanuts, grated carrots, grated apple and orange zest in a large container.
Step 2 - Chop dried apricots, dried apple, prunes, dried figs, dates, walnuts and pecans, so they are all a similar size to the fruit already in the container.  Add to container and mix together until well combined.
Step 3 - Place orange juice, brandy, marmalade, jam and brown sugar in a microwave proof bowl.  Microwave on high for 3 minutes, stirring well every minute.
Step 4 - Pour mixture over fruit in the container and stir until well combined.  Pop lid on container and place in fridge.  
Step 5 - Turn container once a day for 4 weeks.  

Use fruit mince to make steamed puddings, fruit mince tarts and other Christmas goodies.

Friday, 25 November 2011

How To - Deseed Tomatoes

Tomato Seeds.  They're messy, tough, bitter and at times, downright unwanted! I often deseed my tomatoes, for recipes like my vegetable sambal or chilli jam. There are two quick ways to deseed tomatoes and here they are:

1. Halve tomatoes and scoop out seeds with a spoon.  While this is quick and easy, it can bruise the delicate flesh of the tomatoes.

2.  Quarter tomatoes and very carefully run a sharp knife between the seeds and the flesh.  This method is a little more delicate, however, it will preserve the integrity of the tomato.  This is the method I use.

And it's that simple!  So, when you need to deseed tomatoes for dips, salads, sauces or just because you prefer them that way, you can choose either of these super simple methods!  

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Recipes - Chilli Jam

Chilli Jam is one of those beautiful, versatile sauces that works so well with so many things.  It can be spread on sandwiches, smeared over steak and seafood, poured over salads, spooned over cheese and a hundred other uses.  The great thing about this recipe is that you can control how spicy it is.  I decided to make mine medium, with a nice swift kick in the back of the throat!  But I've written detailed instructions for how to achieve the right amount of spicy for you. 

3 x banana chillies, seeds and pith removed and diced
6 x long red chillies
6 x birdseye chillies
1 onion, finely diced
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 x 5cm knob ginger, finely grated
2 tomatoes, blanched, peeled and deseeded
1/2 cup caster sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup white vinegar
1/4 cup water
1/2 lemon, juiced

Step 1 a - For a mild jam, remove the pith and seeds from all long red and birdseye chillies, then slice thinly. Set aside.
Step 1 b - For medium jam, remove the pith and seeds from half the long red and birdseye chillies and slice all thinly. Set aside.  (This is how I prepared my chilli jam)
Step 1 c - For hot jam, do not remove the seeds and pith from any of the long red or birdseye chillies.  Slice all chillies thinly and set aside.  

Step 2 - Place tomatoes and roast capsicum in a food processor and process until smooth. Set aside.
Step 3 - Heat a good whack of olive oil in a large saucepan.  When hot, add onion, garlic and ginger and fry until onion is well cooked and starting to caramelise slightly.
Step 4 - Add remaining ingredients and stir until sugar has dissolved.  Bring to boil and cook for about 5 minutes.
Step 5 - Reduce heat to low and simmer uncovered until sauce has reached a thick, jam like consistency.  This may take a few hours.
Step 6 - Cool jam and store in an airtight container or jar for up to one week in the fridge.

How To - Blanch Tomaotes

Blanching is a quick way to par cook a tomato as well as an easy method to remove the skin.  As with most things, it can be a bit daunting the first time you try to do it, however it is a relatively simple process.  

What you'll need:
  • tomatoes
  • a pot of boiling water
  • a bowl of cold water and ice
  • Slotted spoon

Step 1 - Remove the stalk, stem, leaves and core of the tomatoes. When coring, remove the core and the tomato flesh just below the surface.  Do not cut too deep into the tomato.
Step 2 - Using your slotted spoon, gently lower tomatoes into the pot of boiling water.
Step 3 - Watch tomatoes and when the skin splits remove immediately and plunge the tomatoes into the iced water.  This can take up to 60 seconds.  When I blanched my tomatoes, one took 14 seconds and the other took 47 seconds.
Step 4 - Leave tomatoes in the iced water until they are cool enough to handle.  Using your hands, gently push/peel the skin off the tomato.  Ensure you take care during this process as the tomato may still be hot under the flesh.

After blanching, tomatoes can be deseeded if desired. 

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Did you know?

To make 1 kilo of honey, bees need to collect the nectar from about 4 million flowers!