Death by chocolate (tart)

It wouldn’t be the worst way I could think of, to go by chocolate tart; being engulfed so thoroughly by this thick, dark, oozing, slightly bitter lava. If they found me, my face covered with dark remnants, the odd pastry crumb, a fork clawing helplessly at the…last…bite. They’d know I’d bit off more than I could chew…

I’m partial to a sliver of chocolate tart, as you can tell. It has to be dark, it cannot be sweet – well, not too sweet anyway. The sort of richness that makes you feel like you really could not eat anymore at all. That sort of tart is the one I love.

I came across a number of recipes, whilst perusing many sources for this tart. My conclusions: you need chocolate, cream and butter. In really any quantities. Beyond that, it’s pretty hard to stuff up. I made a couple of little tarts and a couple of chocolate pots with mine, but this would yield enough for a 23cm tart shell.

You will need:
– 300g chocolate. I would say get dark aka semi sweet chocolate. I couldn’t find any. I used a mix of 70% and milk, half a half. Though a 70% tart would have been pretty good too. The mix was sufficiently dark that it wasn’t too sweet, but still reminded everyone it was a delicious dessert-y chocolate tart.
– 2 egg yolks and 1 whole egg (use the egg whites for a bomb alaska! see picture at end)
– 300mL thickened cream
– 2 tbsp butter
– 1 tart shell. I used the standard shortcrust from my pecan pie a few blogs ago – I like the ever so slightly salty contrasting shell to my filling. Otherwise you could go for a sweeter tart shell, perhaps a chocolate version

Step 1 – shellshock: make your tart shell as per the pecan pie recipe. Blind bake with rice, and then bake for a further 10 mins or so without the rice. Cool.

Step 2 – get tarted up: to make your filling, break your chocolate into pieces and place in a bowl along with the butter. Bring the cream to the boil and then pour over the chocolate. Let it hang out for a few minutes and then stir to combine. Yes, the chocolate will melt. Pour this mixture into your cooled tart shell/s. Bake at 160 degrees for around about 25 minutes, or until you can just see the centre of the tart slightly wobbling. If you want to make it look ever so slightly fancy, either sieve some cocoa powder over the top, or alternatively combine a little melted chocolate with cream to a liquidy consistency and spread over the top. Simples.

You old tart

You old tart

 

Oh – bonus shot. Bombe alaska!

The nice sort of bomb(e)

The nice sort of bomb(e)

Christmas delights – rum balls and cherry & walnut shortbread

I reckon I’ve well and truly missed the boat on this article being useful for Christmas festivities this year, what with my delay in blogging being caused by the grand and outrageous excitements of celebrating the holiday with my retirement-aged parents and all (hi guys!).

Nevertheless, in the interests of next Christmas, Australia day, Easter – hell, do you really need an excuse to eat something delicious? What’s with rum balls being restricted to Christmas anyway? I say Easter has as much right to be fueled by rum as that drunkard Saint Nick.

But, as always, I digress. Onwards and upwards to the main point of this article: two deliciously festive treats that are sure to please the crowds – rummy rum balls and an old favourite from my youth, cherry and walnut shortbread.

Rum balls
I may have just been plain gratuitous with the amount of rum used in these. I always appreciate a good chug of the stuff so feel free to use less if you’re less of a raging alcoholic! You can double the recipe (as I did) in order to bribe / suck up to family, friends and various in-laws. When I doubled the recipe, I think I probably got about 70-80 rum balls.

You will need (for the original quantity…which would probably yield you around about 30-40):
– 250g plain sweet biscuits. For those playing in Australia, I used those arrowroot biscuits
– 4 tablespoons of cocoa powder
– 2/3 a cup of dessicated coconut (plus extra for dusting)
– 1 can of sweetened condensed milk. Nestle makes a can that’s around about 400grams? 395 to be anal retentively precise
– rum. Here is the part where you use as much as you like. I used around about 6 tablespoons
– 3/4 cup of sultanas

Step 1 – juicy lucy: The sultanas are optional, but I think they add a nice juiciness to the rum balls. I started off by putting my rum balls in a little bowl and filling with rum up to the top of the sultanas. I left them overnight (but I don’t think it’s really that critical – leaving them for a while just means that they get all rummy and soaky and juicy and altogether delicious). If you don’t want to add sultanas, then just add the rum at step 2.

Step 2 – grinders: place your biscuits in a blender and grind ‘er up. Grind into a fairly fine powder. If you don’t have a blender, or if you are having frustration issues, you can just put the biscuits in a bag and bash the sh*t out of them! Pour into a bowl and add the cocoa powder, the 2/3 cup of dessicated coconut, the condensed milk and the rummy sultanas. Like a true alcoholic, I actually added another glug of rum at this point. But, again, that’s just gratuitous. Mix the lot together – don’t be shy, really get your hands in there.

