Archive for the 'Daring Cook’s challenge' Category

December Daring Cook’s challenge: poached eggs!

A quick note before we begin: More apologies are due from the Pig Palace kitchen. I have once again been very scarce on the blogosphere lately as Mama Sow has arrived for a visit from sunny South Africa. I have been spoiled rotten by her making us dinner and doing our washing (heaven), but we’ve been too busy pottering around town for me to get some baking in. Hopefully I’ll get here to feature one of her dishes in the blog before she goes home, I’ll begin the convincing with some chocolate as a bribe this afternoon…

This challenge arrived just in time! Poached eggs are a part of Frank’s favorite breakfast and he’s been asking for them for a long time now! Thanks Jenn and Jill for making Frank a very happy boy!

Jenn from Jenn Cuisine and Jill (jillouci) have challenged The Daring Cooks to learn to perfect the technique of poaching an egg. They chose Eggs Benedict recipe from Alton Brown, Oeufs en Meurette from Cooking with Wine by Anne Willan, and Homemade Sundried Tomato & Pine Nut Seitan Sausages (poached) courtesy of Trudy of Veggie num num.

I decided to make Eggs Benedict as Frank goes nuts over this when we go out for breakfast. I have never made poached eggs, or Hollandaise sauce, before; so it was definitely a challenge for me!

I was lucky enough to have some farm-fresh eggs that Mama C had given me. The poaching is best done with the freshest eggs possible as the whites hold together a lot better. The hollandaise sauce was quick and easy to make, although I had no idea how much butter is needed! The poaching went down relatively well (despite a couple of swear words that made Mama Sow chuckle) and Frank was served a delicious lunch. I will definitely be making this recipe again, maybe for Frank’s birthday if he behaves himself until then…

Eggs Benedict

4 eggs (size is your choice)
2 English muffins*
4 slices of Canadian bacon/back bacon (or plain bacon if you prefer)
Chives, for garnish
Splash of vinegar (for poaching)

For the hollandaise (makes 1.5 cups):
3 large egg yolks
1 tsp. (5 ml) water
¼ tsp. (1 ¼ ml/1½ g) sugar
12 Tbl. (170 g/6 oz.) unsalted butter, chilled and cut in small pieces º
½ tsp. (2 ½ ml/3 g) kosher salt
2 tsp. (10 ml) freshly squeezed lemon juice
Pinch cayenne pepper (optional)
* for gluten free, use gluten free English muffins or bread of your choice
º for dairy free, use a dairy free margarine

Fill a medium saucepan halfway with water and bring to a simmer. Cut the chilled butter into small pieces and set aside. Whisk egg yolks and 1 tsp. (5 ml) water in a mixing bowl large enough to sit on the saucepan without touching the water (or in top portion of a double boiler). Whisk for 1–2 minutes, until egg yolks lighten. Add the sugar and whisk 30 seconds more.

Place bowl on saucepan over simmering water and whisk steadily 3–5 minutes (it only took about 3 for me) until the yolks thicken to coat the back of a spoon. Remove from heat (but let the water continue to simmer) and whisk in the butter, 1 piece at a time.

Move the bowl to the pan again as needed to melt the butter, making sure to whisk constantly.

Once all the butter is incorporated, remove from heat and whisk in the salt, lemon juice, and cayenne pepper (if using). Keep the hollandaise warm while you poach your eggs in a thermos, carafe, or bowl that you’ve preheated with warm water. If the water simmering in your pan has gotten too low, add enough so that you have 2–3 inches of water and bring back to a simmer.

Add salt and a splash of vinegar (any kind will do). I added about a tablespoon of vinegar to my small saucepan (about 3 cups of water/720 ml of water), but you may need more if you’re using a larger pan with more water. Crack eggs directly into the very gently simmering water (or crack first into a bowl and gently drop into the water), making sure they’re separated. Cook for 3 minutes for a viscous but still runny yolk.

While waiting for the eggs, quickly fry the Canadian/back bacon and toast your English muffin. Top each half of English muffin with a piece of bacon. Remove the eggs with a slotted spoon, draining well, and place on top of the bacon. Top with hollandaise and chopped chives, and enjoy!


November Daring Cook’s challenge: Soufflés!

This month’s challenge gave us the option to make a savoury or sweet soufflé. What a fantastic challenge! I have never tried making soufflé before, but always wanted to, so this challenge came at the perfect time.

