Tag Archives: chocolate

The Best Chocolate Money Can Buy

Not all chocolate are created equal. Just as there are tiers of basic (and tiers of bad), there are tiers of good, excellent, and plain extravagant. 

Here are the best high-end chocolates money can buy, and just in time for the Easter holidays:

Marie Belle: River of Diamonds Cien Box

Price: $400 USD
The Draw: Chocolate meets art in this particular selection. Globally renowned painter, Chau Giang Thi Nguyen has replicated nine of this most famous oil paintings onto the ganaches within this box. So well crafted you’ll almost want to refrain from consuming them.

To’ak Chocolate: Cognac Cask 2014 Vintage Edition

Price: $385 USD
The Draw: This booze-infused bar is the accumulative efforts of two years testing, and four years of ageing. Mature and pleasurable.

DeLafée of Switzerland: Gold Chocolate Box with Antique Swiss Gold Coin 

Price: $315 USD
The Draw: This one leans towards more of the luxury for luxury sake mindset. These gold chocolates are 24-karat each, and comes with an antique Swiss coin that history buffs will supposedly love. 

Knipschildt Chocolatier: La Madeline au Truffle

Price: $250 USD (Per truffle)
The Draw: Indulgence is always fun, which makes this pick an entire crate-full of fun. The La Madeline au Truffle is wrapped in gold and handcrafted with 71% pure Ecuadorian dark chocolate. So it should come as no surprise that this is the most expensive truffle in the world.


Chocolate is without a doubt the ruling leader of the confection world. Whether it’s the joy that comes from savouring a piece, or the nostalgia that washes over you recalling the days you begged your parents for just one more bite, chocolate holds a very special place in our hearts.

And artisan chocolate is one of the best kinds. The bean-to-bar movement has picked up in Australia over the last few years, resulting in some incredibly creative boutique chocolate makers that are carving out their own identity alongside beloved established brands.

Some use native Australian ingredients to create unique flavour profiles. Others look to eccentric Asian flavours. And other still simply focus on highlighting the increasingly popular single origin movement.

Among Australia’s artisan chocolate offering, these are a few of our favourites:

Haigh’s Chocolates

Image: supplied

As Australia’s oldest family owned chocolate maker, Haigh’s Chocolates is rightfully considered a homegrown icon, pioneering the bean-to-bar movement in Australia.

Ask ten different people what their favourite Haigh’s chocolate is and you’ll get ten different answers. Though it’s hard to go past their dark premium fruit and nut block, which is flecked with juicy locally sourced fruits like pistachios, dried apricots, cranberries, and goji berries, and nuts like pecans, sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds.

Haigh’s Chocolates has numerous stores throughout Melbourne, Sydney, and South Australia, as well as one in Canberra.

Hunted + Gathered

Just three to five ingredients – mainly organic cacao beans, organic coconut sugar and organic cacao butter – are used in the small-scale, boutique chocolate from Melbourne-based Hunted + Gathered.

This minimal, highly controlled profile, with the full bean-to-bar process carried out in-house, has earned owners and brothers Harry and Charlie Nissen a passionate following throughout Australia.

Aside from their Gold Medal winning Single Origin range, a must-try is their new collaboration with Four Pillars Gin, which is produced using spent gin botanicals and gin-steamed oranges from distillations of Four Pillars’ popular Rare Dry Gin. And if this collaboration is anything to go by, their next custom made chocolate bar with Australian specialty wine store Blackhearts and Sparrowsshould go down a treat. Wine chocolate, anyone?

Hunted + Gathered are stocked in numerous stores along the East Coast, as well as one in Perth. They also have a recently opened shopfront and cafe attached to their factory in Melbourne’s Cremorne.

Koko Black

Image: supplied

Widely recognised around Australia,  Koko Black turn hand-blended Belgium couverture chocolate into some of the country’s most beloved luxury chocolate bars, pralines and truffles.

With their range featuring well over 100 different varieties, the chocolate makers at Koko Black are able to showcase a wide range of local produce like organic walnuts from NSW, leatherwood honey from Tasmania, macadamia nuts from Queensland, and small batch spirits from the likes of Starward Whisky, The Rum Diary, and Four Pillars.