Step 3 – roly poly: now comes the fun part – formation. You can make these rum balls as big or small as you like. I went for about a tablespoon for each, so it’s a nice mouthful-of-a-bite. A good tip is just to wet your hands a little, so that the mixture doesn’t stick to them and get all gluggy. Form into a ball and then roll in extra dessicated coconut if you like. Refrigerate to firm up and enjoy!

Eat up!

Eat up!

Shortbread
There’s this major bakery in Australia called Brumby’s. They’ve been around for years and as a kid, once or twice a year, I was treated to a cherry and walnut shortbread biscuit. It was basically the time of my life, every six months, when I would bite into this delicious morsel. I now realise that Brumby’s makes pretty average shortbread, but back then, it was awesome. In a moment of nostalgia, I decided to recreate these little morsels…but with a (hopefully) more delicious and buttery shortbread. Here goes…

Again, I doubled the recipe for the bribery reasons above and yielded a mountain of about 50 biscuits, but the below will give you around about 25-30.

You will need:
– 250g unsalted butter, softened
– 3/4 cup icing mixture (in this case, the combination of icing sugar and corn flour is a good thing!)
– 2 cups of flour
– a pinch of salt
– 2/3 cup of walnuts, dry toasted in a pan. I chopped my walnut pieces in smaller bits (like, 1 square cm)
– 2/3 cup glace cherries (with the cherries and walnuts, add as much or as little as you like)

Step 1 – just beat it: Beat your butter and icing mixture until paler and creamier-looking. This might be a choice time to crack out that electronic mixer, unless you’re building up your biceps. Then mix in the flour and salt – it’s a good idea to turn it out onto a board and give it a light knead. Once this is all combined, relatively gently fold in the walnuts and cherries so they don’t smoosh about too much. Roll your mixture into a log shape, with the diameter being however big you want your cookies – I went for about 5cm across. Wrap in cling wrap and refrigerate until firm.

Step 2 – cookie cutter: Preheat your oven to about 150 degrees celcius fan forced. Unwrap your shortbread log and slice at the thickness of however thick you want your cookies. I went for about 1cm thick. Bake for about 15-20 minutes. You want them to not be coloured golden, and be relatively firm (but know that they’ll firm up some more when cooling). Let cool and enjoy!

Your ticket to heart attack station

Your ticket to heart attack station

Contagious cauliflower

I’m going to put it out there. Throw out this little morsel into the wind: I’ve discovered the greatest way to cook cauliflower that man has ever known. Not the normal watery, bland, white, liquidy excuse for a vegetable. Oh no, I’m talking about golden, crispy, sexy cauliflower.

You will need:
– all the cauliflower you can eat
– a nice dash of olive oil
– salt and pepper
– about a tablespoon or so of balsamic
– a nice big grate of parmesan

Step 1 – what’s cookin, good lookin: preheat your oven to about 230 degrees – hawt. I actually like to put a baking tray in at this point so that when you put on the cauliflower, you immediately get this super sexy sizzle. Cut your cauliflower into little florets – bite sized and not too big so it doesn’t take hours to cook. Toss in a little olive oil, salt and pepper. When your oven is hot, in goes your cauliflower. Cook for about 10 mins and then flip about – and then cook for another 10 mins or so or until bits are golden.

Step 2 – dress it like it’s hot: take out your crispy, golden cauliflower and then in the baking tray, sprinkle over some balsamic and toss the little florets around. The idea is to get these tart little areas of your floret…not to drown the things. Grate a healthy amount of parmesan over the cauliflower to it all starts to gently melt. That’s what I’m talkin’ about.

Eat meee

Eat meee

Two for the price of one – baked lamb meatballs and baked eggplant extravaganza

We recently had a (relatively) bloody cold day in Sydney, even though getting into summer the temperature should be hovering around the high twenties. Realising this was probably my last chance to eat warming, scrummy comfort food before the onslaught of what is an Australian summer hits, I took the opportunity to cook up a storm – baked lamb meatballs, and also what I would like to call a baked eggplant extravaganza. I give you good deal – two for the price of one.

I actually only took a picture of the lamb meatballs as both dishes looked approximately exactly the same – various delicious goods baked in a hearty tomato sauce and topped with stretchy, gooey mozzarella look the same – whaddaya know.

First up – the lamb.

