Sunday, December 30, 2012

Ooh, Look... Best of 2012 and Cat of the Year

Another year over, a new one just begun...

To celebrate the close of a great year, I thought I'd put together a collation of some of the popular posts from this blog in 2012. So let's join hands and take a quick journey down memory lane - it's a very short lane because I can't totter very far in my high heels  =)

1. Spicy Fish Burgers - a lovely light meal of crusty bread filled with a fish fillet and veg
2. Raspberry and white chocolate cheesecake - a spectacular dessert topped with luscious berries
3. Red velvet cupcakes - celebrate Valentine's Day with your own bit of sweetness
4. Lemon lime tart - tart by name and tart by nature!

5. Lettuce, dill and mint cakes - I was a bit obsessed with 'fritters' this year...
6. No-bake chocolate cheesecake - as featured on the cover of delicious magazine
7.  Mushroom Carbonara - extra tasty, and NO CREAM! ftw!
8. White chocolate and macadamia cookies - where homemade is a trillion times better than bought

9. Chicken and broad bean casserole - full of colourful winter veg, and slow cooked
10. Little apple and pear pies - with crumbly soft pastry and cosy flavour
11. Chocolate snaps with sea salt - a pretty favourite that's super easy to make
12. Espresso granita - strong coffee and ice crystals - a match made in dessert heaven

13. Thai-style beef salad - I make this at least once a week, the salad dressing is especially sublime
14. Jamie's coconut buns - wow, this was a popular post. Bonus: the buns are fab
15. Japanese chicken meatballs - canape par excellence on a toothpick
16. Salted caramel fudge - salted caramel was the flavour of the year and these sweetmeats don't disappoint

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Cat of the Year Awards 2012

Winner: Tabitha
The softest cat in the world.
Sweet-natured (when she feels like it), always hungry and meowing for food.
Adorable.

Winner: Henry
Henry is a neighbour's cat but has made himself at home (occasionally) at Chez Ooh, Look.
Shows up at mealtimes.
A real cool cat.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas from Ooh, Look


Wishing you a peaceful and happy holiday season.

Thanks for supporting Ooh, Look... this year, it's been a wonderful time of cooking and eating and I'm glad to have shared it with you!

PS: Normally there would be a food or cat-related Christmas picture, but I found this old photo of me dressed for my tap dancing concert (in the days before digital cameras and when one computer took up an entire building at MIT) and thought it was festively appropriate.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Salted Caramel Fudge - or, Sugar Sugar

I was both astonished and delighted at finding this Salted Caramel Fudge.
Astonished that there could be so many variants of sugar in a single formula, and delighted at discovering a recipe for caramel that doesn’t involve a candy thermometer.

That’s not to say that you can completely avoid spitting, searing hot sugar (there was some lava-like ‘plopping’ involved), but this is a relatively easy way to come up with smooth, creamy, butterscotchy, SWEET lumps of candy.

Oh, and if you don’t have access to ingredients like golden syrup and glucose syrup, you could try and find a substitute here.

Or you could try my other salted caramel experiment from a couple of Christmases ago, here (warning: sugar thermometer involved).

And speaking of Christmas (smooth segue!), check out my cards this year on the Ooh, Look – Craft blog, here and below:


Salted Caramel Fudge
makes 60+ pieces

Ingredients
395g (14 oz) can sweetened condensed milk (reduced fat is fine)
1 cup brown sugar, loosely packed
2 tblsp glucose syrup
¼ cup golden syrup
125g (4½ oz) butter, chopped
180g (6 oz) white chocolate, finely chopped
2 tsp sea salt flakes

Method
1. Grease a 20cm square cake pan with deep sides. Line base and sides with baking paper, allowing a 2cm overhang on all sides

2. Place condensed milk, brown sugar, glucose syrup and butter in a medium saucepan over low heat. Cook, stirring without boiling, until the sugar has dissolved, about 10 minutes.

