Sunday, November 24, 2013

Pineapple upside-down cake

Photo by Steve shanahan

First published Canberra Times 9 October 2013

I wonder where the family bonfires on cracker night, the aussie-hacienda style architecture and the olive green and burnt orange kitchen laminate have gone. I suspect relegated to the same place as the pineapple upside down cake and such things. 

I have a vivid memory of my aunt arriving at our house, wearing her cat-eye sunglasses andvspotted sundress, stepping delicately out of her Holden EH, Jackie O-style,clutching a Tupperware cake server. We knew what was in the cake server, the ultimate treat – the caramelised, sticky, pineapple upside down cake. Like all good housewives of the day, she had stocked up on tins of pineapple rings to make this exotic delight.

This cake is best left for a day for flavours to infuse.

½ cup unsalted butter
1 cup brown sugar
can of sliced pineapple rings
6 maraschino cherries
6 pecans
1 cup plain flour, sifted
1 tsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt
3 eggs, separated
1 cup white sugar
5 tbsp pineapple juice, from the tin
1 tsp vanilla paste

Preheat the oven to 175C.
Prepare a twenty-three centimetre cake tin by adding the butter to the cake tin and placing inside the warming oven until melted, this should take a few minutes. Remove the tin from the oven and sprinkle the brown sugar evenly over the butter. Place six pineapple rings evenly over the sugar and place a cherry inside each pineapple ring. Fill the spaces between the rings with a pecan.

In a medium bowl, combine sifted flour, baking powder and salt, and stir.

Using a hand mixer, in a metal or glass bowl, beat the egg whites on high until peaked. Set aside.

Using an electric stand mixer beat the egg yolks with the sugar at medium speed until light and creamy. Add the pineapple juice and vanilla extract and beat well. Add the flour mixture to the creamed butter mixture and beat together until well combined. Fold in the egg whites using a metal spoon or rubber spatula. Pour the cake mixture evenly over the fruit, and smooth off with a spatula.

Bake the cake for thirty minutes, or until the cake is golden and a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Place the cooked cake on a wire rack to cool for ten minutes. Run a blunt knife around the edge of the cake to loosen. Invert carefully onto a plate, as the juices will run out. Serve warm with cream or at room temperature. This cake improves with age. 

Paprika chicken and pineapple salad

Photo by Steve Shanahan

First published Canberra Times October 9 2013.
The buzzing chorus of Sunday lawnmowers and the competing cicada crescendo leave you in no doubt that summer is just around the corner. 

Add to the din the sizzle of lunch grilling on the backyard barbeque, and Mum calling out from the kitchen for someone to check that the meat doesn’t burn, makes my Sunday complete.

As the deliciously crisp offerings make their way to the table and the dog follows with his nose expectantly upturned, the unmistakeable aroma of sweet cooked pineapple floats in the air.

For those who love their pineapple cooked, this one is for you. The barbeque caramelises the sugars in this tropical delight, and makes a perfect partner to onion, basil and coconut.

Best served with a barbequed meat, but my vote goes to pre-marinated
Paprika Grilled Chicken.

Pineapple salad
1 ripe whole pineapple, sliced into 2cm thick rings
2 medium red onions, sliced into thick rings, keeping them intact.
1 lemon, juice and zest
4 tbsp olive oil
12 basil leaves
4 tbsp shredded coconut
2 tbsp chopped green shallots

Preheat the barbeque to a medium heat.
Drizzle the pineapple slices and onion rings with the olive oil. Grill the pineapple and onion rings until golden and the grill marks appear on the softened flesh. This will take about five to six minutes each side. They should be lightly charred.

Slice the pineapple into chunks and chop the onion rings, then combine in a serving bowl. Add the basil leaves, shallots and coconut before drizzling with lemon juice and a light sprinkle of lemon zest. Toss before serving warm or at room temperature.

Paprika chicken
6 boneless chicken thighs
2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
2 tbsp Tamari or low sodium soy sauce
1 tbsp maple syrup
1 tbsp sesame seeds
2 tsp smoky paprika
1 clove chopped garlic
1 tbsp brown sugar
½ tsp sea salt
ground pepper
4 tbsp olive oil

Setting the chicken aside, mix all of the marinade ingredients together, and pour into a resealable bag or large bowl. Place the chicken thighs in the bag, or bowl, seal the bag and rub to coat the chicken with the marinade. Leave for a few hours to infuse and massaging the chicken occasionally to distribute the marinade.

Preheat the barbeque to a medium heat.

Remove the chicken from the marinade, allowing the excess to drip off. Grill until the chicken has cooked about seven minutes per side, checking for doneness. Discard any remaining marinade.