Dave and Linda from Monkeyshines in the Kitchen chose Soufflés as our November 2010 Daring Cooks’ Challenge! Dave and Linda provided two of their own delicious recipes plus a sinfully decadent chocolate soufflé recipe adapted from Gordon Ramsay’s recipe found at the BBC Good Food website.

It was mandatory for us to make a baked soufflé, but the recipe was up to us. I made a batch of raspberry and lime curd a month ago and had it sitting in the freezer, so I managed to find a delicious baked souffle from Delia Smith to use it up! The recipe was really straight-forward, and tasted fantastic. I would definitely recommend it if you feel like making a dessert that is easy but very impressive!

Hot lemon-curd soufflés – recipe from Delia Smith

For the soufflés:
3 large eggs
2 oz (50 g) golden castor sugar and 1 level dessertspoon golden castor sugar
grated zest and juice 1 medium lemon (2 tablespoons juice)

For the quick-method lemon curd:
grated zest and juice 1 small lemon
1 large egg
1½ oz (40 g) golden castor sugar
1 oz (25 g) cold unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
1 level teaspoon cornflour

To serve:
a little sifted icing sugar
Pre-heat the oven to gas mark 3, 325°F (170°C)

First of all make the lemon curd by lightly whisking the egg in a medium-sized saucepan, then add the rest of the lemon curd ingredients and place the saucepan over a medium heat. Now whisk continuously using a balloon whisk until the mixture thickens; this won’t take long – about 3 minutes in all.

Next, lower the heat to its minimum setting and let the curd gently simmer for 1 further minute, continuing to whisk. After that, remove it from the heat and divide the curd between the bases of the ramekins. (This can all be done well in advance, but cover and leave at room temperature.)

When you’re ready to make the soufflés, separate the eggs, putting the yolks into a medium-sized bowl and the whites into a spanking-clean larger one.

Now, using an electric hand whisk, whisk the whites to the stiff-peak stage, which will take 4-5 minutes – start on a slow speed, gradually increasing to medium and then high. Then add the dessertspoon of castor sugar and whisk on a high speed for 30 seconds more. Next add the zest and lemon juice and the remaining 2 oz (50 g) of sugar to the yolks and mix them together briefly. Now take a tablespoon of the whites and fold them into the yolks to loosen the mixture, then fold the rest of the whites in using a light cutting and folding movement so as not to lose the precious air.

Spoon the mixture into the prepared ramekins, piling it high like a pyramid, then run a finger round the inside rim of each one. Next place them on the baking sheet and put this in the oven on the centre shelf for 15-17 minutes or until the tops are golden. Then remove them and let them settle for about 5 minutes to allow the lemon curd to cool.

They will sink a little, but that’s normal. Just before serving, place them on smaller plates and give them a light dusting of icing sugar.

October Daring Cook’s challenge – stuffed grape leaves

As it turns out, we can’t do everything. As much as we try, sometimes things have to take a backseat *shock*horror*. Frank and I have been very busy lately with work and friends, and getting the house ready for Dude, Pea and my beautiful niece Bean’s visit to the Promised Land (YAAAAY, I am counting down the days!!!!!) Ignoring the ever-increasing to-do list, I not only was game to do this month’s Daring Cook’s challenge, but a baking one as well. And I almost didn’t get to finish either!

Luckily I managed to scrounge some time on Sunday afternoon to nut out both challenges. I was disappointed I never have them the full dedication I normally do, but I am relieved to have them done. So apologies in advance for the sub-standard work everyone!

Our October 2010 hostess, Lori of Lori’s Lipsmacking Goodness, has challenged The Daring Cooks to stuff grape leaves. Lori chose a recipe from Aromas of Aleppo and a recipe from The New Book of Middle Eastern Food.

When I read what October’s challenge was going to be, I immediately thought: my mom would love this! From a young age I remember my mom saying how delicious dolmades are. I contacted Pistol (he is of Greek decent) to find out where I could get vine leaves from, and his suggestions of a Greek suburb near us were great. Of course with so many things going on, Frank and I didn’t get the chance to source the vine leaves. (And I’m not the biggest fan of them, I find them a  bit tough and stringy)

Our wonderful hostess Lori suggested that we could use cabbage as alternative, which I decided to do. I could only find dwarf cabbages in the supermarket, and with a whole head of cabbage I managed to only pull off 10 leaves intact! So I halved the recipe to make just enough dolmades for the two of us for dinner. The recipe was straight-forward and easy to follow. I’ll definitely be making these for when Mom comes to visit Australia in November!

