Saturday, June 30, 2007

Chocolate Chestnut Cake

What is comfort food without something equally as comforting for pud?

And something decadent.. I'd been scheming to use something in season for every part of a dinner I was planning and the dessert was not exempt from this clever notion.. but I wanted something different (and I wanted chocolate).

A trip to the Dunedin Farmers Market resulted in a beautiful bag of pears, some lovely ground cherries (cape gooseberries), a jar of feijoa marmalade AND chestnuts. But more on those later.. this IS the time of year for roasting chestnuts.

A glass of wine and the warmth of a fire.. bliss.

After some wine and a few of these roasted gems, I had another thought. Chestnuts, oft used in savoury treats, soup and even in ice cream, would be wonderful in some sweet baking. Ground fine or mashed into a puree, these would add body and a dense moistness to a flourless torte.. Heaps more nutty ideas here.

This was velveteen perfection. Not a speck of flour in sight and leavened only with the whipped egg whites: a half pound of best 70% cocoa chocolate (or more) , 3-4 eggs (3 x-large or 4 large), 100g caster sugar, half pound roasted chestnuts (lightly roasted and let to steam in a tea towel for easier peeling) and a bit of milk or cream to make a mash.. you could add a bit of finely grated orange peel or a bit of liqueur but I don't bother. I'm a bit of a purist when it comes to chocolate.

A full out contradiction in texture.. dense yet foamy, luxuriously and intensely chocolaty, with mild earthy chestnut undertones, it positively melts in the mouth. Accompanied by a nice port, a nut based Italian liqueur or a coffee (corretto or plain).. indulgence defined.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Savour 2007 (Part 1)

Well, I am sure there were a few people glad that this is overwith.. and celebrated the success of the event with their feet up enjoying a glass of wine.

And deservedly so. While I had few disappointments, they mostly had to do with concurrent classes and my inability to physically be in two places at once. Also disappointing is the fact that it was months ago and I have been trying to get out an update ever since. So to avoid any further delay, here it is in 'small bites'.

Saturday began with a class on San Francisco comfort food. Nancy Oakes and her husband, Bruce Aidells, led the class talking about comfort food, its meaning to them and how it is represented at Boulevard, her award winning San Fran restaurant. There was some couple banter (not the warm and fuzzy stuff) and the audience got a rare sneak peek of a talented, busy couple who never get the time to cook together.

Nancy's philosophy is to use as local ingredients as possible and her mussel recipe truly suited the local green-lipped variety. They tasted nothing short of spectacular.

Next up was a treat, Geoff Lindsay and sous chef Adam d'Sylva gave a captivating expo of technique and talent with a serving of dishes from Lindsay's Melbourne restaurant, pearl. The session led through preparation ending with the tasting. Contented ooh-ing followed the entrée (shown here - a watermelon marinated feta & sunflower shoot salad with a clear tomato jelly), mains and the dessert, a (organic) rose petal ice cream sprinkled with fine diced turkish delight served on a bed of pashmak (aka persian fairy floss), added the ahh.

(Note: Pashmak is available at a few NZ gourmet shops and here by mail order.)

I think I'll have to second the many in attendance who will be seeing Guy Stanaway either on stage or on telly later on. This 23 year old hotshot (he fully deserves that descriptor - look at this amazing achievement!) presents himself well and is unnervingly calm under 'pressure' of the kitchen. Makes sense. Guy's mum was a popular caterer and his father, a lawyer (or so I overheard). In any case, the culinary wunderkind surely and truly has a long career ahead of him. And his class focussed on a favourite, lemons! Savoury uses of lemons.. pairing them with some of the spices I like in a tagine and to garnish. A recipe for one of his dishes appears in this months issue of cuisine.

Part 1/3

Tuesday, June 19, 2007


Stinky cheese is great cheese.

Or I think so. Then, I came home last week to find my maroilles inside its paper, inside its plastic dish, wrapped in a bag and inside a pot in yet another bag in the fridge with a wee air freshener perched atop the refrigerator.

Apparently my flatmate does not.

Maroilles, from the Nord-Pas de Calais, is another of France's oldest cheeses. It has been produced in the same area since about 960 a.d. and owes its name to a small abbey in the Avesnois region where it was first made.

Note the white stamp in the upper left of the label. It is one of a small number of French cheeses to benefit from a protected label of origin, AOC, that regulates and guarantees its manufacture.

Maroilles is a washed rind cow's milk cheese with a soft paste. The washing produces the typical orange and slightly striated crust. It has a unique make process that after two, three, or up to four months of aging, results in its pungent aroma and delicate savoury creaminess.

Although I don't typically cook with cheese (especially with its pricetag), the traditional Maroilles dish, 'La flamiche' (similar to a quiche) is delicious. I prefer it 'as is' as a snack with a glass of beer or at the end of the meal accompanied by the remainder of the wine.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Winter warmer..

I'll be the first to admit that this photo doesn't LOOK warm at all. And it isn't. Winter is definitely here in the South Island of New Zealand and while it has taken a turn toward cooler temperatures, it is still nice enough to partake of outdoor activities and work up an appetite for comfort food.

Comfort food and its cooking is something I look forward to just as much as any summer barbeque.

Stews, soups, casseroles, plenty of baking and pasta! Some of my favourites are on the menu and there is another central roadtrip in the works.. I'll let you know what I discover.