This is best represented in their new collaborative range with one of Australia’s most celebrated chefs, Brae’s Dan Hunter. The small collection, hinged on the idea of non-reliance on sugars and an appreciation of acids instead of excessive sweetness, highlights Australian native ingredients in flavours like macadamia and spotted gum honey crumble with caramelised white chocolate, and lemon myrtle with Venezuelan 72 percent single origin chocolate. Also on the menu: green ants with burnt butter cream and white chocolate.

Koko Black has one store each in Perth, Adelaide, Sydney and Canberra as well as numerous throughout Victoria.

Bakedown Cakery

Image: Alana Dimou

Using both premium quality couverture chocolate from Belgium and France, and single origin beans, Bakedown Cakery owner Jen Lo turns in some of the country’s most unique, distinctive and exciting chocolate bars.

Experimentation has been driving much of the boutique brand’s output lately, which includes a special Japanese condiment range that features flavours like pickled ginger with white chocolate, wasabi oil with dark chocolate, caramel soy sauce chocolate, and white sencha chocolate.

Unique Asian twists on premium quality chocolate also extends to Bakedown’s mainline range, where blocks of genmaicha oreo strawberry – using tea sourced from a plantation just outside of Kyoto – sit comfortably next to other creations like taro rice crispies, and pandan coconut lychee chocolates.

Aside from their online shop, Bakedown Cakery only has one store in Sydney’s St Leonards which is open every Thursday.

Jasper + Myrtle

Image: Jasper + Myrtle / Facebook

This small Canberra chocolate maker gets their beans cacao beans from Peru and Papua New Guinea, as well as from growing regions such as Vietnam and Bougainville. This gives self-taught chocolatier Li Peng Monroe many different flavour profiles to experiment with, and plenty of reason to focus on single origin dark chocolate bars highlighting provenance and allowing the natural flavour of the cacao beans to come through.

Completely handmade, Jasper + Myrtle have some of the most tempting flavour combinations in the country, including their award-winning dark chocolate with wakame and Himalayan rock salt, and the milk chocolate with lemon myrtle and macadamia.


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
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.
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 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.

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.
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.

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).

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.

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

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.

• 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


So Can You Cook? 5

By the time this issue of ‘Talkabout’ hits the streets, it will well and truly be autumn. The problem for many of us over autumn and winter – besides just hating cold weather – is that we tend to eat heavier foods, and so stack on quite a bit of weight. In an attempt to counteract this, try to add more salads into your diet over winter. Sure, there isn’t the same selection of salad vegetables, but you only need to be a bit inventive. Substitute some of the vegetables usually used in salads with seasonal fruits, or bake vegetables and serve them cold with salad greens and a dressing. Why give up the good diet practices of summer just because it gets a bit cool. Then spoil yourself with some comfort foods – occasionally.

Haloumi is one of those strange cheeses that tastes totally bland when just cut from the piece, yet develops delicious flavours when barbequed, grilled or fried.

2 red capsicums
1 large eggplant
175g haloumi cheese
1 tablespoon olive oil
freshly ground black pepper
½ bunch basil, leaves picked
8 large bamboo skewers soaked in water for 15 minutes (if you would like to add some subtle exotic flavours to this dish, use sharpened lemongrass stalks, or long lengths of stripped rosemary (keep leaves at top end for decoration) as the skewers.)

Wash capsicums and remove seeds and membrane. Cut into 24 pieces. Wash and trim eggplant, cut in half lengthways, then into 16 semi-circles. Sprinkle with salt in a colander and leave for 30 minutes to remove bitterness. Dry with paper towel. Cut haloumi into 16 pieces. Toss vegetables and cheese in olive oil seasoned with pepper and sea salt. Skewer a piece of capsicum, followed by eggplant, a few rolled basil leaves, and then haloumi. Repeat process until you have 8 large skewers Finish each with a piece of capsicum. Char-grill or barbeque until tender – about 15-20 minutes. Blend remaining basil with oil to serve with skewers, or use purchased olive tapenade.
Serves 4
Approx $1.50 per skewer

This is my own salad, and can be served as a main course or an accompaniment. Rocket and watercress are two of my favourite salad greens. The peppery flavours are a perfect contrast for fruits, especially stone and citrus fruit.

