Monday, 29 December 2008

Caramello Ice Cream Sauce

There's not a lot of cooking going on here at the moment, but last night I melted a block of Caramello chocolate with a little bit of cream, and poured it over some ice cream. Yum!

Monday, 22 December 2008

Pistachio Biscotti

I've always been impressed by people who can make their own almond bread or biscotti, and thought it would be really difficult to do. It's actually very easy, it just takes a little while because you cook them twice.

I followed a Bill Granger recipe, and supposedly they will last for a month in an airtight container - but I don't know how anyone ever manages to keep them that long. Oli helped me with the flour sieving and stirring.

First you beat eggs and caster sugar together for 3 mins with an electric hand-mixer, and sieve in flour. Mix in until almost combined, then stir in almonds and pistachios. Form into a dough with your hands, divide into two and on lightly floured board, make each half into a 15 to 20 cm loaf. Transfer to a baking sheet and flatten to 2 cm thick. Bake 20 cm until firm (see above) and cool completely.

When cool, cut into 7 mm-thick slices and bake at 120 C for 20 min, turning over once. Cool completely on wire rack.

Very easy to make, and the bit I thought would go wrong (cutting the loaves into slices) was no problem.

150 g caster sugar
2 eggs
350 g plain flour
50 g shelled pistachios
50 g whole almonds

Two of the biscotti looked like little shocked faces - a bit like the biscuit version of the painting "The Scream"!

Sunday, 21 December 2008

White Milk Loaf

Another 'Apples for Jam' recipe - a soft white loaf. Having bought some fresh yeast I wanted to try it out in a plain loaf to see if it tastes better than the bread made with instant yeast.

You start by mixing the yeast with honey and warm milk, then leave for 10 minutes. Stir in bread flour, a beaten egg, butter (and a I added a handful of unprocessed bran which is not in the recipe but I think it adds a bit of body to white bread). Knead for a few mins, in the bowl if it's sticky, then cover and leave to rise for one and a half to two hours. Punch down the dough, put on a baking sheet or in a loaf tin, cover and leave for 45 - 60 mins. Brush with flour and cook for around 25 mins on 190 C until loaf is hollow-sounding when knocked on base.

This is a lovely soft loaf, and the fresh yeast is so much better than the instant! The bread tastes more 'bready' and has a fuller flavour, and doesn't have the slightly vinegary tang that the instant yeast seems to give.

250 ml milk, warmed so it's comfortable to your fingers
15 g fresh yeast, crumbled or 7 g active dry yeast
1 tsp honey
450 g bread flour (and a handful of bran if you like)
1 egg, lightly beaten
40 g butter, melted

Friday, 19 December 2008

Chocolate Loaf

Another recipe from 'Apples for Jam' - chocolate loaf is a bread, not a cake. It's made in the same way as an ordinary loaf of bread, but has cocoa powder added.

I managed to buy some fresh yeast recently, and this is the first time I've cooked with it since school cookery lessons! I wanted to see how it compares with the instant yeast, which is what I have been using.

For this bread, the yeast is crumbled into a large bowl, caster sugar and hand-hot milk are added, and this is left for 10 mins or so, until the yeast has frothed a little. Flour and cocoa powder (I sieved mine because it was a bit lumpy) and melted butter are mixed in to make a dough. Knead until smooth, then cover and leave in a warm place for one and a half to two hours until risen. Knock back, form into a loaf shape on a tray, or put in a buttered loaf tin, cover and leave for 30 mins to 1 hour then cook at 180 C for 25 mins or so until hollow when base us knocked.

15 g fresh yeast
40 g caster sugar
310 ml milk
400 g bread flour with a pinch of salt
40 g cocoa powder
40 g butter, melted

This made a beautiful-looking chocolate-coloured loaf, with a distinctive cocoa flavour. It's not at all sweet, and almost bitter. The book suggests you eat it at breakfast time with butter or jam, and to warn people that it's not a cake so they're not expecting sweetness. I'll have some in the morning for breakfast and see what everyone else makes of it, as I'm the only one who's tried it so far!

PS It's not particularly popular around here! It really needs to be eaten with butter and a tart-tasting jam such as marmalade, which to me makes it taste wonderful. I'll be freezing the rest and eating it myself I think.

Cheese and Pineapple Hedgehog

I made this in October for a birthday party just for fun, as I remember when I was a child (in the '70s) there was always one of these at a party.

But if you want to see a much more spectacular Christmas version, visit Sally's blog here

Tuesday, 16 December 2008

Mincemeat Slices

This recipe is in in Delia Smith's Christmas, and is great if you want to make mince pies but can't quite bring yourself to make pastry.

