Friday, April 21, 2006

French Culinary Challenge Day 1 - Part 1

Well day one of the French Culinary Challemge is here and I am up early, hungry and eager to embark upon the trip to the bakery for my fresh croissant! I guess I could have gone last night, but that wouldn't have been very French(visits to the bakery occur daily) nor as fresh. So where did my croissant come from today? Deganni's bakery in Fairfield (there are few of the around, but good quality stuff and interesting range of cakes) most importantly they make their croissants with all butter. I have found that many Australians make their croissants with margine or a mixture which results in a very different taste and texture and the French would never dream of using anything but butter!
Now for the important details I didn't heat up the croissant (when they are fresh there is reallly no need to...) I enjoyed it with homemade plum jam and a cafe au lait.(A large milky french breakfast coffee)I have never worked out with it is ok to dip your croissant into the coffee or whether that is the height of rudeness (I did) maybe someone can let me know the etiquette?
So by about 11 o clock I am starving ( I have not yet adapted to filling up on white flour pastry only...) so I decide a classic nicoise salad might be the trick to get me through the day. Ok so these are my best tips....use tuna canned in olive oil (you can drain off the excess oil so the salad is not too oily) the texture and flavour is far superior...Boil the potatoes in stock to add some extra flavour...use the smallest sweetest tomatoes you can find and don't over boil your egg....!The recipe goes like this....

Nicoise Salad

1 small can of tuna in olive oil
1/2 punnet of cherry tomatoes or a couple of small sweet tomatoes,halved
a small handful of green beans
1/4 red onion, diced
a small handful of black olives
1 egg, soft boiled
1 large potato
fresh Italian parsley, roughly chopped
salt and pepper
balsamic, olive oil and little mustard to dress the salad

1.Wash and cube the potato and boil in stock(optional)until soft. Drain and set aside.
2.Boil the egg in fresh water until soft boiled about 5 mins.
3.Top and tail the beans (cut off the ends) and halve them if they are large. Steam them over the top of the boiling egg. Refresh with cold water once they are tender.
4.Now time to compile. Toss the potatoes in the bottom of a large bowl and mix with the onion. Toss through a teaspoon of your favourite mustard and parsley. Season lighlty.
5.Arrange the beans and tomatoes on top and drizzle with a little balsamic and olive oil. Again lighlty season.
6.Drain the can of tuna and break up with a fork, arrange on the top of the salad. Top with egg slices (obviously this means you have to slice the egg!)and finish with the olives and some extra parsley. You can add a little more balsamic and oil if you think you need it.
So next instalment...dinner....

Friday, April 07, 2006

The Cheese Photo Gallery

Thursday, April 06, 2006

And the bread is rising....

So how did my bread turn out...pretty good actually, not terribly tangy yet, but that will come as the starter ages. It also took a long time to rise, but again that will improve with time, I think the general flavour and texture of bread is improved with slow rising, I guess its just a little bit difficult to make unless you going to be around the house for a good chunk of the day. Lucky I was and I combined the day of "making stuff" by catching up on some well needed cheesemaking...I say that because I find making cheese an extremely meditative and also well needed because I have a backlog of people waiting for some cheese! I made brie, fetta, haloumi and ricotta. The haloumi will form part of dinner tonight, while I will marinate the fetta in a few days. The brie will take 3-4 weeks before it is ready.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

The sourdough is bubbling

The is something most satisfying about creating something from scratch as you would all well know!....but then there is an extra level of satisfaction when what you have created has several stages that take days or longer to grow...I am talking about cheese and sourdough bread....that's wht I have been up to lately...
First with the bread - I have been making my own bread and baked goods for quite sometime, but as I mentioned in an earlier entry it has been many years since I have made my own sourdough starter, although I have lways sought out bakeries who use one and I love the flavour, infact my favourite thing are the sourdough croissants I buy from the Kingfisher Bakery in Northcote, Melbourne, but I am looking forward to making my own. Now it is pretty easier to make a sourdough starter all you need is flour and water, but this time I did a little more research to find some other approaches to making the starter. I used a combination of ideas in the end.Here is the recipe -

Sourdough Starter

1 cup flour
1 boiled potato (peeled) mashed, with some the cooking water retained
1/2 cup potato cooking water, cooled
1/2 cup water
3 sultanas or raisins, chopped

Mix all ingredients together to make a smooth paste.
Place in a non metal bowl (ceramic is good) in a warm place and cover with cheesecloth or a thin material that will allow the starter to breathe.
Stir the starter everyday. It will take 3-5 days for the action to start happening ie.bubbling with a sour smell. After this time keep the mixture in the fridge. Use about 1 cup of starter to every 600g of flour and replenish the starter with equal quantities of flour and water to keep it going.