Nutella and Vanilla Bean Panna Cotta

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Happy Valentine’s Day!

Panna Cotta is one of my favourite desserts to make because it’s really simple to put together and it tastes incredible. I love the texture of panna cotta; it’s soft, creamy and light which always amazes people because it is basically just full-fat cream and gelatine! In reality it is quite a sinful dessert but it doesn’t weigh you down; you feel like you’re in heaven when you eat it.

For Valentine’s Day I wanted to make my partner something he really loves which is the pure and simple flavour of vanilla-bean panna cotta. I, on the other hand, love the flavours of hazelnuts and chocolate. So I thought pairing vanilla bean and nutella would be a great combination for a dessert. Our tastes combined; just like the two of us, to form a heart.

My favourite recipe is adapted from David Lebovitz. It is practically fool-proof and you can make all sorts of delicious flavours! Once, I added lemon and orange zest and cinnamon… It tasted just like a Crema Catalana (Spanish Creme Brulee) just minus the toffee. Anyway, I digress. You can make this recipe less cream-heavy by using half milk instead but I haven’t actually tried that. I’m of the opinion that if you’re going to indulge in a dessert of this sort you may as well go the full hog right?  I also use thickened cream; it’s cream that already has a small amount of gelatine in it to make it easier to whip so I changed the amount of powdered gelatine from the original recipe. So keep that in mind if you’re using pure cream and/or milk!

The texture and the flavour of the Nutella layer is phenomenal. It is like eating Nutella mousse. I think I could eat it all day! It doesn’t taste like a watered-down version of Nutella at all; in fact the cream seems to be the perfect carrier to show off the flavours! Vanilla-bean panna cotta is a very classic flavour which actually enhances the cream. So I think the combination of both is quite perfect!

 

Nutella and Vanilla Bean Panna Cotta

Serves 2 – 4

Nutella layer:

  • 1 cup (250ml) thickened cream
  • 25g caster sugar
  • 1 tsp powdered gelatine
  • 1 ½ tbs cold water
  • ½ cup Nutella

Vanilla layer:

  • 1 cup (250ml) thickened cream
  • 25g caster sugar
  • 1 tsp powdered gelatine
  • 1 ½ tbs cold water
  • ¼ tsp vanilla bean paste

First make the nutella layer. In a jug that you can easily pour from, sprinkle the gelatine over the water and let it set for a few minutes. In a saucepan over low heat, warm the cream and stir in the sugar. Once the sugar has dissolved, stir in the Nutella and mix well. Do not let the cream boil. Pour the cream mixture into the gelatine and mix well to ensure all the gelatine has melted.

Pour the mixture into either two wine glasses or goblets or decorative bowls. You could also divide the mixture into small ramekins for more serves. If you want the panna cotta to set diagonally, tilt the glass and secure it until it sets. Immediately refrigerate and let it set for a few hours.

To make the vanilla layer, follow the instructions again but instead of adding nutella add the vanilla bean paste instead. Wait until the mixture has cooled down to room temperature before pouring over the Nutella layer. If you want this layer to be slanted as well, do the same thing with the glass and make sure you let it set for several hours.

Enjoy!

Buttermilk Pikelets

Pikelets are iconic Australian pancakes; little fluffy pillows smothered in jam and butter or cream served at morning or afternoon tea. I just love them and I could eat them anytime of the day. So when we woke up at 11am this morning (we are on holidays after all) I decided to whip up some pikelets for brunch. The great thing about pikelets is that they are really easy to make. The ingredients for the batter are usually staples and they cook really quickly.

Now, speaking of staples: usually pikelets are made with self-raising flour but I didn’t have any. We only moved in a week ago so I’m still stocking up the cupboard with food. Boy is that expensive I have to say. Anyway, I didn’t have any baking powder or cream of tartar so I couldn’t make self-raising flour. I did however have some apple cider vinegar and bicarb soda – which worked! A traditional recipe also calls for milk, but I still had a carton of buttermilk leftover from baking red velvet cupcakes. The pikelets tasted exactly as they should but they were beautifully fluffy. We had them with strawberry jam and Tasmanian butter; the richest, creamiest butter imaginable. It was a sinful and delicious brunch and worth every calorie.

Buttermilk Pikelets
Makes 25 (small)

1 cup plain flour
1 tbs caster sugar
3/4 cup buttermilk
1 egg
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
Butter for frying, extra to serve

Sift the flour, sugar and a pinch of salt together in a mixing bowl and make a well. Whisk together the buttermilk and egg and add to the dry ingredients. Mix together the bicarb soda and vinegar and add to the batter whisking until smooth.

