chips n gravy

Archive for the ‘Daring's Kitchen’ Category

my version of the torte

The August 2009 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Angela of A Spoonful of Sugar and Lorraine of Not Quite Nigella. They chose the spectacular Dobos Torte based on a recipe from Rick Rodgers’ cookbook Kaffeehaus : Exquisite Desserts from the Classic Caffés of Vienna, Budapest, and Prague.

I apologise for the late post. This is my first DB Challenge and being late as well as well as not exactly happy about having a cake (due to my inept baking skills) to boot was not exactly the kind of start I want to be a DB’er.  Anyway, the reason for the late post was due to me down with what I initially thought was a bad case of cold and headache was actually a sinus infection. After a visit to the doctor, I developed a reaction to the prescribed antibiotics. I woke up in the middle of the night having chest pains. It was so painful I thought I was having a heart attack. So I had to go to the docs again to ease the reaction and being prescribed new drugs. This has been 6 days ago, and today I finally felt better for the first time in close to 2 weeks since the symptoms started.

In between the sinus ordeal, bad weather, organising everything in preparation to welcome my new baby girl this coming Sunday, (don’t be alarmed, I am not giving birth, just getting my piggy girl a much needed companion) .

I will be adopting from the Melbourne charter of the Australian Cavy Sanctuary, a small privately run shelter that is supported by volunteers and fellow guinea pigs lovers. I wanted to take the time out to mention that, animals of any kind deserves our respect and care as with any other human beings. G-Force, the movie about guinea pigs doing all sorts of things may boost guinea pigs sale throughout the world, but I just want to say that, guinea pigs overbreeding is a major problem throughout the US, UK and even here in Australia. At any given time right now, each of these private shelters that is ran out of their love for guinea pigs are looking after more than 100s of pigs at a time. So, if you are interested in getting a guinea pig after watching the movie, PLEASE, do your read up properly before getting one. It is not the same as getting a toy that you can just discard afterwards. Should you really want to get a piggy even after you have done the proper read up to understand the great responsibilities of caring for them, please adopt rather than buy. Buying only fuel more backyard breeders who breed and keep them in inhumane conditions. ACS has a really great support network, so when you adopt, you are not only just helping minimising the overbreeding and the vicious backyard breeder cycle, you are also joining a network of massive support at any given time should you and your piggy need it. We are a family.

Back to the torte.

My torte may not looked like the original Hungarian torte, but rest assured that it does taste the alright albeit less sickly because I did not use the actual buttercream recipe, but instead a buttercream that is although similar is based on the french pate a bombe. This happened because of two reasons; I was not keen to use so much butter and I had too much egg yolks left over from baking so much macarons.

I also skipped the caramel layer as from all the feedbacks from the forum, most of the girls were having problems with the top caramel layer and was not really impressed by it. So I made a burnt toffee caramel flavoured with some intense espresso to get that slight bitterness and made a “ganache” with it. This is then used as a filling in the macaron. Technically, that is my caramel layer.

Again, a play on salt. Salted crushed peanuts to give the extreme sweetness of this cake a much needed reprieve and also after the sweetness of the cake, my tasters were taken aback by the bitterness of the macarons on first bite. That said, the macarons with the bitter filling was a bigger hit than the cake.


The August 2009 Daring Cook’ challenge was hosted by Olga of La Cosas de Olga. She chosed the delicious spanish rice dish with a catalan influence called “Rice with mushrooms, cuttlefish and artichokes” based on a recipe by José Andrés from his US cooking show, Made in Spain.

This is my first Daring Kitchen and also my first Daring Cook’s challenge and I am pretty excited to be part of this extended cyber clan of talented cooks and bakers from around the world. I have been admiring and following the “exploits” of Daring Kitchen for a while now yet I never had the chance to participate until now. I do not think I need to include a history of how Daring Kitchen came about as they are well known throughout the blogsphere by now.

A little history on the chef, José Andrés. He used to train under Ferran Adria of El Bulli fame and according to wikipedia, is often credited for bringing “small plates”/tapas/mezze to the United States.

Also, Wikipedia has an excellent page on Catalan Cuisine. The influence of the Catalonia region can be seen heavily from the ingredients used, artichokes, cuttlefish, mushroom and capsicum are all found along the coast. When the challenge was revealed, I was quite pleased because I hardly cook proper spanish food and I have never made sofregit (sofrito) before. I have heard plenty about this famous sauce, but never tried it myself. The dish gave me a reason to cook something different and also to introduce more flavours and variety to W, my partner, who up until he met me, has had an uneventful gastronomy journey. Fake chinese dishes that was concocted by opportunistic Chinese over here to sell really cheap ingredients at really high price to ignorant Caucasian Aussies were the highlight to his meal. Other than that, it is frozen vegetables with frozen meat pies, fish and chips, charcoal chicken with chips, his housemate’s really horrible spaghetti with instant bottled bolognaise sauce or his housemate’s really horrible soggy boiled rice with stir fried beef in instant black bean sauce. Ah yes, I can hear the many shudders. So did I when I learned how badly he ate.

