Tuesday, July 27, 2010

July 2010 Daring Bakers' - Ice Cream Swiss Swirl Cake


The July 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Sunita of Sunita’s world – life and food. Sunita challenged everyone to make an ice-cream filled Swiss roll that’s then used to make a bombe with hot fudge. Her recipe is based on an ice cream cake recipe from Taste of Home.

This month's challenge was a a surprise it was to make a bombe using home-made ice cream with fudge sauce with a covering of Swiss Rolls. This was going to a fun challenge. I thought I would be a trial bombe and then make another one for my birthday party.

The recipe for this month’s challenge has been adapted from this Swiss swirl ice cream cake from the Taste of Home website. Slices of Swiss roll are used to line a bowl and then filled with vanilla ice-cream, hot fudge ice cream topping and chocolate ice cream. The picture looked like so much fun that I have been waiting to make it for a while. What better timing than to make it along with fellow daring bakers to celebrate my three years with this amazing group. I have taken the basic idea from the above website and have developed the recipe. Hope you like it. The recipe does not require a lot of hands on time, but definitely requires a lot of cooling and freezing time between layers. Unlike the original recipe, we are going to make each layer from scratch. So, if you are planning to make it in one day, it might be a bit of a struggle.

Here is a link to the PDF of the challenge recipe.

Chilli chocolate fudge Swiss swirl cake with four flavoured ice creams (an experimental trial)
It has been so cold in Sydney (the coldest in sixty years at night it's below zero Celsius burrrr!!!!) that I thought I would spice up the recipe a little to make it more summery also I needed to experiment a little because I want to make another ice cream swirl cake for my birthday party on Saturday. So I decided to do four types of ice cream since I had a lot of the crème anglaise already frozen left from the last challenge I used these leftovers to made sour cherry ice cream and coffee ice cream and used the challenge recipes to make chopped pistachios with pistachio nut butter ice cream, and vanilla ice cream. I have been making vanilla-sugar for the last two months I used that instead of the minced and chopped vanilla bean in the recipes. (To make vanilla-sugar place a few vanilla beans in sugar and wait for a fortnight or much longer, vanilla-sugar delivers a very intense vanilla flavour to your recipes much stronger than using fresh beans!). I made the chocolate Swiss rolls (adding a reasonable amount ½ tsp of chilli powder) and filled it with half cream and half hot fudge with a touch of chilli powder I've had too much chocolate lately and couldn't face a large amount of it in this cake. I made sure the Swiss rolls where mini-sized so I could line the bombe with a large number of swirl slices.

I added a 1/8 teaspoon of dry mustard powder and two plain melted marshmallows to each cup of ice cream; the use of mustard powder has been shown to increase the intensity of the flavour of ice creams so I always include a touch in all of my ice creams, while using melted marshmallows helps stop the formation of large ice crystals in hand-beaten ice cream. Of course most bakers know that chilli powder intensives the flavour of chocolate in recipes. The use of mustard powder and chilli powder stimulates the taste buds which makes them more receptive to the other major flavour components in your ice cream, you shouldn't be able to taste the mustard in ice cream recipes. Of course I placed the cocoa powder for the Swiss roll in the boiling water since it has been shown that cocoa powder flavour is intensified in cakes if placed in a hot liquid for a few minutes. I also lined the bottom of the ice cream cake with slices since I had enough to do it and covered that with the vanilla ice cream for some reason the vanilla ice cream soaked into the slices so you couldn't really see that layer in the photos but you could really taste it in the final cake.

I did notice that I needed almost 2 litres of ice cream as per the recipes to fill the 1½ litre bombe (in fact a Chinese soup bowl) I used I think this is because I made the ice cream by hand and not in an ice cream maker which aerates the produce so much better than just beating the ice cream with a hand mixer every 30 minutes or so.

OMG when I opened the ice cream cake to study it the smell of it was amazing ice cream usually doesn't have an odour but this Swiss swirl cake did you could smell it across the kitchen to the dining room it smelt strongly of vanilla then coffee with an undertone of pistachio. I'm not sure why the smell was so strong.

The final ice cream Swiss roll cake had very strongly flavoured layers each distinct yet the overall flavour profile was harmonious. I really liked the look of the final dessert and the chocolate cake layer was just enough chocolate for the rest of the flavours. The hot chilli chocolate swirls were a great foil against the flavoured ice creams.

Some notes
1. Remember to make the flavourings very strong for the ice cream since cold substances slightly numb the taste buds.
2. Whipped cream or whipped evaporated milk, melted marshmallows, gelatine and beaten eggs are all additives used to prevent the formation of large ice crystals in ice cream as well as to improve or vary flavour.
3. Let the finished ice cream sit for at least four hours to help develop flavour.
4. See this blog posting on how to test scientifically when the Swiss roll batter is ready (i.e. when it has a specific gravity of .5 to .55) I used this method it really does work and takes all of the guess work out of the perfect Swiss Roll this will really open your eyes on how professionals do it I always do this now. See here for some excellent examples of jar-dropping beautiful Swiss Rolls on the same blog.

Filling the bombe with the first layer of ice cream

The completed Swiss swirl bombe

The cut bombe

Not a bad trial overall now for the birthday cake version! Total time for this recipe was about 10 hours mostly waiting for the ice cream to set and harden etc, it really is a fairly simple recipe. Thank so much Sunita for such a wonder recipe and all the fabulous step-by-step photos. This is such a fun dessert for kids and they would just love helping to make it.

Birthday Bombe
For my birthday swirl ice cream cake I made three types of Swiss rolls, prickly pear (which tastes like watermelon), boiled chocolate treacle and vanilla sugar. For the ice creams I made my favourite flavours – (red layer) Mixed Berries, (middle layer) saffron, honey and candied fig, and (last layer) blue champagne.

