Spiced Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls

Cinnamon Rolls 6 of 6) (1 of 1)Cinnamon Rolls 7 of 7) (1 of 1)Cinnamon Rolls (2 of 2) (1 of 1)

It’s that time of year when we are apt to say, “Oh God, not another pumpkin recipe!” Now that we are approaching Halloween and Thanksgiving, we are flooded with pumpkin recipes: McDonalds has pumpkin pancakes, there’s pumpkin beer and I’ve even seen a recipe called Red Curry Pig’s Feet with Pumpkin. But the one that amuses me the most is the Pumpkin Spice Latte at Starbucks, complete with a jack-o-lantern image on top:

Pumpkin latteHowever, some people think we have gone too far with our pumpkin-loving recipes, as shown here:

Brace Yourself

What do you think, have we gone too far with pumpkin flavored everything? In my view, pumpkins remind me of the approaching Thanksgiving holiday in the U.S. and brings on images of being with family and friends and stuffing ourselves with turkey and pumpkin pie. Nice warm fuzzy feelings tucked in my mind and ‘stomach memory.’ So excuse me, here is one more pumpkin recipe to digest, Spiced Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls.

With this recipe, you first form a yeast dough and then let it rise and double in size. Then roll out the dough in a rectangle shape and spread the spiced pumpkin filling on top. The dough is then rolled up lengthwise and sliced into pieces 1.5 inches thick and allowed to rise again. Bake and then top with a delicious cream cheese icing- you’ll never feel bad about making just one more pumpkin recipe!

 Glaze with Sour Cream Icing:

IMG_8621

 

Spiced Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls
Yields 10
Cinnamon rolls filled with spiced pumpkin and slathered with a delicious cream cheese icing
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For the dough
  1. 1 cup milk
  2. 1/2 cup (8 tbsp.) unsalted butter
  3. 1 packet dry yeast (1/4 oz or 5 g)
  4. 1/4 cup white sugar
  5. 1 tsp salt
  6. 1 tsp cinnamon
  7. 3 cups plain white flour
For the pumpkin filling
  1. 3/4 cup pumpkin puree
  2. 1/4 cup brown sugar
  3. 1 tbsp. pumpkin pie spice (or 3/4 tsp cinnamon + 1/8 tsp nutmeg)
For the icing
  1. 1/2 cup cream cheese, room temperature
  2. 3 tbsp. melted butter
  3. 1 tsp vanilla extract
  4. 3/4 cup powdered sugar
For the pumpkin pie filling
  1. Combine the pumpkin puree with the brown sugar and pumpkin pie spice until smooth. Set aside
For the dough
  1. Heat the milk and butter on the stovetop until hot but not boiling. Let cool to about 110 F. Add the packet of yeast and let rest for about 5 minutes until the yeast is dissolved.
  2. In a separate bowl, combine the sugar,salt and cinnamon and stir in the yeast/butter mixture until smooth. Gradually add the flour to the mixture, working it in with your hands or using the dough hook of your electric mixer. The dough should be rather moist and elastic.
  3. Form a ball with the dough and knead on a lightly-floured surface for several minutes. Place the dough in a bowl that has been oiled with a light coat of vegetable oil. Cover with plastic wrap or a tea towel and let rise for about 1 hour until double in size.
  4. Punch down the dough and rollout into a thin rectangular shape on a lightly-floured surface. Brush the surface of the dough with melted butter (about 3 tbsp.) Then spread a thin layer of the pumpkin filling on top. Roll-up the dough tightly lengthwise into a tube shape then slice into pieces about 1.5 to 2 inches thick using a serrated bread knife. This should yield about 10 rolls.
  5. Place the rolls into a buttered round (or square) dish and let rise for another 1 hour. Bake for about 20-25 minutes at 350 F. until the rolls are light brown. Turn the rolls out onto a large plate, let cool and glaze with the cream cheese icing.
For the icing
  1. Combine the melted butter, cream cheese, vanilla extract and powdered sugar until smooth, using an electric mixer. The mixture should be silky and smooth. If the icing is too dry, moisten with a little milk or cream.
Notes
  1. Note: I used Butternut Pumpkin (squash) for my filling since it is easier to handle than the typical larger pumpkin.
G'day Soufflé http://www.gdaysouffle.com/

 

 

 

Pork Pot Stickers with Achiote Sauce and Pineapple Salsa

 

Pot Stickers (1 of 1) (1 of 1) How do you spell A-C-H-I-O-T-E please?

I grew up in Chula Vista, California near the Mexican border so Mexican food was a regular part of my life. I frequently downed tacos, enchiladas, refried beans and fried rice and sometimes snuck in a chimichanga or two. I even considered myself somewhat of an expert on Mexican food until I was invited to a preview tasting for the annual Taste of Downtown event held in San Diego on October 2, 2014.

