Monthly Archives: October 2014

Daily (Or When The Mood Takes Me) Gripe : Be Afraid and Be Alarmed!

Fear is a complex emotion but it comes in two main forms. There’s anticipatory fear where we perceive a threat, know what to do about it, and take the necessary evasive action.
That happens when you see a dangerous situation looming on the road, or someone threatens you with violence.
Then there’s inhibitory fear, where the threat is too great, too amorphous or too appalling for us to know how to deal with it. Because there’s no way to discharge the fear through action, we are inhibited rather than energised. The term ‘paralysed by fear’ is a good description of inhibitory fear at work.

Hugh Mackay Speech “Be Afraid” 2007

We are again experiencing the politics of fear…however, I don’t know how effective it is going to be this time around. It is not so much that we are immune from it, but in an age of social media, and historical introspection we are all more aware of what it is all about.

There has been so many examples of this whipped up in our own lifetime: fear of Jews; reds-under-the-bed; nuclear holocaust; fear of terrorists; fear of muslims; fear of extremists etc etc,always led by both politicians, and the media. Tony Abbott’s mob are currently trying to whip up both fear of extremists in the follow-up to the crash of flight MH17 in the Ukraine (and by proxy the loss of MH370) implying that we are suddenly involved in the war going on there by sending in both the AFP AND ADF personnel not just to secure the crash sight, but that our army would train Ukrainian army personnel! (Reported 3rd Sept 2014 SMH, then denied on 4th Sept 2014 in The Guardian). We were suddenly confronted by a range of statements between then and now, not only about involvement in the Ukraine, but our insolvent in Iran in the face of the ISAS/ISOS/Islamic State (or whatever they are calling themselves today) THREAT (how quickly did the Ukraine crash become a poor cousin when all this started!), naturally, the media are just wallowing in all this pandemonium that is being whipped up. We were constantly seeing headlines and leading news reports about our sudden involvement in scuffles that have nothing to do with us – though it us essential for us to crawl up the arse of America – because they want to whip up hysteria that this MIGHT (though won’t) happen here! Naturally the lead-on from all this at home has been a redneck hatred of Muslims here – irrespective of their individual or community response – resulting in Mosques being desecrated, the burqa becoming a weapon of fear, new laws covering “supposed” civilian terrorists entering and leaving the country, additional laws allowing police to have even yet mire powers than they already have, and the general generating OF an atmosphere of FEAR, making us, the regular run-of-the-mill Australian (emphasis on that) joe-blow citizens to constantly look over our shoulders, to denigrate anyone who was Muslim or wore a burqa, too generally feel….ill at ease in our day to day lives. This is a frightening scenario, and goes to show how easy it is to manipulate a population using Politics of Fear!

I just loved how after every alarmist report, there was a request to not be afraid and to “carry on as normal”! My response, and that if many others in social media was: like we’ve been doing otherwise!

Of course, that has now carried over to the wanker G20 conference up here in Queensland! What a fucking waste of taxpayer money this giant waste of time is! Police given extra powers; control of protesting ( a supposed democratic right); shutting off of areas weeks before the bloody thing even happens; exclusion zones; cutting off access to roadways while they transport the wankers around; removing…garbage bins (potential terrorists sees no garbage bin…cancel action and go home…not!). Naturally, all the fear being whipped up about a potential terrorist attack over this period (assumes we would miss any of them if anything DID happen!) has been sugar-coated by granting additional public holidays, and telling us not to be scared to shop in the CBD over this period. To my thinking…doesn’t both these actions place more people at risk if anything does happen! Just me being paranoid! Oh no….they’ve got to me!

So are the Politics of Fear really affecting our daily lives? I don’t think it has been as successful as perhaps they like to think. All I see is people “carrying on as normal”. Certainly on social media it has been treated as a joke. Amongst those who think and evaluate, it is just another example if government stupidity, with Tony Abbott and Julie Bishop (who has scored rather well out of all this) striding the world stage like circus clowns, making us out to be bigger and more powerful than we actually are! In some respects…making us a target!

Will be interesting to see what happens here after the G20! My bet…there will be no revocation of given “specific period” powers…and no fucking garbage bins to put my rubbish in!

Tim Alderman
Copyright 2014

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Daily (Or When The Mood Takes Me) Gripe: Being 60!

WTF! Since when did turning 60 move me into the world of the addled dolts! I look in the mirror and see a guy who has aged, for sure, but not so that I can see a retirement in my near future. In fact, as far as a mature aged guy goes, I don’t look all that bad at all! I still have all my hair, it is still primarily black, body is gym-toned and looking a bit bulked up, not many wrinkles to speak of, grooms well, and dresses in trendy clothing though for my age. So why is it that so many think I’m an idiot!

Don’t get me wrong! This attitude that I am a gullible dolt doesn’t come from friends and acquaintances. It is the sole territory of young shitheads on sex sites! Excuse me while I B-Pay some funds to Russia so that yet ANOTHER personal trainer can escape his life of misery and deprivation there, and join us in the land of fucking eternal sunshine and imbecility!

Has happened to me four times in the period of one week! Four 20-somethings that think grandpa Timmy is the National Treasury, and either a free ride to the Promised Land, or a subject of ridicule! Now…I know all 60-year-olds aren’t computer and internet savvy…but this one is! I’ve survived enough Nigerian millions which are possibly still on there way, and had enough relatives that I knew nothing about – that lot didn’t know my hobby.. is genealogy – dying and leaving me zillions…just forward us your banking details and we’ll get this money to you right away…to know when someone is taking the piss!

Funny how they often trip themselves up! This one on Saturday night appeared on Grindr. There was a chat window with a picture posted in it of a very cute 20-something.,no profile! Thought that was very odd but proceeded with chat anyway. Mentioned he was visiting and going out…a bit further down said he was arriving on Sunday. The usual dirty talk…said ye was staying at McDowell…was willing to supply condoms and travel here…would message me on Monday…knew he wouldn’t and he didn’t! But I’m not sure what it was all about. He got no information off me, no personal stuff like address…maybe he worked out I’m poor snd just gave up lol.

Then you have the guts from India looking for hubbies in a little hit too much of a rush…and if you respond suddenly there is a rush of them! And always in too much of a hurry to move on to Skype.

The Asian guys who respond to profiles 60-seconds after all t goes up…without even reading it, and always between 20 and 24.

The “Blow ‘n Go” guys nearly always in their early 20s…and on Grindr!

Guys who don’t read your profile, so miss the information about raw sex!

Or sites like BBRTS which are a total waste of time if you are over 60! Plenty of ‘oinks’ but no bloody subsequent action…though a good site for excuses as to why none!

Hey guys…would it shock you to find out I’m still sexually active! I’m not dead! I.m not wrinkly and saggy! I don’t smell of old person! I don’t really want sex…or scams…or rip-offs…from people a third my age!

Get a life, guys. Don’t waste my time…it’s as precious as yours. Read my fucking profile and respond to what I want..las I do to yours!

I’m not an imbecile nor a dolt!

Don’t treat me as one!

Tim Alderman
Copyright 2014

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So Can You Cook? 16

There is a lot more to the world of spices than cinnamon, nutmeg, pepper, allspice, cumin, cayenne, paprika, cloves and cardamom. The huge range of spices used in Cajun and Creole, traditional Indian and Middle eastern food rarely reach the palates of the average cook unless they suddenly decide to cook traditional dishes from these areas. Many consider items like Saffron and Vanilla Beans too expensive – you just need to know where to get them. Spices like Sumac, Star Anise, Licorice Root, Blade Mace, Ajowan, Asafoetida, Fenugreek, Juniper, Orris Root and Szechwan Pepper are overlooked because no one knows what to do with them. Spice blends such as Berbere, Chaat Masala, Chermoula, Garam Masala, Harissa,, Panch Phora, Ras el Hanout, Shichimi-Togarashi and Za’atar suffer the same fate. Even the quite exciting world of Australian spices such as Bush Tomatoes, Lemon Myrtle, Mountain Pepper, Wattleseed etc are overlooked in the Australian kitchen, and are seen as perhaps being a bit ‘hippy’. My interest in spices began when I decided to have an Indian party at home, cooking traditional Indian food. Some of the spices I had never heard of, so had to go on a search to find them. Despite the inconvenience of not being able to buy them in my local supermarket, they made such an incredible difference to the taste of the food that it sent me off on a stint of research and courses to find out more about them, and there uses – not just in traditional cooking, but how they can be used in contemporary food preparation. Much of the information I will be giving you – apart from most recipes – comes from ‘Spice Notes’ by Ian Hemphill, the founder of ‘Herbies’ herb and spice store in Rozelle. If you haven’t visited ’Herbies’, then you have missed one of lifes great adventures. If a spice or spice mix exists, you will find it in this store. They also run spice courses, which are very personal and interesting.
I am not going to try to cover all the exotic spices in this column, but will provide you with recipes for some of the spices I use regularly.
Most spices require heating until fragrant, before using with other ingredients. To do this, heat a frypan, then add the spices for anywhere from 20-30 seconds. As soon as you can smell them, remove from the heat and set aside somewhere to cool. Do NOT leave in pan, as they will continue to cook, then burn. Best grinding results from using a mortar and pestle, though a coffee or spice grinder will do a satisfactory job. Do not store in open containers, as spices will go ‘off’ fairly quickly.

