31 May 2010


Okay, the theme for this month's cooking club meet, is HERBS. I am on starters/entree this time around and I am excited (great theme, CookN!)
Going on the success of my 'invention' last time, I am going to try it again. Notably, the ingredients are much simpler, the recipe- based on classic salad/dressing combinations so I am hoping to get a good result. The 'invention' this time, will come in the form of a jelly. Haven't quite decided-either lemon balm and apple or red grapefruit and kaffir? And when I say jelly, I mean firm cubes, not a wobbly, runny type. I'm hoping to add a different textural dimension. Watch this space. In the meantime this is the salad recipe:

Lobster, Pink Grapefruit and Mixed Herb salad

Ingredients (serves 4)

2 ruby red grapefruit, peeled, cut into segments

2 purple Asian shallots, very thinly sliced

1/2 cup round mint leaves

1/2 cup Vietnamese mint leaves

1/2 cup coriander leaves

1/2 cup Thai basil leaves

2 cooked lobster tails, shelled, cut into medallions

Vietnamese dressing

2 stalks lemongrass, white part only, finely chopped

1 garlic clove, crushed

2 tbs fresh ruby red grapefruit juice

2 tbs sweet chilli sauce

1 tbs brown sugar

1 tbs fish sauce

1/2 tsp sesame oil


To make the dressing, combine the lemongrass, garlic, grapefruit juice, sweet chilli sauce, sugar, fish sauce and sesame oil in a small bowl.

Combine the grapefruit, shallot, mints, coriander and basil in a large bowl. Drizzle with a little of the dressing and gently toss to combine. Place evenly among serving plates. Top with the lobster and drizzle with remaining dressing to serve.

10 May 2010


The theme of Chilli and Chocolate for this month's cook-out meant we were certain to CookEl's starters of Cauliflower and Green Chilli Pakoras set the tone for the evening. Crisp, golden batter studded with kalonji seeds enclosing the steaming, sweet florets of cauliflower were outstanding. The similarly treated green chillies were just as tasty and had a hint of smokiness and a decent bite and heat which were perfectly tempered by the zingy yogurt of the accompanying raita. SUPERB!

Next came the Poussins in Cacao. These were received well (?) and despite the generous portions, all that remained was a pile of carcasses-which can only mean they pleased the discerning diners who were probably a little unsure of the flavour profiles used in the marinade and basting sauce. I think Willie would be proud ;-)

CookA's task was to come up with appropriate sides/vegetables which given the chose ingredients required considerable forethought. She attempted a tamale of corn meal and spinach which must be credited-its not easy to cook something you've never even seen or eaten before. The honeyed, roasted pumpkin wedges and crispy potatoes turned out to be the perfect foil to the slightly bitter richness of the poussins.

Never to be outdone-CookB presented us with beautiful poufs of Chocolate Souffle, for which she had also slow-roasted some new season Quinces in butter and honey and whipped up a glossy, rich and moreish sauce of chocolate with a hint of chilli. DIVINE.

CookN finished the night off with little steaming cups of Hot Chocolate (again, using some more of the Venezuelan Black cacao and fresh, WA produced Banister Downs Milk) scented with ginger, cinnamon and other spices. GORGEOUS.

Our newest member-CookV could not be with us but kindly found some time to whip up a delectable batch of Chilli Chocolate & Caramel Slice - they were perfect! Firm but yielding layer of dark chocolate infused with a subtle but definite heat atop a gooey, buttery caramel and toothsome (read perfect) biscuit base. Thank you and WELCOME!!

*sigh* Were we 'chocolated' out? Not me.


HELP! If you can think of a better name for my dish-let me know. It could do with a bit of 'sexing' up!

For our June session of Cooking Club, I chose the theme of "Chilli & Chocolate", although not necessarily used together. For months I have had in my possession, 3 gleaming, dark, smoky and intoxicating bars of Venezuelan Black 100% cacao. They had been sitting in the darkest, coldest corner of my fridge awaiting a befitting fate and finally, the time had come to make their debut. I did not want to fail the cacao OR my fellow foodies by neglecting to do some research in the kitchen to see what the best medium would be.