Wara Einab or Dolma/Cold Stuffed Grape Leaves – recipe adapted from Claudia Roden’s The New Book of Middle Eastern Food

Yield: 6 to 8 servings

24 – 30 preserved or fresh grape leaves (or cabbage leaves)
1¼ cups (300 ml) long grain rice
1- 3 tomatoes, peeled and chopped
1 large onion, finely chopped or 4 tablespoons (60 ml) finely chopped scallions
2 tablespoons (30 ml) finely chopped flat leaf parsley
2 tablespoons (30 ml) crushed dried mint
¼ teaspoon (1¼ ml) ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon (1¼ ml) ground allspice
1 teaspoon (5 ml) dill
Salt and pepper
2 tomatoes, sliced
3 or 4 cloves garlic
2/3 cup (160 ml) extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon (5 ml) sugar
Juice of 1 lemon or more


If using grape leaves preserved in brine, to remove salt put them in a bowl and pour boiling water over them. Make sure that the water penetrates well between the layers, and leave them soaking for about twenty minutes, then change the water a time or two using fresh cold water.If using fresh leaves, plunge a few at a time in boiling water for a few seconds only, until they become limp, and lift them out.

Pour boiling water over the rice and stir well, then rinse with cold water and let drain. Mix the rice with the chopped tomatoes, onion or scallion, parsley, mint, cinnamon, allspice, dill, salt and pepper to taste.

Place a grape leaf on a flat surface, vein side up. Place about two teaspoons (10 ml) of the filling in the center of the leaf, near the stem edge.Roll the leaf end to end, starting from the stem edge.

As you roll, fold the sides of the leaf in toward the center. The leaf should resemble a small cigar, about 2 to 2 1/2 inches (50 mm to 65mm) long.

Repeat with the remaining leaves and filling.(You can freeze the stuffed grape leaves at this point. Just line a baking sheet with wax paper. When firmly frozen, transfer to an airtight plastic bag place back in the freezer.)

Pack the stuffed leaves tightly in a large pan lined with tomato slices or imperfect grape leaves Place a whole garlic clove in between them for extra flavor. The tightness will help prevent the rolls from unraveling.

Mix together olive oil, 2/3 cup (160 ml) water, sugar and lemon juice and pour over the stuffed leaves. Put a small heat proof plate on top of the leaves to prevent them from unwinding, cover the pan and simmer very gently for about 1 hour, until the rolls are thoroughly cooked, adding water occasionally, a cup at a time, as the liquid in the pan becomes absorbed.

Cool in the pan before turning out. Serve cold.

September Daring Cook’s challenge – preserving and apple butter

The September 2010 Daring Cooks’ challenge was hosted by John of Eat4Fun. John chose to challenge The Daring Cooks to learn about food preservation, mainly in the form of canning and freezing. He challenged everyone to make a recipe and preserve it. John’s source for food preservation information was from The National Center for Home Food Preservation.

I was tempted to skip this challenge. The Daring kitchen allows you 4 “get out of jail free” cards a year, so if you are on holiday or do not have the equipment you don’t have to do the challenge. As I’ve been making quite a bit of lemon curd this winter, I didn’t feel it was necessary to do it all again. And the recipes John provided (no offense John) didn’t really excite me. But, as I used to do in Monopoly as I kid, I decided to save up my “get out of jail free” cards for a time that I might really need to use them.

So, onto the challenge. We were given the option of either making apple butter or roasted tomatoes, and then either freezing them or home canning them. I chose to make apple butter as the Granny Smith apples are abundant at the moment, and I chose to freeze it. The apple butter recipe was easy to follow, and quick to complete. I put it in sterilized jars and froze it for a week while trying to decide what to use it  for! Having given it a lot of thought I decided to use some of the butter in a marinade for pork ribs, and the rest of it to make apple meringue pie. My french Aunt D makes a fantastic apple meringue pie and I thought it would be a great time to replicate it.

The challenge was good to do, as I got to make sticky ribs and apple meringue pie (which Frank loved). And we got to have our first BBQ of the summer of 2010!

