30 October 2015

3.05 Brioche & Butterscotch Pudding - Intermediate - Baking & Desserts

I was in a bit of a decadent mood one day, and having recently seen an episode of Nigella Express where she made a Caramel Croissant Pudding (a riff on Bread & Butter Pudding), I decided that something similar would satisfy the urge. A couple of hours later, I was tucking into this quite contentedly.

While "butterscotch" typically refers to a mixture of butter and brown sugar, I decided to take it a bit more literally by adding quite a large amount of scotch whisky (apparently anything labelled "whiskey" is not authentic scotch). There is a fair bit of fire involved in burning off the alcohol, and even then it doesn't all evaporate, so I would recommend that you do not use a non-stick saucepan to make the custard base.

Due to the booze content that lingers even after baking, I will leave it up to you to decide whether it is acceptable to give to your children or not.

1 loaf Brioche, cut into cubes
200ml scotch whisky
500ml milk
75g unsalted butter
2/3 cup caster sugar
1 cup dark chocolate buttons
2 whole eggs
4 egg yolks
1 tsp vanilla extract/essence/paste
Pinch of salt

In regards to the Brioche, the cubes should be approx. 2.5 cm, (or 1 inch). If possible, it should also be slightly stale (as in a couple of days after it was baked) as the more it dries out, the more custard it will absorb. Most loaves are around 450-550g (approx. 1lb).

If you don't want to use scotch, you can use Irish whiskey, bourbon, rum, etc. I've also made it with Baileys and another time with Frangelico, but this will change the flavour a bit. If you want to leave the alcohol out altogether (spoilsport) just use some extra milk.

As mentioned above, "butterscotch" is meant to be butter and brown sugar, however I have opted to use caster sugar (which is sweeter) to smooth the edge off the alcohol. If you're leaving out the alcohol, feel free to use 2/3 cup of brown sugar instead. If you can find raw caster sugar, this is a good compromise as it has all the sweetness of plain caster sugar with a hint of caramel reminiscent of brown sugar.


1. Preheat oven to 180°C (350°F).

2. Tumble half of the cubed brioche into a baking dish, then scatter over half of the chocolate buttons.

3. Repeat Step 2 with the remaining brioche and chocolate.

4. Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat, then stir in the sugar until combined and it begins to change colour and crystalise. (You'll be adding liquid which will dissolve any lumps.)

5. Pour in the whisky. (TIP: You may want to do this off the heat as it can catch fire right away if you're using a gas stove.)

6. Either set it alight (carefully) and swirl the pan until the flames stop, or allow to simmer for at least 5 minutes, stirring frequently. (Fire can tend to scorch the pan, hence the reason not to use non-stick.)

7. Once the alcohol is burnt off, stir in the milk until combined, then remove from the heat.

8. In a jug, whisk together the eggs (including the extra yolks), vanilla and a pinch of salt until combined, then whisk in the hot milk and whisky mixture until combined.

9. Slowly pour the custard mix over the brioche and chocolate, ensuring that it is as evenly distributed as possible, then press down the brioche so that it submerges in the custard as much as it can.

10. Allow to rest for 5-10 minutes. (This allows the brioche to absorb the custard.)

11. Place into the oven and bake for 35-45 minutes or until the custard is set and the top is golden brown.

12. Allow to cool for at least 15 minutes before serving with some whipped cream or ice cream.

Serves 2-8 (being realistic!).

A video of this recipe is also available - https://youtu.be/DFyhHJWC0HA.

25 October 2015

3.04 Tips #4 – Using Packaged Products

I hope you’re enjoying the recipes so far, but it’s time for the first of this season’s Tips.

There’s a bit of a stigma surrounding the use of packaged products in cooking. I personally think it’s undeserved, as they can be a handy shortcut, or even an essential ingredient! I’ll explain my take on things, plus there’s a BONUS Spaghetti alla Puttanesca recipe just in time for World Pasta Day!

If you feel that you can sit this one out, I will be back with another recipe next week. For everyone else, please watch the video at https://youtu.be/MPOW8uhYGPg.

If anyone would like to share their own tips, or even if you just have a question, please do not hesitate to email me.

16 October 2015

3.03 Chimichurri Beef Fillet w/ Sweet Potato & Zucchini – Intermediate – Meat & Poultry

Sometimes there’s nothing better than a bit of grilled steak with some vegetables. Other times, you may want something similar, but a little more interesting, and that is precisely where this recipe came from.

In a completely unintentional turn of events, this recipe is also Paleo Diet friendly, but don’t let that discourage you!

