Book review with Yangzhou Fried Rice

A week or so ago I finished another foodie memoir, Shark’s Fin & Sichuan Pepper, written by an English lady by the name of Fuschia Dunlop (as the owner of a flowery name, I appreciate other floral first names and I love hers more than mine!). At the time I was struggling with the decision to add more meat to my diet, and I found the text quite heavy going at times for my still-vegetarian stomach. I’m glad I persevered – I really enjoyed her travel stories and she brought not only China but the Chinese people to life for me in ways I couldn’t previously imagine.

There were several reasons I was interested in this book; apart from the fact I love food memoirs, I’m also keen to expand my Asian cooking repertoire, and learn a little more about the kinds of foods my dad is eating. He’s been living in and around Shanghai for the past 12 months with his wife Jin, and often recounts his dining experiences. Here’s an excerpt from my dad’s recent email:

We recently visited some of Jin’s relatives in a Central China. You can see from this photo we are all sitting at a big round table – this seems to be standard at restaurants when more than about 6 people get together. One interesting thing about this is that all the dishes are on a central ‘lazy susan’, everyone uses their own chopsticks to help themselves from the centre. So, anyone with some lovely germs can spread them to all at the table, from their own mouth to their chopsticks to the central dish where everyone can get as many germs as they like. The food on the table is a variety of meats and vegetables, some soup and tofu. There will always be some sort of soup and always fish, always rice.

I sometimes go with Jin to the local food market, it is very interesting walking around there. The prices are quite cheap and the vegetables appear to be very fresh. The meats are interesting – Jin usually gets a couple of chickens, the chickens are chosen when they are alive, the man will then slit their throats, then give them a quick pluck and gutting before cutting them into small pieces for us to take home – everything goes into the pot at home including the head and feet. We also sometimes buy eels, they are also bought live and killed and cut up in front of us. Also at the market we can buy live turtles, live bullfrogs, etc – I don’t go much on them. Sometimes I see someone serving food with a cigarette hanging out of their mouth. I remember at a small cafe recently we were sitting outside, our order included fish which we chose live from a tank – the chef took the live fish from the tank and beat it to death on the pavement beside our table!

Can you spot my dad?!

I’m sure this is nothing new for millions (or gazillions) of people, but it’s very different to our style of eating. I grew up in a traditional Aussie home with Spaghetti bolognaise on the table – never an animal in sight!

Fuschia Dunlop first visited China in 1992 as an Asia-Pacific news editor, and chronicled her experiences over the next 15 years – upon arriving, she made the decision to “eat whatever the Chinese might put in front of me”. She not only recounts her amazing travel adventures and provides detailed historical anecdotes, but tantalises us with the flavours and textures she experienced whilst there.

Read this excerpt, from p.138.

Chinese chefs and gourmets talk often about ou gan, or ‘mouthfeel’. Certain textures are especially prized. Cui, for example, denotes a particular quality of crispness that is found in fresh crunchy vegetables, blanched pig’s kidneys, and goose intenstines, not to mention sea cucumbers that have been properly cooked. Cui crispeness offers resistance to the teeth, but finally yields, clearly, with a pleasant snappy feeling. It is distinct from su, which is the dry, fragile, fall-apart crispeness of deep-fried duck skin or taro dumplings. Some foods, like the skin of a barbecued suckling pig, can be described as su cui because they offer both types of crispness, simultaneously. … In the English language, with all its expressive beauty and startling diversity, it is hard to describe the appeal of a braised sea cucumber. Try as you might, you end up sounding comical, or revolting. A Chinese gourmet will distinguish between the bouncy gelatinous quality of sea cucumbers, the more sticky, slimy gelatinousness of reconstituted dried squid, and the chewy gelationousness of reconstituted pig’s foot tendons. In English, it all sounds like a dog’s dinner.

Dunlop not only wheedled her way into the kitchens of the eateries she favoured to take her own notes, but she became the first Westerner to train as a chef at the Sichuan Institute of Higher Cuisine. She subsequently published two Chinese cookbooks which you can read more about on her website.