It was such a pretty cake with nice contrasting flavours it went down well at the party. I made 3 cakes like this for the party since I had a lot of people attending. The party was held over two days and about 60 people attended at various stages it was fantastic I had a wonderful time and my present from my friends was a week's holiday in New Zealand at the end of the month and a huge food processor from my family.


Some photos of my birthday trip to New Zealand
View from my hotel room

Jet Boating

Helicopter rides

At Milford Sound

A Haka

See here for a great example of the above instructions.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Bread Baking Day #32 – Italian Breads

Banquet Focaccia

breadbakingday #32 (last day of submission August 1st, 2010) This my first participation in BBD because AP269 the host of this month's challenge invited me and also I love to bake all sorts of breads.

Here is a link to AP269 blog site Family & Food & Other things about this month's challenge.

Well looking at the theme of this month's challenge Italian Breads the first thing that came to mind was my “Banquet Focaccia” this is a bread that I make to feed hordes of people at parties, BBQs and family gatherings. It is very rich in olive oil and includes fine 'dust' polenta for crispiness and crunch and is stuffed to the gills with Italian delicacies such as spicy Italian sausage, olives and rosemary with sea-salt.

The bread starts with a sponge that is made the night before, then fine ('dust') polenta (cornmeal)is added with some additional flour to make up the final dough this is allowed to rise then punched-down twice, then the stuffings are added and then after a final rising it is baked in a very hot oven until it is golden. This focaccia is unusual in that it stores well for a day and slices of the day-old bread toast with a superb crisp crust under the griller (broiler) this is because the polenta traps the moisture so delaying the staling process.

Banquet Focaccia by Audax Artifex
Makes one 33cmx24cmx2½cm or 13"x9½"x1" focaccia. Serves 20 as an entrée.
The recipe produces a rustic tasting bread that has a lovely texture and since we use a sponge to make the dough the final bread has a great depth of flavour. This focaccia has a hydration ratio of about 95% to 105% (the normal focaccia ratio is about 70-80%) this is because the cornmeal (polenta) absorbs and locks in a lot of the excess moisture.
Liquid ingredients total – 500+55+28+28 = 611 grams
Dry ingredients – 300+115+160 = 575 grams up to 650 grams

Sponge ingredients
2 cups (500 ml) of water
2 cups (300 gm) of plain (all-purpose) flour
1/8 teaspoon (4 pinches) of yeast.
Dough ingredients
3/4 cup (115 gm) of plain (all-purpose) flour
1 cup (160 gm) dust polenta (or process normal cornmeal for 2 mins until very fine)
1/4 cup (60 ml)(55 gm) of olive oil (maybe more)
4 teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons of Italian herb mix (powdered garlic, powdered onion, oregano, red bell pepper, basil...etc)
Extra plain flour up to ½ cup if needed
Extra 2 tablespoons (30 ml)(28 gm) olive oil for the baking pan
Topping ingredients
Hot spicy Italian sausage
Stuffed olives
Small bunch of fresh rosemary
Sea-salt flakes
2 tablespoons (30 ml)(28 gm) olive oil for drizzling
(Don't use cheese as it will burn and will became bitter)

1. Making the sponge - in the late afternoon place in a large bowl the sponge ingredients mix using a whisk leave overnight, the next day you will have a light spongy batter that has risen about 2-3 times. The sponge should have a pleasant sour yeast smell.
2. Making the dough - Add 3/4 cup of flour and the polenta to the sponge mix using a whisk to form a very loose wet 'dough' (like a very thick semi-solid batter), add oil in small amounts on your hands and using a plastic scrapper 'knead' the dough for about 8 mins adding all the oil in small amounts to the dough during this time, don't worry it is a very slack sticky loose wet 'batter-dough' it should just hold its shape and slowly fall (you can add more oil if needed to get the right consistency try to avoid adding more flour unless the dough really is like a batter). You are trying to incorporate the maximum amount of liquid and still have a workable focaccia dough. This consistency allows many large and small bubbles to form in the final bread. If you don't have a plastic scraper use your hands but kneading the dough will be a messy job and it will stick to the counter. (You can use a mixing machine with a dough hook watch carefully the dough will travel up the hook and could be thrown out of the mixing bowl!) I have made this recipe over the course of a year and sometimes I have needed to add up to ½ cup of extra plain flour to get the correct consistency. A test for the correct consistency is to rapidly whisk the batter-dough and if most of the mixture forms a ball on the whisk it is done. Another sign is that the edges of the batter-dough start to form stings when you are kneading the mixture. The final batter-dough is wet, slightly sticky and will fall slowly and if you use a tablespoon to make a furrow in the mixture it should fill in a few seconds.
3. Return to bowl let raise until doubled in height about 3 hrs (might take 5 hrs) depends on temperature and how active your yeast is.
4. Spread 2 tablespoons of olive oil over the base of a focaccia pan (33cmx24cmx2½cm or 13"x9½"x1" or use a 1" deep jelly slice pan. Gently spread the dough evenly over the pan. Let raise again until doubled in height.
5. Using oiled fingers "punch-down" the dough releasing most of the trapped gases in the dough leave some scattered areas untouched.
6. Let raise again the dough will now be full of little and big bubbles.
7. Using oiled fingers poke stuffed-olives into one-third of the dough and rosemary sprigs into another one-third and the last one-third spicy Italian sausage by forming a dimple first and then placing the ingredient in the dimple. Let rise again about 30 mins (or until dough between dimples is well risen and has large bubbles) place a small amount of oil in each dimple of the foccacia and sea-salt flakes on the rosemary one-third of the focaccia.
8. Pre-heat oven 260ºC/500ºF place focaccia into oven bake for 5 mins (this ensures the olives will be baked and sausage will be crisp) then turn down the temperature to 220ºC/425ºF then bake for an extra 20-30 mins (the more fillings you stuff into the dough the longer it takes so the focaccia above was 35mins total baking time since it was totally full of olives and sausage)until top is golden brown and the base crispy. The sides of the focaccia should have pulled away from the sides of the baking pan. Check the crispiness of the bottom by gently lifting the focaccia using the flat side of a wide knife to see the colour of the bottom, feel the bottom it should be crisp and firm.
9. Optional step - Once baked you can brush extra olive oil onto the top of the baked focaccia which adds gleam and softens the crust which is a great contrast to crisp bottom.