Apple butter (to make one jar) – from John, the host and

6 apples, peeled and cored, and chopped into cubes
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 tbsp cinnamon and mixed spice each

Combine apples and water in a pan and cook until apples are falling apart. Mash, and then add in sugar and spices. Simmer over a low heat for 20 – 25 minutes.

To test for doneness, spoon a small quantity onto a clean plate; when the butter mounds on the plate without liquid separating around the edge of the butter, it is ready for processing. Another way to test for doneness is to remove a spoonful of the cooked butter on a spoon and hold it away from steam for 2 minutes. It is done if the butter remains mounded on the spoon. Pour contents into a jar and store in the fridge for 1 month or the freezer for up to a year.

BBQ pork ribs (Serves 6 people) – a lollcakes original

2 to 2.5kg pork spare ribs
125g butter
1 medium onion, chopped
1 tablespoon crushed garlic
125ml (1/2 cup) vinegar
250ml (1 cup) water
125ml (1/2 cup) ketchup
250ml (1 cup) barbecue sauce
62.5ml (1/4 cup) tomato paste
62.5ml (1/4 cup) apple butter
juice of 1 lemon
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Place ribs in large frying pan or roasting pan. Cover with lightly salted water, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, and simmer for 1 hour, or until meat is tender, but not quite falling off the bone. Remove from heat, and drain.

While the ribs are simmering, melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Cook the onion and garlic until the onion softens. Remove from the heat. In a blender, combine vinegar,water, ketchup, tomato paste, apple butter, barbecue sauce and lemon juice. Pour in the melted butter mixture, and purée for 1 minute.

Pour into the saucepan, and season with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, then remove from heat.Place the cooked ribs in a roasting pan, and mix with the sauce. Cover, and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, up to overnight.

Preheat barbecue for medium-high heat.Brush the grill hotplate with oil. Cook ribs for 10 to 20 minutes, or until well browned, basting with sauce and turning frequently.Serve with salad and potatoes.

Apple Meringue Pie – adjusted from

1 1/2 cups (250g) plain flour
125g butter, chilled, chopped
1/3 cup castor sugar
1 egg yolk
1 tablespoon chilled water
jar apple butter
juice of 1 lemon
3 eggs

For the pastry, combine flour, butter and sugar in a food processor. Process until mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Add yolk and chilled water. Process until dough just comes together.Turn pastry onto a lightly floured surface. Knead until just smooth. Shape into a disc. Wrap in baking paper and refrigerate for 30 minutes. Line a 7-8-inch flan case with the pastry and bake blind.

Meanwhile, separate the eggs and keep the whites aside. Mix the apple butter with the egg yolks and lemon juice and fill in the pie shell. Beat, the egg whites until very stiff, then very gradually beat in 1/2 cup sugar. Either bake for about 25-30 minutes in a very moderate oven, 325°F and serve hot, or bake for about 1 hour in a very slow oven, 275°F

August Daring Cook’s challenge – pierogi!

The August 2010 Daring Cooks’ Challenge was hosted by LizG of Bits n’ Bites and Anula of Anula’s Kitchen. They chose to challenge Daring Cooks to make pierogi from scratch and an optional challenge to provide one filling that best represents their locale.

“This is what the Daring cook’s challenge is all about!” I exclaimed on 17th July when I logged in from the alternative Pig Palace office (my Google phone, on the bed) and saw what the August challenge was. Sadly I didn’t even know pierogi existed, but the lovely hosts changed that in a flash! I obsessed for days on what fillings I was going to  make, and went out to buy the pierogi press straight away. (I tried making ravioli without a guide and they looked weird to say the least.) Initially I thought I would make non-traditional fillings, but my gorgeous Polish friend Mrs Currin is coming to stay with us in December, so I wanted to practice the traditional ones to make for her. In the end I decided to try four different fillings and give the challenge a proper go!

True to form, this challenge was really fun, and Frank enjoyed scoffing the results. (To quote Frank after eating my second batch: “these meat ones are blo*dy amazing!”) I’ve already put this one in the recipe file, and will be adding it to my repertoire of dishes. I love dumplings of any sort, and I’m rather chuffed that I can now make some delicious ones at home!