SZECHWAN PEPPER
Comes from a prickly ash tree found in the Szechwan province of China, near the Tibet border. It comes from the dried red berries that follow the plants flowering, a tiny black seed that is gritty when ground. Its flavour is peppery and tangy, and is slightly numbing on the tongue. The leaves are dried and used bas Sansho, a Japanese pepper. A lot of small pieces of stem and thorns are often included even in good quality mixes, and you need to pick through and get rid of them before using. I find them temptingly fragrant, and though peppery, not overly ‘burning’ in taste.
Szechwan Pepper and Salt Chicken;
3-4 chicken breast fillets, cut into 3-4 large pieces
¼ cup soy sauce
2 teaspoons sesame oil
¼ cup Szechwan pepper
2 tablespoons sea salt
2 teaspoons rice flour
oil for shallow frying

Combine soy sauce and sesame oil in a small bowl. Place Szechwan pepper ands sea salt in a mortar and pestle and grind to a fine powder. Mix through rice flour. Brush pieces of chicken with soy/sesame mix, then roll in pepper and salt mix. Heat 2cm oil in a frypan or large saucepan and fry chicken until cooked.
Serve with a green salad

SAFFRON
The Saffron crocus is an autumn flowering perennial that belongs to the lily family. Its purple flower has six stamens. Each flower has three stigmas that are attached into the base of the bloom by a fine pale thread called a style. Dried saffron stigmas separated from the flowers are between 10-18mm long, are dark-red, thin and needle-like at one end, broadening slightly until fanning out at the tip in a trumpet shape. It has a honey/woody aroma and a bitter, lingering, appetite-stimulating taste. It is expensive due to it being harvested and produced by hand. Though expensive in large quantities, most recipes only call for a ¼ to a ½ teaspoon of this precious spice, and this can be bought relatively inexpensively.

Saffron Spice Cake;
250 ml (1 cup) freshly squeezed orange juice
1 tablespoon finely grated orange rind
¼ teaspoon saffron threads
3 eggs
155g (1¼ cups) icing sugar
250g (2 cups) self-raising flour
370g (3 2/3 cups) ground almonds
125g unsalted butter, melted
icing sugar, extra to dust
cream, to serve

Preheat oven to 180°C. Lightly grease a 22cm round cake tin and line the base with baking paper. Combine the orange juice, zest and saffron in a small saucepan and bring to the boil. Lower the heat and simmer for 1 minute. Leave to cool.
Beat the eggs and icing sugar with electric beaters until light and creamy. Fold in the sifted flour, almond meal, orange juice mixture and butter with a metal spoon until just combined and mixture is just smooth. Spoon the mixture into the prepared tin.
Bake for 1 hour, or until a skewer comes out clean when inserted in the middle of the cake. Leave in the tin for 15 minutes before turning out on a wire rack to cool.
Dust with a little icing sugar, and serve with cream.

STAR ANISE
Star Anise is the dried, star-shaped fruit of a small, Oriental, evergreen tree, and is a member of the Magnolia family. The narcissus-like, greenish-yellow unscented flowers are followed by rayed fruits composed of eight seed-holding segments. The aroma of Star Anise is distinctly aniseed. It has a strong, sweet licorice character, and deep, warm spice notes that are reminiscent of clove and cassia. The flavour is similarly licorice-like, pungent, lingering and numbing, leaving the palate fresh and stimulated.

Caribbean Chicken with Ginger & Star Anise;
25g fresh ginger
3 star anise
4 chicken breasts
3 tablespoons sherry
150ml chicken stock
3 garlic cloves, crushed
2 bay leaves
150ml olive oil
150ml white wine vinegar
2 white onions, sliced
sea salt and 8 peppercorns

Crush the ginger and star anise in a mortar and pestle and add to a pan with chicken, sherry and stock. Simmer for 20 minutes, or until chicken is cooked and tender.
Shred the chicken into thin strips and place in a bowl with the garlic, bay leaves, olive oil, vinegar, onions, salt and peppercorns. Mix well, and leave to marinate in the refrigerator for a couple of days.
Serve with a spinach salad and lemon wedges.

SUMAC
This Middle eastern spice is from one of 150 varieties of rhus trees. Sumac comes from the berries these trees produce, which are in tightly bunched clusters 8-10cm long, and about 2cm across at the widest point near the base. The berries ripen to a pinkish red, and are finally deep crimson when harvested. Sumac powder is a deep burgundy colour, course textured and moist. The aroma is fruity, like a cross between red grapes and apples with a lingering freshness. The taste is initially salty, tangy and pleasantly fruity with no sharpness.
I introduced a number of people to this spice by using it on oven-roasted tomatoes, which it is really delicious with. It also goes well with avocado, chicken and fish. It is one of the ingredients in the Middle Eastern za’atar rub.

Slow-Roasted Tomatoes
12 Roma tomatoes, fully ripe and halved
a sprinkling each of salt, castor sugar and pepper
1-2 tablespoons sumac
2 tablespoons olive oil

Place tomatoes cut side up on a baking paper lined baking tray. Sprinkle with salt, castor sugar and pepper, then cover with a good sprinkling of sumac. Drizzle the oil over the tomatoes and roast at 100°C for three (3) hours.
These can be served hot or at room temperature as cocktail finger food or used as part of a salad.

VANILLA BEANS
Vanilla beans come from a member of the orchid family, and there are about 100 species that produce the beans. V.planifolia produces the highest quality vanilla beans, and other varieties pale in significance. The production of the beans is extremely labour intensive, thus there expense. The aroma of vanilla is floral, fragrant, sweet and highly agreeable. Its taste is rich, smooth and appealing, though its flavour can only be truly appreciated in tandem with its smell. You use it by splitting the pod, and scraping out the seeds into whatever you are making. Many dishes also call for the pod to be infused along with the seeds, giving you a much more concentrated flavour and aroma.
I have found ‘David Jones’ to be the most expensive place to buy beans, and ‘Norton Street Grocers’ the cheapest.
Vanilla essence and vanilla extract are not the same things – the extract is much more concentrated, and expensive. You can also buy vanilla sugar – or make your own by putting a clean, used vanilla pod in a container of caster sugar – and vanilla paste, which again is quite expensive.

Vanilla Pod Custard;
250ml single cream
1-2 vanilla pods
3 egg yolks
1 whole egg
125g caster sugar
1 teaspoon cornflour

Heat the cream and vanilla pods in a saucepan. Remove the pods, split, then scrape the seeds (use the blunt side of a kitchen knife) into the cream, then return the pods to the pan. Remove the pan from the heat and infuse for 10 minutes. Remove the pods. Beat the egg yolks and whole egg together, add the sugar and beat until pale and creamy. Stir in the cornflour, then whisk in the infused cream. Spoon the mixture into 6 ramekins or glasses, cover with foil or greaseproof paper, and place in a roasting tin half filled with boiling water. Cook in a pre-heated oven at 150°C for 45-60 minutes until just set and firm to the touch.
Serve with spicy biscuits, or a sweet dessert wine and orange segments.

SPECIAL RECIPE
I am including this recipe for Tomato Kasundi because it is a very spicy Indian condiment. It takes quite a while to make, but is worth the time and effort. It is absolutely delicious when served up with curries.
Tomato Kasundi;
60ml sunflower oil
1 tablespoon black mustard seeds
1 tablespoon turmeric
2 tablespoons cumin
2 tablespoons chilli powder
¼ cup grated fresh ginger
4 cloves garlic, crushed
1 green chilli, seeded and finely chopped
30ml malt vinegar
2 x 400g cans diced tomatoes
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon salt
130ml malt vinegar (Extra)

Heat the oil in a large saucepan, add the mustard seeds, turmeric, cumin and chilli powder. Cook, stirring, for 5 minutes to release the flavours. Add ginger, garlic, green chilli and 30ml malt vinegar and cook for 5 minutes. Add diced tomatoes, brown sugar, salt and extra malt vinegar and simmer for 1-1½ hours.
The kasundi is ready when the oil comes to the top.