200g baby rocket
small knob fennel, thinly sliced
2 blood oranges, segmented (if blood oranges are not in season, use ordinary, or ruby grapefruit)
¼ cup toasted pine nuts
punnet yellow teardrop tomatoes
shaved parmesan, to taste
10-15 whole mint leaves

Dressing – combine 30ml verjuice (unfermented grape juice) with 120ml macadamia oil (use olive or peanut if macadamia not available).

Place tomatoes on a baking tray and sprinkle with sea salt, cracked black pepper and olive oil. Bake in a 200°C oven for 20 minutes. Cool. Combine all ingredients except parmesan in salad bowl, sprinkle dressing and mix. Shave parmesan over the top.
Approx $6.00 to make

Pastry; (if you are not successful with pastry making, buy shortcrust from the supermarket)
200g plain flour
pinch salt
100g butter, cold and cubed
2-3 tablespoons cold water

250g bitter chocolate (if you can afford it, Lindt 80% cocoa)
2 eggs
4 yolks (freeze whites for meringues or omelettes)
25g sugar
2 tablespoons rum, or 2 teaspoons rum essence (from supermarket)
100g butter, softened
2 tablespoons ground almonds (almond meal)

For pastry, sift flour and salt into bowl. Add butter, and rub in with fingertips until mixture resembles breadcrumbs ( don’t over-fuss). Add water until mixture comes together when pressed. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for 30 minutes. Roll out thinly on a floured surface and line a 22cm loose-base flan tin. DO NOT STRETCH. Prick all over with a fork, and freeze for 10 minutes. Line with baking paper and pastry weights (if you don’t have pastry weights, use rice or dried beans) and bake at 180°C for 10-15 minutes, until pastry is cooked and starts to colour. Remove and fill with chocolate filling

For filling; Melt chocolate in microwave (50%), or over a double boiler of simmering water. In a separate bowl, whisk eggs, yolks, sugar and rum or essence. Fold chocolate into egg mix. Beat in soft butter and fold in almonds. Pour into tart shell and bake at 175°C for 20 minutes. Remove from oven and cool completely.
Serve with fresh orange slices.
Serves 8-12
Approx cost $9.00, depending on quality of chocolate.

Tim Alderman 2015


So Can You Cook? 2

Sorry people. I got myself into trouble from my partner for not putting approximate costs on last issues recipes. I promise I will do it from this issue on.
Well, with the cooler weather, it is time for comfort food. When making soup, make large batches, then divide it into smaller containers and freeze it. This can be done with a lot of foods, and gives you meals-on-hand for any tough times that come along. Remember, if a soup contains milk, yoghurt or cream of any variety, freeze the base soup without the dairy. Add it later when you reheat it.

Fast Tomato and Carrot Soup with Basil Oil
3 tblspn olive oil
2 medium brown onions, peeled and chopped
6 cloves garlic, crushed (use less if preferred)
3 medium carrots, peeled and chopped
½ kg fresh tomatoes
800g canned tomatoes
1 bay leaf
sea salt, black pepper
1 cup white wine (chicken or vegetable stock if preferred)
½ bunch fresh basil
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
extra sea salt

Heat the oil in a heavy based saucepan and add the onions. Sauté, allowing to colour a little, for 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook a further 2 minutes. Add the carrots and the fresh and canned tomatoes. Add the bay leaf, season to taste, then add wine or stock. Cook for 20 minutes for a light flavour, or for up to 1 hour for a more concentrated flavour. Remove from heat and puree.
Blend the basil, oil and salt until smooth, and add a swirl to the bowls of soup as they are served up.
To make a quick damper to go with the soup, mix together 3½ cups self-raising flour, ½ cup dried milk powder, and a teaspoon of salt. Make a well inb the centre, then with a knife blade mix through 1½ cups water (use ½ milk and ½ water if you want it more ‘sconey’). Knead lightly on a floured board, form into a flat disc, place on a baking sheet and mark into 6 sections with a knife. Sprinkle a little flour over the top. Bake in a 200° C oven for 30-40 minutes. If it sounds hollow when tapped, it’s cooked.
Serves 4-6
Approx $11.00 for soup and damper.

