Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Tahini shortbread cookies

September 12, 2020

For the weekend's lockdown baking, I wanted to keep it low-key. I was trying to remember what the second great Ottolenghi cookie was that we had at that summer barbecue; I was pretty sure it had tahini in it and that the recipe would be available online. I'm not convinced that I actually found the same thing, but these tahini cookies were the closest match to my memory.

In their favour, these cookies are easily made vegan, can be prepared by hand in a single bowl when vegan, and have ingredients that I usually stock. However, I was dredging the bottom of the tahini jar where the oil had separated from the solids, and I didn't successfully smooth out all the lumps in the dough when I was mixing by fork. The extra little pockets of tahini in the finished cookies were pretty fun, like a burst of halva.

Otherwise these are just simple shortbread cookies with a welcome extra flavour, easily baked within an hour and popped in an airtight container to share with a friend or snack on mid-afternoon. Their major rival in my baking repertoire is this recipe, which I'll generally prefer but for the effort of buying macadamias.

Tahini shortbread cookies
(adapted from Welcome Ba(c)kery,
where it's credited to Ottolenghi & Tamimi's Jerusalem)

150g margarine
130g caster sugar
110g tahini
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon cinnamon
270g plain flour

Preheat an oven to 180°C. Line baking trays with paper.

In a large bowl, cream together the margarine and sugar - you can use an electric mixer, or simply a fork. Beat in the tahini, vanilla and cinnamon. Ideally the mixture would be smooth, but don't worry if it's difficult to smooth out every last lump of tahini. Sift in the plain flour, and mix well to form a dough.

You're supposed to give the dough a bit of a knead, but I was lazy and went straight to forming biscuit balls. Take generous teaspoons of the dough and form them into spheres 1.5-2 cm in diameter. My dough was a bit crumbly and I found a pressing action using my fingertips a bit more effective than the usual rolling between my palms. Space the dough balls out on the baking trays, and lightly press them down with a fork to slightly flatten them. Bake for 15 minutes, then cool on a tray.

Wednesday, September 09, 2020

Kylie Kwong's crispy skin duck

August 30, 2020

I bought some of the new-ish Woolies brand mock-duck on a recent grocery trip, without a specific plan for what to do with it. Over the course of a couple days, I remembered the excellent orange duck that our mate Steph has shared with us at one or two Lunar New Year potlucks. I even had her zine tucked away, and sure enough, Kylie Kwong's crispy skin duck appeared on the first page. I wasn't inclined to halve such a good recipe, so I sent Michael back to the supermarket a week later for a second pack of vegan duck.

Spice rubs, hours of marinating and batches of deep-frying are a lot of effort, but I suppose us stage 4-ers have the time, and it really wasn't a bother at all. Our duck turned out a little too salty, and I'll make a more thorough effort to wipe it down after marinating and before chopping. (I might even give it a light rinse, I reckon mock duck can take it!) I used a mixture of two vegan fish sauces that we had stored away - I found the Red Lotus brand much more pungent than the Vincent version (and then there's always the option of making your own).

We served our mock-duck with brown rice and stir-fried green vegetables, confident that the orange sauce had plenty of flavour to extend across the plate. 

Kylie Kwong's crispy skin duck
(as shared by Steph; also available from SBS Food)

1 tablespoon Sichuan peppercorns
2 tablespoons salt
1 cup water
1 cup white sugar
250g fruit (ripe blood plums, blood oranges or oranges in order of recommendation)
2/3 cup vegan fish sauce
6 whole star anise
2 cinnamon quills
juice of 2 limes
800g vegan duck
a bunch of plain flour
vegetable oil (we used peanut oil)

Grind together the peppercorns and salt. Rub the salt into the duck, and leave it to marinate for a few hours.

Bring the water and sugar to the boil, and reduce them to a simmer for 5 minutes. Prepare the fruit by removing any stones and chopping into large segments. Add the fruit to the sugar syrup, then add the vegan fish sauce, star anise, and cinnamon. Simmer for several more minutes, then turn off the heat and add the lime juice. 

Gently wipe/rinse the salt off the duck and chop the duck into thick but bite-sized pieces. Toss them in flour (I shake them around in a large lidded bowl) until well coated. Heat a centimetre or two of oil in a frypan, and shallow/deep-fry the duck in batches. I rested mine on absorbent paper towel. 

Serve the duck in a large bowl, with the sauce poured over the top.

Friday, September 04, 2020

Roasted tomato & white bean stew

 August 29, 2020

When I saw Rach's tweet about a white bean stew that had become her 2020 cooking obsession, I immediately added it to our list for the week ahead. It promised the perfect mix: low effort and high reward. And it delivered. This is super easy - you can put it all together in half an hour - and it's really, really good. White beans provide a rich, hearty base, while the tomatoes add a touch of sweetness and the lemon/parley mix some tang. You can boost or reduce the spiciness via how generous you are with the chilli flakes - I'd use a heavy hand, but your tastes may vary. The only downside: the quantities as written don't make enough to give us the days of leftovers we're looking for from a stew. Next time we'll double it.

Roasted tomato & white bean stew
(via this recipe on the New York Times Cooking site)

1 punnet of cherry tomatoes (~300g)
1/4 cup olive oil + 2 tablespoons
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
the leaves from 1 small bunch of parsley
zest of 1 large lemon
1 onion, sliced thinly
5 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 teaspoon chilli flakes
2 x 400g cans cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
1.5 cups veggie stock
salt and pepper
bread to serve (it would work equally well with quinoa or rice I reckon)

Preheat the oven to 220°C. 

Mix the tomatoes, oil and thyme leaves in a baking tray and roast for 25 minutes, until the tomatoes are collapsing.

In a small bowl, combine the parsley leaves with the lemon zest and set aside.

While the tomatoes are cooking, get to work on your stew. Pop the 2 tablespoons of oil, onion, garlic and chilli flakes in a large pot over medium heat and cook for 5 minutes or so, until everything has softened up nicely.

Throw in the beans and the stock and bring the stew to a simmer. Mash up some of the beans to thicken the stew - the more you mash, the thicker the stew will be. 

Once the tomatoes are ready, thrown them in the stew, along with any juices. Simmer for another 5 minutes and then season with salt and pepper. 

Serve in shallow bowls, topped with a couple of spoonfuls of the parsley and lemon mix. Serve with toasted fresh bread.