Tim Alderman (C) 2015

  

So Can You Cook ? 15

Christmas Edition
I must confess to not understanding the whole ‘Christmas in July’ thing, or why people go ape over it, trundling themselves off to the coldest climes to celebrate something that has no relevance here whatsoever. This is Australia, and Christmas means heatwaves, bushfires and flies. If you are an American, or English, it kind of makes sense to want to have snow for Christmas, but if you’re an Aussie, and only ever associate Christmas with summer, it just doesn’t work. And apart from that, it is hard to imagine Christmas happening in the middle of the year – snow or no snow.
The whole Christmas thing in Australia has always been too tied up with English and European traditions, and catering to our climate at this time of the year never seems to be something anyone used to consider. I remember my mother slaving over hot stoves months before Christmas even started to get the cake and pudding done on time for it to mature before being reheated and eaten with hot custard in steamy 30-odd-degree heat. Everyone sweated in the hot house, just wanting it to end so that they could kick back with a cold beer. When I lived with my stepfamily back in the 70’s, I remember my poor sister-in-law catering a hot lunch for twenty people every Christmas day. Her reward was a stinking headache, and near dehydration. You have to query if this is the right way to celebrate Christmas day in Australia, especially with our tradition of breaking traditions, and our usual irreverence for anything considered over-the-top.
When I lived in Darlinghurst, I used to cater a orphans Christmas lunch on Christmas day, for anyone who had nowhere else to go. I used to do the full traditional thing for anywhere from 12-15 people, with glazed ham, pork, turkey and pudding. I used to get to bed at about 3am on Christmas Eve, to be back up again at 7am to finish all the prep work. After my last of these – many years ago now – and finding myself with a migraine, I decided it was time to change my approach to Christmas eating.
My partners mother was quick to realize the advantages of having a chef in the family. She swings a couple of hundred dollars my way, and I do the whole thing – but not the old way. I have started a tradition of fresh oysters in the half-shell, with various toppings arranged in small bowls, as an entrée. Everybody in his family – bar his Grandmother – loves them. We go to the fish markets about 10pm on Christmas Eve to get them – take this as a time hint. This is followed by cold ham, cold lamb and cold chicken with a range of salads, and finished off with an ice cream fruit pudding. On a hot day, this is a really refreshing meal, and no one has sweated themselves into oblivion to put it all together. I still do mince fruit tarts, a cake and shortbread but this is all easy to do, and involves little stress on my part. If you are still doing it all the traditional way, I suggest you consider a rethink, and start your own Christmas traditions.
I hope everyone else can enjoy a stress-free and refreshing Christmas day.
Happy Christmas to all readers.

Christmas Cake:

Gluten-Free Christmas Cake – for coeliacs
250g unsalted butter
1 cup soft brown sugar
5 eggs, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon coffee essence
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
1 tablespoon molasses
1 tablespoon orange marmalade
1 tablespoon finely grated orange rind
1 kg mixed dried fruit
300g glace fruit, chopped
100g slivered almonds
180g soya flour
90g baby rice cereal
90g maize cornflour
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon mixed spice
¼ cup orange juice
½ cup sweet sherry
extra 2 tablespoons sweet sherry

Bake in 20cm square tin.
Cook for 3½ hours

Per slice (weight of cake; 2.1 kg)
Kilojoules 985/calories 235; protein 4g; fat 10g; carbohydrate 34g;dietary fibre 3g; sodium 55mg.

Sugar-Reduced Christmas Cake – for diabetics
180g mono-unsaturated margarine
½ cup soft brown sugar
4 eggs, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons coffee essence
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
1 tablespoon cherry jam
1 tablespoon finely grated orange rind
1 kg mixed dried fruit
100g currants
100g glace fruit, chopped
50g slivered almonds
1½ cups wholemeal plain flour
1 cup self-raising flour
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon mixed spice
¼ cup orange juice
½ cup brandy
125g pecans for decorating – optional

Bake in 23cm round tin
Cook for 3½ hours

Per slice (weight of cake 2kg)
Kilojoules 785/calories 185; protein 3g; fat 6g; carbohydrate 31g; dietary fibre 3g; sodium 100mg.
TO CONVERT THESE TO A TRADIONAL CAKE, substitute soya flour for 2 cups plain flour, and rice cereal and maize cornflour for ½ cup self-raising flour.

METHOD FOR BOTH CAKES:
Preheat oven to slow 150°C. Line the base and sides of your cake tin with greaseproof paper. Using an electric beater, beat butter or margarine and sugar in a mixing bowl until light and creamy. Add eggs gradually, beating well after each addition. Add essences, molasses, marmalade or jam and rind. Beat until well combined.
Transfer mixture to a large mixing bowl and add the fruit and/or almonds. Using a metal spoon, begin to fold in the sifted dry ingredients.
As you begin to fold in the dry ingredients, alternate with the combined juice and spirits (or juice only). Stir until just combined and the mixture is almost smooth. Spoon mixture into prepared tin. Sprinkle the top with a little cold water and smooth surface with wet hands.
Tap the cake tin gently on the bench top to settle the mixture. Decorate with fruit or nuts if desired. Wrap a double thickness of brown paper around the outside of the tin and secure with string or a paper clip. Bake for required time, or until a skewer comes out clean. If top is browning too quickly, or is starting to burn, cover the top of the cake with a layer of foil.
Store in an airtight tin outside of fridge for 4 weeks, or in fridge for several months.

Frozen Brandy Christmas Pudding:
1 x 475g jar fruit mince (from supermarket)
1 x 1lt tub Old English Toffee ice cream, softened
1 x 1lt tub vanilla ice cream, softened

Combine fruit mince and ice cream in a bowl. Spoon into 10 1-cup size plastic drinking cups. Wrap in plastic, and place in freezer for 6 hours. Dip into hot water, and upend onto plate. Serve with…
Summer Berries and Mango Slices;
2 x 250g punnets strawberries, washed, hulled, halved
1 x 150g punnet mulberries
1 x 120g punnet raspberries
60ml (1/4 cup) fresh lime juice
2 tablespoons icing sugar mixture
4 ripe mangoes

Combiner berries in a large bowl. Add lime juice and icing sugar mixture, stirring gently until just combined. Cover with plastic wrap and leave to macerate for 30 minutes.
Cut the cheeks from the mangoes close to the seed. Peel and thinly slice lengthways. Add to the berry mixture and gently stir to combine.

Traditional Shortbread:
2 cups plain flour
½ cup pure icing sugar
2 tablespoons rice flour
250g butter, cubed

Preheat oven to 160°C. Line 2 baking sheets with baking paper. Sift plain flour, icing sugar and rice flour together into a bowl.
Using fingertips, rub in butter until mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Press mixture together to form a dough.
Place dough on a lightly floured surface. Knead gently. Halve mixture. Roll or press out each half into rounds about 1cm thick. Place on prepared trays. Decorate edges by pinching. Mark out 8 equal portions on each petticoat. Prick with a fork, and if desired sprinkle with a little castor sugar. Bake for 30-35 minutes until golden. Stand for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool. Store in an airtight container.

Panforte;

This delicious Italian Christmas treat can be difficult to make using many recipe. This recipes is not so difficult, and is tried and true. You need to work quickly, so have all ingredients ready to go.

1 cup roughly chopped dried figs – stalks removed
¾ cup roasted hazelnuts, skins removed (roll and rub them in a tea towel after baking)
¾ cup roasted almonds
½ cup roughly chopped dark chocolate
1 tablespoon mixed spice
1 teaspoon ground black pepper (optional)
finely grated rind 1 orange
2/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup honey
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
icing sugar, to serve

Preheat oven to 150°C. Lightly spray and line base and sides of a square cake pan (20cm) with baking paper.
Combine figs, nuts, chocolate, spices and orange peel together in a bowl.
Combine sugar, honey and butter in a saucepan. Heat on medium, stirring until beginning to melt (DO NOT STIR AGAIN OR SUGAR WILL CRYSTALISE)
Bring to the boil and cook for 5 minutes, until a little of caramel dropped into cold water forms a soft ball when moulded between fingers.
Working quickly, pour caramel over nut mixture, mixing well. Pour into prepared cake pan. Smooth top with a spatula. Bake for 15 minutes. Cool. If mixture has not set, place in fridge.
Remove baking paper and dust surface liberally with icing sugar. Cut into small squares to serve.

Sugar Dusted Spice Biscuits
125g butter, softened
¾ cup brown sugar
¼ cup golden syrup
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
1 egg
1¾ cups plain flour
½ cup hazelnut meal (from supermarkets or health food stores)
¾ teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon allspice
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
¼ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)
icing sugar, for dusting

Preheat oven to 180°C. Place the butter, brown sugar, golden syrup and vanilla in the bowl of an electric mixture and beat until pale. Add the egg and beat well. Add the flour, hazelnut meal, spices and soda and beat until just combined.
Roll 2 teaspoons of the mixture into balls and place on baking trays lined with baking paper, allowing room for spreading. Bake in batches for 8 minutes or until light golden. Cool and dust with icing sugar.
Makes approx 50. Great for gift-giving if presented in a fancy jar.

Cheats Fruit Mince Tarts:
Yep, even I look for shortcuts in hot weather. Buy a packet of frozen sweet tart cases from the supermarket, some sheets of sweet shortcrust pastry, and a jar of good quality fruit mince. Blind bake the shells according to the packet directions. Spoon in the mince. Cut rounds or shapes from the pastry sheet and place on top. Brush with a little beaten egg, sprinkle with some castor sugar and bake in a 180°C oven until golden brown. Serve hot or cold.

