Thursday, October 23, 2014

Lime-Papaya Meringue Pie

If you have followed my recipes before you will know that I always endeavour to cook things that are easy to make, delicious and with ingredients that are the freshest and cheapest around. This is all of those things but you will just need to put aside a little more time for this one but, believe me, it is well worth it - it's something I make for special occasions as everyone just loves it.  Out to impress - well this is the pie for you!

I got the ispiration to make this from recipes of two of my favourite cooks Belinda Jeffery (Desserts) and Janet de Neefe (Bali-The Food of my Island Home) - in fact I think I ate something similar to this is Janet's restaurant Indus in Ubud, Bali.  I was looking to make a dessert to go with an Asian inspired meal and this perfectly fitted the bill - it's very similar to the traditional lemon meringue pie with just a tropical twist.  It helped that I had just harvested fresh limes and papaya from my garden and had happily accepted yet another dozen fresh eggs from my neighbour who has very happy and productive chooks.

NOTE: The filling is a lime-papaya curd.  Cooking a 'curd' often calls for a lot of time consuming stirring over a double-boiler which you don't need to do with this recipe - it all goes in together (I'm trying to make it simple!).

200 g (11/2 cups) plain flour (I use wholemeal - that way I'm trying to pretend it's healthy)
30 g icing sugar
150 g chilled butter, roughly chopped
1 egg yolk (save the white - you will need it for the meringue)

250 g peeled and seeded red papaya, chopped (not yellow pawpaw)
200 ml water
200 g white sugar
1/2 cup cornflour
125 ml fresh lime juice
zest of two limes
100 g unsalted butter
3 eggs PLUS 2 egg yolks (save the white for the meringue)

3 egg whites that you have saved
100 g caster sugar
pinch of sea salt

1.  Preheat oven to 180oC
2.  Put the flour and icing sugar in food processor and blitz to combine.
3.  Add the butter and blitz until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs.
4.  Add the egg yolk and blitz until dough combines into one ball.
5.  Turn out onto lightly floured surface and knead briefly then press lightly into disc.
6.  Cover in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 20 minutes.
7.  Butter a 24 cm loose-bottomed pie tin or fluted quiche dish.
8.  Roll the dough on a floured surface to shape of pan then lay inside.  Trim off excess.
9.  Line pastry with non-stick baking paper and fill with pastry weights; I use dried beans.
10.  Bake for 15 minutes.  Remove the paper and weights, return to the oven and cook for further 5 minutes.  Remove from oven and cool.
TOP TIP:  Do not use foil for this - it will stick to the pastry.

NOTE: This is called baking blind and is pre-cooked in this way to ensure that the pastry is cooked through and does not go soggy when the filling is added.
TIP:  I always make a double batch of pastry and freeze half of it for next time.

1.  Put papaya, sugar and water in food processor and blend to fine pulp.
2.  Put the cornflour in a saucepan and mix to a smooth paste with a little of this papaya juice, then add the rest of liquid and stir to combine. DON'T PUT THE HEAT ON YET.
3.  Lightly beat the whole eggs and yolks and pour into saucepan, whisk in.
4.  Add the lime juice and zest.
5.  Melt the butter and add that too - stir to combine.
6.  NOW PUT THE HEAT ON LOW and whisk constantly until mixture thickens and cook for further minute to ensure cornflour cooked properly (otherwise it will taste floury)
7.  Pour into cooked pastry case and let it cool before adding the meringue.
1.  Preheat oven again to 180oC
2.  Put the three saved egg-whites and pinch of salt into a clean, dry bowl and whisk until. they form stiff peaks.
TIP: Meringue won't work if the utensils are slightly wet or dirty.
3.  Add the sugar gradually until you get your peaks back.
4.  Spread the meringue over the pie right to the pastry edge. Use the back of your spoon to make fancy swirls - remember, you are here to impress!
5.  Bake the pie for 10 minutes or so until the meringue is golden brown.

Did I mention that it is worth the effort and absolutely delicious?

Friday, October 10, 2014

Barm Brack - Cold Tea Cake

This is one of my mother's recipes that came in her wide ranging fruit cake repertoire. It's one of those nourishing, old-fashioned kind of fruit cakes, well, a cross between a bread and a cake really - just what was needed for a weekend away camping.  You might find it a bit strange because the dried fruit is soaked in cold tea, but you will just have to go with me on this one.  It ends up being very moist and delicious and keeps for a good few days - if you are lucky.

