Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Chocolate and Raspberry Truffles: SHF 27 Chocolate By Brand

Sometimes I am finicky, so much so that I drive people like the Figman mad. And at others, I am slapdash, which leads to incidents like this. I don't often enter foodblogging events these days but when I saw that David Lebovitz was hosting Sugar High Friday 27 and that the theme was Chocolate By Brand, I grinned as I could easily hang onto my planned post about the Chocolate and Raspberry Truffles I'd made for Christmas and again after a visit to the local raspberry farm. And on the weekend, I flicked onto the page of instructions, caught the phrase 26 January in bold type and closed down the screen again. Without reading the not-so-fine-print. Which would have pointed out that the closing date was actually 22 January. Humph.

So I may have to beg or cajole David (I draw the line at bribery!) but here is my favourite truffle recipe of the last year and also the easiest.

Chocolate and Raspberry Truffles

Adapated from Gourmet Traveller December 2006


450 g raspberries
250 ml pouring cream
50 ml Framboise
600 g chocolate
Cocoa for dusting

Combine 250g of the raspberries, cream and Framboise in a saucepan and bring to boil over medium heat.

Cool slightly then force through a sieve.

Rinse saucepan to remove raspberry seeds and return mixture to it and bring to boil again.

Chop chocolate unless you are using callets or buttons. Melt the chocolate slightly in the microwave (medium low power for about 2 minutes but check constantly after 1 minute). Add the chocolate to the cream mixture. If the chocolate and cream are not sufficiently melded together at this point, heat very slightly over low flame.

Mix by hand and pour half of the mixture into a paper-lined 20 x 30 cm tray. Dot mixture with remaining raspberries. Add other half of chocolate mixture and smooth top, cover and refrigerate at least 6 hours or overnight.

Remove from tray with paper attached. Dust slab of truffles with cocoa on top and bottom and tap to remove excess. Slice with warm knife.

For this recipe I used Callebaut 53.8% chocolate callets. This tends to be the everyday cooking chocolate in my cupboard, because I can buy it in bulk at a reasonable price (to get bulk Valrhona here I'd have to commit to 20 kilos!). I have to admit that I did contemplate pretending that I'd used our local couverture Kennedy and Wilson. It would be more exotic, more interesting, more local. But here's the rub: I don't like the taste of it much. I've tried. I've bought their couverture in bulk for cooking and use in chocolate making, I've eaten a range of their moulded chocolates, and while I admire their enterprise and spirit, I just don't like the taste of their chocolate. Which is a real shame. (However the Yarra Valley Ice Cream made with it is the best chocolate ice cream I've had in my life.)

So, as in my blog, you're getting mostly the unvarnished truth. I used the common, round the block, undistinguished workhorse of the chocolate world. But you know what? These taste really really good! And the slicing method is so much simpler than piping or rolling or scooping truffles. It also allows the pretty piece of raspberry to shine through. (I increased the amount of raspberries by 50% from the original recipe as when I ate a truffle without a raspberry in it, I felt well ripped off!)

I did use Green & Black's cocoa for dusting. Their chocolate also leaves me cold, but their cocoa is so delicious I could eat it by the powdery spoonful! From the photos you can see that I could have been more exact with my cutting. Constant reheating of the knife would definitely have helped presentation but you know what, I am slapdash. In chocolate as in life.

Monday, January 22, 2007

The First Tomatoes of Summer

The Figman loves birdsong. Me, I'm pretty indifferent and at times, downright irritated with birds. But he has books scattered around the house from a childhood passion as a birdwatcher and when visitors bring me the Silver Spoon, he gets given a new pair of binoculars.

But he loves his tomatoes more. He has been tending these plants since early October last year and was waiting, breath-bated, for the first crop to ripen. Ever so slowly, with our weird weather this summer, and then two weeks ago it appeared the day had come.

Until I walked into the kitchen early one morning and spotted a blackbird pecking at an orange object in the backyard. I banged on the window and, startled, the bird flew away. But left his destruction behind and the Figman was furious. "Bloody birds" he swore and went off to Bunnings to buy a new set of nets.