3. Increase heat to medium-low. Bring mixture to a simmer while stirring. Cook, stirring constantly, for 6 to 8 minutes, or until mixture thickens and comes away from the side of the pan.

4. Remove from heat and stir in white chocolate until combined and the chocolate has melted. Spoon into prepared pan. Sprinkle with salt flakes, pressing in the salt with the back of a spoon to make it stick. Set aside for 30 minutes to cool, then cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 4 hours or until firm. Cut into small pieces to serve.

To store: Keep the fudge in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week. It’s easier if you cut into pieces with a sharp knife before storing. This fudge softens quickly when out of the fridge and this gives a more chewy fudge if you prefer it that way.

recipe from taste.com.au

Even Tabitha cat is suspicious of the myriad sugary ingredients.
Also, notice how the packaging tries to make the sweet stuff sound less deadly:
'99% fat free' condensed milk, 'no artificial colours or flavours' (Milky Bar chocolate), 'gluten-free' glucose syrup, '100% natural' golden syrup, and, um... brown sugar.


And if all that sugar wasn't enough, you have to add half a block of butter, as well.
Mmm, cholesterol.
Don't forget a generous sprinkling of salt flakes for added artery-clogging goodness.


I'll tell you what, though... this is some seriously GOOD fudge!


Less sugar and fat? Let's leave that for a new year's resolution. Now, gimme more fudge!

Friday, November 30, 2012

Jamie's tuna and jiggy greens



And what exactly are jiggy greens?*

I was a bit ‘iffy’ about calling these greens ‘jiggy’, but that’s what Jamie Oliver calls them, and who am I to mess with his terminology? By the way, if you’ve typed in ‘jiggy jiggy greens’ in your search engine – come on, admit it – then hopefully you’ve landed in the right place.

I suppose you have to have a certain attitude to get away with this sort of talk. You know, if you’re Jamie Oliver, then you describe sausages as ‘bad boys’ and a sprig of thyme as ‘lovely-jubbly’. If you’re Curtis Stone, then you say ‘dude’ or ‘hey, buddy’ a lot. And if you’re Nigella Lawson, you gaze lasciviously at a bowl of melted chocolate while the tip of your tongue caresses your lip. Whereas if you are a hatted-chef like Neil Perry, then you make dishes that require hours of preparation so you don’t have time to talk like a normal person. Geez, get with it, man!

This recipe was made on Jamie’s 15 Minute Meals this week. He also made 3 other meals in the 1-hour episode, but, like the coconut buns ordeal, it took me close to an hour to do this one dish. Oh, well, if I can’t walk the Jamie walk, then maybe I can talk the Jamie talk.
So – get into the 15-minute meals mindset: turn the stove up to full blast, have the kettle boiling, don’t bother peeling our garlic, give your bad-boy piece of tuna a roll in some lovely jubbly sesame seeds and throw your jiggy jiggy greens into a bowl and Get STUCK IN!

* Jiggy greens are a Jamie Oliver invention. I don’t know what it means.

Seared Tuna with Greens and Coconut Rice
serves 4

Ingredients
400g fresh tuna fillet
2 tblsp sesame seeds
1 tsp green tea powder (matcha) or green tea leaves
Salt and pepper
½ tsp vegetable oil

Greens:
Small bunch of mini asparagus
Small bunch of broccolini (tenderstem broccoli)
1 tsp crushed garlic
½ tsp sesame oil
1 tblsp oyster sauce

Rice:
270g tin of reduced fat coconut milk
Basmati rice to fill an empty 270g tin
Boiling water to fill an empty 270g tin
Pinch of salt

Salad:
1 red grapefruit, sliced
½ bunch chives, finely chopped

Method:
1. For the rice: Place the coconut milk, rice, boiling water and salt into a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring to the boil, then reduce heat to a simmer, cover and cook for about 10 minutes, until the liquid is absorbed. Remove from the heat.

2. For the greens: Finely slice the asparagus and broccolini (in a food processor or using a knife – just make the pieces very small). Heat the oil in a frying pan over medium-high heat, add the vegetables and garlic and stir for 1 minute, until the vegetables have softened slightly. Add the oyster sauce and stir to combine. Spoon the vegetables into a serving bowl.

