Thursday, May 29, 2008

Heart Of The Matter: Herbal Essence

I think I've only participated once in HotM. And as much as I always try to get my entries up before then and be super organized and email all the relevant people with the relevant information, I usually fail. Either that or I just miss the event altogether. This month's HotM is all about the glory of herbs hosted by the lovely Michelle at Accidental Scientist.

I have always associated herbs with medicine. I suppose being Chinese, the only time i heard the word herb was when it had to do with some form of medicine or another. Then came along the cooking shows and all these Western chefs had their fancy "a pinch of dried parsley" and "roughly torn basil leaves" and they were all "fresh from my [their] backyard". Now, I lived in an apartment all my life so who had a backyard? and basil... who? But things have changed now and while I still don't have a backyard, I've become accustomed to using herbs in my cooking. The question that remains often (since I rarely have a bunch of basil leaves lying around)?

In April 08's Delicious magazine, Rick Stein did an awesome feature for the magazine by introducing some new breakfast dishes. I am a breakfast freak. I wake up with only one thing on my mind-WHATS FOR BREAKFAST?! If it's going to be a dread, I'd rather stay in bed thanks. But if there's a bag of cherries lying in the fridge with a tall glass of cold soy milk-I'm out of bed before you can say sunshine. My weird obsession aside, I made Rick Stein's "Hugo's Breakfast Fishcakes" and if you ask me, Hugo made darn good fishcakes. =) The recipe called for ONE bay leaf. But I decided that I had no use for the rest of the bay leaves, so I buy it. Instead, I added lots of coriander and chives and "a pinch of dried basil". heh. And made it gluten free-obviously.

Hugo's Breakfast Fishcakes (makes 4, serves 2)
200g floury potato, cut into small cubes (should equate to one BIG potato)
150g skinless, boneless white fish fillet, cut into 2 cm cubes*
1/2 cup milk (use soy milk with a good pinch of salt)
pinch of dried basil
1 strip pared lemon rind, plus 1 tbsp juice and wedges to serve
1/2 onion, diced
1/4 cup chopped coriander
1 tbsp chopped chives
2 tbsp rice flour
1 large egg, beaten
2 slices of gluten-free bread, made into fresh breadcrumbs**
snipped chives and sour cream to serve

1) Cook potatoes in salted boiling water until tender. Drain and mash.
2) Place fish, soy milk, lemon rind and dried basil in a pot. Cover, bring to a boil and then reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 1-2 mins, until fish is cooked. Drain and reserve poaching liquid. Discard lemon rind. Set fish aside to cool.
3) Add 1 tbsp of olive oil to a pan over medium heat. Add onion and cook until soft but not browned. Add in potato, fish, coriander, chives, good pinch of salt and lemon juice. Mix well, adding 1-2 tbsp of poaching liquid until mix holds together but isn't too sticky or wet*. Let cool.
4) Place flour, egg and breadcrumbs in separate shallow dishes. Using damp hand, form the fish mixture into 4 patties. Dip each patty into the flour then egg then breadcrumbs and set on a lined baking tray. Chill for at least an hour or better still, overnight.
5) Splash a good bit of olive oil over the patties and bake at 200 degrees celcius for about 10 minutes, or until golden.

*I used blue grenadier and while skinning it, the fish began to flake, but I proceeded as per the recipe instructed, came out perfect.
** I took 2 slices of stale gluten free bread and chopped it into very tiny crumbly bits. Since GF bread is naturally drier, it didn't pose as a problem to chop it instead of using a food processor.
***The photo I used is from the April 2008 issue of Delicious. I gobbled up the fishcakes before I could take a photo of them. =(

Monday, May 26, 2008

Gluten Free Hazelnut Blondies

There has always been a fascination between me and Nutella. My mom was not one to buy it for breakfast, I don't know why though. While peanut butter was a staple, Nutella was a treat I bought for 30cents at the corner shop in one of those individual pull-open packaging. But I suppose if we did have it at home, I would've eaten way too much. So now that I am older and wiser, I am capable of practicing self control which therefore renders me worthy of having a jar of choc-hazelnut spread at home (I bought a bio-dynamic one, not Nutella). And so in the event that such a recipe catches my eye, I have all the ingredients on hand. And because it's just ONE and a half heaping tablespoon spread throughout the entire batch of blondies, I suppose I am practicing self restraint when I have half the batch for lunch (maybe with a smidgen more choc-hazelnut spread on top). I mean it though, I really did have half the batch. shhh, Fred doesn't need to know.

Gluten Free Hazelnut Blondies adapted from here
It looks like alot of different flours but feel free to just substitute the flours as you deem fit. I'm sure 2 cups of G.F. all-purpose flour will work just fine.

