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Rustic Pea Mash…simply spectacular

It’s always surprising, during my classes, when we create the most amazing meals imaginable using every day ingredients (and some fancy ones) and EVERYONE is in raptures about the ONE dish that is truly simply.  The one dish that is truly easy.  The ONE dish that is truly versatile.

This side dish is SO SUPER easy that you could literally whip this up at the drop of a hat.  It is also so SUPER VERSATILE that you can use it again and again for many years to come…and be the talk of the town (in a good way)

These are easy peasy peas. Now just so we are clear, I am not the kind of girl to put my peas through a stainer or a sieve, but if I was doing a fine-dining meal then of course i would.  So here i embrace the pea-skins, I leave them in and admire them, and that’s why I can them Rustic Peas.

Try these easy peasy peas on someone you love this weekend and you’ll be sure to get a round of applause from your friends and family alike!  Enjoy!

Sexy Butterbean Mash – the newest and latest craze at Vanilla Zulu…and here’s why!

We all love mash.  Its comforting deliciousness is not only the cause of many an eye-closing tastebud-bursting ‘ah’ moments, its also the perfect platform for the rest of the meal you are serving with it.

Sexy Butterbean Puree served with roast Porcini Duck and Pancetta Peas

Potato mash is respectable.  Not only has it stood the time but I guarantee, respectfully so, that in a 1000 years us humans and our AI companions will STILL be enjoying its creamy deliciousness.  But oh dear, it’s a bit time consuming ain’t it! First we wash the potatoes. Then we peel the potatoes. Then we rinse the potatoes. Then we cube the potatoes. Then we wait for the potatoes to boil.  Then we drain the potatoes.  Then we mash the potatoes. Then we season and THEN and only then do we serve…I still think it’s worth it and will never tire of the love and dedication that goes into mash.  I lived and worked in Ireland and have Irishness in my blood, and my kids love it so it stays.

BUT

I have a quickie mash for you.  For when you want same but different.  For when you want to refresh a dish and make it shine.  For when you just haven’t got the time to do a mash, this might come in handy. It’s also dirt cheap to make and butterbeans in a can are EVERYWHERE!

 

Enter Butterbean Mash…

If I’m using this in a class then I call it butterbean puree because then it sounds much more cheffy but guys, it’s the same thing.

It takes under 10 minutes, could take 5 in an emergency and you had time to stir.  It’s far too easy to make so don’t be disappointed when your’e smiling and refreshed after making this and your friends and family are giving you a round of applause for being so fabulous.

There is also another wee problem with butterbeans.  They are beige.  Boring and beige.  Beige was only popular in the 70’s and will never look sexy on a plate so here I have ‘blinged’ them up and given them a happy sunflower yellow tan with good old fashioned turmeric.  I should have turmeric in my holster, I use that stuff on everything…

Delicious yellow butterbean puree

(Serves 4)

2 tins butterbeans, drained

125ml  cream/milk or water (depends on your dietary preference)

1 chicken/mushroom/vegetable stock cube or use 1 teaspoon of powder stock

2 tablespoons pecorino or Parmesan grated (optional, you can keep this clean)

1 clove garlic, crushed

10 ml truffle scented oil/lemon oil or olive oil

¼ teaspoon turmeric powder or freshly grated

Salt and pepper to taste

 

Method

 

Place all ingredients except the oil, in a large saucepan and heat over a really low heat, stirring regularly for about 10 minutes until tender making sure that it doesn’t dry out (add more cream or water/stock if needed). Once the beans have started to break down a bit more and look more cooked, add the oil and season to taste. Either wait for these to cool and then place in a food processor, or use a hand held masher or even stick blender.   Either process completely, or leave slightly chunky for a more rustic mash!

 

To serve

 

Either serve chunky or as a puree.

 

NOTE

You can change the flavour of these beans to suit or match your meal.