1kg beef eye fillet
½ cup parsley, roughly chopped
½ cup coriander, roughly chopped
250ml extra virgin olive oil
¼ Spanish onion
2 tbsp lime juice
2 cloves garlic
500g sweet potato, diced
2 zucchini, julienned
1 tbsp lemon juice
Salt and pepper

I suppose you could really use your favourite cut of steak for this recipe instead of using a piece of eye fillet (which can be quite expensive sometimes), but if this is on the menu for a dinner party, then the fillet is much more impressive.

I am aware that traditional chimichurri sauce is made using vinegar, but I prefer to use lime juice as it has a fresher zing. Cooking is all just a matter of taste, right?


1. Slice the fillet in half. (This will make it easier to fit into the pan, as well as give you more surface area for the marinade.)

2. Place the parsley, coriander, onion, garlic and lime juice into a food processor, along with 125ml of extra virgin olive oil and a generous pinch of salt, and blend until finely chopped. (TIP: If you transfer the chimichurri sauce into a squeeze bottle it will make it easier to decorate the final dish.)

3. Brush approx. 1/3 of the chimichurri sauce over the beef fillet until it is coated evenly, then place aside to marinate for at least 25 minutes. (This will also allow time to bring the beef up to room temperature, which is ideal for cooking.)

4. Sear the fillet in a grill pan over high heat for approx. 2 minutes on each side, then place into a preheated 180°C (350°F) oven until cooked as desired. (Cooking time depends on the width of your fillet, but basic cooking times are 10 minutes for rare, 15 minutes for medium-rare, 20 minutes for medium, 25 minutes for medium-well done, and 30 minutes for well done. I would recommend that you do not cook an eye fillet beyond medium if possible.)

5. While the fillet is roasting, place the sweet potato into a pot with some lightly salted water and boil for approx. 15 minutes or until soft.

6. Drain the sweet potato and transfer to a food processor along with approx. 100ml of extra virgin olive oil and a generous pinch of salt and process until smooth. (TIP: If the puree is too thick, add a bit of boiling water or extra oil until the desired consistency is reached.)

7. Once the fillet is cooked, remove it from the pan, wrap with foil, and place aside to rest for approx. 10 minutes.

8. While the fillet is resting, return the pan to the stove on a medium-high heat and add the zucchini, remaining olive oil, and a pinch of salt and pepper, and fry until softened. Then add the lemon juice and continue to fry for a further 30-60 seconds.

9. To serve, place a large spoonful of sweet potato puree into the centre of the plate, then add a few slices of the fillet, and top with some zucchini. Finally, drizzle some of the leftover chimichurri sauce over the beef and around the plate.

Serves 4-6.

A video of this recipe is also available - https://youtu.be/c9frkM82kxY.

9 October 2015

3.02 Cinnaminis – Low-Fuss – Baking & Desserts

In all honesty, these are my lazy version of Cinnamon Rolls. I just gave them a catchy name.

These were my first baking 'triumph' and gave me the confidence to move onto things like profiteroles and macarons. I'll still make these from time to time due to popular demand (not that I really need an excuse!).

Ready rolled puff pastry sheets, thawed and with plastic backing still attached
Chopped walnuts
Chocolate chips
Ground cinnamon
1/4 cup water
1 1/2 cups icing mixture
1 large egg

As you can see, most of these ingredients do not have a quantity. This recipe doesn’t really care about quantities, make as many or as few as you like, using as much of each filling as you like.

If you can get all-butter puff pastry, use it. But otherwise, just regular puff pastry is fine. Try to get the ready-rolled sheets to minimise any effort.

If you don’t like walnuts, then use peanuts, hazelnuts, whatever. Pistachio nuts may be nice, as people already tell me that these taste similar to baklava. You can leave the nuts out altogether if you must.

The same goes for chocolate chips. You can use dark, milk, or white. I try to find caramel flavoured white chocolate chips when I make these, and I’ve seen peanut butter or cinnamon chips around too. Maybe you could use cocoa nibs instead of both nuts and chocolate? There’s a lot of flexibility here.

I use honey in a squeeze bottle, just because it’s easier to control the amount in the recipe.

As mentioned in previous recipes, ‘icing mixture’ is icing sugar with some extra stuff added to help it thicken (usually cornflour/cornstarch). You could use plain icing sugar and just add a bit of cornflour.


1. Preheat oven to 180°C (350°F), line a tray with baking paper and place aside until needed.

2. In a small bowl, whisk the egg with a pinch of ground cinnamon until combined. Place aside until needed.

3. Place a sheet of puff pastry onto your bench plastic-side down.

4. Drizzle approx. 1 tbsp of honey over the pastry sheet in a narrow zigzag pattern, leaving a strip of approx. 2.5cm (1 inch) at the bottom of the sheet. (The zigzag pattern allows for maximum distribution across the sheet. The strip is where the roll will be sealed before being sliced.)

