Saturday, 31 October 2009

Happy Hallowe'en

Not the scariest jack-o'-lantern in the world...

...although he looks a tiny bit more sinister in the dark.

Wednesday, 28 October 2009

Chicken and Tomato Supper

I'm not keen on the name of this dish - to me it sounds a little bit ' 70s, a little bit Margot Ledbetter or Hyacinth Bucket - but that's the name it has in my recipe book (The Dairy Book of Home Cookery).

At home I call it 'That chicken, vegetable and tomato thing' and then I'm asked: 'The thing with the breadcrumbs on?' and I say 'Yes, that's the one'.

It's a very quick and easy meal to make, and you can vary the flavours and vegetables. The original recipe used zucchini, but I only add that (chopped and added with the capsicum) if I happen to have some around. Also the original didn't include the 'bed' of vegetables, but I think they make the whole thing taste really good.

Gently fry the onion in some oil, chop up the capsicum and then add that. Cook until quite soft, then push to one side, turn up the heat, add some more oil and put in the diced chicken. Let it sizzle for a while, then turn it over until it's mostly sealed.

I cut the chicken up quite small because then the whole thing can be ready quickly and the chicken is less likely to get dry through over-cooking.

Add a jar of passata, some salt, pepper and a teaspoon of sugar. Also add some herbs like oregano, basil and parsley.

Simmer for 10 mins so that the chicken is cooked through (don't overcook). While this is happening, lightly steam some broccoli (steamed green beans work well too).

Spread the broccoli in a large baking dish and pour the chicken/tomato mixture over it. Sprinkle with breadcrumbs and grated cheese and put into a hot oven for 10 minutes to crisp the crumbs and melt the cheese.

Eat on its own with bread, or to make it go further, serve with rice.

2 chicken breast fillets, cubed
1 onion, chopped
1 red capsicum, chopped
1 jar passata (around 700 ml)
dried oregano, a couple of tbsp
small handful of fresh basil, or some dried if not available
small handful of fresh parsley if you've got some, otherwise don't bother
salt, pepper, sugar
large head of broccoli, cut into smallish florets
fresh breadcrumbs (approx 1 cup)
grated cheese (approx half a cup)

Sunday, 25 October 2009

Chocolate and Vanilla Biscuits

I suddenly decided to make these thisevening in the middle of making dinner (I sometimes get inspired at strange times) and mixed up the dough, with the children's help, and then let them make their own dessert cookie.

I found the recipe in 'Apples for Jam', and although mine don't look quite like the biscuits in the book, they were pretty good anyway.

In a large bowl, squash together the soft butter and sugar and a pinch of salt, then add the egg and vanilla. Mix in the flour, reserving 20 g for later. Quickly knead to make a soft dough. (I had to add a little more flour as the dough was very sticky and un-kneadable.)

Divide the dough into halves and to one half sift and mix in cocoa powder, and to the other half mix in the reserved 20 g of flour.

Flatten out dough into discs, cover and refrigerate for 30 mins to firm up.

On a lightly floured surface, shape dough with hands or roll out with rolling pin and cut out shapes. I gave some to my children and they had fun making their own cookie each.

Cook at 180 C for 12 - 15 mins until crisp. (I think I could have cooked mine a bit longer than I did because they were more 'doughy' than crisp - probably because they were quite thick.)

The dough spread a bit, so it would work fine with simple cutter shapes like circles, but the detail would probably be lost if more complicated shapes were cut.

These were fun and easy to make, and we decided they taste a lot like chocolate cake!

180 g butter, softened
150 g caster sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
240 g plain flour
20 g cocoa powder

Thursday, 22 October 2009

Oaty Muesli Bars

A muesli bar and a nice cup of rooibos tea.

I sometimes make these for my children to take to school. They are filling, tasty and non-sticky which makes them good for lunch or recess boxes.

Officially they are a cookie recipe, but they are easy to shape into 'bar' shapes, and they don't lose their shape as they cook. I also make a few smaller, round ones for my youngest son.

I usually make double the recipe and put some in the freezer, so they're handy to put straight into lunchboxes every now and then.

Beat butter and sugar together in a large bowl until well-mixed. Add egg and vanilla and beat in. Sift in flour, salt, sugar and cinnamon and stir in. Add oats and sultanas, and any other fruit or nuts you like, and mix.

Shape into elongated ovals on a lined baking tray (it helps if you wet your hands as it can get a bit sticky).

Bake at 180 C for 15 mins or so. Don't overcook. Allow to cool on the tray for a few minutes then transfer to a cooling rack.

They look pretty much the same after cooking, which is perfect!

