Recipe: Monkey Bun (by Valli Little)

On the two year anniversary of my mother’s death earlier this year, I took a mental health day from work. I needed the time alone at home, rather than sitting in front of my computer at work trying to blink back tears and putting on a brave face for my colleagues, as thoughtful and considerate as they are.

I spent the day doing a bit of reading, a bit of colouring in (it’s a good stress-busting activity!), and a bit of cooking. When I’m sad, a few hours spent in the kitchen does wonders. I finally took out a cookbook that I had been gifted eighteen months earlier – delicious Love to Cook by Valli Little.

A number of the different desserts in the book caught my eye, but the one that really stood out was the Monkey Bun. Valli says:

This recipe is inspired by the wonderful Sally Wise, whose eponymous cooking school in Tasmania is a mecca for anyone wanting tolearn the art of preserving and slow-cooking. Sally serves this to her students on arrival, and it certainly sets the scene for a day of fine cooking.

Having never made anything quite like it before, I thought I’d lend my hand to it, and spend a bit of time in the kitchen! I made a few adjustments to suit my tastes, and there are other adjustments that you could make along the way as well. Enjoy!

Monkey Bun (altered by Gourmanda)

Ingredients

  • 250gm unsalted butter
  • 500gm plain flour
  • 1.25 tablespoons dried instant yeast
  • 1 tablespoon caster sugar
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • One large orange
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 180ml warm milk
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 180gm brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons golden syrup
  • your favourite chocolate

Method

Melt 60gm of butter in a small saucepan, then cool.

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Combine flour, yeast, caster sugar, cinnamon, sea salt and the zest of the orange in your stand mixer (use the dough hook). Make a well in the centre for the melted butter, warm milk, and beaten eggs. Combine in the stand mixer until it forms a solid ball of dough. Place dough in an oiled bowl in a warm spot, cover it with a tea towel, and let it rise until doubled in size.

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To make the syrup – place the remaining butter (190gm), brown sugar, juice from the orange, and golden syrup in a saucepan on low heat and stir to combine. Note – I’m suggesting using less butter and more golden syrup for a richer flavour and a denser syrup, and Valli’s original recipe didn’t include orange juice. You can adjust to suit.

Once the dough has doubled in size, knock it down, and then knead for around 5 minutes on a clean floured surface until it is elastic. Divide the dough into twelve portions. Flatten it in your palm, place your chosen chocolate in the middle, and then wrap the dough around the chocolate to encase it. Note – I used a ‘Raisin Fudge Fusion’ chocolate from Coles, but it didn’t turn out really well, as there was a wafer element to this chocolate. Soft chocolate-only sweets, like Lindor chocolate balls, would work better as it will melt better in the cooking process.

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Once you’ve made all twelve balls with a little chocolate surprise inside, drop them into the saucepan and coat them in syrup. Take the syrup-coated ball and place it into your pot, or cake mould. Once you’ve done that for all the balls, pour the remaining syrup over them. Allow the balls to stand in the syrup for an hour before you put the pot in the oven. The dough will increase in size the longer you leave it.

Note – the recipe calls for the use of 2.5L kugelhopf pan. I don’t own one of those, so chose to make my Monkey bun in a cast iron pot instead. You could do it in a sufficiently large cake tin – but just note that the syrup will leak out if you choose to use a springform cake tin, so you will want to line the tin with baking paper first to protect against leakages.

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Bake the bun for 10 minutes in an oven preheated to 190 degrees celsius. Reduce the heat to 160 degrees celsius, and bake for a further 15-20 minutes (use your judgement!). Take it out of the oven, and five minutes later, turn your bun tin over onto your serving plate. All the syrup that was at the bottom of the tin should now coat your Monkey Bun in glorious syrupy goodness.

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Each ‘ball’ of bun goodness should break away easily from the other balls. Spoon some of the syrup over before serving to your guests. Should serve six to eight people, depending on appetites!

Hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

Recipe: Scotch Eggs

As part of K’s recent 30th birthday celebrations, I cooked an elaborate dinner for him and three friends on the evening of his actual birthday. I cooked a total of eight dishes that night, and in recognition of the fact that K has long-suffered the side effects of his life partner being a food blogger (never being able to eat meals straight away as he has to wait for me to take photos!), I graciously decided to not take any photos of what I cooked that evening so that everyone could eat straight away.

However, after tasting everything I cooked and realising how delicious it all was, I decided that I should just recreate all the dishes for different occasions, and photograph my second attempts at the dish. The second opportunity to create Scotch Eggs again came around a week later at the family lunch for K’s birthday.

Scotch Eggs are very much a retro type of dish, and I believe it reached its hey day back in the seventies. With a bit of a modern twist and extra herbs and spices now though, it’s quite a simple, but effective dish that serves really well as a starter at a dinner party. It’s a new favourite of mine, and one that I’ll be doing a lot more often from now on!

Recipe: Scotch Eggs

Ingredients

  • Six to seven fat pork sausages (I used six ‘old English’ sausages and four ‘spicy Italian’ sausages – using the extra sausage meat to make a few small meatballs for a child in the family who’s allergic to eggs)
  • A dozen small eggs
  • Tablespoon each of cumin, paprika, Moroccan seasoning
  • Half a cup of chopped fresh coriander/cilantro
  • Breadcrumbs (I used pre-herbed wholemeal breadcrumbs)

Method

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Preheat the oven to 200 degrees Celsius, and hard boil the dozen eggs in a large saucepan. De-skin the sausages and squeeze the meat into a large mixing bowl. Add the chopped herbs and spices.