Aussie pierogi

For the additional challenge the hosts suggested we create unique fillings to represent our own country. As many traditional South African dishes are too liquid to put in a dumpling, I decided to do something Australian. An ode to my new home! And since my brother (and most non-Australians) assume that we always eat “shrimps on the barbie” here, I thought a prawn and chilli stuffing for my boiled Aussie dumplings would be best. Not wanting to serve a dinner with no vegetables I stir-fried some veg and served the dumplings on top with stir-fry sauce. Definitely different!

chocolate pierogi

The hosts suggested making dessert dumplings, so I thought I’d make some to follow after the prawns. I filled them with chocolate chunks, and fried them after boiling them. They were served with ice-cream, and were perfect after a light meal!

beef pierogi

Finally I thought I’d try my hand at making some of the traditional fillings suggested by the hosts. I made a third batch and filled them alternately with beef and potato, and fried all the dumplings. The potato dumplings were rather bland despite the cheese (and sneaky chilli), but the beef ones were delicious!

potato pierogi

The pierogi dough was easy to make, especially if you’ve made pasta before, but rather hard to roll out. I recommend lots and lots of flour on your rolling surface! All in all the challenge was fantastic and I can’t wait to make pierogi again. And Frank can’t wait to eat them…

Pierogi (makes 4 generous servings, around 30 dumplings) – from the hosts

2 to 2 1/2 cups (300 to 375 g) all-purpose (plain) flour
1 large egg
1 teaspoon (5 ml) salt
About 1 cup (250 ml) lukewarm water

Place 2 cups flour in a large bowl or on a work surface and make a well in the center. Break the egg into it, add the salt and a little lukewarm at a time (in my situation 1/2 cup was enough). Bring the dough together, kneading well and adding more flour or water as necessary. Cover the dough with a bowl or towel. You’re aiming for soft dough. Let it rest 20 minutes.On a floured work surface, roll the dough out thinly (1/8” or about 3 millimeters) cut with a 2-inch (5 cm) round or glass (personally I used 4-inch/10 cm cutter as it makes nice size pierogi – this way I got around 30 of them and 1 full, heaped teaspoon of filling is perfect for that size).

Spoon a portion (teaspoon will be the best) of the filling into the middle of each circle.

Fold dough in half and pinch edges together. Gather scraps, re-roll and fill. Repeat with remaining dough.

Bring a large, low saucepan of salted water to boil. Drop in the pierogi, not too many, only single layer in the pan! Return to the boil and reduce heat. When the pierogi rise to the surface, continue to simmer a few minutes more ( usually about 5 minutes). Remove one dumpling with a slotted spoon and taste if ready. When satisfied, remove remaining pierogi from the water.

Potato and cheese filling:
4 – 5 boiled potatoes
4 table spoons butter (60 g) or olive oil (60 ml)
50 ml (3 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon) milk
1 egg white (from medium egg)
about 120 ml (½ cup) farmers’ cheese (any unripened cheese like Indian Paneer)

salt and pepper

Meat and cabbage filling:
200 g (7 oz) cooked meat (minced or cut very finely)
500 g white cabbage (chopped and simmered in a little bit of water, until soft)
1 onion (diced and fried)
1 whole medium egg
1 tablespoon (15g) butter
dry breadcrumbs (add as much to hold the filling together, about 2 tablespoons)

salt and pepper

Prawn filling:
10 prawns, raw
1 chilli
1 clove garlic
small knob ginger
1/2 an onion
1/2 cup coriander
Combine all in a food processor and process until mince-like in texture. Fry until cooked and leave to cool. Add back into the food processor with a whole egg and combine.

Chocolate filling:
50g chocolate, cut into small chunks
6 tbsp cream cheese
1 egg white
Mix ingredients together and fill

July Daring Cook’s challenge – nuts!

My mom always says “you are what you eat”, which is very apt for this month’s challenge: nuts! The July 2010 Daring Cooks’ Challenge was hosted by Margie of More Please and Natashya of Living in the Kitchen with Puppies. They chose to challenge Daring Cooks to make their own nut butter from scratch, and use the nut butter in a recipe. Their sources include Better with Nut Butter by Cooking Light Magazine, Asian Noodles by Nina Simonds, and Food Network online.

