Rhubarb and Strawberry Pavlova with Rose petals and Vanilla syrup.

This photo is a reject from a shoot for a wholesale food website in Poland, I was happy with the recipe so I thought I would share. Pavlova is such a dated dessert that is always associated with Kiwi fruit and strawberries but given a Middle Eastern touch and a tart fruit, it was surprisingly good. It might make a good substitute for Christmas pudding as it looks so spiffingly festive. If you do think ‘gosh that is a good idea’, buy rhubarb now, cook it and freeze it because I think it is the end of the season.

The product the website, Lamonde foods, is promoting is vanilla syrup which is available at fine foods stores, I sell a New Zealand brand called Heilala at Jaggers. It works really well with both the rhubarb and the strawberries.

Rhubarb and Strawberry Pavlova with Rose petals and Vanilla syrup.

serves 8

1 1/2 tsp cornflower

1 tsp rose water

5 egg whites or 150g

220g caster sugar

6 stalks rhubarb, sliced into 2cm slices

1/4 cup vanilla syrup

300 ml pouring cream

1/2 tbsp caster sugar

1 punnet strawberries

1 tbsp vanilla syrup

dried rose petals (optional)

Preheat oven to 160 C. Mix the cornflour with 1 tablespoon of cold water and the rose water. In a food mixer beat the egg whites until thickened then add the caster sugar slowly until incorporated. Add the cornflour mixture and keep beating for 6 minutes at medium-high speed until the meringue is thick and glossy.  Line a rectangular baking dish with grease proof paper and a little vegetable oil and smooth in the meringue. Bake for 35 minutes or until lightly golden on the top then turn off the oven and allow to cool with the door ajar.

Put the rhubarb, the 1/4 cup of vanilla syrup and 1/4 cup of water in a saucepan and simmer until very tender, about 6 minutes. Whip the cream and 1/2 tablespoon of sugar until stiff peaks form. Quarter the strawberries and mix with the tablespoon of vanilla syrup.

Once the pavlova is cool, if serving in individual portions, top with the cream and cut into eight squares. Top each piece with the rhubarb, some of the rhubarb syrup and some strawberries. Sprinkle with the rose petals if using and serve. Alternatively bake the pavlova in a round shape, top with the cream, rhubarb and strawberries, sprinkle with rose petals and serve whole.

Sunday roast beef

Coorong angas rib eye (just one rib feeds 2) pan seared then into a really hot oven for 15 mins then rest 15 mins. Here is a photo of two things of great beauty, the rib and my Japanese chefs knife.I am such a fan of radicchio as you may well have noticed from other posts, cooked long enough with plenty of salt and pepper it becomes creamy, looses most of its bitterness and the outer leaves crisp up. Here I have drizzled with olive oil and balsamic. I cooked it as long as the potatoes but covered with foil.You have to have roast potatoes if you are cooking a roast. I chose Dutch cremes, what an amazing flavour, so sweet and tasty. Didn’t blanch them this time just tossed in plenty of grape seed oil and salt and into the oven.A pan that can sear or brown meat then can also go into the oven is a kitchen essential, I use this pan for nearly everything. The beef is from Feast! Fine foods in the Market.

Spinach and ricotta ravioli.

I know it seems from these posts that I cook a lot but they may only arrive every 10 days or so and I eat more often than that. What I do is always make heaps of what ever it is I make that is freezable and bring it out on a rainy day. So since my fridge broke (yay) I had absolutely nothing up my sleeve for dinner. So I did what anyone would do with an afternoon to spare and made spinach and ricotta ravioli, with a bit extra dough to make some fettucine. Actually the real reason  was so I had something different to photograph. But the ravioli was so, so much better than anything you can buy in shops by a million miles and a bit. The filling was so light and delicate, not over-seasoned (because the seasoning comes hard and fast with the sauce and parmesan on top) and you can’t go past freshly made pasta.

I know you know how to make pasta dough, couldn’t be easier really, 3 eggs/ 300g ’00’ flour, 4 eggs/ 400g etc. ’00’ flour is flour from soft, young wheat flour before it has really dried and hardened on the plant, and  is always used in egg pastas. If you are making a pasta to dry and store (like the commercial ones) it would be hard durum wheat flour and water without the egg.

So you have made the pasta dough, kneaded it for 10 minutes, no less, more is far superior to the alternative, and rested it for 20 minutes. The filling is refreshingly simple, get some frozen spinach from the supermarket, yes I did just say that. Defrost about 200g of it. Mix it with about 200g ricotta or until the mix looks about half/ half. Grate some nutmeg over the mixture and season with salt and white pepper (getting a bit pedantic here, black pepper will do) and grate parmesan in to taste but remember not to over-do the seasoning. Add two egg yolks and fold in.

See what I am doing in the photo above? Well do that with the filling once you have rolled the pasta to number 7 or preferably 8 on your machine. Keep your bench well floured when making pasta because it soon sticks without the flour. I also put the pasta on grease proof paper as it comes out of the press to make sure.

Wet your finger in a handy dish of water and trace around where the pasta is going to seal itself then fold the sheet of pasta on top of the filling.  Squeeze the air out of the ravioli as you seal them, making your way from one end of the pasta sheet to the other. Trim the edges of the ravioli into shape.