With over 30 restaurants taking part in this event, several other food bloggers and I were given preliminary tastings at 8 of these venues, including several Mexican bar and grill restaurants. I was expecting the waiters to bring out the usual tacos and enchiladas, but instead was presented with dishes like Pot Stickers with Achiote Sauce and Grilled Pineapple Salsa and Hicama Sticks with Sriracha-Lime Aioli.

“Whatever happened to the simple old Mexican dishes?” I asked myself. Leaning over towards a fellow blogger I whispered, “How do you spell ‘achiote’? What is sriacha sauce? HICAMA WHO?”  The other bloggers were scribbling away like old hands as they took notes and were eying me with suspicion. “Where has she been all these years?” they were probably asking themselves.

Anyway, I had to fast-foward 10 years really quickly and get up-to-scratch on what’s been happening to Mexican food, at least in SoCal and some other parts of the US. Traditional Mexican food has now morphed into something called Baja Med, a blend of Mexican food with Asian and Merditerranean influences, often blending the magnificent seafood of Baja California with olive oils, fruits and vegetables found in the San Quintin Valley and Guadalupe Valley of Baja.

I’d love to do a full blog post one day on Baja Med cuisine, but for now I’d like to present the recipe for Pork Pot Stickers with Achiote Sauce and Grilled Pineapple Salsa. This was one of the tasting dishes from the San Diego restaurant Comun Grill and Tavern so here is my version of the dish.

A pork shoulder roast is first cooked for several hours on the stovetop until the meat falls apart and is then blended with some achiote paste. The mixture is then placed inside a wonton wrapper (called a ‘pot sticker’) and baked in the oven and finally served with a spicy grilled pineapple salsa. This dish makes a great appetiser.

Achiote paste is made from ground annatto seeds and is mixed with cumin and other spices. It is used as flavouring in Mexico, the Carribbeans and in the Philippines and gives a nice smoky taste and vibrant red coloring to food. You can purchase achiote paste in Mexican food specialty stores or online at Mexgrocer.com or Amazon.com.

 Olé! Who said that Mexican food was still stuck in the past?

 Pot Stickers 2 of 2) (1 of 1)      Pork Pot Stickers with Achiote Sauce and Grilled Pineapple Salsa  

    Ingredients

    Pork Pot Stickers

  • 1 pork shoulder roast
  • water to cover the roast in a pot or Dutch Oven
  • 1/2 onion, roughly chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, whole
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 2 tbsp. brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp. salt
  • 3 cups of the pork cooking liquid
  • 3 tbsp. achiote paste
  • 2 -3 tsp Mexican chili powder
  • salt to taste
  • wonton wrappers

  Grilled Pineapple Salsa

  • 1 fresh pineapple, cut into cubes
  • 1/2 red onion, diced
  • 1/2 cup chopped cilantro (coriander)
  • juice from 1 lime
  • 1 red chili, seeded and finely diced
  • salt to taste

 Directions

  • Place the pork, garlic, salt, peppercorns and onion in a large saucepan or Dutch oven. Add enough water to cover the ingredients. Bring to a boil and skim off any foam. Reduce heat to low, cover the pan and simmer until the meat is tender and falls off the bone (about 2 hours).
  • When the meat is cooked, transfer to a bowl and set aside. Strain the remaining cooking broth through a sieve; there should be at least three cups of broth remaining (if not, top-up with more water).
  • After the meat cools, shred using several forks. Add the reserved pork cooking broth to the shredded pork; start by adding 2 cups of the broth and then gradually add the remaining broth until the meat becomes moist but not runny.
  • Add the achiote paste and Mexican chili powder to the meat; add more seasoning if required. Add salt to taste.
  • Place a small ball of the pork mixture on top of each wanton wrapper (about 1 tsp) then brush the outter edge of the wrapper with water. Fold the edges of each wrapper together and then pinch the sides together.

 

  •  Brush the pot stickers with olive oil and bake for 6 – 7 minutes at 350 F. on a parchment-lined tray until the outsides turn golden brown. Turn each one several times while baking for even coloration.

For the Grilled Pineapple Salsa

  • Peel and core a fresh pineapple and dice into 1/2 inch cubes. Combine with the chopped onions, cilantro, lime juice, diced chili and salt.
  • Serve the salsa on top of a banana leaf (optional) and arrange the pot stickers around the side of he dish.

 

 

         

Coconut-Curried Shrimp with Zucchini Noodles

 

  Zuchinni Noodles 3 of 3) (1 of 1)Someone recently gave me a ‘Spirooli’ Spirilizer as a present and I love it! You attach a vegetable (like a zucchini) to the little machine, crank the handle, and out comes ‘miles’ of pasta-like noodles. It’s a nice variation to the traditional spaghetti pasta- here your noodles are made of vegetables instead of pasta. If your kids are squeamish about eating their veggies, try transforming them into something fun like these zucchini noodles.