When I logged in to find out what this month’s, and my first, challenge was; I almost jumped out my chair in glee to discover that it was nut butters. I’ve always wanted to make them, but never got around to it. The recipes were also straight-forward, and the kind hosts allowed for an optional extra challenge, so I immediately started searching for some recipes to use the nut butter in. As I’m not allowed dairy or wheat at the moment, the hosts had two recipes I could try. The optional extra recipe has dairy in it, so I could only have a tiny taste, but Frank was happy to polish off the rest.

Out of the 4 recipes provided, I decided to make the Almond (Butter) chicken and the walnut dip. I also found a recipe for peanut butter and caramel ice-cream, which I adapted to suit my fool-proof ice-cream recipe passed down from Beets. As we could choose any nut butter for the dessert recipe, I gave Frank the choice. He makes a fantastic food consultant, as he picked macadamia nuts and they were the perfect thing in the recipe!

One Saturday in June I decided to tackle the challenge. First up: Walnut dip. This recipe is lovely, as you just toss everything in the food processor with the nut butter and it’s done in 5 minutes. It also uses minimal dishes, which pleased the Chief dish-washer no end! The first time I made it I served it with chips, and Frank decided it would be even more delicious with toasted pitas. So I made it again for friends and served it with pitas, which is when Frank decided it actually tasted more delicious with chips. His nickname is now Goldilocks.

walnut dip with chips

walnut dip with pitas

Next up: the Butter chicken. This recipe was also straight-forward and quick to do. It is a yummy winter recipe, but I would recommend using less Garam Masala, it was a little bitter with the quantity that the recipe calls for. It is also best served with some naan bread, as there is a lot of sauce to mop up.

Last, but definitely not least, was the optional extra challenge dish of macadamia-nut-butter ice-cream with salted caramel. I used a wonderful recipe handed to me by Beets to make the basic vanilla ice-cream. You don’t need an ice-cream maker, and it freezes without crystals, so I make it as much as I can. Once the basic ice-cream was made I stirred in the roasted macadamia nut butter and shards of salted caramel I made (for the first time, yay for me! I am normally scared of melted sugar as it not only burns like nothing else when it touches your skin, but it sticks like a demon too…) This was by far the best dish of the day. I have already sent the recipe to a friend and cannot wait to make it again! Even my honest-oppinion-giver had only the best things to say about it.

All in all, the challenge was really fun, and I got to make things I never had before. I can’t wait for next month’s challenge!

Approximate Processing Times in Food Processor for Nut Butters: (from our hosts…)

Almonds: form a thick butter in about 2 to 3 minutes for slivered almonds, or 3 to 4 minutes for whole almonds; the skin of whole almonds will leave dark flecks in the butter
Cashews: form a smooth, spreadable butter after about 2 minutes of processing
Hazelnuts: form a firm, thick, and grainy butter in about 2 to 3 minutes; to remove the skin from whole hazelnuts, roast in a 400 degree F oven (200 degrees C/Gas Mark 6) for about 5 minutes or till skins loosen, then rub hazelnuts in a clean dishtowel to remove some of the skin; the remaining skin will leave dark flecks in the butter
Macadamias: form a soft and smooth butter in about 2 minutes
Peanuts: form a thick, grainy butter in about 2 or 3 minutes
Pecans: form a very soft, oily, pourable butter in 1 or 2 minutes; the skins give pecan butter a slightly tannic and bitter flavor
Walnuts: form a very soft, oily, pourable butter in 1 or 2 minutes; the skins give walnut butter a slightly tannic and bitter flavor

If you want to, roast the nuts for 10 mins on a baking tray and wait until cooled before processing.

Challenge Walnut White Bean Dip with Rosemary & Sage
Recipe notes: Canned beans tend to be salty, so you may not need additional salt. Taste the dip after blending and add salt as needed.

½ cup (120 ml) walnuts*
1 (15.8 oz/448g) can Great Northern, Cannellini, or other white beans, drained and rinsed 1 garlic clove, chopped 2 Tablespoons (30 ml) fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons (10 ml) fresh rosemary, chopped
2 teaspoons (10 ml) fresh sage, chopped
¼ teaspoon (1 ml) lemon zest (optional) ¼ teaspoon (1 ml) black pepper salt to taste

Make walnut butter by grinding ½ cup (120 ml) walnuts in food processor for about a minute until it forms a nut butter or paste. (*Alternately, start with ¼ cup (60 ml) prepared walnut butter.) Add beans, garlic, lemon juice, rosemary, sage, lemon zest (if using), and black pepper to the walnut butter in the food processor. Process the mixture to a smooth consistency. Taste and add salt as desired. Garnish dip with chopped walnuts and/or chopped fresh rosemary or sage, if desired. Serve dip with pita wedges, crostini, or assorted vegetables.

