A Morning with George Calombaris and a Recipe or two

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I received a PR invite a couple of weeks ago to  Bloomie’s kitchen.The event was a cooking demo and a book signing by none other than the Australian chef ,restaurateur and television personality best known as the judge on the cooking competition, Masterchef Australia,George Calombaris.”Kindly RSVP at the earliest”,said the email.Now having watched him a million times over on TV ,judging young kids on Junior Masterchef,it was an opportunity that I certainly didn’t want to miss.Well,”Most certainly yes”, was my response back to the PR invite.I would be delighted to watch this maestro in action.While I was excited that he would be cooking up a storm ,it was also my opportunity to pick up his cook book Georgie Porgie and of course get photographed with him.Call it my fan-girl moment if you wish!

 

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The stage was set amidst the wonderful kitchen arena of Bloomingdale’s at the Dubai mall, hosted by  Bloomie’s kitchen.I arrived early and got browsing around  the store. I personally love shopping for my kitchen stuff here. I’ve  been eyeing the Le Creuset cookware  range for quite some time  now and perhaps my Kitchen aid too which has been on the wish list for over a year.Well I did receive a surprise voucher from the wonderful hosts at Bloomingdales, which I used to buy my copy of the book.

The bonus of arriving early is that I managed to grab a seat right up at the front,I for one wanted to watch him up close and personal.It’s 11am and he arrives on the dot.I’m excited to see him in person.He begins by talking about the show,his Greek  origins and about his various restaurants like The Press club.He was greeted with a huge round of applause  from the all those who had taken time off to see him in person.My first reaction was that he seemed to have lost a staggering amount of weight, and looking quite suave in his new look.Good on you Georgie!

He’s fabulous already.Quite charming,funny and a dynamic personality in person as much as his screen presence commands.

George then commences the cooking demonstration for the guests that are waiting quite patiently for his magic touch.He started the cook off  with a wonderful and simple Watermelon and Feta salad,which seemed easy tp put together,with an amazing twist.This salad had an addition of the watermelon rind which was cooked in balsamic vinegar and added to the salad.We sampled this and it was just very refreshing in flavor.This was served with lamb lady fingers that he effortlessly made.Both these recipes are as follows.

I was impressed with George’s presence and they way he interacted with the audience.It was a very interactive session where the audience was encouraged to throw in questions while the Chef and his team cooked up a storm.

He then went on to show us Ravioli making from scratch with a delightful filling made up of Ricotta date and mint .The Ravioli was plated on a bed of Pumpkin Puree and drizzled with Olive oil.This was a winning recipe.The demo finished off with a wonderful Spiced Milk fizz with smoked strawberries.

A wonderful couple of hours watching George cook and sampling some wonderful dishes, was a indeed a morning well spent.And now the moment I’ve been waiting for.The book signing and a photo opportunity with him.I excitedly had over my phone to the wonderful staff at Bloomingdale’s asking them to take a couple at least.The moment arrives and I thank his for an exciting morning and go on to tell him about my own experience of teaching and inspiring young kids to cook. He affectionately puts his arms around me and that is one Kodak moment for me!Quite thrilled with the series of events that morning,my book  autographed by him,I leave in awe of this very impressionable personality.

 

 

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Watermelon Salad with Lamb Lady Fingers:(Serves 8)

Ingredients;

  • 600g seedless watermelon cut into cubes
  • 100g watermelon rind(green and skin removed)
  • 100g Balsamic Vinegar
  • 100g Crumbled feta
  • 1/4 bunch mint
  • 40g Olive Oil

Directions:

  1. Place the watermelon rind and the vinegar in a pot and simmer.
  2. Simmer until the vinegar becomes a glaze and then place it in the fridge.
  3. Mix the reduced vinegar with oilve oil and reserve.
  4. Slice the rind in thin slices and set aside.
  5. To finish place 3 pieces of fresh watermelon into a serving bowl.
  6. Place the rind over the top of the watermelon then crumble some feta.
  7. Place a hot lamb lady finger next to it and drizzle with olive oil.

Lamb lady fingers:

Ingredients:

  • 5 Filo sheets
  • 200g melted butter
  • cooked lamb shoulder
  • 40g icing sugar

Directions:

  1. Cut the filo into 15cmX25cm strips and cover with a damp towel.
  2. Lay one sheet of filo out and brush with some melted butter.
  3. Place 15g of cooked lamb mix at one end of the filo.
  4. Roll the filo folding the ends in as you start to roll.
  5. you should end up in a cigar sized roll.
  6. Once rolled brush with some butter and place on a lined baking tray.
  7. Bake ina hot oven at 180C for about 10 minutes or till brown.
  8. Dust with Icing sugar and serve with the salad.The next was a Ricotta date and mint Ravioli.He demonstated the fine technique of making the Ravioli dough using a special Tipo 00 flour.The kitchen aid has a fabulous atatchemnet for pasta making which is just fantastic.Note to myself: Must buy that Pasta maker soon.The Ravioli was served to us on a bed of pureed pumpkin and drizzled with olive oil.This was just sublime and quite a creation! I have this recipe on my must do list.