So far, I’ve only used it to make zucchini noodles, but they are also great for making onion rings and curly fries, or how about Beet and Apple Spirals to dress up your salads? The opportunities are endless …

With Autumn coming on in the northern hemisphere, I’ve decided to try a recipe with some warmth to it: Coconut-Curried Shrimp with Zucchini Noodles.  If you don’t have a spirilizer, you can use a julienne peeler instead to slice your zucchini. Which ever way you decide to slice it, you’ll enjoy both the spicy warmth of the curry paste and the sweetness of the coconut milk.      

 Zuchinni Noodles 4 of 4

Coconut-Curried Shrimp with Zucchini Noodles
Serves 3
Shrimp flavored with spicy curry paste and sweetened with coconut milk- and the zucchini spirals will add some fun to your dish!
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Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
10 min
Total Time
25 min
Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
10 min
Total Time
25 min
Ingredients
  1. 2 medium zucchinis, cut into noodles or thin julienne slices
  2. 1 shallot, finely diced
  3. 2 garlic cloves, diced
  4. 2 tbsp vegetable or olive oil
  5. 1 tsp grated fresh ginger
  6. 1 can (14 ounces) coconut milk
  7. 1 – 2 tbsp red curry paste (depending on taste)
  8. 2 tsp brown sugar
  9. 2 tsp fish sauce
  10. Juice from 1 lime
  11. 12-16 large shrimp or prawns, shelled and deveined
  12. Several fresh basil leaves to garnish
Instructions
  1. Add oil to fry pan and sauté the shallot and garlic cloves over medium heat until they become translucent in color.
  2. Add the grated ginger, coconut milk, curry paste, brown sugar, fish sauce and lime juice to the pan, Lower the heat and let simmer for several minutes until the sauce thickens a bit.
  3. Remove the shells from the shrimp and devein them (or you could use already shelled shrimp). Add them to the sauce and cook for several minutes until they turn pink in color.
  4. Add the ‘spirilized’ (or julienned) zucchini noodles to the pan. Cook the zucchini only until warm (about 1 minute) to prevent them from getting soggy.
  5. Garnish each serving with a few fresh basil leaves.
Notes
  1. Adjust the amount of curry paste according to your taste. I like my food spicy so I used 2 tablespoons of the curry paste to the recipe.
Adapted from San Diego Union Tribune Food Section
Adapted from San Diego Union Tribune Food Section
G'day Soufflé http://www.gdaysouffle.com/

Vanilla Ice Cream with Hibiscus and Rum Sauce & Baby Bananas

 

 

Rum and Ice Cream photoI just arrived back home from my three months in Paris. There are things I miss about Paris – the opportunity to speak French, the street markets, the fresh fish markets and some of the quaint ancient streets. I especially remember the relationship with my local Paris fishmonger who advised me to begin filleting  my Turbot “with the white side facing up’ so you can more clearly identify where the backbone is.” But it is always good to be back home.

While in Paris, I had been introduced to several recipes using dried Hibiscus flowers and decided to give this a go. “Where in the world am I going to find dried Hibiscus flowers?” I asked myself. I looked out the window to my front yard and there was the answer: I already had a ready and willing Hibiscus plant, ready to give up its pretty red flowers (however you can buy them at your local wholefoods store or on Amazon).

Hibiscus flowers will give a delicious fruity taste to your recipes and are good for lowering your blood pressure and your cholesterol. Give it a try!

When using Hibiscus flowers in a recipe, you first need to remove the stamens and then dry the flowers. I dried mine by first pulling the flowers apart and then placing them in a low oven at 200 F (100 C) for 30 minutes. I then turned off the oven and let the flowers sit for another 30 minutes to completely dry out.

                        Hibiscus Flowers Hibiscus whole

You then re-hydrate the flowers by placing them in boiling water and letting them steep (or infuse) in the water for at least 15 minutes, then straining out the flowers. You can either just drink this Hibiscus ‘tea’ on its own or use it as a base to flavour other dishes, which I have done here for my recipe ‘Vanilla Ice Cream with Hibiscus Rum Sauce & Baby Bananas.’  

