Thursday, December 25, 2008

Chocolate Fruit Cake- Mark II

I made this recipe for the first time last year for Christmas, I loved it so much that I just had to make it again this year. It is a great cake for those who aren't that keen on fruit cake but would still keep fruit cake lovers happy too so is a great happy medium. It is rich and dark and sticky and gorgeous. It is ridiculously easy to make too. This year I made it in the small round paper cases again as these are a great size to give away as gifts. I also made use of some gorgeous cake cases I was given by the lovely Francesca, as well as putting some in some cute Christmas muffin cases.
This year I got around to decorating the cakes- I found some chocolate fondant and gold cachous which did the job nicely. I also found some cute cake decorations to top the muffin sized ones, which I had put marzipan and white fondant on. It was great fun to make these, mainly because it was so easy!!!!!
Here's the recipe from my first post about this lovely cake (the recipe is in both Feast: Food That Celebrates Life and Nigella Christmas: Food, Family, Friends, Festivities) and here are the pictures from this years incarnation......
Have a fabulous Christmas!!!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Gingerbread

Gingerbread isn't terribly common in this country, I think it is more a European treat, but I have always wanted to try this recipe. It appears in Nigella Christmas: Food, Family, Friends, Festivities and so I decided to make it to add to the list to be done as foodie presents for Christmas. It is so easy and so delicious, a typical Nigella recipe in that respect! It really does taste of Christmas, spicy and warm, and is just perfect with a cup of tea. I iced it, as per Nigella's recommendation, with lemon icing and it really does set it off. The cake is light and terribly addictive, in fact I had to make it again the next day to have one in the pantry in the lead up to Christmas! I will take the rest of it around to my mum's tonight to eat with the Christmas cocktails we always imbibe in on Christmas eve!!!

Nigella's Sticky Gingerbread
  • 150g butter
  • 200g golden syrup
  • 200g black treacle or molasses
  • 125g dark muscovado sugar
  • 2 teaspoons finely grated ginger
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda, dissolved in 2 x 15ml tablespoons warm water
  • 250ml full-fat milk
  • 2 eggs, beaten to mix
  • 300g plain flour
1 Preheat the oven to 170°C/gas mark 3 and line a roasting tin or ovenproof dish (approx. 30cm x 20cm x 5cm) with Bake-O-Glide, foil or baking parchment (if using foil, grease it too).


2 In a saucepan, melt the butter over a lowish heat along with the sugar, syrup, treacle, fresh and ground gingers, cinnamon and cloves.

3 Take off the heat, and add the milk, eggs and dissolved bicarbonate of soda in its water.

4 Measure the flour into a bowl and pour in the liquid ingredients, beating until well mixed. It will be a very liquid batter, so don’t worry. This is part of
what makes it sticky later.

5 Pour it into the prepared tin and bake for 45–60 minutes until risen and firm on top. Try not to overcook, as it is nicer a little stickier, and anyway will carry on cooking as it cools.

6 Transfer the tin to a wire rack and let the gingerbread cool in the tin before cutting into 20 squares, or however you wish to slice it.

Makes 20 squares

MAKE AHEAD TIP:
Make the gingerbread up to 2 weeks ahead, wrap loosely in baking parchment and store in an airtight
tin. Cut into squares as required.

FREEZE AHEAD TIP:
Make the gingerbread, wrap in baking parchment and a layer of foil then freeze for up to 3 months.
Thaw at room temperature for 3–4 hours and cut into squares.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

M & M Cookies

I have always wanted to make these, keep seeing versions of them everywhere, so when I saw this recipe on Gail's blog I just had to make them. They were easy peasy to make and I just know that Carys will love having them as a sweet treat in her lunch box. I only had a small packet of M&Ms so made up the difference with chocolate chips so next time I will make sure I have plenty as they would look (and taste) better I am sure with the higher ratio that the recipe recommends! I would also make sure next time to use the dark chocolate M&Ms as I think they would work really well. Either way this is a great recipe, whipped up in no time and undoubtedly won't last long in the biscuit tins! I misread the recipe and didn't add the brown sugar, and found them plenty sweet enough so next time I would add maybe 1/3 c of both and see what the difference is (I know the brown sugar makes them more 'chewy' and imagine that would be quite nice!)


M&M Chocolate Chip Cookies


125g unsalted butter or use salted and omit the salt later in the recipe
1/2C caster sugar
1/2C brown sugar - loosely packed
1/2tsp vanilla extract
1 lightly beaten egg
1 3/4C SR Flour

1/2tsp salt
3/4C dark chocolate chips
3/4C M&M's

Preheat oven to 180C and spray some biscuit trays with olive oil spray or use baking paper.