Tim Alderman (C) 2015

  

So Can You Cook? 14

Cheese has to be one of life’s great pleasures. You can cook with it, throw it on a sandwich or crispbread, serve it in a salad, throw together a cheeseboard for a dinner party, or sit yourself down with a delicious, runny triple cream brie and a glass of wine or port. Whatever you do with it, you can be sure it will be devoured with gusto. Australia is now world-famous for its cheeses – a long way removed from the world of ‘Kraft’ cheddar and ‘Velveeta’ – a sweet, spreadable cheese packed in a similar way to ‘Kraft’ cheddar, and as my grandmother taught me, a great way to do “Vita Weet’ worms – that I grew up with.
Everywhere from the Hunter Valley, to Tasmania to Western Australia – especially the Margaret River region – is doing spectacular cheddars, brie, camembert, goat’s cheese, washed rinds, ricotta, and the entire plethora of cheeses from all around the world.
Cheeses are basically classified as soft (Mozzarella, Ricotta, Feta, Haloumi, Goat’s Cheese, Chevre, Brie, Camembert, Washed Rind cheeses); semi-soft (Taleggio, Harvarti, Port Salut, Gouda, Edam, Colby); hard (Lancashire, Red Leicester, Double Gloucester, all the Cheddars, Pecorino, Manchego, Gruyere, Emmental, Jarlsberg, Provolone, Pecorino and the world famous Parmigiano Reggiano and Grana Padano); blue (Brie, Camembert, Gorgonzola, Dolcellate, Stilton, Shropshire Blue, Jersey Blue, Gippsland Blue, Roquefort, Danish Blue); and strong (Limburger, Munster, Liptauer). Showing a total lack of modesty, I can say that I throw together the best cheeseboards, and often get asked by friends to do them for functions. I don’t go for the minimalist approach recommended by the cheese experts – I’ve never really been one for food snobbery. Eating cheese should be a pig-out experience, and this is the approach I take. I offer a variety of crackers, from basic water style to lavosh and grissini. The board will usually have 3-4 of my favourite cheeses, including: Margaret River Port Dipped Cheddar or King Island Cheddar; Persian Feta or a good Chevre or Goat’s Cheese; King Island ‘Discovery’ Washed Rind Brie or a double or triple Brie; and possibly a Port Salut. This gives a good variety of flavours and textures. Then add a sprinkling of fresh fruit, and items such as fresh dates, dried apricots, honey-glazed figs, Turkish Delight, Muscatels and chocolate coated orange peel. Believe me, there is never anything left. There is a wonderful range of accompaniments for cheeses that you can make yourself, and following are a few examples. I find that the stronger cheeses are more suitable to ports, and the creamier style cheeses compliment sweet desert wines. The supermarkets have finally woken up to the fact that fridges full of ‘Coon’, ‘Kamaruka’ and ‘Kraft’ just doesn’t hold sway anymore, and the bigger Coles and Woolworths supermarkets keep huge ranges of cheese, though some of the more specialist ones require the expertise of David Jones, or the fromagerie in Jones the Grocer or Simon Johnson Providore. There is also an excellent cheese store in the food court of the GPO Building in Martin Place in the city.
Always serve cheeses at room temperature, and please use the proper knifes, otherwise the cheese is just hacked.

Raisin and Rosemary Bread
250g strong plain flour
150g strong wholemeal flour
100g rye flour
1½ teaspoons quick-acting yeast
1½ teaspoons sea salt
1 tablespoon dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon finely chopped rosemary, plus extra leaves to decorate
310ml tepid water
2 tablespoons olive oil
110g raisins

Mix together the flours in a large bowl. Mix in the yeast, sea salt and rosemary. Dissolve the sugar in 2 tablespoons of the water. Make a well in the middle of the flour and pour in your dissolved sugar and olive oil, followed by the rest of the water. Work nthe flour into the liquid with a wooden spoon, then mix with your hands until all the flour is incorporated.
Turn onto a floured surface and knead for 5 minutes or until elastic. Flatten the dough and add half the raisins, fold over and knead for a few seconds, then repeat with the remaining raisins. Knead for another 5 minutes until smooth. Place the dough in a large bowl covered with a damp cloth, and leave in a warm place for about 45-50 minutes, until doubled in size.
Punch the dough down, then roll up into a long sausage, tucking in the ends. Place on a lightly oiled baking sheet, make 3-4 diagonal slits in the dough with a sharp knife, cover with a towel and leave for another 25 minutes.
Preheat oven to 200°C . Brush the top of the loaf lightly with water and scatter over the remaining rosemary leaves, pressing them lightly onto the dough.
Bake for 35-40 minutes until the loaf is well browned and sounds hollow when you tap it on the base.
Cool for 45 minutes before serving.

Garlic and Poppyseed Cream Crackers
225g plain flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon poppy seeds
50g chilled butter
75ml single cream
½ teaspoon garlic paste or fresh garlic
3 tablespoons water

Preheat oven to 190°C, and lightly grease two baking trays.
Sift the flour, baking powder and salt into a large bowl. Add poppy seeds. Cut the butter into cubes and rub into flour until mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Mix the cream with the garlic and stir into the flour then gradually add the water, pulling the mixture together until it forms a ball.
Flour your work surface, and shape the dough into a flat, smooth disc. Cut in half, then roll each half out thinly and evenly. Using a sharp knife (or cookie cutters) cut the dough into long triangles about 15cm long. Use a palate knife to transfer them to the baking sheets, and prick them all over. Use remiainder of dough including trimmings until it has all been used.
Bake in the oven for about 15 minutes, or until lightly browned. Set aside on a rack to cool.

Savoury Parmigiano Biscotti
2½ cups plain flour
I cup grated Parmigiano Regiano (use a cheaper grated parmesan if this is too expensive)
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda (Bicarbonate of Soda)
1 teaspoon salt
4 large eggs
¼ cup sun-dried tomatoes, coarsely chopped (buy the bottled in olive oil type)

Preheat oven to 170°C. Line a baking tray with silicon (baking) paper.
In a large bowl, mix the flour, Parmesan, baking powder, baking soda and salt together.
In another bowl, beat eggs until pale in colour. Stir in the sun-dried tomatoes. Stir this mixture into the dry ingredients, to make a stiff dough.
Transfer to the prepared baking sheet and form the dough into a long, log shape about 3” wide. Bake for 30 minutes. Remove from the oven to cool. Reduce the oven temperature to 150°C.
Cut the log into ½” diagonal slices. Put fresh baking paper on the baking tray. Place the slices on the tray, and bake for 20 minutes, or until lightly toasted. Transfer to wire rack to cool
Store in an airtight container.

Caramelised Pears with Parmigiano Reggiano
2 ripe but firm pears, peeled, cored and cut into 8 wedges
½ cup sugar
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
¼ cup Grand Marnier (or whatever is to hand, including port or sherry)
1 teaspoon finely grated orange rind
4 small Parmigiano Reggiano wedges

Toss the pears and sugar together gently in a bowl.
In a large frying pan over medium heat melt the butter. Add the pears and cook over medium-high heat for 10-12 minutes, stirring occasionally until the sugar begins to caramelize to alight golden colour. Do NOT let the sugar turn brown.
Add the Grand Marnier or other flavouring and orange zest. Cook 2-3 minutes longer, or until slightly reduced.
Transfer the mixture to 4 serving plates, and serve immediately with the Parmigiano Reggiano on the side.

Oat Biscuits
3 cups rolled oats
1 cup wholemeal plain flour
1/3 cup firmly packed brown sugar
60g butter, chopped
¼ cup golden syrup
1/3 cup milk

Process oats until firmly ground. Place flour in a large bowl with oats and sugar. Rub in butter until mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Combine golden syrup and milk in a small pan, stir over heat until warm. Stir warm milk mixture into oat mixture. Mix to a stiff dough, knead gently on a lightly floured surface until smooth.
Roll dough between sheets baking paper until 3mm thick. Cut into 6cm rounds and place about 2cm apart on a greased oven tray. Prick all over with a fork. Bake in 180°C oven for about 12 minutes or until lightly browned.
Cool on trays.
These are really delicious with a good cheddar

Tim Alderman 2015

  

So Can You Cook? 13

A short time back, my partner and I attended the wedding and reception of a work colleague of his in the ‘burbs. We were becoming a bit agitated as to what was in store for us as a main course, after the entrée had been presented as a slab of lasagne on a plate. The couple sitting next to us were vegetarians, and we all joked about how far vegetarian food had come since the days of serving up a slab of fried eggplant on a plate, with a boring selection of steamed vegetables. Just then, the mains arrived, with theirs being… a slab of fried eggplant with a boring selection of over-steamed vegetables. We just looked at each other, and you couldn’t do anything else but laugh. I actually think it was probably an improvement on our servings of dried out chicken breast, or this greyish brown thing that was trying to pass itself off as beef.
My other really bad experience with vegetarian eaters was in the 80’s, and the said vegetarian was my partner – for a short space of time, anyway. Frank’s idea of vegetarian food was that everything had to be served with tomatoes – raw, pureed, stewed, steamed, fried – you name a way of cooking tomatoes, and he knew it. He has the dubious distinction of putting me off tomatoes for many years after.
All jokes aside, vegetarian food has come a long way in the last 20 years. Our household is not vegetarian, however, like many other people these days, we tend to eat a lot of vegetarian dishes without thinking of them as vegetarian. We eat a huge range of salads, risottos, pasta dishes and Asian food that is principally vegetables, and very tasty vegetables to boot. As a caterer, I no longer ask the once obligatory question of whether there are any vegetarians or vegans attending functions, as over 80% of the dips and finger food we serve are vegetable-based. To just think of vegetarian food as being lentils, soy-based foods, tofu and nutmeats is to do it a great injustice. The range of things that can be done with vegetables is infinite, and if you don’t want to go down the vegetarian road, take their recipes and add meat, fish or poultry. The following are some examples of what I hope is imaginative vegetarian food, and could perhaps be served up as a complete meal when entertaining with friends. It consists of an entrée, a main, a side, a salad and a dessert.

