Friday, April 18, 2014

Fluffy Easter Pancakes

Some of the fluffiest, nicest pancakes I've ever eaten are made with buttermilk. Buttermilk is the liquid that is left from churning butter or cream, and although you can buy buttermilk reasonably easily, it is not something that most people would have as a staple in the fridge. This means that if you decide to make buttermilk pancakes one morning, it is likely to involve a special trip to the shops to get it.

Today I'm sharing a recipe I use for pancakes that give the same result as the buttermilk kind, but is much less hassle to make -  with a technique for lightly souring the milk to create a perfect substitute for the buttermilk. These pancakes are deliciously light and fluffy and not overly sweet. You can of course top them with anything you like, but today I have topped mine with mixed berries and maple syrup.

These pancakes make a perfect Easter brunch, or even a simple dessert served with yoghurt, ice cream or any manner of toppings that you can dream up. I have also made small pikelets from this mixture and topped them with jam and cream to make a sort of Devonshire Tea style treat.

However you adapt them to your taste, this recipe is a keeper, with great results every time. Maybe give it a try this Easter long weekend?

Fluffy Buttermilk Style Pancakes
With Berries and Maple Syrup

You will need: 1 cup milk, 2 teaspoons white vinegar, 3 eggs, 2 cups Self Raising Flour, 1 Teaspoon Baking Powder, 2 cups mixed frozen berries, 2 tablespoons caster sugar, maple syrup to serve.

Method: Add the 2 teaspoons of vinegar to the milk, stir through and allow it to stand for a couple of minutes. This will lightly sour the milk.

Combine the berries and the sugar, microwave them for 1 minute and stir well. You could also do the berries in a small pan on the stove, but I find the microwave is quick and easy - and less cleaning up.

Whisk together the milk and the eggs. Add half of the flour and all of the baking powder to the mixture and whisk until smooth. Now add the remaining flour and whisk through, ensuring there are no lumps. If the mixture feels too thick, add a little extra plain milk. If it is too thin, add extra flour.

Allow the pancake batter to rest in the fridge for 10-15 minutes.

Cook the pancakes in a lightly greased or non stick pan. When bubbles appear on the surface, they are ready to turn over. The pan should be moderately hot - watch the temperature, as if the pan is too hot, the pancakes will be overcooked and dark on the outside and not cooked in the middle.

Serve the pancakes with the berries and maple syrup - or anything you fancy.

Makes 4 large or 8 medium sized pancakes.


Sunday, April 6, 2014

Food Diary - Saturday Night Dinner at Home

There are few things I enjoy more than catching up with friends at home over a good meal and a glass of wine. We were long overdue in catching up with our friend Kim (who actually only lives close by - isn't that always the way!) so last night we did something about that and invited him over for a moochy Saturday night dinner at home.

To start, I came up with a dish that is basically posh eggs on toast - a crunchy base of toasted rustic garlic rubbed bread, piled with Prosciutto, fresh greens, a soft poached free range egg - and finished off with luxurious black truffle butter sauce. The combination of the crunchy bread, velvety eggs, salty Prosciutto and fresh greens created a gorgeous contrast of textures - and that decadent black truffle butter sauce created an entree that was wickedly good.

 Soft Poached Egg on Garlic Toast
With Prosciutto, Greens and Truffle Butter Sauce

I recently purchased a small bottle of Tetsuya's Black Truffle Salsa - which is designed to be used to create the famous truffle butter that he serves in his restaurant. I've been lucky enough to dine at Tetsuya's quite a few times now (in fact we are heading there in a couple of weeks for our wedding anniversary dinner) and the truffle butter is something we always look forward to. Lots of other people clearly think so too, so he now sells the base of it so that people can create their own. I decided to make up a batch of the butter and just warm it through, to create a luxurious sauce. The result was an eye rollingly delicious entree.

If you want to get your hands on some of Tetsuya's Black Truffle Salsa for yourself, you can find it in good gourmet stores, or online. If you are searching for it, it comes in a tiny jar that looks like this -

For the basis of main course, I chose something that I haven't cooked at home for ages - venison. Regular readers of Gourmet Goddess would know that I'm a big fan of game meat, and in the last week or so had been thinking that I wanted to get my hands on some venison to create a dish using Autumn produce. I used a beautiful piece of venison loin, which I marinated in olive oil, some garlic, a splash of raspberry vinegar, crushed juniper berries, pepper and allspice.