The first thing I tried was a shoulder of pork. The idea for the recipe came from Willie Harcourt-Cooze, the brains (and literally, the brawn) behind the product. A cocktail of heady spices, along with some of the cacao would be injected into the joint before being rubbed all over with fennel seeds and salt and then roasted to achieve a crisp crackling with a flavoursome meat underneath. My version of this turned out to be a little bland, and missing any definite hit of the cacao.

Back to the drawing board. After some more Googling I discovered a recipe for Partridge basted in Cacao & Goose Fat. Lets face it-that sounds disgusting but I was intrigued by the concept of basting the bird. So the long and short of it is I ended up with the concept of a marinade to infuse the bird with some base flavours and then layering with the cacao throughout the roasting process.

At this point I would like to credit my VEGETARIAN husband with giving me some ideas for the marinade-the best one probably was to use some Youngs Double Chocolate Stout instead of wine. This, he reasoned, would help with 'layering' the flavour of chocolate. I agreed-although feared it would be chocolate overkill. You might be more game (pardon the pun) to try it.

I used poussins but you could also use chicken marylands or other game birds and adjust the cooking time.

Here goes:

6-8 Poussins, spatchcocked


2 cups shiraz or merlot
3 Tbs brown sugar
4 bay leaves
handful of fresh thyme sprigs
1 cup orange or grapefruit juice
2 strips of orange peel (white pith removed)
2 Tbs Juniper berries, crushed
approximately 80g grated cacao
a little chicken stock


1. Place the marinade ingredients into a saucepan and bring to a gentle simmer for 10-15 mins.
2. While marinade is cooling, rinse your poussins and pat dry with kitchen paper. Place them skin side up in a large baking tray. (I used a disposable, aluminium baking tray) and pour over the cooled marinade.
3. Roll your sleeves up and massage the poussins with the marinade until thoroughly coated. Cover and marinate for at least 6 hours or overnight.
4. Take poussins out of fridge and bring to room temperature about 1 hour before cooking. Remove poussins and wipe excess marinade off. Set aside two cups of the marinade.
5. Heat 2 Tbs oil in a large frying pan and brown the poussins on both sides, this might only take a couple of minutes. Take care not to burn the skin (the sugar in the marinade may cause the skin to burn if the heat is too high).
6. Place poussins in a clean baking tray, skin side up. Season with sea salt-you can afford to add a little more as the marinade is sweet.
7. Place 3/4 cup of the reserved marinade in a bowl and add the grated cacao. Mix well to dissolve the cacao-warm it up in the microwave if you need to. This mixture will be used to baste the birds as they roast. At this stage, SMELL the mixture-you want to make sure there is a reasonably strong smell of cacao otherwise all you will taste in the end is the red wine.
8. Baste the poussins generously before roasting them in a hot oven (about 200 degrees).

Baste every 10 mins or so, until the poussins are just pink (insert a skewer into the thickest part of the meat and make sure the juices are clear). Remove from the oven , give them a final baste and cover with foil. Rest for 10 mins.

To make a sauce, strain the pan juices (after resting) into a small saucepan, and add a little more grated cacao and stock. Season to taste and simmer for a minute or two. You should get a hearty, savoury gravy with a slightly bitter but definite cacao finish on the palate.

I am desperate to try this again, if for nothing else but to hone down the measurements. Quantities I have given above, are approximate as I created the marinade as I went on the day - I suppose many new recipes begin that way!

Please give it a try, it really rates as the most original, innovative dish I have ever created, and it was pretty darn tasty if I do say so myself!. Feel free to re-invent it to suit your tastes, thats what cooking is about. An evolving process with a few ground rules to guide the way. Send me an email if you would like to discuss :-)