50 g butter, softened
100 g light brown sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
50 g flour
pinch salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp cinnamon
100 g quick cook oats
75 g rolled oats
handful of sultanas, and any other dried fruit you like

Adapted from a Linda McCartney recipe.

Monday, 19 October 2009

Vanilla Cupcakes with Chocolate Icing

More birthday cakes - my newly 6-year-old had his birthday in the school holidays, so he missed out on taking cakes to share with his classmates.

I'm not a big fan of making (or eating) cupcakes, but I know it's a lot easier for a teacher to share small cakes around the class than to cut slices of a bigger birthday cake.

So this evening I made some cupcakes for him to take tomorrow. I made a simple cake batter from Tessa Kiros's 'Apples For Jam' (the Tiny Cakes recipe) and it produced lots of little cakes....

...lots and lots of little cakes.

I know that for most children the cake topping is the most interesting part, so I made a chocolate icing that tastes good and is really easy to make.

Melt butter and milk in a small pan. Sieve cocoa powder into a large bowl. Pour melted butter/milk mixture into the cocoa powder, add vanilla extract and stir together. Sift in icing sugar and mix well.

It starts to set as you are spreading it on the cakes, so stir in a few drops of milk as you go if it's getting too thick to work with.

There wasn't enough icing to cover all the cakes I made, but double the recipe would have done it easily.

Now I have plenty of chocolate icing and raspberry jelly sweet-topped cakes to send to class KF tomorrow (and I only needed 22!)

Chocolate Icing ingredients:
65 g butter
3 tbsp milk
25 g cocoa powder
1 tsp vanilla extract
225 g icing sugar

Friday, 16 October 2009

Chinese Pancakes

I was reading about Chinese Pancakes on George's blog and she included a link that showed how to make your own. I was suddenly inspired yesterday to give them a go.

Mix flour and sugar in a bowl, then mix in boiling water to make a sticky dough. Sprinkle more flour over the dough, and over the work surface then knead until smooth, elastic and no longer sticky. Cover and leave for half an hour.

With a floured rolling pin, roll out dough to half a centimetre thickness then cut out circles. Once cut, cover circles to avoid drying out. Re-roll leftover dough and continue cutting until used up.

Lightly brush each circle with oil, and stick circles together in pairs, oiled sides facing each other. Roll each pair of circles out with a floured rolling pin until paper thin.

Heat a pan to medium-high heat (don't add oil) then put a pancake in. Cook for about 1 1/2 minutes and then turn over and cook the other side. Some of the pancakes puffed right up like little balloons.

The idea is that you separate each pancake into two thinner pancakes while they are still warm. When separated, one side will have the cooked and slightly charred look, and the other side will be smoother and softer looking.

As I made these on the spur of the moment, I didn't have any delicious fillings prepared, but as the frying pan was already warm, Stephen had the bright idea of eating them with fried eggs as a filling. He added a sprinkle of salt to his, and to mine I added some soy sauce. Tasty!

300 g flour
1 tbsp sugar
240 ml boiling water
sesame oil for brushing (I used olive oil)

Thursday, 15 October 2009


These are the famous 'Hevz's Brownies' that quite a few of us from Vi's Pantry rave about. They are very quick and easy, and use cocoa powder instead of melted chocolate.

I decided that I would make the simplest (and therefore cheapest) version of the recipe to see how they turned out. No vanilla extract, choc chips or nuts.

Melt butter in a pan and whisk in the cocoa until smooth. Measure out flour, beat eggs in a large bowl and mix in sugar.

Add butter/cocoa to egg and sugar mixture and mix well. Fold in flour.

Pour mixture into lined pan (I used a square Pyrex dish roughly 20 x 20 cm lined with two strips of baking paper).

Cook at 180 C for 20 mins or so, in middle of oven, until brownies are firm to touch and the top is matt and cracked looking. Don't overcook - the inside should still be quite soft.

(This time the top of my brownies looked bubbly rather than cracked; the same bubbling happened with my Malteser Cake sponges - I'm not sure why this is happening but luckily it doesn't affect the taste.)

Cool 10 mins in tin before cutting into squares.

These turn out really well, and are still delicious without all the extras, which is great if you have to make a dessert or treat with not a lot of money!

100 g butter
50 g cocoa powder
2 eggs
200 g caster sugar (I used 150 g because I like things not v sweet)
50 g self-raising flour

*If you want to add the extras: before folding in flour mix in 1 tsp vanilla extract and 50 g chocolate chips or chunks (milk or white choc) or chopped pecans.*

Monday, 12 October 2009

Malteser Cake

Just three days after making the Honey Bee Cake, it's now my middle son's birthday, and he has chosen the Malteser Cake from Feast.

