Strawberries for Megan (Feasting on Art recipe contest)

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The blogosphere is quite an amazing place when you stop to think about it. Since starting this blog, I’ve learnt so many new things and “met” so many amazing and talented bloggers along the way.

As a relative newcomer to the scene, trying to find a niche is a daunting prospect. What have I got to offer that might set me apart from the other 146,000,000 (and counting) food blogs out there? I don’t really know the answer to this, but there’s one blogger who has definitely made her mark in the most ingenious way. I’m talking about Megan from Feasting on Art (the title of this post may have given it away), who offers a fabulous mix of stunning photography, interesting art tidbits and of course delectable recipes. Do I sound like a fan? Heck yeah! The first time Megan left a comment on my little blog, I was giddy with excitement - the cool kid at school talked to ME!

And do you know what I find hard to believe? Feasting on Art is not even a year old yet. It turns one in April, and to celebrate, Megan has put together a recipe contest, with the theme Strawberries. The deadline is March 27th ,  there are a few days yet to enter so put your thinking caps on. Visit this link to find out more.

Without further ado, here’s my entry of a lemon shortbread decorated with fresh pistachios and honeyed yoghurt, topped with a dried strawberry “flower”. I wanted to try and create something visually appealing as an homage to Megan’s blog – hopefully it does her justice.

Happy first blogoversary Megan ☺

Strawberry “flower”
Make this part first as it keeps in an airtight container for a day or two. Plan to do this when you are doing other baking so that you can utilise the preheating and cooling down heat of the oven.

It’s pretty simple to make really, just draw some circles on a piece of baking paper, flip over onto a baking tray and use as a guide to arrange thinly sliced strawberries on it. The thinner the better. Make sure the strawberries overlap to help them stick together.

Place baking tray in a very low oven (I started at about 75 ˚C), and leave until the strawberries are dehydrated. Alternatively, after about an hour or so, I put the tray on the very bottom rack when I needed to turn the oven temp up, then after I finished baking, I turned off the oven, put the strawberries on the middle rack and left them in there to dry out overnight.

Carefully peel off strawberries, and store between clean sheets of baking paper in an airtight container. The strawberry flavours will be beautifully concentrated and the texture will be a bit like fruit leather.

Lemon shortbread
(adapted from this basic recipe)
250g butter (room temperature)
¼ cup (about 25g) rice flour
265g plain flour
100g caster sugar
dash of vanilla extract
zested rind from 1 medium lemon
1 tbsp lemon juice

Beat butter and sugar together until light and creamy, about 2 minutes if using electric hand beaters. Add the vanilla, lemon rind and lemon juice, beat until well combined. Add the rice flour, beat until well mixed. Scrape down side of bowl and clean off the beaters using a spatula. Fold and mix the flour into the mixture in the bowl, using the spatula. Scrape and flatten and fold is the best way to describe it.  Do this until the mixture forms a soft dough (it will be very soft).

Scrape the mix onto a square of plastic wrap set on the bench top, flatten into a disc, wrap well and refrigerate until solid enough to handle (about an hour or more).

Preheat the oven to about 160˚C. Roll out half the disc onto a lightly floured surface, cut into desired shapes (don’t forget to flour the cutters too), then bake for about half an hour or until cooked and golden. Repeat with the other half of the disc. The dough is very soft, so dust with flour as needed.

Leave biscuits to cool for 5 mins or so, then transfer to a wire rack to finish cooling. Be careful, the shortbread will be very fragile so use a fish slice or large offset spatula to transfer from baking tray to wire rack.

Store in an airtight container.

Yoghurt with fresh pistachios
I dithered for ages trying to decide between using thick cream or yoghurt, but settled on yoghurt because the shortbread is already so rich.

The fresh pistachios were an impulse buy from the greengrocers. The texture of a fresh pistachio is almost like a raw pea, and the flavour isn’t that pronounced, with an almost milky aftertaste. The darn things require a lot of effort to peel so I wouldn’t use them very often. But for novelty value and sheer prettiness I’d buy them again. They’d do well stirred through rice dishes or salads I think. (On an arty note, green is the complementary colour to red).

¼ cup shelled fresh pistachios (could probably substitute dried, but the texture would be altered) – minced finely
about 3 tablespoon thick Greek style yoghurt, depending on taste
about 1 ½ tablespoons honey (again depending on taste)

Stir all the ingredients together and set aside in the fridge.

When ready to assemble, place a shortbread on a plate, dollop the yoghurt on top, then finish with the strawberry flower. Ta-dah! Serve immediately or the shortbread might go soggy.


Barbara said...

Shaz, your strawberry flowers are magnificent! I can't wait to try this. Your entire dish is full of different flavors and would be such fun to serve to company!

Trissa said...

The strawberry flowers are just inspiring! I'd love to try get them into a powder form next maybe?? Hope you win the contest - especially with such a fantastic entry!

grace said...

shaz. these. are. GORGEOUS. stunning! exquisite! brilliant! seriously, i'm in awe of their delicate and beautiful appearance--nicely done!

