Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Luscious Carrot & Cardamom Cupcakes

Those of you who follow me on Twitter would know that Pete and I recently visited Bali for the first time and as such have been rather busy of late. We have been itching to get back into the kitchen.

 Enter Carrot & Cardamom Cupcakes.

I found this recipe in a cookbook of mine titled ‘Cupcakes’ by Susannah Blake and after checking in with the Cookbook Challenge to see how far I had fallen behind I knew this was the perfect recipe. You see it combines the last two cookbook challenge themes: ‘cup’ and ‘spice’. Perfect.

Firstly, please don’t judge me for combining the two challenges into one, it just had to be done. I was too far behind.

Now, this recipe is super easy and the cupcakes are just divine! My mum called them ‘Adult cupcakes’ as they aren’t overly sweet and the flavours are suited to a more discerning palate given the addition of ginger and cardamom. That said, they are really moreish and I’m sure kids will still love them. The mascarpone icing really adds a little extra oomph! And everybody loves a cream cheese icing, right?

Here is the recipe, hope you enjoy them as much as we did.

Carrot & Cardamom Cupcakes

100g soft brown sugar
160ml sunflower oil ( I used canola as I didn’t have sunflower)
2 eggs
Grated zest of 1 orange
Seeds from 5 cardamom pods, crushed
½ tsp ground ginger
200g self-raising flour
2 carrots, grated ( about 150g grated carrot)
60g walnuts or pecan nuts, roughly chopped

To decorate
150g mascarpone
Finely grated zest of 1 orange
1 ½ tsps. lemon juice
50 g icing sugar, sifted

Preheat the oven to 180C (350F or Gas 4), then line the muffin tin with paper cases

Put the sugar in a bowl and break up using the back of a fork, then beat in the oil and eggs. Stir in the orange zest, crushed cardamom seeds and ginger, then sift the flour into the mixture and fold in, followed by the carrots and nuts.

Spoon the mixture into the paper cases and bake for about 20 minutes until risen and a skewer  inserted in the centre comes out clean. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

To decorate, beat the mascarpone, orange zest, lemon juice and icing sugar together in a bowl and spread over the cupcakes.

Enjoy xx

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Delicious Pineapple - Help Stop Hunger with Oxfam Australia

Oxfam Australia is one of Australia’s largest international development organisations which aims to raise global awareness regarding poverty issues. It also seeks to help advance the number of people living in poverty to develop a sustainable livelihood, enable them to have a voice in decisions, protection from conflict and disaster, equal rights and access to social services.

Stop Hunger Campaign

After terrible drought and a 30% increase in food costs in the last year, villages in Mozambique are facing hunger shortages and children are going hungry. In some villages in Mozambique the soil is like sand and therefore impossible to grow crops, so through their ‘Stop Hunger’ campaign Oxfam Australia are helping these communities to grow a special type of drought tolerant pineapples. Once grown these pineapples can be traded for other foods and vegetables, sold at the market for income or eaten. It really is a great campaign! To find out more about this campaign and to stay up to date with the progress being made with the families living in Mozambique, click here.

Oxfam are also helping these communities by teaching them how to preserve and store food which in turn helps families stay healthy and have enough to eat between harvests.

Please help support Oxfam Australia by donating. You still have about a week to make a tax free donation before the end of the financial year. Click here to find out more and make a donation.

In support of their ‘Stop Hunger’ Campaign several chefs including Neil Perry and Kylie Kwong and a few food bloggers including myself came together and submitted pineapple recipes to help support and raise awareness for families living in Mozambique.

You can download your copy of the PDF pineapple recipe book here

Here is my recipe:

Chargrilled Pineapple w/ Coconut Caramel Syrup

1 large ripe pineapple
1 cup caster sugar
2 tablespoon water
60ml (1⁄4) cup coconut milk
½ cup grated palm sugar, ( can be substituted for  1⁄3 cup honey, golden syrup or agave nectar)

1. Remove skin of pineapple and slice pineapple widthways
into slices about 1cm thick – cutting each slice in half.Set aside.
2. Combine sugar and water in a small saucepan and stir over
a low heat until sugar dissolves.
3. Cook without stirring for about 5 minutes or until it becomes
4. Stir in coconut milk and gently simmer for approximately
5 minutes.
5. Brush each piece of pineapple with honey ( or your choice - see above) and cook on a
heated and oiled griddle pan or barbeque plate for 6 to 7
minutes or until lightly charred both sides.
6. Serve warm, drizzled with the coconut caramel syrup

Enjoy xx

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

The New Philips AirFryer - A Review

The AirFryer is Philips latest kitchen appliance which combines new technology and unique design components to provide a clean, healthy and convenient way of preparing delicious and tasty fried foods.

It works by combining a grill and fast-circulating hot air to prepare foods that you would normally need to deep fry to get the same results. Most importantly, the AirFryer does this without the need for extra oil so you can effectively make chips and other snacks with up to 80% less fat than conventional frying.

Included with the AirFryer is a glossy little cookbook with 30 different recipes for you to try, some of which include meatballs, potato rosti, quiche, chicken wings and even some gorgeous looking chocolate brownies – you’ve got to love that. It also comes with a Quick Start Guide which details the cooking times and temperatures to use with all types of food – from thick frozen fries to fish fingers to steak and chicken, yum!