Boil in overly large pot of water for only about 2 minutes to cook the pasta through. I mean it, no tiny sauce pans for cooking pasta please. The sauce served with the ravioli is traditional and could not be easier, the ingredients are sage and butter. Make sure you have used a fair amount of butter and reached that brown, nutty but not burnt stage and when you put in the sage it crisps up nicely. So delicious.

I had more pasta than filling so I made some into fettucine, it was quite good fun.

Soy bean and tofu stir fry with pickled cabbage, better known as BBC.

The ingredients.

We all know and love the BBC from Ying Chow- don’t we? Well I have had a few requests for this dish and Sarah spotted it in the background of the last post on smoked duck so I thought I would give you my recipe made up from eating there so many times, and from frequent cooking, it is shaping up to be quite good. My freak of a vegan sister loves it and out of anything (I can cook) in the whole world she asked for BBC for her birthday ‘treat’. Weird.

Anyway, instead of buying fried tofu I buy firm tofu, slice it like haloumi, dry it in paper towel and fry it in peanut oil to get a nice golden colour and texture happening. After more time on paper towel to absorb the oil I slice it into the size shown in the photo below for the dish.

I should clear up the BBC thing, it stands for broad bean, bean curd dish, even though they mean soy beans.

To the recipe:

2 1/2 tbsp peanut oil

1 cup pickled cabbage, rinsed well and squeezed dry in paper towel

½ tsp sugar

2 (roughly) 6 x 6cm pieces of firm tofu, sliced into rectangles 5mm thick, press onto paper towel to remove moisture

1 tsp ginger, finely chopped

2 spring onions, white part only, sliced

1 cup fresh soy beans, (they come frozen in Chinese supermarkets)

1/2 tbsp soy sauce

1 fresh birdseye chilli, sliced (optional garnish)

Heat 1/2 a tablespoon of the oil in a wok and fry the pickled cabbage for a minute. Add the sugar and stir until incorporated. Tip the cabbage onto a plate and put aside for now.

Heat another tablespoon of oil and fry the tofu slices until golden brown, remove and slice ready for the dish.

Heat the remaining tablespoon of oil and fry the ginger for 10 seconds then add the spring onions and fry for another 10 seconds. Add the soy beans and stir fry for a minute then add the soy sauce. Return the cabbage to the wok and stir through then put the tofu into the wok, give it a stir around then take it off the heat once the tofu is hot enough and has absorbed some of the flavours. Serve straight away with smoked duck, or not. If you are vegan, just have it with a nice glass of water and some brown rice.

Green tea and spice smoked duck.

Ok, well it has been a long time between ducks I know, so here is a quick little recipe to whet your appetites again. Steamed, smoked and roasted duck. Allow 2-3 days.

Inspiration came from the recent Chinese new year celebrations (have a good year all you dragons). Before I start here is two things you should know about smoking duck inside your house (and I have learnt from experience) use an extraction fan, and when I say line your wok with tin foil, you should really do it.

You will need: 1 duck, 2 tblsp. Sichuan salt and pepper, 3 slices ginger, 3 star anise plus 1 tblsp. for the smoking (you can use broken ones for this), 1 tblsp. Shoaxing, 4 tblsp. green tea, 1 brown cardamom pod, 1 tblsp whole mace blades, 1 tsp. soy sauce, 1/2 tsp. sugar.

To start with you need to rinse the duck under cold water and dry with paper towel then chop off the tail, wing tips and neck so she will fit on a plate in your steamer. See here for my steamer set up on a different post. Sprinkle the inside and outside of the duck with 1 tblsp. Sichuan salt and pepper. Put the ginger,  3 star anise and shoaxing in the cavity of the duck, put the duck on its plate in the steamer and steam over plenty of water for 1 1/4 hours. Reserve the juices from the plate and the cavity for later.

To smoke the duck, line a wok with two layers of tin foil, put the tea, rest of the star anise, cardamom and mace in the bottom of the wok. Put a round wire cake rack in the wok 2 or 3 cm. above the tea and spice (you may need to cut it to size with tin snips). Rest the duck on the rack, put the wok over a high heat, turn on your extraction fan and wait for the smoke. When there is smoke happening, put a lid on the wok and smoke the duck for 10 minutes. Turn your oven on to 220 degrees or crank it as high as you can.

This is before smoking:

Next you need to roast the duck to render more fat and brown the skin. So to roast the duck, put it ion a rack in an oven tray lined with foil and roast for 20 minutes, rotating, or until you get an even brown, crisp skin. Reheat the reserved juices from steaming the duck and mix with the tsp. of soy sauce and the sugar to make a sauce for the duck.

Chop the duck and serve with the Sichuan salt and pepper and the sauce you just made if you were listening properly. I have served this duck with a soy bean and tofu stir fry that I will tell you about on the other blog at some time.

Spinach and potato curry.

I found myself home with an almost completely empty cupboard tonight, I had frozen spinach, potatoes and rice. That’s pretty much it. So I made up a new Spice Road recipe, it was my only choice really and sometimes I like to humour the vegetarians.

What I did was fry a chopped onion, some ginger and garlic, then about 1 tablespoon of the Spice Road to India paste. About a cup of cooked and chopped spinach,  5 baby potatoes peeled and halved or quartered, a cup of water and a teaspoon of tomato paste went in. I simmered this until the potatoes cooked and the liquid was almost gone then added some halved cherry tomatoes, cream, salt and a bit of sugar. Simmered this a bit longer. The rice was steamed with stock and saffron.