28 December 2010

Turkey with saffron butter and preserved lemon & olive stuffing

The table was set...

Table awaiting its guests on
Christmas Eve
the turkey was cooking...

Turkey roasting in the oven for
close to 4 hours
Dean, Frank and Sammy were singing Christmas tunes and my spirits were soaring high. Christmas Eve had arrived and I was cooking my very first Turkey for my beloved, in-laws and parents. It doesn't get much better than this.

The day was planned with tactical scheduling brilliance...and this is saying a lot considering I'm one of the world's most unorganised individuals. I had cookies to finish baking for the christmas hampers, hampers to pack and wrap, a turkey to pick up from the butcher and get in the oven by 3pm, along with a little cleaning and a table setting to complete. Thank goodness for a helping hand from my beloved.

Now, back to the turkey.

I have wanted to cook a turkey for over 12 months. But, due to a little unexpected accident last year resulting in a broken wrist, I had to cancel my turkey order and wait for another year. This was my year. And this is the recipe:

Turkey with saffron butter and preserved lemon & olive stuffing
from the 2009 edition of delicious christmas

I used a 4.8kg turkey, although the below is for a 7 - 8 kg turkey I still kept the measurements the same.
2 tbs milk, warmed
1 tsp saffron threads
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
150g unsalted butter, softened
1/3 cup (115g) honey
3 tbs dukkah (purchased from gourmet food shops, or just use some sesame seeds)
2 red onions, quartered
2 tbs olive oil
2 tbs plain flour
300 ml chicken or turkey stock
100 ml dry red wine
2 tbs quince paste (I used some left over Maggie Beer cabernet paste)
2 tsp balsamic vinegar

1 tbs olive oil
2 tbs unsalted butter
1 white onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1/2 cup (125 ml) chicken stock
5 cups (350g) fresh white breadcrumbs
1/2 a preserved lemon (available from gourmet food shops), white pith removed, finely chopped. (The pith is the white 'stuff' underneath the zest, or yellow skin of the lemon)
1 cup pitted green olives, chopped
I added 1 cup of dried apricots to add sweetness, chopped. Prunes would also go nicely in this.
1/2 cup finely chopped flat-leaf parsley

Stuffing method
Make your fresh breadcrumbs by using stale or lightly toasted bread. Put it in a food processor. Don't mix it too much as it's nice to have chunks of bread in stuffing. If you have gluten free guests, don't think they will have to miss out on the best part of this roast, use fresh gluten free bread...it works just as well.

Heat oil and butter in a pan over a low heat. Add the onions and cook for 2-3 minutes until soft. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add stock, bring to the boil, then remove from the heat. Combine the breadcrumbs, lemon, olives, apricots (if adding) and parsley in a large bowl. Add the stock, season and stir to combine. Add extra stock if you think it's too dry or add an egg to help bind the stuffing together (mine didn't need the egg). Cool completely before stuffing the turkey.

Turkey preparation
Preheat oven to 170 degrees celsius.

Place the milk and saffron in a small bowl and set aside for 10 minutes to infuse. With a hand mixer beat the saffron milk and garlic into the softened butter. This will take a little while, but persist, this is what will keep your turkey meat delicious and moist.

Now it is time to get into that turkey. Just like the duck from the other day, you have to suck up the potential horror you feel at sticking your hand inside this animal and pull out the giblets (and neck if that hasn't already been removed). Once this is done rinse the turkey, then dry it inside and out with a paper towel. It is time to fill the cavity with the delicious stuffing - don't overfill it though as stuffing expands during cooking. I skewered up the hole, once stuffed. Next time I would also tie the legs together for a better look.

Grab your prepared saffron butter and have it next to you. Next you need to work your fingers gently between the breast meat and skin of the turkey, taking care not to tear the skin. It is pretty tough so isn't too easy to do, but be gently all the same. Push half the saffron butter in between the skin and breast meat, rub remaining butter all over the outside of the turkey.