 

Add 1 teaspoon of chopped rosemary if you are matching lamb

Add coconut cream and curry paste either for Thai or Malaysian or Indian dishes.

Add a teaspoon of grainy mustard or horseradish if you are matching beef or pork

Add a teaspoon of curry powder if you are serving this with a curry

Add smoked garlic and smoked paprika to match a Spanish theme

Remember to take all the credit for this!  I want you to be as happy as me in the kitchen!

You cand serve this with so many dishes it’s just crazy.  Adjust your stock to make it thinner or thicken to suit various dishes.

Happy Cooking!

 

Chef Mel

Vanilla Zulu

Lightest and fluffiest happiest birthday AND wedding cake!

Hi guys!

Yes, I turn 43 tomorrow and in two weeks I marry the man of my dreams so a lot of happiness happening for me! I’m always so grateful to get to the next year, I don’t mind the wrinkles, I am just lucky to still be here so that I can spend more time spreading culinary happiness!

And, for those who know me, do I ever like to share happiness!  So that best way for me to do that is to share this amazing recipe with you so that you too can join in the good vibes that will surely arise the minute you put this amazing light fluffy delicious ridiculously easy cake on your taste buds.

I don’t often bake, because I can’t be trusted not to eat the entire cake myself, but this one is worth it.  I would do 100 burpees or sit ups just to have ONE slice of this deliciousness…and like they say…life is short so EAT THE CAKE!

My future husband Mike told me that his favourite ever cake was the basic butter cake…so in order to be the future wife of the year I went to the ultimate version of this simple cake. This photo here was taken with fondant icing rolled into strips and then placed around to make waves…

Ingredients

225 g salted butter

4 large room temperature free range eggs

1/4 cup white sugar AND 3/4 cup white sugar

200g self raising flour

60ml milk

10ml vanilla extract

1 teaspoon grated lime or lemon

Method:

Firstly separate the eggs.

Beat the 4 egg whites until just about to hit peak stage and then add the  1/4 cup white sugar and beat until thick and looking like meringue.

In a separate bowl, beat the 3/4 cup sugar and butter with the whisk attachment until light and pale fluffy.  The sugar must be dissolved right through and the mixture should look like a little bit of heaven…all light and fluffy!

 

Now put the mixer on to really low and add the egg yolks, self raising flour, vanilla and zest.  Mix well to form a smooth batter.

Using a plastic spatula, fold in the meringue mix gently to incorporate with the batter, but don’t over mix, you just want to lightly combine the two mixes.

Now pour into a greased baking dish or cake mould.

Bake for about 45 minutes at 170c, until a skewer comes out clean from the middle.

Always check at the 15 minute mark, make sure the temperature is perfect, if it’s going too dark too quickly, drop the temp to 160c!

Once cooked, remove from the oven and cool!

Now this was the icing I used:

250g butter

3 cups icing mixture

milk on the side, about 30-60ml to get the consistency you like

10 ml vanilla paste

Method:

Beat the butter with the whisk until very light and very fluffy.  Add the icing mixture, the vanilla paste and then mix again till smooth.  At this stage you can add the milk slowly slowly to get the consistency you need!

Once the cake is cooled, ice as required and decorate with fresh flowers, chocolate shavings or sugared lemons!

 

Happy Baking!

 

Share the love!

 

How to create a fuss-free Culinary Bling Christmas!

How to create a fuss-free Culinary Bling Christmas Feast!

Part 1

Do you want to get a round of applause this Christmas for your amazing culinary prowess?

Do you want your guests to ‘ooh’ and ‘ahhh’ at your amazing creations?

150827_012Do you want to remain stress-free, relaxed and happy while whipping up a  feast that will not only be photographed by the family, but will have everyone asking you for recipes and marvelling at how you achieved all of this?  AND you are looking glamorous and your kitchen is all clean and mess free?

It is possible!

