Slow cooking

Some friends had a shank cooking competition on Sunday at lunch time. The shanks were really good. Geoffrey was the defending title holder; the meat absolutely melted, it was so tender, having been in the slow cooker for many hours in a tomato based sauce, the tastes very subtle. Bruce’s were cooked in the oven and were also delicious, with a richer tomato base and caramelised onions. Importantly, the mashed potato and the mashed sweet potato were also great. Strangely enough, the different versions of lamb shanks reflected the personalities of the cooks, to a degree.

I had not planned on taste testing for the competition and had cooked lamb shanks the night before, ready for Sunday Dinner. I decided to make Jamie Oliver’s shanks cooked in beer which I had cooked once before, after I saw Jamie cook them on television a while ago. They were pretty tasty, and a perfect way to end a pretty cold and bleak winter weekend. 


Jaime made dessert for Sunday Dinner this week – poached pears in vanilla bean syrup – and they were absolutely fantastic, perfectly cooked, and the flecks of vanilla bean in the syrup warmed the cockles of my heart! I am including a photo of the dessert because they looked so beautiful.

Jamie’s lamb shanks cooked in beer

Adapted from from Jamie’s Great Britain by Jamie Oliver

Serves 6


6 Lamb Shanks

3 Red onions, chopped

Olive oil

Sea salt and pepper

Handful of dried raisins

800ml chicken stock

3 Dessert spoons of chunky marmalade

1 Tablespoon of tomato sauce

2 Tbspns Worcestershire sauce

200ml Medium ale

8 stalks of Rosemary

To a large pot add 3 red onions, a glug of Olive oil and a good pinch of salt and pepper.

Bring the pan to a low/medium heat and leave for 15 mins, stirring occasionally.

While the onions are cooking, season the Lamb shanks with salt & pepper and brown them in a hot pan, turning occasionally.

After 15 minutes add the following ingredients to the onions: a handful of dried raisins, a small cup of chicken stock, 3 dessert spoons of marmalade, a tablespoon of tomato sauce and 2 tablespoons of Worcestershire sauce.

Stir these ingredients together and leave to simmer for a couple of mins before adding 200ml of a medium Ale and a good pinch of sea salt.

Leave the sauce to simmer, add 5 stalks of Rosemary to the browning Lamb shanks and leave for 30 secs before taking off heat and placing them into the pot with the sauce.

Add the rest of the chicken stock to the pot, put the lid on and leave on a low simmer for 3 hours.

After 3 hours, lift the lid on the Lamb shanks pot and carefully remove them, placing them on a plate to one side.

While the shanks are resting, use a hand blender to turn the juices into a lovely rich consistent sauce, adding a final few sprinkles of Worcestershire sauce.

Chocolate heaven

My chocoholic daughter is home for a few nights so it was a logical decision to make a chocolate dessert for Sunday Dinner, on the off chance food really is the way to the heart. It is the second last time Mim will be home before she leaves to study in New York City for a year.

So we had a full complement of 6 for Sunday Dinner this week, although dinner was on Monday night rather than Sunday night due to it being a long weekend. For main course we had slow cooked Greek lamb  which I totally forgot to photgraph so I won’t include the recipe. We all felt for Elyse who was off to work after dinner…night shift is the pits.

For dessert I made Chocolate and Hazelnut Cake with Espresso Ganache from the November 2011 edition of Australian Gourmet Traveller. I had no hazelnuts on hand when I started making this cake so used ground almonds which worked very well. I’d like to try it with hazerlnuts though as they are not as bitter as almonds.  If I make this recipe again I will use 90 grams of 55% and 90 grams of 70% dark chcolate for the ganache as the ganache was pretty intense. I didn’t have any chocloate liqueur and chose not to substitute it with anything else. The raspberries were worth the expense – they were the perfect accompaniment. 

Don’t be daunted – this cake was not the challenge it looks, despite having 3 layers. It is well worth the effort.

Chocolate and Hazelnut Cake with Espresso Ganache

From Gourmet Traveller November 2011

Serves 10-12

Cooking Time Prep time 30 mins, cook 55 mins (plus cooling, chilling)

6 eggs, separated
330 gm raw caster sugar
180 gm hazelnut meal
20 gm Dutch-process cocoa, sieved, plus extra to serve
160 gm softened butter
250 gm dark chocolate (55% cocoa solids), melted
30 ml espresso-strength coffee
Espresso ganache
160 ml pouring cream
20 ml espresso-strength coffee
180 gm dark chocolate (70% cocoa solids), finely chopped
20 ml chocolate liqueur

  Preheat oven to 180C. Whisk eggwhite and a pinch of salt in an electric mixer until soft peaks form (3-4 minutes). Gradually add 165gm sugar, whisking until stiff and glossy (3-4 minutes), then fold in hazelnut meal and cocoa. Meanwhile, line base and sides of a buttered 25cm-diameter springform cake tin with baking paper, spoon hazelnut meringue mixture into prepared tin, smooth top and bake until a skewer inserted withdraws clean (15-20 minutes), then set aside.
  Beat butter and remaining sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer until pale and creamy (4-5 minutes), then add yolks one at a time, beating well to combine. Stir in melted chocolate and coffee, then pour onto meringue and bake until centre is firm (25-30 minutes). Refrigerate until firm (2-3 hours).
  For espresso ganache, bring cream and coffee to the boil in a saucepan over medium-high heat, remove from heat, add chocolate and liqueur, stir until smooth. Pour over cake, smooth top. Refrigerate until set (1-2 hours).
  To serve, remove cake from tin, remove paper and serve topped with raspberries.

Brown sugar vanilla syrup cake

This is one of the most delicious cakes you will ever taste, no doubt about it.

When I was volunteered to make a cake for a good friend’s surprise 60th birthday dinner, I decided this was the cake for the job. I knew I’d be very short on time and wouldn’t be able to make a cake that required icing. As it turned out, I made the cake after work on Friday then drove the cake mixture, in the cake tin, to Irene’s home in the next suburb where we were having dinner, and cooked it in her oven. I had the syrup ingredients in a container, poured it into one of Irene’s saucepans and cooked it while the cake was cooking. Voila!

This is a slightly varied version of the recipe in flavours, published in 2000 when Donna Hay was food editor for marie claire. My version makes a larger cake and uses whole eggs instead of eggs and egg yolks. The quantities in the recipe below can be decreased by one quarter for a 20cm (8 inch) square cake.

Brown sugar vanilla syrup cake

adapted from marie claire’s flavours by Donna Hay

Serves 12-16

240 g unsalted butter

2 cups brown sugar

6 eggs(or 4 eggs and 4 egg yolks)

3 cups self-raising flour

1 cup milk

vanilla syrup

1 1/3 cups sugar

1 1/3 cups water

1 1/3 vanilla beans, split and scraped

Preheat the oven to 180C (350F). Place the butter and brown sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer and beat until light and creamy. Add the eggs (or eggs and yolks) one at a time and beat well. Sift the flour over the butter mixture and fold through the milk.

Pour the mixture into a large greased kugelhopf tin and bake for 45 minutes or until cooked when tested with a skewer.

While the cake is cooking, place the sugar, water and vanilla bean in a saucepan and stir over low heat until the sugar has dissolved. Increase the heat and allow the syrup to simmer for 6 minutes.Leave the cake in the pan for 5 minutes before unmoulding and placing on a serving plate. Slowly spoon three-quarters of the hot syrup over the hot cake. Serve with the remaining syrup and think cream.