Cool the focaccia in the pan for 5 mins then turn out. Serve warm. Store this bread overnight on the counter wrapped in foil and plastic and when you get to the event slice into 60 slices and toast for 30 secs each side (only top and bottom) under a hot griller (broiler) until warmed and crisp. Yum yum!

Unbaked focaccia

Close-up of unbaked focaccia

Baked focaccia

Close-up of baked focaccia

Close-up of cut slices

The underside of the focaccia

Here is another banquet focaccia I did a little while ago just using olives and rosemary/sea salt.

If you desire a more traditional focaccia just dimple the dough fill each dimple with olive oil and spread the top with lightly chopped rosemary and seasalt.

I have submitted this to Susan's Yeastspotting site also see here.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

July 2010 Daring Cooks' - Nut Butters

I entered a local cooking competition using some of the ideas of this challenge and I won first place for my sardine recipe! The judges said they liked how I combined a humble fish with sophisticated nut butters, and the home-made noddles where a nice touch of creativity.

Crisp waterchestnut sardines stuffed with pinenut and macadamina nut butter served with Green Thai cashew nut butter sauce on home-made seaweed noddles

The July 2010 Daring Cooks’ Challenge was hosted by Margie of More Please and Natashya of Living in the Kitchen with Puppies. They chose to challenge Daring Cooks to make their own nut butter from scratch, and use the nut butter in a recipe. Their sources include Better with Nut Butter by Cooking Light Magazine, Asian Noodles by Nina Simonds, and Food Network online.

What exactly is the July challenge? The challenge is to make a fresh nut butter and to use it in one savoury recipe (i.e., not a sweet dessert). You choose the type of nut (e.g., peanuts, walnuts, cashews, pecans, almonds, hazelnuts, macadamias, etc.). Then purée the nuts into a paste or butter. (Instructions for making nut butters are provided below.) Then use your fresh homemade nut butter in at least one savoury recipe. The nut butter challenge was inspired by the article “Better with Nut Butter” by Kathy Baruffi in Cooking Light magazine.

In addition to instructions for making nut butters, we have provided 4 challenge recipes from which to choose: Chicken with Pecan Cream & Mushrooms, Asian Noodle Salad with Cashew Dressing, Chicken with Curried Tomato Almond Sauce, and Walnut Walnut White Bean Dip with Rosemary & Sage.

Recipes Sources:
Homemade Nut Butters (including almond, cashew, hazelnut, macadamia, peanut, pecan, pistachio, & walnut): adapted from Better with Nut Butter article from Cooking Light magazine online
Chicken with Pecan Cream & Mushrooms: adapted from Cooking Light, October 2002
Asian Noodle Salad: adapted from Thai Noodles with Peanut Sauce from Cooking Light, October 2002
Asian Cashew Dressing: adapted from “Chinese Peanut Dressing” recipe (p. 22) in Asian Noodles by Nina Simonds
Chicken with Curried Tomato Almond Sauce: adapted from Butter Chicken recipe at Food Network online
Walnut & White Bean Dip with Rosemary & Sage adapted from Cooking Light, August 2007

What a wonderful and inspiring challenge this was I can't remember a Daring Cooks' challenge where ALL the members raved so much about the recipes. Each was SUPERB and so tasty and also they are fast and easy. It is great to have a host of recipes that can be whipped up at a moment's notice and know that the results will be delicious and crowd pleasing. I have to admit I was very inspired by the use of nut butters.

I just loved the Asian noddle recipe the cashew sauce is to die for it is so pungent yet so so tasty. And the curried tomato with almonds is stunning. I do recommend to all readers try these simple yet delicious recipes (see the end of posting for the recipes) they are really worth the effort.

Thank you to our hosts Margie and Natashya for a most inspiring challenge and the most delicious recipes I have had for a long while.

The challenge recipe of Asian noodle salad with cashew dressing really caught my eye so I decided to do it – the only changes I did was to use additional finely sliced fennel, fresh Thai chillies, palm sugar, potato noodles, black sesame oil and instead of water I used half prawn stock and fish sauce. I used store brought cashew butter since I had some in the pantry and I don't have a food processor. The sauce is very very pungent I was very worried and apprehensive about the prescribed 8 cloves of garlic! and 3 tablespoons of toasted sesame oil!!! but when combined with all the other salad ingredients it was excellent so tasty and delicious a wonderful Thai style recipe; it really had a kick and the whole house smelt of garlic and sesame oil for a few hours afterwards. The sauce is wondrous on crisp vegetables without anything else, this recipe will certainly be on my monthly rotation from now on. The final dish tasted like an restaurant-style dish the contrast of the different ingredients was superb and the hot tangy sauce was the note that combined all the components into one harmonious recipe.