 

Vanilla Ice Cream with Hibiscus and Rum Sauce and Baby Bananas
Serves 4
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Ingredients
  1. Vanilla Ice Cream to serve 4
  2. 2 cups (5 g) dried Hibiscus flowers
  3. 1 cup boiled water
  4. 1 tbsp. grated ginger
  5. ½ cup orange juice
  6. 30 ml rum
  7. 1 cinnamon stick
For the sugar syrup
  1. ¼ cup sugar combined with ¼ cup water
Garnish
  1. Grated lime zest
  2. Raspberries or strawberries
Instructions
  1. To dry the Hibiscus flowers, place the petals on a tray and heat in oven at 200 F for 30 minutes. Turn off the oven and leave the flowers in the oven for another 30 minutes to dry.
  2. Place the dried flowers in a cup of boiled water; add the grated ginger and let steep (infuse) for at least 15 minutes. Strain the flowers and ginger from the liquid. Add the orange juice to the Hibiscus liquid; place in a saucepan and over medium heat, reduce to ¾ of the original volume.
  3. To make the sugar syrup, add ¼ cup sugar and ¼ cup water together in a saucepan. Heat until the sugar dissolves and the mixture thickens a little.
  4. Add the rum and cinnamon stick to the Hibiscus/orange juice mixture and gradually add some sugar syrup until the sauce sweetens to your taste.
  5. To assemble the dessert, add some of the Hibiscus sauce to the bottom of a serving dish. Slice each baby banana in half and place several slices vertically on the side of each dish. Add the vanilla ice cream in the center of the dish, add some more sauce on top of the ice cream. Add some grated lime zest and top with either a raspberry or strawberry.
Notes
  1. Omit the rum if serving to children.
  2. The sauce will thicken more when allowed to cool to room temperature. Add more sugar syrup to the Hibiscus sauce if you wish to thicken it further.
G'day Soufflé http://www.gdaysouffle.com/
 Rum and Ice Cream 2

           

Verrine with marinated shrimp, artichoke hearts and garlic mousse

    Verrine 1 of 1

I’m sorry it’s been so long since I updated my blog but I’ve been Sooooo Busy lately-      I just graduated from Superior Cuisine at the Le Cordon Bleu school in Paris! This course was one of the hardest things I have ever done. Not only did we have to attend 30 demonstrations and practical classes, but we had to design a menu for our final exam and execute it in 4 hours (and write up a dossier in French describing our ingredients and technique). Here is a picture taken of me at the graduation ceremony with my favourite chef, Marc Vaca.

I did it!

LCB Graduation chef Vaca

What is a picture of a verrine doing at the top of my blog page? Well, for my recent final exam at Le Cordon Bleu, we had to invent a verrine using ingredients from a prescribed list. I had never heard of a verrine before coming to Paris to study at the Cordon Bleu school, but they have become popular in France over the past 10 years, and have now made their way to the U.S. and other countries.

What is a Verrine?

A verrine is layered food presented in a glass, usually for an appetizer or dessert. It can be served hot or cold, but if you’re presenting a hot verrine, be sure to use an ovenproof glass without a stem. Verrines are a great way to show off your creativity by using different colors and textures and you can even introduce an element of surprise for your guests (maybe add a quail’s egg at the bottom of your verrine)?

For my verrine, I used marinated shrimp and artichoke hearts nestled in a tomato concassé base and topped with a delicious garlic mousse. We also had to garnish the verrine with a croustillant, or something crunchy, so I used potato chips that I cut in a waffle shape using my mandoline slicer. If you’re not a fan of garlic, don’t be turned off by the garlic mousse. The garlic is first roasted in the oven and the pulp is then folded into some whipped cream with a pinch of salt- producing a nice mild flavour.

So, here is my verrine recipe for Marinated shrimp and artichoke hearts with concassé tomatoes and garlic mousse. The recipe serves 4 people.

Step 1: Roast the garlic head for the garlic mousse

Pre-heat the oven to 350 F (180 C). Slice off the top of a garlic head, revealing a little of the insides of the garlic cloves (a bread knife is handy here). Remove some of the papery outer layers. Brush the top of the garlic head with some olive oil, cover with aluminium foil and bake in the oven until the garlic softens, usually about 30 – 40 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool.

Cut off top of garlic head, brush with oil and bake in aluminium foil Verrine Garlic  Step 2: Marinate the shrimp and artichoke hearts. While the garlic is roasting in the oven, marinate the shrimp and artichoke hearts. (For my exam, I had to cook my artichokes from scratch in order to get the artichoke hearts, but you can buy them in a jar in a supermarket).Best to use raw shrimp: remove the heads and shells of 4 shrimps or prawns and then coat both the shrimp and 4 artichoke hearts in olive oil and the juice and zest of one lemon. Let marinate for a minimum of 30 minutes (longer, if possible).

After the shrimp are marinated, pan fry them in a little butter for a few minutes until cooked through and then chop them into small pieces.

