Salted Macadamia Buttercrunch

Ingredients

  • 250g raw unsalted Macadamia nuts
  • 200g granulated sugar
  • 45g light brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 114g salted butter cut into pieces
  • A big pinch of good salt, such as Maldon
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 150g Dark or milk chocolate, chopped
  • Additional flaky sea salt (optional)

Method

  • Toast the macadamia nuts in a large frying pan over a medium heat for a few minutes taking care not to burn them.
  • Remove from pan, allow to cool and chop somewhere between finely and coarsely
  • Form half the nuts into a rectangle about 20 x 25 cm on an ungreased baking sheet or a Silpat mat.
  • In a medium, heavy-duty saucepan, heat the water, butter, salt, and white and brown sugars.
  • Cook, stirring gently if necessary, until a sugar thermometer reads 150ºC degrees.
  • Remove from heat and immediately stir in the baking soda and vanilla.
  • Quickly pour the mixture over the nuts on the baking sheet. Using a small offset spatula, or similar utensil, spread the warm mixture over the nuts. (If you want to sprinkle additional sea salt over the buttercrunch mixture, do it at this point.)
  • Let set for about a minute or two
  • Sprinkle the chocolate pieces over the top and let stand 2 minutes. The residual heat in the caramel will melt the chocolate.
  • Spread the chocolate in an even layer.
  • Sprinkle the remaining nuts over the chocolate and gently press them in with your hands, or a spatula.
  • Cool completely and break into pieces to serve.
  • Store in an airtight container.

Nice! and Tasty – Chris

Mind Travel

The sun was beating down, the seagulls were circling overhead making their raucous sounds, children’s excited voices could be heard coming from the distant beach but she was blissfully unaware of anything that could detract from her glorious feeling of aloneness.  Floating over the gentle waves, totally relaxed, this was the most incredible therapy. The past few months, and even years, if she was honest, had been extremely difficult in many ways. Some old friends had moved to distant shores and several had died. There had been the stress of coping with huge financial losses as well as certain health issues. On top of this, there were always decisions to be made and she loathed making decisions especially as they always tended to involve money, or the lack thereof. So very difficult to switch off and relax, but today was different.

Right now all these complications were of no consequence. She was experiencing the most incredible form of relaxation and she managed to clear her mind of every thought as it threatened to creep into her state of semi consciousness. Peace, calm, floating, floating, gently over the waves without a care in the world. This was something she should have done months before instead of trying to relax through the usual methods such as watching a movie, chatting to friends or reading a good book. Those activities used too much energy. What was needed was a mindless drifting form of relaxation. Today was absolutely perfect-just what her inner voice had been nagging her to do. Far better than trying to lie back in warm, essential oil infused bath water surrounded by fragrant candles – the persistent background noises caused by the other members of the family destroyed any true feelings of peace and harmony. Floating in the ocean away from the trials and tribulations of the real world – this was the closest thing to heaven.

What’s that ringing sound interfering with her feelings of calm? It’s going on and on. She forces herself to become aware of her surroundings and with feelings of dismay realises that she is lying on an inflatable mattress in her pool in the back garden and not floating in the ocean at all! It’s that wretched mobile phone that’s causing the disturbance to her tranquillity. Darn it – she should have turned it off, but with the possibility of business calls and potential problems with family and friends, it was usually left on twenty four hours of the day and night.  Oh well, that’s today’s mind travel episode over she says, and feeling cheated, clambers out of the sun-warmed water and forces herself, reluctantly, to get back to reality and answer the call.

“There is no need to go to India or anywhere else to find peace. You will find that deep place of silence right in your room, your garden or even your bathtub”- Elizabeth Kubler Ross

Mind Trvl Beach 515x342

Short Stories

Imagination is the divine body in every man – William Blake

So often it is a short story which catches the imagination and there will be times when some of my posts are really short and, I hope, enjoyable. However, at other times I may divide a writing into several separate posts. Time seems to be the enemy of many of us, so I trust that the short writings will be received favourably by you, the valued reader, if you find there just don’t seem to be enough hours in your busy day.

Thai Green Curry

You could make your own green curry paste for this recipe. Personally, I think life is too short for that. Besides, in my opinion, you can get great curry pastes at virtually any supermarket these days. You could substitute this with a red or yellow paste if you so wish.