There are many descriptions of her favourite street-snack noodles, the meals she shared with villagers, and sumptious banquets, but the lengthy list of animals she devoured lingered the most in my kind… preserved duck eggs feature early on, and are swiftly followed by dog, cat, rabbit tongue, deer tail, chicken feet, goat testicles and rat brains, to name just a few. She also spoke about her feelings towards the use of MSG, and her last few chapters dealt with many ethical and legal issues facing the Chinese way of eating. Each chapter finishes with either a recipe or foodie notes, including a recipe for ‘Stewed Bear’s Paw’, for ‘illustrative purposes only’ she states!

Her Yangzhou Fried Rice sounded so different to the fried rice I’ve been making for years, so I naturally had to make it to see how it compared! I doubled her recipe because there was no way I was not getting leftovers out of this, but otherwise the ingredients are pretty much the same.

Yangzhou Fried Riceadapted from Shark’s fin & Sichuan Pepper, Fuschia Dunlop

  • 2 1/2 cups uncooked Jasmine rice (around 250g)
  • 4 dried shiitake mushrooms
  • 50g pork
  • 50g frozen or fresh prawns
  • 50g cooked ham or bacon
  • 50g cooked chicken
  • 50g frozen peas or soybeans (shelled edamame)
  • 50g bamboo shoots
  • 4 spring onions, green parts only
  • 2 eggs
  • 4 teaspoon Shaoxing wine
  • 200 ml Chicken stock
  • 6 Tablespoon peanut oil

  1. Cook the rice using your preferred method (I use a rice cooker) and allow to cool.
  2. Soak the shiitake mushrooms for 30 minutes in hot water, then drain, remove stems and finely slice.
  3. Finely dice the pork, prawns, bacon, chicken and bamboo shoots, and finely slice the spring onions. Beat the egg and season with salt & pepper.
  4. Heat 3 Tablespoons oil in a hot wok, then add pork and prawns, stir-frying briefly until pork is just cooked. Add the bacon, chicken, and bamboo shoots and stir-fry until sizzling. Add the mushrooms and soybeans, then the Shaoxing wine and stock and bring to the boil.
  5. Season with salt and then remove to a separate bowl.
  6. Clean, dry and re-oil wok, add remaining oil and once heated, add beaten egg. Swirl around wok until half-cooked, then add rice and mix through. After a minute or two, add the cooked ingredients in their broth and mix well until combined. Add spring onions, season to taste with salt & pepper, and serve whilst hot.

Notes

* These quantities make around 6 serves as a main dish, or 10-12 as a side. Mr B. and I ate a big bowl each for dinner and have 4 tupperware containers in the freezer waiting for another meal – yippee!

My ‘normal’ fried rice, made almost weekly here because I love it so much, features a predictable mix of garlic, ginger, celery, spring onions and a good dash of soy and oyster sauce. I also load my version up with vegies, usually carrot, peas, capsicum, broccoli, mushrooms and corn spears. My version is much drier than this one.

This flavoursome rice is much more reminiscent of the Chinese take-away fried rice I remember from my childhood. I loved the softness and the variety of meaty flavours it contained, but I missed my vegies! I think in future I’ll meld this recipe with my own to try and come up with the ultimate fried rice recipe – any excuse to keep eating it!

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Fish & Cauliflower Pie with nutty carrots

My birth date is in March, and my star sign is Pisces – I’m a ‘mutable’ water sign, and I do truly follow the flow wherever it takes me. Ironically though, when it comes to cooking and eating fish, my experiences are fairly basic. After seeing Nami’s very impressive  Cantonese steamed Fish I’ve been thinking about fish an awful lot.

My experiences with fish to date include:

  • battered fish & chips being the takeaway of choice up and down the Eastern seaboard of Australia – I love those memories of the torn, greasy paper holding a piece of fish, a wedge of lemon and some soggy chips. I can remember not only where I’ve eaten the crunchiest chips (Burleigh Heads), the best calamari (our local – Mooloolaba Spit) and the tastiest fish (Watson’s Bay, Sydney), but the people I’ve shared those experiences with.
  • a few attempts at grilled fish during my uni days, using lemony & chilli foil parcels in a crappy oven in our share house.
  • eating tuna and onion sandwiches in a roadside park whilst on a road trip with my nan – oh my, how I despise tuna! Seriously, is it not the same as cat food?
  • Oktoberfest 2002 – watching a German man with a very long moustache eat a herring and onion roll. I had taken a pregnancy test that day in the hotel (I was about 10 weeks pregnant with Alex) and was feeling particularly squeamish. I still remember that fish head sitting alongside his moustache.