Some of the ingredients

Cooked potato noodles – I love how they are shiny and transparent and they really soak up the flavours of the sauce really well

The very pungent sauce – the sauce is wonderful in the dish though it is very very strong if just tasted without any ingredients
Unmixed sauce
Mixed (with a wand bender) sauce

Completed dish – a wonderful combination of crisp vegetables, pungent sauce, prawns and soft potato noodles

I really really liked this dish and the sauce will be a regular feature on my spicy recipe rotation. Remember to store the sauce in a glass container with a metal lid it is so pungent if not stored correctly it will cross-containment all the other ingredients in the fridge.

Baby Squid with pungent Asian cashew sauce
I liked the Asian cashew sauce so much from the noodle challenge recipe, I had to make another dish using some marinated baby squid I had in the fridge. I made up the sauce as per the recipe adding the zest of one lime but didn't add the cashew nut butter then slowly simmered the squid for an hour then I added the nut butter into the cooling sauce since I was worried that adding the nut butter at the beginning might make the sauce curdle. I tried to fry some of the noodle sauce to test it and it curdled badly but adding some coconut cream seemed to homogenise the sauce again. Fennel with its subtle anise (mild licorice) flavour and delicate celery texture is a great foil of the pungent sauce and the squid and other ingredients. I steamed a fennel bulb so it was soft and stayed white so I could use the individual leaves as bowls for the squid and noddles.

Marinated baby squid using the Asian noddle sauce (without the nut butter) as the marinade

Slowly simmered cooked baby squid

Completed dish

Simmering the sauce makes for a milder (though it is still strong) version of the Asian sauce and adding the nut butter at the end makes the sauce very creamy and thick. I liked the fennel it went perfectly with the other ingredients. I used the uncooked sauce I had made previously on the fresh capsicum and cucumber for a slight taste contrast.

I just love gado-gado (Indonesian for mix-mix) thanks for the suggestion fragiletiger it is a concoction of hard-boiled quail eggs (and optional seafood) with snake beans, shredded green and red cabbage, lettuce, stir-fired mixed vegetables, bean sprouts and prawn crackers all combined with a very hot peanut, coconut milk and chilli sauce. It is usually eaten as an entrée but I decided to do a main course size of luncheon. It is totally delicious yum yum. The sauce is so good and well suited for the ingredients used.

In Australian restaurants gado-gado is usually served in lettuce leaf parcels in small bite sized portions but in Indonesia it is a main meal.

Gado-gado siram sauce (siram means peanut in Indonesian)
10 cloves garlic, stir fried/fried/roasted
300 g roasted/fried peanuts (or 1 cup of organic crunchy peanut butter)
1000 ml coconut milk
10 red chillies, discard the seed and stir fried/fried (I used about 20 at the end)
1 tsp terasi (dried shrimp paste), toasted
1 block of coconut sugar (about 65 grams)
2-3 tbsp rice flour dissolve in a small amount of water
1. Process garlic, peanuts/peanut butter, a half part of coconut milk, red chillies, terasi, coconut sugar in a food processor or blender.
2. In a sauce pot, combine processed mixture with the rest of coconut milk, stir and turn on the stove at low-medium heat. Stir occasionally.
3. Cook sauce until boiled, the volume reduced and the sauce surface looks a bit oily. Add rice flour mixture. Keep stirring until bubbling about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat.

I was surprised how different this sauce tasted as compared to the Asian Noddle sauce (see above) the coconut milk, coconut sugar, terasi, the many chillies and the simmering really adds a whole new dimension to the sauce.

Gado-gado siran suace

Ingredients for the gado-gado meal
Completed dish

Pecan and garlic nut butter chicken sandwiches
I made up some pecan nut butter using a mortar and pestle (see pictures below) it takes about 5 minutes and adding some oil makes for an almost smooth butter. I then experimented a little and found that fried garlic is superb with the pecan nut butter so I decided to make a garlic/pecan nut butter I combined about one head of fried garlic with the pecan nut butter. I then made some fried chicken thighs (since they have more flavour than the fillets) and smothered them with the garlic/pecan nut butter and put them under the griller. I also made some filled quail eggs I removed the cooked yolks added some pecan/garlic butter with the yolks and pipped that mixture back into the cooked whites. I garnished with caramelised onions and tomatoes and a used a herb (parsley, rosemary and sage) burnt butter sauce as the base for the multi-grain sandwich slices. I just loved this garlic and pecan nut butter it is so savoury and sweet at the same time.

Pecan nut butter process
Completed garlic and pecan nut butter - so delicious!

Completed dish

Macadamia and pomegranate molasses quail with macadamia cauliflower purée
I couldn't do this challenge and not use the fantastic macadamia nut which is indigenous to Australia. Macadamia nuts are ivory white, rich in oil and have a massive flavour profile with a wonderful texture. Macadamias nuts (shelled) are reasonably priced at $13/kg in Australia. I got 8 fresh quails (very cheap $1 each) from a friend of mine who raises them. I couldn't find any good recipes on the internet so had to make the following recipes. I de-boned (my first time de-boning after 4 of them I was quite quick) the quails (see here for details), then stuffed them with a filling made of macadamia nut butter, pomegranate molasses, fresh breadcrumbs, a touch of chilli oyster sauce, some palm sugar and whole hard-boiled quail eggs – this was so yummy itself. Surprisingly pomegranate molasses is tart this worked well with the flavoursome creamy macadamia nut butter. Roast the quails for 25mins at 200C. Then I made up some cauliflower purée combined with a ½ cup of macadamia nut butter – this combination is superb so rich, creamy and thick it has quite an amazing taste I would of been very happy with the purée by itself since it has such an exquisite taste. Remember to make soup stock with the quail bones and off cuts. I will be making something with the quail soup and nut butter tomorrow.

