Wednesday, 26 September 2012

:: Perfect American Style Pancakes ::

Buttermilk Pancakes
:: Megann’s Kitchen ::

:: the perfect stack of buttermilk pancakes ::

There is something about these home-made thick, light & fluffy pancakes that take me straight back to my childhood. On any given Sunday, we would make a batch Buttermilk Pancakes with a drenching of Log Cabin real maple syrup & a dollop of cream. When I was learning to make them, I used to sweeten the pancake batter with a big squirt of maple syrup instead of sugar! I was maple crazy - & to this day, I still am .
There is also something magical about the flavour combination of maple syrup & bacon. The salty sweetness goes beautifully together taking any boring old pancake to another dimension. In the Holiday Season we use slices of leftover Christmas Ham. Delicious & oh so American!

:: the original recipe from the master herself - Stephanie Alexander ::

It is now a tradition that I have continued with my husband & toddler. This Stephanie Alexander inspired recipe is far superior to any other that I have tried. We love making these pancakes as a family, getting everyone involved.

3 eggs, separated
2 ¼ cups buttermilk
60g (2 ounces) butter, melted
300g (10 ounces) plain flour
1 Tbs caster sugar
1 tsp sea salt
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
extra butter or oil spray

Whisk the egg yolks & sugar until light & foamy. Mix in the buttermilk & melted butter. Sift the flour & bicarb soda over the egg mixture, add the sea salt & mix well.
:: note - It is at this stage you can cover & store the batter + egg whites (in separate bowls/containers of course) in the fridge overnight in preparation for the next morning.

When ready to cook the pancakes, whisk the egg whites with an electric mixer to soft peaks then fold into the batter with a metal spoon until well combined. Pre-heat a heavy-based frying pan over a medium heat & then lightly grease. I like to use a paper towel smeared with butter because as it melts, any excess gets absorbed back into the paper towel & you get a light, even coating. Set the towel aside in a small bowl to use again. Ladle in about 1/3 cup of batter. Cook until bubbles form on the top & beautifully golden on the bottom. Flip with a spatula and cook the other side. Re-grease the pan & repeat.

:: making pancakes in the frypan & Tayaki pan ::

Kitchen Notes
:: To keep the pancakes warm for serving, transfer pancakes to a plate & keep warm at about 90°C (190°F) in the oven until you've finished cooking the batch.
:: Fruity Variations - When the pancakes are starting to form bubbles in the pan, sprinkle some fruit (such as blueberries or raspberries) onto the pancake the flip to continue to the cooking.
:: No buttermilk? Don’t despair. I make a buttermilk substitute of ½ cream, ½ milk & 1 Tbs of Lemon Juice that works perfectly.
:: In our kitchen, we tend to have a sacrificial first test pancake – it is where you test the temperature of the pan & the consistency of the batter. Any adjustments are made here.
:: Batter too thick & not cooking through? Simply add some extra buttermilk or milk. Batter too thin & spreading across the pan like an octopus? Add some extra flour.
:: For mini pancakes or blinis, ladle batter into a clean sauce bottle & squeeze onto a prepared frying pan. I usually make them about the size of 2.5 cm (1 inch) in size.
:: For savoury pancakes or savoury blinis, leave out the sugar.

:: using real maple syrup is essential ::
:: kids in the kitchen creates so much joy ::
:: my weakness - real butter, real maple syrup & real cream ::

:: Personally, we love putting out many options to go with our morning Pancakes. This usually consists of a plate of crispy bacon, a jug of cream, strawberries, cut lemon & sugar as well as the favourite of real maple syrup. This is so everyone can make up the pancake of his or her dreams.

:: eating pancakes & strawberries ::

Quick Kitchen
:: The batter can be measured & prepared the night prior to making them. The egg whites are whipped and mixed in the next morning, meaning that the pancakes can be made quickly & with ease.
:: We usually have 2 pans on the stovetop (1 pancake per pan) for a faster turnover & even heat/browning of the pancake.
:: No time to create your own home-made pancakes? I have successfully used the Pancake Parlour branded Buttermilk Pancake Mix available from any Coles or Woolworths - just add milk, mix & stand for 10 minutes. Easy!