3. For the tuna: Cut the tuna into logs about 4cm (1½ inch) in diameter. Mix the sesame seeds, green tea, salt and pepper on a board, then roll the tuna logs in the mixture until all sides of the tuna are coated. Heat the oil in the frying pan over high heat, then add the tuna and cook for 30 seconds on each side, until barely cooked on the outside and still raw on the inside. Remove from the heat and cut the tuna into 1cm (1/2 inch) slices.

4. To serve: Place the grapefruit on a serving plate. Top with tuna slices and chopped chives. Serve with coconut rice and greens.

Ingredients, including red grapefruit, lite coconut milk, tuna, asparagus and broccolini.

Coat the tuna in a mix of sesame seeds, green tea, salt and pepper. Personally, I'd add a lot more salt and pepper to give more flavour.
Lightly cook the tuna so you get a nice even crust.

Serve the tuna on grapefruit slices.

I actually preferred the coconut rice and jiggy greens to the tuna. The rice was perfectly cooked (the measurements using the coconut milk tin are spot-on) and the greens were still crisp without being too raw.
The tuna is quite pretty, though. Lovely (jubbly).

---
Cat Update

Rather than being a cute pic of a sleeping Tabitha, this is Tab using the stair carpet as a scratching post. The carpet's a real mess of fluff and can't be replaced because scratchy cat will rough it up, too.

Also - Henry Update
Henry cat has returned to the neighbourhood, with a new collar, too!
Phew! Even though we (Tab and Bel) barely tolerate him, the men/dudes of the household adore him, so it's a relief that Hen is back. Pictures at 8.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Japanese chicken meatballs with cat-attractant nori




Lots of thing give me the irrits, but most of all, it irritates me no end when department stores and shopping centres start putting up their Christmas trees and decorations in October. For heaven’s sake, it’s not even Halloween, and you’re making us think of sleigh bells jing-jing-jingling?


So I stay irritated for a month or so, then realise that, hey, it’s only a couple of weeks till Christmas, oh heck, I haven’t done any shopping for gifts yet, why didn’t anyone remind me??!!??

Luckily, this year, there does seem to be a bit more time to get things done. I’ve decided to try out a couple of recipes that might go down well at a holiday get-together. You know, canapés and the like. Here’s a good one for Tsukune, or Japanese chicken meatballs. They certainly look the part, and the accompanying sweet-salty sauce complements them perfectly. So do the strips of nori – just don’t leave seaweed in sight of cats – go to the end of this post to see what I mean.

Japanese Chicken Meatballs
makes approx 20

Ingredients
500g chicken mince
1 small onion, grated
1 tsp minced garlic
1 tsp grated ginger
1 tsp lemon zest
1 tblsp oyster sauce
1 tsp caster sugar
½ tsp salt
1 eggwhite
1 tblsp sesame seeds
1 sheet nori seaweed, cut into thin strips (use scissors), to serve

Sauce:
2 tblsp tomato sauce or ketchup
2 tblsp oyster sauce
2 tsp Worcestershire sauce

Method

1. Preheat oven to 180C/360F. Line a tray with baking paper

2. In a food processor, put the chicken mince, onion, garlic, ginger, lemon zest, oyster sauce, sugar and salt and whiz until smooth. Add the eggwhite and mix until combined.

3. Wet your hands with water, then roll a tablespoon of the chicken mixture into a ball and place onto the lined tray. Repeat with all the chicken mixture. Bake for 10 minutes.

4. For the sauce: Combine the sauce ingredients in a small bowl.

5. Remove chicken balls from the oven, and brush half the sauce over the meatballs. Sprinkle with sesame seeds and return the tray to the oven for another 10 minutes, until the meatballs are golden and cooked through.

6. To serve, place the nori strips on top of the meatballs and serve the remaining sauce on the side.

recipe adapted from taste.com.au

Chicken meatballs before being popped in the oven.
Nothing much to see here.
But just wait 20 minutes and they turn into this...