Fresh quails

De-boned quail

Macadamia nuts being processed

Macadamia cauliflower purée – this had the most astounding taste and texture so so creamy and luscious. I would have been happy just with this.

Macadamina pomegranate molasses quail with macadamina cauliflower purée

The crisp quail was the perfect counterpoint to the macadamina and pomegranate molasses filling - it is so nice to have quail without the bones the de-boning is well worth the five minutes it takes.

Crisp waterchestnut sardines stuffed with pinenut and macadamina nut butter served with Green Thai cashew nut butter sauce on home-made seaweed noddles
Since I couldn't really find any recipes on the internet I had to make this dish from scratch (both nut butter recipes were created on the spot) I went to the fish markets and since sardines were on special at $2/kg I couldn't resist. I used waterchestnut starch to coat the fish and stuffed them with macadamina nut butter, pinenut nut butter and fried onions. Then I made up a Green Thai cashew sauce; ½ cup cashew nut butter, 3 tbls fried Thai green curry paste, 2 tbls ginger mayonnaise, 1 bunch each of coriander, parsley, holy basil, 1 head of roasted garlic, zest of 1 lime and a 10 red Thai chillies (de-seeded and de-veined) – blended to a smooth purée. I then cooked up some home-made seaweed noddles (I have been doing a noddle making class still a couple more weeks till it ends) to serve with the Green Thai cashew nut sauce.

The waterchestnut starch adds a wondrous crispy coating to the fish – I will never use normal flour or corn flour again it was so crisp yet the coating was almost transparent a lovely result.

This was fantastic the sardines tasted so sweet! the combination of the macadamina/pinenut/onion filling and waterchestnut coating really bought out the natural sweetness of the fish so so tasty and with the tangy and fresh tasting Green Thai cashew sauce on the umami (seaweed) noddles everything was delightful a rainbow of flavours and textures in each bite extra yummy.

I submitted this recipe into a cooking competition that is being held at the fish markets – who would of guessed you could make sardines taste sweet. I won first place!!!

Waterchestnut starch – 80 cents per 250 gm pack!

Waterchestnut starch (left) and the filling of macadamina nut butter, pine nut butter & fried onions (on the right)

Sardines – notice how fresh they are the eyes are so bright and shiny only $2/kg

Sardines stuffed with macadamina nut butter, pine nut butter and fried onions

Sardines coated with waterchestnut starch

Home-made seaweed noddles with Green Thai cashew nut butter sauce

Fried sardines – notice how crispy the fish is and yet the coating is transparent

Completed dish – garnished with chives and hot red chilli sauce

Baked Mullet with Green Thai Cashew Nut Sauce
I liked the Green Thai cashew sauce so much I thought I would do baked mullet with it, I smothered the cleaned mullet with the sauce and filled the fish with lemon slices and slivered almonds. Baking time is roughly 30 mins at 180ºC. I was so juicy and tangy a nice use of the sauce on an undervalued fish.


Three Favourite Winter Recipes Remade with Nut and Seed Butters
Sydney is experiencing its coldest winter for sixty years at the moment so I thought I would do make-overs of my all time favourite winter recipes using nut and seed butters.

Australian Blue Puy Lentil, fox nut and lotus nut soup
Australian Blue Puy are a small slate-green lentil with a delicate blue marbling. These lentils are considered by many to be the best lentil because of their unique peppery flavour and the fact they hold their shape during cooking. While fox nuts are the starchy seed of a water lily which tastes like nutty mushrooms. Lotus nuts are the starchy seed of the lotus plant and taste like a cross between buttered popcorn and almond there are very tasty. I thought these nuts with lentils would a great basis for a winter recipe that is yummy and filling. The final dish was so filling and tasted like winter warmth – peppery, mushroomy and very buttery a great dish I really liked it a lot. I used quail stock which I had frozen from making the de-boned crisp quails, quail stock is much more strongly flavoured and much richer in mouth feel than normal chicken stock.

Fox nut (on the right) and Lotus flower nuts (on the left)

Australian Puy lentils

Completed soup

Walnut and hazelnut Beef bourguignon with new potatoes
One of my all time favourite winter dishes is beef bourguignon (beef braised in red wine) with new potatoes I used hazelnut and walnut nut butter instead of the normal roux in the recipe this was a real winner the nuts go so very well with the red wine, beef but especially well with new potatoes.

Final beef bourguignon

Meat loaf with chicory
I just love meat loaf this dish is rare and very exotic in most Australian homes I make it for sandwiches. I have a much loved recipe that I have developed over the last year (I use grated sweet potato, apple, Vegemite and soup seaweed in it also with veal, pork and beef minced meats and the other normal ingredients) and I thought chicory nuts would be an excellent addition instead of the normal breadcrumbs I used chicory nut butter which tastes like mild coffee and bitter chocolate with a touch of heat. This was a fantastic remake chicory really adds a wonder depth of flavour to the meatloaf and also it makes the loaf slice very cleanly and improves the overall flavour profile. All I can say is yum yum.

Chicory nuts

Meat loaf with chicory

Overall I was very pleased with the remakes they were all major improvements to my favourites winter recipes. I have to admit this challenge is really bringing out my creative juices.

  • We had best results making nut butters in a food processor rather than a blender. My basic two-speed, household blender worked fine for soft nuts like pecans and walnuts, but was unable to blend harder nuts like almonds & macadamias. Unless you have one of those high-powered blenders guaranteed to puree almost anything, we recommend using a food processor.