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Mix the sausage meat, spices and herbs thoroughly. Note – it’s best to use sausage meat rather than plain pork mince as sausage mixes generally have additional fats and salts that can help to keep the scotch egg moist. The better quality of sausage that you buy, the better the end result!

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Peel the hard boiled eggs. Flatten a small amount of the sausage mix in the palm of your hand to create a meat ‘pancake’. Wrap the pancake around a hard boiled egg, using additional sausage mix to cover any gaps.

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Roll  your sausage meat-covered hard boiled egg around in the breadcrumbs, before placing it in a paper-lined oven baking dish. Repeat for all dozen eggs. Spray with some olive oil before cooking in the oven for approximately 40 minutes. Turn halfway through cooking and respray with olive oil.

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Once your breadcrumbs are nicely browned and the sausage meat is cooked through, remove from the oven and serve on a platter to your dinner guests. You may like to halve the eggs to make it more manageable, and perhaps even serve it with a dipping sauce on the side like a tomato chutney.

Like I said, this is a very simple kind of dish, and doesn’t take more than an hour and a half from start to finish to create. Because it is a little bit novel, yet retro, though, you’re bound to receive compliments from your guests!

2014 Family Christmas Lunch and a Recipe for Bacon-Wrapped Turducken

Christmas. A time for overindulgence in food, family connection leading to family squabbles, and finally, vows to never see your family again.

…I kid! Since moving to Sydney a few years ago, I now find myself really cherishing the time I get to spend with my family. Every minute you spend back at the family home becomes increasingly precious, because no matter how many phone calls or FaceTime connections you make, it’s never quite the same.

While our original plans had been to spend Christmas Day in Sydney with K’s family before driving to Melbourne on Boxing Day, we changed our minds when my father was unexpectedly called back to Hong Kong just before Christmas when my uncle passed away. Not wanting my brother to have to spend the holidays alone, we drove down early and spent the holiday together as a family with my cousins.

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We hosted Christmas lunch, and decided to follow a sample Christmas menu offered on Taste.com.au. First up – Green Beans with Cherry Vinaigrette Dressing. This was a great hit with everyone, as the sweet cherries combined with the tart lemon vinaigrette really helped to enhance the fresh crunchy beans. Note – this dish doesn’t reheat that well for leftovers the next day, so it’s best to make a smaller amount and eat it all on the same day!

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Next – Charred Capsicum and Zucchini with Goat’s Cheese. This one doesn’t look quite as pretty as in the picture as we ended up using a serving bowl that was probably too small for its purpose, so the presentation wasn’t ideal. It also made it a bit harder for people to dig through to the base to get the goat’s cheese dressing. I recommend serving this dish in a larger, flat serving platter rather than in a bowl. Note – the goat’s cheese cream is delicious, and I would happily just have that on toast with a crack of black pepper!

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Crispy Parmesan Potatoes also made it onto the menu. We enhanced the recipe with some duck fat that we had rendered off our next dish, which really made the cheesy roast potatoes super rich and crispy. I’d definitely make this dish again!

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The piece de resistance – a Turducken! We didn’t follow a recipe for this and pretty much made it up. Taking the easy way out, we chose to only use the breast meat from each bird (chicken, duck, turkey), rather than the whole body which would have been too hard to manage. At the same time, because we were concerned about only using the leaner breast meat which might dry out in the oven, we decided to wrap the whole thing in fatty bacon, to help keep the meat moist.

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And it worked! The turducken was delightfully moist and tender, and the roulade-style shape that we opted for stayed together even after we cut the string that had been holding it together. The half jar of leftover pesto that we added to the centre of the roulade at the very last minute was a stroke of genius as well. Many thanks to my amazing husband K who took primary responsibility for this dish as I tend to get a bit squeamish about touching raw meat!

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My brother’s a keen amateur baker/dessert maker, and he took responsibility for making these Christmas Pudding Truffles. Without any glace cherries on hand as recommended by the recipe, he used some fresh cherries instead to top the truffles which I think worked really well! These are very rich though – one would be more than sufficient for most people….okay, maybe two!

It’s months ago now, but how was your Christmas? Did you spend it with your family?

Recipe: Bacon-wrapped Turducken Roulade

Ingredients

  • One chicken breast
  • One duck breast
  • One turkey breast
  • One small jar of pesto sauce
  • One packet of long middle bacon
  • Melted butter for basting
  • Kitchen string for wrapping

Method

  • Flatten and tenderise each piece of poultry breast. I do it by using the back of a meat cleaver.
  • Cut out lengths of string and lay it out across your chopping board.
  • Lay out strips of bacon length-wise along your chopping board, going the same way as your lengths of string.
  • Lay out the flattened turkey breast on top of the bacon strips. Baste with a thin layer of butter.
  • Lay out the flattened duck breast on top of the turkey breast. Baste with a thin layer of butter.
  • Lay out the flattened chicken breast on top of the duck breast. Spread the pesto over the chicken breast.
  • Wrap up everything carefully, ensuring that the turkey entirely covers the duck and chicken breast, and that the bacon is sufficiently wrapped around the turkey.
  • Tie up your lengths of string to ensure that everything is held together tightly. Baste with butter.
  • Cook for two hours at 200 degrees, or until cooked through. Check regularly.
  • Rest for at least half an hour before carving up the turducken for a delicious Christmas lunch.

Enjoy!