The recipe now recommends you wrap the bird in a 2-metre square of muslin. However, I don't have muslin, so I dialed-a-chef (aka Dad) and he said just cover the breast in aluminium foil and wrap it under its wings and legs. Check out the photo above and you can see what I did. This technique worked perfectly. Roast the turkey for 3 hours.

Discard the aluminium foil (or muslin) and brush the turkey with honey. This adds a wonderful sweetness to the skin. It will become dark from the sugars, don't think you have burnt it. Sprinkle with the dukkah. Add the onions to the pan and roast for a further 30 to 40 minutes. Remove onion and turkey from the pan. Transfer the turkey to a tray to rest.

Gravy method
First, I want you all to throw that gravox tin out...you don't need it to make fabulous - and EASY - gravy. Remove some of the fat from the roasting dish, leaving the pan juices behind. If you have a stove top roasting dish you can place this on the element, or if you are like me and have the world's worst roasting tray, place the pan juices into a fry pan; but make sure you take all the yummy burnt bits and left over onion pieces. These will add flavour.

Place the pan over a medium heat, add the flour and cook, stirring, for 1 to 2 minutes. The trick here is to use a whisk, only use a whisk, this will prevent you from getting lumps in the gravy. It is important to cook this part for probably closer to 2 minutes. This will cook out the taste of the flour.

Add the stock, wine, quince paste and vinegar. Cook, stirring (whisking), for 2-3 minutes.

Place turkey on a platter, serve with gravy, roast potatoes and steamed vegetables.

Not the best photo of the turkey,
but it tasted delicious.
This recipe was extremely tasty, and I'm VERY proud to say, the breast meat was exceptionally moist. Certainly a recipe to add to your special occasion dinners' list.

26 December 2010

Christmas hampers - vanillekipferl and ras el hanout

I hope these last few days have been wonderful for you with plenty of decadent Christmas treats and cheer shared with family and loved ones. I have had an exceptional time preparing the house for the arrival of my (soon to be) in-laws, baking cookies and cupcakes, making spice mixers and pickled onions, and cooking meals to ensure it was a festive occasion. And boy are my feet tired! But, I've had a ball.

I was originally going to put a blog post about what was in my hampers before Christmas, but, between all of the above - and slotting in a little drinking and gossip time with loved ones - I completely ran out of time. However, I hope these will still give you some great gift ideas for other special events throughout the year.

Small gift boxes with cupcakes and
vanillekipferl (vanilla crescents)

Vanillekipferl (German for vanilla crescents)
This recipe was courtesy of a friend of mine, Sian.

My very own vanillekipferl cookies coated
with icing sugar and vanilla bean powder
150g unsalted butter
210g flour
80g ground hazelnuts or almonds (I used almonds)
80g icing sugar
1 egg
60g icing sugar and 3 tablespoons *vanilla sugar (or to taste) to coat the biscuits once cooked

*I bought vanilla bean powder from the cake decoration and baking section of a supermarket. You can also buy vanilla sugar from the spice/herbs section.

Preheat oven to 160 degree celsius.

Sieve the flour into a heap on a pastry board or into a large bowl.

Cut the cold butter into small pieces and mix with the flour. Add icing sugar, ground almonds or hazelnuts and the egg.

Rinse hands with cold water and knead the mixture into a dough. Chill for half an hour in the fridge.

Form thumb think rolls from the dough, cut into 1cm wide pieces, roll and form crescents.

Bake in the oven for 10 to 15 minutes or until very light gold in colour.

Turn the crescents in a mixture of powdered sugar and vanilla sugar while still hot as it will help the sugar stick to the biscuit.

