equinox

Hot & Cold Equinoxes

This Sunday is the Spring or Vernal Equinox in Melbourne. It is the midpoint between Imbolc and Beltane. After the Spring Equinox there is a shift in power between day and night. The short days and long nights will slowly be overtaken by longer days and shorter nights. On the other side of the world the opposite is happening. The Autumnal or Fall Equinox is the midpoint between Lammas and Halloween. Following the Autumn Equinox, the long days and short nights will slowly be overtaken by shorter days and longer nights.

The Equinoxes offer us a moment of balance, when day and night are relatively equal. At the end of the Equinox, one part of the world will fall into spring and the other into autumn. In six months time we will meet again for a moment of balance before continuing in our oppositional seasonal dance.

A perfect blend between hot and cold, fried ice cream is a delicious symbol of the Equinoxes. One part frozen and icy, the other piping hot. Drizzled with syrup these golden orbs are a perfect treat for spring or autumn.

Fried Ice Cream

IMG_5273a

Ingredients
6 scoops – approximately 500ml, best quality vanilla ice cream
2 eggs
1/2 cup plain flour, sifted
1/3 cup milk
1 tablespoon sugar
150g shortbread biscuits, finely crushed
2/3 cup rice crumbs
vegetable oil for deep frying (I use peanut oil)
golden or maple syrup for drizzling

Instructions
Line a baking tray with baking paper.
Use a large ice-cream scoop to form 6, round scoops of ice cream.
Place on baking tray and freeze for 30 minutes or until firm.
Whisk together the eggs, flour, milk and sugar until smooth in a bowl.
In a separate bowl, combine biscuits and breadcrumbs.
Working quickly, dip ice-cream balls in batter then roll in crumb mix.
Return to tray and freeze for at least 30 minutes.
Dip the balls in a second layer of batter and roll again in the crumb mix, making sure the balls are completely coated in crumbs.
Return to tray and freeze for at least 1 hour or overnight.
When ready to cook, heat oil in a medium sized pan to 185C / 365F.
Fry 1 – 2 balls at a time for 2 – 3 minutes or until golden brown and crisp.
Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towel.
Serve immediately with a good drizzle of syrup.

Spring Equinox / Spring Pancakes

When I first tried a spring onion pancake at a Chinese New Year festival, I almost wept in happiness. The moment I bit into the crunchy, flaky pastry and tasted the warm spring onions I had a memory of a similar taste sensation from my childhood – leek zelnick. A zelnick is a Macedonian flaky pastry filled with all sorts of things from pork, pumpkin, cheese and my favourite – leek with ricotta and feta. I love zelnicks but they can be a bit time consuming to make. Could I make a fusion version of a spring onion pancake? There was only one way to find out – experiment!

zelnick

zelnick

I followed the recipe for Shanghai Onion Cakes from Bamboo: A Journey with Chinese Food by Sally Hammond & Gordon Hammond and then added my own Macedonian twist. After adding the spring onions, I crumbled some feta cheese on a few of the pancakes. I then followed the recipe to completion. The traditional spring onion pancakes were as fabulous as the ones I tried at the festival. As for the feta ones, they ended up tasting like a delicious cheesy spring onion pancake zelnick 🙂 I’m already thinking up new variations.

These pancakes make me think of the Spring Equinox, and not just because of the key ingredient! The Spring Equinox in the southern hemisphere falls on Friday the 23rd of September this year. The northern hemisphere is heading for its Autumn Equinox at the same time. The Equinoxes are a time of balance, when day and night are relatively equal. After the Spring Equinox, the days will be longer than the nights, until we reach the Autumn Equinox and night once again overtakes day.

Like the Equinoxes, these pancakes symbolise balance and union. They are a balance between two cultures and a melding of a childhood staple food with a new culinary discovery. I loved the idea of playing with spring onions for Spring!  And for those of you celebrating the Autumn Equinox, don’t worry, pancakes are great for Autumn too 🙂

Spring Onion Pancakes

img_0367

Ingredients
1 + 1/2 cups plain flour
3/4 cup boiling water
sesame oil
sea salt
4 spring onions, green parts only, chopped
feta cheese (my fusion twist)
high smoke point vegetable oil for frying

Instructions
Sift the flour into a bowl. Make a well in the centre. Pour in the boiling water. Using the handle of a wooden spoon, quickly work into the flour until you have a smooth, soft dough. Invert the bowl onto a board and leave the dough to cool.
When cool enough to handle, knead the dough for 2 – 3 minutes or until smooth. Form into a smooth ball. Rub with sesame oil. Cover and leave to rest for 1 hour.
Lightly flour a board. Cut dough into 5 pieces. Roll out thinly. Brush with sesame oil, sprinkle with sea salt and cover evenly with spring onions.
It is here that I add my fusion twist. I crumble some feta cheese over the spring onions!
Roll up the dough then coil each roll into a round cake. Lightly dust with flour, then gently roll into a thin circle (about 1/2 cm or 1/4 inch thick).
Heat oil in a frying pan on medium heat. Fry the pancakes until golden brown, turning once or twice. Drain on paper towels. Serve hot.

