Baked Camembert and Strawberries with Balsamic Glaze

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We have this serious glut of strawberries going on at our place right now. I know, I know. Tough problem to have, right? Well, it’s not really a problem. I can tell you there’s not many of those delicious red berries going to waste. Our patch is netted, so we’re not sharing too many with the local wildlife (here, it’s not just the insects and the birds, but reptiles like blue tongue lizards and baby skinks as well). The chickens are getting the few imperfect ones, and the rest are either scoffed on the spot by my kids, or actually making it inside for me to play with. I have a couple of strawberry recipes for you – this first one is a simple savoury dish to serve with friends as an entrée or snack over drinks.

Baked camembert

Camembert and strawberries

What You Need:

  • 3/4 cup of fresh strawberries, half some of them, dice the rest.
  • 1 round of camembert cheese. Like everything, buy the best you can afford. For this recipe, it’s best (but not essential) to buy one that comes in its own box.
  • Balsamic glaze (found in the salad dressing isle of your supermarket).
  • Bruschetta or crusty bread to serve.
  • Pancetta or prosciutto to serve.
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Baked in balsamic glaze

How it’s Done:

If you’re lucky enough to purchase a camembert in its own box, all you need to do is remove it, and any plastic packaging. Score the top of the rind with a sharp knife in a criss-cross pattern, about half a centimetre deep. Then pop it back in box, without the lid. Push the strawberry halves into the scored rind, sprinkle the diced pieces on top, reserving a few to keep fresh to serve,

Bake for around 12 – 15 minutes in a pre-heated oven at 180 degrees C, until cheese is melted through – beware of over-baking though. Camembert has a habit of re-setting if it over cooks.

To serve, place on a cheese platter, drizzle with plenty of balsamic glaze. Add crusty bread and prosciutto if desired. Sounds like a strange combination – but it’s delicious!

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Soooo delicious!

If you don’t have a camembert round in its own box – I didn’t – don’t despair! Cut a square of baking paper, and another of foil. Place the baking paper on top of the foil, the unwrapped cheese on top of that, and, holding firm, tie it with kitchen twine. This helps to keep the camembert in shape and stop any leakage of hot oozing cheese all over your oven tray. You should be able to see where I’ve tied the twine in the ‘before’ photo here. Otherwise, prepare and serve exactly the same way.

Cookbook Review: Simply Good Food by Neil Perry

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There’s no doubt Neil Perry is one of Australia’s most distinguished, premiere chefs. Not only does he operate a string of highly successful restaurants, is a regular on our television screens and is the creator of airline Qantas’s menus – he also finds time to write gorgeous cookbooks and share his creations us.

Simply Good Food is Perry’s sixth cookbook, and delivers exactly what the title offers: Simple recipes made with fresh, quality ingredients. Retailing at $49.99, this is not just for Foodies, but it also doubles as a stunning coffee table book. Its hard cover, heavy papers and stylish matt photography makes it a book to ogle over in more ways than one.

neil perry

Neil Perry

Divided into sections covering a few of Neil’s favourite cocktails, soups, salads and pasta dishes, followed by meat dishes such as chicken, pork, beef, veal and lamb recipes, the real knock-out dishes are, for me, the Asian banquets, Mediterranean shared tables and Mexican Feasts. I love this kind of ‘open table’ dining with family and friends – it’s a great way to keep everyone happy!

Recipes at the top of my list to try out include:

  • Smoked Ocean Trout Dip With Lemon Thyme Toast
  • Chicken Wings in Vietnamese Caramel Sauce (omg, wow – right?)
  • Veal Escalopes With Artichokes and Prosciutto (I’m a fiend for both artichokes and prosciutto, so this sounds utterly heavenly to me)
  • Buffalo Mozzarella, Capsicum and Onion Salad (so simple, so stunning, so delicious)

And then, there’s the desserts.

  • Key Lime Pie (because, Key. Lime. Pie)
  • Passionfruit Syrup Cake With Mango Salsa (anything that combines passionfruit, mango and mint is, in my mind, pretty much perfect)
  • And finally, there’s the Bittersweet Chocolate Tart. You’ll just have to take my word for it – and buy the book – on how gorgeous this looks. And simple enough for us mere mortals to make at home.
Perry_Simply Good Food

Simply Good Food

While Simply Good Food is filled with mouth-watering photographs, I was a little disappointed that not every recipe has an accompanying photo. As someone who eats with their eyes first, (as I think most of do!) these are the recipes I skim over – especially when there are double-spread pages of stylistically stunning (but not so informative) photographs of empty crockery and wine corks taking up space within the pages. I was, however, pleasantly surprised at the simplicity of these recipes – the layout suggested a more complex menu. It’s  all about combining flavours and crisp, ‘clean’ food.

Simply Good Food won’t be left sitting on the coffee table at my place. Pretty sure I’ll be needing it far too often in the kitchen!

Simply Good Food by Neil Perry

Published by Murdoch Books

Photographer – Earl Carter

ISBN – 978-1743360514

Hard Cover, 339 pages

Available now

The Piece de Resistance!

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Okay, so we have our three recipes together, right? No? Well then, check these links –

For the Easy-Peesy Chocolate Brownie, click here.

For the Honeycomb, click here.

And for the Dark Chocolate Mud Ice Cream, click here.