Random herring eating pic, thanks George – picture this man with a mo!

I ate fish as a vegetarian (pescatarian, whatever) but never made much effort to cook with it. Growing up, my dad wasn’t a big fish fan because he disliked getting the bones out. Funnily enough, Mr B’s dad is not a big seafood fan either because of a bone-stuck-in-the-throat experience, so it was never on the menu very often at home for me as a child or adult.

Whilst I would love to cook with fresh seafood more often, it’s ridiculously expensive. Our fabulous local fish catches are exported overseas and we either pay $10-$20 per kilo for inferior imported products of dubious origin, or $30+ per kilo for local options, not all of which are fresh.

I lashed out today and bought a big piece of perch – but not big enough to feed the whole family. I comprised and did what frugal mothers everywhere resort to – I made it stretch further. I knew I wanted to turn it into a pie of some description but needed more inspiration, so I turned to my new favourite ‘healthy’ cookbook, OMG! I can eat that?

Remember the zucchini pizza crust? It’s a firm favourite here now, and one of many recipes from Jane Kennedy’s second book that I’m certain I’ll be making a lot. Whilst I really loved her debut cookbook Fabulous Food, Minus the Boombah (reviewed here), her second book has won me over so much that I made encouraged my children to buy it for me for Mother’s Day. There are so many recipes that have grabbed my attention, and her fish ‘piemakin’ was one of them. She defines her ‘piemakins’ as pies served in ramekins without the boombah pastry. Perfect!

I adapted Jane’s recipe a little as I only had one piece of fish, and added some chopped prawns and peas to bulk out the seafood component.

Fish & Cauliflower Pies

Ingredients

  • 1 teaspoon butter
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 onion, sliced
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • 3 tablespoons white wine
  • 1 teaspoon wholegrain mustard
  • 250ml (1 cup) fish or vegetable stock
  • 400g firm white fish fillets, cubed
  • 1/2 cup baby peas
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • zest of 1/2 lemon
  • tablespoon of chopped tarragon
  • tablespoon of chopped flat-leaf parsley

Topping

  • 1 cauliflower
  • 1 tablespoon milk
  • 1 tablespoon Greek yoghurt
  • 1 teaspoon horseradish
  • 50g grated parmesan cheese
  1. Preheat your oven to 180°C. Heat the butter and olive oil in a frying pan over medium heat and saute onion and garlic until soft. Add wine and let it simmer for a few minutes. Stir in the wholegrain mustard, and season with salt & pepper.
  2. Add stock, stir through and let it bubble for a few minutes. Add fish (and prawns if desired), lemon juice, lemon zest, tarragon and parsley, reduce heat to low and allow to simmer for 5 minutes.
  3. Cook cauliflower with milk in a saucepan or microwave until tender. Add yoghurt, horseradish, and season with salt & pepper. Process in a food processor or with a stick blender until smooth – it should look like mashed potato.
  4. Transfer fish mixture to desired serving dish – use a shallow casserole dish, or 4 ramekins or pie tins. Top with cauliflower mix, sprinkle with parmesan and bake in oven for 25-30 minutes, until golden.

I served the individual fish pies with a carrot recipe I discovered in a hefty tome I borrowed from the library called Home Cooking. I gather it’s author, Rachel Allen, might be a bit of a big shot somewhere but I’ve never heard of her. Her fab carrots really called out to me from the pages though…

Buttered Carrots with a nutty crumble topping – serves 4-6 as a side dish

Ingredients

  • 4 medium-large carrots
  • 60g butter
  • 30g flaked almonds
  • 60g breadcrumbs
  • 30g grated parmesan
  1. Peel carrots, slice into desired thicknesses and cook in saucepan or microwave until just tender.
  2. Melt butter in a frying pan until frothy, then pour 1/3 into a bowl for later.
  3. Add almonds to frying pan and cook for 2-3 minutes or until golden, then add breadcrumbs and season with salt & pepper. Cook for another 2-3 minutes then stir through parmesan.
  4. Drain carrots and mix reserved melted butter throughout. Serve immediately as a side dish, with sprinkled crumble on top.