You melt butter in a big pan, turn off heat, then stir in brown sugar. Mix in wholemeal flour and porridge oats, then firmly press half the mixture into a buttered pan. I used a square Pyrex dish and buttered and lined it with a strip of baking paper to make lifting the slice out easier. Smooth over a layer of fruit mince, then press over the other half of the oat/butter mixture. Cook in a 200 C oven for 20 mins or until the top is lightly browned. Cut into 12 pieces but don't remove them from the dish until they are cool.

150 g butter
75 g soft brown sugar
225 g wholewheat flour
110 g porridge oats
225 g mincemeat

Tuesday, 2 December 2008

Baked Agnolotti and Vegetables

Time for a savoury dish after all those sweet things. This uses bought fresh pasta, and you can use whichever filled pasta you like. Today I used ricotta and spinach agnolotti which works really well.

Cook a finely chopped onion, and any other vegies you have hanging around, in a medium pan. Depending on what they are, and how long they will take to cook, you can finely chop them (zucchini, sweet potato, broccoli stalks, bok choy, red capsicum, mushrooms etc) and add them to the onion, or steam them first before adding them (green beans, broccoli, chopped carrot etc). Today I had some sweet potato and broccoli.

Stir in a jar of tomato passata, add salt, pepper, a little sugar and some herbs. Meanwhile cook the pasta and drain it, reserving a cupful of the cooking water in case it's needed to thin the sauce. Return the pasta to its pan, stir in the tomato/vegetable sauce. Tip into a baking dish and top with grated cheese. Cook in a medium hot oven for about 15 mins until cheese is golden.

Wednesday, 26 November 2008

Spice Men

They look like gingerbread men, but as there's no ginger in them I have to call them 'spice men'. I add cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves for flavour, and they taste like Dutch biscuits - the ones that often have flaked almonds embedded on one side. (spekulaas or something like that?)

I love to make these because you can make the dough in one saucepan, so not much cleaning up to do afterwards. You melt brown sugar, golden syrup, spices and a little water in a medium saucepan, bring it to the boil then turn off the heat. Add butter and some bicarb until melted and combined. Then stir in flour until you get a dough. Cover and cool the dough and then roll it out with more flour. Use cutters to make shapes. The dough is easy to use, so it's good for children to help with.

When it was Oli's birthday I made 40 or so little spice men (by doubling the recipe) to send to pre school with him so all the children and teachers could eat one after their lunch.

75 g soft brown sugar
3 tbsp golden syrup
1 tbsp water
a sprinkling of spices - cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves - or ginger if you prefer
95 g butter, cut up
1/2 level tsp bicarb
225 g plain flour

Cook at 180 c for 8 - 12 mins depending on size and thickness, until slightly golden.

Friday, 21 November 2008

Jam Drops

These are really old-fashioned, un-fancy biscuits that I imagine people's grannies might make for them! They're the sort of biscuits that children really like. Crispy, light and sweet.

After beating together butter and sugar, you mix in an egg and some vanilla extract, then stir in flour. It makes a non-sticky dough that's easy to handle, so would be great for children to help with. Put 2 tsp blobs of dough spaced apart on a baking sheet, then make an indentation in the top of each biscuit and dab a little jam in.

Cook for about 12 min on 190 C then cool on tray.

125 g butter
1/2 cup caster sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/3 cups SR flour
jam (eg raspberry, apricot)

Wednesday, 19 November 2008

Lemon and Blueberry Yogurt Cake

I was at home with the children again today, so had plenty of time to cook. I made a Cottage Pie for dinner, and while it was cooking I made this cake to use up the rest of the Greek yogurt I had in the fridge.

I tore the recipe out of an Australian Women's Weekly magazine ages ago and haven't got around to trying it until now. The original recipe doesn't have blueberries, but I bought some a couple of days ago and thought they might go well in this cake.

It's one of those cakes where you beat everything together in a mixing bowl - then you pour it into a greased and floured bundt tin, and cook at 180 C for an hour.


335 g SR flour
330 g caster sugar
3 eggs, beaten lightly
280 g Greek yogurt
180 ml veg oil
2 tsp finely grated lemon zest
80 ml lemon juice
punnet of blueberries (if using)

This is a really lovely cake! Very light and fluffy, not overly sweet, slight lemony tang, (I didn't have as much lemon juice as specified in the recipe so only added about 40 ml) - and the blueberries go really well. Will definitely be making this again, especially as it is so easy to do.

Tuesday, 18 November 2008

Smartie Cookies

I had all three boys at home with me today, we all have colds and felt pretty awful. If I had been on my own I probably would have spent the day in bed, but I couldn't do that today because the bed would have ended up covered in whingy children. So instead I decided to make some cookies.

I can't remember where I got this recipe, but the idea is that the cookies are soft rather than crunchy. They are simple to make, very sweet and chewy and very popular!