Golden morsels of ginger- and sesame-scented goodness.

Serve as a snack, or they are just as good for dinner, with a bowl of soba noodles.

-------
What Tabi Ate

Trust me to leave the leftover nori sheets in a plastic bag, secured with a peg, on the kitchen benchtop.
Tabitha cat managed to get into it and lick/nibble the nori. Yuck.
Just the thing you want to be confronted with after a long day at work:

Tabitha cat: I was just strolling past the kitchen and saw this mess on the floor.

It wasn't me!
---

Henry Cat Update

This is not one of those Where's Wally puzzles.
After turning up for a couple of days without his collar and nametag, Henry cat has stopped turning up at all!
We are worried.
Just hoping that his owners have moved and taken Henry with them.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Jamie's Coconut Buns with Chicken Stir-fry


Have you seen Jamie Oliver’s latest passion, 15 Minute Meals?


With the cookbook on display in most stores just in time for Christmas shopping, and the television series on in prime time, it’s pretty hard to miss. The tv series is even on twice a week over here, sort of rubbing it in that while you’re sitting down to an evening ‘meal’ of dry cereal and a flagon of wine, in the same 15 minutes, Jamie has whipped up a substantial spread of crab pastries, salad and salsa, all laid out on a trendy, massive wooden platter.

And what’s the rush, anyway? Why do in 15 minutes something you used to do in 30 or 60 minutes? Then I realised that it’s more about getting ideas on what to make and how to do it, with lots of room for improvisation. The 15 Minute Meals tv show is great, as I’d much rather watch something being done rather than reading about it, and Jamie is exhaustingly entertaining. This week, he made these clever steamed coconut buns, and it’s an idea that I’ve nicked in a jiffy (sorry, speaking in colloquial slang is sort of contagious). In the tv show, Jamie also steamed the chicken and vegetables, but I thought that stir-frying them would be more flavoursome.

By the way, guess how long it took to make this… 45 minutes!!! Well, it’s not how quick you are, it’s more about how good it was, ie. really good.

Stir-fried Chicken with Coconut Buns
serves 4

Ingredients
For the coconut buns:
270g tin of light coconut milk
Approx 2 cups self-raising flour
½ tsp salt

For the chicken:
1 tsp vegetable oil
3 chicken thigh fillets, cut into 1cm strips
100g mushrooms, such as shiitake or button, roughly torn
1 bunch broccolini or small broccoli, cut into 5cm pieces
3 tblsp oyster sauce, plus extra to serve
2 tblsp lightly toasted sesame seeds
Lime wedges, to serve

Method

1. For the coconut buns: Pour the coconut milk into a food processor. Use the empty tin to measure out the self-raising flour – you want 2 tins’ worth of flour. Add the flour and salt to the food processor and process until a dough forms. Lightly knead the dough on a lightly floured surface, then roll out 4 to 5 balls of dough (you may need to dust with more flour, it’s quite a wet dough). Place the balls into large muffin cases and place, in a single layer, into a steamer basket with a lid. Put the steamer over a pan of boiling water (medium heat) and steam for 10 minutes.

2. For the chicken: Place a wok over high heat and add the oil. When hot, add the chicken pieces and stir until the chicken is browned, about 3 minutes.

3. Place the broccolini in a microwave-safe container and microwave for 50 seconds. 4. Back to the wok, add the broccolini and mushrooms to the chicken and stir for 1 minute. Add the oyster sauce and stir until the chicken and vegetables are coated and heated through.

5. To serve: Put the chicken and vegetables onto a large plate and sprinkle with the sesame seeds. Place extra oyster sauce, sesame seeds and the lime wedges on the side. Mop up the juices with the hot coconut buns.

recipe adapted from jamieoliver.com

Ingredients, including coconut milk, 2 tins' worth of self-raising flour, mushrooms and broccolini.