Butternut Pumpkin & Red Capsicum Soup with Chilli
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, roughly chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 lge red capsicums, washed, trimmed and finely sliced
2 small red chillies, or 1 teaspoon dried chilli flakes
sea salt and coarsely ground black pepper
1 small butternut pumpkin, peeled, deseeded and cut into 4cm square X ½ cm chunks.
vegetable stock, to cover
coriander (optional)

Heat oil in a heavy-based saucepan. Add onion and garlic and cook till soft. Add capsicums and cook for 5 minutes. Stir in chillies, salt and pepper to taste. Add pumpkin, and stir to coat well. Add enough stock to cover vegetables and bring to the boil. Reduce to a simmer, and cook until pumpkin is tender – about 30 minutes. Puree with wand blender or in food processor to desired consistency.
Check seasoning, then serve sprinkled with coriander leaves.
Serves 4-6

Cauliflower Curry
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon mustard
½ teaspoon aniseed
½ teaspoon black pepper
½ teaspoon ginger
1 medium cauliflower
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 medium brown onions, peeled and chopped
salt
450g tomatoes, chopped
sprigs of fresh mint or coriander

Mix spices together with ½ cup water. Cut cauliflower into florets. Wash and drain. Fry onions in oil for 2 minutes, then add spice mix and simmer for 5 minutes. Add a pinch of salt and tomatoes, then simmer for a further 5 minutes. Add cauliflower and simmer until tender but firm. Serve with herbs sprinkled over.

Saffron and Lime Rice with Yoghurt and Sultanas
2 cups unpolished rice, rinsed
4 cups water
salt
3 tablespoons ghee (clarified butter) – from supermarket freezer where copha and dripping is
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
120g unsalted cashews
120g unblanched almonds
4 cloves
2 tablespoons fresh coriander
2 teaspoons green chilli, chopped
5cm piece ginger, finely chopped
30g fresh coconut, or 15g dry
½ cup lime juice
½ teaspoon saffron
2 cups boiling water

400ml plain yoghurt
120g sultanas

Cover rice with water, bring to boil, then simmer gently, covered, until all the liquid is absorbed. Heat ghee in an overproof dish with a lid and add mustard seeds, cashews, almonds and cloves. Sauté until seeds begin to burst, then add rice, coriander, chilli, ginger, coconut, lime, saffron and boiling water. Cover and bake at 175°C until the rice has absorbed all the liquid.
Mix yoghurt and sultanas together, and serve to the side.
Serves 6.

Blood Orange, Beetroot and Rhubarb Salad
2 medium-sized beetroot
1 stick rhubarb, thinly sliced diagonally
1 teaspoon castor sugar
pinch salt
2 blood oranges (use naval if bloods are out of season)
4 sprigs chervil (fine leafed herb that looks a bit like parsley – from large green grocers)

Preheat oven to 200°C. Wrap beetroot in foil and roast in oven for 20-30 minutes or until tender. Allow to cool, then peel (USE GLOVES, as beetroot stains badly). Cut each beetroot into 10-12 segments. Toss the rhubarb with the sugar and salt. Remove peel and pith from oranges, then segment. Make vinaigrette (see below), then add orange segments, rhubarb and vinaigrette to beetroot, mixing well to distribute. Garnish with sprigs of chervil.
VINAIGRETTE:
½ teaspoon walnut oil (now available from supermarkets)
1 teaspoon sherry vinegar, or if too hard to get, use balsamic
1 pinch salt
1 pinch white pepper

Combine all ingredients in a small bowl.

Pumpkin and Orange Jellies
400g peeled butternut pumpkin pieces
1 tablespoon grated ginger
2 teaspoons agar agar powder (from health food stores. This is a non-meat substitute for gelatine)
1 cup water
½ cup maple syrup (from supermarkets)
½ cup fresh orange juice
2 teaspoons cornflour dissolved in 2 tablespoons water
2 oranges, zested
1 lemon, zested
¼ cup fresh roasted almonds, cooled and chopped

Steam pumpkin until tender, mix gently with ginger and set aside. Combine agar and water and whisk well. Bring to a simmer, and continue to whisk. Whisk in the cornflour. Stir constantly until mixture clears and thickens. Puree pumpkin while slowly adding the liquid. Incorporate rest of liquid (orange juice and maple syrup) until the mix is smooth. Put a little orange and lemon zest into 6 large or 10 (150ml) small moulds that have been wetted, then pour some mix on top of each. Refrigerate until set and ready to serve. Dip moulds into hot water, an slowly and carefully pull jelly from edges of moulds by pulling slightly with your finger, then unmould them onto a plate. Sprinkle with chopped almonds.
Serves 6-10

NOTES: If adding meat or poultry to the main dish. Don’t forget to brown it before adding to other ingredients
If using gelatine instead of agar agar, measure all liquids, and add gelatine according to packet instructions.
Agar agar does NOT set as stiffly as gelatine, and can take a bit longer to set.

Tim Alderman 2015

  

So Can You Cook? 12

For the record, I like my chocolate straight.” Roald Dahl

As winter approaches, as days get shorter and the air a bit chillier, our thought start to turn to comfort foods. Before I head off into the food world of heavy winter soups and casseroles, I would like to use this column to go into the world of the ultimate comfort food – chocolate. I do not know one single, solitary person who dislikes chocolate, though I must admit to knowing many – myself included – who idolise it. There is nothing like digging a spoon into a silky chocolate mousse, or a rich chocolate tart, a torte, gateaux, or a light-as-air soufflé. In 2003, Australians ate their way through 4kg of chocolate each. There is no truth in the thinking that chocolate is fattening – what is fattening is how it is used. That it makes us feel good is undisputed, as it releases the feel-good endorphins.
The highest quality – and most expensive – chocolate produced comes from France’s Valrhona Company, founded in the 1950s. Though there is no official classification system for chocolate, this company treats its chocolate like wine, and calls its estate chocolate ‘Chocolat Noir de Domaine’, due to its high quality. Of almost equal calibre are Belgium’s ‘Callebaut’, and the French ‘Michel Cluizel’. The Swiss ‘Lindt’ company now produce blocks of chocolate labelled with the percentage of cocoa mass – from 70% to 85%, and even as high as 99%. If you like your chocolate bitter, go for the 85%. I love it, but my partner finds it too bitter for his taste. Couverture, which is used principally in cooking has a high percentage of cocoa butter, and is not quite as stable as dark chocolate. It melts and coats easily, has a glossy finish and an intense chocolate flavour. It needs to be tempered, and a quick way to do it at home – the professional way is very complicated and precise – is to finely chop or grate the chocolate, melt two-thirds if it, then stir in the remaining chocolate until it melts.
For the following recipes, I wouldn’t expect you to use couverture, as it is very expensive – though if you would like to lash out, you can go to ‘Essential Ingredient’ in Camperdown and buy their house couverture for $19.95 for a 1 kilo block. This is quite a good price for quite a large amount of chocolate. For everyone else, “Plaidstowe” from the supermarket will serve the purpose. If melting chocolate in the microwave, remember that it will keep its shape while heating. Do it in short bursts of 30-40 seconds, stirring after each burst. Enjoy, relax, and indulge yourself.

White Chocolate Risotto
60g sultanas
2 tablespoons brandy (or 1 teaspoon brandy essence)
150ml pouring cream
3 cups milk
1 stick cinnamon
finely grated rind of 2 oranges
1 vanilla bean, split lengthways
200g (1 cup) arborio rice (Italian risotto rice)
1 tablespoon caster sugar
70g white chocolate, finely chopped
Combine sultanas and brandy in a small bowl and stand for 30 minutes. Place milk, cream, cinnamon stick, orange rind, scraped seeds from vanilla bean and bean in a saucepan and slowly bring to just below the boil.Add rice, sugar and a pinch of salt (ALWAYS ADD A PINCH OF SALT WHEN COOKING SWEETS) and simmer over low heat, stirring frequently for 30 minutes, or until rice is tender and most of the liquid is absorbed. Add sultanas, soaking liquid and chocolate, and stir until chocolate has melted. Remove cinnamon stick and vanilla bean, and serve warm or cold.

