Sunday, December 25, 2011

Cook. @ Home - Portugese Egg Tarts

Just realised that Eat.Play.Shop. quietly turned one earlier on in December!  Time for a bit of a change,  so I've decided to launch a new part to the blog by starting some Cook. @ Home posts, to share the recipes of some of the stuff we've been whipping up here.  As the Little Ones are growing into Bigger Ones, cooking has become something that the kids all want to participate in, sometimes more successfully than others!  Their tastes in food have also become quite broad and varied.   It's pretty cool to watch them try to make and eat different foods, and learn to appreciate their discoveries!

For my first recipe I will post a recent favourite - The Portugese Tart.  I paid $4 for one at Market Lane Coffee the other day and it got me thinking about how difficult easy it will be to make these yummy and delightful little tarts, which are perfect for afternoon tea.  Research on the net yielded quite a few variations in cooking methods and I have taken these on board and added my own changes.  As most of you know I have a thermomix (love!) so the custard is prepared in the thermomix here, but there's no reason why it can't be made on a stove top with gentle heat and stirring.  I have never failed using this recipe (yet!) and it makes a big batch of 24 - because they are very more-ish and just disappear so quickly!

The recipe is inspired by Bill Granger's,  with thermomix adaptation inspired by Winosandfoodies.

Fail Safe (Thermomix) Portugese Egg Tarts (Pasteis de Nata)

2 sheets of puff pastry
6 egg yolks
150g caster sugar
2 tablespoons cornflour
250g double cream
330g milk
2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste

1) Blend egg yolks, caster sugar and cornflour in the thermomix bowl at speed 4 for 5 seconds
2) Add cream and milk and cook at 80 C, speed 4 for 10 minutes
3) Add vanilla bean paste and whiz at speed 8 for 8 seconds
4) Pour mixture into a bowl to cool to room temperature, with glad wrap on the surface of the custard to stop a skin from forming
5) Turn oven on to 200 C (fan force) and grease 2 x 12 muffin tins
6) Place the 2 sheets of puff pastry on top of each other.  When thawed, cut this down the middle to form 2 rectangles.  Roll each rectangle up from the short end to short end to form 2 rolls and cut each into 12 rounds
7) Roll each round out on a floured surface and place into the muffin tins
8) When the custard has cooled it will set somewhat.  Spoon the mixture evenly into the 24 puff pastry cases and pop them into the oven for 20 minutes
9) Remove from the oven and rest for 5 minutes.  Then pop the tarts on a wire rack to cool and eat them when they're just warm!

Egg, Caster Sugar and Corn Flour blended

Adding the vanilla bean paste after the custard is cooked

Waiting for the custard to cool

Cutting the Puff Pastry

Rolling out the rounds

Cases all done - Rustic is good!

Just out of the Oven

Cooling on the rack, and looking quite delicious I must say!
Tips - 

  • you can pop the custard mixture into the fridge to cool if pressed for time
  • the custard will rise and bubble quite high while in the oven and will collapse down to achieve the look you're used to once out of the oven
  • I love vanilla so I use lots of vanilla bean paste, but you can substitute this with vanilla extract and reduce the quantity quite easily
  • I am quite lazy with pastry making so I always use purchased puff pastry, but you can make your own, and if you have a thermomix there's a recipe for this in the Everyday Cookbook

Apart from enjoying eating these, the thrifty housewife part of me finds it quite satisfying that for under $10 of ingredients I've produced $96 worth of tarts with very little effort.  Enjoy!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Eat. @ Heirloom

131 Bourke St, Melbourne 3000ph : (03) 9639 1296

We celebrated Hubby's birthday by visiting Heirloom for their $79 Living Social Coupon for dinner for 2 last month.  The price included champagne, an oyster tasting plate, 2 sashimi entrees, choice of mains from the menu and a macaron tasting plate.  Not taking the kids along - priceless!  Heirloom is a Japanese - French fusion restaurant, which is a fine line to tread, and as such has received quite a mixed bag of reviews.  I like both French and Japanese cuisine so I was keen to try out this combination in the heart of our beautiful Melbourne Town!

The evening started off with a piccolo of Moet & Chandon Champagne, which was enough for two glasses.  Cheap drunks that we are, this was quite enough for us.  

A trio of breads arrived for us to munch on as we perused the menu for our choices in mains. 

The Oyster Tasting Plate ($28) was a dozen oysters prepared 3 ways : Yuzu Foam, Wakame Sesame, and Red Wine Onion.  This was quite tasty, my favourite being the interesting Yuzu Foam.