Notes

  • Rachel’s original recipe uses 15g of finely chopped hazelnuts and 15g of flaked almonds – I stuck with almonds this time. I also used parmesan instead of Gruyere, and omitted the chopped parsley she used, mostly because it was dark and I didn’t want to go out to the garden to get some!

These carrots were seriously good, although far too much crumble to carrot ratio – I have a whole container of it leftover, and hopefully it will still be crisp enough to use tomorrow. This photo doesn’t do justice to the nuttiness at work here, and it’s a big improvement on the fancy sesame honey carrots I learnt to make in  high school home ec classes.

The fish pie was a light and fulfilling meal – I was feeling particularly virtuous after eating such a healthy & satisfying dinner! I felt the tarragon was a little overwhelming so would cut back on that next time, but otherwise I really enjoyed the flavour, and the cauliflower mash is just genius.

Now if Mr B. and the kids could catch some more fresh fish, we’d be enjoying these dishes more often…no pressure honey!

Mocha Brownies..not to be neglected!

Those who know me well know that I’m a serial coffee neglecter.

It’s nothing against coffee – I neglect my tea too. I take care to store coffee the ‘correct’ way, and I have a lovely segregated tea box complete with labels for all the different varieties. I can even make tea relatively well – as much as dunking the tea bag and adding a splash of milk is considered praisable. Coffee is Mr B’s forte though – coffee is his thing.

The problems arise for me once the hot drink is made and placed on the bench/coffee table/desk. I start off with good intentions, sipping my way through the first few hot mouthfuls, and then without fail, I’m distracted…

The washing machine beeps, the phone rings, the children start bickering, the dishwasher beeps, the doorbell rings…or I just get up to do something I’ve suddenly remembered, and completely forget to get back to my tea or coffee in a timely fashion.

I’m constantly being reminded by someone ‘Your coffee is getting cold”. “Yes, I know, I’ll get back to it” I reply. And when I do, it’s always cold, or lukewarm at the very least.

It’s ironic because I’ve only been a coffee drinker for the past 5 years or so, and before that I despised iced coffee. I can’t tell if I’ve become accustomed to it cold now, or I’m just so addicted to caffeine that my taste buds don’t care what the temperature is!

Last night I made mocha brownies – partly because I was looking for a caffeine hit that didn’t mind sitting on the bench waiting for me to remember it (hardly a problem in this case!), but also because I wanted to try a ‘Pioneer Woman’ recipe.

Being Australian, I grew up with Margaret Fulton and Australian Women’s Weekly cookbooks. As the years went on I discovered Stephanie Alexander, Donna Hay and now a whole host of ‘home cook tried their hand on tv and produces cookbook’ cooks, but there are still so many cookbooks out there whose authors are completely unknown to me.

One name I see popping up all over the place is The Pioneer Woman. Everyone seems to be raving about PW recipes, so I had to see for myself what all the fuss was about. I have to admit, I was expecting a demure Little House on the Prairie bonnet-wearing type, so after I borrowed one cookbook from the library and had a little squiz at her website, I’d changed my tune.

Ree Drummond is not only hilarious, but leads a pretty full-on ranching life in Oklahoma, home-schooling her four kids and being a pretty impressive baker/photographer/blogger.

Her recipes feature step-by-step instructions with plenty of photographs along the way, and her cookbooks show a glossy ranching life, her family, dogs, horses, and the cattle, of course.

Obviously many of her recipes are heavy on the meat…no problem, I’ll make something sweet. What’s that I see, mocha brownies? Sweet and caffeine in one go? I’m onto it.

The brownies were quick to whip up, but need time to chill completely before topping with the mocha icing. If you’ve got a morning tea deadline, make them the night before. I’d also recommend inviting around your neighbours, postman and long-lost cousins to help you eat them, or take a very large plateful to your workplace, otherwise you’ll be buying bigger sized jeans next week – they are sinfully delicious and contain a truckload of sugar and butter!

I also halved the icing recipe because I literally felt ill looking at the quantities of icing sugar & butter in that alone – it still provided a very thick layer of icing so I’ll stick to my quantities in future too.