Rich Chocolate Tart
Pastry:
125g cold unsalted butter, chopped
1 tablespoon caster sugar
200g (1 1/3 cups) plain flour
2 tablespoons cocoa (Dutch, if you want a richer flavour)
2 egg yolks
Process butter, sugar, flour and cocoa in a food processor until mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs. Add egg yolks and 1½ tablespoons iced water, and process until pastry just comes together. Form pastry into a disc, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
Roll out pastry on a lightly floured surface until 5mm thick, and ease into a 3.5cm deep 24cm tart tin with removable base, trimming edge. Line pastry case with baking paper, and fill with pastry weights, dried beans or rice. Place on a baking tray and bake at 180°C for 20 minutes, then remove paper and weights and bake another 5 minutes until pastry is dry. Cool.
Filling
300g dark couverture chocolate, chopped
100ml double cream
125g unsalted butter, chopped
4 eggs
100g caster sugar
1 tablespoon golden syrup
Combine chocolate, cream and butter in a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water and stir continuously until butter is melted and mixture is well combined, then remove bowl from heat and set aside. Using an electric mixer whisk eggs, sugar and golden syrup until pale and creamy, then fold into chocolate mixture. Pour into tart shell, then bake at 150°C for 35-40 minutes or until just set. Cool tart to room temperature before serving with double cream (optional). Tart will keep, refrigerated in an airtight container, for up to 4 days – if it lasts that long.

Chocolate, Espresso and Hazelnut Pavlova
Soft butter, for greasing
6 egg whites (use the yolks to make a custard, or mayonnaise)
330g (1½ cups) caster sugar
1½ teaspoons white wine vinegar
1½ teaspoons vanilla extract (or use 2 teaspoons vanilla essence)
2 tablespoons cocoa, sifted
300ml pouring cream
2 tablespoons icing sugar, sifted
2 tablespoons freshly brewed espresso coffee, cooled
200g roasted, peeled hazelnuts, coarsely chopped
icing sugar, for dusting (optional)

Preheat oven to 200°C. Line an oven tray with foil, mark a 23cm circle onto the foil and lightly grease the circle.
Using an electric mixer, whisk egg whites with a pinch of salt until soft peaks form, then gradually add caster sugar, whisking well after each addition. Continue whisking until all the sugar is added and the mixture is thick and glossy, then whisk in vinegar, vanilla and cocoa until just combined. Spread two-thirds of meringue mixture evenly over the circle, then spoon remaining meringue around edge of circle, forming a rim. Reduce oven temperature to 100°C, bake pavlova for 90 minutes, then turn off oven and leave pavlova to cool in oven.
Using an electric mixer, whisk cream and icing sugar until soft peaks form, gently fold cooled coffee until just combine then spread mixture over pavlova.
Sprinkle pavlova with hazelnuts and dust with icing sugar, if using. Pavlova is best served on day of making.

Chocolate Panna Cotta
400ml pouring cream
1 cup milk
75g (1/3 cup) caster sugar
150g dark couverture chocolate
¼ teaspoon vanilla extract (or ½ teaspoon vanilla essence)
1 tablespoon powdered gelatine (from supermarket)

Combine cream, milk and sugar in a saucepan and stir over low heat until sugar dissolves and mixture is nearly boiling. Remove from heat, ad chocolate and vanilla and stir until chocolate is melted and mixture is smooth.
Place 1 tablespoon hot water in a heatproof cup, and sprinkle over gelatine, then stand cup in a small saucepan of simmering water and stir until it is dissolved. Pour gelatine mixture into cream mixture and stir until combined. Divide mixture amonst 6 lightly oiled 125ml (1/2 cup) dariole moulds, or other suitable moulds. Cover and refrigerate for 2-3 hours, or until set.
Serve with Strawberries and a strawberry puree (process some strawberries in a food processor with some icing sugar), or blueberries and mascarpone (from dairy case in supermarket) or orange segments and almond bread.

Tim Alderman 2015

  

So Can YouCook? 11

When you do the Commercial Cookery certificates at TAFE, one of the theory modules you do is called HACCP (Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point). This is a system of strictly controlled food handling to avoid contamination of food, from its initial source until it is served up to you on a plate. In this module, the one foodstuff that is open to contamination more than many others is ice-cream, due to it having eggs, cream and milk as its main ingredients. It undergoes several heating and chilling procedures during production, and contamination can happen at any of these points.
Now, ice-cream is one of my favourite desserts, and I was a bit put off by all the maligning of my much-loved treat. It didn’t actually put me off, but it did make me aware of how easily someone with a compromised immune system could be easily brought down by something as simple as ice-cream.
So, in an attempt to rectify this imbalance with a popular sweet, I have decided to give you recipes that will indulge your love of this sweet, without the hazards involved in its production. There are many forms of ice-cream – using the term in its broadest sense – including sorbet, sherbets, gelato, semifreddo (which means half frozen), cassata and granita, to name a few. As you would realise, some of these are actually ices, and are a delicious form of delicacy, which are very easy to make.
It is best to use an ice-cream maker for these (Breville make a cheapie at about $70), but if you are unable to obtain one, don’t despair. You will just have more manual work to do.
After initial chilling with these sorbets and sherbets, you will need to remove them from the freezer and either break them up with a fork, whisk them or quickly beat with an electric beater to ensure they do not form large crystals when freezing. You can beat these as often as you like, and the more you do it, the finer and lighter they will be.
Accompaniments? Who needs accompaniments for these yummy desserts. Use the basic sorbet recipe (the sugar syrup) as a base for any other fruits that you may desire.

WATERMELON SORBET
4 Cups chopped seedless watermelon
juice of 1 lemon
1½ cups (375ml) water
1 cup (220g) caster sugar
1 eggwhite

Process watermelon and lemon juice until smooth. Strain well. Combine sugar and water in a saucepan, bring to the boil over medium heat, stirring to dissolve sugar. Simmer, without stirring for 5 minutes. Remove from heat, cool. Blend in watermelon mixture. If using an ice-cream maker, chill the liquid in the freezer for about 1 hour before churning. Otherwise, place in the freezer in a flat pan until partly frozen. For both methods, beat, re-freeze and beat again. Whisk eggwhite until soft peaks form, fold through watermelon mixture. Pour into a lamington pan (or a rectangular plastic container) and freezes overnight.

FOLLOW THE FREEZE/BEAT/REFREEZE/BEAT METHOD FOR ALL OF THESE.

LIME & GINGER SORBET
6 limes – squeezed
¾ cup sugar
3 cups water
1 teaspoon grated ginger

Place the lime juice, ginger, sugar and water in a saucepan over medium heat and bring to the boil. Remove from heat, and place in a shallow tray. Freeze for two hours, remove and beat, then refreeze. Repeat. Leave overnight to freeze.

NOTE: Remove all sorbets and ices from the freezer and sit for about 5 minutes before scooping.

BERRY GRANITA
2 cups (440g) caster sugar
500g mixed fresh or thawed frozen berries

Place sugar and 2 cups water in a saucepan. Heat over medium heat, bring to the boil and boil for 10 minutes. Pour syrup into a heatproof bowl and cool completely. Once cool, pour into a jug and chill until required.
Place berries in a food processor and process until smooth. Pass through a sieve and place in a metal pan. Add ¾ cup of the chilled syrup, mix well and freeze for 4 hours. Remove from the freezer every hour and whisk with a fork to break up ice. When set, scrape the mixture with a fork until it resembles shaved ice. Pile into glasses.

LEMON SHERBET
2 cups (500ml) milk
1 cup (220g) caster sugar
2 teaspoons powdered gelatine (available from cake making section of supermarket)
400g Fruche Lite French Vanilla
2/3 cup (160ml) fresh lemon juice

Heat milk, sugar and gelatine in a saucepan on low. Stir until warmed through, and sugar and gelatine have dissolved – DO NOT BOIL. Transfer to a freezer-proof container and stir in Fruche and lemon juice. Cover and freeze until almost frozen.
Working quickly, transfer almost frozen sherbet to a large bowl and beat with an electric mixer until smooth and creamy. Return to container and freeze.
Use a fork to break up lemon sherbet roughly and serve immediately.

COFFEE GELATO
¾ cup (165g) caster sugar
1 cup (250ml) extra strong coffee
1 eggwhite, lightly beaten

Place sugar and I cup of water in a small saucepan on medium heat until sugar dissolves, then bring to boil and simmer for 5 minutes. remove from heat and cool. Add coffee to sugar syrup with eggwhite.
Freeze mixture in an ice-cream machine according to manufacturer’s instructions, or place in freezer until just frozen. Remove, pour into food processor and process until mixture is smooth, then freeze again. Repeat if you want a lighter gelato.
Serve with biscotti if preferred.

FRUIT SALAD ICE-CREAM STICKS
1 x 375 ml can evaporated milk
1 cup caster sugar
juice of 1 orange
juice of 1 lemon
2 bananas, mashed
pulp of 4 passionfruit
1½ cups frozen raspberries, thawed

Place the can of evaporated milk in the freezer for 1-2 hours. Place chilled milk in the large bowl of an electric mixer and beat the milk on high until thick and fluffy. Add sugar gradually and beat well between additions.
Add the juice, bananas, passionfruit and raspberries and stir gently with a large metal spoon until well combined.
Use ice-block moulds, or plastic or paper cups as moulds for the ice-cream. Fill 2/3 full of fruit mixture and place a wooden craft stick (from supermarkets, newsagents or hobby stores) in the centre of each. Place in a tray and put in the freezer for several hours or overnight to set. Snip or tear the cups to free the ice-creams easily.