Beat together butter, sugars & vanilla until pale. Add egg and beat some more until it is well combined. Sift in flour & salt and mix well with a wooden spoon.


Then, using clean hands, add the M&M's and chocolate bits and mix the dough and squish it until it all comes together.

Shape the dough into small balls and place on prepared oven trays. Make sure you allow a little room for them to spread as they do spread a bit. Bake for 10-12 minutes, they will still look pale and a little uncooked when they should be taken out.

Allow to cool for 5 minutes so they are easier to get off the trays.
Mine made 26 -exactly the same amount as Gails!!!!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Low Carb Breakfast

I think one of the things that people find on low carb diets is the monotony of eating eggs for breakfast. Fortunately I adore eggs, so have not found this a problem! I can manage them without a problem, my only grumble would be that one has to actually cook them, toast is a great deal easier and less mess!
However, when I have time, I don't mind in the slightest. When you can sit down to something as fabulous as this offering I am absolutely fine with it!
Omelettes have to be one my favourite way to eat eggs. I am NOT going to give a recipe here, only to say that this one was 3 eggs, beaten with a little cream, salt and pepper, fried in butter and filled with smoked salmon and brie (and a little extra freshly grated parmesan). Topped with a few baby basil leaves and served with 'burst' cherry tomatoes, this really was the perfect start to the day!



Friday, December 19, 2008

Cream puffs

It really has been an eternity since I last made cream puffs. I decided they would be something nice to take as a plate for my daughters preschool Christmas party, and as always, it was the perfect excuse to try them again. The reason I haven't made them much is that I always remember the method as being particularly effortful, not my kind of baking! However, I discovered this recipe in The Best of Alison Holst, a much used cookbook of mine. It avoids all the beating needed and uses the food processor and it honestly couldn't be easier! I will absolutely be making them again this way! Once cooked, I simply drizzled them with dark and white chocolate and filled them with cream and a slice of strawberry. I doubled this recipe and it made approximately 48 medium sized puffs.Cream Puffs (Alison Holst)

1/2 c water
60g butter
1/2 c flour
2 large eggs

Put the water into a medium sized saucepan, with the butter (cut into cubes so it melts faster). Measure the flour carefully without packing or pressing it into the measuring cup. Beat eggs together so that you can pour them into the processor spout. Get all these things ready and make sure the oven is heated to 200C before you start beating and mixing. Bring the water to the boil with the butter. Don't let it boil too long as you don't want it to evaporate, just make sure the butter is properly melted. Tip all the flour in at once and stir briskly with a wooden spoon until the mixture forms a ball which leaves the sides of the pot. As soon as this ball is formed, take the pot off the heat. Tip this mix into the food processor (use the metal blade). Put the top on the machine and put processor onto high while pouring egg slowly through the feed tube. You should add as much egg as possible without making it too liquid. It should be smooth and a soft dropping consistency.
Drop the mixture onto a baking paper lined tray in small spoonfuls or use a large piping bag with a wide nozzle to pipe onto tray.
Bake at 200c for 30 - 40 minutes, depending on what size you make them. If the puffs brown too much after rising, lower the heat to 190C. They should be quite hard and firm, if you take them out too early they will not be cooked inside and are more likely to collapse. If you are keeping them, they should be stored in an airtight container (they will keep for a week like this, unfilled).
Ice the tops with chocolate icing (or your choice of icing) and fill with whipped cream.
Glen wasn't able to make it to the Christmas party so we made sure he had his own special one!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Thai Beef Salad

I have been making an effort to eat low carb recently. It is amazing how once you switch to this way of eating (and count carbs) how much hidden sugar there is in food. I have always been highly attached to carbs, but if I am honest, it is more that I am attached to sugar. Weaning myself off sugar has not been easy, I think for the simple psychological bond I have with it! We have been close companions for such a long time!!!:) My love of biscuits, cakes and sweets have always been my downfall and my desire to make these things is fuelled mainly by my desire to EAT them!
I think eating has moved from something that is life giving to something that is pleasure giving and while I certainly don't think that food shouldn't be pleasurable, I definitely think, that in an effort to make people consume more, the marketing machines of food producers emphasise the pleasure aspect to get us to buy. After all, we don't generally need all the crap they are making do we? Certainly we don't need all the chemicals, preservatives and additives that make their way into so many processed foods and my feeling has been that it wouldn't hurt me to eat more in the way of 'whole' foods.
I am not going to bore you with the ins and outs of eating low carb, however I have been pleasantly surprised at how satisfied I am eating this way. It is surprisingly easy, although it does require some effort with regard to everything needing cooking- there are few 'packet' options on this diet, just real food, cooked simply!