Inside the Christmas hampers:
vanillekipferl, spiced cookies, pickled
onions, ras el hanout and choc chip cookies

Ras el hanout
This is a wonderful recipe from a little taste of morocco. I love this spice mix because not only can it be used in tagine recipes, you can simply use it on its own sprinkled over chicken, lamb or fish with some olive oil before cooking the meat how you like - roasted, fried or barbecued. You can also buy this pre-mixed from some supermarkets and most delis.

1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp ground cayenne pepper
2 tsp ground allspice
2 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp ground ginger
2 tsp ground turmeric
2 tsp ground black pepper
2 tsp ground cardamom
3 tsp ground cinnamon
3 tsp ground coriander
2 nutmegs, freshly grated (or 2 teaspoons ground nutmeg)

Combine all spices together and store in a tightly sealed jar.

A Christmas hamper wrapped
and ready to go

22 December 2010

Gift boxes and cellophane bags

I have spent the last few days frantically trying to find cellophane bags to put biscuits in for my family Christmas hampers. Of course, many people would organise this earlier...but not me. And who would have thought they were so difficult to find?

I searched online, went to Spotlight (which is always a daunting experience for me), checked out those cheap shops, grocery stores and asked everyone I knew. Then yesterday, a friend steered me towards Reward Distribution, located in East Brisbane, and across many locations in Australia. I thought I'd died and gone to cooking heaven. This place is a cook's paradise with every possible cooking tool, utensil, machine, glassware, bakeware, china - need I go on - item you could imagine.

But did they have cellophane bags...that would be a no!

However, the lovely lady at the counter told me about an outlet store they have in the Valley. So today, after a friend of mine tried to give me a minor coronary by going for a run, I went to the outlet store, and low and behold, they had cellophane bags...EUREKA!

Finally, my cellophane bags
AND boxes for cupcakes.
My Christmas baking now begins.

18 December 2010

Olive tapenade, duck and red wine & chocolate tart

Last night's dinner was my first publicly recorded cooking experience and I was surprised how nervous I was. Not only to ensure my wonderful family had a tasty meal to help celebrate my mum's birthday, but also because I wanted it to look fabulous for you.

The one important lesson I have learnt over the years when preparing a menu, is to keep it simple. I used to cook so much food that, one, my guests would be waiting for hours for the meal, and two, they would leave the house almost twice the size.

So, with a few lessons learnt under my belt, here was the menu:

Olive tapenade and King Island brie
Roast duck with pomegranate glaze 
accompanied with a rocket, pickled onion & pear salad and roast potatoes
Red wine & chocolate tart with vanilla ice cream

Olive tapenade

I got this recipe from a cooking show with Emeril Lagasse, an American chef. As he didn't give measurements for the recipe, I made it up. It's easy. Feel free to take out any of the ingredients you don't like.

Olive tapenade with King Island brie
And this is my photo
450g pitted kalamata olives
2/3 cloves garlic
1 tbs capers
3/4 anchovies (I put four because I love them)
1/2 cup parsley
3 sprigs thyme
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
3 tsp dijon mustard
Juice of 1 lemon

Put everything in a food processor and give it a whiz. It's as simple as that. 
Please note, it is salty tapenade, so feel free to leave the capers out. 

Roast duck with pomegranate glaze

Recipe from Meat by Adrian Richardson. This is a great book with information about how to better understand the differences between cuts of meat and the varying ways to cook it.

Roast duck with pomegranate glaze
Photo: by GT my bro-in-law
2 x 1.8 kg ducks
salt and pepper
1 onion, quartered
1 orange, quartered
4 garlic cloves, sliced
1 bunch thyme
5 tbs pomegranate molasses (this can be found in most delis. I used the Cortas brand)
4 tbs olive oil (does anyone actually ever measure oil? I never do)

Preheat oven to 200 degrees celsius

Remove duck necks if still attached and remove any excess loose fat. I would use a pair of chicken scissors for this to make your life easier. Get your hands inside the cavity of the duck, don't be scared, and remove any inside bits (giblets). You will find 'bits' stuck to the ribs, not sure if ducks have ribs but you'll know what to feel for, get in there and pull the suckers out. Season each cavity with salt and pepper. Divide the onion, orange, garlic and thyme evenly between the birds. Drizzle 1 tbs of pomegranate molasses (I probably drizzled more like 2) in each bird then use a piece of butcher's string or skewers to close up the whole. This will seal the cavity and flavour the bird from the inside.

