Sunday, September 28, 2008

Chocolate Covered Spiders Legs

Oh me, oh my! Doesn't this sound just deliciously decadent? I mean, come on! Who would want to coat some big ole hairy spiders legs in chocolate? Ummmm, right...

BTW, I'm putting this on my main blog too. But the title will be Chocolate Covered Sarah Palin Legs. That oughta get a wee bit of traffic.

It's amazing the recipes you find when you flip through the magazine stand at the supermarket checkout. This is one of those...

Now, I don't really like following things EXACTLY, so first I thought that I'd use the hot fudge sauce from my now world famous Frozen Peanut Butter Cheesecake with Hot Fudge Sauce. But then I remembered my sauce is more fudgy like when it cools, and I need the chocolate to set. Ok, I'll follow their instructions.

Then I thought, "Heck, this is Oz! There's spiders galore. I think I'll go find some." This proved a little more difficult than I had anticipated since I needed really big spiders. I was hoping to find a colony of Huntsman or Wolf spiders. But no, I only found little teeny ones and one of them was drowned in the pool!

See, here's proof (and just click on any of them to see em full screen size):

Hmmmm, he'd be a bit soggy, not very crunchy.

Then I thought of this bloke:

Definitely the right size, but it might be poisonous.

Or how about this one?

Nah, way too pretty. Besides it eats the mosquitos around the pool.

Well, heck! Guess I might as well follow the whole darned recipe, sigh.

Chocolate Covered Spider Legs

What you need:
1 bag of fried noodles, 100 grams (these are them crunchy ones!)
200 grams (almost a POUND) of dark cooking chocolate
2 tbsp of peanut butter (crunchy or not, I used smooth cus I was out of crunchy)

What you do:
This ain't rocket science! First, break the cooking choc into the smallest pieces you can (it melts faster, I'd explain but it involves Thermodynamics and Latent Heat of Fusion or some such crap) and put the choc and peanut butter in a large microwave proof bowl. Nuke that sucker on high for a min or two. Pull it out, stir it all up. If the choc isn't melted all the way, pop it back in the microwave for 15 to 30 secs.

Once it's all melted, add the bag of fried noodles. Mix it together, but be careful so you don't break the noodles.

Take a plate or cookie sheet and put a piece of wax paper on it. Spoon the chocolately peanuty noodley goodness on to it. I made 14 little piles of spider legs on mine, see:
chocolate spider legs

Pop that tray in the fridge so the chocolate sets.

And then (this is the really clever part) eat them! We'll be having ours for dessert tonight as we watch the season finale of the latest Dr Who!

Dr Who spoiler alert
There's a Dr Who spoiler alert approaching...
It's still approaching...
Rose is back!

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Seafood Chowder

This may seem to be a fairly simple menu item, but no matter how you make your chowder and whatever you put into it (clams, prawns (shrimp), crab, fish chunks, mussels, etc) there are a couple of very important techniques to getting it right.

For those of you in the US who make your own New England Clam Chowder, you'll feel right at home with this.

There are also many many different ingredients you can use. I'm going to give you the recipe as I made it two nights ago, and then give you a bunch of different things you can use/substitute. That way no matter where in the world you are and no matter what local ingredients you can lay your hands on, you'll always be able to make Dingo Dave's Seafood Chowder!

Oh, I tend to make it slightly different each time, depending on what I have in the pantry and the freezer that day or what was fresh at the fish shop that morning. So there's no real hard and fast rule, except for a couple of techniques.

On with the show!

Dingo Dave's Seafood Chowder

What you need:
2 or 3 rashers of bacon cut into small pieces
bacon fat from the above bacon (this is IMPORTANT)
1 can (400 mls or about 14 oz) coconut cream
200 gms small whole prawns (1/2 pound small shrimp) with the shells on
1 litre seafood stock (made from the above prawn shells)
1 whitefish fillet cut into small chunks (I used hoki)
small can of crab meat (or fresh if you've got it)
1/2 to 1 litre milk (2 to 4 cups)
a small minced (or diced) onion
2 cloves crushed garlic
2 tsp minced ginger
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp sesame oil
3 or 4 small diced potatoes
sea salt
ground black pepper
ground white pepper
1 tbsp dried basil
1/4 cup flour
a couple of litres of H-TWO-OH(water)

What you due:

Firstly, make the seafood stock (start this a few hours before you want to make the chowder). To make it you'll need to peel and devein the prawns. Toss the veins (alimentary tract, ahem...) but keep the heads, shells, legs etc and throw them in a big ole saucepan. Add a litre (4 cups) of water and boil the heck out of it. Once it's almost boiled down, add another litre of water and boil for a short time. Let cool. Take a potato masher and mash down the shells --this is to extract every bit of flavourful prawny goodness from the shells. Strain the stock (this is IMPORTANT). Save the stock, dump the shells.