In the meantime, the rest of the fruit on the unprotected vine was brought inside to ripen on the benchtop. I'm still waiting for those to deepen into red, but the first few tomatoes have been plucked, warm from the sun, and hastily chopped into a quick dinner for three.

Quick pizza

I used to be a make-your-own-yeast-dough-and-pizza-sauce-from-scratch girl, but these are so quick and tasty that I doubt I'll ever go back.

Souvlaki bread toasted on one side
Heaped teaspoon of coriander pesto
Heaped teaspoon of ketchup (a bona fide Italian taught me this, so I refuse to feel ashamed!)
Swirl the two pastes on the soft side of the souvlaki. Add sliced cheese, anchovies, onions and fresh tomatoes and grill until cheese melts.

If I'd remembered in time, I'd have added the fresh basil before I took the photo. But there are times to prance around with cameras and there are times to get the dinner on the table. Maybe next time, as there should be a bountiful summer of tomatoes to come!

Monday, January 15, 2007

Lovely Lettuce

It's been a wild and woolly summer here in Melbourne. From hail to the hottest day on record to snow all in a couple of months, it hasn't exactly been your average pleasant summer, weather-wise.

Add to that the impact of the bushfires in the Victorian countryside. There have been days when I've stepped outside, only to smell the thick layers of smoke in the air and go straight back in. This is hundreds of kilometres from the bushfires, so I can only sympathise for those living nearby.

I expect that all of this has had an impact on the quality of the lettuce and greens available locally. Certainly what I've found at the market has been limp and drab, not up to the usual summer standards. I'm therefore very lucky to have F, who adores gardening and can be found pottering around in the garden most evenings after work, delighting in daylight saving.

From my seat at the kitchen table, I can hear him and the Little One chattering, as they taste mint and basil and pull out a few weeds. Then they move on to the hand watering of pots and pots of herbs, lettuce and tomatoes. By now the Little One is shouting determinedly "My do it! MY DO IT!!" as he lifts a watering can and tips the contents over a plant. It's so sweet to watch, even sweeter than fresh greens from the garden on a summer evening.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Cutlery Redux

"Some of the Villeroy & Boch cutlery is beautiful but it's obscenely expensive and really, does this kind of thing belong in the hands of someone who loses a teaspoon a month? I think not."
Looking back for my Christmas Eve post last year, I found one about my new cutlery set and how excited I got about it.

I was even then in love with a certain Villeroy & Boch set, but restrained myself on the grounds of cost and the above fact - teaspoons go a wandering in this house. I've been very happy with my full sets of cutlery this past year but browsing in David Jones for some Christmas shopping, I gazed at the V & B sets out of sheer curiousity. Sheer curiousity as the one set I love never ever goes on sale. Ever. And there it was, at 40% off. Still staggeringly expensive, but so beautiful and perfect, heavy, shiny and just right.

I hesitated for a second. And then I left the store and went home and counted my teaspoons. It seems I may have been a little harsh on myself and my magpie abilities. You see, of the original dozen teaspoons, I still had TWO LEFT. So it wasn't one a month going out with the peelings, it was only 0.83 of a teaspoon!

I still didn't buy the glossy set. At the time of writing we are down to one Luxor teaspoon and a startling number of the butter knives are missing in action (mostly cutting through packing tape on boxes but still ...). As it was a year ago, this sort of thing still doesn't belong in my hands ...

Monday, January 01, 2007

Culinary Resolutions 2006

I was in a flap about not having achieved all of my culinary resolutions for last year when I realised that, being the procrastinator that I am, I only made the list in March 2006. So I figure that gives me another 3 months to make it!

The one I really think I should have knocked off by now is to make a pie. A savoury, chickeny, golden pie. I'd been reading Tarts with Tops On by Tamasin Day-Lewis and was convinced that this would be the year of the pie. It wasn't, well apart from the ones I ate that is.

But I have reigned in my expectations a little and with all the food mags going on about Careme pastry maybe I'll manage to haul a Galician Pork and Sausage Pie or some Welsh Chicken and Leek Bridies from the oven someday soon.

Or at least before the end of March. Hehe.