I’ve been working on some amazing Christmassy Culinary Bling and have your whole Christmas Feast planned and worked out for you, it’s going to be a breeze!

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First thing we need to do though is relax and plan.  They say if you have 8 hours to cut down a tree we must spend 6 hours sharpening our axe…

Well that sounds really boring and dreary but they have a point.  What I mean is please don’t leave everything for the last minute.  Most of these recipes here can be prepped a few weeks or days or hours in advance leaving you with more time to enjoy the festivities.

150827_023We also need to make sure you have your shopping list ready!  Going in for the Christmas shop is a lot cheaper if you have it planned.

Often we ask family members to bring a dish or two along, or you might be a guest this Christmas, either way I have you covered.  So if you’re doing it all or just taking a few dishes along remember this…Christmas Cooking Can Be Fun!

150827_027I’ll be breaking this blog into bits so it’s easy to digest, I thought we should start with some festive nibbles and how to get a round of applause early on in the festivities!

A cheese board, antipasto platter or ‘nibbles’ platter can be a showstopper.  Here are my home-made UBER cheap but very sexy, sophisticated and foodie water biscuits AKA Culinary BARK.  You will pay a fortune for these at the deli’s and supermarkets but don’t be deceived…EASY EASY EASY to make.

150827_003 - CopyI make these all the time for cheeseboards, dip platter and antipasto platters during the year so the only thing I do differently is cut them into tree or star shapes.

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Christmas Star Water biscuits with black salt and rose petals

 

1 cup plain flour

100ml or just a little more water to bind (as per demo)

1 tablespoon seasoning to match your cheese/dip or just omit and have them plain (nigella seeds, pink pepper, black salt, lavender, rose petals, rosemary)

 

Method

To prevent the dough from being annoying and sticking to your hands and surface with flour before handling the dough. Knead for about 3 minutes until the dough is nice and soft and pliable.

 

Take a teaspoonful of dough and roll out into long thin biscuits OR roll ALL the dough out until really thin and then cut out with the star or tree cutter, making sure you use lots of flour underneath to make sure they don’t stick to the counter.

 

Bake hot and fast on an ungreased baking tray for about 3-8 minutes at 200°C. They should be brittle and not too brown! Store in an airtight container until you want to use them.

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Famous Roasted Red Capsicum Puree

As requested by so many!  The most fabulous sauce EVER! Famous Roasted Red Capsicum Puree

I used this with the Moroccan Mince recipe but you can use it with pasta, chicken, steak or as a gravy replacement!  Add a little sugar if you need to!

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Roasted Red Capsicum Purèe

Olive oil to fry

1 onion finely chopped

2 cloves garlic

1 cup roasted red capsicums (cut in half, place under grill until skin goes black, cool and then remove skin)

500ml tomato passata

Salt and pepper to season

Half a teaspoon turmeric freshly grated or use powder

1 pinch cumin or Ras el Hanout OR Chilli

Method

Fry the onions and the garlic in the oil until just soft. Now add the cooked capsicum and the tomato passata/puree and the seasoning and cook through. Simply place these gorgeous ingredients in a food processor or use a stick blender and blend until smooth. A fantastic accompaniment to a wide variety of dishes and salads, and heaps of fun to garnish with!

Mysterious and sexy Moroccan Mince

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How many times a week do you cook mince for the family?  In my house it’s about twice a week because the kids just adore it and well, it’s economical, so who am I to argue!

Last night I had a fabulous group on my famous Eat Yourself Sexy cooking class and we did a little session about how to cook mince properly!  I do this ‘mince tuition’ for a few reasons but mostly because I have seen some epic mince disasters in my time!

Guys, mince that is grey, watery and limp is not deemed as a culinary success!  Also, let’s put to bed that urban legend that evil butchers are spending precious hours pumping water into mince to cheat you out of your hard-earned cash.  Alas, they are NOT! If you are getting grey liquid pouring out of your mince you are to blame.  This might sound like tough love but I am here for you and simply want you to live happily ever after and join us on the sexy mince side!