Chocolate Drizzle Cake
A yummy vegan cake. If you wish, exchange chocolate for carob, though remember that carob will give a chalkier texture.
2 cups brown sugar
2 cups raisins
½ cup cocoa
2 cups water
¾ cup canola or vegetable oil
½ teaspoon each cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg and salt
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
1 cup nuts of choice

Mix all ingredients in a saucepan except the flour, soda and last 4 ingredients. Boil for 2 minutes. Add dry ingredients and mix well. Pour into a greased and floured 20cm cake tin, and bake at 180°C for 1 hour.
To make chocolate icing, mix together 1 cup icing sugar and ¼ cup cocoa. Mix through 2-3 tablespoons soft butter or margarine, and enough milk or water to make spreading consistency (add this slowly, and mix well. If icing gets too thin, add more icing sugar).

Tim Alderman 2015


So Can You Cook? 40

The End

This is my final column in the ‘So can you cook?’ series. I have been doing the column for six years now and feel it is time to draw it to a close before I start repeating what has already been done.
I have enjoyed my time with the column. I hope that in some way I have inspired people to be a bit more creative with cooking and that I have shown that you don’t need a long list of degrees to be able to produce good food. It is an art, yes! But it is also an art that is accessible to everyone and is versatile enough to be a bit complicated when you want to impress or simple enough for an everyday meal – from the charcoal sketch to the oils I guess you might say.
I also hope I have introduced some to new flavours and encouraged people to be a bit adventuresome in their approach to cuisine. The amount of produce now available in Australia is truly staggering, and it is now possible to recreate any recipe from any cuisine totally authentically.
We have certainly come a long way in the last 40 odd years! The embracing of our place in the Asian section of the Pacific has also opened up a whole world of food to us and I think that the way we have taken to Asian food from all such countries shows just how adaptable we are with absorbing the influences of other cultures. And we will no longer settle for watered down or ‘Australianised’ versions of the cuisines. We want the genuine article. Just try to get into Thai Pothong in Newtown on a Friday or Saturday night if you want to see a good example. And no suburb is now complete without a Thai and a Vietnamese restaurant.
This column has also given me a way to comment on things from a personal perspective, often not in a PC way, which I don’t apologise for. I’m afraid that you haven’t gotten rid of me with the ending of this column. I hope to continue to contribute via articles and hopefully still in my outspoken style.
I have been writing for Talkabout in one form or another for about 13 years now. I have always been a strong supporter of the magazine and whether I was or wasn’t writing for it I would still be one of its strongest advocates. I feel that the non-clinical, non-professional (or expert) and non-conformist voices in our community are entitled to an outlet and Talkabout has always provided that forum.
With the closing and sale of my business, and the cutting back of other commitments the most common thing I find I am being asked is “How are you going to fill in time?”. I will continue to research my family history, which has been ongoing for about 20 years now (and thankfully easier with the advent of the internet) and, after many years of nagging from friends and people who have heard my story through the PSB, I am finally going to put an autobiography together.
My life has been interesting (to say the least) and not without the usual dramas associated with surviving AIDS and having my roots in a dysfunctional family. I will probably take myself off to do a few more courses in writing and cooking, and I will have a bit more time to keep my home tidy and together, and get my garden back in order. One thing I can promise, I won’t be bored.
I would like to thank everyone who has read and supported my column over this time. I think that the best way to leave the column is with a bit of a bang by repeating some of my favourite recipes from the last six years. I’m desperately trying NOT to make them all chocolate…

Rich Chocolate Tart (from No 12)

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.

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.

Thai Beef Salad (from No 22)

1/3 cup lime juice
1 tablespoon fish sauce
2 teaspoons grated palm sugar or soft brown sugar
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 tablespoon finely chopped coriander
1 stem lemongrass (white part only) finely chopped
2 small red chillies, finely sliced (remove seeds if you want milder)
2 x 200g beef eye fillet steaks
150g mixed salad leaves
½ red onion, sliced into fine wedges
½ cup coriander leaves
1/3 cup torn mint leaves
250g cherry tomatoes, halved
1 Lebanese cucumber, halved and thinly sliced

Mix lime juice, fish sauce, palm sugar, garlic, chopped coriander, lemongrass and chilli until the sugar has dissolved.
Preheat barbie chargrill plate to medium-high direct heat and cook the steaks for 4 minutes each side or until medium. Let cool then slice thinly across the grain.
Put the salad leaves, onion, coriander, mint, tomatoes and cucumber in a large bowl, add the beef and dressing. Toss together and serve immediately.

