Monday, December 17, 2012

"Emergency" chocolates

Each Christmas, I make a batch of "emergency" gifts. You know, the sort that you have on standby when unexpected, but generous visitors pop in. They're also useful in a non-emergency capacity - a little festive treat certainly seems to go down well with work colleagues. Most years I have stuck to biscuits - gingerbread in 2010 and lemon myrtle shortbread in 2011. In 2012, I decided to try my hand at chocolate. Proper fancy, filled, tempered chocolate. Eeeek!

Let me rewind a little. Last month, my beloved and I attended a fantastic chocolate workshop. For those living in Melbourne, I can't recommend Sissy's Gourmet Delights more highly. The class was great fun, very interactive and just a tad messy! We learnt all about the importance of tempering  chocolate (it's all about the shine, baby!), decorating and making delicious ganache fillings. I walked away with a bag of chocolate making loot - Belgian chocolate moulds, a digital thermometer, a scraper, piping bags and a few bits and pieces for decorating.
Fast forward to the week before Christmas and my emergency gifts have been created. 
Behold: orange ganache-filled "blushing" chocolates and dark choc, hazelnut roses (accented by little white choc smears). Not too shabby for an amateur, in my humble opinion! 

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Stuffed pasta shell bake

If you haven't already noticed, pasta/noodles are my all time favourite food. I could happily subsist solely on these carbohydrates, if it wasn't for the fact that I would turn into an anaemic wreck (not to mention the host of other awful health issues that such a diet would bring!).

It is probably not surprising then that different pasta shapes and sizes make me giddy with excitement. Every time my local supermarket has a sale on their artisan pasta, I go carb-crazy and stock up for the end of time...or something like that. My most recent purchase was a packet of conchiglioni (better known as giant pasta shells). With some beef mince in the freezer, a sole zucchini in the fridge and a few pantry staples, the Fabfood'n'frolicking stuffed pasta shell bake was born.

Stuffed pasta shell bake
Serves 4
1 x 500g packet conchiglioni (giant pasta shells) 
1 Tbs olive oil
1 onion
3 cloves garlic
500g beef mince
1 zucchini (coarsely chopped)
400ml pasata
2 tsp hot paprika
1 bunch basil (coarsely chopped)
a handful of mozzarella 
a handful of parmesan
salt and pepper

1. Preheat oven to 150ยบC.
2. Cook pasta until very al dente (i.e. you wouldn't hesitate to send it back if it was served at a restaurant). Drain and set aside. 
3. In the meantime, heat oil in a saucepan and fry onion and garlic for a couple of minutes.
4. Add beef and cook for another few minutes, followed by the zucchini. 
5. Stir through the pasata and paprika and season to taste. Allow to simmer for a further 10 minutes. 
6. When you're happy with the level of spice and flavour, throw in the basil and remove from heat. 
7. Allow meat mixture to cool down a wee bit (a few minutes should suffice) unless you have "asbestos fingers" (that's a "mum-ism").
8. Lay pasta out in the sort of oven dish you'd use for lasagne and spoon the meat mixture into each so:

9.  Top with the remaining sauce and cheese.

10. Bake for around 40 minutes. Finish under the grill for lots of nice crispy bits on top.

As always, enjoy!

How to "make" a Christmas tree