Tonights dinner was a perfect example of why I love to eat this kind of food. Fresh food with fresh flavours! This salad is a favourite of mine in warmer weather and you could vary this by making it with pork or chicken too. You can mix up the veges/salad ingredients too for a change. This version was a replication of one I had ordered in a cafe recently, I really liked the simplicity of it. I used steaks I had frozen in marinade, so that as they thawed they marinated. I got this idea from Nigella, who puts lemon zest, thyme and olive oil on her raw steaks then pops them in plastic bags and freezes them ready for later use. I do an asian version with sesame oil, ginger, garlic and soy, which is what I used here.Thai Beef Salad

Steak- quantities depend on how many you are serving- I used rump but I often use sirloin too.
(I allow about 120g per person)
Green leaves (baby spinach, mesclun, coriander all work nicely)
Tomatoes
Spring Onions
Avocados

Dressing:

Lime juice
Sesame oil
Peanut oil
Fish sauce
garlic, crushed
grated ginger
brown sugar
fresh chilli chopped finely

toasted sesame seeds to serve

I know I have been remiss in providing quantities but really this is a trial and error thing, and depends on your personal tastes and preferences. Just don't be too heavy handed with the sesame oil as it can be too overpowering.

Cook the steak in a frypan or on the BBQ until medium rare. Let rest for about 5-10 mins. While it rests throw all your salad ingredients onto a large platter, slice the steak up and scatter over the salad, drizzle over the dressing and sprinkle with sesame seeds. I also made some noodles up for the carb eaters at the table- some egg noodles, cooked and tossed with sesame oil and more toasted sesame seeds makes a nice accompaniment.

Monday, December 15, 2008

More Salmon

Have I mentioned that I adore salmon???!!! In an effort to find new ways of serving it I made a buerre blanc to go with it this time. I have made a similar recipe before and it was served on a bed of minted pea puree - it was delicious, but this time I wanted to go for a lower carb version so served the salmon on a some minted, sauteed zucchini ribbons. It worked just as well and I was more than happy with this variation. The last time I made beurre blanc it was just wine, white wine vinegar and butter, and although it worked out fine, I liked the look of Al Brown's recipe where the vinegar and wine is infused with flavour first and the addition of cream. This is one of those sauces, like hollandaise, that you do have to take care with, but the effort is so met with the most gorgeous result. As much as salmon is a quite rich and oily fish, it is just fabulous swathed in this stuff- pure luxury on a plate.
The zucchini ribbons are a breeze too- simply slice zucchinis into ribbons using a potato peeler, pop them in a bowl and drizzle with olive oil. Grate in a clove of garlic, add in a good handful of chopped mint, half a handful of chopped flat leaf parsley, and about a tsp of grated lemon zest. Tip it all into a hot pan and sautee until tender, spritz with a little lemon juice and season with salt and freshly ground pepper.For the beurre blanc you need:
  • 50ml white wine
  • 50ml white wine vinegar
  • 1 shallot (1Tbl)
  • 8 peppercorns
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 100ml cream
  • 250g butter (cold and cut into centimetre squares)
  • salt and pepper
  • squeeze of lemon juice

Method

Place the wine and vinegar in a saucepan.
Rough chop the shallot and add to the liquid with the peppercorns and bay leaf.
Place on medium heat and reduce the wine and vinegar by three-quarters.
Next add the cream and reduce by half. Cool slightly then return to very low heat.
Whisk in the butter piece by piece until fully incorporated and silky smooth in appearance.
Strain the sauce through a fine sieve and discard the solids.
Taste the beurre blanc sauce and season with salt and pepper, and a squeeze of lemon juice if required. The beurre blanc will keep in this form for a couple of hours if kept covered in a warm place. Once it is cold it can't be reheated as it will split.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Pavlova

This is such a kiwi staple! And so it is rather ironic that the recipe I used here is from How to Eat: Pleasures and Principles of Good Food, except that in the preamble to the recipe Nigella says that the recipe comes from Stephanie Alexander's weighty (and amazing!!!) book The Cook's Companion 2, so at least I knew it would be authentic and failsafe!
I make pavs all the time, Nigella seems to have a real thing for them and many incarnations of it appear in her books. I have still not tried the chocolate and raspberry version even though I am sure it would be lovely. Somehow I can't bring myself to adulterate the recipe that much! I am a fan of the classic version and nothing is nicer than having it topped with cream and a tart fruit such as passionfruit, berries or kiwifruit. It is incredibly simple to make and is a lovely light dessert.
Once again, the leftovers left with the guests!!!