You will need:
– Lamb! I baked enough for about 3 or 4 people and used about 500 grams of minced lamb
– 1 onion, diced (I used half in the meatballs and half in the tomato sauce)
– 4 cloves of garlic, chopped (because everyone should get more bullish about garlic) – half for the meatballs, half for the sauce
– salt and pepper to taste
– a nice handful of basil
– 1 tin of chopped tomatoes
– a couple of those little baby eggplant (or half a big eggplant), cut into small (say, 1cm) chunks (optional)
– tomato paste
– 1 nice, hot red chilli (optional)
– mozzarella (however cheesey you like your food) – I used about 4 of those bocconcini (the smaller mozzarella) balls

Step 1 – mary had a little lamb: in a bowl, mix your lamb, half the onion, half the garlic, salt and pepper and half the basil. Get your hands in there and really give it a good mix. Roll these into little spheres – however big you like (I went for golf-ball sized) and, if you like, stuff a tiny cube of mozzarella into each ball. Make sure you seal the meat around the cheese well!

Gettin’ friendly

Step 2 – if at first you don’t succeed, then fry, fry again: heat some olive oil in a saucepan on a med-high heat and place your beautiful meatballs in to fry, turning as each side becomes golden.

Lamby goodness

Step 3 – mamma mia: once your meatballs are golden (don’t be too worried if they’re not cooked through at this stage), add your eggplants (if using) and fry off for a couple of minutes. Tip in a can of diced tomatoes, the remaining basil, some tomato paste and chilli, if you want a little heat. Let these simmer away for a few minutes until some of the liquid evaporates.

Simmer away, my little lamby friends

Step 4 – wakey bakey: you could stop at step 3 and have a delicious dish – a really great pasta sauce, even – but in the words of some wanky chef, somewhere, I’m going to take this one to the next level (I got this). Tip your meaty lamby mixture into a casserole dish, top with carelessly torn mozzarella, strewn at random, and bake at about 200 degrees celcius until the mozza is melty and slightly goldy.

Baked lamb droolballs

Second up… for those Sunday nights when the depression of the coming work week hits its hardest, you’ve come off the back of a busy, fun filled weekend of running around, hanging out in the sun and having a brewski or two…and all you want is dinner on a plate, in front of your, not in an hour… now.

You will need:
– the rest of that pack of baby eggplant you bought for the lamb meatballs recipe… (I used about 5 or so)
– bacon! I used about 5 rashers, chopped
– half an onion, chopped
– 2 cloves of garlic, chopped
– the rest of the mozzarella (if you like getting cheesey)
– a tin of diced tomatoes
– basil, a nice handful

Step 1 – there’s really only one step: heat a saucepan – you don’t really need oil, some will come from the bacon fat (yes, gross, but delicious). Chuck in your bacon and onion and fry until the onion is translucent and the bacon with nice little golden bits on it (oh, and until any bacon fat renders). Add your garlic at this point, and also the eggplants, halved. Fry your eggplants until they’re nice and golden and gettin’ squishy. Tip in your tomatoes and basil. Simmer until some of the water has evaporated. Then, if you like, tip into a baking dish, top with mozzarella and bake at 200 degrees until it all looks nicely golden and melty. That’s it! That’s all.

Gettin’ cheesey – goats cheese and asparagus tart

The days are gettin’ longer, the flies are buzzin’ later and the weather’s gettin’ balmier. Although I love to eat – I really do – the last thing I want at this time of year is a big, heavy meal. I’m done with the sitting in a food coma in this hot, hot heat and perspiring while my body desperately attempts to digest the onslaught I have just unleashed.

Anyway, my recipe today is a delicious, fresh goats cheese and asparagus tart. Crisp and light, I think it’s kinda nice to eat this with a sharp little rocket salad on the side.

You will need…
– Asparagus! For one of those round (c.23cm) tart tins, I’d say a couple of bunches
– Olive oil – just around about half a tablespoon
– Salt to taste
– Fresh thyme – say, a tablespoon
– Goats cheese – about 100 grams
– 2 eggs
– 1/3 cup of milk
– 1/3 cup of thickened cream
– 1/4 cup parmesan
– Pepper
– A hearty pinch of nutmeg
– 1 lot of shortcrust pastry from my epic pecan pie recipe

Step 1 – roly-poly: pre-heat your oven to 190 degrees celcius, fan forced. Roll out your pastry, lay it in a tart tin, prick the bottom, line with baking paper and fill with beans / rice / baking weights and bake for about 10 mins. Take out the baking paper / weights and continue baking for a further 10 mins.

Step 2 – vegalicious: roll your asparagus around in a light coating of the olive oil and then season with a bit of salt and pepper. Bake at 200 degrees until tender (and some bits are nicely golden)

Delicious, roasted asparagus

Step 3 – get your goat: in a bowl, mix together your milk, cream, parmesan, eggs (beaten), pepper to taste, nutmeg and thyme. In your beautifully baked tart shell, layer lumps of half of the goats cheese. Then fill with your creamy milky mixture. Lay your roasted asparagus in some incredibly arty formation on top, and then dollop in lumps of the remaining half of the goats cheese. Bake at 190 degrees for about 25 minutes or until the mixture is set. Let cool and eat with ravenous-ness.

 

Art in a tart

I am going to eat you like a lion