:: evenly heating the fish shaped Tayaki Pan ::
:: cooking the fish with pancake batter ::
:: a fish out of water ::

Little Larder
:: I bought a non-stick fish Tayaki Pan on ebay & my son LOVES IT! Mine is a singular fish pan but I have also seen them with multiple, just make sure it is a good non-stick surface. It is such a fun way to make pancakes enjoyable for the kids. Simply pre-heat the Tayaki Pan evenly on both sides, grease with butter & paper towl each time, ladle in some batter, close it & give it a good shake. Make sure that you turn it over regularly throughout the cooking process to provide an even heat on both sides. Remove when golden & cooked through.
:: You can also add fruit, such as blueberries, to your fish pancake. Have some blueberries on standby & quickly sprinkle them on top & press them into the batter before you close the pan. Continue with the cooking process.
:: Mini pancakes also make great lunchbox snacks for the kids.

:: bubbles rising to the surface & bursting = ready to flip ::
:: making blinis - or mini pancakes ::
:: I use a squeeze bottle to create consistent sized blinis or small pancakes ::
:: eating up the best ever buttermilk pancakes ::

Enjoy some Buttermilk Pancakes this Sunday with your family 

Thursday, 20 September 2012

:: Food from the Past ::

Evergreen Pesto Risotto with Deglazed Seasonal Mushrooms
:: Megann’s Kitchen ::

:: evergreen pesto risotto with deglazed seasonal mushrooms & basil flowers ::

One of my favourite cafés of all time was in Sydney when I lived there almost 10 years ago. There was a little out of the way place in Surry Hills which had the most amazing pasta dishes that I had ever tasted. The menu was written on a roll of butcher’s paper & back then, nothing was over $19. No kidding, this was restaurant quality food but it felt as if you were sitting in a hot & busy Italian Kitchen with Nona at the helm.
Mick & I would frequent IlBarretto for the amazing quality pasta dishes at a respectable price. We had a few favourites - One was a Duck Ragu with Papardelle Pasta. The richness & depth of flavour in this dish left you yearning for more…. I was addicted! The other was a vibrant green Basil Pesto Risotto. At the time, I had not experienced a risotto like it. The drive of the basil bursts into your mouth, refreshing & filling with every mouthful. Ahhhh, I can still remember the flavours of these amazing dishes.
We loved this establishment. The fact that it was a no bookings deal, which left you taking a number & sometimes waiting hours at the pub across the road, simply added to its charm. It, in a way, was our little Italian getaway.

When we moved to Darwin with the RAAF, I was consequently devastated at the fact that I would no longer be able to have my favourite risotto for dinner. While in the heat, I wasn’t up for a Duck Ragu, but longed for the fresh risotto that I loved. As a result, Mick & I set about in the kitchen one weekend to recreate the “Pesto Risotto” we had become so fond of. Ok, so it is a far cry from the energetic green Il Baretto dish, but I like it just the same. After many years of tweaking, we have discovered a beautiful balance of flavours in this risotto dish that is great all year round, but absolutely perfect for a fresh Spring or Summer dish.

Now, shows like MasterChef have deemed Risotto the dish most difficult to make. Well, it’s not. Everyone loves it & all you have to do is know when it is ready to pull it off the heat & serve straight away. Follow these simple instructions for a perfect Risotto every time.

:: making the basil pesto for the risotto ::

1 cup firmly packed basil leaves
½ cup of baby spinach
¼ cup flat leaf parsley
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
¼ cups toasted pine nuts
1 clove garlic, peeled.
Sea salt & Pepper
80 grams finely grated parmesan

Put pine nuts & garlic clove in a blender or food processor & process until roughly chopped. Scrape down the sides with a small spatula. Add olive oil, parsley, basil  & spinach leaves. Blend. Pause the machine once or twice and scrape down the sides with the spatula to ensure even consistency. Process mixture until a smooth paste. Scrape pesto into a bowl & stir through the grated parmesan. Cover the bowl with cling film touching the surface of the pesto so it is not exposed to air to prevent oxidisation. Set aside until needed.

:: blending the pesto in my KitchenAid food processor ::

Quick Kitchen
:: To prepare in advance for a quick dinner, spoon pesto into a clean and dry 250ml screw-top jar. Press down with the back of a spoon to ensure there are no air pockets & seal with a film of olive oil. Store in the refrigerator until required.
:: No time? My local IGA in Beaumont Street makes a great, freshly prepared pesto that can easily be purchased to stir through the risotto at the last minute.