Place the ducks on a rack inside a large roasting tin - this is really important because ducks are so fatty you don't want them cooking in a pool of there own fat...well not for this recipe anyway. Rub them all over with olive oil and put plenty of seasoning on them both. I also used a basting brush and put molasses on the outside of the birds, too, before cooking. Place tray in the middle of the oven for 1 to 1.5 hours, depending on your oven. 

Every 15 minutes pull the tray out and baste the ducks all over with the fatty, molassesey goodness at the bottom. Don't be afraid when you start pulling the tray out and the birds are looking black. This is what you want the molasses to do to them...and it is delicious.

Rocket Salad
200g rocket leaves
1 pear
pickled onion (recipe to follow)

Pickled onion
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
1 tbs salt
3 red onions
3 tbs olive oil
1/4 finally chopped flat leaf parsley
1/4 finally chopped coriander (or herb of choice. I have an over supply of oregano in my garden at the moment so I used that instead)
Juice of half a lemon
Fresh ground black pepper

Combine vinegar and salt until dissolved, add the onions and stir. Cover with plastic wrap and leave to soak for about 2 hours.

Mix the olive oil with the fresh herbs, lemon juice and pepper in a bowl. Once onions are ready, take out of the vinegar mix and stir into the oil mixture. I then mix this in with the rocket and pears.

Red wine & chocolate tart

I got this from the November edition of the delicious magazine.

Red wine & chocolate tart
Photo: by GT my bro-in-law
300g pkt Careme dark chocolate shortcrust pastry (most delis sell this in their frozen section)
2 eggs
100g caster sugar
2 tsp cornflour
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tbs cocoa, plus extra to dust
1 cup fruity red wine like a merlot
200 ml thickened cream

Preheat the oven to 190 degrees celsius

Roll out the pastry so it's large enough to line a 22 cm loose-bottomed tart pan. Chill for 15 minutes.

Line the pastry with baking paper and fill with pastry weights or uncooked rice. Bake for 8 minutes, then remove paper and weights and bake for a further 5 minutes until dry. Allow to cool slightly.

Place eggs and sugar in a bowl and sift in the cornflour, cinnamon and cocoa. With a hand whisk, gently whisk together until combined, but not frothy. Add the wine and 200 ml cream, stir will until combined. Pour into the tart case, then bake for 20-25 minutes until just set. Cool. 

I served this with good old vanilla ice cream.

15 December 2010

Menu help needed!

What a fabulous response to my first blog post. Thank you so much for the support and encouragement. I'm already having a ball doing this.

However, if we are to have a long and happy relationship - which I know we will - it must start with honesty. So, I have a confession to make.

We both know the purpose of this blog is to talk about exploring new foods and having fun getting in the kitchen to make our own yummy delicacies for our loved ones. Well, yesterday, I had a wonderful morning tea on the sensational deck of blogging guru Brismod of Fun and VJs, joined by the delightful little Ana of Travelling with Ana and her mum (of course). Logic said, as a newby food blogger, lover of cooking and lover of food that I would bring (i.e. make) morning tea...well...I bought it.

Oh dear! I hope we can stay together?!?!

The 'bought' cup cakes from Fig Tree Deli

Ok, if you are still reading, I'm in, so I need your help.

On Friday I am having my family over for dinner to celebrate my mother's birthday. What will I cook?

When I asked my five year old niece what she thought I should cook for Oma (my mum's German), she shouted (literally), 'Duck, Aunty Fi'. Ha, now there's a girl with an excellent palate, and an impressive memory as I cooked duck for a visit from my brother about a month ago.