Banana Cake with Passionfruit Icing (from No 23)
125g butter, softened
¾ cup firmly packed brown sugar
2 eggs
1½ cups self-raising flour
½ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
1 teaspoon mixed spice
1 cup mashed banana (preferably over-ripe)
½ cup sour cream
¼ cup milk

Preheat oven to moderate 180°C. Grease 15cm x 25cm loaf pan, lining base with baking paper.
Beat butter and sugar in a small mixing bowl with electric beater until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs, one at a time, until combined. Transfer mixture to a large bowl, using a wooden spoon and stir in sifted dry ingredients, banana, sour cream and milk. Spread mixture into prepared pan.
Bake cake in moderate oven for about 50 minutes. Stand cake in pan for 5 minutes before turning out onto wire rack to cool. Spread with passionfruit icing.

Passionfruit Icing
1½ cups icing sugar mixture (a mix of icing sugar and cornflour)
1 teaspoon soft butter
2 tablespoons passionfruit pulp (approx)

Place icing sugar in a small heatproof bowl, stir in butter and enough pulp to make a firm paste. Stir over hot water until icing is of spreading consistency, taking care not to overheat. Use immediately.

Chinese Beef and Asparagus with Oyster Sauce (from No 17)
500g lean beef fillet, thinly sliced across the grain
1 tablespoon light soy sauce
½ teaspoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon Chinese rice wine
2½ tablespoons vegetable oil
200g fresh, thin asparagus cut into thirds on the diagonal
3 cloves garlic, crushed
2 teaspoons julienned fresh ginger (fine slice)
¼ cup chicken stock
2–3 tablespoons oyster sauce

Place beef in a glass or plastic bowl with soy sauce, sesame oil and two teaspoons of Chinese cooking wine. Cover and marinate for at least 15 minutes.
Heat a wok over high heat, add 1 tablespoon vegetable oil and swirl to coat the wok. Add asparagus and stir fry for 1-2 minutes. Remove from wok.
Add another tablespoon of oil and add the beef in two batches, stir frying for 20 minutes or until cooked. Remove from wok.
Add remaining oil to wok, add garlic and ginger and stir fry for 1 minute or until fragrant. Pour the stock, oyster sauce and remaining cooking wine into wok, bring to boil and boil rapidly for 1–2 minutes or until sauce is slightly reduced. Return beef and asparagus to the wok and stir fry for a further minute or until heated through and coated with the sauce.
Serve immediately with Jasmine rice.

Waldorf Salad with a Twist (from No 34)
4 Granny Smith apples, thinly sliced
1 stalk celery, thinly sliced
1 cup walnuts, chopped
2 cups watercress sprigs

Blue Cheese dressing
¼ cup whole-egg mayonnaise
2 teaspoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons water
Sea salt & cracked black pepper
100g soft blue cheese, chopped

To make the blue cheese dressing, place the mayonnaise, lemon juice, water, salt, pepper and blue cheese in the bowl of a small food processor and process until smooth.
Arrange the apple, celery, walnuts and watercress on serving plates and spoon over the dressing to serve.

Serves 4

Oysters with Lemon & Vodka Granita (from No 34)
½ cup caster sugar
2½ cups water
½ cup lemon juice
⅓ cup vodka
18 oysters
Lemon wedges, to serve

Place the sugar, water, lemon juice and vodka in a saucepan over low heat and stir until the sugar is dissolved. Pour the granite mixture into a shallow 20cm x 30cm metal pan and place in the freezer for 1 hour. Remove the granita from the freezer and use a fork to take the top off and freeze for a further hour. Repeat every hour for 3-4 hours or until set.
Grate the granita with a fork to produce snow, and fill tiny shot glasses.
Serve with the oysters and lemon wedges.

Serves 6

Tim Alderman

Copyright 2014