Foodiva's Kitchen: April 2012

Friday, April 27, 2012

French Fridays with Dorie - Navarin Printanier

This week's cookalong recipe over at the French Fridays with Dorie group is Navarin Printanier, or in plain English, lamb stew with spring vegetables. It's a simple enough recipe that's broken down into little steps, mainly browning the meat and vegetables separately, simmering the stew for 45 minutes and then braising it in the oven for an extra 30 to 40 minutes.

The only trouble was, I was cooking this for lunch and made a late start with lunchtime only a mere half an hour away! Everyone came home starving and I had to stave them off with promises of a "brilliant" stew... all the while crossing my fingers behind my back.

Due to the time constraints, I made a few shortcuts to Dorie's recipe and improvised with some ingredients. Good thing I managed to get the tenderest and leanest lamb cut, because that itself aided in speeding up the cooking time. It did cost me a bomb but I was glad I stuck to my guns and not use beef this time.

The reason I was late starting this dish off was because I only went to the store to buy the lamb an hour before our regular lunchtime. Of course, in the rush to shop, I managed to forget the tomato paste, frozen peas, the turnip and thyme! I made do without the tomato paste and turnip, subbed the thyme with rosemary (it goes very well with lamb, anyway), and used a frozen vegetable mix I had in my freezer that luckily contained peas. It had corn too, which was lovely, and carrots - but what harm is a few more carrots?

We don't have those small white onions here, so I used the small red variety. I didn't bother with the boiling and peeling technique as these red onions are easy enough to peel. In other words, for this recipe I got someone else to peel all of them... :).

I cheated a little on the cooking time and shaved off about 25 minutes from the total simmering time. It didn't seem to make any difference on the stew, I just made sure the meat was fork tender at the end of the braising time. This stew was delicious and got the thumbs up all around. I need to try this with beef next time!

Friday, April 20, 2012

French Fridays With Dorie - Coconut Friands

Life is pretty simple: You do some stuff. Most fails. Some works. You do more of what works. If it works big, others quickly copy it. Then you do something else. The trick is the doing something else. 
~ Leonardo da Vinci

Metaphorically speaking, I've been off the planet for two weeks and that's exactly the length of time you haven't seen a post from me. And I've been missing my French Fridays with Dorie crowd dearly so when I felt it was time to come back into the warmth of the blogging community, I almost always choose to cook along with the others in this virtual group. The other reason is of course, I don't have to think too hard to create my own recipe, as Dorie always provides one for us each week (well that's probably the main reason!).

This week's voted recipe is Coconut Friands, a French tea cake very similar to financiers except the nuts in the latter is replaced with unsweetened coconut. Normally I would have a bag of dried, shredded and unsweetened coconut lurking around in my baking arsenal but when I decided to bake these today, the bag had mysteriously disappeared. Either it had gone off somewhere on vacation and forgot to tell me, or Diva D had used it all up and yes, she forgot to tell me.

Funnily enough, this week I happened to make a coconut-flavored ice cream using macapuno, so I had a jar of that still lying around. And since a coconut by any other name is still a coconut, I thought, why not? Except I would have to play around a little with Dorie's recipe because macapuno, which literally means - oh my goodness - "mutant coconut", has a thick but soft gelatinous-like flesh that is used in popular Filipino sweets and ice cream.

The batter would not be as dry as when dried coconut is used, so to compensate for this, I increased the amount of flour and decreased the sugar (the macapuno strips were already preserved in a very sweet syrup, anyway). This probably lessened the browning of the batter during baking, resulting in slightly pale-looking, but no less delicious, friands.

As per Dorie's bonne idee to add a small piece of soft or candied fruit on top of each friand batter, I went ahead and added the striking, red-fleshed dragon fruit. I fashioned them into fetching little flowers using my fondant cutter, which by the way, I have never used to cut fondant with (but only because I haven't worked with fondant, well not yet). Producing these delicate flowers was probably the hardest part of this whole friand business, the rest of the mixing was so easy you can do it without any special equipment or technique.

I used a mini-muffin tin to bake them in, but I've seen others use a classic, oval-shaped friand mold or even a madeleine pan. The end result was pretty pleasing, with the macapuno ensuring that the friand remained on the coconut-ey side but softer to bite into rather than crunchy and grainy. And who can resist that pretty fuschia pink flower on top?

This recipe is contained in Dorie's award winning cookbook, Around My French Table. If you have a copy, why don't you join our fun cooking group? For other wonderful takes on this recipe, check out the other Doristas' posts here.

Have a delicious weekend ahead, everyone!

Friday, April 6, 2012

Purple Sweet Potato Bunny Cookies

A smile appeared upon her face as if she'd taken it directly from her handbag and pinned it there. 

 ~Loma Chandler

I was torn between doing a French Fridays with Dorie post and one about these purple bunnies, and was still undecided at 3pm today, already a Friday. Then quite suddenly, I stumbled upon an article over at Tiny Buddha entitled "51 Things That Will Make You Smile".  As I went through the list of things that will supposedly put a smile on your face, I paused (naturally) at No. 18, which suggested that you "Bake something that has a silly face on it". Alas Dorie lost this week, these bunnies won.