Ingredients

  • 750g firm white fish fillets (monkfish, dory, swordfish, yellowtail), cubed
  • 500g green beans chopped
  • 1 medium onion finely sliced
  • 250g fresh shitake mushrooms sliced
  • 2-3 Tblsp green Thai curry paste
  • 500ml vegetable stock
  • 1 can full cream coconut milk
  • 1-2 tsp fish sauce
  • 2 Tblsp oil
  • Fresh coriander

Method

  • Heat the oil and gently sauté the onion until golden and soft
  • add the curry paste and fry gently for a minute or so.
  • add the mushrooms, green beans, coconut milk, stock and fish sauce and simmer gently until the beans are cooked to your liking (I prefer them with a bit of crunch)
  • Season the fish pieces, add to the sauce.
  • Poach gently until the fish is nearly cooked all the way through (approx. 2-3 minutes)
  • Taste, and season if required
  • remove from the heat, add a handful of fresh chopped coriander and stir through

serve in bowls on top of steamed rice (Jasmine or basmati works)

Nice! and Tasty – Chris

Smoked Duck with Spicy Litchi and Szechuan pepper sauce

This recipe involves lightly smoking the duck breast after it has come out of the oven and is resting. Do not worry if you don’t have a smoking gun to smoke the duck, as the dish will still be delicious.

Ingredients

  • 4 duck breasts, skin lightly scored
  • Cherrywood chips
  • Salt and pepper
  • Frozen/fresh lotus root slices
  • 1 bunch bok choi
  • Vegetable oil for deep frying

Sauce

  • 1tsp Szeschuan pepper
  • 1tsp dried chilli flakes
  • 1tsp cumin seeds
  • 1tsp coriander seeds
  • 1 lemongrass stem, white part only, coarsely chopped
  • 2 small shallots
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2cm piece of ginger peeled
  • 2 Tblsp chopped coriander stem
  • 1 Tblsp chopped coriander leaves
  • 525g tin litchis in Syrup
  • 2tsp Fish Sauce
  • 200 ml Chicken stock
  • 2 Tblsp lemon juice
  • 100ml coconut milk
  • 2 Tblsp Peanut oil
  • Corn Starch

Rice

  • I cup white rice
  • 1 can coconut milk
  • Water
  • Salt

Method

  • Turn oven on to 190deg C.
  • Begin by making the sauce.
  • Add Szechuan pepper, cumin, coriander seeds, chilli flakes, lemongrass, shallot, garlic, ginger, coriander stem and leaves, half of the tin of litchis and syrup, fish sauce and lemon juice to a food processor/blender and process for a few minutes until as smooth as possible.
  • Pass the sauce through a sieve to remove unprocessed pieces.
  • Heat the peanut oil in a pan and when hot add the sauce and fry for about a minute over a medium heat.
  • Add the rest of the litchi syrup, coconut milk and chicken stock and gently simmer the sauce until reduced by about half its volume – +/- 20 – 30 minutes.
  • Season (if necessary) and thicken sauce slightly with a little corn-starch added to a bit of water, and then stirred through the sauce.
  • Chop remaining litchis into chunks and add to sauce – heat through.
  • Set aside.

Lotus root

  • If frozen, thaw the lotus root and dry on kitchen towel.
  • Heat oil to 180deg C and fry lotus root in batches until golden brown.
  • Remove from oil.
  • Season with salt and set aside.

Rice

  • Cook the rice on the stove top or rice cooker, substituting the equivalent water, with the can of coconut milk.

Duck

  • Heat a non-stick pan over a medium heat and brown the duck skin side down until well browned and fat has rendered out +/- 5- 7 minutes. Take care not to burn.
  • Turn duck over and briefly brown remaining sides.
  • Transfer duck to an oven friendly pan and cook in the oven for about 6-7 minutes  (this will produce duck which is still slightly pink in the middle). Cook longer if you want more well-done duck.
  • Remove duck and rest in a glass dish.
  • Cover dish with cling wrap and add Cherrywood smoke.
  • Seal dish and rest meat in the smoke for 3-4 minutes.

Bok Choi

  • Steam/boil Bok Choi until softened.
  • Set aside and keep warm.

