Waiting for Agnes

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Missing my inner schadenfreude September 19, 2010

Night two of Junior MasterChef and I’m still waiting for the addictive rush to kick in – you know, the thrill of abandoning the pretense of only watching the televisual equivalent of proper literature and letting yourself slide into the saccharine embrace of trashy reality TV. There are some good things about JMC: the kids seem genuinely excited about cooking, the age bracket is smart – not too young to be absurd, young enough to still be cute and remarkable -, the parents don’t get any screen time (other than cheering from the sidelines) so you don’t end up pitying any of the kids for having hideously pushy stage parents, George and Gary and Matt are still mildly entertaining, and some of the food looks super tasty – anyone making poached egg and truffle on smashed potato or orange and almond syrup cakes is welcome at my house anytime. But somehow it’s not enough. It’s not truly terrible, although the addition of the fourth judge is curious. Did they feel three judges weren’t enough, or was it to have a female screen presence, or did they include her because the panel would be judging children? And if it’s for the last reason, what does that say about the production? Even if it is unintentional, there’s a spooky kind of underlying message that children are safer around women. Ironically, of the four judges, the woman in question, Anna Gare, seems the least comfortable around the kids and comes across as kind of patronising alongside Gary’s joviality, George’s encouragement and Matt’s jibing at the pair of them. Regardless, I think my main complaint with JMC says more about my relationship with reality TV than it does about the show itself – it’s just too nice. Oh it’s not that I want the judges to be mean to the wannabe JMCs, and all the crying the senior MasterChef contestants did got right on my goat, but I do miss the snarky comments and biting criticism by the judges, the bitching and the backstabbing from the contestants. I miss seeing the disillusioned lawyers, musicians and IT consultants overwork their pastry, set fire to the oven, split sauces, undercook fish, commit the heinous crime of leaving a bone in fish and declare their ineptitude with mashing a potato.┬áThere’s not nearly so much fun to be had in watching small, happy people succeeding under a shower of praise.

Anyway, to assuage any feelings of inadequacy that may have popped up whilst witnessing a toddler temper white chocolate, I made some ice-cream:

Feathered Lady Salted Caramel Ice-Cream*

*so called as six hens each contributed an egg to the making of this tasty delight – thank you ladies

150 grams of caster sugar

50 mls of water

6 egg yolks

50 grams of butter, chopped

1 teaspoon of salt

350 mls of pure cream (not thickened)

150 mls of full fat milk

Prepare a sieve over a medium bowl, resting in a large bowl with iced water.

In a medium bowl, whisk the egg yolks with 50 grams of the sugar. Set aside.

Combine the milk and cream in a jug or small saucepan. Heat very gently to room temperature. Set aside.

Combine the remaining 100 grams of the sugar with the 50 mls of water in a medium saucepan. Over medium heat, stir until the sugar dissolves then continue to cook, swirling regularly, until caramel in colour. This will take about ten minutes. Don’t walk away from it – once the colour changes it will darken very quickly. I took it from the heat as soon as it was golden, as the heat from the pan will keep it going.

Remove from the heat and add the butter and salt, stirring until well combined.

Then add the cream and milk mixture, stirring until well combined. Voila! Caramel!

Pour the caramel mixture into the egg yolk mixture in a thin stream, whisking constantly until completely incorporated.

Pour it all back into a clean, medium saucepan and return to the stove over a medium-low heat. Stir continuously until the mixture coats the back of a wooden spoon, or until a thermometer reaches 85 degrees. This will take 7-10 minutes. I kept the heat a little lower and took a little longer to reduce any chance of scrambling the eggs.

Pour through the sieve into the prepared double-bowl set-up. Leave to cool to room temperature.

Churn in an ice-cream machine and then freeze until firm (2-3 hours). If you don’t have an ice-cream machine, you can just freeze the mixture, taking it out and stirring regularly.

Makes about 700 mls or so.

This is like the ice-cream version of eating a Werther’s Original. Sweet, salty, caramelly and without sticking annoyingly to your teeth. We had it with peanut butter chocolate fondant puddings. Need I say more?


Temporary enchantment August 27, 2010

Filed under: Things that aren't sweet — titchandboofer @ 4:15 am
Tags: , , , ,

I was bewitched by MasterChef, utterly sucked into the hype, drama and ‘suspense’, watching it, talking about it, texting constantly with one of the LMFs through every episode, trying out the recipes, reading about the contestants and their post-MC ‘journeys’ (I know, gag and puke, the word is ruined forever). Not to over-dramatise (well, much), but it was hard to imagine a post-MC world here. What the hell would we find to watch every night? Then it finished. And strangely I don’t miss it. I have rediscovered the glory of channel 2 and now it’s hard to imagine how MC had such a power over me. I hate reality television. The constant repetition, the breathless voice-overs, the urgency of every staged altercation between contestant and contest, the presenters, the supposedly subtle product placement (so subtle that entire articles have been dedicated to its artistry) and the puffed-up self importance of the whole shebang. Jeez, they’re poaching an egg, not splitting the atom. The only upside to MC, as opposed to some of the other gems that have graced our screens, is that the product can live on beyond the show. Everyone needs to eat. No one really needs to run around in hot pants with 75 litre backpacks, shrieking at their partner and abusing foreign taxi drivers. At least not daily. This recipe lives on for us on a regular basis:

Kylie Kwong’s only-slightly-tampered-with Eggplant with Chilli Sauce

3 large eggplants (never stint on eggplant, it’s lush)

5 tablespoons of peanut oil

1/2 a bunch of coriander, leaves, stems and roots all finely sliced

3 spring onions, finely sliced

1 teaspoon of the sichuan pepper and salt

For the chilli sauce:

1/2 a cup of peanut oil

6 long red chillies, de-seeded and roughly chopped (KK keeps the seeds in, which is fine if you want to blow your head off and drink a litre of milk)

10 garlic cloves, roughly chopped

8cm piece of fresh ginger, roughly chopped

1 tablespoon of tamari soy sauce

For the sichuan pepper and salt:

1 tablespoon of sichuan peppercorns (don’t stress too much on the sichuan, we just use ordinary peppercorns and they’re still excellent)

3 tablespoons of sea salt (rocks or flakes)

To do:

Halve the eggplants and cut into irregular 5cm chunks. Spread over a couple of baking trays and sprinkle liberally with sea salt. Set aside for about an hour. Rinse well, drain and pat dry with paper towel. This process removes all the bitter juices from the eggplant. DO NOT SKIP THIS.

To prepare the pepper and salt, dry roast the peppercorns and salt flakes in a small pan until fragrant and the peppercorns are popping a little. Remove from the heat, cool, then grind up with a mortar and pestle. Set aside. You can keep the excess in an airtight container with your other herbs and spices.

To make the chilli sauce, heat the 1/2 cup of oil in your wok until shimmering slightly. Add the chilli, garlic and ginger, stirring constantly over medium heat for 5 minutes. Reduce heat to low and continue to stir for another 5 minutes. Remove from heat and stir through the tamari.

Now for the eggplant: heat the 5 tablespoons of peanut oil in the wok until shimmering slightly. Add the eggplant and cook over high heat for 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat to low and cook for a further 5-7 minutes, until tender.

Add the chilli sauce to the eggplant and stir together for about a minute. Toss over the coriander and spring onions, stirring to combine.

Transfer to a serving bowl/plate and sprinkle with the pepper/salt combination. Serve with steamed jasmine rice. This amount makes about 4 generous serves. Good for dinner or lunch. Reheats well. Spicy without burning and salty without overwhelming. Soft eggplant contrasts with the crunch of ginger and coriander root. Yum.