Step 3: Prepare the Tomato Concassé

Tomato Concassé refers to tomatoes that have been skinned, seeded and chopped into pieces. For detailed instructions on how to skin and seed tomatoes, click here.  Add 4 diced tomatoes to a saucepan and add about 2 tablespoons of olive oil, the juice and zest of 1/2 lemon and 4 tablespoons of white wine to the mixture. Season with salt and pepper and simmer until the mixture becomes soft. Add some water to the pan if the mixture becomes too dry. 

 Step 4: Prepare the Garlic Mousse

Squeeze the garlic pulp out of each garlic clove and mash into a smooth paste. Whip 90 ml (3/4 cup) of thickened cream with electric beaters until stiff peaks are formed. Gradually fold in the mashed garlic paste into the cream until the mixture is smooth. The garlic taste should not overwhelm the mousse; adjust the amount of garlic paste accordingly. Add a pinch of salt.

Step 5: Prepare the Waffle-shaped potato chips

Peel a small or medium potato. Slice thin pieces using a mandoline; I used a special attachment on my mandoline to produce a ‘waffle’ pattern. Fry the potato chips for several minutes in hot oil until they turn a golden brown.

 Step 6: Assemble the Verrine

Place the tomato concassé mixture in the bottom of the verrine and add several pieces of the chopped shrimp and diced artichoke hearts. Spread some garlic mousse on top and finish with several potato chips and a piece of coriander on top.

Verrine 1 of 1

Lobster Chartreuse – from my Paris balcony

 

Lobster

It’s not easy photographing food inside a small Paris apartment. I don’t have the advantage of the large expanse of light coming in from my living room window in Australia. There’s just a small kitchen window here next to my work bench and when the sun passes over this area, I then walk 15 steps to the other side of the apartment to catch the light from my little front balcony. So it’s here that I photographed my next dish Lobster Chartreuse.

This recipe is an adaptation from a dish we learned during the advanced course at the Paris Le Cordon Bleu school. We weren’t told why it is called ‘Lobster Chartreuse’. Chartreuse is the name of a liqueur, however we didn’t use any of that in the recipe. Anyway, it’s a catchy name, so let’s just leave it at that.

This recipe pairs freshly cooked lobster and a rich sauce with fresh fruit and candied orange and lemon peel.  It appeals to most of the senses: visual, smell and most of all, taste- so you can have it all!

I used fresh lobster that I bought from my local Paris fish monger, but you can use already prepared lobster meat. The recipe is a bit fiddly, requiring making a fresh sauce and then assembling the carrot and radish pieces inside the ring mold. But, if you want to impress your guests or family on a special occasion, this is it! 

LOBSTER CHARTREUSE

Ingredients

  • 1 Lobster (live or fresh)
  • 1 large leek (white part)
  • 1 long daikon radish or 2 smaller round ones
  • 2 carrots
  • softened butter for the ring molds

For the Mousse stuffing

  • 60 g white fish meat (raw)
  • 1 egg white
  • 60 ml cream
  • salt/pepper

For the candied orange and lemon peel

  • 1 orange
  • 1 lemon
  • syrup

Lobster Sauce

  • shells from the lobster
  • green part of the leek, chopped
  • 1/2 onion finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • tomato paste
  • 1 tomato, diced
  • 100 ml white wine
  • 150 ml fish or chicken stock
  • salt/pepper

Garnish

  • 100 g baby spinach leaves
  • candied orange and lemon peel

Directions

  • Prepare the lobster: there are several ways to ‘terminate’ a lobster, but I used a large knife to cut through its head. Separate the head from the body and then separate the large claws from the body. Place the body and claws in boiling water; cook the body for about 5 minutes and the large claws for about 7 minutes. Remove from the water and let cool.
  • Remove the meat from the body and tail section by turning it over and cutting through the lobster’s ‘underbelly’ using kitchen scissors and then removing the meat.

Cut through ‘underbelly’ of lobster to remove the meat

Lobster (3 of 3) (1 of 1)

  • To remove the meat from the large claws, some people advise cracking them open using the back of a large knife. This didn’t work for me since the claws were very thick and hard. Instead I cracked them open by using a medium-sized rock from the garden (smashing down on the claws). My husband gave me this brilliant idea, I was at a loss of what to do next!
  • Prepare the lobster sauce: chop up the green leafy part of a leek, then dice 2 garlic cloves, 1/2 onion and 1 tomato. Add these ingredients to a pan with hot oil, then add the lobster shells. Lower the heat and stir until the vegetables are soft. Add the tomato paste, white wine and fish (or chicken) stock. Let simmer for at least 20 minutes. Strain through a sieve and then reduce the sauce to about 50% of its previous volume.