I then seared the meat in a very hot pan and transferred it to a 200C oven to cook for 10 minutes. After resting the meat, I carved it and served it with a rich, velvety puree of cauliflower and potato (I used the Dutch Cream variety), roasted beetroot ( which I cut into uniform circles with a cookie cutter, to improve the presentation), toasted hazelnuts, beetroot leaves and a jus that I made from beef stock and Pinot Noir jelly (similar to redcurrant jelly, but made with Pinot grapes) and flavoured with bay leaves from my garden. Yum.

Loin of Venison with Cauliflower & Potato Puree, 
Roasted Beetroot, Hazelnut and Pinot Noir Jus

Venison is a fantastic flavoursome and super lean meat that is not hard to cook with, as long as you choose the right cut for the kind of dish you are making. I chose the loin of the venison, which is cooked for a short time and served medium rare, to rare. The only real thing that you really need to watch for is overcooking. It isn't a meat that is really suited for people who like their meat well done, so if you are making it at home, know your diner's preference. Cooking venison to a well done order will just result in a grey, tough piece of meat. A waste of really excellent produce.

I decided not to make a dessert and to serve a selection of cheeses, fresh pear and some quince paste - but after what was a rich entree and main, we decided that we were all satisfied, and that a cheese plate would just be overkill. The cheese platter might end up being Sunday lunch.

If you like game but have never had a go at cooking venison at home, I really encourage you to give it a try. It isn't hard and makes a great key ingredient for a special meal, whether you are sharing it with guests or not.


Thursday, April 3, 2014

Simply Delicious - Pea and Pancetta Linguine

Tonight's recipe ticks all the boxes for a fast, simple and delicious meal that you can knock up when you get home from work - but is nice enough to quite happily serve to guests as a great no drama dinner party dish. It uses very few ingredients, and doesn't require a lot of kitchen skill - but really delivers on taste.

We love this dish in our house and it is a real favourite. A simple combination of salty, punchy tasting Pancetta (salt cured and spiced pork belly) and the sweet peas are just gorgeous. I only use a small amount of Pancetta (200g) as it's richness is more than enough to carry through the pasta. The sauce is created by simply stirring the Pancetta, peas and Parmesan/egg mixture through the hot, freshly cooked pasta. Talk about low maintenance!

I made this whole dish tonight in well under 30 minutes. It is not a do ahead kind of thing - it needs to be cooked and served right away. So, gather everyone around the table, get the pasta pot boiling and enjoy this Gourmet Goddess favourite.

We are now in Autumn here in Australia, and it is my favorite time of the year. I love the cooler days, all the nature colours around us, and the lovely Autumn produce. Check out my "What's in Season" section to get some inspiration and to see what is at it's best right now. Even better, head out to your nearest farmers market if you have one close by, and check out what you can find - as well as top notch, seasonal produce, you also get the pleasure of dealing with the folks who actually grow the food.

Autumn is also the time I start to plant vegetables for harvesting in the winter. I've been a bit slack and have not been out in the garden to do this yet, or even actually decided on what I will plant this time around. I plan to get organised and make this all happen in the next couple of weeks. There is so much pleasure in growing your own food, regardless of whether you have a big kitchen garden - or like mine, just a collection of pots, hanging planters and odd bits and pieces in my little inner city patch of green.

Until next time - live and eat well!

Pea and Pancetta Linguine

You will need: 200g piece of Pancetta diced into cubes, 1 small finely chopped onion, 1 clove of garlic, 1 1/2 cups cooked peas, 4 eggs, 1/3 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese, 1 tablespoon olive oil, salt, pepper, 250g linguine (or spaghetti.)

Note: If you cannot buy Pancetta, you can substitute Speck, Prosciutto - or even good bacon.

Method: Heat the oil in a fry pan and add the onion. Cook for a few minutes until it starts to become translucent. Add the Pancetta and cook until the it begins to get crisp at the edges. Add the garlic and the peas, toss through for a couple of minutes. Turn off the heat and set aside.

Put a large pot of well salted water on the stove to boil. While that is happening, whisk together the eggs and Parmesan. Season generously with salt and pepper.

Once the water is boiling, add the pasta and cook until al dente. Working quickly, drain the pasta and return it to the original pot. Add the egg mixture and the peas and Pancetta and stir it all together thoroughly. As you stir, the egg will cook, creating a fine coating on the pasta. The heat of the pasta will do this, and you should not need to return it to the heat. It will take about 5 minutes.

Serve right away with cracked pepper and a little more Parmesan.
Makes 2 generous mains or 4 entree sized serves.