Pavlova

4 eggs whites (at room temperature)
pinch salt
1 1/2 c caster sugar
2 tsp cornflour
1 tsp white vinegar
few drops of vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups heavy cream, whipped until firm
fruit for top

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C) and place rack in center of oven. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and draw a 7 inch (18 cm) circle on the paper.

In the bowl of your electric mixer, with the whisk attachment, beat the egg whites and salt on medium-high speed until they hold soft peaks. Start adding the sugar, a tablespoon at a time, and continue to beat until the meringue holds very stiff peaks. (Test to see if the sugar is fully dissolved by rubbing a little of the meringue between your thumb and index finger. The meringue should feel smooth, not gritty. If it feels gritty the sugar has not fully dissolved so keep beating until it feels smooth between your fingers). Sprinkle the vinegar, cornflour and vanilla over the top of the meringue and, with a rubber spatula, fold in.

Gently spread the meringue inside the circle drawn on the parchment paper, smoothing the edges, making sure the edges of the meringue are slightly higher than the center. (You want a slight well in the center of the meringue to place the whipped cream and fruit.)

Turn oven down to150 C and put the pav into bake for 1 hour until the outside is dry and takes on a very pale cream color. Turn the oven off, leave the door slightly ajar, and let the meringue cool completely in the oven. (The outside of the meringue will feel firm to the touch, if gently pressed, but as it cools you will get a little cracking and you will see that the inside is soft and marshmallowy.)

The cooled meringue can be made and stored in a cool dry place, in an airtight container, for a few days.

Just before serving gently place the meringue onto a serving plate. Whip the cream in your electric mixer, with the whisk attachment, until soft peaks form. Mound the softly whipped cream into the center of the meringue. Arrange the fruit randomly, or in a decorative pattern, on top of the cream. Serve immediately as this dessert does not hold for more than a few hours.

Serves 6 to 8.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Limoncello and Strawberry Tiramisu

This Julie Le Clerc recipe is an absolute WINNER. I have been hankering to try this for a while, but as most recipes for tiramisu serve many I needed to wait until I had plenty of people around to make sure there wouldn't be too much in the way of leftovers! I have found this an excellent strategy for cooking/baking yummy things - share it with others (so I am not tempted to eat the whole lot!!!). So with my mascarpone freshly made I was ready to get stuck into this recipe. I used some NZ limoncello from Lemon Z, which was a top award winner at the International Wine and Spirit competition in London last year. It is a really lovely drop I must say! I have also made limoncello myself in the past, it is very easy to make and just gorgeous as a refreshing summer drink with lime syrup and soda water!
So, with all the right ingredients I knew this was likely to be a really yummy dessert. And it WAS! It was relatively easy to make too and an excellent make ahead dessert option. I made the recipe up at 1 1/2 times the quantities here, and it made 10 large portions (I served them individually in glasses).

Limoncello and Strawberry Tiramisu

2 eggs
1/4 cup caster sugar
250g mascarpone
2 punnets strawberries
1/2 cup Limoncello (lemon liqueur)
1/2 cup cold water
200g savoiardi biscuits (Italian sponge fingers)

1. Put eggs and sugar in a bowl and whisk until thick and creamy. Whisk in the mascarpone until smooth. Hull and dice half the strawberries.

2. Combine the Limoncello and water in a bowl. Dip the savoiardi biscuits one at a time in this liquid and arrange in the base of a serving dish (a lasagne dish works well). Cover with half the mascarpone mixture and the diced strawberries.

3. Repeat with another layer of dipped savoiardi. Top with a smooth layer of mascarpone mixture. Chill for 5-6 hours or, preferably, overnight.