Btw, I wrote this post few days earlier because I do not want to do a last minute job, and today (Sunday, August 9th) we went to ChocolateRush festival at Flemington Racecourse. W had his first ever Macaron! He likes it. He had 4 hazelnut praline, 1 chocolate and 1 chocolate fudge macaron. I am so pleased.

Back to topic at hand. I will cut and paste the recipe below before mentioning about the alteration that I have done (with permission from our gracious hostess).

Rice with mushrooms, cuttlefish and artichokes

Cooking time: 45 minutes

1 Chopping Board
1 knife
1 medium saucepan
1 Paella pan (30 cm/11” is enough for 4 people. If not available, you may use a simple pan that size)
1 Saucepan

Ingredients (serves 4):
4 Artichokes (you can use jarred or freezed if fresh are not available)
12 Mushrooms (button or Portobello)
1 or 2 Bay leaves (optional but highly recommended)
1 glass of white wine



2 Cuttlefish (you can use freezed cuttlefish or squid if you don’t find it fresh)
“Sofregit” (see recipe below)
300 gr (2 cups) Short grain rice (Spanish types Calasparra or Montsant are preferred, but you can choose any other short grain. This kind of rice absorbs flavor very well) – about 75 gr per person ( ½ cup per person) Please read this for more info on suitable rices.
Water or Fish Stock (use 1 ½ cup of liquid per ½ cup of rice)
Saffron threads (if you can’t find it or afford to buy it, you can substitute it for turmeric or yellow coloring powder)
Allioli (olive oil and garlic sauce, similar to mayonnaise sauce) – optional

Sofregit / Sofrito

Cooking time: aprox. 1 hour

2 tablespoons of olive oil
5 big red ripe tomatoes, chopped
2 small onions, chopped
1 green pepper, chopped (optional)
4 or 5 garlic cloves, chopped
1 cup of button or Portobello mushrooms, chopped (optional)
1 Bay leaf
Touch of ground cumin
Touch of dried oregano

Allioli (Traditional recipe)

Cooking time: 20 min aprox.

4 garlic cloves, peeled
Pinch of salt
Fresh lemon juice (some drops)
Extra-virgin olive oil (Spanish preferred but not essential)

Allioli a la moderna (Modern recipe)

Cooking time: 3-4 minutes

1 small egg
1 cup extra-virgin olive oil (as above, Spanish oil is highly recommended)
1 garlic clove, peeled
1 Tbs. Spanish Sherry vinegar or lemon juice (if Sherry vinegar is not available, use can use cider or white vinegar)
Salt to taste



1. Put all the ingredients together in a frying pan and sauté slowly until all vegetables are soft.
2. Taste and salt if necessary (maybe it’s not!)


What I did was cut all the ingredients for the sofrito into brunoise (small cubes) and saute the onion first until caramelised before adding the rest of the ingredients. I also use canned whole Italian tomatoes as it was not a tomato season now in a wintery Victoria. So fresh tomatoes will not yield as much flavour as the canned tomatoes and i opted for the canned one. Also, I would really really recommend that you prepare the sofrito days ahead (like maybe a week) before wanting to prepare this dish. As I was preparing a lazy lunch one day with my leftover sofrito (that was more than a week old by then, but still keep so well) and couscous, I find that I used very little amount of sofrito as compared to the heaps and heaps when I used to make this dish, the sofrito has develop more in flavour. So, if you really want a flavourful dish, do make the sofrito ahead.


1. Place the garlic in a mortar along with the salt.
2. Using a pestle, smash the garlic cloves to a smooth paste. (The salt stops the garlic from slipping at the bottom of the mortar as you pound it down.)
3. Add the lemon juice to the garlic.
4. Drop by drop; pour the olive oil into the mortar slowly as you continue to crush the paste with your pestle.
5. Keep turning your pestle in a slow, continuous circular motion in the mortar. The drip needs to be slow and steady. Make sure the paste soaks up the olive oil as you go.
6. Keep adding the oil, drop by drop, until you have the consistency of a very thick mayonnaise. If your allioli gets too dense, add water to thin it out. This takes time—around 20 minutes of slow motion around the mortar—to create a dense, rich sauce.

José’s tips for traditional recipe: It’s hard to think that, when you start crushing the garlic, it will ever turn into something as dense and smooth as allioli. But don’t give up. It’s worth the extra time and effort to see the oil and garlic come together before your eyes. Just make sure you’re adding the olive oil slowly, drop by drop. Keep moving the pestle around the mortar in a circular motion and keep dreaming of the thick, creamy sauce at the end of it all.


