Let’s get ready to rum baba!

Rum baba, aka baba au rhum, is a sticky-sweet dessert made from a yeast-based cake soaked in, you guessed it, rum – after first being soused in a simple sugar syrup.

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We first tried rum baba in Montreal at a restaurant called L’Express when we were Crash Testing our way across Canada. After that we tracked it down in a few other restaurants in different parts of the world, but none of them were quite the same as that first baba, so we decided that one day we’d have to try making it ourselves. Continue reading ‘Let’s get ready to rum baba!’

Bangers and mash recipe – with video

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Our cooking method for sausages adds extra flavour to the sometimes ho-hum “bangers and mash” by creating a chunky onion and tomato gravy out of the pan juices. Along with the obligatory mashed potato, this dish really does need some greens as well – green beans or broccoli, plunged into boiling water for just a few minutes. Perfect.

This is a reasonably quick dish – suitable for a weeknight dinner. It’s easy to scale up the recipe for extra guests – say, two sausages minimum per person. Continue reading ‘Bangers and mash recipe – with video’

Pavlova recipe from the end of the oeuf

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We’ve moved back to Australia and thought the first effort in our dowdy but spacious new kitchen should be pavlova. This is an Australian, New Zealand and, oddly, Norwegian dessert favourite that we prepare using a simple recipe that has a few special touches.

A pavlova is basically a giant meringue, but rather than being crunchy or chewy right through it’s meant to be crisp on the outside, with a soft and fluffy interior. A while back I was making ile flottante and encountered what Lenny and I have dubbed the ‘warm method’ of heating the egg whites before beating. We reckon it makes the pavlova mixture more stable and less likely to collapse when shaping and baking, and the inside more marshmallowy when you come to devour it. Continue reading ‘Pavlova recipe from the end of the oeuf’

How to make Kung Pao Chicken

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One of the dishes we returned to time and again when we were visiting our friend Cristy in Beijing a few years ago was the popular Gong Bao Ji Ding or Kung Pao Chicken (also called Kung Po or Gung Po chicken). Traditional Gong Bao Ji Ding is a spicy Sichuan dish, the westernised version of which is often very different from the authentic Sichuanese version. I’m sure there are many variations of the dish within China, as well. But it’s not usual to add other vegetables like onions, peppers (capsicum) or cashews (or even pineapple?!).

I like to call it Gong Bao Ji Ding, because it has such a lovely ring to it, and apologies to Mandarin speakers the world over for my terrible pronunciation. Perhaps, as I’m erring towards attempting to cook an authentic version of the dish, I should also be trying to pronounce it correctly. But the truth is, I simply don’t know how.

There are very few main ingredients in Gong Bao Ji Ding – just chicken, peanuts and spring onions (green onions), really. But, as with many east Asian dishes, the complexity is in the many flavourings. Continue reading ‘How to make Kung Pao Chicken’

Panettone pudding recipe – a twist on bread and butter pudding

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Our friend Anthony brought round one of those panettone things on Christmas Day. In the end not a lot of it got eaten – we had a decent spread lined up already, and the panettone was kind of a last-minute whim on Anthony’s part.

For those not familiar, panettone is a kind of domed bready cake, often containing dried fruit and other goodies. It’s usually risen with yeast as opposed to baking powder. Panettone is a centrepiece at Italian Christmas tables and seems to be becoming more popular in other countries.

So Christmas came and went, as did Boxing Day, New Year’s, and the thing was still sitting there in its box, with only a few slices taken off. Continue reading ‘Panettone pudding recipe – a twist on bread and butter pudding’

How to make rum balls: two ways, humble and posh

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Go to the recipe for Humble rum balls
Go to the recipe for Lenny’s faff-tastic wonder balls

It’s a good idea to have a few snack-like goodies prepared for the Christmas period and rum balls always do the trick. Our friend Angie mentioned she’d made a batch to her Nana’s recipe so Waz thought he’d follow suit.

They are based on Weetbix or Weetabix, a cereal bar made out of wheat flakes, and include condensed milk for sweetening. Instead of Weetbix, if there’s no such thing where you live, you can use a plain graham cracker, digestive biscuit or similar cookie. Continue reading ‘How to make rum balls: two ways, humble and posh’

How to cook with truffles

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Go to the recipe for Pasta with white truffle
Go to the recipe for Eggs in cocotte with white truffle

On “schoolnights”, when everything happens at helter-skelter pace, it’s always a rush to get home from work, throw a meal together and do the day’s housekeeping before crashing into bed. If I’m lucky Waz has been on an early shift and we can share the evening duties.

So on the weekends we really like to give a lot more time and attention to creating lovely meals that we can enjoy eating at a slower pace.

I thoroughly respect the ideology of the Slow Food Movement – begun in 1986 to celebrate and enjoy local and regional cuisines. So when time permits I love to create meals that embody the Slow Food philosophy of creating the simplest of dishes, with the highest quality ingredients.

Chef Michelle and I recently treated ourselves with a whirlwind weekend trip to the centre of the white truffle universe – the Alba truffle festival in Piemonte near Turin, Italy. We ate a fantastic truffle meal at a Slow Food restaurant with some luscious local Barolo wine. We couldn’t believe our luck the following day when, while roaming the Alba hills, we ran into a local truffle hunter who sold us some white truffles that his little dog had just dug out of the ground. Continue reading ‘How to cook with truffles’

Let the jelly roll: Swiss roll recipe from Waz’s Nana

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Swiss roll – or jelly roll to the Americans and Canadians – is what Lenny likes to call a store cupboard cake. Like my Mum’s teacake, this is baking at its easiest. You’ve probably got most of the ingredients already, and the results are sure to win you a disproportionate amount of praise from your guests. Continue reading ‘Let the jelly roll: Swiss roll recipe from Waz’s Nana’

How to roast a duck, the slow and tender way

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Go to the recipe for Christmas duck

Let’s talk turkey. Actually let’s talk about something else this Christmas. Let’s talk turkey alternatives.

This is a first for Crash Test Kitchen. We’ve never done a Christmas episode before. So we thought we’d focus on two of the basic elements you want on your table: crispy roast potatoes and a lovely bird.

But instead of turkey, we’ve chosen duck. Continue reading ‘How to roast a duck, the slow and tender way’

Baked salmon recipe, with a bed of puy lentils

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Go to the recipe for salmon with puy lentils

If you’re good at chopping vegetables, this dish is a doddle. Even if you’re a little bit slower with the knife it’s still worth the effort. We find it an easy way to boost our fish intake, and it’s sophisticated enough to put on a dinner party menu.

Because salmon has quite a strong flavour, it’s good to have something a little bit hearty with it. The bed of puy lentils, diced vegetables and herbs does the job. Continue reading ‘Baked salmon recipe, with a bed of puy lentils’