If you mince is throwing grey liquid off there are usually three culprits:

  1. Your pan was cold when added the mince
  2. You are stirring too much
  3. You have overcrowded the pan

This is the best way to do it!

Most recipes call for you to add the onions and some oil to the pan and then cook the onions first.  Pointless!  Unless you want your onions caramelized and the hero of the dish then they don’t need to go in first.  If they are chopped nice and small and fine they can be added after the mince is brown and sexy and delicious you have my permission.  So here’s how it’s done…

  1. Get the pan ‘swear-word’ hot.  Only use a vegetable or rice bran oil in the pan OLIVE OIL DOES NOT HAVE A HIGH HEAT THRESHOLD so be careful if you are using it burns faster than most.
  2. Once the pan is greased and ‘swear-word’ hot then add the mince (it can be straight out the fridge).  DO NOT STIR!!
  3. Allow the first side of the mince you put into your pan brown off first before you stir and NO YOU WON”T GET LUMPS!
  4. Once the first side has a lovely suntan and the pan is still sizzling hot you can start to break apart the mince using two forks (I use my larger salad  server forks…they are the perfect mince flutters!)
  5. Always keep some of the pan naked so that if there is any liquid it can cook away, it’s always good to keep that heat really on high in the pan until the meat is browned and sealed. Keep working the mince and the heat until it is all browned and cooked.
  6. When the mince is browned and fluffed you can now add your onions and seasoning and cooking liquid or tomato passata and live happily ever after!

So now that we have done our MINCE TRAINING let me give you that recipe!  I’m going to repeat some of the mince notes in the method…some will say I’m nagging I maintain I’m just making sure you don’t get grey mince ever again!

Mysterious and sexy Moroccan Mince

(I make a 1kg batch so there is enough for another meal later in the week!)

20-30ml oil to grease the pan

1 kg chicken or beef mince

2 onions finely chopped

2 cloves garlic finely chopped

1 small level tablespoon turmeric

1 teaspoon Ras El Hanout (OR use half a teaspoon cumin powder and half a teaspoon cardamom and a pinch of nutmeg)

1 tablespoon beef or chicken stock powder

400-500ml tomato passata or paste

1 tin chopped tomatoes

1 tin chick peas, optional

Method:

  1. Get the pan ‘swear-word’ hot.  Only use a vegetable or rice bran oil in the pan OLIVE OIL DOES NOT HAVE A HIGH HEAT THRESHOLD so be careful if you are using it burns faster than most.
  2. Once the pan is greased and ‘swear-word’ hot then add the mince (it can be straight out the fridge).  DO NOT STIR!!
  3. Allow the first side of the mince you put into your pan brown off first before you stir and NO YOU WON”T GET LUMPS!
  4. Once the first side has a lovely suntan and the pan is still sizzling hot you can start to break apart the mince using two forks (I use my larger salad  server forks…they are the perfect mince flutters!)
  5. Always keep some of the pan naked so that if there is any liquid it can cook away, it’s always good to keep that heat really on high in the pan until the meat is browned and sealed. Keep working the mince and the heat until it is all browned and cooked.
  6. When the mince is browned and fluffed you can now add your onions and turmeric and spices, tomato passata, chopped tomatoes and stock/seasoning and stir through (and live happily ever after!) Reduce the heat and add the chick peas and allow to cook through over a low heat for about ten more minutes to allow the flavours to develop and then serve!
  7. You can serve this on cous cous, rice, with kale-slaw, on a bed of roasted veggies, or like i did on a roast vegetable stack with some lovely tomato and capsicum puree!

Who wants the recipe for the tomato and capsicum puree?

Enjoy!

I’m WILD about cooking…

Mel, The Vanilla Zulu

How to keep cool in the kitchen this summer with my summer stunners…

I have to admit that I really did enjoy winter in Brisbane this year.  Can we call that a winter?  Not sure if we even went below 15 degrees to tell you the truth!