 Add the lobster shells to a pan with the vegetables, wine and tomato pasteLobster 4 of 4) (1 of 1)

  •  Prepare the candied orange and lemon peel: cut the orange and lemon peel into very fine julienne slices. Bring to boil 1 cup water with 3/4 sugar to form a syrup. Cook the orange and lemon peel in the syrup until they become soft and candied.
  • Prepare the mousse stuffing: place the raw white fish (I used whiting) into a blender, along with the egg white, salt and pepper. Pulse until smooth then add the cream. The stuffing should hold together like a smooth paste.
  • Slice the white part of a leek into thin circles about 1/4 inch wide. Place them in a single layer into a pan with a little butter and water. Cook them over low heat for several minutes until they are softened.
  • Slice the carrots and daikon radish into thin strips about 1/2 inch wide and the height of your ring mold. Cook in simmering, salted water until the veggies are cooked ‘al dente’- with a bit of a crunch still remaining in the texture.
  • Assemble the ingredients in the ring mold: butter the inside of your ring mold with softened butter. Place the mold on top of a piece of plastic wrap and then cut a circle of baking paper to fit the bottom of your mold. Place the carrot and radish strips vertically inside the mold, alternating between the two and overlapping the strips. Bring the plastic wrap to fit up over the sides of the mold. You will be placing this mold into a warm water bath (bain marie) to cook the lobster chartreuse.

  Alternate the carrot and daikon radish strips inside the ring mold

  • First, place a layer of the cooked white leek circles on the bottom of the mold, then add a layer of the mousse stuffing, followed by a layer of loose lobster meat (retain the meat of the lobster tail and claws to decorate the plate). Add a bit of the reduced lobster sauce the repeat the whole process.

Layer the inside of the ring mold with white leeks, mousse stuffing and lobster meat.

  • Finish with a thin layer of the mousse stuffing on top. Bake in a bain marie 180 C (360 F) for about 15-20 minutes until the top part of the mold becomes firm to the touch. Remove from the oven and let cool for several minutes and release the lobster chartreuse from the  ring mold.

Finish with a layer of mousse stuffing on top- place in bain marie to cook in oven

  • To plate the dish, add a layer of cooked baby spinach on the plate. Place the ring mold on top of the spinach and gently remove it. Place some of the candied orange and lemon pieces on top, lay the meat from the lobster body and claw on the side of the plate. Place a few orange slices on the side and arrange some of the reduced sauce around the lobster pieces.

 Lobster

 

 

 

 

My Paris- Quail stuffed with shitake mushrooms with sweetbreads and glazed onions

 

Quail

DANS LE FOUR, MADAME- DANS LE FOUR!” the French Chef shouted at me during my class at the Paris Cordon Bleu School. We were making ‘Quail stuffed with shitake mushrooms with veal sweetbreads and glazed pearl onions.’ I was late in putting my quail in the oven to cook and the supervising chef was telling me to hurry up and put it in the oven (le four) to cook.

But who could blame me for being late when we had so many steps to complete for this dish! First, we had to de-bone a quail, which almost required the skill of a micro-surgeon. Have you seen how tiny a quail is?

A lot of poultry in France is sold with the head of the bird still attached to the body, so the customer can readily see what kind of bird you are buying. So my quail arrived at my work station with its head still in tact. I stroked the feathers of the head and they felt so soft, compared to the rest of the body. I hesitated, almost not wanting to wake up this ‘sleeping bird.’

Awwww!

Quail 2 of 2) (1 of 1)

After removing the head, we cut out a small hole in the backside of the quail and pulled out the heart, liver and all of the other insides and then removed the ‘wishbone’ (if you can find it). Then taking a paring knife, we delicately reached inside the quail and scraped the meat away from the bones, without tearing the skin. This was not an easy feat, but my mission was accomplished- at the end, my quail looked like a tiny ‘quail suit,’ empty of its bones (except the leg bones, which were left in).

De-boned Quail – ready to be stuffed

Quail 3 of 3) (1 of 1)

We then trussed the bird using a 10 inch long trussing needle- it seemed rather ridiculous using such a large needle to truss such a small bird, but we’re all here at Le Cordon Bleu to learn new techniques, right?

The final dish included the quail stuffed with diced shitake mushrooms and chicken livers and also veal sweetbreads cooked in a delicious braising liquid. This braising liquid included a mirepoix of diced carrots, celery and onions, red wine, veal stock and was also flavoured with the quail bones. Sweetbreads (ris de veau) are made from an animal’s pancreas or thymus glands. I’m usually not fond of organ meat, but this tasted delicious when served with the sauce made from the reduced braising liquid.

Sweetbreads – from animal’s pancreas or thymus glands

SweetbreadsAnd what was the overall verdict for this dish? I usually don’t care for quail too much, since there is not very much meat on this bird. However, the shitake mushroom and chicken liver stuffing ‘plumped up’ the quail nicely and added a delicious texture to the dish. Yes, I’ll be trying this dish again one day, but next time I’ll be sure to put the quail earlier dans le four!

