Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Recipe 15: Rhubarb, Apple and Ginger Compote

Rhubarb is without doubt my favourite fruit..even though its a vegetable. I love its colour and the fact that it goes well with so many things like pastry, spices, creamy things or other fruits. It has a short, natural, season which is just beginning here in Northern Europe. Forced rhubarb, when it is grown in a dark, protected area, is now apparently quite common and means its available all year round but even knowing this I havent been able find it yet.
This is a recipe from an old issue of the Australian Gourmet Traveller Magazine which I used to do quite alot. Its works superbly as a 'prepare ahead' dinner party dessert with the biscuits and some ice cream or cream. For breakfast its lovely with porridge or muesli instead of the biscuits.

For 6-8
Rhubarb, Apple and Ginger Compote
2 golden delicious apples (about 325g) peeled cored and cut into 5mm thick slices.
50g crystallised ginger
150g caster sugar
Juice and rind of 1 orange. Remove the pith and cut the rind into julienne.
600g trimmed rhubarb stalks, cut into 4cm lengths

Combine apples, ginger, sugar, orange juice and rind in a heavy-based saucepan and stir over medium heat until sugar dissolves, then simmer gently 5 mins or until apples begin to soften. Add rhubarb, cover and cook gently over medium heat for 10-15 mins or until rhubarb pieces are soft but still have their shape. Cool to room temperature, then refrigerate until cold.

Ginger Shortbread
100g soft unsalted butter
2 T very finely chopped crystallised ginger
40g caster sugar
100g plain flour
2 T rice flour
2 T corn flour
makes about 16 meduim sized shortbread
Use an electric mixer, beat butter, ginger, sugar and a pinch of salt until smooth. Stir in combined flours in two batches. Knead dough gently on a lightly floured surface until smooth. Roll dough between two peices of parchment until 4mm thick then using cutters or a sharp knife, if you are feeling artistic, cut out shapes. Place on greased trays in the oven at 180C for 8-10 mins or until firm to touch. They will keep in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks so I normally make a double batch as they are delicious.

It is more popular in some countries to use rhubarb as a savoury rather than treat it as a fruit. Have any of you ever used it in a savoury dish?

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Jer: No Knead Bread

I've always wanted to be the kind of cook that makes bread at home on a regular basis. Unfortunately, my results in the past have always been disastrous -- too gummy, too floury, no rise, not crusty enough. And so much work. I've thought about buying a bread maker but they're so darn big and I've never had the proper counter space for one. Plus, I hate kitchen machines like bread makers and rice cookers and crock pots. Bread has been around for thousands of years so I certainly should be able to make do without needing to drop $300 at Williams Sonoma.

Given my results in the past I was very suspect of what my results would be like with this recipe. I read the directions over and over again and studied some bread making books at the local Borders. No starter, no kneading, no creating steam in the oven with a spray bottle or a tray of ice. It can't be that easy, can it?

But it really was that easy. Five minutes to prepare the dough. Five minutes the day you want to bake it. That's it. So easy I laughed out loud when I took the top off my pot and saw how my mound of wet flour and water had turned into this beautiful artisinal looking round. For lack of a better way to describe the results -- the crust was perfectly crusty; the dough was perfectly doughy; the shape was a perfect round; the color was a perfect golden brown. We sliced it ten minutes after coming out of the oven and it was delicious with french butter and a little sea salt. Based on Elaine's comment about salt, I doubled the salt in the recipe and lined the bowl where it did its rising with some nice olive oil. I also didn't bother with cotton towels for the last two hours of rising. I just lightly dusted a marble surface and topped it with saran wrap and it worked just fine. I had no trouble at all transferring it from the countertop to my Le Creuset. I prepared it Friday morning and put it in the oven Saturday evening -- so from a timing standpoint its very easy as long as you have one day's notice for when people are coming over for dinner.

I can't wait to play around with this recipe ... trying different flours, adding olives or jalapeno, topping with some parmesean ... Thank you Ashley. This was so delicious and easy that I don't think I'll ever buy overpriced bread for company ever again!