  • The four challenge recipes include instructions for making the appropriate amount of nut butter for the particular recipe. If you made the nut butter in advance, substitute the appropriate volume of nut butter for the nuts.

  • The yield of nut butter is about half the original volume of nuts. If you start with 1 cup (240 ml) nuts, you’ll get about ½ cup (120 ml) nut butter.

  • We have provided recipes for unsweetened nut butters since the challenge is to use the nut butter in a savory recipe. You may sweeten the nut butters as desired for use as a spread or in dessert recipes.

  • Despite the name, there is no dairy butter in nut butters. They are essentially pureed nuts, also called nut pastes.

  • To use nut butters in sauces as a substitute for heavy cream, first make a nut cream. Whisk the nut butter with about twice the volume of water, adding more water until you reach your desired consistency. For example, start with ¼ cup (60 ml) nut butter with ½ cup (120 ml) water; add more water as needed.

Simple Suggestions for Using Nut Butters:
  • sauce for grilled meat or fish

  • topping for pancakes or French toast

  • dip with apples or celery

  • spread for toast or sandwiches


  • The process for making various types of nut butters is essentially the same. Pour nuts into bowl of food processor. Grind the nuts in the processor until they form a paste or butter. The nuts first turn into powdery or grainy bits, then start to clump and pull away from the side of the bowl, and finally form a paste or butter. The total time required depends on the fat and moisture content of the nuts; grinding time will vary from roughly 1 to 4 minutes (assuming a starting volume of 1 to 2 cups [240 to 480 ml] nuts). Processing times for a variety of nuts are described below.

  • You may add oil as desired during grinding to make the nut butter smoother and creamier or to facilitate grinding. Add oil in small increments, by the teaspoon for oily nuts like cashews or by the tablespoon for dryer/harder nuts like almonds. You may use the corresponding nut oil or a neutral vegetable oil like canola.

  • The inclusion of salt in the nut butters is optional and to taste. If you make nut butters from salted nuts, peanuts or cashews for example, you will not need additional salt. We recommend making unsalted nut butters for use in the challenge recipes (and other savory recipes) since the recipes call for salt or salty ingredients. You can then adjust the salt to taste. If you are making nut butter for use as a spread, you should add salt according to your preference.

  • Roasting the nuts before making nut butters is optional according to your preference. To roast nuts in the oven, preheat oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C/Gas Mark 4). Spread nuts in a single layer on a baking sheet or roasting pan. Bake for approximately 10 minutes or until nuts are fragrant and a shade darker in color. Allow nuts to cool before grinding. Roasted nuts will make butter with darker color than raw nuts.

  • It’s helpful to keep in mind that the yield of nut butter is about half the original volume of nuts. If you start with 1 cup nuts, you’ll get about ½ cup nut butter.

  • The consistency of nut butters varies from thin & soft (almost pourable) to very thick and hard depending on the fat content of the nut. (See links below for nutrition info on variety of nuts.) Homemade nut butters will probably not be as smooth as commercial products.

  • Homemade nut butters are more perishable than commercial products and should be stored in the refrigerator. The nut butters harden & thicken somewhat upon chilling.

  • See links at bottom of post for additional information about making nut butters at home.

What variations are allowed:

  • We tested the challenge recipes below with particular types of nut butters as indicated in the ingredient list. You are free to experiment with other types of nuts. For example, you may want to substitute walnut butter in the Chicken with Pecan Cream and Mushrooms. You may also substitute the chicken or shrimp in the challenge recipes with your protein of choice.

  • If you are unable to eat nuts due to allergies or other dietary restrictions, we suggest you consider making a seed butter (sesame, sunflower, pumpkin, etc) and use it in a savory recipe of your choice. Making seed butters is very similar to making nut butters. We have provided links at the bottom of this post with information on seed butters and recipes. You’re also welcome to use other alternates as discussed in next bullet point.

  • If you are unable to eat nuts or seeds, you might consider making a fruit butter and then using it in a sweet or savory recipe. (Fruit butters are fruit cooked to form a paste, see links at bottom of post for recipes.) We are also open to other ideas for those with allergies or food restrictions. For example, pureed beans or pureed roasted vegetables could be used in a variety of savory soups, stews, or sauces.

  • If you do not own a food processor or high-powered blender to make your own nut butter, you may complete the challenge with store-bought nut butter.

  • Vegans, vegetarians, and those with food restrictions may substitute accordingly in the challenge recipes.

Preparation time:
  • Homemade Nut Butters: 10 minutes (optional) roasting, 5 minutes preparation

  • Chicken with Pecan Cream & Mushrooms: approximately 30 minutes

  • Asian Noodle Salad with Cashew Dressing: approximately 30 minutes

  • Chicken with Curried Tomato Almond Sauce: approximately 30 minutes

  • Walnut White Bean Dip with Rosemary & Sage: approximately 10 minutes

Approximate Processing Times in Food Processor for Nut Butters:

  • Almonds: form a thick butter in about 2 to 3 minutes for slivered almonds, or 3 to 4 minutes for whole almonds; the skin of whole almonds will leave dark flecks in the butter

  • Cashews: form a smooth, spreadable butter after about 2 minutes of processing

  • Hazelnuts: form a firm, thick, and grainy butter in about 2 to 3 minutes; to remove the skin from whole hazelnuts, roast in a 400 degree F oven (200 degrees C/Gas Mark 6) for about 5 minutes or till skins loosen, then rub hazelnuts in a clean dishtowel to remove some of the skin; the remaining skin will leave dark flecks in the butter

  • Macadamias: form a soft and smooth butter in about 2 minutes

  • Peanuts: form a thick, grainy butter in about 2 or 3 minutes

  • Pecans: form a very soft, oily, pourable butter in 1 or 2 minutes; the skins give pecan butter a slightly tannic and bitter flavor

  • Walnuts: form a very soft, oily, pourable butter in 1 or 2 minutes; the skins give walnut butter a slightly tannic and bitter flavor

  • Pistachios: According to the Nut Butter Primer from Cooking Light, pistachio butter is dry and crumbly with a tendency to clump during processing; they recommend combining it with softened cream cheese for easy spreading and report a processing time of 3.5 to 4 minutes. Please note, we did not test pistachio butter.