You can also serve the quail cut in half to reveal the stuffing

Quail (4 of 4) (1 of 1)

 P.S. Please also refer to my post Julia Child’s Boned Duck Baked in Pastry.

 

 

My Paris: Sea Bass Coulibiac + Tomatoes Stuffed with Broccio Cheese

 

Fish Pie (1 of 1) (1 of 1)

My next lesson at the Cordon Bleu school in Paris was given by Chef Patrick Terrien, who will be retiring next week after 15 years at the school. Yes, we will miss him!

The recipe here is Sea Bass Coulibiac and tomatoes stuffed with Broccio Cheese (Bar en croute facon coulibiac, avec tomates farcies au broccio). Coulibiac (or ‘fish pie’) is a Russian-inspired dish included in Escoffier’s famous cookbook, “The Complete Guide to the Art of Modern Cookery.” Reportedly, Russians used to put various ingredients in their pie, like cabbage and sturgeon, but we used Sea Bass and even hard-boiled quail eggs.

It’s a truly delicious dish, especially when served with a creamy beurre blanc sauce.

First, we gutted and filleted a 1 kg (2.2 pound) Sea Bass, a fish with a nice flaky texture and thankfully, not too much ‘pin boning’ required.(It still takes me about 10 minutes to fillet a fish, while professionals do it in less than 2 minutes)!

 Fish Pie (2 of 2) (1 of 1)

We then made a yeast dough, letting it double in size, before rolling it out in a rectangular shape.Fish Pie (3 of 3) (1 of 1)Next, we made a delicious filling made of rice, fresh tarragon, diced salmon, diced mushrooms and fresh quail eggs. The filling was then layered with alternating rows of the sea bass fillets. The quail eggs are optional, but they do look ‘cute’ when you slice into the pie and see them hiding there! The layered filling is then wrapped tightly in plastic wrap, cooled in the fridge and then unwrapped on top of the dough.

 The dough is then folded inwards, starting with one long edge and followed by the two sides. We then added some dough decorations, brushed the dough with water or egg wash, then baked in the oven for 35 minutes.

 Fish Pie ( 9 of 9) (1 of 1)

 This dish is then topped off with a delicious beurre blanc sauce and served with  tomatoes stuffed with Broccio cheese. Broccio cheese is a soft cheese from Corsica, but you could also use Ricotta cheese instead.

Fish Pie (1 of 1) (1 of 1)

And what was the result from my class practical? The chef said my dish was ‘delicious’ but scolded me for not keeping my work station clean. No matter how hard I try, it seems that liquids keep on bubbling out of my pans onto the stove surface- impossible to keep immaculate!

Please join me later for my next blog, Boned Quail stuffed with Shitake Mushrooms!

 

 

 

 

 

My Paris- John Dory Fillets with red spices, wild rice and tropical fruit

 

John Dory( 4 of 4) (1 of 1)

This was our first Practical class in Cuisine at the Paris Le Cordon Bleu school. First, we watched a 2.5 hour demonstration (“demo”) followed by a 2.5 hour practical session held in a smaller room with 10 stoves. I was rather nervous beforehand; I wanted to make sure I got a good position at the communal work station, which would be close to the dish washing station. Otherwise, you have to traipse across the room to frequently get your pots and pans washed by the plongeurs. Yay, I was able to get a good spot!

The dish that we prepared today was John Dory fillets with red spices, wild rice with tropical fruit and red kidney bean “French fries” (Effeuillée de Saint-Pierre aux Épices Rouges, Riz Sauvage aux Fruits Exotiques, Frites de Haricots Rouges). This dish doesn’t sound ‘French’ I hear you say? Well, we’re now getting into fusion cooking in the Superior class, working with influences from other types of cuisines. (I have a feeling I may have seen the last of heavy French creams and buttery recipes? Maybe not)!

For this recipe, we had to first cook Wild Rice, which we were told was not a member of the rice family, but is actually a grain. This was then blended with some diced papaya and mango fruit. Then we were each given a John Dory fish to fillet (called Saint-Pierre in French). Thank goodness the fish had already been gutted, but we had to each completely fillet the fish ourselves. This was not an easy task since this fish is rather big (1.5 kilos or 3.3 pounds) and has a very tough exterior and big back bone. No dramas here- I got this task done alright.

John Dory Fish (Saint-Pierre)

John Dory( 3 of 3) (1 of 1)

We then had to make a sauce for the fish, flavoured from the fish bones, onion, garlic, diced papaya and mango, white wine, lime juice and Tandoori spices. I like tropical fruit, so this sauce was a nice variation from the usual buttery French sauces often used in fish recipes. The sauce was reduced, then finished off with some diced cilantro and a little butter to thicken.