4 tbsp grapeseed oil
1 cup white rice flour*
2 tbsp tapioca starch*
2 tbs potato starch*
4 tbsp corn starch*
2 tbsp buckwheat flour*
4 tbsp almond meal*
2 tbsp sweet rice flour*
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1.25 cup brown sugar
2 large eggs
1/3 cup chopped hazelnuts (either skin on or off, I left mine on)
1 tsp vanilla
1.5 heaping tbsp choc-hazelnut spread, like Nutella

1) Preheat oven to 170 degrees celcius. Grease an 8 x 11 inch pan, line with parchment and grease again
2) Whisk flours, baking owder and salt
3) Mix sugar and oil until well moistened. Beat eggs and vanilla in. Add flour mix and stir (batter will be stiff at first, but it will come together). Add in chopped nuts and Nutella.
4) Bake for 25 minutes, or until few crumbs stick onto skewer inserted. Rest for 15 minutes and cut into squares. Serve with a dollop of Nutella. Or really, just eat it from the pan, who wants extra dishes anyway?
* Flour mix adds up to 2 cups.
Photo is from I had to borrow it since I can't find my camera cable. I DID take photos though!

Thursday, May 22, 2008

White wine, olive oil and polenta cake

This recipe was the one I was talking about yesterday. It comes from June 2008's issue of Delicious, written by Rick Stein.

It's very Italian to me, or at least Mediterranean. The taste of the olive oil is very prominent and I thought that maybe if I left it for a day, the olive oil taste might be a little more mellow. Turned out, I was wrong, I tried it this morning and it's still there. I did reduce the amount of oil called for and added a tbsp and a half of lemon juice. The lemon taste is beautiful bolstered by the white wine. Rick called for a sauvignon blanc or riesling, but I had an opened bottle of chardonnay so I used that instead. The aromas weaving through my little apartment was so promising, so I was a little disappointed by the strong olive oil taste. It made me feel like I was eating oily cake which isn't appetizing...not very anyway. The lemon and wine made things a heap better, or perhaps I'm just not used to it. Fred liked it though but it wasn't our favourite.

Also something went funny when I tried mixing the flour into the liquid batter. It got clumpy and scary so I did something bad...I just used my hand mixer to whisk in the flour until it was homogenous. I know, I shouldn't have, especially when the eggs had been ribboned prior. But better than eating bits of flour I suppose. Do try out the recipe since it's so simple and let me know what I did wrong. It's simple enough to try again.

White Wine, Olive Oil and Polenta Cake (serves 8)
2 eggs
250g caster sugar (I used 175g)
150 ml white wine (such as sauvignon blanc or riesling)
150 ml olive oil (i used 125ml + 1 tbsp lemon juice)
1 tsp vanilla extract
Finely grated zest of 1 lemon
175g plain flour (I used 1 cup rice and 1/4 tapioca and potato starch each + 1 tbsp almondmeal)
1.5 tsp baking powder
1/2 instant polenta ( I used 1/4 cup polenta and almond meal each)
Icing sugar, to dust.

Preheat oven to 160 degrees celcius. Grease and line the base and sides of a 24 cm springform cake pan.
Place eggs and sugar in a large bowl and whisk using an electric hand whisk. Whisk for 10 minutes or until thick enough to form ribbons when you trail it on the surface.
Gently beat in the white wine, olive oil, vanilla and lemon zest and juice. Sift over the flour and baking powder.
Gently fold it with a metal spoon until just conbined, then fold in the polenta and almond meal. Pour mixture into prepared pan and bake for 1 hour until a skewer inserted comes out clean.

*oh, I just realized, I didn't sift the flour over the liquids, I merely tipped it in... oops.


I am going to apologize for being bad and not blogging for over a month. But it's been a busybusy time for me. For starters, I had to move out of my old apartment to my current one. So that was a really big deal and the amount of clothes and shoes (ahem) I had, made it a... bigger deal. Plus, I was bed ridden for a week, down with that dreadful thing called a flu. I never knew that you lose all sense of taste when you're out sick. The only thing I could taste amidst all the sniffling was peanut butter and apples. Luckily they go together so that was all I ate for about 3 days. Evil, I know but a girl's got to eat! =) Well it's not that I stopped baking or eating, I just momentarily stopped blogging.

The word cold has so many meanings. It describes the weather here right about now. Cold, very icy cold. Sometimes it's a good thing especially when you're wearing new heels and the cold numbs your feet so you can't feel the pain. Sometimes it's a hindrance, especially when you have 9am classes and your jeans have been sitting on the sofa all night exposed to the cold. And as you pull them on, they bit your legs with the cold. And sometimes it's how I feel, inside. A lonely kind of cold. I realized this when I listened to an entire album by Taylor Swift and the only song I could relate to was 'Cold as You'. Hmmm... oh and I might watch Wicked alone (the Broadway musical about what went on behind the Wizard of Oz-kinda like the untold story). It might be something new for me. I've grown accustomed to shopping alone, exploring alone and eating alone.

Okay, now that I've bared my soul and wallowed in self-pity, I've got a cake baking in the oven (I love my oven) for this month's SHF. It's from June 08 Delicious, a recipe by Rick Stein. A lemon, olive oil and white wine cake. Since it's still baking I can't really say how it turned out. I will update this post though. So stay tuned!