Wednesday 29 April 2009

Sometimes green is good - basil aioli

I made this sauce by serendipity. A few days ago, I made a basil vinagerette: zest and juice of a lemon, a bunch of basil leaves and olive oil blitzed into a smooth green emulsion to dress some cooked chicken fillets. Of course, in order for my hand blender to do its job efficiently, I had to make a quantity that far exceeded the amount required so I was left with a jar of mentioned dressing sitting in the fridge.

Yesterday, I made an aioli and decided to use the vinagerette in place of oil and the result, an unctuous pastel-coloured sauce flecked with dark green - a hint of aniseed from the basil and heady with garlic.

Serve it simply and unapologetically with boiled potatoes.

basil aioli
1 large egg yolk
1/2 cup light olive oil
1 tsp dijon mustard
zest of 1 lemon
juice of 1/2 lemon
2 large juicy garlic cloves
1/2 cup picked basil leaves
salt and pepper to taste
(makes 1 cup)
blend oil, zest, juice, garlic and basil until the leaves are all chopped up and you have a green oil that is smooth-ish in consistency.
decant green oil into a little jug
whisk egg yolk with dijon mustard until combined
drizzle green oil into the yolk gradually, whisking continuously until a thick emulsion is formed
season with salt and pepper to taste

Wednesday 22 April 2009

The little white dress - Lebni tart

In Pure Dessert by Alice Medrich, she described this tart as the dessert equivalent of "the little white dress". It had me reminiscing about Alicia Silverstone and the white Calvin Klein slip she wore in the movie "Clueless" - fresh, innocent and desirable.

This tart is all that minus the teenage superficiality, identity confusion and "*gasp*I have nothing to wear!".

If you enjoy cheesecake but not the idea of how swiftly it finds its way to your thighs, hips and bum, then this tart is for you. Not entirely guilt-free, but I believe it packs fewer calories than your standard New York slice. It is made from lebni (aka lebna, labneh, lebeneh), a pasteurised yogurt cheese. Since this is hard to find in Perth, I decided to make my own by simply straining 2 cups* of thick, whole-milk natural yogurt in a cheesecloth-lined sieve overnight, sans salt. The result is a very smooth, rather tart and extremely light version of cream cheese.

As its moisture drains under its own weight, the flavours of the yogurt become more pronounced so should you decide to make your own lebni, choose a very good natural full-fat yogurt that you enjoy eating.

I used the recipe in the book as a guide making little alterations** here and there to suit my taste. Of course, I felt a little uncertain of the outcome as I have never used lebni (store-bought or home-made) in baked goods before.

The result is an ivory-coloured, silken-textured filling delicately scented with honey and vanilla set in a crisp sweet tart shell. A noticeable tanginess of yogurt is present and it had me wondering how well it would partner with a crisp amber toffee a la creme brulee or topped with caramleised pineapples.

This is definately a keeper.

* 2 cups of full-fat natural yogurt yield about 1 1/2 cups of lebni after straining overnight in the fridge

** i substituted the quantity of sugar in the recipe with just under 1/4 cup of raw honey and replace the 3 eggs with one whole large egg and one yolk.

Saturday 11 April 2009

Happy Easter!

Wishing everyone a safe and Happy Easter!

Sunday 5 April 2009


I have been making brownies with different types of recipe, chocolate and method but only one seems to stand from the crowd. It is the simplest brownie to prepare amongst the plethora of recipes I have gathered over the years and it never fails to satisfy.

As with many comfort foods, we are divided when it comes to how textures, serving temperatures and flavours ought to be - like whether a true brownie should be fudge-like or cake-like by nature. I like mine a little bit of both - cakey top and bottom with a fudge-like centre. The presence of nuts is desirable though not obligatory, depending very much on the circumstance. If they should be present, I favour walnuts over pecans, though I couldn't say why. Peanuts are sometimes a welcome change but only if they are accompanied by chunks of chewy caramel candy but this complicates things a little.

This is a good chocolate brownie that will be enjoyed by children and adults alike. Something that will hopefully unite the factions of our brownie-eating community once and for all.

200g cooking chocolate, I used Nestle Plaistowe Dark Chocolate
100g unsalted butter
1 cup dark brown sugar
1/4 tsp salt
3 cold large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 cup flour
2 tbsp cocoa powder
(makes 8 generous squares measuring 8x6.5cm)
preheat oven to 170C and line the base of a brownie pan with baking paper
melt butter and chocolate in a microwave safe bowl at 30 second intervals for 2 minutes checking and stirring after each interval
beat sugar, salt, eggs and vanilla in a large mixing bowl until well combined - takes about a minute with a whisk by hand
add chocolate mixture to the egg mixture and stir well to combine
sift flour and cocoa into this mixture, beat for 1 minute then pour mixture into the prepared pan
bake for 35-45 minutes (NB this bit is tricky, overcooking results in a cakey brownie, undercooking will give a goopey result. I checked mine after 35 minutes then let it cook for another 5 before taking it out of the oven and removing it from the pan to prevent it from overcooking)
allow to cool for 10 minutes before attempting to slice