Now we have all the recipes in order, if you’ve managed to keep the end results away from sticky fingers, it’s time to put them all together for something a bit special. Just like the three previous recipes, this one is way easier than it looks. Plus, no new ingredients! It’s just a matter of plating up.

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Three desserts in one make something special!

What You Need:

Homemade Chocolate Brownies, still in the pan, cooled but unsliced.

Homemade Honeycomb. Crushed.

Homemade Dark Chocolate Mud ice cream that has been set in a slice tray.

A round cookie cutter, aprox 7cm.

A round cookie cutter, aprox 4cm.

To serve, I added golden syrup and a commercial chocolate sauce.

How It’s Done:

After all that hard work, this is the fun bit! Using your cookie cutter, cut a circular shape from your brownies. My brownies were quite thick, so I cut it in half width-wise, but if yours are thinner, cut two circles. Cut one circle from your set ice cream – make sure it’s the same size and your brownies. Place one brownie on the plate, the ice cream directly on top of it, and then another brownie piece. You need to work quickly and carefully at this point. Then, using a smaller round cookie cutter – or a small ice cream scoop – cut another two discs of ice cream. Place one flat on top, the other sitting on an angle. Then, crumble honeycomb pieces over the top and a few more on the side of the dish for garnish. I added a quick swirl of golden syrup and chocolate sauce too.

*Experiment! Just because I’ve used round shapes here, doesn’t mean you can’t cut squares, heart shapes or anything else. And, if you’re taking your dessert directly to the table, a warmed chocolate sauce would be DELISH.

Super Dessert

Dark chocolate ice-cream with brownie and honeycomb

Chocolate Mud Icecream

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I’ve desperately wanted to learn how to make my own ice cream for years. A lack of an ice cream maker put that on hold for a while, though. I tried the (very good) method of buying top quality commercial ice cream and adding special ingredients for dinner parties, but it wasn’t quite the same as making from scratch. Luckily for me, last year for a (ahem) ‘special age’ birthday, my lovely parents-in-law gave me a KitchenAid mixer a gift. I’ll go into all the thousands of reasons I love my Kitchenaid another day, but I will say one of those reasons is ICE CREAM MAKER ATTACHMENT.

choc mud icecream 2

The ingredients

No, you don’t need a KitchenAid to make ice cream. You don’t even need an expensive ice cream maker. I’ve seen them on special for as little as $30. Keep an eye out at those sales. They’re a handy little toy to have in the kitchen. I will be adding a couple of posts in the near future that go into more detail so far as ice cream making is concerned, including recipes that don’t always need a specialty machine.

This recipe is a Mandy-altered version of one that came courtesy of KitchenAid. It’s delicious. And full-on. The richest, most decadent chocolate ice cream you’re ever likely to spoil yourself with. And it’s far easier to make than you might imagine…

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The Mixture

What You Need:

  • 600ml of thickened cream
  • 300ml full-fat milk (sorry, but there’s just no point going skim when you’re doing this one…)
  • 300g of best quality dark cooking chocolate, roughly chopped. Best quality means best quality. You need a minimum of 60% cocoa. Trust me on this. I’ve tried to cheat. It doesn’t work. At all.
  • 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract. In a perfect world, this means pure vanilla extract. I didn’t have that this time, so used the artificial stuff.
  • 4 egg yolks.
  • 155 grams of caster sugar.
choc mud icecream 4

Churn it!

I’ve made this dozens of times now, and except for the time I used cheap chocolate buds, it’s never failed me. The one thing I always do before beginning is to have all my ingredients ready and lined up on the bench. That means sugar weighed, eggs separated.

Step One: Place cream, milk and chocolate into a large metal bowl over a saucepan containing simmering water. Be really careful not to let any water or steam come into contact with your chocolate or it will seize. Cook cream, milk and chocolate over a low heat, stirring occasionally until it comes together as a smooth mixture.

Step Two: I use a wire whisk on my Kitchenaid for this step, but you could use any electric mixer. Place the chocolate mixture into a large bowl and allow to cool for about 10 minutes. On a low-medium speed, begin to mix. Add the vanilla, egg yolks (one at a time) and sugar. Once all ingredients are added, mix for one further minute. Remove the mixture and place in the refrigerator to chill for around half an hour. I’ve been known to leave it at this step overnight.

Step Three: The churning bit. With most ice cream makers, there’s a special bowl that needs to be frozen to use. The principal is that they’re hollow and filled with a liquid that freezes solid. I keep mine in the freezer all the time it’s not in use. That way, it’s ready when I need it, rather than having to think 24 hours in advance. The most common mistake when making homemade ice cream is not having this bowl sufficiently frozen.

I try to make sure my chilled chocolate mixture is in a bowl that’s easy to pour from, just to try and cut down on the mess factor. Following your ice cream maker’s instructions, turn the machine on and slowly pour in the chocolate mix. Churn for around 25 or 30 minutes – obviously this will vary between machines. The KitchenAid starts to make a ‘clicking’ noise as the ice cream rises up the paddle, letting you know when it’s ready. At this point, your ice cream will be more like a soft serve than anything you can scoop, so it really needs to go back in the freezer – covered – for about two hours. For the recipe I’m making later in the week, I froze mine in a square slice tin.

Enjoy with strawberries, raspberries or simple whipped cream.

*It’s important to eat your chocolate ice cream within four days due to the raw egg factor.

choc mud icecream 1

Serve with a wafer