5. Scatter a small handful of walnuts over the pastry sheet, ensuring that you leave the strip at the bottom edge clear.

6. Repeat Step 4 with the chocolate chips.

7. Sprinkle some ground cinnamon over the top. (How much or how little is up to you.)

8. Brush the bottom edge with the cinnamon and egg mixture.

9. Peel the top edge away from the plastic and roll down to the bottom, pressing firmly enough to seal. (You should now have a log shape.)

10. Brush the log with more of the cinnamon and egg mixture, then slice into 12 discs.

11. Place the discs flat onto the tray and bake for 15-20 minutes, or until crispy, golden, and puffed.

12. Place onto a rack and allow to cool.

13. Repeat Steps 3-12 as many times as you like. (Or until you run out of ingredients.)

14. In a bowl, mix together the icing mixture and approx. 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon with the water to make it into a glaze.

15. Dip the top of each scroll into the cinnamon glaze, and return to the rack.

16. Place into the fridge until the glaze has hardened.

17. Eat them. (Maybe share a few.)

Each sheet of pastry makes 12.

A video of this recipe is also available - https://youtu.be/HCxoayGrTEI.

2 October 2015

3.01 Twice-Cooked Mandarin Pork Belly – Advanced – Meat & Poultry

I was having an Asian-inspired dinner party and wanted to do something that seemed semi-traditional and put my own spin on it. I tried at least 3 different versions of this dish before I think I finally got it right.

While this is Asian-inspired, the “mandarin” component refers to the fruit, not the language. The pork belly is first poached gently for 2 hours, before being glazed and roasted, much like a ham.


2x 310g tins of mandarin segments (in juice or syrup)
1 long red chilli, sliced in half lengthways (with seeds)
3-4cm piece of ginger, cut into discs
200g honey
200ml rice wine vinegar

For the record, I tried this with fresh mandarin and it didn’t turn out too well. Don’t be afraid to reach for tinned foods occasionally! Sometimes it's the only way to get the result you want.


1. Place all ingredients in a pot over high heat and bring to the boil.

2. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 1-2 hours or until thick.

3. Remove it from the heat and allow to cool, then transfer to a bowl using a sieve, cover, and place into refrigerator until needed.



1kg pork belly
1 cup chinese cooking wine
1 cup soy sauce
2 mandarins, peeled and crushed
2 spring onions
3cm ginger, cut into discs
2 large garlic cloves, crushed
1 long red chilli, sliced in half lengthways (with seeds)
approx. 2 litres cool water

If you want it to look nice and neat at the end, try to get a square piece of pork belly. You may need to cut it in half if that makes it easier fit into the pot for poaching.

The actual amount of water you'll need depends on the size of the pot you are using, as well as the size of the pork belly itself. You'll need enough to cover the pork belly to ensure that it poaches evenly


1. Place the pork belly into a large pot, then pour over the rice wine and soy sauce.

2. Add the mandarins, ginger, garlic, chilli and spring onions, then top up with water until the pork belly is covered. (It will want to float, but I’m sure you can judge when you have enough water.)

3. Place the pot onto a high heat and bring to the boil.

4. Reduce heat to low, cover the pot and allow the pork belly to poach for 2 hours. (Turn it down REALLY low, so that it’s only just simmering.)

5. Remove the pork belly from the pot and allow to cool slightly before removing most of the excess fat from the top. (You want to retain a bit which will melt in the oven.)

6. Place aside until you are ready to roast it. (Can be kept in the fridge overnight, but you'll need to bring it up to room tempersture before continuing to Phase 2. You may want to strain the poaching broth and keep it in the freezer for another time.)


1 tbsp chinese five spice powder
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp salt

These ingredients are to add an extra layer of flavour to the pork in the form of a dry rub. If you don’t want to do this, then I suppose it isn’t really necessary.


1. Preheat oven to 180°C (350°F) and line a baking tray with baking paper or foil. (This stops the glaze from baking onto the dish, which can be difficult to clean off.)

2. Mix together the spice powder, garlic powder, ground ginger and salt.

3. Rub the mixture over the pork belly until coated evenly. (You will likely have quite a lot of the spice powder left over, but you can store it in an airtight container and use it however you like.)

4. Brush the pork belly with the mandarin glaze until generously coated. (Once again, you may not use it all here.)

5. Roast the glazed pork belly in the oven for 15-20 minutes or until browned. (Keep an eye on it, the honey can make it burn very quickly.)

6. Dice into cubes approx. 4cm (1 ½ inch) and serve with jasmine rice and something green. (I would recommend steaming some Asian vegetables such as bok choy, choy sum, pak choy, etc.)

Serves 4-6 depending on the size of the pork belly you bought and/or your generosity in serving it.

A video of this recipe is also available - https://youtu.be/jX4KYurle9o.