100 g butter, soft
100 g soft brown sugar
1 tbsp golden syrup
150 g SR flour (plus a handful of quick-cook oats because I always do this!)
90 g Smarties

Beat together butter and sugar until creamy, then beat in syrup. Stir in half the flour and the oats, then stir in the Smarties to the remaining flour and stir that in too. Divide dough into 14 balls, place well apart on baking sheet, do not flatten. Cook 180 C for 12 mins until pale golden. Cool on tray, then on rack.

Monday, 17 November 2008

Apple and Orange Frozen Yogurt

The original name of this recipe was 'Apple and Rosemary Frozen Yogurt' from a book called 'Ice Cream!' - I wanted to try it because the ingredients and method appealed to me, but I just couldn't bring myself to put the rosemary sprigs in! So instead of rosemary I added a few strips of orange zest.

The first step is to bring to the boil in a saucepan: 200 ml water, 300 ml apple juice (I used good quality cloudy apple juice from the refrigerated section), 150 g caster sugar, and orange zest strips (or rosemary sprigs if you're braver than me) then simmer for 5 minutes. Cool completely then whisk in 200 g Greek yogurt.

I would say you should then refrigerate the mixture until chilled, before churning it in an ice cream maker, especially if you've got a freezy-bowl maker like I have - I was in a hurry to use the noisy machine before the children's bed time, so I didn't do any chilling and it took ages to freeze.

The result is a light, fruity frozen yogurt, very much like a sorbet. The apple is the stronger flavour with a slight hint of orange. This would be great to eat on a very hot day.

Thursday, 13 November 2008

Berry and Buttermilk Cake

This is another recipe from 'Apples For Jam'. In the book it's made with blueberries, but strawberries are suggested as an alternative. Blueberries were a bit expensive when I was at the shops yesterday, so I decided to use strawberries.

The cake is like a muffin mixture with the wet ingredients stirred gently into the dry and then spread into a baking pan. Fruit is scattered over and then a sprinkling of demarara sugar. I pressed the fruit pieces into the surface which I think was a good idea because they blended with the cake.

This is a good cake to eat with a cup of tea or coffee if you don't want anything that's too sweet or overbearing. The lemon zest and buttermilk give a mild tangy flavour to the base and the strawberries and demarara give sweetness on the top. Good for lunchboxes because it's not crumbly and only a little bit sticky.

2.5 cups flour (I used wholemeal for the half cup) and 3 tsp baking powder
90 g sugar
ground nutmeg
2 eggs, whisked well
250 ml buttermilk
60 g butter, melted
1 tsp lemon zest
150 g fruit (blueberries or strawberries)
demarara sugar to sprinkle
(greased and lined 30 x 20 x 5 cm pan) cook at 200 deg C for about 25 mins

Tuesday, 11 November 2008

Watermelon Boats on Blue Jelly Sea

This was made by Oli and me today, and was inspired by Play School (on TV yesterday morning). The grapes are sailors and the mint leaves are flags on the boats!

Sunday, 9 November 2008

Buttermilk Ice Cream

I saw this recipe on the We Don't Have a Blog Blog, made by Coby. It's a Tessa Kiros recipe from 'Apples For Jam'. I've borrowed this book from the library before, and now I've ordered it from the Book Depository (early birthday present!)

You whisk together 250 ml single cream and 200 g caster sugar until the cream thickens a bit, then add 1 tsp vanilla extract and 500 ml buttermilk. Churn it up in an ice cream maker and put it in the freezer to harden.

It makes a tangy, fresh-tasting ice cream which is perfect with fruit. Everyone else had chocolate topping and hundreds-and-thousands with theirs though!

Breakfast Bars

This is adapted from the Breakfast Bar recipe in Nigella Express, which interested me because it uses condensed milk to bind everything together, rather than fat. You warm the condensed milk in a pan and then stir in oats, shredded coconut, dried cranberries, peanuts, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds and sesame seeds.

I halved the recipe and instead of pressing the mixture into a baking pan to cook it, I used cake papers as I don't seem to have much luck making bars - they are either too hard or too crumbly.

Other changes I made were to use dried currants in place of some of the cranberries (because I didn't have enough for the recipe), and I used chopped cashews instead of the peanuts.

These were really tasty - I thought they were a bit sickly at first because of the sweetness of the milk and the coconut. But the next day when they were completely cool, the sweetness was less obvious. These are great for lunchboxes so I'll be making them again. It would also be very easy to adapt to whatever seeds/nuts/dried fruit you happened to have.

Wednesday, 5 November 2008

Bara Brith

before cooking (above)

Sarah sent me this recipe for Bara Brith (Welsh fruit cake). You soak dried fruit in tea in a large bowl overnight, then sift in flour and spice, mix in sugar and lightly beaten egg, cook for one and a half hours at 150 deg C, and then supposedly store for at least 2 days before eating (no chance!!)

