Monday, February 22, 2010

The Cookbook Challenge - Week 14 - Japanese - Japanese Eggplant Slices

Like most of the challenge participants, I don't have a Japanese cookbook either, and a few indexes of a few books didn't yield a lot of options. I turned to Stephanie Alexander's, The Cook's Companion, given it's claim of the "complete book". It didn't let me down, and produced a recipe for Japanese Eggplant Slices.

I prepared this for my lunch on Saturday, and didn't offer to share it as I was sure the offer would be greeted with a resounding "blech!". According to him, eggplant is not your friend. 

 Look how friendly they are!

I'm not convinced this can stand alone as a dish, however it would make a great starter, or part of a Japanese style buffet. 

The steps are basic, and the ingredients minimal - if I hadn't followed the direction to salt and stand the eggplant slices it would have been really quick too. The technique requires you to spread the flavoured chicken paste on to the eggplant and fry it in a pan - I was amazed, but it stayed put! I was paranoid about flipping it over and splashing it everywhere, so it ended up a little overcooked.

I'd probably put ginger and spring onions into the chicken paste next time I make it, as well as sprinkled over the top, just for a little added flavour - some garlic wouldn't go astray either - mmm, stinky garlic, my favourite. It was a teriyaki style flavour, but I like my teriyaki garlicky.

Here's a tip for fresh ginger - freeze the whole knob, skin on, and grate however much you need straight from the freezer. I find there's not even a need to peel it, provided you've washed it before you've frozen it. I never use a whole knob before they go rotten, so this means I always have fresh ginger, with no waste.

As far as quantities go for this, I used half of the amount of eggplant specified for the chicken listed, I think if you don't do this it will be fairly bland. I like eggplant as much as the next girl, but with such a small amount of chicken suggested per slice you'd really be wasting your time and might as well just fry plain eggplant.

I'll give you the quantities I used.

Japanese Eggplant Slices - The Cook's Companion, Stephanie Alexander

100g chicken mince
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons mirin (or mirin seasoning)
fresh ginger, grated for sprinkling
1 spring onion, finely sliced for sprinkling
olive oil for frying
1 eggplant, sliced into 2cm thick rounds

Score the eggplant on one side, twice in each direction. Sprinkle with salt and set aside for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, combine the chicken, soy sauce and mirin in a food processor, until a paste forms, chicken breasts were on sale, so I threw in a whole breast, and minced it in the food processor. At this point I'd add in a chopped spring onion, some garlic and a bit of ginger.

At this point it doesn't look so delicious

Rinse and dry the eggplant rounds well.

Spread the chicken paste on the scored side of the eggplant, and fry, chicken side down, for about 3 minutes on medium heat in plenty of olive oil. Turn, and cook for a further 3 minutes on the other side. 

Serve sprinkled with grated ginger and chopped spring onion.

There you go. That's something by Kate.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

The Cookbook Challenge - Week 13 - Love - Molten Chocolate Puddings

Love is.... serving chocolate pudding just the way he likes it - to his desk while he plays Battlefield on the computer on Valentine's Day.

Love is.... serving it undercooked because that's the way he likes it, despite the fact it will photograph badly for the blog.

Love is.... making a recipe that's from a book I've already used for the cookbook challenge, and a recipe I've made before, because he "loves chocolate pudding even more than chocolate mousse" - this was a big call from someone who rarely orders dessert, but if he does it's chocolate mousse. 

I came across this recipe when I was making Spicy Chicken Thighs from Bill Granger's Every Day for Week 10 of the challenge.  

Love is.... having made this recipe five times since Week 10 of the challenge, and it's only Week 13 now.

Ok, you get the point. This is why I chose this recipe for our love theme. And I stuck a white chocolate heart on it for bonus points - but didn't serve him that one, since he doesn't like white chocolate. See how much I love him?

This is a simple, molten centred pudding that I haven't had fail yet. The first time I made it, following Bill's cooking time instructions (10 minutes) it was only just firm and held its shape, you could probably cook it for 10 1/2 - 11 minutes and still have a gooey middle, but I cook it for 9 1/2 to get it the way he likes it. I like it either way, but tend to leave mine in the oven for the 30 seconds it takes me to plate his up, just for a little more cake, and a little less batter. I also always wish I'd made enough for two each!

Here's one I prepared earlier - about 11 minutes in the oven - I also didn't have it on the middle shelf, and it was a little too close to the bottom element, as you can see from the "robust" colouring.

Molten Chocolate Puddings - Bill Granger's Every Day
Serves two 
(but doubles well, just use four ramekins as they won't cook well as two larger puddings)

50g unsalted butter, plus extra for greasing
50g dark chocolate, chopped
1 egg, plus 1 egg yolk
1 1/2 tablespoons caster sugar
1 teaspoon plain flour

Preheat the oven to 220 degrees. Butter two 250ml ovenproof ramekins and dust with cocoa powder, shaking out any excess.