4. Decorate with the remaining strawberries before serving.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Home made Mascarpone

I attended a cheese making course last weekend and among other things (which will no doubt make appearances here!) we learned how to make mascarpone. So of course I thought this was the perfect opportunity to try it out (I had tried once before and it was not a very successful effort!). With all the tricks and tips gleened from Katherine, I felt confident I would manage to get it right this time. And get it right I did! I ended up with about 400g of gorgeous fresh mascarpone, although this type is more ricotta in texture than the commercial mascarpone you buy but still has that distinctive tang and flavour. It really was a breeze to make, I will absolutely be making it again and again. Katherine Mowbray runs cheesemaking courses once a month in Auckland, and I honestly can not recommend it more highly. It is absolutely worth the $100 fee, all the tips and tricks she passed on were invaluable. It is so great to see exactly how the process works and what each stage should look like. My next attempt will be feta and halloumi, which I am dying to try to make now that I have seen how it is done!
Heres how to make the mascarpone if you want to try it yourself!

Take 2 litres of whole (not homogenised) milk (it has the silver top in the supermarket- I used the Naturalea Organic brand)
Pour this into a large saucepan that you have set up in a water bath (so you have one pan inside another and the pan with the milk in it isn't straight on the heat).
Add 300 mls cream.
Heat the two together until it reaches 90 degrees C.Add the juice of 1 - 2 lemons and stir through to get the milk mix to curdle.
This was the tricky bit, as it really depends how acidic your lemons are as to how much you add. I used limes today and they obviously weren't acidic enough, so boosted it with about 1/4 tsp citric acid. What you are looking for is a substantial curdle, so that it sticks to the whisk, but you don't want to over do it so that the particles get too big as this makes the mascarpone less delicate. Take the pot off the heat and allow to cool. The curdled parts will settle together in this time and make it easier to lift out and drain. Line a colander with cheese cloth (or muslin- I believe they are the same thing!) and when cool gently lift the curds out with a slotted spoon or small sieve. Draw the cloth up and knot it on a wooden spoon, placing it over the empty pot to drain all the liquid out. When it has stopped dripping it is ready to use. If you find the curd is not delicate enough you can loosen it up with more cream, I needed to do this, as I hurried mine a bit. I just blended it all together in the food processor and it was fine. Loosened with the cream I ended up with about 500g when I was done, so that was pretty good I thought. As this is a fresh cheese it needs to be used within a few days - I made it with the intention of making tiramisu straight away so that wasn't a problem!
One thing I would stress that makes a huge difference. Get a thermometer to know exactly what temperature your milk is. All my past efforts at cheese making have been without one and it makes a huge difference to KNOW you are at the right stage rather than guessing. Although I am amazed how much success I did have without knowing the exact temperature of my milk, I can see that the consistency of results is far more likely when using a thermometer, and when you are using that much milk and cream in one hit, you want it to work out!

Sunday, December 7, 2008

More baking

Well, to round out the trio of baking posts, here is the chocolate cake I recently made! Again it is from How to Eat: Pleasures and Principles of Good Food a book I have been totally engrossed in recently! I had bought it a while back and, because it has no pictures, had not really been taken with it. How wrong was I? I have finally started reading through it and I really am enjoying it for the involved preamble that every recipe is prefaced by- it really helps to set a mood for each dish and has had me trying all sorts of things I usually wouldn't. I do think that recipe books with no photos call on a different instinct when you are looking at them. There is that curiosity about how it might look- I love having the confidence that comes with experience and looking at ingredients and a method and knowing that it is worth a go. This was my feeling when I read the recipe for this cake, it was somewhat different to the usual method and yet somehow I knew it would be lovely, so was compelled to try!
There is nothing more satisfying to me than picking up a recipe book and hitting on a recipe that makes me feel like I have to get straight up and make it. It really is a great process of discovery!

Birthday Cake (Chocolate)

1 3/4 c plain flour
1/3 c cocoa
2 tsp B.P
pinch salt
1 c caster sugar
110g butter
2/3 c evaporated milk
100g dark chocolate (broken into small pieces)
2 eggs, beaten

Preheat oven to 180 C. Put the kettle on. Grease and line a 20 cm springform pan. Sift the flour, cocoa, BP and salt together in a large bowl. Put the sugar, butter, milk and 1/2c just boiled water along with the chocolate into a saucepan and heat until smooth and melted. Using a wooden spoon, stir chocolate mix into dry ingredients and mix until smooth. Add in eggs and beat to incorporate. Pour into cake pan, bake 35-45 mins. When it's ready the top will feel firm, but a skewer may not come out clean- it is a fudgy textured cake.Nigella says not to worry about cracking on the surface of the cake (like mine!!) as the ganache will cover it- which of course it does beautifully! When the cake is cool you can slather it with it!
Chocolate Ganache

