Saturday, July 14, 2018

Weekend Cooking: Dinner with Friends

One of the things that I am gradually learning with the sous chef* is that cooking for others need not be too stressful now that there are two of us to take care of things. Previously if I knew that others were coming for a meal I would get stressed about what to cook, about what time to start, about what would happen if they didn't like it, if the food was going to be at an acceptable standard and so much more. I don't think I have too many disasters so I am not sure why I think like that, but I always have done.

Last week we invited some of our friends around to have dinner with us. Maybe part of the reason for not feeling too stressed about it was that I knew weeks ago what I was going to cook for dessert so it was really only what we would have for mains that was undecided. In fact, what we were having for dessert came even before I knew they were coming. It was probably more that I knew I wanted to cook the next Bake It Box and therefore I invited people around!!

We were a bit undecided about what to cook during the week leading up to the meal. We debated about beef ribs, or some version of American barbecue but in the end we decided to go with pork belly. Now this meant there were some firsts for me. I've never actually cooked with pork belly before, let alone with kalettes or fennel which form part of the cooked vegetables in this dish. In fact, I'd never heard of kalettes until we watched Masterchef recently and they were included in a recipe. Part of the reason for choosing this recipe was because I had picked up the supermarket magazine for July and this was the cover recipe. It seemed like as good a recipe to try as any.

I will say that we do look forward to picking up the Coles magazine every month. There are always lots of recipes that we think we might try. Not bad for a free supermarket magazine. You can also find some of the recipes on Taste.

We did change the vegies from brussel sprouts (bleugh) to broccoli but other than that we kept pretty much to the recipe. In addition, we made some brioche buns to have with dinner (recipe coming soon). This dish was very, very tasty, although I'm not really sure about pork belly because there just isn't that much meat. I think if we were going to do this recipe again, we would use a normal pork roast but use the herb rub which was absolutely delicious.

Crispy Skin Pork Belly with Caramelised Apples

1.3kg Pork Belly Roast Boneless
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon sea salt flakes
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 brown onion, cut into wedges
1 fennel, trimmed, cut into wedges
1 cup (250ml) salt-reduced chicken stock
200g pkt Kalettes, trimmed
200g brussels sprouts, halved (we substituted broccoli cut into florets)
3 teaspoons brown sugar
3 small red apples, halved

Preheat oven to 140°C. Place pork on a clean work surface. Pat rind dry with paper towel. Brush rind with half the oil. Sprinkle with salt, fennel seeds and cumin seeds. Place the onion and fennel wedges in the base of a roasting pan. Place pork, rind-side up, over the onion mixture. Pour stock around the pork in the pan. Cover and roast for 2 hours or until pork is very tender.
Increase oven to 230°C. Uncover and roast for 30 mins or until rind is crackled. Cover and set aside for 15 mins to rest.
Meanwhile, combine the kalettes, brussels sprout, 1 teaspoon of the sugar and remaining oil in a roasting pan. Season. Sprinkle cut side of apple with remaining sugar. Add to kalette mixture in the pan. Roast at 230°C with pork, turning occasionally, for 20 mins or until tender.
Arrange the pork, onion mixture and kalette mixture on a large serving platter. Thickly slice the pork to serve.

So for dessert I made the April Bake it Box which was a Vanilla Custard Cake. This was a pretty clever cake. You make a single cake batter, but the magic is that the cake separates into a sponge top layer, a soft custard inside and a firm custard base. Very tasty! I am keen to try making it again at some point and maybe making it a chocolate flavoured custard cake.

We went from this:

To this:

This was when cake making felt a little bit like craft

The finished product

I'm very happy with how it turned out. Even my wafer paper flower didn't look too wonky, and it tasted great!

All in all a very successful evening.

* My boyfriend/partner/man have several things we enjoy doing together (no,.,I wasn't talking about anything like that!!). We enjoy cooking together. He is a much more organised cook than I am, but even so he doesn't mind cleaning up after me as I cook. He shall henceforth be known as the sous chef.

Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, photographs. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend. You do not have to post on the weekend. For more information, see the welcome post.

Saturday, July 07, 2018

Weekend Cooking: Salted Caramel and Vanilla Baked Cheesecake

I mentioned last week that I made salted caramel sauce for the first time ever and it was so delicious that now I am looking for any excuse to use it. In the end, my excuse came in the form of a dinner party with friends where I was nominated to bring dessert. After looking through many recipes trying to decide what to make I settled on Donna Hay's Salted Caramel and Vanilla Baked Cheesecake. This recipe met two criteria for me. The first was the salted caramel element but the second was that I have been wanting to make a baked cheesecake for a long time - something I have never done before.

I did get in a bit of trouble from my friends. I decided to make this because I wanted to push myself to make something new and to learn a new technique. My friends expected that I would bring my go-to cheesecake which is a White Chocolate Cheesecake. There was some vocalised disappointment. I think they almost forgave me when they tasted this one. Almost, but not quite.

This was the second Donna Hay dessert I had made over a couple of weeks. The first was a lemon tart that I will post about soon. It was kind of funny really. I have several Donna Hay cookbooks here, but there was at least one that I bought years ago and hadn't looked at ever since. I ended up being quite impressed by the recipes in the cookbook. I was left wondering why I hadn't cooked from it. before. This recipe, however, came from her website.

Anyway, I digress.

This recipe took a bit of time, but it wasn't too difficult. I ended with way too much of the base but I'm not sure why. If I had of used all of it, the base would have been way too thick.  As it was the filling went to the top of the tin rather than how the picture on the website showed, but I just put the cream on top when it was time to serve, Everyone was impressed. I thought it was totally delicious, and was impressed with how smooth the filling was. Sometimes baked cheesecake can be a bit stodgy and a bit dry, but this one wasn't at all. One of my friends even said that she was surprised that it was a baked cheesecake at all

Salted Caramel and Vanilla Baked Cheesecake

500g plain sweet shortbread biscuits
½ cup (60g) almond meal (ground almonds)
150g butter, melted

350g ricotta
500g cream cheese
1 cup (175g) brown sugar
4 eggs
2 tablespoons golden syrup
¼ teaspoon table salt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Cream layer
1 cup (250ml) single (pouring) cream
1 cup (240g) sour cream
1 tablespoon icing (confectioner’s) sugar, sifted
sea salt flakes, for sprinkling

Caramel sauce
1 cup (250ml) single (pouring) cream
60g butter, chopped
1 cup (175g) brown sugar

To make the caramel sauce, place the cream, butter and sugar in a saucepan over low heat and stir until the sugar is dissolved. Increase heat to high, bring to the boil and cook for 5–7 minutes or until thickened. Set aside and allow to cool. Preheat oven to 160°C (325°F). \

Place the biscuits and almond meal in the bowl of a food processor and process until coarsely chopped. Add the butter and process to combine. Press the biscuit mixture into the base and sides of a lightly greased 22cm springform cake tin lined with non-stick baking paper. Refrigerate for 1 hour.
Place the ricotta and cream cheese in the bowl of an electric mixer and beat for 5–6 minutes or until smooth. Add the sugar and beat for 3–4 minutes or until combined. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the golden syrup, table salt and 1 teaspoon of vanilla and beat until well combined. 
Spoon the mixture into the biscuit shell. Place the tin in a baking dish and pour in enough boiling water to come halfway up the sides of the tin. Bake for 1 hour 30 minutes or until firm to the touch. Remove cheesecake from the baking dish and allow to cool in the tin. Refrigerate for 3 hours or until set. 

Place the cream, sour cream, icing sugar and remaining vanilla in a bowl and whisk until soft peaks form. Top the cheesecake with the cream, drizzle with the caramel sauce and sprinkle with sea salt flakes to serve. Serves 8–10

Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, photographs. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend. You do not have to post on the weekend. For more information, see the welcome post.


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