Originating in Ireland, versions of it crop up all over the northern part of the UK probably in the necessity for filling the up the family as cheaply as possible.  The brack comes from an old Irish word meaning speckled - and you can see why!

I love it because it's so simple, quick to make and tastes really good; and there's a bonus NO SUGAR - apart from the natural sweetness of the dried fruit - and it's the kind of cake that cries out for a smothering of butter and a cup of tea.

1 cup currants
1 cup sultanas
2 - 3 cups cold tea (fruit should be well covered so that it can get to juicy plumpness)
30 g butter, melted
2 eggs, lightly beaten
3 cups wholemeal self-raising flour
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
Zest of one lemon

1.  Put dried fruit into a mixing bowl, cover with cold tea and leave overnight
2.  The next day, grease a large loaf tin and put oven on 180oC
3.  Lightly beat eggs
4.  Mix everything together with soaked dried fruit in mixing bowl.
5.  Turn into loaf tin and bake for 60 to 80 minutes until golden and skewer comes out clean.  Remove from oven
6.  Leave in pan for about 20 minutes before turning out and let cool completely before cutting.
NOTE ABOUT COOKING THIS CAKE:  You don't pour off the tea after you have soaked the fruit in it.  However, the fruit should have soaked most of it up.  If you have a lot of excess, strain some of it off into a jug and see if you need it once you have mixed all the other ingredients in.  The mix should be soft - not sloppy or stiff.  Hope this helps. Now, all that remains is to put the kettle on!  Or the billy in this case.  Our camping spot in Mebbin National Park with the most incredible, ancient fig trees - so big you could live in them and hundreds of years old.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Chicken Cucina - A quick and nutritious pasta dish

Short of time, cash, patience and ideas for dinner - then this is the dish for you.  The ingredients are simple and cheap; cooking time is as long as it takes to boil some pasta; it ticks all the boxes for nutritional content; adults and children alike love it AND it's delicious.

I've called it Chicken Cucina, but I'm sure the Italians must have thought of it first and have a traditional name for it - please let me know if it rings a bell.  

For four people you will need:
1 free range chicken breast cut into thin slices
1 tbsp olive oil
Pene pasta
1 cup sliced fresh mushroom
2 cups broccoli florettes (I made it with peas in the one above because I didn't have any broccoli)
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 long red chilli, thinly sliced (optional)
1 handful of freshly chopped marjoram (or basil if you don't have it)
About 350 ml tomato passata
1/2 cup fresh cream (I think you could use plain yoghurt as a substitute)
Splash of dry white wine (optional)
Freshly ground salt and pepper
Handful of fresh chopped parsley for garnish
Grated parmesan

1.  Cook pasta in boiling salted water until al dente then strain; steam the broccoli above the cooking pasta water until just cooked then refresh under cold water and set aside.
2.  Heat oil in large heavy based pan.
NOTE: This is important: if you use a small pan the chicken and mushrooms will become soggy in their juices and not take on those lovely stir-fried flavours, instead they will be more like a stew.
3.  Flash fry chicken until the strips take on some golden colour - don't overcook.
4.  Add mushrooms, chilli, garlic - keeping the pan hot, toss around
5.  Add the tomato passata (wine) and cream and turn heat down to gentle simmer.
6.  Add broccoli and season with salt and pepper to taste.
7.  Stir through chopped marjoram (or basil)
NOTE:  Marjoram is one of my favourite herbs for all kinds of Italian cooking; it has a lovely aromatic sweet nutmeg smell and flavour.  If you don't have it fresh then use basil and a pinch of freshly grated nutmeg.
DONE!  Now just toss the sauce through the cooked pene and top with a little fresh parsley and some freshly grated parmesan cheese.  As you can see, this dish is very adaptable - I just leave the chillis and mushrooms out if I have any little ones for dinner - not their favourite things.

Marjoram (Origanum marjorana), often confused with oregano (Origanum vulgare), shown in the photo above growing alongside a pot of bush basil (Ocimum minimum); all easy to grow in a warm climate. Marjoram is more often used fresh in cooking and oregano dried or part of a marinade.  I like to have them in pots close to the house and move them around when it gets too wet or too hot.

NOTE: Adding a handful of fresh herbs to any meal infinitely adds to it's nutritional value.  See previous post all about parsley.