Check out my recipes for Pumpkin Pancakes and Yeasted Pancakes 🙂

Moon Over Easter

The March Equinox has come and gone, which means Easter is on its way. Easter is a Moveable Feast that takes place on the first Sunday after the first Full Moon on or after the March Equinox. I’m using the term March Equinox because its seasonal attribute depends on the hemisphere you are in. In the southern hemisphere it’s the Autumnal Equinox. In the northern hemisphere it’s the Vernal (Spring) Equinox. As Easter is based on northern hemisphere seasons, it is a Spring Festival. Which explains the rabbit and the eggs.

What isn’t really explained is why there are often two Easters – one for Western Christians and one for Eastern Orthodox Christians. The answer is simple (well actually it’s not even slightly simple!). While the above formula is used by both, Western churches use the Gregorian calendar and Eastern churches use the Julian calendar. Plus, there are differences in how the Equinox and the Full Moon are defined. Eastern churches use the Astronomical Equinox and Full Moon, while the Western churches use a set date (March 21) for the Equinox and an Ecclesiastical Moon, which comes from a church calendar.

To make it a bit more confusing, Eastern Easter is always after Passover, because Jesus celebrated Passover before he was executed. Western Easter doesn’t worry about that in what appears to be a search for simplicity. So what does that all mean? Well this year Western Easter will be celebrated on Sunday March 27th and Eastern Orthodox on Sunday May 1st.

The one question that never gets answered for me is – “Does the Easter Bunny visit on both Easters?” 🙂 Just in case the answer is “yes”, here is a recipe for Carrot Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting topped with Candied Carrots.

Easter Bunny Cupcakes

easter bunny

Ingredients
for the carrot cupcakes
1 + 1/3 cup plain flour
1 + 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 + 1/4  teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
3 eggs, room temperature
1 cup sugar
3/4 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups peeled and grated carrot

for the candied carrots
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup water
1 cup peeled and grated carrot

for the cream cheese frosting
1 cup (225g) cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup (115g) unsalted butter, softened
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
4 cups powdered (icing) sugar, sifted

optional
mini chocolate Easter eggs for decoration

Instructions
Preheat the oven to 180C / 350F.
Line a 12-hole muffin pan with 12 paper cases.
Sift together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt in a bowl and set aside.
In a separate bowl, beat the eggs and sugar together with an electric mixer until light and frothy.
Using a wooden spoon or spatula, stir in the oil, vanilla and carrot.
Fold in the flour mix until just combined.
Using an ice-cream scoop, spoon the batter evenly into the paper cases.
Bake for 10 – 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the centre of a cupcake comes out clean. Allow to cool for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

While cupcakes are cooling, make the candied carrots by placing the sugar and water into a saucepan. Bring to the boil over high heat, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Add the carrots and cook for 5 minutes stirring occasionally. Remove carrots from the syrup and place in a heatproof bowl. Cook syrup for a further 10 minutes or until reduced. Pour syrup over carrots and allow to cool. Preheat oven to 110C / 230F. Line a baking tray with baking paper. Drain the carrots and spread in a thin layer on prepared tray. Bake for 45 – 60 minutes or until they start to harden. Remove from oven and allow to cool completely. They will harden more when cooling.

While carrots are cooling make the cream cheese frosting by creaming together the cream cheese, butter and vanilla extract in a medium sized bowl with an electric mixer. Gradually beat in the powdered sugar until frosting reaches a piping consistency. Spoon icing into a piping bag and pipe onto cupcakes.

Sprinkle a small amount of the candied carrot onto each cupcake.
Decorate with mini chocolate easter eggs if desired.

A Very Sweet Equinox

It’s Equinox time – a time of balance and renewal when day and night are as equal as can be. In the Northern Hemisphere, the nights will now be longer than the days. In the Southern Hemisphere, the days will now be longer than the nights.

As I think of the long hot days ahead I think of drinks. So I thought it would be fun to play with the concept of balance through drinks and our sense of taste. Taste has five sensations – sweet, sour, salty, bitter and umami. Over the coming weeks I will explore each sensation through a drink. I’m starting with sweet.

Sweet is one of the easiest to work with as it is a pleasurable flavour and there are so many delicious sweet drinks around. But that is also a problem – with so much choice how do you choose?

One of my favourite sweet flavours is rose water. I thought a rose water cordial would be lovely. I was chatting to my friend who runs a bar about my thoughts for a sweet rose water cordial. He was brought up in Malaysia and told me about a drink from his youth – bandung. It’s a rose water syrup drink sweetened with condensed milk! Can you get anything sweeter than condensed milk? Possibly, but the thought of a rose water and condensed milk drink had me running from the bar to my kitchen. Here is my version of the very sweet, very delicious and very pink bandung.

Let me know what your favourite sweet drinks are 🙂

Bandung

IMG_0618

Ingredients
for the syrup
2 tablespoons sugar
2/3 cup water
1 teaspoon rose water
pink or red food colouring

for mixing
1 cup condensed milk
1 cup water

Method
Boil the sugar and water until the sugar dissolves.
Add the rose water and enough food colouring to achieve the desired pink colour.
Add the condensed milk and water and mix until combined.
Chill in refrigerator before serving.