This bamboo steaming basket is for display only, being too small to steam the 4 buns that this recipe makes. Here is a single lonely bun, before cooking.

Serve with condiments on the side.

Quick-ish and full of flavour.
The coconut buns are light, fluffy and unusual. Will definitely be making them again.

Friday, November 2, 2012

A Treat of hot marshmallow fudge sauce

It’s with a slight sense of relief that Halloween is over for another year. Because, the past couple of years, we’ve been ‘disappointed’ that no eager, dressed up, cute lil’ munchkins have come knocking for trick or treat. Well, there was the one time that some manky teenage girls turned up in torn fishnets, short skirts and smeared makeup – I’m sure it was their usual weeknight outfit rather than a costume – and I threw some Minties at them with a distinct look of disapproval that probably mimicked their mothers…

This year, I asked ‘Should we buy some lollies for Halloween?’ and got a shouted ‘No!’ for an answer. So the only sweets in the house that night was a bag of marshmallows, my ‘emergency stash’ for when I need a sugar hit when I get home from work. Can you imagine receiving a handful of loose marshmallows in your trick or treat pumpkin? I am so glad no kiddies turned up.

And I used the marshmallows in this Hot Marshmallow Fudge Sauce and it was good, a definite Treat.

Hot Marshmallow Fudge Sauce
serves 4

Ingredients
1 cup thickened cream
150g dark chocolate, chopped
100g marshmallows, chopped roughly
¼ cup roasted hazelnuts, skins removed, halved
Ice cream, to serve

Method
1. Place cream in a saucepan over medium heat and bring to a simmer. Remove from heat and stir in the chocolate, until smooth.

2. Return to the stove, reducing the heat to low. Add the marshmallows and stir until they melt. Allow sauce to cool slightly.

3. To serve, put 2 scoops of ice cream into a bowl, pour over the hot fudge sauce, and sprinkle over the hazelnuts.

Store leftover sauce in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Heat on medium-low heat in the microwave for 30 seconds (keep a close eye on it, it quickly boils over).

recipe adapted from delicious (October 2012)

Ingredients, including hazelnuts, marshmallows left over from Halloween, good dark chocolate

Serve the sauce drizzled over ice cream.
Here, the ice cream flavour is honey caramel macadamia.
There are no limits on what flavour you choose - this fudge sauce is awesome on anything.


Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Happy Halloween


Have a great day,
from your crafty Food Hag and her bewitching Cat

Friday, October 26, 2012

Buttermilk panna cotta for young and old

As I write this, I’m watching Two Greedy Italians on tv, the travelogue/cooking show with Antonio Carluccio and that Gennaro guy (Jamie Oliver’s mate). This is right after watching Jamie’s 15 Minute Meals.


You really notice the contrast between the two shows, with Jamie emphasising healthy fast food (calories per portion are shown for each recipe), while the 2 Italians get stuck into massive meals of cured meats, cheeses and barrelfuls of sauce-laden pasta. (But ooh, look, the 2 Italians are in a gym, sniggering at a muscleman. Oh, now they’re back to talking about porchetta…)

It made me think about how, why and when we decide to eat a certain way. Is it a generational thing, with the younger gen being more aware that what you eat now is going to have a bearing on your later years? Does the older generation think, ‘bugger it, I might as well enjoy life while I’ve got a couple of years left’?

I’ve always been wary of stuffing myself until I burst and believe me, the older you get the easier it is to a) eat more, b) put on weight and c) despair at how hard the weight is to shift. The different focus of the 2 tv shows has made me feel that a) I’m not that old (yet), b) it’s not too late to improve my eating habits, and c) I want to get to the age when I can say ‘bugger it, I might as well enjoy life while I’ve got a couple of years left’.

Here’s a recipe that’s deceptively light, tangy and luscious – just be careful you don’t have too much of it.

Buttermilk Panna Cotta
serves 4

Ingredients
2 tblsp warm water
2 tsp gelatine powder
1 cup reduced-fat thickened cream
½ cup caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups buttermilk
Fresh or canned cherries (or other fruit), to serve

Method
1. Place the water in a cup and sprinkle over the gelatine. Stir gently until the gelatine dissolves.