For an added touch, we made some red kidney bean ‘French fries.’ This consisted of puréed kidney beans rolled into a ball shape, then breaded and deep-fried. These were then placed on the plate as a sort of decoration. Frankly, I thought these ‘French fries’ were a bit strange. Instead, it would be better to use puréed potatoes in place of the kidney beans- why mess with ‘French fries’ by changing the consistency to red kidney beans?

All in all, the dish had a interesting fruity taste, which contrasted nicely with the wild rice (riz sauvage). And thanks to one of my classmates who helped me at the last minute to get my food plated up in time!

During the class demonstration, the chef also made a dish called Smoked Surf and Turf Duo, which consisted of smoked eel, salmon, vainaigrette dressing, a sauce and Beetroot Mousse which was sprayed from a siphon ‘whipped cream’ dispenser. The topping almost looks like cherries (which I love) but is actually sliced beets.

John Dory (2 of 2) (1 of 1)

Please join me for the next blog of my Cordon Bleu experience: Sea Bass Coulibiac with Tomatoes Stuffed with Broccio Cheese.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hello from Paris!

Paris Sights 6 of 6) (1 of 1)

 I finally arrived in Paris to start my 10-week course in Advanced Cuisine (Superior Cuisine’) at Le Cordon Bleu Paris. God, it’s a long ways from South Australia, with 20 hours of flying and a 6-hour layover in Singapore. Needless to say, I’m a little nervous since it’s been two years since I completed the Intermediate Cuisine course here. Most of the other students in my class have already been cooking together for the past 6 months, so I hope I fit in alright!  

My Paris apartment is located in the Latin Quarter in the 5th arrondisement, an area which also includes the Pantheon and the Luxembourg Gardens. Every morning I take an early morning walk up the Rue Mouffetard, an ancient Roman street with an open air market and lots of food shops. During my walk, I descend the hill towards the Seine River and behold the wonderful site of the Notre Dame Cathedral, a 20-minute walk from where I live.  

The view from my Latin Quarter Paris apartment Paris apartment vue Rue Mouffetard in the early morning Rue Mouffe Morning Notre Dama Cathedral- almost 1,000 years old! Paris Sights 8 of 8) (1 of 1) But I’m here in Paris to cook and eat, right? One of my favourite Paris markets is the one located at Boulevard Raspail, open three times a week. There are lots of fresh fruits and vegetables with an organic market on Sundays. This market is well-known for the vendor with potato pancakes, which is still on my ‘must taste’ list!

An added bonus is you can easily walk from this market to Gertrude Stein’s former apartment at 27 rue de Fleurus, where she lived with Alice B. Toklas for almost 40 years. As I walked past her apartment recently, the door to the lobby was open due to renovations. I slipped inside the lobby ‘sight unseen’ and was honored to be able to walk in the same hallowed halls as Picasso and Ernest Hemingway, who regularly visited Gertrude to discuss art and writing.

Gertrude Stein’s former apartment at 27 rue des Fleurus

Gertrude Stein

Nearby Gertrude Stein’s apartment is the well-known bread bakery, Poilâne, located at 8 rue du Cherche-Midi. Their signature sour dough bread is baked in a wood-burning oven and  is made of 4 ingredients: sourdough, stoneground wheat flour, water and sea salt from Guérande. It carries the signature mark P for Poilâne and each loaf weighs about 4lbs or 1.9kg. That’s a lot of bread and should last at least one week!

Poilâne Bread Bakery at 8 rue du Cherche-Midi

Poilâne Bakery at 8 rue du Cherche-Midi

Poilâne Bakery at 8 rue du Cherche-Midi

Signature Poilâne bread baked with letter ‘P’

Signature Sourdough bread with signature 'P'

Signature Sourdough bread with signature ‘P’

Walking back from the Poilâne bakery to my apartment, I passed by the Sadahuru Aoki patisserie on the Boulevard de Port Royal, founded 15 years ago by the Japanese pâtissier of the same name. Aoki’s philosophy to baking is simply stated:

“Creating something delicious. To achieve this goal, it is essential to maintain simplicity.” – Aoki

And I certainly knew where he was coming from. I entered his store and bought one of his delights called Sensuelle. consisting of layers of ganache and flavoured mousse set on a base of textured biscuit and topped with a miniature macaron.

Sadahuru Aoki Patisserie- Paris

Paris Sifghts (2 of 2) (1 of 1)

 Layered Pastries topped with a mini Macaron

Layered pastry topped with a mini Macaron

Layered pastry topped with a mini Macaron

With my belly full after visiting several of Paris’ culinary delights, it was back to my Paris apartment to rest before starting my course in Superior Cuisine at Le Cordon Bleu Paris. Please follow my blog as I present photos and recipes from my 10-week course at LCB!