A couple of years ago one of The Ladies Who Brunch – who I think I will call Ms Thermomix (as she has one and I am so envious!) – hosted an Iron Chef event. The way it worked we all had to bring a course that showcased the secret ingredient ‘citrus’ – and though we did not judge our dishes we all had a ball gorging ourselves on zesty flavours!
So, zoom ahead a couple of years and the group was reminiscing over (yes you guessed it) brunch – when Miss Thermomix suggested that it was time for another Iron Chef challenge – this time ‘mint’ would be the ingredient. I’m not sure if I can get across in words how excited I got with this – perhaps a YIPEE or two slipped past my lips… indeed I was excited about being able to use my mint…
I am going to backtrack a little to explain the mint situation (I wouldn’t want anyone to think I had an unusual mint fetish) – about a year ago my flat mate (Ms Taste Tester, aka Ms TT) and I were independently playing Plants versus Zombies when it occurred to us that, aside from being incredible antisocial by choosing to play the game rather than talking, the time and energy we were both putting into nurturing our virtual zen gardens would probably be better spent on some real plants… in fact, I think that we felt we needed to real garden to validate having our zen gardens… thus began our herb garden. By the time the weekend came around and after an interesting conversation with a shop assistant that had us exasperatedly trying to explain that we could NOT move our balcony so that it could get a northerly sun (a story for another day), we headed excitedly home with plants, pots and potting mix…
Amongst our herb purchases were three pots of mint. I will concede that we may have been a little too enthusiastic (does anyone really need THAT much mint) – but, who could resist the fluffy apple mint or the every-so-fancy Mint Julep mint (I know that you are nodding in agreement right now)! So along with regular mint we had three types… The problem of course is we really don’t use mint three times as often as our other herbs… so back to this story the idea of being to use my multiple mint varieties had me feeling very excited.
This time around we were instructed to make two dishes (in discussing this with the other ladies, it appears that perhaps this was my fault… but I am pleading innocent) – one savoury and one sweet. Since I have an obsession with salty sweet I proclaimed that I would make both dishes salty-sweet!
I hit a snag when it came to constructing my ‘menu’ – as versatile one might think mint to be using it to challenge oneself is a whole other matter entirely. The items that came to mind were mojitos and lamb… but I wanted something more. A ‘salty sweet mint’ search did not present me with a solution, but I ended up borrowing ideas form multiple sources to come up with (I beg you all to be open minded)… Haloumi with mint jelly and watermelon salsa and basil mint pesto for my savoury dish and dark chocolate mousse with a sizzling salted mint chocolate crumb and choc-mint honeycomb for dessert.
The verdict? I think people liked it…
Other things on the menu for this mint challenge included:
- Pea and mint soup with garlic toasts
- Pho (with Vietnamese mint)
- Mint à la mer (champagne and mint oyster shots, scallops on a pea and mint pure and tuna cured with mint)
- Vietnamese spring rolls
- Beans cooked with mint
- Twice cooked chicken with mint and ginger
And for dessert:
- A smooth and creamy mint choc-chip ice cream
- The cutest mint pots
- Homemade mint slice cookies
- Pandan and mint meringues served with choc-coated, mint ganache stuffed chilies
Next time? I’m pushing for rose as the secret ingredient… what would you choose/ make?
Haloumi topped with diced watermelon and mint jelly drizzled with basil-mint oil and topped with crystalised mint
1 large egg white, slightly beaten
1 tablespoon water
1/2 cup packed fresh mint leaves
1/4 cup superfine granulated sugar
1 tbsp sea salt
In a small bowl stir together egg white or reconstituted dried whites and water and brush onto leaves to lightly coat both sides. In a bowl toss leaves with sugar mixed with flavouring and transfer to a rack. Let leaves stand about 6 hours, or until dry. Leaves may be made 1 day ahead and kept in an airtight container at room temperature.
1 cup sugar
1 cup water
1.5 cup packed fresh mint
Bring sugar and water to a boil in a small saucepan; cook until sugar dissolves. Let cool. Meanwhile, prepare an ice-water bath. Bring a small pot of water to a boil. Add mint; cook until vibrant green, about 30 seconds. Remove from water, and transfer to ice-water bath. Drain; squeeze out excess water. Puree mint and sugar syrup in a blender until smooth. Let stand for 15 minutes. Strain; discard solids. Refrigerate until cool.
175ml mint syrup
60ml white vinegar
3 sheets gold grade gelatin
green food colouring
Soak gelatin sheets in cold water for 5 minutes. Mix together the mint syrup, vinegar and water in a small saucepan and warm up on medium heat (do not boil). Squeeze out excess water from gelatin and stir into warmed liquid mixture, stir until dissolved. Add food colouring. Remove from heat and pour into baking paper-lined tray. Set in fridge.
Notes for the future though – the mint jelly was too sweet when combined with the watermelon – so I would increase proportion of vinegar and reduce the mint syrup next time.
1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped
2 tablespoons fresh mint, chopped
1 garlic clove, chopped
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
In a food processor, combine the basil, mint and the garlic and pulse until finely chopped. Add a third of the oil, process until combined. Repeat for the next two thirds. Puree until the mixture is smooth. Place the basil-mint oil in a strainer over a bowl and press to remove all the liquid. Discard the solids, and set the oil aside.
Watermelon and mint jelly salsa
50g macadamia, roasted and roughly chopped
Vinegar-Mint jelly (See recipe above)
Chop watermelon into small cubes. Cut jelly into cubes. Mix all ingredients together.
500g haloumi, sliced into half centimeter slices
Preheat a griddle pan over medium heat. Spray with oil and grill for about 3 minutes each side, flipping as needed. Grill until the sides are lightly browned and crispy.
Layer of haloumi, top with watermelon and mint jelly salsa, drizzle with basil-mint oil and decorate with crystalised mint.
Dark chocolate mousse with a sizzling salted mint chocolate crumb and choc-mint honeycomb
Melt chocolate in a double broiler. Remove from heat. In a separate bowl whip up cream until it holds it’s shape. Whisk in a generous dash of olive oil into the melted chocolate. Continue to whisk to remove the heat from the chocolate. Once the chocolate is cooled, fold the chocolate mixture into the cream.
Mint slice crumb
½ packet Arnotts mint slice
1 tsp salt
1 tbs chopped roasted macadamias
1 packet pop rocks (I used strawberry because I couldn’t get peppermint)
Crumb the mint slice biscuits in a food processor. Stir in the salt and poprocks.
Line a tray for the honeycomb to cool in with baking paper. Combine sugar, honey, glucose and water in a saucepan. Cook over high heat, stirring to dissolve and brushing down sugar crystals from sides of pan, until light blonde (~ 9 minutes, you don’t want it too dark). Remove from heat, add bicarb (the mixture will bubble up), whisking vigorously for about 5 seconds, then pour into the baking paper-lined tray. When honeycomb has cooled and hardened (20-30 minutes), break into bite-sized chunks and store in an airtight container. Honeycomb will keep for a week.