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Ricotta Date and Mint Ravioli,Salt Bush Brown Butter:

For the Pasta:(Makes 16 Ravioli)

  • 100g’00’ Flour
  • 100g Semolina
  • 1 Egg whole
  • 55g egg yolks
  • 5g Olive oil
  • 1 egg whole 9for brushing pasta)

Directions:

  1. Place all the ingredients in a food processor and bled on high until the mixture resembles bread crumba.
  2. Put into a bowl and knead for atleast 2 minutes to form a smooth ball.
  3. Wrap in cling film and set aside for an hour.
  4. Cut the dough into 4 equal pieces.
  5. With the pasta machine roll the dough to the 2nd thinnest setting.
  6. Dust with semolina between each sheet and place on a damp towel over the pasta sheets.
  7. To make the ravioli lay 2 of the sheets of pasta on a bench dusted with a little semolina.
  8. Place 8x3o gof ricotta filling on each pasta sheet.
  9. With the other 2 sheets lay them out and cut 16 round pieces with an 8 inch cookie cutter.
  10. Brush the pastaaround filling with egg wash and place the cut out disk over the top of the filling.Cut out with 6cm cutter.
  11. Seal the edges of the pasta well by crimping with your fingers,repeat until all the filling has been covered.
  12. Place the cut out pasta on a tray dusted with semolina flour.

Ricotta Filling:(16 Ravioli)

Ingredients:

  • 1 white onion peeled and diced
  • 2 cloves garlic crushed
  • 1/4 bunch mint
  • 50g butter
  • 50g Olive oil
  • 100g dates
  • 300g Ricotta cheese
  • 60g Bread crumbs
  • 2 egg Yolk
  • 3g Mechlebe
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

  • Heat a medium sized saucepan on medium heat and melt the butter.
  • Add the olive oil and saute the onions,garlic dates and breadcrumbs.
  • Let the mixture cool to room temperature,then mix in the Ricotta ,mint,egg yolks and season with mechlebe,salt and pepper.
  • Once at room temperature divide into 30-35g balls.

 

The above recipes have been provided by Bloomie’s Kitchen as a part of the demonstration by George Calombaris.

What a Bagel: Easy Breakfast Bagels

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My family is quite the breakfast kind of people.Well most weekdays are a quick brekkie on the go with the usual porridge, fruits, parfait or perhaps just some toast.Weekends are however special. “I’d like a big breakfast please”,is what most often my dear son would request and this is when we pull out all the stops and cook up a storm.This would usually consist of eggs made into omelets or scrambled,sautéed vegetables or hash browns,bacon or sausages and of course homemade  bread that I may have made earlier on.My hubster loves to freeze the bread I make,”It lasts longer and there’s always some when you want it” is his take,all though I prefer to have bread when it’s fresh and hot out of the oven.

I miss my son pottering around the kitchen egging me to bake up something for him.A few weeks before he left for university he said,”Mom how about baking some bagels”?Now I’d been putting off the bagel making process thinking they were way too complicated to attempt and why even bother when you get perfect store-bought ones?Right?

Oh how wrong have I been!

The health conscious and fitness maniac that he is,would often hand me a package containing the bagels and read out all the ingredients that were in it.Emulsifiers,Bromides,Improvers,Food additives and what not.Names that not only difficult to pronounce ,leave alone digest. So on my sons’ persistence and the ramblings ,on what actually went into commercial bagels and breads, did I cave in and decide to bake  a batch.Now I have been baking bread for quite sometime ,but hadn’t gone around  the bagel making process.Oh well how difficult can it really be? And  decided to give the bagels a try.

As with most bread the key ingredients in this recipe are flour,yeast,sugar and salt.And bagel topping of course like pumpkin seeds,onions seeds ,sesame or even a sprinkling of cinnamon works just as great. Most recipes call for strong bread flour,all though I’ve used good old All Purpose and quite happy with the consistency.While kneading the dough don’t worry about it being too hard as this recipe does use a limited amount of water and hence it would seem a tough dough.

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The key to a good bagel is the boiling of the bagel prior to baking,this sets a good crust.A word of caution, do not over boil.This recipe calls for approximately 30 seconds on either side.Once boiled make sure you drain the bagels well and then sprinkle them with your favorite toppings and go right ahead and bake them.