Challenge Chicken with Curried Tomato Almond Sauce
Yield: 4 servings
Recipe notes: Substitute the protein of your choice for the chicken. This is a smooth sauce, so the onion is removed before serving. If you prefer, dice the onion and leave it in the sauce or substitute a bit of onion powder.

1 Tablespoon (15 ml) olive oil
4 (6 oz / 170 g) boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
Salt to taste

Spice Blend:
1.5 tablespoons (20 ml) garam masala seasoning
1 teaspoon (5 ml) ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon (2 ml) ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon (1 ml) black pepper

4 tablespoons (60 ml) butter
1 large onion, cut in half pole to pole
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 (15-ounce/425 g) can tomato sauce
⅓ cup (80 ml) almond butter
⅓ cup (80 ml) milk
½ to ¾ cup (120 to 180 ml) chicken broth or water, more as needed
1 cup (240 ml) frozen peas (optional)

Hot basmati rice for serving
Chopped parsley (optional garnish)
Sliced almonds (optional garnish)

Cook the chicken. If desired, pound chicken to ¼ inch (6 mm) thickness to promote even cooking. Sprinkle with a bit of salt and pepper to taste. Heat 1 teaspoon (5 ml) olive oil a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add half the chicken; sauté 3 to 5 minutes on each side or until cooked through. Cook the chicken in 2 batches, adding more oil if needed for second batch. Dice chicken into bite-sized pieces; set aside on clean plate and keep warm.
Prepare spice blend. Stir garam masala, ginger, cinnamon, and pepper together in a small bowl. Set aside.
Melt the butter in large nonstick skillet over medium-low heat. Add the onion and cook gently for several minutes to infuse the butter with onion flavor. Keep the heat low to avoid burning the butter; a little color is fine. Add the spice blend and garlic and cook for 1 minute or till fragrant, stirring constantly. Add the tomato sauce, stir well, and bring to boil. Reduce heat to simmer. Whisk in almond butter and milk until thoroughly combined with tomato sauce. The almond butter is thick so it takes a while to make a smooth sauce. Return to simmer. Add broth (or water) to sauce to reach desired consistency; return to simmer. Add more broth (or water) as needed to thin sauce as desired.
Remove onion from sauce and discard. Stir frozen peas (if using) into sauce. Transfer sliced chicken to sauce. Simmer gently for a few minutes until peas and chicken are heated through.
Serve chicken and sauce over rice. Garnish with chopped parsley and/or sliced almonds if desired.

Optional extra challenge: Macadamia-nut-butter ice-cream with salted caramel adapted from Beets’ recipe

4 egg whites
500 ml cream
1 x 397 g can condensed milk
10 ml vanilla essence
250g macadamia nuts
100g castor sugar
large pinch salt flakes

For the ice-cream:
Spread macadamia nuts on lined baking sheet and roast in oven (160C) for 10 mins until lightly brown. Once cool, put nuts in food processor and blend for 5 mins, until nuts become a paste.
Whisk egg whites stiffly with a good pinch of salt.  Add cream and whip again until stiff.  Add condensed milk, macadamia butter and vanilla and whip well.  Turn into a 2 litre fridge container.

For the salted caramel: Pour caster sugar into a single  layer in a pot, and melt without stirring. Once a dark caramel color, pour onto a greased baking sheet in thin layer and sprinkle over salt flakes. Wait for it to harden, and break into shards. Mix shards in with ice-cream, place container in freezer and freeze quickly.

Makes about 12 large scoops.

And it begins!

I’ve been a follower of two wonderful blogs for the past couple of months (17andbaking and notquitenigella). In both blogs a “daring bakers challenge” was mentioned, and being as nosey as I am I decided to investigate. After a night’s worth of research I have joined the ranks of the daring kitchen! As much as I would love to be a daring baker, I don’t think Frank’s teeth can take much more sugar, so I have applied to be a daring cook. And this blog will be tracking the triumps and the tears (along with any other mis-adventures in the pig palace kitchen that are fit for publication.) Enjoy!

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