The Cooking Photographer said...

Hi Shaz!

Weird I thought I was following you, but I wasn't. Oh well I added you now.

I'm almost as new as you. I had no idea there were that man food bloggers out there. Yikes! We are a big bunch. Hard to wrap the mind around.

I've never been to "Feasting On Art" but it sounds like a blog I'd love. Heading there next.

Your first picture is really neat. It's sort of like a Chihuly glass in Strawberries. The strawberry lemon shortbreads are beautiful. I hope you win.


sarah @ syrupandhoney said...

The strawberry leather is beautiful! Also, thanks for sharing the photos of fresh pistachios - never seen those before.

Xiao Yen Recipes said...

I agree with you in that I, too, have learned so much from other talented food bloggers. Dinner idea is just a click away. Love your shortbread recipe btw. I haven't never seen fresh pistachios but I think my local health food store should have them.

Heavenly Housewife said...

Those strawberry flowers look absolutely amazing. So clever!
My new blog went up today and I am so excited. Stop by and check out my brand new and improved site daaaahling. I want to know what you think. I'm also doing a fab give away.
*kisses* HH

Esi said...

So pretty! I tried to dry strawberries the other day, but that them sliced too thick. I'll have to try again.

Vanille said...

Oh, your fresh pistachios make me really curious.
And a lovely gift for Megan's blog anniversary !

MaryMoh said...

I love those strawberry flowers....look so beautiful! You are just so creative!

msmeanie said...

Wow! That is really a lovely lake. Truly looks like art. :)

3 hungry tummies said...

You have created a piece of art yourself, I always think your format does stand out from many other blogs!

shaz said...

Thanks everyone, you are too kind. I always feel a little sheepish when something that took me almost no effort garners such a response :)

Barbara - the kids were very impressed when I put a half-palte in front of them, complete silence then descended!

Trissa - thanks Trissa, I was thinking about powder but I think the drying time would have been too long for me to stand!

grace - thanks heaps.

The Cooking Photographer/Laura - Why thanks. Actually I don't know how accurate the figure is, I typed the word "food blog" into google. I'm sure there are irrelevant results and double ups but that's still a big number huh?

sarah @ syrupandhoney - I'd only seen the fresh pistachios once before, I think it's a hard nut to sell because no one really knows what to do with them (myself included).

Xiao Yen Recipes - Thanks, and yes, I too love surfing for recipes.

Heavenly Housewife - Thanks you dah-ling, oooh, the unveiling of the new blog, I'll be there in two shakes.

Esi - thanks! That was the most tedious part - the slicing. My knife skills are very poor (plus I have shockingly blunt knives)

Vanille - I was so curious about the pistachios too.

MaryMoh - thanks for the kind words :)

msmeanie - ha ha , not sure about art, but glad you liked it

3 hungry tummies - thanks for that, very kind words from uber-blogger like yourself. Very flattering :D

Hungry Dog said...

This is amazing--of course!! I'm a big fan of Megan's blog too, and I think you did a great job in your homage to hers! Plus I want to eat this. Now.

SUSANNA said...


Isabelle said...

Your strawberry flowers are absolutely gorgeous! Hope you win the contest!

Kitchen Butterfly said...

I love the strawberry flowers.........and the shortbread sounds delish!!!!!!!1

Mark @ Cafe Campana said...

Shaz, you have clearly put in heaps of effort to create something special here. The inclusion of the fresh pistachios makes it extra special.

shaz said...

Hungry Dog - thansk Hungry Dog (I'm a fan of your blog too but you already know that) :)

SUSANNA - nice to meet you, thanks for visiting

Isabelle - thanks Isabelle!

Kitchen Butterfly - I was actually really pleased at how well the shortbread turned out, always a bit nervouse when I adapt an untested recipe without quite knowing if it will work.

Mark - G'day Mark, lovely to meet you and glad I foudn your blog :)

Lorraine @NotQuiteNigella said...

Bravo Shaz! What a creative idea - your strawberry flowers are so clever! :O

diva said...

Thanks for commenting on The Sugar Bar, shaz! So sweet of you :) These strawberry flowers are an artpiece. Truly beautiful. x

lostpastremembered said...

Wow, I love the design and texture of those flowers. Megan will feel honored with such a contribution to her contest. Finding a niche may be difficult.. but it seems you have found your niche and your groove!

shaz said...

Thanks Lorraine and Diva _ gasp! More cool kids talking to me :D
(Don't fret now , I think you ALL are cool!)

Thanks a bunch lostpastremembered, very kind words indeed.

dessert girl said...

I love, love, love that strawberry flower! And the recipe sounds delicious!

Jade said...

oh wow..that strawberry doilly is so pretty! and genius too! :)

Joanne said...

megan has definitely done a great job setting herself apart in the blogger world.

I love your dehydrated strawberries centerpiece. They are so aesthetically pleasing.