 

 

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These bagels are so very worth the effort and trust me you will never reach for a store-bought one again.Homemade bagels have now become a delightful treat at our breakfast table.After all who wouldn’t want a fresh and warm bagel right out of the oven? Toasted of course ,with some butter or slathered with cream cheese! Ah just bliss! Nice and crusty on the outside and warm and delicious on the inside.

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Do bake some today!

Go ahead and follow this step by step recipe and you will be delighted with the results.

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups Lukewarm water
  • 2 1/4 teaspoon active dried yeast
  • 4 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 3 1/2 cups All Purpose Flour

Glaze:

  • 1 Egg white
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon water
  • sesame seeds,Pumpkin seeds, Onion seeds or Cinnamon powder

Directions:

  1. Add the yeast to a bowl and pour 1/4 cup of the lukewarm water and 1 tablespoon of sugar.Stir the mixture and keep aside.It should get very frothy in about 8-10 minutes.
  2. Combine the remaining water and flour, the activated yeast ,remaining sugar and salt and form a smooth dough.
  3. If the dough seems hard,you may add about 30-50 ml warm water and knead for about 10 minutes.
  4. The dough should be pliable ie smooth and elastic and not hard at all.You may dab your fingertips in warm water and smoothen out the dough.
  5. Oil a bowl and add the dough and turn it around to coat it with oil.Wrap the bowl with cling film and leave it to rise in a warm place for at least an hour.
  6. After it has risen for an hour,punch down the dough and knead further for one minute.
  7. Divide into 8 rolls.
  8. Lay the dough balls onto a well floured surface for 2-3 minutes.
  9. Then flatten each dough ball gently and make a hole in each and widen them a little bit.
  10. Cover with a damp kitchen towel and let it rest further for 10 minutes.
  11. Heat water in a wide pan.Add 1 teaspoon sugar and bring it to a boil.
  12. In the meantime grease a baking tray and Pre heat the oven to 200 C for about 20 minutes.
  13. Drop each bagel into the boiling water.Boil on each side for about 30 seconds and flip it over and repeat the same.
  14. Remove the Bagels and lay them on a kitchen towel to drain well.
  15. Whisk the egg white and water well.Brush onto each bagel.
  16. Sprinkle with your favorite toppings.
  17. Bake in the center of the oven for about 22-25 minutes.
  18. Transfer and cool on a wire rack.

Note: Bagels are best eaten within a couple of days of baking.However you may freeze them and toast as and when required.

 

Choux à la Crème: Easy Profiteroles

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Most often Chocolate Eclairs,Cream puffs and Profiteroles are a mystery.I’ve often ogled at numerous  miniatures, indulged in  them over and over again and marveled at their creation,with the sole intention attempting to bake them of course.

Well then what really forms the base of these dainty and delectable puffs,one may ask?

Just recently I mustered the courage to go ahead and de-mystify the making of the Pate Choux and debunked the universal myth that dwelled  on how complicated a chore it may be.This pastry is just about the airiest,lightest and softest one you could sink your teeth into.Making this has been on my mind for a while now and it has been on the “Must bake” list before my teen headed out to University.

One afternoon I was driven to reproduce these wonderful Profiteroles which have been adapted from The Joy of Baking.A simple dough consisting of Butter,water, flour and eggs make up this pastry.The sweet versions can be made into Eclairs,Profiteroles and Croquembouche,alternatively a savory version, Gougeres,filled with cheese turn out as delicious.

Don’t be afraid! I made a whole batch recently and marveled at the simplicity of this recipe.

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Ingredients:

Choux Pastry:

  • 1/2 cup (65 grams) all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon granulated white sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup (4 tablespoons) (57 grams) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • 1/2 cup (120 ml) water
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten

Glaze:

  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • Whipped Cream:
  • 1 cup (240 ml) heavy whipping cream(double cream) 
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons granulated white sugar, or to taste

Garnish:

  • Powdered (Confectioners or icing) sugar
  • Ready Chocolate frosting
  • Ready Vanilla frosting
  • Directions:

Choux Pastry:

  • Preheat oven to 200 degrees C and place rack in center of oven. 
  • Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and spray the pan with a non stick vegetable spray.
  • In a bowl sift or whisk together the flour, sugar and salt.
  • Put the butter and water in a heavy saucepan over medium high heat and bring to a boil. (Make sure that the butter melts before the water boils to reduce the amount of evaporation.)
  • Remove from heat and, with a wooden spoon, add the flour mixture, all at once, and stir until combined. Return saucepan to the heat and stir constantly until the dough comes away from the sides of the pan and forms a thick smooth ball (about 1-2 minutes). 
  • Transfer the dough into a mixing bowl and use a hand mixer, and beat on low-speed for about a minute till it’s cooled slightly.
  • Once the dough is lukewarm start adding the lightly beaten eggs (dough will separate and then come together) and continue to mix until you have a smooth thick paste (dough will fall from a spoon in a thick ribbon).
  • Spoon or pipe 12 small mounds of dough onto the baking sheet, spacing about 2 inches (5 cm) apart. With a pastry brush, gently brush the tops of the dough with a lightly beaten egg. 
  • Bake for 15 minutes and then reduce the oven temperature to 180 degrees C.
  • Continue to bake for a further 30 to 35 minutes or until the shells are a nice amber color and when split, are almost dry inside.
  •  Turn the oven off, poke a couple of holes in each puff and, with the oven door slightly ajar, let the shells completely cool (and dry out). 

Whipped Cream: In a large mixing bowl place the whipping cream, vanilla extract, and sugar and stir to combine. Cover and chill the bowl and whisk in the refrigerator for at least 15 minutes. When chilled, whip the cream just until stiff peaks form. 

To Assemble:

  • Split the pastry shells in half and fill  with whipped cream.
  • With a butter knife smooth out some ready chocolate frosting onto each pastry top
  • Let this dry completely
  • Use an icing bag and a fine nozzle and fill it with the vanilla or white ready frosting and pipe fine zig zag lines over each pastry top.
  • Dust with confectioners sugar

 

Coriander Pesto with Toasted Walnuts

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Ah Pesto! 

Move over Pine nuts and Basil as fresh coriander and toasted walnuts blend together to make this wonderful and easy Pesto.This is an absolutely delightful treat in my kitchen.Heart healthy pesto has a variety of uses. Toss it into your favorite pastas, slather some on your morning toast,drizzle some over a salad and even use it as a marinade over some chicken or fish.

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Here is just about the easiest way of making a fabulous Pesto.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups fresh coriander leaves (stalks removed and chopped)
  • 1 clove garlic (minced)
  • 50 grams walnuts (lightly toasted)
  • 1/3 cup (35 grams) fine Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup Olive Oil
  • 1 teaspoon chopped basil (optional)
  • 1/2 tablespoon lemon juice
  • Salt and pepper to taste


Directions:
1.Lightly toast the walnuts on a pan.

2.Now combine the Coriander leaves Parmesan,Walnuts,Garlic and grind in a food processor.

3.Gradually keep pouring the Olive oil in a steady stream.

4.Season with salt and pepper and add in the lemon juice.

5.Transfer to an air tight container and add a little more olive oil.

6.Consume with a week. Best if refrigerated.

Some of my favorite Recipes that call for Coriander Pesto:

  • Boiled Fusilli or Penne tossed in some olive oil and minced garlic.With a couple of tablespoons of Coriander Pesto. Garnished with Parmesan shavings and pepper.
  • Roasted baby potatoes tossed with some Coriander basil, mixed with arugula leaves and with an  olive and balsamic vinegar dressing.( Served warm)
  • Ditch the usual pizza sauce and use some of this pesto as your base.
  • Use as a sandwich spread or in a Panini.
  • Marinate either Chicken of Fish with Pesto,Olive oil, salt and pepper.Perfect for grilling.

 

Best Ever Blueberry Mini Cakes

 

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Fresh berries are a great addition to any baking.These seriously are the best ever mini cakes that you can bake  up anytime.They turn out super moist and delicious as ever. I’ve used some fresh blueberries in this recipe but you may substitute it with some frozen ones if you like.All though do drain out the water from the frozen ones and ensure you sprinkle some flour over the berries.I’ve used a removable bottom cheesecake mold to bake these, else you may even bake them in mini cupcake trays.This is just the perfect light and fluffy mini cake, with a burst of fruity blueberry flavors!Do bookmark this recipe and I’m sure you will make these often!

Happy Baking!

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Best Ever Blueberry Cupcakes
(Makes approx. 6-8)

INGREDIENTS:

  • 11/2 cups(190 grams) All Purpose Flour
  • ¾ cup (150 grams) Sugar
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/3 cup(80 ml) Oil
  • 1/3 cup (80 ml) Milk
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup frozen or fresh blueberries
  • 1 tablespoon wheat bran (optional)

METHOD:

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 200C.
  2. Line a muffin tin with the cases.
  3. Sieve the flour and baking powder.
  4. Now mix the sugar and salt to the flour.
  5. Add the oil to a 1 cup measure and add the egg and milk to fill the 1 cup measure.
  6. Add all the liquid measures to the flour and mix well.
  7. Lastly add the blueberries and the wheat bran and mix again.
  8. Pour into the prepared cases and bake for about 20-25 minutes or till done.

Best served with a butter-cream frosting and just as good without it!