Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Roasted Goat Cheese-Stuffed Figs with Candied Walnuts and Lavender-Infused Honey


Years passed, I finally managed to pay homage to Melbourne's renowned Queen Victoria Market last week. "Open 5-10pm," says the web, an almost unorthodox hour for a Wednesday in a nation where things characteristically call it a day early by any Asian standard.

It's a smorgasbord at Queen Victoria Market! Feb 2016
Anticipating no more than a nocturnal produce market, by dusk I stumbled unexpectedly into a carnival-like smorgasbord of street food spread across a behemoth space, representing favorites from every corner of the world. From Bangkok street-style grill to Caribbean jerk chicken, Sri Lankan paratha to giant pans of paella, toasty raclette to fresh made pavlova, the QVM had me overwhelmed with gluttony and indecisiveness.

Four hours and a few too many plates later, I reluctantly left the market with a spilling belly, a cone of cassava chips in one hand, and a culinary treasure on the other. At five Aussie dollar a box, I walked away with a half dozen of gorgeously plump, Australian grown figs I knew are too precious to pass on. My visit to a market is now complete.

Take a bite and let the magical combination of flavors melt in your mouth!
Back at home, my mind raced for a perfect recipe to pair these subtly sweet, full bodied beauties with goat cheese. Figs and goat cheese have been a time-tested match made in food heaven. Possibilities abound. Will it be a sweet-savory tart? A simple salad with rocket and a balsamic dressing? A flatbread? To celebrate the temporal fig growing season, I decide to bring out the best of these precious gems by making a decadent dessert - a deceptively sophisticated sweet ending that is in reality... a piece of cake.

Sweet roasted, stuffed figs. Mmm. Roasting caramelizes the fig's natural sugars, intensifying its sweetness. Complement it with creamy, mildly tangy goat cheese and the unique, nutty, earthy oomph and crunch of sticky candied walnuts. My homemade candied walnuts are made under 10 minutes straight in the oven, so forget about the sticky mess in the saucepan! Last but not least, finish the dessert off with fragrant, lavendar-infused honey - it surely promises to elevate the sensory experience like a touch of magic!

Slit figs will look like midnight tulips!
To prepare...
4 fresh figs
Goat cheese
2 tablespoon honey
1/4 teaspoon dried lavender flowers

For the quick Candied Walnuts:
A palmful of walnuts (approx. 20 g)
Drizzle of vegetable oil
1 teaspoon brown sugar
2 teaspoon honey

1. Preheat oven to 220C/425F.
In a small bowl, coat walnuts with oil, brown sugar, and 2 teaspoons of honey. Transfer nuts to a parchment-lined baking sheet and roast for 8-10 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool, separate walnuts if necessary.

2. Slit an X into the stem side of each fig with a paring knife till midway down. Using your fingers, gently open up the figs and stuff with crumbled goat cheese. Roast in oven for 10-12 minutes until tender but not soggy.

3. Warm honey in pan over very low heat until liquefied, add lavender and let steep.

4. When done, top each stuffed fig with candied walnut; drizzle infused honey over figs and serve... Enjoy!! 

《 焗羊奶芝士釀無花果 配 糖衣核桃 及 薰衣草蜜糖 》

Lavender adds an intoxicatingly fragrant note to honey
新鮮無花果  4 隻
羊奶芝士  適量
蜜糖  2 湯匙
薰衣草乾花  1/4  茶匙

核桃  約20克
植物油  少許
紅糖  1 茶匙
蜜糖  2 茶匙

1. 預熱焗爐至 220C / 425F。

2. 核桃用油,紅糖,蜜糖拌勻。轉放在鋪了烘培紙的焗盤上,放入已預熱焗爐中,焗約 8-10分鐘。烘好取出晾凉。

3. 於每隻無花果上用利刀畫上十字至果肉之半身。用手指輕輕打開無花果,並釀入羊奶 芝士。放入已預熱焗爐中,焗約 10-12分鐘直至軟身。

4. 蜜糖用慢火輕微加熱至水狀,熄火後放入薰衣草乾花,待其入味。

5. 烤好了的無花果上放上糖衣核桃,淋上薰衣草蜜糖即成。慢用!

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Sunday, February 14, 2016

Ditch the Restaurants, Enjoy Brunch in Bed this Valentine's Day!

Happy Valentine's Day! A day anticipated by most, dreaded by some, but nevertheless a day filled with love and cliché - so why not stir things up a little this year?

Valentine's Day is typically a time when couples feel obliged to deck out and dine out in some fancy restaurant (with reservations made weeks in advance), inevitably bound by predictable set menus that take advantage of defenceless diners (let's sneak a strawberry into the glass of bubbles and a few shavings of truffle somewhere). Guys' wallets, in most instances, bear the brunt of this one night-out's romantic assault, not to mention the prerequisite "surprise" gift for the beloved. Valentine's Day is a social-commercial institution, really. So this Valentine's Day, why not shake things up a little?

A double-punch in omega 3!
To make things better, Valentine's Day this year falls on a weekend. Sunday brunch in bed, anyone? In my book, the little effort and thought put into preparing food for a loved one exudes more romance than a night out can ever provide. Plus, you get to indulge in snuggling without judgamental eyes snooping in scrutiny.

This Valentine's Day I prepared something simple and foolproof, yet does not fall short from your average brunch out in your favorite cafe. All of the ingredients happen to be readily available in my pantry, saving me a last minute trip to the grocers. Whether paired or single, enjoy a chill morning in, or even surprise your family with some love!

A feast to the eyes, most certainly a party for the belly - do something special for Valentine's Day

Baked Egg in Avocado
Coconut Cashew Maple Granola, Greek Yoghurt, Blueberries (Recipe here!)
One Skillet Rosemary Potatoes with Pancetta and Caramelized Onions
Frozen Banana Mix Berries and Oats Smoothie

Recipes to come soon!
Homemade Granola is so easy and addictive you'd never go back to store-bought ones!
[Write to me under comments! Follow me on Instagram @alvinckl and check out my Facebook Fan Page!]