Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Masterchef - Gary's Blackforest Cake & why do you cook?

I've been meaning to try this out for some time now - and with quite a bit of stress over the past couple of weeks, I figured the best thing to do to de-stress over the weekend was to make a cake. :)

For me, cooking and baking is a way to deal with stress. Because it's so unlike anything else I do in my day to day - and it requires the utmost concentration, it really helps to reboot my brain and relieve stress. Back in 2001, when 9/11 happened, I wasn't in New York at the time as I was in college. The whole thing was so mind numbing and impossible to take in, I ended up making pasta alfredo for everyone to give me something to mentally cope. (Mind you, it tasted absolutely horrendous.)

Gary's Blackforest cake


While the recipe is quite complex and involves quite a number of techniques and creations, the whole thing wasn't actually that bad. As you can tell, I didn't end up with the 5 tier cake like the one on the show simply because it was too late to try and make a second sponge cake (I only had 1 springform pan) and I hadn't bought enough marscapone cheese. Plus, when we served it up, most people had already eaten dessert anyway, so it was probably a good thing that it was a little smaller in size.


Why do you cook? What hobbies help you destress?

Friday, February 11, 2011

Five Spice Bacon Salad

Five spice pork is a lovely traditional chinese dish - the sweet and savoury taste of the five spice seasoning goes lovely with natural richness and juiciness of pork chops...

And bacon. :)

With summer well and truly here, salads have been the most appetising and easiest simple dinner option to enjoy - but it's been important to keep salads interesting, and filling. This salad is exceptionally light, but the addition of the bacon (and even the little bit of bacon grease!) makes it a hearty dinner option. Serve with a little bit of rice for an even more filling option.

Five Spice Bacon Salad


6 slices of middle bacon
2 tbs chinese five spice
30 g snow pea sprouts
150 gram mixed lettuce
1 ya pear cut into thin slices

Cut bacon into sizable chunks (but not small bits for now) - I usually stack the slices on top of each other and cut through. Coat the "chunks" liberally with five spice seasoning.

In a heated pan, bring the coated bacon to a sizzle. Let cook for about 6 minutes, just until the bacon cooks through without becoming too crispy. Save the grease to drizzle lightly over the salad, if desired.

Remove from pan and cut into bite size pieces. Toss together lettuce, snow pea sprouts and pear slices with the bacon pieces. Drizzle remaining bacon grease into salad (definitely tasty but not the heart healthy option - I also realise that I'm watching the Biggest Loser while I write this, so maybe NOT the most responsible recommendation I can make). Otherwise, you can dress with a light soy and some sesame oil.

Serve over rice for a nice hearty dinner option. (that still counts as "salad").

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Avocado Pesto

Mmmm - avocado, what an amazing and versatile fruit. Great on toast with a sprinkle of S&P and an absolute must have for any sushi lover.

With the incredible heat in Sydney this past week, it's been a real challenge to whip up dinner after work - the last thing you want to do in the 40 degree heat in a non-airconditioned apartment is turn on the stove!

This lovely pesto went perfectly with a simple salad of spinach leaves, roma tomatoes, barbecue chook and spanish onion - and no cooking required!

Finally, the cool change is here. Personally, I'm pretty done with summer!


Avocado Pesto


1 bunch basil
2 small garlic cloves
1 avocado
salt and pepper to taste
1/3 cup olive oil

Pick just the leaves from the bunch of basil. In a food processor, pulse basil leaves with garlic. Use a stick mixer to puree avocado and basil, garlic mix while slowly adding the oil in a steady stream until the mixture is smooth. Salt and pepper to taste.

Great for leafy summer salads - and works well with cold pasta salads as well.