Mocha Brownies

Adapted from The Pioneer Woman Cooks

Ingredients

  • 250g unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 3 teaspoons vanilla
  • 115g unsweetened chocolate, melted
  • 1 ¼ cups plain flour

Mocha Icing

  • 125g unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 ½ cups icing sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons cocoa
  • pinch salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/3 to ½ cup coffee, cooled to room temp
  1. Preheat oven to 160°C.
  2. In a medium bowl/stand mixer, cream butter and sugar. Beat in eggs, then drop mixer to low speed and add melted chocolate. Add vanilla and mix until combined.
  3. Add the flour and mix until just combined.
  4. Pour brownie batter into a greased or lined baking pan* , even out the surface with a spatula, and bake in oven for 40-45 minutes. The centre should be just firm.
  5. Set aside to cool – at least an hour.
  6. Icing – Combine butter, icing sugar, cocoa, salt and vanilla, and mix until just combined. Add 1/3 cup cooled coffee and whip until it reaches a light, fluffy consistency. If it’s too thick, add more coffee.
  7. Spread icing over brownies – it should result in a very thick layer! Refrigerate until firm, then cut into slices.

Notes

* Original recipe uses an 8-inch square baking pan…I used my 32 x 22.5cm deep pan lined with baking paper and it was the perfect size.

* PW recommends a slice of this with ice-cream and hot fudge sauce for dessert – agahhhh I’m drooling already….

Any other notable caffeine recipes I should know about?

I feel like Chicken Tonight, like Chicken Tonight…or maybe soup?

Last week I picked up a cookbook from the library called Fabulous Food, Minus the Boombah – it wasn’t just the catchy title that grabbed my attention but that the author is none other than Jane Kennedy, a comedic heroine from my teenage days.

Anyone over the age of 30 who has grown up in Australia surely remembers either the D-Generation, The Late Show, or has at least seen The Castle (classic Australian film, please watch it if you haven’t yet!) or The Dish. I remember rushing home most Saturday nights in the mid 90’s from my part time job at a take-away Pizza shop so that I could watch The Late Show on the ABC – their skits were corny and mostly send-ups of TV shows, celebrities, politicians and sportspeople, and were absolutely hilarious…this was before political correctness went crazy mind you!

So after hearing Jane had put out not just one cookbook, but has a second called OMG! I Can Eat That?, I knew I had to take a look. In my search to find a copy I discovered that Jane is not only married to one of my other comedic heroes, Rob Sitch (yes, from The Late Show!), but that they have 5 young children together! (Throw Uncle Santo Cilauro in and I’m hooked).

Here’s a classic Jane & Rob skit I found on you-tube…it’s fairly harmless but probably not suitable for kids to watch unless you want them singing it for the next week – catchy!

Jane is introduced as someone who loves to cook and eat, but as someone who can’t eat anything she wants to because she gets FAT. She defines Boombah as food that makes your arse huge – Jane, I hear you!

Her recipes are mostly low-carb and low in sugar and added fats, with the usual breakfast, starters, dinner & dessert categories. She also has some interesting ideas for entertaining, and a great chapter on Takeaway substitutes such as a low-fat Beef Vindaloo. Her personal anecdotes (she has tried seriously weird diets that are alarmingly familiar to me!) and refreshingly honest quips make this cookbook a delight to read. There’s lots of lovely clean photography, minimum-fuss recipes, and Jane looking gorgeous and totally real.

On the downside, It’s not particularly vegetarian-friendly. One of the recipes that did jump out at me was the Creamy broccoli and leek soup.

After a particularly chilly night here last night (we’re Queenslanders, we don’t deal well with anything under 20 °C !) and a cool morning, soup sounded perfect.

Truth be told, upon reading the ingredients this recipe sounded terrible. Broccoli, Leek & mustard…in soup? I’d already decided on a quick and easy chicken dish for Mr B. and the kids, so whilst it was in the oven baking I decided I’d give the soup a go.

Creamy broccoli and leek soup with feta

Adapted from Fabulous Food, minus the boombah

Ingredients

  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
  • 375g broccoli florets
  • 1 leek, finely chopped
  • 1 Tablespoon wholegrain mustard
  • 1 litre vegetable stock
  • 2 Tablespoons oregano leaves
  • 1 Tablespoon natural yoghurt
  • firm feta, to crumble
  1. Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat, and saute garlic, broccoli, leek and mustard for about 5 minutes, stirring often.
  2. Add the stock and oregano and bring to the boil, then cover and reduce heat to allow to simmer for 20 minutes.
  3. Remove from heat and allow to cool, then blend or process to a smooth puree. Season with salt/pepper then stir through yoghurt.
  4. Crumble feta over soup and serve hot.