Ok, your seafood stock is made, no worries.

Now for the nuts and bolts.

Cook the bacon pieces in the pot you plan to make the chowder in (use a low flame). Once the bacon is done to your liking (crispy or not, your call), remove the bacon but LEAVE THE BACON FAT IN THE POT. Add the diced potatoes to the pot, and cook in the bacon fat for a few mins; stir regularly. After a couple of mins, add the minced onion, some salt, some ground black (or white) pepper and a bit of dried basil. Stir it around. You should have some very nice aromas by now; just keep the heat low so nothing burns. Add the flour and mix well.

Yes, you'll have some browned on gunky looking stuff in the pot along with the spuds and onions. Don't worry, you're about to take care of that.

Now add the seafood stock you made earlier in the day. Give everything a good stir and use your wooden spoon to scrap the bottom and sides of the pot. Ain't deglazing pots great? Very flavourful. Oh, and, ummmmm, it's a FRENCH cooking technique!

Now add the coconut cream and about 1/2 litre of milk (2 cups). Let it simmer for a few mins.

While that's simmering, you get to sear the spices and seafood.

I use a wok, but feel free to use a saucepan if you'd like.

To the wok add the olive oil, sesame oil, garlic, ginger, fish chunks, crab meat, prawn (shrimp) meat. Crank the heat to HIGH and sear that stuff while tossing/stirring regularly. It'll only take 2 to 3 mins.

Dump the entire contents of the wok into the chowder pot. Also add the bacon pieces. This is the point where you can add more milk if you think the chowder is too thick. I, however, feel that chowder can never be too thick --but that's just me.

Let it simmer for a couple of mins, then serve it up! Have a fresh made loaf of bread or a fresh cobb or a fresh baguette around for dunkers.

This is seriously good!

And now for the substitutions and garnishes!

Well, most of you may not want to make your own fish stock. I can respect that, really! So get a bottle of clam juice instead. Oi! Can't find clam juice, use white wine! Don't drink? Don't worry, the alcohol will cook off.

Fake crab can be subbed for crab meat, no worries.

If you sub clams for the prawns, then DON'T sear them and only add them to the chowder in the last couple of minutes --otherwise they'll be really tough and chewy.

Don't like coconut (heathen scum)? No worries, just use milk cream instead.

Allergic to lactose? Well... this really isn't the recipe for you, sorry.

Garnish with any herbs you want, just make sure they are fresh; chives, basil, parsley, coriander (cilantro if you are in N.A.) etc.

Want it spicy? Add a tbsp or two of vindaloo paste to the wok when you sear the seafood and spices. Oh YEAH! That'll get them capillaries dilated!

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Ham and Egg and Cheese Cupcakes!

???? Like, Ummmm... ham, eggs, cheese and cupcakes? What the hell are you thinking this time dave?

Gosh, I get asked questions like that daily, hourly, minutely!

Now to be fair to me, I did NOT come up with this. I read it in a magazine at the grocery store checkout counter. I thought it sounded really good. I even thought it should taste really good too.

Can I lay claim to this? Well, I did use different herbs (mainly cus I didn't have the ones they used) and I would've loved to use some different cheeses... But it just so happened that I had everything needed in stock (except the fresh herbs they used, so I used ones I had). I also used shaved ham instead of proscuitto (how the heck do you spell that???)...

THEY ARE GREAT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Like seriously tasty!!! I'm making these whenever I have the fixin's for them. One of the great things about them is you can make one or a dozen so that if someone in the house don't like 'em, then you can still make them as a side dish for yourself!

And they are simple and easy to make. You can also modify them to your taste buds as I'm sure your taste buds are much different from mine (I hope).

On with the show:

Ham, Egg and Cheese Cupcakes:

What you knead:
one muffin tin that'll make six muffins or cupcakes
6 to 12 slices of shaved ham
6 eggs
1 or 2 tbsp crumbled feta cheese
1/2 cup grated cheddar cheese
2 tbsp minced scallion
2 or 3 tbsp fresh coriander (cilantro) leaves
Pinch of chili powder

What you due:

First, preheat your oven to high heat. While it's preheating, do the following:

In a bowl, mix the feta, cheddar, coriander leaves, scallion and chilli powder together. Then use the butter to grease your muffin/cupcake dish. Line each cupcake hole with shaved ham so that the ham forms a "cup". Put a tbsp or two of the cheese mixture into the ham holes. Then carefully crack an egg over each "cupcake" --don't break the yolk! Top each "cupcake" with the rest of the cheese mix.

Put that sucker in your hot oven for about 12 to 15 mins. When the egg is done to your liking ( I like the yolk slightly runny for this) then it's done.