200g dark chocolate
1 c heavy cream

Chop chocolate into pieces and put in bowl. Heat cream to just about boiling point and pour it over the chocolate. Leave for 5 mins then beat with an electric beater until thick and glossy. Spread all over cake. Leave for a couple of hours or until set- you can make this cake a day ahead.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Yoghurt Cake

This is another of the lovely Pi's recipes. On Violet's Pantry there has been a wee corner devoted to a collection of her recipes and this was one that looked so yummy and easy I had to try it! Of course on looking at the recipe I decided it would really taste good with some lemon added, and as I had a few that needed using, it made perfect sense. So I added the zest and juice of a lemon to the mix. I also decided it might be nice cooked in a loaf tin, so did it that way, the cooking time was a little less though. I doubled the mix and made two at once, one to give away and one for the freezer! I iced it with a lemon cream cheese icing and it the finished result was a light yet luscious cake. What struck me was how ridiculously easy it was, the one given away went to my daughter's preschool for the teacher's morning tea and I was able to have it whipped up in no time! I have already made it again a couple of times as it is such a winner on all fronts for me (lemon or chocolate- can't decide which I like best!).

G√Ęteau au Yaourt

- 2 eggs
- 1 cup of whole milk plain unsweetened yogurt
- 1 cup sugar
- 1/2 cup vegetable oil
- 2 cups all-purpose flour

- 1 tablespoon baking powder (1 envelope)
- 1 teaspoon vanilla paste/extract

- 1 tablespoon light rum

Preheat the oven to 180° C (350° F), line the bottom of a round ten-inch (25cm) cake pan with parchment paper and grease the sides. In a large mixing-bowl, gently combine the yogurt, eggs, sugar, vanilla, oil and rum. In another bowl, sift together the flour and baking powder. Add the flour mixture into the yogurt mixture, and blend together -- don't overwork the dough. Pour the
batter into the prepared cake pan, and bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until the top is golden brown and a cake tester comes out clean. Let stand for ten minutes, run a knife around to loosen, and turn out on a rack to cool.For the icing I used: (approx quantities)

125g cream cheese
1 c icing sugar
50g butter
zest and juice of a lemon

Whizz it all up in the food processor and til smooth and spreadable.

Monday, December 1, 2008

A whole year has passed!

It is hard to believe I have been at this lark for a year! As I wrote a few posts back, recently I have been wondering whether I actually wanted to keep going. I had no idea when I started this what it would plug me into, a whole community a food nuts and amazing inspiration and gorgeous photography. I have also met lots of new people through the blogging community and the foodie forums I belong to also have a strong and supportive group of bloggers. It is, to be fair, (I am loathe to admit) something of an addiction now. I struggle to let several days go by without doing a post. I have tried to rationalise (in all kinds of ways which are just too boring and obvious to cover here!) why I do this, but actually, when it comes down to it - the basic reason I do it is because I enjoy it. And hey, what is life if you don't enjoy it? So I have come full circle, philosophically speaking, and decided that whatever my reason for being here, I LOVE it, so I am going to keep blogging for the pure enjoyment factor.
What do I LOVE about blogging?
  • I love styling a plate of food, it really extends and flexes my creative muscle, creativity rocks!
  • I love getting just the right angle on a photo so that the light picks up some gleaming bit of sauce, or some smooth bit of icing, or some juicy bit of fruit. That never fails to thrill me!
  • I love seeing other peoples creativity and feeding (quite literally) off it!
  • I love that blogging has made me dare to try things I would never have dreamed of trying in the past, like....fully fledged tea parties, vegan cooking, making my own cheese, making kick arse scones (I so love being able to make GREAT scones now), making and decorating elaborate cakes, rediscovering my love for making preserves and home made foodie gifts. I truly am a much more confident cook because of blogging.
  • I love that when people ask me for recipes now I can say "It's on my blog"
  • Most of all I love it when a recipe I post inspires others to try it and love it as much as I did!
I didn't have any intention of baking/making anything to mark this post with, but I did end up making this cake for a morning tea shout for my husbands work. Appropriately, it is a Nigella recipe, (from How to Eat: Pleasures and Principles of Good Food, I am finally acquainting myself properly with this lovely book!)
and also fittingly, it is dead easy- my kind of cooking!
Victoria Sponge

1 1/2 c plain flour
1/4 c corn flour
1 cup plus 2 tbsp caster sugar
225g very soft butter
2 tsp BP
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
4 eggs
2 tbsp milk

Preheat oven to 180 C. Butter two 20 cm round cake pans.
Put all ingredients, except milk, into a food processor and process to mix. Make sure it is all mixed and process some more while pouring milk through the funnel. The batter should be a soft dropping consistency. Pour into cake pans and bake for about 25 mins and a cake tester comes out clean. Let cakes stand in pans for a minute or so and then turn onto a wire rack to cool. Sandwich together with cream and jam or what ever you like!