Notes

* Jane’s original recipe uses chicken stock and Greek yoghurt – I wanted to keep mine vegetarian, and I only had natural yoghurt, but I thought the feta was a nice compromise – it probably increased the fat content though!

The verdict? amazing and no boombah! The wholegrain mustard definitely adds the lift, and I will absolutely be making this delicious soup again.

And the others? They really did have chicken tonight…Spanish Chicken with Chorizo and potatoes.

They feasted on Nigella’s recipe which can be found here, but seriously, its so easy I can probably describe it in a few sentences. I reduced Nigella’s proportions to make use of what I had in the fridge…bung a few chicken thighs in a well oiled baking tray, add some chopped potatoes and sliced chorizo. Sprinkle over oregano and red onions (no onion fans in this house so I omitted this), then zest an orange over the top.

Bake for 50 -60 minutes…I pulled mine out after 40 minutes to add some sun-dried tomatoes. Plate up and drizzle pan juices over the top…there is a LOT of boombah in this dish!

It was very well received…kids went gaga over the sausage so next time I’ll remember to add more of that…they can handle a bit of boombah every now and again!

Lunch in Paris book review – with chocolate!

I was feeling apprehensive when I began reading my copy of Lunch in Paris- a delicious love story, with recipes. Having recently read both Julie & Julia (Julie Powell) and My Life in France (Julia Child), I was hungry for more tales of French cooking (and eating).
‘Foodie Fiction’ and ‘Foodie memoirs’ as I call them, have long been favourite genres of mine; really, who can resist the opportunity to salivate over ‘Rice Pudding with drunken raisins’ whilst tucked into bed at 10pm in your PJ’s, with not an ounce of calories to worry about!
The apprehension was due to my memory of another blogger-expat-recounts-her-struggles-in-France memoir – Petite Anglaise, which I’d read a few years ago. The author, Catherine Sanderson, bristled me the wrong way, and I found it very hard to identify with her or enjoy her French journey.Elizabeth Bard, however, is charming and paints a picture of her new life in France as not only exciting but full of struggles that are so easy to relate to. A new cross-cultural romance sees this American finding her feet in Paris, and her daily worries revolve around things such as feeling like a giant on the beach next to the petite French women, unemployment and finding a Parisian flat.

Elizabeth discusses food at great length – the importance of the meal as a cultural ritual for the French, choosing the correct line to wait in at the butcher, and modestly requesting the petite slice of dessert all form part of the larger picture of living in France. 

Her book is described as ‘part cookbook, part love story’, and contains 22 chapters and around 60 recipes. Her first chapter describes not only the delicious green tea concoction made by her new lover, but the post-coital dessert and impromptu pasta he made – and then finishes the chapter with recipes for each. As each chapter progresses, the recipes continue – 2-3 at the end of every chapter. The recipes are mostly French dishes with a few ‘family’ recipes thrown in.

It’s not your typical cookbook – there are no glossy photographs, and I feel the recipe instructions are somewhat vague at times, which might prove difficult for novice cooks. The writing is great however, there is a good variety of tantalising recipes, and her memoirs leave you wanting more…luckily she has a blog which you can follow, complete with more recipes, yippee!