To serve

  • Spoon warm sauce onto a plate.
  • Place bok choi leaves onto plate and top with coconut rice.
  • Slice the duck breast and lay on top of sauce
  • Top with crispy lotus root

Nice! and Tasty – Chris

Gluten Free Almond Cake/Tart

This cake is absolutely delicious and extremely simple to make. It is really moist and has a great almond flavour.

Cake

Ingredients

  • 100g ground almonds
  • Pinch salt
  • 50g icing sugar
  • 50g regular sugar
  • 1 large egg – beaten
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter (55g), melted and cooled, plus more for the pan
  • ½ teaspoon almond extract or 1 teaspoon almond essence
  • 1 1/2 tsp Vanilla extract
  • 80g plain flour
  • Pinch of salt

Glaze (optional) – Mix the ingredients below adding more or less sugar depending on the consistency you want

  • Icing sugar
  • Water
  • Almond extract
  • Squeeze fresh lemon juice

Method

  • Preheat the oven to 160°C. Line the base of a 6-inch (15cm) cake pan with parchment paper cut to fit and generously butter the bottom and sides of the pan.
  • In a large bowl, combine the ground almonds, salt and all sugars.
  • Add the beaten egg, melted butter, and almond extract to the dry ingredients. Mix until smooth. The batter should be quite thick.
  • Scrape the batter into the prepared cake pan and smooth the top.
  • Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until the cake is golden brown and a cake tester inserted into the centre comes out clean. Carefully turn the cake out of the pan onto a wire rack and let it cool completely.
  • Pour the glaze (if using) over the cooled cake and allow to set (approx. 20min). 

The almond cake will keep in an airtight container, or well wrapped in plastic wrap, for several days.

Nice! and Tasty – Chris

New Year 2019

Regardless of the country in which you live, if you are reading my blog right now you are possibly making plans to celebrate the end of 2018 and the start of a New Year, with all its promises.

We humans seem to have the knack of facing the New Year with optimism time and time again. It is this hope and positivity when thinking about the year ahead that keeps us going, despite any  hardships and sadness that we may have had to endure during the past year. It’s just as well that we are often able to start the New Year with enthusiasm and a certain amount of excitement at what the coming year will bring.

With the world having become so very much smaller due to technology, one is able to watch people in all different countries celebrating the arrival of the New Year. One can begin by watching magnificent firework displays in cities such as Sydney, Australia, or Auckland, New Zealand and then travelling to Africa and watching festivities taking place in Cape Town. Two hours later, the crowds around Trafalgar Square in London, despite the cold, are always up for a rip roaring New Year’s Eve party – even going so far as to jump into the freezing fountain (obviously alcohol fuelled!) Firework displays along the banks of the River Thames are also par for the course.

London Fireworks 525x 332 1262297704

Times Square in New York is among the last cities to celebrate the arrival of the New Year (obviously this depends on which continent one is living when making the comparisons) and the freezing cold weather seems to do nothing to dampen the enthusiasm for being part of the activities. Similarities do seem to exist in Western societies when it comes to the New Year celebrations. Counting down the minutes to 12 midnight, letting off fireworks, kissing those nearby (!) and toasting one another with glasses of bubbly – all these are well known to many of us.

The singing of Auld Lang Syne (composed by Robert Burnes) is, for many traditionalists, an absolute necessity at the start of the New Year.  However, if one were to actually celebrate New Year in Scotland things could be quite different.  The Scots celebrate Hogmanay (as opposed to New Year) and for them the traditions include the “first foot”. This has to be a dark haired man bringing with him a piece of coal and other items such as some shortbread, and a “wee dram of Whisky” entering one’s home at the stroke of midnight, or just after, in order to ensure good health and prosperity for the coming year.

Many of us have good and maybe not so good memories of New Year’s Eve celebrations over the years. Waking up on 1 January can be a painful experience due to the night before. There are parties which may have been well worth the headaches of the morning after, while others are best forgotten. With drinking and driving laws in most countries these days, many choose to stay at home on 31 December and watch television, or have a special meal in an attempt to stay awake long enough to toast the arrival of the New Year with a glass of champagne.

Here’s hoping that 2019 worldwide is a less traumatic and troubled year than many of the more recent ones have proved to be. To anyone who is reading this, my wish is that you will have a wonderful start to the New Year.

New Year Cheer 300x300 236477596
CHEERS