Equipment required:
  • Food processor or high-powered blender

  • Rubber spatula

  • Large non-stick frying pan

  • Sauce pan, stock-pot, or Dutch oven for cooking noodles

  • Strainer

  • Baking sheet or roasting pan for oven-roasting nuts

  • Assorted mixing bowls

  • Assorted plates

  • Tongs or spatula

  • Whisk

  • Wooden spoons

  • Cutting board

  • Kitchen knife

Chicken with Pecan Cream & Mushrooms
Yield: 4 servings

Recipe notes: Substitute your favorite pasta or rice in place of the egg noodles. Use fresh rosemary or parsley in place of thyme if you prefer.


Pecan Cream:
3/4 cup (180 ml) coarsely chopped pecans*, toasted
1 cup (240 ml) water
¾ teaspoon (3 ml) salt, more as needed

½ pound (225 g) egg noodles or pasta
4 (6-ounce / 170 g) boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
1 teaspoon (5 ml) olive oil, more as needed
Salt & pepper to taste

1 tablespoon (15 ml) deglazing liquid (water, broth, wine; optional)
1 teaspoon (5 ml) olive oil, more as needed
1/4 cup (60 ml) finely chopped shallots
½ pound (225 g) mushrooms, sliced
1 Tablespoon (15 ml) fresh thyme leaves
Chopped pecans, (optional garnish)


  1. Prepare pecan cream. Grind pecans in a food processor for about a minute or so until smooth, scraping down the sides of bowl as needed. Add water and 3/4 teaspoon (3 ml) salt; process until smooth, scraping sides of bowl as needed. Set aside pecan cream. (*If starting with prepared pecan butter, blend ¼ cup plus 2 Tablespoons (90 ml) pecan butter with the water and salt until smooth.)

  2. Cook noodles according to package instructions in salted water. Drain, rinse, and keep warm.

  3. If desired, pound chicken to ¼ inch (6 mm) thickness to promote even cooking. Sprinkle with a bit of salt and pepper to taste. Heat 1 teaspoon (5 ml) olive oil a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add half the chicken; sauté 3 to 5 minutes on each side or until cooked through. Cook the chicken in 2 batches, adding more oil if needed for second batch. Set aside cooked chicken on a clean plate, cover to keep warm.

  4. Add deglazing liquid to pan if using and stir up any browned bits. If needed, add another teaspoon (5 ml) of oil (or more) to pan for sautéing the shallots and mushrooms. Sauté the shallots and mushrooms over medium heat for 4 to 6 minutes or until mushrooms are tender and starting to brown. Add fresh thyme to the pan. Stir in pecan cream; bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for about 1 1/2 minutes till reduced slightly.

  5. Slice chicken into thin strips. Divide the noodles among serving plates. Add a scoop of the mushroom pecan sauce on top of noodles. Lay sliced chicken on top. Garnish with fresh thyme and/or a pinch of chopped pecans if desired.

Asian Noodle Salad with Cashew (or Peanut) Dressing
Yield: 4 servings

Recipe notes: Customize the salad by adding or substituting your favorite vegetables. Shredded cabbage, bean sprouts, and slivered carrots would make nice additions. Obviously, you can omit the shrimp, or substitute chicken or tofu or the protein of your choice. The dressing is equally as good with peanut butter rather than cashew butter. We tested the dressing with nut butters made from salted cashews & peanuts with good results.


Cashew Butter:
1 cup (240 ml) cashews*

Cashew Dressing:
½ inch (1 cm) slice of fresh ginger, chopped
8 cloves garlic, more or less to taste, chopped
½ cup (120 ml) cashew butter
¼ cup (60 ml) soy sauce
3 Tablespoons (45 ml) sugar
3 Tablespoons (45 ml) vinegar
3 Tablespoons (45 ml) toasted sesame oil
¼ cup plus 1 Tablespoon (75 ml) water
Hot sauce to taste (optional)

Noodle Salad:
1/2 pound (225 g) linguine or thin rice noodles
1 tablespoon (15 ml) olive oil
1/2 pound (225 g) small or medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 large red bell pepper, cored and seeded, cut into thin strips
1 cucumber, peeled, seeded, sliced
1/4 cup (60 ml) sliced green onions
1/4 cup (60 ml) chopped fresh basil
1 tablespoon (15 ml) chopped cashews (optional garnish)
Lime wedges (optional)

  1. Make cashew butter: Grind cashews in food processor for about 2 minutes until smooth. (*Or start with ½ cup (120 ml) prepared cashew butter.)

  2. Prepare cashew dressing: Combine ginger, garlic, cashew butter, soy sauce, sugar, vinegar, sesame oil, and water in food processor or blender. Process/blend until smooth. Be sure to process long enough to puree the ginger and garlic. The dressing should be pourable, about the same thickness as cream. Adjust consistency – thinner or thicker -- to your liking by adding more water or cashew butter. Taste and add your favorite hot sauce if desired. (If the cashew butter was unsalted, you may want to add salt to taste.) Makes about 1 ½ cups (360 ml) dressing. Store any leftover dressing in the refrigerator.