Spring is giving way to summer and with that comes all the pleasure of the summer cues like mangos, ceiling fans, swimming pool splashes, grapes, melons, citrus and afternoon storms.

I don’t know about you but unless you have air-conditioning it’s getting really hot in the kitchen.  I’ve come up with some quick and easy recipes, and I mean quick, so that you don’t have to slave away in a hot kitchen!

I’ve also been threatening to do a BBQ and camping cook book with amazing and easy recipes that would get you a round of applause at your next beach BBQ, picnic or camping trip…who wants to nag me along so that I actually get working on it!  Isn’t Australia just beautiful to explore, with all this fantastic fresh produce it’s so easy to create show stopping meals that are simple, fast and fresh.

It’s a bit naughty to start off with a dessert but this recent photo off my Facebook got THAT much attention that I had to set the record straight on how easy this was to make.  I had EVERY single student in that class begged me for the recipe so here goes. Also, I must warn you that once you read the recipe, and in fact make this, you will realise that it’s terribly easy to make and in fact i made 6 different flavours with my kids over the last school holiday.  Flavours included salted caramel, strawberry cheesecake, loaded cookie dough, death by chocolate and lemon meringue!  Heaven!

I MUST mention that this amazing creation costs $4.80 to make and will serve at least 6-8 (that is a side plate so that you can imagine the size)

Even though this is a terribly easy recipe I got at least 5 gasps of amazement and about three ‘ooh’s’ so like I always say cheap and cheerful CAN get you a round of applause if you add some culinary bling!

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Delicious Double Vanilla Ice cream with spun sugar and petal bling..Costs $4.80

Double Vanilla Ice Cream with spun sugar and petals

(I’ll give you the recipe for the spun sugar but I’ll also do a quick youtube video on this recipe so you can see how it’s done)

600ml cream, beaten until thick

1 tin condensed milk

30ml vanilla bean paste

Method

Once the cream is beaten fold in the whisk in the condensed milk and vanilla and then place in an airtight freezer proof bucket (I used a 1 litre tub) and then freeze for about 3-4 hours until set.

I told you it was too easy…it’s all in the bling!

Spun Sugar

Half a cup of white sugar and quarter cup of hot water.  Place in a small saucepan and boil hot and fast until the sugar starts going golden.  Shake the golden colour through and stay close, waiting for a darker caramel to form.  Once the sugar smells and looks like caramel it IS READY, remove from heat and shake to cool.  Place on heat proof surface and then get two forks.  put the forks in the tacky sugar caramel and then put them together back to back so that the sugar ‘meets’. Pull apart and then touch them to each other again and then thin strands will form, harvest the strands but be careful they might still be hot, keep going until the sugar gets too hard and then you can load up with more hot tacky caramel. Continue until the sugar is no longer in the mood and then you can admire your gorgeous and very expensive looking spun sugar.  Twist to form a nest and then place on top of the ice cream!  You can do this in advance and keep the sugar nests in the freezer in a large ziplock bag!

More recipes to follow!  Would you like other flavours to try with this super easy recipe, let me know and I’ll get typing!

Enjoy!

IN THE PRESS

FOOD AND HOME ENTERTAINING MAGAZINE

” Vivacious Melanie Townsend holds court with aplomb.  An interactive class that flourishes with lots of wine and laughter. Even shy students will be coaxed into the cooking action!: – Tracy Gielink

THE MERCURY NEWSPAPER

“Townsend, a bubbly, intelligent woman whose classes are fun and relaxed, says they’re about allowing a team to be creative by setting a time bound goal and encouraging them to think outside the box.  Apart from being a  necessity, food has long since been regarded as a great way to bring people together and because Townsend doesn’t even get into chef garb and speaks plainly, peoople are more open to experiment” – Omeshnie Naidoo