Tuesday, July 26, 2011

New Term, fresh faces...

What a great class we had last night! 10 new faces and two friends from previous classes. I love having repeat students, makes me feel like I must be doing something right!

We cooked a vegetarian French menu. Familiar enough for a first lesson but complex enough to get the taste buds going.

We started with a CREAMY TRUFFLED MUSHROOM SOUP served with a traditional "Wheat Stalk Bread" from Brasserie Bread. This soup is packed with flavour from the porcini mushrooms, garlic, rosemary and thyme. A drizzle of truffled olive oil gives this soup depth and smokiness that lifts it from your ordinary, run of the mill mushroom soup. Beautifully executed, well done team soup!

Next up was a gorgeous COURGETTE, SWEET ONION AND ALMOND TART. I forgot the pastry I made earlier in the day in my fridge (wawawa), a little hiccup that we quickly overcame by whizzing up a new one. Of course I couldn't chill it for the recommended 2 hours! Yet with half an hour in the fridge it was enough to roll it out and line the tin. We kept the pastry hanging over the edges of the tart tin whilst blind baking and then trimmed the edges when it was half cooked. This is a good technique to know if you're ever in a rush or caught out in one of those MasterChef moments!

The reason we chill pastry before and after rolling it out is to relax the gluten and firm up the butter. Warm pastry melts before it bakes and overworked gluten shrinks and can be tough. As long as you have a cold pastry and make allowances for shrinkage you should still have a beautiful pastry base.

To finish off our night of French indulgence we made a sumptuous CHOCOLATE AND ORANGE MOUSSE. This is such a simple recipe yet impressive recipe, I encourage you to try it! You'll be very happy to add it to your repertoire of dinner party desserts.

Finally I whipped up a quick ORANGE VINAIGRETTE to dress up a combination of green beans, butter beans and roman beans. Again, simple yet a tasty way to include some greens in your meal.

That was our 2 hours last night, we cooked we ate and voted on a Italian for next week. So it's "Arrivederci" till next week!


Dried mushrooms & truffle oil give this soup a deep earthy taste.
Serves: 6
Preparation time: 20 minutes (+ ½ hour soaking time for porcini mushrooms)
Cooking time: 20 minutes

Equipment: chopping board, knife, garlic press, measuring jug, large pot and ladle,

2 tablespoons butter
400 gm mushrooms, wiped clean and chopped
10 gm dried porcini mushrooms, soaked in ½ cup hot water for ½ hr
1 onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
3 tablespoons plain flour
2 litres vegetable stock
2 bay leaves
2 sprigs thyme
1 cup milk
½ cup cream
Salt & pepper

To serve:
Truffle infused olive oil (optional)
French bread
Fresh cracked black pepper
Thyme leaves

1. In a large pot heat butter and gently fry the onion and garlic for 2 minutes till softened.
2. Add chopped mushrooms, herbs and drained porcini (add the soaking water to the stock) and cook till dry.
3. Sprinkle in flour and mix well. Add some pepper.
4. Whilst still on stove, gradually mix in milk till thickened.
5. Mix in the vegetable stock and simmer for 10 minutes.
6. Remove bay leaves and puree with a handheld blender or in a food processor till desired consistency.
7. Add the cream and simmer for 5 minutes.
8. Taste the soup and add salt and more pepper if needed.

To serve:
Ladle into bowls and sprinkle with thyme leaves and dress with a tiny drizzle of truffle infused oil.
Serve with crunchy French bread and a green salad.

Roll pastry carefully onto the rolling pin to place it into the tart tin

After resting pastry, roll your rolling pin over the edges to trim

A beautiful tart with crunchy almonds and caramelised onions.
Serves: 6
Preparation time: 15 minutes (not including pastry)
Cooking time: 1 hour

Equipment: chopping board, knife, mandolin, measuring cup, wooden spoon, large pot, bowl and whisk.

Oven 180C

200g green zucchini
200g yellow zucchini or button squash
¼ cup olive oil
750g onions (about 5) halved and thinly sliced
2 teaspoons thyme, finely chopped
2 teaspoons rosemary, finely chopped
30g slivered almonds
1/3 cup crème frâiche or sour cream
1 egg, lightly beaten
(Vegan: substitute with ¾ cup soft tofu, pureed in a blender)
1 prepared and baked pastry shell (see Pâte Brisée recipe)

1. Cut zucchini and squash into 2mm thin slices. A mandolin cutter makes this simpler.
2. In a colander, salt layers of zucchini and squash over a bowl and set aside.
3. Heat olive oil in a large pot and gently cook onions, herbs, ½ teaspoon salt for 5 minutes.
4. Cover and gently cook for 30 minutes stirring occasionally till very soft.
5. Remove onions from heat and season with salt and pepper, cool.
6. Rinse and pat dry the zucchini and squash.
7. Spread onion mixture into prepared pastry shell, scatter with almonds
8. Layer alternate overlapping rows of green zucchini and yellow squash on top of the onions.
9. Combine sour cream and egg, season and pour over the zucchini. (or use the pureed soft tofu)
10. Bake at 180C for 25 minutes or until pastry is golden brown and egg mixture has set.

To serve:
Serve hot or at room temperature cut into slices.
Pair with a fresh garden salad.

Garnish the Chocolate Mousse with some whipped cream, grated chocolate and candied orange

A rich chocolate mousse with a hint of orange liqueur.
Serves: 8
Preparation time: 15 minutes
Cooking time: 20 minutes (+ minimum 1 hr refrigeration)

Equipment: chopping board, knife, garlic press, measuring jug, large pot and ladle,

300 grams good quality chocolate, cut into pieces
30 ml Grand Marnier or Cointreau
3 eggs, separated
¼ cup caster sugar
300 ml thickened cream

To serve
Extra whipped cream
Grated chocolate
Strawberries or candied orange peel

1. Place the chocolate in a heat proof bowl over a pot of simmering water (don’t let it touch the water)
1. Stir gently until the chocolate melts,
2. Stir in egg yolks one by one, mix will thicken (don’t panic!)
3. In a clean mixing bowl beat egg whites till soft peaks form, do not over beat as the texture changes.
4. In another bowl gently whip cream with the sugar and liqueur
5. Stir a spoonful of cream through the chocolate mix to bring it back to a smooth consistency
6. Gently stir in the remaining whipped cream
7. Finally fold through the egg whites, being careful not to knock the air out or the mousse will be heavy
8. Spoon into 8 individual serving glasses, bowls or ramekins
9. Cover with plastic wrap and chill for a minimum of 1 hour

To serve:
Serve chilled mousse with a little extra whipped cream, strawberries (or candied orange peel) and some grated chocolate.

To keep mousse light and airy always start mixing the heaviest ingredients in first:
Chocolate, egg yolks, cream and then egg whites.

1 comment:

  1. It looks delicious! I'm going to have to try the Chocolate Orange Mousse. I guess I'm a bit far to come for dinner :)