  3. Prepare noodles according to package instructions in salted water. Rinse and drain noodles. Set aside.

  4. Heat oil in large non-stick pan over medium heat. Add shrimp to the pan and sauté for about 3 to 4 minutes or until opaque throughout. Alternately, cook shrimp in boiling water for about 2 to 3 minutes or until done.

  5. Slice basil into thin ribbons. Combine noodles, bell pepper, cucumber, onions, and basil in a large bowl. Add about ½ cup (120 ml) cashew dressing; toss gently to coat. Add more cashew dressing as desired, using as much or as little as you’d like. Scatter shrimp on top. Squeeze fresh lime juice over salad or serve with lime wedges. Sprinkle with chopped cashews if desired.

Chicken with Curried Tomato Almond Sauce
Yield: 4 servings

Recipe notes: Substitute the protein of your choice for the chicken. This is a smooth sauce, so the onion is removed before serving. If you prefer, dice the onion and leave it in the sauce or substitute a bit of onion powder.


1 Tablespoon (15 ml) olive oil
4 (6 oz / 170 g) boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
Salt to taste

Spice Blend:
1.5 tablespoons (20 ml) garam masala seasoning
1 teaspoon (5 ml) ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon (2 ml) ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon (1 ml) black pepper

4 tablespoons (60 ml) butter
1 large onion, cut in half pole to pole
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 (15-ounce/425 g) can tomato sauce
⅓ cup (80 ml) almond butter
⅓ cup (80 ml) milk
½ to ¾ cup (120 to 180 ml) chicken broth or water, more as needed
1 cup (240 ml) frozen peas (optional)

Hot basmati rice for serving
Chopped parsley (optional garnish)
Sliced almonds (optional garnish)

  1. Cook the chicken. If desired, pound chicken to ¼ inch (6 mm) thickness to promote even cooking. Sprinkle with a bit of salt and pepper to taste. Heat 1 teaspoon (5 ml) olive oil a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add half the chicken; sauté 3 to 5 minutes on each side or until cooked through. Cook the chicken in 2 batches, adding more oil if needed for second batch. Dice chicken into bite-sized pieces; set aside on clean plate and keep warm.

  2. Prepare spice blend. Stir garam masala, ginger, cinnamon, and pepper together in a small bowl. Set aside.

  3. Melt the butter in large nonstick skillet over medium-low heat. Add the onion and cook gently for several minutes to infuse the butter with onion flavor. Keep the heat low to avoid burning the butter; a little color is fine. Add the spice blend and garlic and cook for 1 minute or till fragrant, stirring constantly. Add the tomato sauce, stir well, and bring to boil. Reduce heat to simmer. Whisk in almond butter and milk until thoroughly combined with tomato sauce. The almond butter is thick so it takes a while to make a smooth sauce. Return to simmer. Add broth (or water) to sauce to reach desired consistency; return to simmer. Add more broth (or water) as needed to thin sauce as desired.

  4. Remove onion from sauce and discard. Stir frozen peas (if using) into sauce. Transfer sliced chicken to sauce. Simmer gently for a few minutes until peas and chicken are heated through.

  5. Serve chicken and sauce over rice. Garnish with chopped parsley and/or sliced almonds if desired.

Walnut White Bean Dip with Rosemary & Sage

Recipe notes: Canned beans tend to be salty, so you may not need additional salt. Taste the dip after blending and add salt as needed.


½ cup (120 ml) walnuts*
1 (15.8 oz/448g) can Great Northern, Cannellini, or other white beans, drained and rinsed 1 garlic clove, chopped 2 Tablespoons (30 ml) fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons (10 ml) fresh rosemary, chopped
2 teaspoons (10 ml) fresh sage, chopped
¼ teaspoon (1 ml) lemon zest (optional) ¼ teaspoon (1 ml) black pepper salt to taste


  1. Make walnut butter by grinding ½ cup (120 ml) walnuts in food processor for about a minute until it forms a nut butter or paste. (*Alternately, start with ¼ cup (60 ml) prepared walnut butter.) Add beans, garlic, lemon juice, rosemary, sage, lemon zest (if using), and black pepper to the walnut butter in the food processor. Process the mixture to a smooth consistency. Taste and add salt as desired. Garnish dip with chopped walnuts and/or chopped fresh rosemary or sage, if desired. Serve dip with pita wedges, crostini, or assorted vegetables.

Additional Information:

  • Click here for a summary of nut nutrition from the University of Nebraska extension. Scroll down the page for a helpful chart comparing nutrition facts for both peanuts and tree nuts.

  • Click here for a detailed table of nutrition facts for a variety of tree nuts from the International Tree Nut Council. Click here for a detailed table of nutrition facts for dry roasted peanuts from The Peanut Institute.

  • Here’s a helpful video on making peanut butter at home in a food processor.

  • Here’s a helpful video on making macadamia nut butter at home in a food processor.

  • We tested this recipe for homemade toasted sesame seed butter (or Tahini) from this website featuring Middle Eastern cuisine. It was definitely not as smooth as commercial Tahini, but tasted fresh and intensely nutty. If you’re looking for a good recipe in which to use your homemade Tahini, we recommend Mollie Katzen’s recipe for Tahini Lemon Sauce.

  • Click here for a recipe for sunflower seed butter from Gourmet Sleuth online. Please note, we did not test this recipe.

  • If you are interested in fruit butters, check out the Pear Butter and Apple Butter recipes at the Simply Recipes food blog.

  • For inspiration on cooking with nut and seed butters, check out these recipes from Futters Nut Butters, a company that sells a variety of jarred nut and seed butters.