Melt the chocolate and butter together in a bowl over a pan of gently simmering water or in the microwave on 50%. While the chocolate is melting use and electric whisk to beat the egg, yolk and sugar until pale and thick.

 Isn't that cute? I have no idea how the shadow is trying to create a heart, but it's very suitable for Valentine's Day

Pour the melted chocolate into the egg mixture, sift in the flour and gently fold in. Spoon into the ramekins and bake for 10 minutes. Serve either in the ramekins or turned out onto serving plates.

There you go. That's something by Kate. Happy Valentine's Day!

The Cookbook Challenge - Week 12 - Eggs - Strawberry Vacherin

I'm late, I know. I'm sorry. No excuses, I just didn't have time. Don't ask me what I was doing, I have no idea how I had no time this week, I'm not convinced I was actually doing anything, sometimes it just happens that way, that you're busiest when you're not. I always fit more in when I'm busy than when I'm free.

And, the recipe I chose this week was a bit of a production. I had ten egg whites in the freezer which I needed to stop adding to and start using (I have a weakness for carbonara pasta) so I knew my egg recipe needed to involve egg whites rather than whole eggs. Plus, I had a bunch of ingredients that I wanted to start using up, rather than adding more specialty ingredients to my baking pantry - I can't believe how lucky I am to have a dedicated pantry for these things!

When I came across the Strawberry Vacherin in delicious. magazine from May 2002, it was perfect. The only thing I had to purchase was strawberries for decoration. 

With flagrant disregard for food safety I took six egg whites out of the freezer (I freeze them in pairs in bags) before I went to work in the morning and left them on the bench so they'd be room temperature and ready for action when I got home. Turns out food safety was not to be my downfall..... I got a voicemail message about 4.30pm - "did you have eggs or something in plastic bags out? There's goo all over the floor. I'm running late for the cricket, I cleaned it off the carpet, but not the tiles, don't slip". That'll teach me.

Cats. I love them, but apparently the bench is their favourite playing surface when I'm not home. The bags of egg whites had been redistributed across the lounge and kitchen floors, and bitten into so that they'd all oozed out. The little buggers hadn't even tried to eat any of it, it seems they were just interested in making mess. 

Once I'd cleaned that up on my return home, the remaining four egg whites were removed from the freezer, and defrosted very carefully in the microwave. At least I'd achieved my goal of using up the egg whites in the freezer! In fact, I now have an egg yolk in my freezer, since I had to use an extra egg white. 

I also used some of the 1.2kg of Toblerone we were given for Christmas.

Ignore the missing Toblerones - they may have ended up in my belly

The recipe specified toasting and grinding whole almonds, but I already had almond meal, so I substituted it with no great dramas.

I would make this again (keeping in mind the proclivities of my cats) but I'd layer strawberries on the inside as well as on top, to counter the sweetness, and would halve (at least) the icing sugar in the cream. 

Strawberry Vacherin - delicious. May 2002

175g almond meal 
5 egg whites
225g caster sugar
110g melted butter, cooled
70g plain flour, sifted
300m thickened cream
150g pure icing sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
100g Toblerone chocolate
250g strawberries

I love it when I pour the exact amount first go - this time I managed it twice. Small joys.

Preheat your oven to 120 degrees. Cut three 20cm circles from non-stick baking paper, grease one side of each circle, and place greased side up on baking trays. The easiest way to do this is to trace around a 20cm cake tin, unless you have 20cm plates, in which case that would work too.

Beat together the egg whites and half the caster sugar, until stiff, then add the almond meal and remaining sugar and stir to combine.

Gently fold in the butter and flour (I almost forgot the butter and was wondering why the mixture seemed so dry, so it got a little more folding than it should have, but it was still ok).

Spread onto the baking paper circles to about 1cm thick, and bake for 50 minutes, then peel off the paper and set aside to cool.
I probably didn't really need to use the twins, but.....

Whip the cream, icing sugar and vanilla extract together until thick, and set aside.

Melt the Toblerone - delicious. recommend using a a bowl over a pan of gently simmering water, but I used the microwave - be warned if using the microwave, Toblerone will hold its shape, but still be melted, so check it by stirring regularly.

Place one meringue circle on a plate, spread with half the Toblerone and top with a third of the cream. Place a meringue circle on top of that, spread with the remaining Toblerone, and half the remaining cream. Top with the last meringue circle, and the rest of the cream. Quarter the strawberries and arrange on top. Dust with icing sugar.

There you go, that's something by Kate.
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