What does the last of the housewives do?

Tag: gluten free

Orange Cake

It’s fresh, it’s home grown, it’s possibly organic, it’s a bag full of backyard oranges. I do love being gifted raw ingredients, so how could I knock back a bag of oranges. A very large bag, full to the brim of thin skinned, sweet, juicy, I’m guessing Valencias. We have eaten quite a lot of them. Some of them went into an orange and passionfruit syrup. Some of them succumbed to the blue green algae. But I still have a bowl full left, and I’ve always wanted to try an orange and almond cake.

There’s actually a recipe for it in the Thermomix cookbook. I’m deeply suspicious of most of those recipes, even more so as this one claims to be fat free. What a lot of nonsense. It contains 250 grams of almond meal, it isn’t even slightly fat free. So I compare it to the orange cake recipe in the Stephanie Alexander Cooks Companion, and it looks fairly believable despite having only half the eggs. Here’s what I did.

Take two large, or three small oranges and bung them in the Thermomix steamer basket. Stick a litre of water in the jug and cook those babies for forty five minutes at Varoma temperature on speed three. The Stephanie Alexander recipe suggests gently boiling them for two hours, so I’m quite glad I’m not doing that, given my attention span. I’m quite capable of going out to buy cucumbers and returning to find my kitchen a smouldering ruin if I did that. See, I’m saving money with the Thermomix.

They’re very soft after forty five minutes, I’m happy not to cook them further. You’re supposed to cut the oranges open at this point to hunt for pips, which I dutifully do and don’t find any. Bung them into the emptied jug and add on top 250 grams of almond meal, 250 grams of sugar, a teaspoon of baking powder and some eggs. The Thermomix recipe says three, Stephanie Alexander says six. I compromise on five, as that’s how many I have left in the box. See how full the jug is, yet when you zap it on speed seven for twenty seconds the oranges are pulverised and the whole lot is completely mixed.

Pour it into a lined cake tin and bake it at 180 degrees for forty five minutes to an hour. The skewer test doesn’t really work on this type of cake, so when I pull it out after fifty five minutes for a sample it’s still fairly damp inside. Or moist, if you prefer.

From what Stephanie says, it should be, but I’d rather it wasn’t. I put it back in the oven for another half an hour on 150 degrees and do actually go and buy cucumbers. It’s certainly dryer inside when I get back.

I do like the flavour, but not so sure about the texture. I might try reducing the eggs next time. Or possibly adding some flour and more baking powder. I’d like it lighter. But for there to be a next time, this one needs to be eaten first. Lucky it’s fat free.


Adam Liaw’s Laksa Lemak – From Scratch, In the Thermomix

I went on too many quests today and now I feel like my left leg has come loose. You know, the leg that is currently supporting my whole weight at the moment because I’m on crutches? Yes. But I think it’s all going to be worth it because my main quest was to gather the ingredients to make Adam Liaw’s laksa, and he doesn’t do bought pastes.

I have only myself to blame. I’ve been making Exciting Dinner on Wednesdays because the kids have sushi and soccer training and tennis and orchestra in various combinations. I asked my dear husband what he’d really like me to make. “Laksa.” he replied without any hesitation. I’ve been flicking through Adam Liaw’s Two Asian Kitchens but been too terrified to try anything except the stock, so this was a challenge.

The big problem was to gather the ingredients. I would imagine most of you would have no problem knocking up a European recipe, having the requisite pantry items, but when someone like me goes Asian we have to start from scratch. And that includes where you shop, because this laksa paste requires fresh ingredients.

The ingredients are dried 10 red chillies, 2 tablespoons dried shrimp, 4 fresh chillies (sorted, I have a plant), 1 tablespoon dried shrimp paste, 2 brown onions (no problem), 5 candle nuts (wouldn’t even know where to start, but fortunately macadamias can and will be substituted), 2 garlic cloves (run out), 2 thick slices ginger (ditto), 2 stalks lemon grass, 5 leaves Vietnamese mint, dried coriander (we’ll be using fresh, because I need some for a tomato salsa I’m making tomorrow), fresh turmeric (three teaspoons grated, but Thermomixers don’t grate) and 60 mls of peanut oil. The method is simple, soak the dried shrimp and dried chillies in boiling water, bung them and all the other ingredients in the Thermomix then zap. This makes about two cups, you need a quarter of a cup for two people.

See, I did get all the ingredients. I decided to venture into Ashfield Mall, it really isn’t that far. There is actually an Asian supermarket nestled conveniently in the car park, the Tong Li supermarket and gosh that was exciting. I had to go up and down the aisles three times to drink it all in. If it can be dried or pickled or cryovacked, they stock it. I am puzzled as to why you’d tin quail eggs, pickle lettuce, be bothered preserving turnips or eat Spam with real bacon. I was very fascinated by the snack foods, strips of dried fish, chicken flavoured peanuts (what’s wrong with peanut flavoured peanuts?), desiccated eel. I was awfully tempted by the frozen roast eel in the Japanese section. I’ll have to go back when I’m on two legs. I got dried chillies, dried shrimp and fried tofu puffs for the soup, but that’s all. Oh no, actually, also a bunch of fresh coriander (59 cents for a bunch!!!) I couldn’t find the shrimp paste and I certainly wasn’t going to ask, you know me. I didn’t get peanut oil because I didn’t really want five litres of it, and I couldn’t carry it anyway. I also managed to ignore the siren song of the jar of laksa paste, only two dollars.