Key product features include:

  • Patented Rapid Air Technology – combines hot air with grill components to fry food;
  • In-built timer which allows you to pre-set cooking times up to 30 minutes;
  • Adjustable temperature control;
  • A food separator accessory which lets you prepare multiple foods at once;
  • Integrated air filter – less vapours & odours

Why I LOVE the Philips AirFryer

1.    SUPER QUICK – no more waiting 25-30 minutes for frozen fries to cook in the oven – they take just 12 minutes in this baby.

2.    NO ‘DEEP FRYER’ OIL – forget the expense of having to use litres of oil to deep fry your food. Cooking with oil in a deep fryer is a nasty experience, not only do you have to dance around avoiding oil spatters and burns, but your kitchen and house fill with the smell of it and then you have to find a safe way to dispose of the oil, yuk! In this regard the Philips AirFryer comes to the rescue by providing an easy and environmentally safe way to cook tasty ‘fried’ food. Best of all its HEALTHY! You won’t ever have to feel guilty again for enjoying your favourite fried foods.

<     EASY TO USE -  Throw in your food, set the temperature and the time – then walk away!  Simple. 

       DISHWASHER SAFE -Does the word ‘Dishwasher’ mean anything to you? If you are like me, it means EVERYTHING when it comes to cooking. Simply remove the fry basket and the pan and pop them into the dishwasher and you are ready to go again. Nice!

       DESIGN – I just love, its modern, funky and compact and looks great on our kitchen bench. I really love the retractable cord storage feature which means that you don’t have to contend with a long annoying cord.

       SAFETY – Avoid oil spatters and burns from hot oil which is used in traditional deep fryers and this is particularly important for families with children.  

Testing the Philips AirFryer

I have prepared a variety of foods using the AirFryer and these include:

I guess the most important test which I hear you all asking about involves the much loved hot chip. I am happy to report that the AirFryer exceeded my expectations with this one.

Firstly, I tried regular potatoes; I just cut them up, coated them in ½ tbsp. of oil and some chilli powder and threw them in. Approximately 18 minutes later they were done! Super easy and very tasty and they had a slight crisp to them – similar to homemade oven chips but in less than half the time.

Those of you who watch Masterchef would remember George’s Masterclass on making the best hot chip – well for my second test I tried this method. I pre-boiled some potato chips then dried them with paper towel and placed them in the fridge, I then coated them in oil and in they went. This resulted in a much crunchier chip and they were gone in seconds.

The most impressive chip test came from the frozen variety which I bought from the supermarket. Now we have all seen the frozen chips they use in chicken shops that result in that delicious, golden crunchy delight we all love, mind you they are cooked in a sea of oil. Well, I am pleased to say that the frozen kind I tried were in fact better than the one you could buy at your local chicken shop and guess what – I didn’t have to dunk them in oil to achieve this result. In case you would like to replicate this result in your Philips AirFryer, we used crunchy beer battered steak fries, they were delish!

I absolutely love eggplant and this tasty Lebanese dip is one of my favourite foods. Despite this, I have never made it before, until now! I have never made it before because to be honest, I really couldn’t be bothered having to fire up the barbeque just to char some eggplant, not to mention having to clean it afterwards. So when I noticed a recipe for red pepper dipping sauce in the AirFryer cookbook, it got me thinking.Could my dream of easy to make Baba Ghanoush be closer than I thought? Yes, yes it was.

Using Abla Amad’s recipe for ‘Baba ghannooj’ the Philips AirFryer has helped bring a whole heap of freshly made Baba Ghanoush into our kitchen, it’s great for entertaining.

After purchasing some organic free range chicken wings I marinated them in garlic, ginger, soy, kecap manis, sesame seeds,chilli, a few drops of sesame oil and some Clayridge honey which I bought recently.  I then used the AirFryer and voila! Super tasty and crispy chicken wings and the meat was kept really moist which we all loved. I also noticed that the pan in the AirFryer had collected quite a bit of the fat that had come out of the chicken wings as they were cooking, love it!

If you love polenta like we do then you should try this recipe for Italian Meatballs in Tomato Sauce by celebrity contestant Indira Naidoo from Celebrity Masterchef (2009). It has become one of our favourite recipes but pan frying the polenta batons have always been hard – they always break up or don’t brown evenly and we end up using copious amounts of oil – erk!

Thanks to the Philips AirFryer we can now prepare the ultimate polenta baton – they are just peefect! We still use oil by just painting it on each baton using a pastry brush and this results in crunchy golden polenta batons, wow! I can honestly attest that our polenta batons are now amazing. We recently took the AirFryer over to my Nan’s place for our monthly family dinner and Pete and I cooked this recipe with the polenta batons and everyone was really impressed. The dining room was filled with crunch! 

Pete bought some fish home one night and after coating it in spices which included coriander and mustard seed, cumin, pepper and some crushed cashews he was going to pan fry it. I suggested we try it in the AirFryer instead. We sprayed it lightly with olive oil spray and it turned out really well. It was golden on the outside, didn’t fall apart and was still really moist. We served it with a few chips (of course!) which were also done in the AirFryer and a few vegetables.

I’m still working on different foods that I can prepare in the AirFryer, so stay tuned for new delicious recipes. You all know I love to bake so I am planning to test a whole range of baked goods soon. We’re heading off on holidays later today and when we return  look out AirFryer -- a sweet assault is on the way.

The Philips AirFryer was released in April this year and retails for about $329. You can find it available for purchase at leading electrical and department stores.

The Food Mentalist sampled the Philips AirFryer thanks to Phillips and Fleishman-Hillard.