Tuesday, 1 January 2008

Happy New Year!

But first, I have to lose the hangover. Why, FSM, why? I only had some champagne. I even diluted it into pseudo-bellinis with Bundaberg Peachee. I usually don't like soft drinks, but this one isn't outrageously sweet. I've been taking it to parties as my designated driver drink.

Last night was a potluck, with lots of singing - mostly attended by choir people, of course. We were lucky with the dinner balance. Other people supplied antipasti, quiche, frittata, salad and cupcakes. I took a hot artichoke dip, and a tiramisu - recipes to follow. The dip was inspired by Beth, who served her variant at her Xmas party. She gave me the approximate recipe verbally, forgetting the quantities, so I googled and found a lot more, and made one up. I must get her real recipe soon. The tiramisu is an old standard, though I did check my Italian cookbook as a reference for quantities. People liked it a lot, yay!

I made the tiramisu first thing in the morning yesterday. I was still half asleep and whisked all 4 egg whites, though I only needed 2. So I decided to make random macaroons with the other half of the bowl. Macaroons are an extremely forgiving biscuit, in that a random recipe will almost certainly work. All you need is egg white, sugar, and ground nuts or coconut. If you vary the quantities, they'll come out flatter or rounder; crispier or chewier; moister or drier; but as long as you're happy with a surprise texture, you'll be fine. These ones came out flat, slightly moist, and chewy.

I took the tiramisu photo at the party, as I wanted to show the layers. And explained this weird action by talking about my blog. At that moment, it finally dawned on me that "the Canberra Cook" might sound rather arrogant. I'm not the only cook in Canberra, duh. As I actually meant it, my blog should be a useful resource for all you Canberra region cooks out there. Oh well, too late to change now. I just added a note to my profile, though.

I have one more recipe to add - a potato salad that I made a couple of days ago. We've been grazing this week rather than having formal meals; and in this hot weather it's nice to have salads ready in the fridge. I used a lot of tarragon - apart from the chopped leaves, the greenery garnish in the picture is yet more tarragon. I have it by the bucketload. It loves the heat, and is growing like the clappers. Tarragon is a good Canberra garden herb - while it appears to die totally in the frost, it springs back to life.

Recipe 1: Hot Artichoke Dip
1 tin artichoke hearts in water
1 cup mayonnaise
1 cup grated parmesan
2 small cloves garlic
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
Rinse the artichoke hearts well and squeeze dry. Chop roughly. Put everything except the paprikas into a blender and whizz until well mixed. Pour mix into an oven safe serving bowl, sprinkle the paprikas on top, and bake at 180C until warmed through and nicely browned. Serve hot, with pita chip and celery sticks for dipping.

Recipe 2: Tiramisu
450g marscapone
4 egg yolks
2 egg whites, whisked to stiff peaks
150g icing sugar
200g Italian sponge finger biscuits
200 ml strong coffee
100ml marsala, plus 2 tablespoons
100ml coffee liqueur
1/4 cup finely grated dark chocolate
Beat egg yolks and sugar until light and creamy. Mix in marscapone and 2 tablespoons marsala, and beat well until smooth. Fold in egg whites gently. Mix coffee, marsala and coffee liqueur in a shallow bowl.

Assemble tiramisu by dunking sponge fingers in the liquid for a few seconds. Make a layer of them in the serving bowl. Top with some of the cream, and repeat dunking and layering to end up with a top layer of cream. Sprinkle grated chocolate thickly over the top.

Notes: It's a good idea to do a test lay out of the biscuits in the serving bowl, just to see how many layers you will need. I had three, but if your bowl is wider and shallower so you only use two layers, then you'll need more chocolate for the top. Also, I usually top it with cocoa, but I had this new microplane grater, see...

Recipe 3: Orange Macaroons
2 egg whites, whisked.
150g almond meal
50g vanilla sugar
1/2 teaspoon Boyajian orange oil
1/8 cup candied orange peel
Mix all well. Blob onto a silicon baking sheet, allowing plenty of room to spread. Bake at 180C for 15-20 minutes, until golden brown.

Notes: It's traditional to put them on rice paper; indeed, it's essential if you don't have a silicon mat. Also, candied orange peel, as opposed to "mixed peel", is available only from specialist foodie shops. So is the classy orange oil. But macaroons are forgiving, remember.

Recipe 4: Tarragon & Mustard Potato Salad
1 kg new potatoes
3 hardboiled eggs
3/4 cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon finely chopped tarragon leaves
4-6 shallots, finely chopped.
Boil potatoes until just done - about 20 minutes. Mix shallots, tarragon, mayo, vinegar and mustard in a large bowl. Toss drained potatoes into the mix while still hot, stir well. Refrigerate, and top with quartered hard boiled eggs before serving.

Notes: I like to keep the peel on the potatoes, and I really mean shallots, not spring onions. This is a very strongly flavoured salad that goes well with sausages and sauerkraut.

Cooking today: turkey risotto, and maybe a bean salad, as long as I revive enough. Vegemite toast and Berocca for 1pm breakfast...

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