I then went through the mall and out the other side to the Asian Greengrocer, where I was accosted by a tiny Asian woman who grabbed me by the arm and pointed at the mushrooms. “Mushroom!” she exclaimed, showing me both her teeth. I agreed, got her a bag and moved on. I found what I’m pretty sure was Vietnamese mint, garlic, some very fresh looking ginger, really cheap lemon grass and some bok choy to veggie it up.

I knew Norton Street Grocer stocked fresh turmeric, and I needed about a kilo of jelly for another quest, so Ho for Coles, curse them. They actually had shrimp paste, wonders will never cease. Also a small bottle of peanut oil that is currently sitting in my sink leaking from a spot I can’t locate. The grocer did have turmeric, so I had a full hand.

So I’ve made the paste and frozen most of it in convenient quarter cup portions. I have defrosted two cups of the basic stock made, blogged about and frozen some time ago. I have poached a sliced chicken thigh in it in the Thermomix. I heated the stock plus a couple of teaspoons of fish sauce to one hundred degrees, added the thickly sliced chicken and put it on reverse gentle stir at one hundred degrees for five minutes. Perfect. Removed the chicken. I then put 70 grams of bean sprouts (had to send the Muffet into the Stanmore IGA for those, completely forgot about them) in the steamer basket over the hot stock while I chopped six fried tofu puffs into quarters and chopped the bok choy up. Then transferred the stock to another bowl. Put a quarter of a cup of laksa paste in the Thermomix with a splash of peanut oil and set it to a hundred degrees and seven minutes. I tried five, but it wasn’t long enough. Added the stock back in, speed two, one hundred degrees for another two minutes, added a 270ml tin of coconut milk for a further two minutes. Tasted it, added the juice of half a lime and about two teaspoons of brown sugar because I can’t find my palm sugar. Maybe three.

Added in eight frozen prawns from the packet Daniela made me buy and the chopped tofu puffs and cooked (reverse, gentle, one hundred degrees), then shredded the chicken and chucked that and the bok choy in for another minute.

Meanwhile I’ve had an eighty gram lot of bean thread noodles soaking in boiling water and just added some random rice noodles I found at the bottom of the crisper. Now I’m going to put the noodles in bowls and pour the soup over then garnish with bean shoots and sprig of coriander.

Adam’s right, making the paste makes a huge difference. And now I’ve made it, laksa will be vurrah easy. Complex, full bodied, really really good. It doesn’t have that off putting red layer of oil on top. Husband thinks it could stand more chillies, but is as good as a bought one. I think this might be three servings, which means I get some for lunch tomorrow.

Or not.

Hazelnut Meringue Biscuits, Brutti Ma Buoni

I first came across these biscuits around the corner from where I live. They were in the diabetes inducing three level four metre counter of the Italian pasticceria that is famous throughout Sydney for its ricotta cakes. I pointed at a brown knobbly looking biscuit and asked the girl behind the counter what it was called. With typical Italian courtesy and willingness to please she said “I dunno. I think it’s got hazelnuts in it”. I have since discovered that it is often called Brutti Ma Buoni because it looks like something that might be produced by a bilious owl but it tastes so good I’ve wanted to make it ever since I had my first five.

It’s the kind of biscuit that needs machinery to make, so as I’m still slightly surprised to be operating in a kitchen that actually has machinery it has taken me until now to get around to it. I found a recipe in the Guardian concatenated with the recipe for panettone I had a few weeks ago and it looked plausible. I needed to accumulate some egg whites.

I didn’t have anything much to do this morning except convert the choir accounts into a new format, so I thought I’d do that after lunch. The cupboard is bare yet again due to the Muffet corralling all the baked goods to share with her friends at school to celebrate her birthday. Knowing I wanted to have egg whites left over I made lemon cornmeal biscuits and had a crack at kourabiedes for the first time which left me with two egg whites. Enough for twelve biscuits. I really could make them half the size, but they do end up being very light.

I put the egg whites in the clean dry KitchenAid bowl, having learned my lesson about that more than once, you think it would stick. Put on the whisk attachment and got it whipping. The whites had to get to firm peaks and you really can’t get there without collapsing from boredom if you do it by hand. I know how foremothers had to, but I really can’t be bothered. It takes ages, even in the KitchenAid. Perhaps I should have had it on a faster setting.

Meanwhile I placed a half a teaspoon of cocoa powder, fifty grams of hazelnuts, a hundred grams of blanched almonds and a hundred grams of caster sugar in the Thermomix. The recipe suggests a coarse grind, so I resist the urge to zap it into oblivion.

I check the egg whites, they’re getting there. I check my mail and a Facebook argument I seem to be in about gay marriage and by the time I hop back into the kitchen they look like this:

Which is just right. I carefully fold in the nut mix plus fifty grams of hazelnuts I’ve meticulously cut in half – I think whole ones are a bit too robust for this light biscuit. I always feel a little sad hearing those tiny bubbles pop as the nuts get folded in, but there’s no help for it.

Plop tablespoonsful of the mix onto a baking paper line baking sheet, you should get about twelve out of this amount. I would have made more, but I don’t like having bits of egg left over, it upsets my sense of symmetry. I’d have had to have made a custard or something, and then I’d just have to eat it. Bake at 180 degrees for about ten minutes, or until they’re just starting to colour around the edges. You need to let them cool completely before getting stuck in. See what I mean about how they look?

Perhaps more a duck than an owl, but definitely avian. Gosh they’re delicious though,