Tim Alderman 2015

  

So Can You Cook? 10

Ahh, Summer! I don’t know about you, but I love changing into salad mode, and staying there for as long as possible. When I was a youngster – like mid last century – there was only one type of lettuce – Iceberg; one type of tomato, and definitely no cherry varieties; capsicum was unheard of; cucumbers were the size of torpedoes; nobody, but nobody, ate avocado; beetroot and pineapple came in tins; and cheese came in a blue box marked “Kraft’ Cheddar.
Times have changed, and aren’t we thankful. Thanks to a climate that allows anything to be grown, and an influx of people from every corner of the globe we have the most exciting cuisine in the world. No longer is a salad just some julienned lettuce on a plate with three slices of tomato, a couple of slices of cucumber, some cold meat, diced cheddar cheese and a selection of pickled onions, gherkins and bread-and-butter cucumbers. Today we add a mix of leaves and herbs; choose from ordinary, Lebanese or Telegraph cucumbers; choose from a range of tomatoes including cherry, grape, roma, vine-ripened (a particular favourite of mine), oxblood; then add a mix of avocados, fresh asparagus, and freshly cooked baby beets; fruits such as oranges, peaches, nectarines, mangoes, strawberries, pear; nuts, sprouts and seeds; and cheeses of many persuasions. Want to dress it? Don’t reach for a bottle! Throw in some sea salt and cracked black pepper, then drizzle over some olive oil, and the juice from a lemon or lime. Or, give your tongue a thrill and make your own mayonnaise. Okay, it’s time consuming and you get a sore arm from all the whisking, but the taste and consistency is worth the effort. In our home, we eat salads about 4 nights a week during summer, so they are not allowed to get boring
In this column, we are venturing into the exciting world of lettuce and its relatives. We still have our every faithful Iceberg, but added to the list now are mignonette, butter, red or green coral, rocket, radicchio, lamb’s tongue, curly endive, watercress, cos and baby cos, red or green oak, romaine, chicory, witlof, and exciting mixes like Mesclun. We can also throw baby beetroot and baby spinach leaves into the mix. How we use them is open to wide interpretation, and below are just a few ideas. It’s summer, so we are using a few ‘cheats’ items to the dishes.

Vegetarian Pizza with Tomato, Rocket, Radicchio & Shavings of Parmesan
Store-bought pizza base
Store-bought pizza sauce
2-3 teaspoons oregano
1 tablespoon EV olive oil
sea salt and cracked black pepper
100g rocket, washed & chopped (or 1 pkt Baby Rocket from supermarket)
100g radicchio leaves, washed & chopped
30g parmesan, shaved (use a vegetable peeler)

Preheat oven to 230°C
Smear pizza base generously with tomato paste, then sprinkle over oregano, olive oil, sea salt and pepper.
Place on oven tray and bake for 8-10 minutes until a bit crispy. Remove from oven and sprinkle over rocket, radicchio, and finish with parmesan shavings. Serve immediately with crispy bread and a side-salad.
Serves 2 as a main, or 4 as an entree

Tim’s Caesar Salad
1 half-size bread stick
1/3 cup Olive oil
2 cloves garlic
1 baby cos, or half a regular cos lettuce
8 slices mild or spicy pancetta, depending on taste
½ barbequed chicken
1 avocado
Shaved parmesan – to taste (you can purchase packets of ready-shaved parmesan from cheese section of supermarket)
¾ cup ‘Paul Newmans’ Classic Caesar Dressing
1 or 2 hard boiled eggs, shelled and quartered
2-4 anchovy fillets – optional. Personally, I hate them used other than as a seasoning

To make your own dressing – blend or process 1 egg, 1 clove garlic, 2 tablespoons lemon juice, 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard and 6 drained anchovy fillets. With the motor running, add ¾ cup olive oil in a slow, steady stream until dressing thickens.

Crush the garlic into the 1/3 cup olive oil. Slice the bread stick into 1cm thick slices. Brush with the garlic and oil, then place in a 200°C oven for 8-10 minutes until brown and crispy. Fry the pancetta in a dry fry pan until crispy, then drain and crumble. Wash and spin the cos and tear into largish pieces. Remove the chicken from the bones, and shred finely. Slice the avocado into medium slices.
Place lettuce, chicken, pancetta, avocado and croutons into a salad bowl and toss. Add dressing and combine. Top with parmesan and decorate with hard-boiled eggs. Add anchovies if using.
Serves 4

Green Salad with Lemon Vinaigrette
150g baby cos lettuce
150g small butter lettuce
50g watercress
100g rocket
1 tablespoon finely chopped French shallots
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
½ teaspoon sugar
1 tablespoon finely chopped basil
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
3 teaspoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
25ml lemon oil (if you can’t find it, soak some lemon rind in olive oil for 1-2 days, or omit)
75ml olive oil

Trim, wash and spin lettuce leaves. Pinch or trim stalks from watercress and rocket. Wash and spin.
To make dressing, whisk the shallots, mustard, sugar, basil, lemon zest, lemon juice and vinegar in a bowl until well blended. Slowly add the combined oils in a thin stream, whisking constantly until smooth and creamy. Season with salt and pepper.
Combine lettuces, watercress and rocket in a bowl, drizzle over dressing and toss.
Serves 4

Pear & Walnut Salad with Lime Vinaigrette
1 small baguette, cut into 16 thin slices
oil, for brushing
1 garlic clove, cut in half
1 cup walnuts
200g ricotta cheese
400g mixed salad leaves
2 pears, cut into 2cm cubes, mixed with 2 tablespoons lime juice

¼ cup lime juice
3 tablespoons oil
2 tablespoons raspberry vinegar, or white wine vinegar

Preheat oven to 180°C. Brush baguette slices with a little oil, then rub with cut garlic, place on a baking tray and bake for 10 minutes until crisp and golden. Place the walnuts on a baking tray and roast for 5-8 minutes, until lightly browned. Shake the tray occasionally to roast evenly, then remove and cool.

To make a lime vinaigrette, whisk together ¼ cup lime juice with 2 tablespoons raspberry vinegar (use white wine if unable to get raspberry), 3 tablespoons oil and season with salt and pepper.

Spread some of the ricotta cheese on each crouton, then cook under a hot grill for 2-3 minutes, or until hot.
Place the mixed salad greens, pears and walnuts in a bowl, add the vinaigrette and toss. Serve with ricotta cheese croutons.
Serves 4

Tim Alderman 2015

  

So Can You Cook? 9

For this column, the Talkabout Working Group have asked me to give you some recipes using ingredients considered to be aphrodisiacs. However, first things first – what exactly is an aphrodisiac? Well, the dictionary definition is:

aph-ro-di-si-ac :
noun; 1. an agent (as a food or drug) that arouses or is held to arouse sexual desire; 2. something that excites.
Webster Dictionary

So, having ascertained that I was on the right track, I decided to do some Internet research, and what I found was…interesting, to say the least. The aphrodisical property of foods is in the belief that certain foods and beverages have mystical properties that create sexual attraction. Foods such as bananas, oranges or oysters gain their powers through the resemblance to sexual body parts. Alcohol, such as champagne and wine lower inhibitions. Chocolate releases endorphins, which is a ‘feel good’ chemical, while other foods excite through a combination of taste, texture and appearance.
The actual list of foods considered to be aphrodisiacal is a lot bigger than I thought, and a lot more diverse. The entire list, which can be found at http://cook2best.vwh.net/atoz/a.shtml is too long to list in its entirety here, but to give you some idea what to expect when preparing food to arouse your lover, included are;

Aioli; apricots; artichokes; asparagus; bananas; basil; beef; cardamom; carrots; caviar; celery; chocolate; cloves; cucumber; dates; eggs; fennel; figs; fois gras; frogs legs; fish; garlic (what the!); ginger; grapes; honey; ice cream; kumquats; lamb, liquorice; lobster; lovage; mango; nutmeg; nuts; onions (what the!); oysters; peach; pepper; pine nuts; pomegranate; quince; rice (what the!); saffron; strawberries; sweet potato (what the!); tomatoes; truffles; turnips (what the…yuk!); vanilla; walnuts; and zucchini.

A few surprises, eh. Now, I’ve got to admit to being somewhat surprised myself. There were the ones I did know of such as oysters, strawberries, oranges and chocolate, but a few were just a little beyond my imagining. I hate turnips – and don’t bother sending me recipes trying to convert me – and could never see them as sexual due to my aversion. Other things like garlic and onions I would have thought would be off-putting due to their overpowering odour, especially on the breath. Still, one mans meat…
On a close correlation between what recipes I have already published through my column and this list, I have already made most of you raving sex maniacs.
Mind you, if you’ve set the mood for love with romantic colours, flowers, soft music, wine and candles, even a hot dog or hamburger can become an aphrodisiac.
So, to the recipes. I have decided to stick with tradition and just give you recipes for oysters, strawberries, figs and chocolate. These are obvious and delicious attempts at seduction on anyone’s table, and I’m sure both the person doing the preparation, and the one induging in the result will appreciate the intention.