This one takes a little more concentration because you can't just put all the ingredients in the processor. Eggs and sugar are beaten together in a bowl; milk, butter and Horlicks are heated in a pan, and flour, cocoa, baking powder and bicarb are mixed together in another bowl.

Then the hot milk mixture is beaten into the egg mixture, and the flour mixture is folded in at the end. The runny mixture is divided between two 20 cm baking tins, and cooked for 25 mins at 170 C.

I think my sponges didn't quite rise as well as they should, and they were bubbly-looking on the surface. Something didn't quite go right here, but I tested a tiny bit and it tasted fine.

The buttercream is made by beating up icing sugar, butter, Horlicks and cocoa and then you sandwich the sponges together with half the buttercream and then spread the rest on the top.

(Or you get Birthday Boy to do this bit for you, and also ask him to decorate the cake with Maltesers while he's there.)

This cake tastes just like a giant Malteser!

It turned out very well, even with my strange-looking sponges. I can imagine this cake becoming a birthday regular.

150 g soft brown sugar
100 g caster sugar
3 eggs
175 ml milk
15 g butter
2 tbsp Horlicks
175 g plain flour
25 g cocoa, sieved
1 tbsp baking powder, 1/2 tsp bicarb

Icing and decoration:
250 g icing sugar (sieved or make icing in food processor)
1 tsp cocoa
45 g Horlicks
125 g soft unsalted butter
2 tbsp boiling water
around 80 g Maltesers (I bought a big pack)

Saturday, 10 October 2009

Honey Bee Cake

This was my youngest son's choice of cake for his 6th birthday - the Honey Bee Cake from 'Feast'. It's quite easy to make, very chocolatey and fun to decorate!

Put all the cake ingredients (except hot water) in a food processor if you have one and whizz till smooth. Pour in the hot water while the processor is running. Pour the runny mixture into a springform tin and cook at 180 C for around 1 1/2 hours. Cover with foil after half an hour to avoid the top burning.

Mine rose more than I expected and touched the foil, which is why a bit of the top is missing. Maybe I processed the mixture for too long and added too much air to the mixture?

Put the cake on its serving plate and put strips of baking paper under the sides to keep the plate clean - these can be removed before serving.

For the honey glaze, heat water and honey in a medium pan (I was a little sparing with the honey as there are a few of us who are not too keen on it and I didn't want it to overpower the cake), then add chopped up chocolate. Swirl the mixture around to start the chocolate melting, then whisk until smooth. Gradually stir in seived icing sugar, then pour it over the cake.

This was the fun bit - making the bees. I coloured some marzipan with some yellow food colouring, then the children made lots of cute bees by painting on stripes and eyes with the left-over glaze, and sticking in flaked almond wings.

As my cake was a little rounded at the top and the icing was runny, our (quite hefty) bees kept sliding down to the sides. Next time I shall probably slice a little off the top of the cake to avoid this problem! And making slightly smaller bees would help too.

Add the bees to the cake - I forgot to take a photo of the cake all alight with candles but it looked really sweet, especially to a newly-six year-old who had helped make the bees!

The cake was very delicious, and I'm not the biggest fan of chocolate cake. The sponge part was soft, moist and fine, and there was only the slightest hint of honey which was good for those of us who are not so keen.

Recipe here on the Nigella Website

Friday, 9 October 2009

Meatball Casserole

This isn't exactly a glamorous or exotic meal, but it's tasty and easy to make and includes lots of vegetables. It can be adapted to whichever flavours you like and also to the vegetables you have.

Make the meatballs by mixing together the meat and other ingredients. Roll into smallish meatballs and fry in a little oil until the outsides are browned. (Or cook them in the oven at 200 C for 15 mins or so, which is what I usually do because I find it's less messy.)

In the meantime, soften the onion in a little oil in an ovenproof pan, then add the other vegetables and fry gently for a few minutes.

Blend the cornflour with a little stock and add to the pan with the remaining stock. Bring to the boil, stirring and cook for a minute.

Add meatballs, put a lid on and cook in the oven at 190 C for 30 - 40 mins. I have a big Scanpan casserole and I can reduce the oven temperature to around 120 C once it is all heated through.

When cooked, add a little more salt and pepper if needed. Serve with bread rolls.


500 g lean minced beef
half an onion, finely chopped
2 tsp dried mixed herbs
1 egg, beaten
handful of porridge oats, breadcrumbs or semolina
good squirt of barbecue sauce
salt and pepper

rest of the casserole:
half an onion, chopped
2 medium potatoes, peeled and diced
1 red capsicum, de-seeded and sliced
2 carrots, peeled and sliced
couple of big handfuls of green beans
2 tbsp cornflour
500 ml beef stock