Friday, November 28, 2008

Chocolate Mousse

I cannot remember how many times I have eaten or made this wondrous dessert. It is one of those culinary staples that is a constant in my life! Of course over recent years I have been a little aversive, given it's general decadent nature and high fat content. However, I have been reading Nigella's book How to Eat: Pleasures and Principles of Good Food and enjoying the chapter on feeding small children. There I found a lovely simple recipe for chocolate mousse that I simply had to try. I had also seen a nice easy version in Jo Seagar's excellent book Lip Smackin', Fast Cookin', Hunger Bustin', Gr8 Tastin' Cookbook (which my son uses a lot as the recipes are tasty and straight forward) but Jo's recipe uses a lot of cream and more chocolate and I thought Nigella's version, using both egg yolks and egg white seemed not only more practical (I prefer not to have egg whites hanging around or I will just be tempted to make meringues!!!) and somewhat lighter (in both texture and calories!)
I will include both recipes here though and you can decide for yourself which recipe to try. Nigella says that this recipe would feed 4 small children, and all I can say to that is -they must be very small children!!!! We made the recipe up at 1 1/2 times the called for quantities and it made 4 very small portions- albeit rich and probably quite sufficient! Jo's version, with it's bigger quantities she says makes 6 large servings or 10 small. Having not made it yet (although, let's be realistic here, it is only a matter of time!) I can't comment on how big those serving sizes really are.

Children's Chocolate Mousse (Nigella Lawson)

100g milk chocolate (at least 40% cocoa solids-I used 60% dark chocolate, because it is my preference and it was delicious!)
1 tbsp golden syrup
2 eggs separated

Melt chocolate with 1 1/2 tbsp water and the golden syrup. When smooth remove from heat (I microwaved mine in short bursts). Whisk egg whites until you have a stiff snow. Beat the egg yolks, one by one, into the still warm chocolate mixture. Take a dollop of the egg whites and beat well into the chocolate mix to loosen it a little. Fold the rest of the whites in and incorporate well. Pour into 4 small bowls and refrigerate for at least 6 hours (we waited a couple of hours and they were totally fine)
Delicious Choccy Mud Mousse (Jo Seagar)

300ml cream
250g dark chocolate
3 egg yolks
2 tbsp sugar

Pour cream into microwable jug or bowl and heat on high for 2 mins until just about to boil. Place chocolate, egg yolks and sugar in a blender and pour in the nearly boiled cream. Securely put on lid and blend until smooth and well combined. Pour into serving dishes and leave to set for at leas 3 hours in the fridge. Keeps for 3 -4 days in the fridge.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Salmon

I am a total sucker for salmon. I really can't get enough of it. It is usually reasonably priced and the size of the fillets makes for satisfying 'meaty' eating. I am always looking for new ways to cook it, I love it smoked, and am still getting around to making my own gravlax, which I just love! Al Brown did a fabulous feature in the latest cuisine on salmon and they all sound divine. However, what lead me to tonight's dinner was reading Nigella's How to Eat: Pleasures and Principles of Good Food - and being reminded of that lovely sauce that is salsa verde. I have made this before and really love it's fresh flavour and while tonight's version was inspired by Nigella, it is actually quite removed from her version! I simply pan fried the salmon and served it with sauteed veges, then popped on a couple of tablespoons of the gorgeous sauce. After making my version I decided to google it to see how far removed from the authentic recipe I was, which I kind of am, but hey it tasted good, so here's how I made mine:

Salsa Verde (of sorts!)

Approx 1 cup flat leaf parsley
Approx 1/2 cup basil leaves
Approx 1/4 c mint leaves
Approx 1/4c chives
3 tbsp capers
1 garlic clove
1/4 c white wine vinegar
1 c extra virgin olive oil
4 good quality anchovies
2 tsp dijon mustard
6 cornichons

Put everything into a food processor and whiz until it is blended into a reasonably smooth and vibrantly green sauce.This goes really well with any fish, and I have also stirred some through some home made mayo for a nice dip or to coat a mixed green leafy salad or with new potatoes!