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OYSTERS:
Oysters are not expensive, except at Christmas and Easter. I never used to enjoy oysters, but have come to like them over the years by eating them with accompaniments. Don’t buy bottled, as they look much nicer presented in the shell. You can buy them already shucked and just sitting in the half-shell, and this is far easier to prepare than having to open them yourself – also safer, as the shells are sharp, and can be difficult to open without the correct knife. Serve them on a bed of either sea salt (inexpensive, but DON’T reuse it), or a bed of crushed ice. Serve a selection of these in small bowls alongside the plate of oysters.
I am going to give you a variety of accompaniments that you can serve with them. They are, as the connoisseurs will tell you, best eaten raw, but if you find them a bit hard to swallow even with an accompaniment, try coating them in tempura and deep-frying them.
Tempura Batter: You can purchase prepackaged tempura batter from supermarkets or specialty Asian grocers. To make, combine 100g of tempura flour (from Japanese grocers) with 160ml ice-cold water. Dip oysters in batter and deep-fry at 180°-190°C until puffy and golden brown. Serve with Japanese soy sauce.
Lemon Herb Dressing: Mix together 1 tablespoons chopped fresh dill; 1 clove garlic; 1 tablespoon finely chopped continental parsley; 2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh chives; 2 tablespoons lemon juice and ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil. Garnish with bows made from chives. Makes 24
Bloody Mary Oyster Shots: Combine 1/3 cup vodka, ½ cup tomato juice, 1 tablespoon lemon juice, a dash of Worcestershire sauce, 2 drops of Tabasco and a pinch of celery salt (from spice section in supermarket) in a jug, and refrigerate until chilled. To serve, fill shot glasses two-thirds full of liquid, then drop an oyster into each glass. Top with a teaspoon of julienned cucumber, and a pinch of cracked black pepper. Makes 12
Lime & Soy Dressing: Mix together 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice; 1½ tablespoons soy sauce; 1 tablespoon olive oil; 2 kaffir lime leaves (good green grocers like Harris Farm), centre vein removed and finely chopped; 2cm piece fresh ginger, finely grated; 1clove garlic, crushed and a pinch of sugar. Place in a bowl. Makes 12.
Tomato & Balsamic Dressing: Mix together ½ ripe tomato, seeded and finely chopped; 1 tablespoon finely chopped Spanish (red) onion; 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar; 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil and a pinch of sugar. Place in a bowl. Makes 12
Prosciutto & Garlic Topping: In a hot frying pan, heat 2 teaspoons olive oil, then fry 100g finely sliced prosciutto and 1 crushed garlic clove until meat is crisp. Crumble when cool To serve, present a small bowl of Worcestershire sauce with topping. Spoon a small amount of sauce over oyster, then sprinkle topping. Makes 12.
Lime Ginger Dressing: Combine finely grated zest and juice from 1 lime; 2 tablespoons pickled ginger (from supermarket or Japanese grocers), 2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar (supermarket); 1 tablespoon mirin (supermarket). Place in a small bowl. Makes 12.
Oysters Osaka: Mix together 1/3 cup mirin; 2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar; 2 teaspoons lemon juice; ½ teaspoon wasabi paste (supermarket); 2 red Thai chillies, seeded and chopped finely. Serve in a small bowl. Makes 32. Reduce quantities accordingly.
Pesto Butter: Blend or process 125g soft butter; 1 tablespoon lemon juice; 2 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh basil; and 2 tablespoons toasted pine nuts. Divide pesto butter among oysters, then bake, uncovered, in a 180°C oven for about 5 minutes, or until butter melts and oysters are heated through.
STRAWBERRY & MASCARPONE SLICE:
175g unsalted butter, softened
70g (1/3 cup) caster sugar
1 egg yolk
250g (2 cups) plain flour, sifted
300g (1 1/3 cups) mascarpone (Supermarket dairy case)
60g (1/2 cup) icing sugar (NOT ICING MIXTURE), sifted
1 tablespoon lemon juice
300g (2 cups) strawberries, washed, hulled and cut into quarters
50g dark chocolate

Preheat oven to 180°C. Lightly grease a 20cm X 30cm shallow baking tin with baking or greaseproof paper, leaving it hanging over the two long sides (this helps to remove the slice after baking).
Beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add egg yolk and beat well. Using a large metal spoon, fold in sifted flour until well combined. Press firmly into the prepared baking tray and prick all over with a fork. Bake for 25 minutes until light brown. Cool completely.
Beat the mascarpone, icing sugar and juice until smooth. Stir in the strawberries. Spoon over the base and refrigerate for 3 hours, or until firm.
Chop the chocolate into small pieces and place in a heatproof bowl. Bring a saucepan of water to the boil, then remove from the heat. Place the bowl with the chocolate over the top of the saucepan, and stir until chocolate has melted. ENSURE THE BOWL DOESN’T TOUCH THE WATER. Drizzle over the slice, then cut into pieces. Makes 24 slices.

CARPACCIO OF FIGS:
4 ripe, firm figs
200g sago (from supermarket or health food store), boiled for 6 minutes, drained and refreshed under cold, running water.

2 tablespoons coconut cream

Coconut CreamSabayon
30g desiccated coconut, toasted
100ml single (pouring) cream
100ml milk
150ml Strained coconut liquid (heat the milk and cream together to just below the simmer. Add the coconut and infuse for a few hours. Strain the infusion. If there is not enough to make 150ml, top up with cream).

Sabayon
40g caster sugar
2 egg yolks

150g mascarpone.

Whisk the egg yolks and sugar over a saucepan of simmering water (called a bain-marie) till thick and creamy. Slowly whisk through the 150ml coconut liquid. Cool.

TO SERVE – Finely slice figs and arrange around a serving platter. Add the coconut cream to 4 tablespoons of cooked sago and 3 tablespoons sabayon. Serve over the top of the figs with mascarpone.

CHOCOLATE, WALNUT & HONEY TART
225g (1½ cups plain flour, sifted.
2 tablespoons icing sugar
150g cold, unsalted butter, chopped
1 egg yolk
icing sugar, for dusting
whipped cream, optional, to serve

FILLING:
150g dark couverture chocolate, chopped (from chocolate section DJs, or chocolate shop. Expensive – but this is a seduction)
150g unsalted butter, chopped
55g (¼ cup) caster sugar
3 eggs
¼ teaspoon vanilla extract (this is stronger than vanilla essence. From supermarket. If using essence, double amount)
¼ cup honey (Australian, naturally)
120g walnuts, roasted and finely chopped.

Process flour, icing sugar and butter until mix resembles fine breadcrumbs. Add egg yolk and 2 tablespoons iced water and process until mixture just comes together. Form into a disc, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour.
Roll out pastry on a lightly floured surface until 5mm thick. Line a 24cm tart tin with a removable base, then refrigerate for 30 minutes. Line tart shell with baking paper and either rice, dried beans, pasta or baking beads, and bake at 180°C for 15 minutes. Remove paper and weights and bake for a further 5-8minutes until pastry is golden and dry. Cool.
For filling, place chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water and stir occasionally until smooth. Remove from heat and cool.
In a separate bowl, place sugar, eggs, vanilla and a pinch of salt (always in sweet dishes) and whisk until well combined. Add honey and stir until well combined, then fold in chocolate mixture until combined. Sprinkle walnuts over base of pastry, then pour chocolate filling over. Bake tart at 180°C for 25 minutes or until filling is set and a skewer comes out clean. Transfer to a wire rack and cool to room temperature. Dust with icing sugar and serve with whipped cream.
Tart will keep in an airtight container for up to 2 days.

Have lots of hot sex – in fact, why not feed each other in bed.

HINTS:
• Keep any leftover eggwhites and use them to make meringues or a pavlova. They must be kept refrigerated, and use within 24 hours.
• People get intimidated by pastry making, but it is really simple. The big secret is to keep everything as cool as possible. Don’t try to work or roll it in a hot kitchen – move somewhere cool. Make sure your roller is well floured, and work on a cool surface. Don’t keep on remoulding it if you make mistakes – this will just make it tough. If you do stuff it up, it is better to start again from scratch. Take your time, and be patient. Keep your rolling surface floured. To place it in the baking tin, either roll the pastry onto your roller, then roll it over the top of the tin, work it in, then trim by rolling your roller firmly over the top of the tin OR fold pastry into four, centre the middle point in the tin, then spread the pastry out, work it in, then trim by rolling over the top of it. Covering the pastry with baking paper and weights and baking is called BLIND BAKING. This gives you a firm base to pour your filling into. Don’t forget – you will get a small amount of shrinkage when you blind bake.
• Remember – fresh made pastry is far superior to any other, and has a wonderful, buttery, melt-in-the-mouth consistency. However, if all else fails, use shortcrust pastry purchased from the supermarket.
• You can purchase pastry weights, marble pastry slabs and metal rolling pins from specialty homewares stores like ‘House’. The metal rolling pins stay cool, and are also quite heavy.

Tim Alderman 2015