Next we had a Small Sashimi Dish each.  The fish was fresh, and I tried scallop sashimi for the first time and was extremely impressed with the delicate taste and texture.  Not fishy at all, and quickly became one of my favourites.

We indulged in ordering an extra entree, which was the Miso Glazed Quail Fracie, with pickled mushrooms and miso crumb ($25).  I guess this is where the fusion bit comes in?  The mushrooms gave the dish an interesting tang and the quail was nicely cooked.  Not a fan of the green bits in this dish but otherwise we enjoyed the slightly different combination.

For mains I ordered the 48 hour Pork Belly, served with braised barley, azuki beans, celeriac remoulade, nashi caviar and tonkatsu sauce ($39).  Quite nicely done belly pork, although it didn't trigger any gushing praise from either of us.   I did however find the accompanying fromage de tete (that fried thing under the greens) very, very interesting.   This is literally "head cheese", made from slow cooked pig's head, which was quite tasty considering how disgusting it sounds.  A step in the direction of sustainability by cooking the whole beast!

Hubby had the Crispy Skin Hamachi Fillet / Kingfish, accompanied by crushed kipfler, anago, octopus tempura, roast scallop and smoked tomato sauce ($35).  He found this too dry and quite bland overall.

We finished off with the Macaron Tasting Plate ($10), which was 6 tiny, ten-cent coin sized macraons in 3 flavours - banana, azuki bean, and another flavour that for the life of me I cannot remember (I think I was pretty tipsy by then!)   Nothing to rave about in appearance or taste.  The decorations on the dark pink shells were interesting though, and the use of mashed banana as macaron filling was surprisingly more palatable than I thought it would be.

We had a nice night out, and at $79 (without the quail) for 2, this was a very nice dinner.  The original price for this meal was advertised to be $194, and I think if we had to pay that I would prefer to pay a little more and dine out at Ezard.  There were kids at the restaurant even though we didn't bring ours.  One couple brought their 1 year old in a pram, and some older kids accompanied their parents and friends at the lounge/bar area and everyone seemed to be happy and enjoying themselves.

Eat.Play.Shop. Says - Great fresh sashimi, fusion dishes can be hit and miss but pleasant enough, and a great deal when you can find it on one of the coupon deals!

Heirloom on Urbanspoon

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Eat. @ Coin Laundry

6 Armadale St, Armadale 3143 ph : (03) 9500 1888

Coin Laundry is not in my neck of the woods, but I have heard so many good things about this place that I made the trek there with Bubs the other week.   It was a lazy Friday morning and we arrived just after 10am, but this cafe was already chockers full of brunchers and coffee drinkers.

I usually venture out to known popular cafes on a week day (much to Hubby's disappointment) to avoid the weekend queues, and was quite tempted to leave after waiting for 20 minutes for a table.  Fortunately I was also too lazy to go somewhere else, as the wait was definitely worth it! (It helped that Bubs was really well behaved on this occasion!)

I had plenty of time to admire the decor while I waited.  You don't have to be a genius to figure out that the cafe is housed in a building that was a coin laundry in its previous life.  The cloth lined ceiling is a salute to this fact, and adds to the vintage chic look to the cafe.

A large communal table saw a rapid turnover of coffee-toting patrons. The Mo-vember inspired, mustashioed staff were all lovely and apologetic for my wait, and I appreciated their thoughtfulness to try and accommodate us at one of the smaller tables for better pram access.  Their side-walk tables are also good options for parents with prams and young kids, but on the day they were filled with pet owners and large groups.  

Mo-vember Decorations - $5 donations by patrons will
score a mustache for the wall.

My mocha arrived swiftly while I checked out the menu.  Great quality coffee here, so it's no wonder there's a constant stream of people coming for caffeine-to-go as well as diners ordering seconds and thirds (probably contributes to the wait!)

I ordered the House Cured Ocean Trout, Potato Croquette, Pickled Zucchini, Beetroot Puree, Lemon Yogurt and Poached Egg ($17.5).  OH MY, what a fantastic breakfast combo!  I loved every ingredient in this dish, and everything went so well together.   The cured trout was lovely without being too fishy, and the zucchini gave a well balanced but contrasting sour zing.  The poached egg was beautifully done, the beetroot puree offered a different level of flavour and texture to the other ingredients, and the potato croquette gave a "crunchy" dimension to the dish.  This is probably my favourite breakfast dish out of all the ones I've had this year.

I didn't have time to sample the sweets, but I checked out a great selection of goodies while I waited, which I know my kids would love to sample next time we're here. 

Coin Laundry is also famed for their steak sandwiches, which are served after midday for lunch.  I have no doubt we will be returning to try this out at some stage for Hubby's benefit!  (No there won't be any complaints from me!)