Elvis's banana pound cake

Photo by Steve Shanahan
First published Canberra Times September 18 2013.

With nothing better to do than focus on the eating habits of the rich and famous, I find that there really are some weird culinary appetites out there. I wonder if being rich and famous causes this or is it an pre-existing enzyme in the brain that sets them on this path to culinary oddity? 

I am curious about Elvis Presleys food habits; the widely known peanut butter and jelly sandwich binges and flying cross country to gorge on pre-ordered burgers. In researching this culinary curiosity, I was further surprised to stumble upon his obsession for pound cake. Its said that he single-handedly consumed a whole loaf each time it was made for him by a childhood friend. This friendship persisted and she developed the recipe especially for Elvis, delivering the cooked cakes to him at Gracelands. She beefed up his version of the basic pound cake with extra cream, creating a smooth crumbed but heavier texture, to satisfy his food cravings that could strike at any time.

I decide to doctor Elvis cake and create my version, adding bananas, ground cinnamon and ginger to the Elvis mixture and halved the cream. This makes a delicately flavoured banana pound loaf, moist and fudgy with a hint of spice. The quantity makes two loaves and one always ends up in the freezer for later. I like this old style cake in its unadorned state, pristine and warm from the oven, with maybe just a little butter. Alternatively, top with a sweet cream cheese and walnut icing.

Makes two loaves.
Preheat the oven to 175C.

220g unsalted butter, softened
3 cups plain flour, sifted
2 ½ cups brown sugar
5 eggs
2 tsp vanilla paste
½ tsp salt
½ cup cream and ½ cup milk, combined
3 bananas, mashed
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp orange zest

Grease two, twenty-three centimetre loaf pans and set aside.

Beat the butter, sugar and vanilla with an electric mixer until pale and creamy.

Add eggs one at the time, beating each one in well.

Add the flour and the cream and milk mixture, alternately, beginning and ending with the flour.

Add the spices and salt and beat until combined for about three minutes.

Remove the bowl from the mixer and stir in the mashed banana and orange zest.

Divide the cake batter between the two greased loaf tins and bake for thirty-five to forty minutes. Remove from the oven and leave for about fifteen minutes before removing from the tins.

Bobotie with Banana

First published Canberra Times September 18 2013. 

Photo by Steve Shanahan
Bobotie is a national food icon to South Africans, sometimes described as a South African moussaka. It is best described as a light textured meat tart, flavoured with typical Cape Malay spices and fruit, then topped with a savoury custard.

The dish first appears in a Dutch cookbook in the early 1600s, and makes its way to the Cape Colony sometime in the seventeenth century. Dutch East India Company trading ships returning from the Spice Islands to Holland via the Cape of Good Hope brought the first Malay slaves, and their spices, to be added to the mix. Dutch colonists and migrant Indians also have a hand in its development and the result is a truly multicultural experience, with just the right balance of sweet, sour and spicy.

The variations of Bobotie are pretty much endless, but generally contain the wrap-around signature spice flavours with a selection of meat, fruit and topped with an egg custard and nuts. I chose the traditional beef mince, apples, curry, bananas, almonds and coconut for my dish, a combination that improves if left in the fridge overnight and warmed up the following day.

Serves 4

1 tbsp olive oil
500g lean beef mince
2 red onions, finely chopped
1 tbsp curry paste
1 tsp turmeric
½ tsp each, ground coriander, ground cardamom and chilli powder
salt and pepper to taste
2 slices of bread, crusts removed and softened with milk and mashed
1 tsp tomato paste
1 apple, peeled and cored, then grated
2 tbsp raisins or sultanas
2 tbsp fruit chutney
juice and zest of lemon
1 chopped garlic glove
2 bananas, sliced
200ml milk
2 large eggs
2 tbsp slivered almonds
2 tbsp shredded coconut
3 bay leaves

Preheat the oven to 180C. 

Grease a twenty centimetre ovenproof pie dish. Heat the olive oil in a large frypan over a medium heat. Add the chopped onions and fry until soft. Add the curry paste and other spices, salt and pepper and fry for an additional minute. Add the beef mince, breaking up and cooking until browned.

Add the mashed bread and milk mixture, tomato paste, grated apple, raisins or sultanas, chutney, lemon zest and juice and the garlic. Fry for a few minutes until combined on a medium heat. 

Transfer the meat mixture to the greased pie dish and top with sliced banana.

Lightly beat the milk and eggs together with a fork and pour the custard mixture over the pie. Top with slivered almonds and shredded coconut and lay the bay leaves on the top.

Bake in a 200c oven for twenty five to thirty minutes. Serve with boiled rice cooked with half a teaspoon of turmeric. Bobotie can be eaten warm or at room temperature and flavours are best if eaten the following day.