:: adding stock one ladleful at a time ::

zest & juice of ½ lemon
1.5 litres chicken stock
200ml dry white wine
120g unsalted butter
1 Tbs olive oil
1 brown onion, very finely chopped
   (I like to use my Tupperware Smooth Chopper or Food Processor)
2 cups arborio rice
Freshly-grated parmesan cheese, to taste

:: makes approximately 6-8 serves

Heat the stock & wine in a saucepan bringing it to a gentle simmer. In a heavy-based, deep, non-stick frying pan, melt 60g of the butter & olive oil over gentle heat & sauté onion until softened, translucent & fragrant without colouring. This should take about 10 minutes. Add the rice & raise heat to a medium temperature. Stir constantly for about 1 minute to ensure rice is evenly coated with butter & looking slightly translucent. Add one ladleful at a time of hot stock. Simmer, stirring constantly as the liquid is absorbed. Taste the rice after 15-20 minutes. How quickly it cooks depends on the level of your heat. It should be soft with a hint "nuttiness" in the centre of each grain. Check the seasoning carefully. If you run out of stock before the rice is cooked, add some boiling water.

:: remove from heat & stir through the flavour accents ::

When the rice is ready, remove the pan from heat. Add the remaining butter, lemon zest, lemon juice & the pesto mixture. Stir the ingredients through, making sure the melted butter & pesto has distributed evenly. Place a lid on the pan and allow to rest for just 2-3 minutes. This is the most important part of making the perfect risotto but I find it is just enough time for me to warm the plates & sauté + deglaze the mushrooms. Serve without delay.

Kitchen Notes
:: I like to compare my “al dente” risotto rice grain to the toasted pine nuts that I prepared earlier in the dish. Take a bite of one of these & take note of the texture. You will find that it is nutty in texture with a little “bite” to it, yet smooth & creamy when chewed. Your risotto grain should be similar when tasting for its readiness.
:: I actually prefer a looser risotto. If you find that it absorbs too much moisture becoming thick & gluggy and you’ve run out of stock mixture, simply add some boiling water from the kettle.
:: To make this a vegetarian option, simply swap out the chicken stock for a vegetarian substitute, such as vegetable stock.

:: seasonal mushrooms, browned & deglazed ::

Quick Deglazed Mushrooms
500g seasonal mushrooms
2 tbsp olive oil
50g butter
100ml white wine
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Cut mushrooms to a similar size to allow even cooking. Heat a heavy-based frying pan over medium-high heat then add oil and butter. Add mushrooms & toss to coat. Continue cooking, moving mushrooms so that they brown & cook evenly but are still firm. Add the white wine, salt & pepper to taste. Serve when the wine has almost evaporated, giving the mushrooms a beautiful gloss.

:: preparation is key - have everything at the ready ::
:: using my Tupperware Smooth Chopper to finely dice onions ::

Kitchen preparation
:: To ensure the process is stress-free, prepare as much as you can before you start cooking. Prepare the chicken & wine stock on the stove mixture, juice and zest the lemon, prepare the mushrooms, grate the parmesan, measure your wine & risotto rice plus weigh out the unsalted butter + chop each into smaller pieces for easier melting.

:: a few delicious mouthfuls of Megann's Kitchen evergreen risotto ::

Serve & Style
:: Place risotto onto a warmed plate. It should gently ooze out to a delicious raised green puddle. Place desired amount of deglazed mushrooms on top of the risotto dish with a small drizzle of olive oil. If you like the salty sweetness of cheese like me, add some additional shaved parmesan or crumbled goats cheese. If available, I also like to add edible flora such as basil flowers.

:: risotto isn't something to be scared of - try it! ::

:: To learn some more about making the perfect risotto, do some research. I found the Essential Ingredient & Australian Gourmet Traveller had some great cooking tips.

:: browning of the seasonal mushrooms ::

Quick Kitchen
:: Making Ahead: Although risotto cannot be prepared in full ahead of time, you can cook the risotto up through the coating of the rice in butter & olive oil. Place into a sealed container in the fridge until ready to finish. The moment the first addition of the stock mixture is added the dish will take 16-20 minutes to complete, depending on how chilled the rice is. I applied this method for the feature photo, not bad!
Leftovers: Any leftover risotto can be made into Arancini Balls. This is your desired risotto that is coated in breadcrumbs & fried in olive oil. This can be a great tapas style meal. They can also be a fantastic starter to a meal for dinner guests.

:: evergreen pesto risotto with deglazed seasonal mushrooms & parmesan ::

Please enjoy another Megann's Kitchen creation in your home

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