1. Break the egg into a mixing bowl.
2. Add 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and the garlic cloves, along with the vinegar or lemon juice.
3. Using a hand blender, start mixing at high speed until the garlic is fully pureed into a loose paste.
4. Little by little, add what’s left of the olive oil as you continue blending.
5. If the mixture appears too thick as you begin pouring the oil, add 1 teaspoon of water to loosen the sauce.
6. Continue adding the oil and blending until you have a rich, creamy allioli.
7. The sauce will be a lovely yellow color.
8. Add salt to taste.

José’s tips for modern recipe:
(1) If you do not have access to a hand blender, you can use a hand mixer (the kind with the two beaters) or a food processor. If you use a food processor, you must double the recipe or the amount will be too little for the blades to catch and emulsify.
(2) What happens if the oil and egg separate? Don’t throw it out. You can do two things. One is to whisk it and use it as a side sauce for a fish or vegetable. But if you want to rescue the allioli, take 1 tablespoon of lukewarm water in another beaker and start adding to the mix little by little. Blend it again until you create the creamy sauce you wanted.

I made the Allioli moderna because I do not own a mortar & pestle. Whipping up a mayo was faster than grinding up garlic and I was making dinner for a few hungry men.

Last minute addition: Audax Artifex, my fellow Daring Cook, insert a forum exchange regarding the colour of the Allioli and why everybody’s allioli colour slightly differentiate from each other. I did a minor research and found out why. Click HERE to go to Audax’s blog and read about it and also see his creative ways with this month’s challenge (his idea, which I love btw)


1. Cut the cuttlefish in little strips.
2. Add 1 or 2 tablespoon of olive oil in a frying pan and put the cuttlefish in the pan.
3. If you use fresh artichokes, clean them as shown in the video in tip #7. Cut artichokes in eights.
4. Clean the mushrooms and cut them in fourths.
5. Add a bay leaf to the cuttlefish and add also the artichokes and the mushrooms.
6. Sauté until we get a golden color in the artichokes.
7. Put a touch of white wine so all the solids in the bottom of the get mixed, getting a more flavorful dish.
8. Add a couple or three tablespoons of sofregit and mix to make sure everything gets impregnated with the sofregit.
9. Add all the liquid and bring it to boil.
10. Add all the rice. Let boil for about 5 minutes in heavy heat.
11. Add some saffron thread to enrich the dish with its flavor and color. Stir a little bit so the rice and the other ingredients get the entire flavor. If you’re using turmeric or yellow coloring, use only 1/4 teaspoon.
12. Turn to low heat and boil for another 8 minutes (or until rice is a little softer than “al dente”)
13. Put the pan away from heat and let the rice stand a couple of minutes.


Here, I replaced artichokes with asparagus as I do not eat artichokes nor does W and there was no point in buying something and have to spend the time to prepare them when no one are going to eat them. I also uses Thai Jasmine Rice instead of the spanish rice as I could not find any type of short grain rice in the few supermarkets that is around my area and I am not about to go really far for the rice. The jasmine rice lent a lovely fragrance to the dish and it has also managed to absorb the liquid lovingly and yet not becoming mushy.

Olga’s Tips:
(1) In Spain, rice is not stired as often as it is when cooking Italian risotto. You must stir it once or twice maximum. This tip is valid for all Spanish rice dishes like paella, arròs negre, arròs a banda…
(2) When cooking the alternative style you can change the cuttlefish or squid for diced potato.
(3) If you can’t find cuttlefish or squid, or you’re not able to eat them because of allergies, you can try to substitute them for chicken or vegetables at your choice.
(4) Sofregit can be done in advance. You can keep it in the fridge or even freeze it.
(5) For more information on how to clean and remove the heart of artichokes, please watch this video
(6) To watch how Jose Andres cooks this dish click here.
(7) For more information on how to clean and remove the heart of artichokes, please watch this video
(8) To tone down the taste when you do it by hand in a mortar, then add an egg yolk. If you want to tone it down in the alternative way use milk or soy milk. Anyway, the best alternative way is the original oil and garlic alone.
(9) Allioli must be consumed during the preparation day and preserved in the fridge before using it.
(10) For help on conversion on metric to imperial, visit this page.


Overall, I had a lovely experience with this dish, and I do not like the cuttlefish in this dish, all that ate the dish found it fishy and I would prefer it with browned chicken slices or with mixed seafood and using a prawn stock rather than fish stock. You can also try to cook the artichoke (should you use) with the sofrito a la barigoule and add into the dish for a more flavourful dish. The sofrito is really lovely and versatile, in the forums, all the daring cooks that participated are so inventive and has used the dish or part of the dish and reinterpret it in so many forms. A note about the allioli, it is very powerful! Don’t say I didn’t warn you first! 😀


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