As I mentioned in my previous post, I recently got my passport renewed. The last time that I had to do that was four years ago when I was headed to Australia as part of a University exchange program. I find it almost impossible to believe that it was so long ago that I was enjoying soaking up the Australian sun, playing beach volleyball at the University of Queensland in Brisbane and taking weekend trips to Byron Bay. I have some great memories of my time in Australia and ever since have had quite the soft spot for Aussies. Especially tall, adorable Australian chefs like Curtis Stone. And before any of you try to tell me I’m being suckered in by a pretty face and charming accent, the man can seriously cook and has the background to prove it. Long before I discovered him on his TLC show, Take Home Chef, Curtis was working as head chef in several Michelin-starred restaurants in London. So there.
His newest book, Relaxed Cooking with Curtis Stone: Recipes to Put You in My Favourite Mood, contains approachable recipes gathered under chapters with titles like Brunch That Will Blow Their Minds, Something to Eat on the Sofa and Sweet Dreams. Given my recent brunch party, affinity for eating on the sofa and everything sweet, I definitely approve of his choices. The book is also full of gorgeous pictures of almost every recipe and quite a few of Curtis too. I think I could have made anything from this book and been pretty happy. The only thing that would have made it better were if I ran into Curtis at the supermarket while gathering ingredients and he came home to cook with me. That’s practically reason enough to move to L.A. and hang out excessively at Whole Foods. Or to move to Australia and find someone just like him, (ha, as if anyone could be as great as Curtis Stone…). I even tried to get Chef to hire an Aussie at work but so far my pleas have gone unanswered. Maybe my wonderful blog readers should start a letter writing campaign to Chef in support of my need to have Aussies in the kitchen…
A few notes on the recipes I made…
Brownie Cupcakes: Truly a cross between a brownie and cupcake and frosted with a chocolate cream cheese frosting, these went over very well. The frosting received extra compliments and I used the leftovers to top banana muffins and my fingers.
Steamed Mussels with Chorizo and White Wine: Mussels are a weekly affair at my house and this version got high praise. The sprinkling of fresh cilantro on top was a great addition.
Wild Mushroom, Spinach and Goat Cheese Tarts: I took these with me to my brunch potluck and was pleased with how they looked and tasted. Andrea went back for more of this tart over the caramel/pecan/chocolate tart, so it must have been alright.
Seafood Wonton Soup: Wonton soup, like mussels, is something I used to think couldn’t easily be made at home. Although slightly time consuming to fill wonton wrappers, (don’t overfill!) it’s not difficult by any means and the results are better than most places you can buy it at. Certainly worth making again.
Brownie Cupcakes (from Relaxed Cooking with Curtis Stone: Recipes to Put You in My Favourite Mood)
6 ounces good quality bittersweet chocolate, (60-70% cacao). Chopped
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon Lyle’s Golden Syrup or light corn syrup
Pinch of salt
¾ cup sugar
2 large eggs
½ cup all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
2/3 cup coarsely chopped walnuts
4 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1/3 cup Lyle’s Golden Syrup or light corn syrup
4 ounces good quality bittersweet chocolate, (60-70% cacao). Chopped
To make the cupcakes: Position an oven rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350F. Line a standard cupcake tin with 8 paper cupcake liners. Stir the chocolate and butter in a small heavy saucepan over low heat until they melt and the mixture is smooth. Stir in the syrup and salt. Remove from the heat and set aside.
Using an electric mixer, beat the sugar and eggs in a large bowl for 2 minutes or until the mixture is thick and light. Stir in the chocolate mixture. Add the flour and baking powder, and stir just until blended; then stir in the walnuts. Divide the batter equally among the cupcake liners, filling them completely. Bake for about 25 minutes, or until the cupcakes puff and crack on top and a skewer inserted into the center of one comes out with fudgy crumbs attached. Remove the cupcakes from the tin and let them cool completely on a wire rack.
To frost the cupcakes: Using an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese in a large bowl until it is light and smooth. Beat in the syrup. Place the chocolate in another bowl and set the bowl over a small pot of simmering water. Stir constantly until the chocolate melts. Add the melted chocolate to the cream cheese mixture and beat until bended and fluffy, stopping the machine and scraping the bottom of the bowl to ensure that the mixture is well blended. Spread the frosting generously over the cooled cupcakes.