500 g mixed dried fruit and peel (I used just sultanas and currants)
300 ml strong hot tea
250 g self-raising flour
1 tsp mixed spice
125 g dark brown muscovado sugar (I used 70 g soft brown sugar)
1 egg

It's lovely and squidgy and fruity. At the moment it's still warm and the outside is crusty. Would be lovely as a Christmas cake for people who find traditional Christmas cake too heavy and rich. Later I'm going to try a slice spread with butter.

Monday, 3 November 2008

Strawberry Shortcakes

One of the reasons for doing this food blog is to encourage the boys to cook and have an interest in food.

This is a recipe from 'How to be a Domestic Goddess' - or in this case Domestic God - as it was made by Richard.

Banana Buttermilk Pancakes

I had some buttermilk hanging around in the fridge, and decided to use it to make some banana buttermilk pancakes (Bill Granger recipe).

I usually make little plain pikelets, so I made some of these too in case the banana ones weren't popular (they are the smoother ones at the back of the plate).

The batter for the buttermilk pancakes was very thick so I added some milk. I also decided to make them small so they'd be more manageable.

They had an interesting tangy flavour because of the buttermilk, and the banana tasted good (you add slices to the top of each pancake then add more batter before turning), but I had trouble browning them. I have much more success with making the normal pikelets, and the boys prefer them (they add jam, syrup or lemon and sugar) so I'll just stick to them in future!

PS Banana pancakes taste nice cold the next day! Have just found a Nigella recipe for banana pancakes where the banana is mashed and added to the batter, which sounds like a better idea.

Wednesday, 29 October 2008

Oaty Biscuits

I make these quite often for the boys to take to school. They're adapted from a Linda McCartney recipe, and they contain sultanas and pecans, and plenty of oats.

Very quick and easy to make, especially if you get someone to mix for you while you tip the ingredients into the bowl (thanks Richard!)

Banana Breakfast Ring

This is really tasty (also from 'Feast'). It's a good way to use up overripe bananas, and it uses oil instead of butter. There is also some lemon juice and zest in it, which makes it less sweet than some other banana cakes/breads, and adds a nice tang. Very easy to make, you add wet ingredients to dry, so it's like making a big muffin.

Would be good for breakfast as it's not overly sweet, but good for any time of day.


Yesterday's afternoon tea

Sometimes I cut up some fruit for afternoon tea and it is just perfect - perfectly ripe and sweet and beautiful, just like this seedless watermelon.

Entered into 'Click' photo competition at Jugalbandi

Ritzy Chicken Nuggets

Before cooking...

...and after cooking.

This is a recipe from 'Feast' that I've wanted to try for a while, but in the book it says to fry the nuggets, which put me off a bit (not for health reasons - more because of mess and smell!)

But I've discovered you can cook them in the oven instead, so that's what I did. You soak cut-up chicken breast in buttermilk overnight, to make the meat tender, then dip them in crumbed Ritz (or similar) crackers, then cook them.

They really were very tender - no chewiness at all, and the outside was slightly crunchy, although not as strongly flavoured as I would have expected. Nice dipped in sauce though. Healthier than bought nuggets, and good for the kiddies!

Saturday, 25 October 2008

Sparkly Cut-out Biscuits

I found this in my photo file - I made them a few months ago. These are the biscuits I decorated before the boys had their turn with the icing etc. (It's not as easy as it looks, dealing with icing - that's why they look a bit blobby.)

I didn't take photos of the ones they made, but they were very creative with the colours and generous with the sprinkles, so I think you can imagine what they looked like!

Banana Smoothies

Banana smoothies made with bananas and milk (and a little bit of honey because the bananas weren't quite ripe enough to have the full bananary sweetness). If I have ice cream I add some, but I think they are more refreshing without.

Friday, 24 October 2008

Birthday Cakes

I wanted to add these here as well as on my family blog, because I think they are so pretty! Even though I do say so myself ;o)

I let the boys choose the type of cake they have for their birthday. Oli is still at the 'chocolate cake with Smarties' stage which is great because you can immediately tell from photos which year it was! The cake had been made at home and then transported to 'Nan's' house, which meant the '5' had slid a bit. The icing I like to use is a bit too thin for embedding Smarties, but it does taste very good!

Stuart was more specific and asked for butterfly cakes, fruit and cut-out biscuits.


This recipe is from 'Feast' by Nigella Lawson. I made the choc/peanut version but used almonds instead of peanuts because I'm not a fan of raw peanuts.

Very popular with the boys, and the cocoa powder adds a nice "Coco Pops" style choc hint to the milk without making it too chocolatey.

I add sultanas to mine when I eat it because I love sultanas.

Will be making this again but probably without the cocoa next time.