The ham and whatever cheese and egg leaked through will form a nice cupcake, with savory, herbed, egged goodness in the middle. Pop them suckers out and serve 'em on the side with whatever you are having for dinner.

I made breaded fish fillets with a fresh salad along with these puppies last night. Plates were licked clean by all.

I'm terrible at food pics, but here's what the whole spread looked like. Ah, the two ham, egg and cheese cupcakes are on the upper right of the plate.
ham and cheese cupcakes

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to go make a 3 cheese sauce to go over a steamed cauliflower. Adieu amigos!

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Bacon Wrapped Fish Fillets with Pineapple, Peanut, and Coconut Curry

Oi, don't that sound like a mouthful? That's cus it is, and a darned tasty one at that! If you like fish and pork, then this is the dish for YOU. Mmmmmmmmmm... I drool on the keyboard as I type this and remember the flavours... ahhhhhhh...

Ok dave, take a deep breath and calm down; your stuffed pumpkin will be out of the oven soon so you can eat. Mmmmmmm...

Oops, back to the topic. So, like, what kinda fish? I used basa. Basa is a freshwater white fleshy fish found in the Mekong Delta (that'd be Vietnam). I do believe it's a type of catfish. I wouldn't want to use US catfish for this as they are darned flavourful on their own (deep fried with a cajun chili dipping sauce). Basically, any small whitefish fillets will do. Hake, Whiting, Hoki, Basa, Cod, Halibut, whatever.

One of the nice things about this is that it only takes 20 mins and it'll feed four hungry adults (provided they like bacon and fish, of course).

A note about Bacon... American bacon is from pork bellies, whereas Canadian bacon, UK, Aus, Kiwi, etc is from the pork back. The difference: The belly pork is fattier than the back pork. Thin-sliced American bacon probably won't work too well for this as it would crispy up before the fish was done; I'd suggest for you US'ns to use either Canadian bacon, or thick sliced US bacon.

Alrighy, here we go with Dingo Dave's Bacon Wrapped Fish Fillets with Pineapple, Peanut, and Coconut Curry.

What you need:

4 whitefish fillets (I used basa, but hoki, hake, cod, or halibut would be fine)
8 LONG slices of THICK bacon


For the curry sauce:
one can (400 ml or 16 oz) coconut cream
1/3 to 1/2 cup finely chopped pineapple
one good sized handful of coarsely chopped roasted peanuts
2 to 3 tbsp of minced onion
a couple of tbsp olive oil and a 1/2 tsp sesame oil
2 tbsp tamarind paste
1 tsp prepared lemon grass
1 or 2 cloves crushed garlic
1 tbsp minced ginger
pinch or two of chilli powder
1 or 2 tsp turmeric powder

Optional garnish stuff:
thin sliced red capsicum (red bell pepper)
fresh coriander leaves (cilantro)
parsley sprigs
fresh basil leaves
etc (use your imagination)

What to do:

First, put your rice on to cook. 1 cup of uncooked should be enough, but don't short yourself as leftover rice is a very good thing to have in the kitchen. Short, long, medium, jasmine, basmati, whatever you prefer. You should have some rice cooking technique where you can go away and leave it for 20 mins, and then POOF perfect rice. A microwave oven makes a great rice cooker.

Once the rice is on, wrap each fish fillet with two slices of bacon. You don't need to pin the bacon on with toothpicks. Start cooking the bacony-fish either on your big grill hotplate, or a large frypan. Low heat. You can also bake it in a hot oven, but if you do that you'll want to get them in the oven before the rice as they'll take 20 or so mins to cook in the oven. I prefer the hotplate on the outdoor grill thankyouverymuch.

Once the bacony-fish starts cooking, you'll start the curry. Put the olive oil and sesame oil in a wok, add the pineapple, onion, and peanut. Crank the heat medium-high. Just when the wok starts to sizzle, add the rest of the curry stuff. Toss it every ten or 15 secs so it doesn't burn, then after 2 mins (you'll smell WONDERFUL spicy aromas) add the coconut cream, stir, and turn the heat down low.

By now, it should be time to turn the bacony-fish. They really only need 7 or 8 mins a side. It should smell really really really good by now.

While the fish finishes cooking, give the curry a stir every minute or so. Give it a taste, adjust seasonings: if it's not spicy enough for you then add some more chili powder, if it's too hot then add some cream, if it's too tart, then add a bit of sugar.

It should all come together 20 mins after you started the rice. Each plate gets a bed of rice, then the bacon wrapped fish, and the curry sauce poured over the top. It'll look something like this:

bacon wrapped fish fillets

I know, my parrot pics are a heckuva lot better than my food pics, but I was rushed a bit.

Oh, I didn't have any fresh red bell peppers, so I added some dried ones to the curry --as I'm sure you can tell from the pic, eh? Garnish with whatever herb you'd like. Or not, your choice.