I'm opening it up to you, dear supporter, what fabulous ideas do you have for my mum's birthday dinner?

12 December 2010

It begins

Well the time has come for me to stop talking about it and to finally do it...start my blog!

I may not became the next Julie Powell, but hey, I'm going to have some fun cooking food, writing about food, and most importantly eating food.

I would like to add a disclaimer to the overall production value of The Self-Raising Kitchen blog from the outset; and hope those of you who decide to follow me - and I hope a few of you will - can excuse an element of my un-exceptional talent. That is, I take shocking photos. So, if anyone has any tips out there, I'm open to suggestions.

As we are well and truly in the crazy festive season, I thought it would be appropriate to begin this little project of mine with an entry on my gift ideas for friends and family. You may be surprised to find out it is based on food.

Yes, I decided the Australian economy was not going to be boosted by my minimum wage from tutoring university students, so I'm putting my pennies and my cooking skills to work and making curry pastes, powders and biscuits for my loved ones this year.  

Now the only thing to be aware of when choosing this gift-giving avenue is to give yourself time the day before you meet your friends or family members to actually MAKE the gift. An important element, I'm sure you would agree!

Rick Stein's Thai Green Curry Paste

Christmas gifts for friends
Rick Stein's tasty Thai green curry paste
The recipe for this paste came from one of my favourite chef's Rick Stein. I love him! His latest book Far Eastern Odyssey is absolutely brilliant with easy to make recipes, if you give yourself the time to prepare for them.

The Paste
5 fat lemongrass stalks, core chopped
15g peeled galangal or ginger, chopped (unfortunately I did have to use ginger for mine as I couldn't find galangal at the time. But it is certainly worth using galangal if you can find it)
2 medium-hot green chillies, chopped (shhhh, I forgot it was a green curry and bought red chillies instead)
2 kaffir lime eaves, roughly chopped
10 black peppercorns, crushed (just use a mortar and pestle)
50g garlic, roughly chopped
100g shallots, roughly chopped
1 tsp shrimp paste

Put all your ingredients into a food processor with about 3 tablespoons of water and a bit of salt and grind into a delicious and fragrant paste. This will keep well in the fridge for a week - hence way making it the day before or day of meeting up with friends or family will help - but can be frozen to last longer.

Thai Green Curry
(This may be blindingly obvious, but this part needs to be given with the paste)
Now with this part I changed the recipe slightly. Rick has a recipe for a stir-fried green chicken curry, which is a dryer dish. As my beloved absolutely loves the traditional Thai green curry, I thought I better adapt the recipe to his liking (i.e. I added a tin of coconut milk instead of the suggested 100ml).

1 quantity of the curry paste (as above)
1 tin (400ml) coconut milk
350g chicken (I've generally increased this to about 500g and used either thigh or breast cut into strips)
1 tbsb fish sauce
2 tsp palm sugar (can substitute with brown sugar, but the palm sugar offers a far richer flavour)
2 kaffir lime leaves (if can't find use thick slices of lime rind as a substitute)
1 medium-hot red chilli thinly sliced (if you don't like hot food, leave it out. The dish still tastes great)
Include any two or three vegetables like aubergine (eggplant), baby corn, beans, bamboo shoots or carrot.
2 tsp lime juice
Large handful of Thai holy basil leaves (if you can't find I have just left this ingredient out, unfortunately).

Heat oil in a wok over a medium heat. Add the curry past and fry gently for two minutes until it starts to smell fragrant. Add three tablespoons of the coconut milk and the chicken pieces and cook for about 3-4 minutes. Add the rest of the coconut milk, the fish sauce and sugar and bring to a simmer.

Add your chosen vegetables, kaffir lime leaves, sliced red chillies (if including) and simmer for about 10 minutes or until the veggies are tender. Stir in the lime juice and basil before serving.