Heat a non-stick frypan over medium heat and melt some butter for taste. Drop heaped tablespoons of the pikelet batter into the pan and fry until bubbles appear on the surface. Turn over and cook for a further minute until golden.

Serve with butter and jam, or with whipped cream and fruit.

Note: Use self-raising flour instead of plain and omit the bicarb soda and vinegar.


Ga Kho (Vietnamese Caramel Ginger Chicken)

Ever since we visited a fantastic Malaysian restaurant called Abell’s Kopi Tiam in Manuka, I’d been craving a really strong chicken and ginger combination. REALLY craving it, all week. We had a boneless chicken dish in a ginger and shallot sauce which was just incredible. The kind of flavours and textures that you remember forever.

So when it came to deciding what to cook for dinner, I searched “ginger chicken” in Foodgawker and discovered a recipe for Vietnamese Caramel Ginger Chicken or Ga Kho.

At first I was a little intimidated by making the caramel; it was the first time I’d ever put sugar in a pan without any water to let it cook. It was very easy though; after a few minutes the sugar melted and slowly turned into a rich red-brown. My other concern was the amount of fish sauce but in the end I couldn’t taste it, but I knew it wouldn’t be the same without it.

I feel ashamed to say that I was tempted to use garlic and ginger from a jar (which I use for quick and easy meals) but this dish really needs freshly sliced ginger and garlic, and lots of it. The end result was just stunning! The ginger was exactly the taste I was after, and the sauce was thick and sticky and sweet. The colour of the chicken was just gorgeous and the whole dish looked spectacular garnished with shallots (spring onions).

Vietnamese Caramel Ginger Chicken (Ga Kho)
Adapted from Cookin’ Canuck

1/3 cup caster sugar
1/2 cup water
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1/2 medium onion, finely chopped
1/2 cup fresh ginger, peeled, and cut into matchsticks
2 garlic cloves, sliced
1kg chicken legs, generously seasoned with salt
2 tbsp plus 1 tsp fish sauce
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepperpinch ground chilli
3 green onions, thinly sliced

Heat a large straight-sided skillet over medium heat and add sugar. Cook until the sugar starts to melt and turn brown, about 5 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook, swirling the pan frequently, until the caramel is bubbling and turns reddish brown, 4 to 5 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and, very carefully, pour in water. Please be sure to turn your face aside while you do this so you do not get splattered. If the caramel hardens, set the pan over medium-high heat. Stir until the caramel dissolves, then pour it into a heatproof measuring cup or bowl.

With hot water (so the leftover caramel bits don’t seize up on the bottom of the pan), clean and dry the pan. Place the skillet over medium-high heat and heat oil in the skillet. Add onion and ginger. Cook for 1 minute. Add sliced garlic and cook for an additional minute. With a slotted spoon, remove the onion, ginger, and garlic from the oil and reserve in a bowl.

To the skillet, add chicken. Cook until the chicken no longer looks raw on the outside, about 2 minutes per side. Yes, the pan will be crowded! Add the reserved caramel sauce, fish sauce, salt, black pepper, and chili. Mix to coat the chicken. Reduce the heat to medium and cook (the mixture will be simmering briskly) until the chicken is cooked through, turning the chicken every 2 to 3 minutes, about 20 minutes. Stir in the reserved onions, ginger, and garlic and cook for 2 to 3 additional minutes.

Transfer the chicken and cooked aromatics (ginger, etc.) to a serving platter. Thinly slice 3 green onions and use to garnish the chicken. Serve with rice.

Serves 4 to 6.

Mini Christmas Cupcakes

As everyone knows, one of the best things about Christmas is the food. It is the best time of year to unleash your creativity. This year I decided to bake mini red velvet cupcakes with simple decorations – less is more in this case. With so many little cupcakes, the more simplistic decorations look the most effective. I chose to decorate with mini m&ms, silver cachous, crushed candy canes and peppermint crisps.

I baked red velvet cupcakes because I just love the combination of such a beautiful, vibrant cake and cream cheese icing. Best of all, if I used any mint-flavoured candy it wouldn’t conflict with the flavours of the cake.

I used the red velvet recipe from this fantastic blog: http://tastedbytwo.com/2009/06/23/recipe-magnolia-red-velvet-cupcakes/ This recipe has been my staple for the past few years; it works for full sized cakes, wedding cakes, regular cupcakes and mini cupcakes. I usually halve the recipe to make a batch of mini cupcakes, otherwise I’d be baking for hours. I also omit any vanilla from the cream cheese icing; I don’t think it needs it.

The great thing about these mini sized cupcakes is that they look amazing in a box, ready to treat someone for Christmas!

Merry Christmas everyone!