Eat.Play.Shop. Says - well worth the wait.   The Ocean Trout dish is enough to entice me back to Armadale again in the near future!

Coin Laundry Cafe on Urbanspoon

Highchairs - No

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Batch #17 - Raspberry Dark Chocolate Ganache & Lime-Lemon Macarons

Hot on the heels of the last batch of macarons, I made an even bigger batch to share with friends and family.  Time for more fun with food colouring splatters!  For this batch I again made the ever popular Lime-Lemon, and at Little One's request made Raspberry ones, this time using a dark chocolate ganache.

Maybe because we went and watched Breaking Dawn the night before (!?), but I subconsciously decided to use red rather pink colouring for the raspberry dark chocolate shells.  The effect was a little Twilight x Dexter while I was waiting for them to dry.....

Fortunately they didn't look too bad post-assembly!

I really quite liked the dark chocolate ganache matched with the raspberry jam.  I still haven't mastered the art of ganache making, and I'm much more comfortable using a straight chocolate and cream ganache, and adding a fruit flavour via the use of a jam or coulis, rather than infusing the chocolate with the fruit (puree) itself.

The most important thing I learnt from this batch was that I COULD BAKE 2 TRAYS AT THE SAME TIME!!!  I usually make 60-80 macarons per batch, which equates to 120-160 shells, or roughly 7-8 trays of shells.  I bake these one tray at a time for around 15 minutes each, so even though it's not hard work, it's quite tedious and takes me about 2 hours in total just to do the baking.  I decided to try a few tips from Pierre Herme's book and worked out a routine of swapping the trays around so that the shells would achieve the feet, and still bake reasonably evenly.  Yes, I was happy dancing round the kitchen at the thought of being able to half the time I spend baking!  And yes, I could spend more time playing with food-styling and taking photos of the fruits of my labour!

Lessons Learned -
  • Opening the door briefly during baking can let off steam from the oven and help reduce the appearance of those horrible "abalone" feet that appear when the shells rise and collapse too quickly due to excess heat.

Batch #16 - Morello Cherry White Chocolate Ganache & Lime-Lemon Macarons

We haven't made a batch of macarons for ages!  Partly due to laziness, partly due to the busy end of year social activities involved with having 3 kids, but mostly because my good old Mixmaster has gone to mixer heaven (actually it's in a box of old broken kitchen appliances waiting to be disposed of....)  This batch was made both to impress for my colleagues at my new work (yes, I'm the new kid bringing lollies to the new school to make friends!), and to celebrate the arrival of my niece into the world (and hence the pink macarons!)

Thanks to some internet research, DJ's new price matching policy, and a few seredipidous gift vouchers, Christmas has arrived early and we are the fortunate owners of a new Kitchen Aid!  I am still amazed at how efficient this machine is, and what a great job it does!  (And yes I am still entranced by it's "planetary motion"!)  No excuses now for not baking! 

My main problem this time was still due to a struggle with variable oven temperature.  Having to bake 7-8 trays, and requiring frequent opening and closing of the oven door, meant that I had to keep a really close eye on the shells and vary the baking time by 2-5 minutes each tray.  Unfortunately that's not so easy while entertaining my 3 busy kids, so I had some nicer shells, and some slightly darker ones with funnier feet. 

Blah, the shell on the right got more heat, and appears darker with
messier feet, whereas the one on the left is a tad undercooked, with
stickier, softer undersides.
For this batch I experimented with food coloring to create a splatter effect.  This is probably the cheapest and coolest way of decorating macaron shells I've come across yet - all you need is food coloring of your choice, and a (preferably!) unused toothbrush!  Short of dropping the whole bottle of coloring on the shells, you can't really go wrong, and I love the look of these shells, with the randomly artistic splatters giving each of them an individual look! 

Despite the variation in the shells, once you match, and sandwich the shells together with the filling, the product still looks pretty good, if I should say so myself! 

For the pink macarons I made a white chocolate ganache with Yarra Valley white coverture chocolate and double cream, and sandwiched some Sunny Ridge Morello Cherry Jam at Little One's request.   The kids tend to like the pink macarons more, whereas the adults all seem to prefer the zingy lime-lemon ones!

Pretty pink macarons for my niece!

Lessons Learned -

  • To achieve the splatter effect, place a small amount of colouring into a small bowl.  Dip the tip of a new toothbrush into the colouring, and gently flick the bristles with your finger over the top of the shells after you've piped all the shells (so that they have had about 5-10 minutes to rest.)  I would recommend using a glove on the hand you're flicking the toothbrush with, or you'll end up with a green finger for a few days like I did!