Just a note about the anchovies- for the first time ever I used a more expensive brand and could not believe the difference in taste and texture- they were totally sublime! I will never go back, they are about twice the price but so worth it in terms of the difference in flavour.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Lemon Balm Jelly

My mother kindly makes space in her garden for a few bits and pieces that I like. One of those things is lemon balm. Apparently it is related to mint and like mint, spreads! She was concerned at how much space it was starting to take up so I had a quick look on the internet to see what I could make to get rid of as much as possible. Lemon balm syrup or jelly looked like the best options so I went with the jelly. The recipe I found looked somewhat unusual and certainly didn't follow the method I am familiar with when making fruit jellies. However, I decided to give it a go and see how it went. It didn't! It wouldn't set at all so I reverted to the tried and true and boiled it down to get it to the right point where it would. The original recipe was from Cooks.com and is as follows:

Lemon Balm Jelly

1 c. lemon balm
3 c. water
1 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
6 1/2 c. sugar
1 bottle liquid pectin
Drop of yellow food coloring

Steep lemon balm in boiled water 10-20 minutes. Strain. Bring infusion and sugar to a rolling boil, add pectin and cook and stir for 1 minute. Remove from heat, add coloring, jar and seal.

I bought some pectin (Kings) as I had never used it before. I also used a heap more lemon balm to get a good infusion. I probably quadrupled the lemon juice too! I then boiled the heck out of it!
It turned out a gorgeous jelly, fragrant and subtle, and perfect on toast. I reckon it would be fab on butterfly cakes too. Or on scones with cream, or in the middle of a sponge.......I got about 6 150 ml jars from this foray, which I thought was worth the effort!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Stuffed Potatoes

This recipe was posted by Sally on Violet's Pantry, and reminded me of how much I adore them and that I hadn't made them in eons. The recipe was published somewhere in the lead up to the Nigella Christmas: Food, Family, Friends, Festivities book being released as it appears in it. Sally remarked that she had been making these for years but she rather liked Nigella's name for them- Fully Loaded Potato Skins! I too have been making them for a long time, they were one of my first staple recipes when I was first flatting, as you can make them cheaply and they are tasty and filling. I didn't think this would be the first recipe I would post from Nigella Christmas: Food, Family, Friends, Festivities, (there are so many more decadent and interesting recipes in the book!!!) but actually I love this recipe for its pragmatism.....so much of it can be done ahead, it is tasty and the kids really love them!!!! That, to me, is more of what cooking is about, serving up great but easy food day to day! The great thing about this recipe is it's ability to be a vehicle for left overs. You really can add anything you like into it, and it keeps it interesting too.
Here's Nigella's recipe:

Fully Loaded Potato Skins

10 baking potatoes
225g strong cheddar or red leicester
250ml sour cream

4 spring onions
1 teaspoon Maldon salt or
½ teaspoon table salt or to taste
good grinding of black pepper
1 x 15ml tablespoon worcestershire sauce

10 rashers American-style or thin-cut streaky bacon
oil for frying

METHOD


The day (or up to 2 days) before you load them, preheat your oven to 200C/180C fan/400F/gas 6 and bake the potatoes (pricking them first) for about 1½ hours, or until the skins are crisp and the insides fluffy. As soon as you can bear to tackle the hot potatoes, cut the
m in half lengthways and scoop the insides into a bowl.Put the husk-like skins of the potatoes on a tray and, when cool, cover until you are ready to fill them. Let the potato cool in the bowl, and then cover until needed.
When you are ready to fill the potatoes, preheat your oven to 200C/180C fan/400F/gas 6. Grate the cheese, and add 200g of it to the cold potato along with the sour cream. Chop the spring onions and add to the potato, with the salt, pepper and worcestershire sauce. (I deviate a bit here, and fry the onion and bacon, ricing the potato and adding it in with all the other ingredients!)
Spoon the potato filling into the potato skins, and lay each half on a baking tray so they fit snugly together. Sprinkle over the remaining cheese, giving each potato skin a light covering, and cook for 20-30 minutes until golden.Fry (or grill) the bacon rashers in oil until crispy, then crumble them and sprinkle half a rasher’s worth over each potato skin to make them fully loaded.

MAKE AHEAD TIP Fill the potato skins, as directed, and sprinkle with the cheese and crispy bacon (or add the crispy bacon after cooking if preferred). Cover loosely and keep in the fridge for up to 2 days. Cook as directed.