2. Meanwhile, place the cream and sugar in a saucepan over medium heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Pour in the gelatine mixture and stir to combine. Remove from the heat and mix in the vanilla and buttermilk.

3. Pour the mixture into serving glasses and refrigerate for 3 hours. Top with fruit before serving.

recipe adapted from fast, fresh, simple (Donna Hay).

Looks like a laboratory, doesn't it?
One of the disadvantages of not having enough matching serving glasses.


This is quite a 'sloppy' panna cotta, so it can't be unmoulded onto a plate.
Never mind, just spoon it straight from the glass, it tastes just as good.


Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Aussie Asparagus with Ricotta Gnocchi


Fresh is best. Or IS IT?

As someone who aims to ‘eat local’, a trip to the supermarket or greengrocer means keeping an eye out on the labels on the fruit and veg. Not only do the handy labels tell you what that wrinkled and knobbly round brown ‘thing’ is (it’s a celeriac), the label also tells you how much it is and its country of origin. Stating the obvious? Sorry!

You get to realise over time that it’s not possible to have cherries or pomegranates year-round, which is why you see them in winter labelled ‘Product of USA’. We also get oranges from California and asparagus from Peru (remember this?). I suppose, if you can’t get it without doing something funky with a syringe and a beaker, then a trip on a boat from the other side of the world is better than nothing.

Which brings us to the fact that it’s Asparagus season here in Australia! Three cheers!
I was sent some lovely, healthy (folate-rich) Victorian asparagus by Woolworths, as part of their Fresh Food Experience, and was eager to put them to good use in this recipe. Asparagus season runs from September to November, so the price is currently right and there’s heaps of gorgeous crisp spears to put into your trolley, so ignore the imports for now and get to it.

Ricotta Gnocchi with fresh Asparagus and Pancetta
serves 4

Ingredients
500g low-fat ricotta
¾ cup grated parmesan cheese
1 cup plain flour, sifted
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 bunch fresh asparagus, washed, and ends snapped off
4 slices pancetta
70g butter

Method
1. For the gnocchi: In a large bowl, mix together the ricotta, parmesan, flour and eggs until well combined. Shape tablespoons of the mixture into balls and place on a baking tray. Refrigerate for 1 hour, or until firm.

2. For the Asparagus: Bring a large saucepan of water to the boil. Add the asparagus and simmer for 1-2 minutes. Remove the asparagus and refresh under cold water. Cut into 1cm slices. Set aside the asparagus and the pan of water.

3. Cook the gnocchi: Add some salt to the reserved saucepan of water and bring to the boil again. Add the gnocchi and cook for approx 3 minutes, or until they rise to the surface. Use a slotted spoon to remove the cooked gnocchi and drain on a paper towel-lined plate.

4. For the pancetta: Heat a large frying pan over medium-high heat. Place the pancetta in the pan in a single layer, and cook for about 2 minutes on each side, until crisp. Remove pancetta and break into small pieces.

5. In the same frying pan, add the butter and heat until the butter turns brown, about 3 minutes. Carefully add the gnocchi and asparagus and toss to coat. Remove from the heat and tip the gnocchi, asparagus and butter into serving bowls. Top with pancetta and serve.

The uncooked gnocchi can be frozen for up to 1 month. Just put the gnocchi on the baking tray into the freezer for one hour, until the gnocchi harden, then remove them to an airtight container or Ziploc bag, separating the layers with greaseproof paper. They can be cooked in boiling water from frozen, although they'll take a bit longer to rise to the surface.

'Aussie-grown asparagus is fresh at Woolworths right now'.

Asparagus and pancetta. Can it get any better?

The gnocchi on a baking tray, before being chilled.
They swell up after cooking, so don't make them too big unless you like them that way.

The brown butter sauce lets the cheesey gnocchi flavour shine through.
And look at that pointy Aussie asparagus, the best kind!

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