Tag Archives: coffee

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? 6

When I was growing up through the 50’s & 60’s, one thing that was always ritualised was tea drinking. Despite not having the enormous varieties of teas available today, my mother was always very fussy about what brand of tea she used. The rituals involved how the tea was made, and how you went about drinking it. There was an everyday tea-set, and a tea-set that was only brought out when guests were expected. There was also very specific items cooked to go with it, and it was always served at a particular time of the morning and afternoon.
I was wandering through the new Myers at Bondi Junction recently, and in their homewares department, noticed that a whole section had been devoted to coffee – machines of all descriptions and prices, espresso, latte and cappuccino cups and mugs, and blends of coffee. It reminded me of the tea rituals of my youth, and I was pleased to think that in some way, these rituals had been passed down. Coffee is still a very expensive luxury, and indeed worthy of ritualising. I very stupidly stopped drinking it a number of years ago, thinking it bad for my health. It is something I am glad I had a rethink on, and now enjoy one or two cups a day, made using my machine, or my caffetteria. I include my chocolate truffle recipe in this issue, for those who enjoy the indulgence of chocolate (and port) with their coffee.

For Tomato relish:
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
2 cloves crushed garlic
4-6 roma tomatoes, skinned and deseeded
pinch chilli flakes
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 bay leaf
2 sprigs fresh thyme
salt & pepper
Heat oil in heavy pan and sauté onion and garlic till pale gold. Add chopped tomatoes, chilli, paste, bay, thyme and salt & pepper. Cook over low heat till thick, about 20 minutes. Remove bay and thyme. Cool.
For Vegetables:
2 medium zucchini, finely sliced
2 baby aubergine, finely sliced
1 red capsicum, deseeded and cut into strips
1 Spanish onion, cut into 8 wedges
2 tablespoons olive oil
salt & pepper
Brush vegetables with oil, season, then grill or barbeque until just tender. To make sure onion retains its shape, DO NOT cut off base, or alternatively secure each wedge with a toothpick. Remove toothpick before adding to tarts.
For Tarts:
4 x 12cm discs of puff pastry, kept chilled (buy puff pastry from supermarket)
1 egg yolk
200g soft fetta eg Persian
4 sprigs fresh continental parsley (also called flat-leaf)
Make an incision 1cm in from edge of pastry disc. Prick inner circle with fork. Brush with egg yolk. Spread 1-2 tablespoon relish over the inner circle of each disc, ensuring the border is left free. Divide the vegetables amongst the cases, again leaving edge free. Bake at 220°C for 15 minutes, or until pastry is risen and golden. Remove from oven, place 2 tablespoons fetta on top of each tart and garnish with a sprig of parsley. Transfer to serving plates, and if you have it, drizzle with some herb or garlic oil. Serve with Citrus, Avocade and Potato Salad.
Serves 4
Approx cost $4.20 per serve

450g Kipfler potatoes (or substitute for whatever is available)
sea salt & cracked black pepper
1 clove garlic, crushed
drizzle of olive oil
1 ruby or yellow grapefruit
1 ripe avocado
2 handfuls baby rocket, or salad blend, washed
Scrub and halve potatoes, sprinkle with salt and steam until tender. Remove from saucepan and toss in a bowl with garlic, pepper and oil. Set aside. Remove skin and white pith from grapefruit. Cut segments from between membranes with a sharp knife, and keep juice that you can squeeze from remains. Peel and quarter avocado, then cut into chunks. Either combine ingredients and pile onto plate, or layer potato, then rocket, and avocado and grapefruit. Mix remaining juice with an equal quantity of olive oil, season, then drizzle over salad.
Serves 4
Approx cost – $6.00

200ml pouring cream
350g bitter chocolate broken into small pieces
2 tablespoons brandy, other liqueur or essence (use 1-2 teaspoons if using essence)
150g dark chocolate for dipping
1 cup cocoa powder, sifted
Place cream in a heavy-based pot and bring slowly to the boil. Remove from heat, and stir in chocolate. Stir until smooth (the heat from the cream will melt the chocolate). Stir in brandy, liqueur or essence. Scrape into bowl and cool. Cover and refrigerate, until cold and set firm. Work VERY quickly to form into balls using either cool hands (keep rinsing them under cold water and drying), or a teasoon or melon baller. You should get 50-60 small balls. Don’t be anal about the shape. Refrigerate again until firm. Melt the dipping chocolate either over hot water, or at 50% in your microwave in 30-second bursts. Dip the balls quickly into melted chocolate (use a fork or long skewer to dip), then toss in cocoa to coat. Chill again, then serve with feshly brewed espresso, latte, long black or macchiato, or as part of a cheese platter with muscatels and candied orange peel.
To vary the truffles, dip some in white chocolate, chocolate sprinkles, coconut or crushed nuts. Strange as it may sound, these are also nice if rolled in finely chopped basil.
Makes 50-60
Approx cost – $9.00

Tim Alderman 2015