When it came time to road test one of Elizabeth’s recipes there was never a question as to what I would make – the Individual Molten Chocolate Cakes were a clear winner. Although I’ve seen these doing the rounds of the cooking shows for years (also known as Chocolate Lava cakes) I’ve never attempted them – until now!
Individual Molten Chocolate Cakes
Moelleux au Chocolat ‘Kitu” (French for Death by Chocolate!)
Adapted from Elizabeth Bard’s ‘Lunch in Paris
Ingredients
150 g unsalted butter
150 g good quality dark chocolate – 70% cocoa
good pinch of sea salt
2 eggs
2 egg yolks
1/4 cup castor sugar
1 Tablespoon plain flour
1. Preheat oven to 220º C. Generously grease 6 x ½cup-capacity ramekins with softened butter.
2. Melt butter and chocolate together in a double boiler or carefully in the microwave. Add sea salt.
3. Beat egg yolks, eggs and sugar with your handheld beater/whisk/stand mixer until light and slightly foamy – this will take a few minutes.
4. Add the egg mixture to the warm chocolate and whisk quickly to combine – it should be quite thick.
5. Divide room-temp batter evenly amongst ramekins – approximately 3/4 full, and carefully place into oven.
6. Bake for 7 minutes for a thin outer shell with completely molten interior, or 8 minutes for a slightly thicker crust and gooey heart (I did mine for 7½ minutes!)
7. Remove from oven and allow to sit on bench for 1-2 minutes – restrain yourselves people! Slowly upturn onto serving plate and watch as it effortlessly glides out looking absolutely perfect! Serve with dusted icing sugar, cream, ice-cream, strawberries or whatever else you so desire. Bon appétit!

 Notes

* These can be prepared ahead of time and placed in the fridge until you’re ready for dessert. Leave on the bench for a good half hour or so before putting into the oven as they need to return to room temperature before baking.
* Even better, the batter can be frozen directly in the ramekins and cooked straight from the freezer! Elizabeth recommends giving them 10 minutes on the bench, then cooking at 200º C for 15-17 minutes. This is perfect if you don’t have 6 people to impress in one sitting – simply freeze the ones you don’t need for another night – perfect!
Mine did sink a little on top – I’m guessing some degree of this is normal judging by how many photos I see of these with a strawberry or dollop of cream sitting on top to hide it! The chocolate is so very rich and decadent, and really does ooze out of the centre like gooey molten….mmmmmm! It’s a very impressive dessert for minimal effort really.
I wish we’d had ice-cream left in the freezer to serve but alas not this time…luckily there are more molten cakes in my freezer for another night, so no guesses for what I’m putting on my shopping list this week!
These were so much easier to make than I’d expected and I’ll be trying a few more ‘French’ recipes with less trepidation now.

Anyone reading any good foodie-fiction or foodie-memoirs at the moment?

Cookbook Review: Eva’s Kitchen

Let’s be honest – the words ‘cookbook’ and ‘Eva Longoria’ don’t really seem like they belong in the same sentence together. ‘Eva’s Shoe Closet’ or ‘Eva’s Hairstyles’ would have been more logical titles to publish, surely. I’d heard the book existed, doubted Eva’s dietician could offer any new lettuce recipes I didn’t already know about, and therefore dismissed it as a serious cookbook.

So why did my hand hover over it a full 3 seconds when I saw it on the library ‘new titles’ shelf? Still no idea…but I smuggled it into my pile and borrowed it, checking the whole time that nobody was watching. I took it home, opened it and expected a good giggle. 
I was pleasantly surprised.
There are no oscar ballgowns, no waif-like celebrity poses, and no cottage cheese. There is a lettuce recipe I didn’t already know about, but it looks delicious!
Eva strikes a fair few grinning poses throughout the book, but they’re mostly her with family & friends, or doing surprisingly domestic kitchen jobs such as washing the beets or chopping vegies.
Her cookbook style is exactly what I love most at the moment – a good range of easily-achievable recipes, lovely photography, a little bit of Memoir, all mixed in with personal anecdotes and appropriate tips & tricks. She speaks of her childhood and those who inspired her passion for cooking, and many of the recipes are credited to friends or family.
Eva’s Kitchen contains a good mix of appetisers, main courses, sides, desserts, etc, and whilst there is a dominance of Mexican influence, she also includes dishes that have a French, Hungarian, and English (to name a few) background. Her inspiration for the latter often comes from her travels…there’s not a hint of jealousy when I read “When I go to New York, I often eat at…”!

There are a few ingredients I’ve never heard of before, but for the most part the recipes include items that would be fairly easy to find in the supermarket.

There’s no mind-blowing oh-my-god-I-must-make-this-NOW recipes. If you already own a good Mexican cookbook, you’ll have half the recipes anyway. But there’s certainly something appealing about this cookbook, and it’s borderline meeting my Rules right now. I’ll mull over it a few more days before I decide if it goes on my wishlist or not.