Now you all know my love for purple sweet potatoes....and it's been a while since I've made up a recipe using this wonderfully-hued ingredient. It wasn't my original intention to make cookies today but while I was rummaging through my baking cabinet, a pair of really cute cookie cutters fell out. They were Miffy bunny cutters I had bought a while back and just forgot about. Yes, I know....other people buy dresses, stash them in their wardrobe with their price tags still on and proceed to forget all about them. I do the same, not with dresses but purchasing too many baking tools and accessories that I don't often use.

I posted pictures of these purple cookies on Instagram and several people immediately asked for the recipe. Who am I to disappoint? Especially during the Easter weekend when bunnies somehow become more relevant and show up just about everywhere. By that, I mean edible bunnies, mostly in the form of chocolate. None are purple in color, I suspect, until these came along :).

Now have a good look at these bunnies and tell me, do they not make you smile? 

It's been a while since I posted a TED Talks video but here's a magical one that tells a beautiful story using augmented reality technology. It's thoroughly entertaining but I also think what he's saying applies to bloggers as well as magicians. If you're as fascinated by it as I was, I'm pretty sure you'll be smiling by the end of it :).

Have a lovely Easter!

Purple Sweet Potato Bunny Cookies
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg powder
5 oz butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup cooked (steamed or boiled) and mashed purple sweet potato

1. Preheat the oven to 180C/350F. Whisk the flour, salt and nutmeg together in a bowl.
2. In another bowl, whisk the butter and sugar on medium speed until creamy. Add the vanilla extract and cooled, mashed purple sweet potato. Mix until smooth.
3. Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the flour in two additions. You can adjust the consistency of the dough with extra flour  if necessary. The dough needs to clump together and pull away from the sides of the bowl, but not be sticky (something like a pie crust consistency).
4. Scrape the dough onto a flour surface and roll flat to about 1cm (1/2 inch) thickness. Cut out desired shapes using cookies cutters, and place shapes on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or silicone mat.
5. Bake cookies for 15 minutes, but be careful they don't turn brown. Remove tray from the oven and cool the cookies on racks for at least 10-15 minutes before eating. They will firm up upon cooling and are best consumed on the day of baking. 

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Lemon Curd and Lavender Ice Cream

Wherever you go, no matter what the weather, always bring your own sunshine.
~ Anthony J. D'Angelo 

Sometimes, life's like that. Cloudy and depressing, but I always try to never forget how things looked when the sun was out, shining its warmth down on us. And so when the sun's taking a break or given up temporarily, I go ahead and make my own. Fake sunshine, that is. This ranks somewhere alongside a fake tan, or fake flowers know it's not real, but oh, it's still exudes beauty!

So what am I going on about, exactly? Lemons, of course! Life's lemons. Thrown hard like a curveball and hitting me right between the fact, I'm still reeling from the impact. The last few days, the sun disappeared momentarily on me, and all I saw were stars (albeit of the dazed and hallucinatory kind).  

Still, I refuse to bow down to life's hard knocks. Instead, I'll just take the lemons and turn them into something beautiful, something satisfying, something that symbolizes a slap in the face to the things that try to take us down with them. I'm really not giving you much of a story here, am I?

Okay, let's just say I had a pretty rough weekend and past couple of days because that's life, you know. And I'm living it large so whatever the consequences, they also tend to come in a size 'L'. This weekend was most probably an 'XL'!

BUT enough. Who's in the mood for ice cream? Lemon curd ice cream, to be precise. Because I've opened up my jar of sunshine (a.k.a. lemon curd jar) and turned it into something delicious, an ice cream that's buttery and tangy at the same time, a taste of it will wash away your blues. At least for a while.

And I've sprinkled lavender sugar in the lemon curd cream to bring a touch of floral to the ice cream. Lavender, lemon and butter - I've often thrown these trio of ingredients together in my cakes and I know the flavors go really beautifully together. This was the first time I ever combined them in a frozen dessert but I somehow wasn't too worried about how it would all turn out. And I was right... I think I might have just made my own sunshine.

I served mine over a bed of fresh strawberry compote and wholemeal waffle toasts (that's just two pieces of toast grilled in a waffle-maker). Of course, not before I had several spoonfuls straight out of the container and was politely reminded that hey, I still had a photoshoot to do!

The recipe I'm about to give you is super-simple, it's unbelievable. It's also super-sinful, but that's a whole other story. Yes, you can make your own lemon curd from scratch and grow your own lavender, but why bother? I bought mine from the store. And the end result still made me happy. :)

Lemon Curd and Lavender Ice Cream
2 teaspoons dried lavender buds
1/4 cup caster sugar
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1 cup Mascarpone
170g/6 oz lemon curd

1. Grind sugar and lavender buds in a processor until very fine. You can sieve the powder to remove the bits from the flowers, but it's fine to leave them in too (I did). Use this lavender sugar in the mixture below.
2. In a bowl, whisk cream, mascarpone, lemon curd and lavender sugar together until well-blended. Pour into ice cream maker and freeze according to the manufacturer's instructions. Transfer to an airtight container and freeze until firm. Best consumed within a 3-4 days of making.

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