Sunday, March 30, 2008

Light and lemony!

As promised here are some recipes from the tea party. First up is the Little Lemon Syrup Cakes. These couldn't have been easier and were really lovely. I found the recipe on the site and made it up in small cake cases that I was sent all the way from Israel by the lovely Francesca! I think they turned out nicer as individual cakes as each one had lots more surface area to soak up the lovely lemony syrup. I doubled this recipe to make 24 individual cakes and they took slightly less time to bake. Speaking of baking, I have just had a lovely new oven installed which is why there are a few pictures of the cakes baking in this post, it is probably the last time my oven will look this clean!

Lemon syrup yoghurt cake

Ingredients (serves 6)

125g butter, softened
1 1/4 cups caster sugar
2 lemons, rind finely grated, juiced
2 eggs, lightly beaten
3/4 cup natural or Greek-style yoghurt
1 1/3 cups self-raising flour


Preheat oven to 160°C. Grease and line a 6cm deep, 20cm (base) springform cake pan.
Using an electric mixer, cream butter, 3/4 cup sugar and lemon rind until pale and creamy. Add egg, in 2 batches, mixing well after each addition. Stir in yoghurt.
Sift flour over butter mixture and stir gently until combined. Spoon mixture into prepared pan. Smooth surface. Bake for 50 to 60 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.
Meanwhile, combine 1/2 cup lemon juice and remaining 1/2 cup sugar in a saucepan over medium heat. Bring to the boil. Reduce heat to low. Simmer for 2 minutes. Pour half the warm syrup over warm cake. Allow to cool in pan. Transfer cake to a plate. Cut into wedges and serve drizzled with remaining lemon syrup.

Super Food Ideas - February 2006 , Page 29
Recipe by Janelle Bloom
To ice these I made a cream cheese frosting from the cupcake book mentioned below. It says it makes enough for 24 cupcakes, but I iced the 24 cakes and had enough to ice my two sponges as well! I added a little yellow food colouring and piped it on the top and finished them with some little icing flowers and leaves I had piped the weekend before.
Cream cheese frosting

(makes 4 cups-enough for 24 cupcakes.
Keeps 4 days)

125g soften butter
400g softened cream cheese
1 ½ tsp vanilla extract
6 cups icing sugar

Cream the butter and sugar for 1-2 minutes. Add the cream cheese, vanilla and half the sifted icing sugar and beat until the mixture is light and fluffy and of a spreadable consistency. You can use the frosting immediately.

I finally found a sponge recipe that looked like it might be failsafe enough for me to try! I have never made a sponge before, it is one of those things you look at and know that if you don't have a real knack for baking then you are probably going to end up with a tough pancake shaped cake that is only good for the bin!

I found this recipe in the The Crabapple Bakery Cupcake Cookbook, (you can find out more about them on a gorgeous book filled with tips and ideas on making and decorating cupcakes, as well as a few other tea party style cakes. I used it as 'bible' to guide me through all the goodies I made for the tea party, I was very pleased with the results too!

The sponge was easy peasy but I wouldn't advice attempting it unless you have a good mixer. The recipe requires the eggs being beaten for a total of 25 minutes! I was surprised at having to beat the eggs on their own for 10 minutes first, but it is obviously the key to getting lots of air into it, as these rose up beautifully and did NOT sink! I was ever so relieved as I test drove this recipe for the first time on the day of the tea party!

Over the top passionfruit sponge

6 eggs
1 c castor sugar
½ c plain flour
½ c self-raising flour
¼ c cornfour
¼ c custard powder

Preheat oven to 170 C. Lightly grease three 20 cm round layer cake tins.
Beat the eggs for 1 minute using an electric mixer on medium speed. Beat for a further 15 minutes on high speed. Gradually add the sugar, beating after each addition until dissolved. Once you have added all the sugar, beat for a further 10 minutes, until light and fluffy.
Combine flours and custard powder by sifting together three times. Using a slotted metal spoon, fold the flour mixture into the egg mixture until just combined.
Divide the mixture evenly between the three tins. Bake for 20 minutes, or until the sponges have come away from the sides of the tins. Remove from the tins immediately and cool on a wire rack or 30 minutes before filling.

I took the three sponges and cut them in half to give 6 pieces and layered 3 to give 2 cakes (if that makes sense!). I added passionfruit pulp to the whipped cream and then iced it with the cream cheese frosting leftover from the lemon syrup cakes to which I added 1/2 c passionfruit pulp.

I was so impressed with the recipe that I made it again a couple of days later for the teachers at my daughter's daycare! I reduced it by a third, made it in one larger tin and it still worked out perfectly. This is a KEEPER recipe!

Thursday, March 27, 2008

More Nigella Express

Tonight's dinner needed to be quick so I consulted Nigella Express, knowing that I would find something quick and easy in there. I wasn't disappointed and gave the Mirin Glazed Salmon a go as I have been wanting to do this for a while. I bought some Mirin when I was in Wellington with this recipe in mind, so it was great to finally get around to it!
I love salmon as it can be cooked so quickly and feels as though you are 'treating' yourself. This version of it is such a breeze, I am absolutely going to make it again. I served it on a pile of soba noodles that I had boiled then tossed through some sesame oil, spring onions and thinly sliced carrot. It fitted together perfectly with the salmon and was both filling and healthy!

Mirin Glazed Salmon

60ml mirin (Japanese sweet rice wine)
50g light brown sugar
60ml soy sauce
4 x 125g pieces salmon, cut from the thick part of the fillet so that they are narrow but tall rather than wide and flat
2 x 15ml tbsp rice vinegar
1-2 spring onions, halved and shredded into fine strips

1 Mix the mirin, brown sugar and soy sauce in a shallow dish that will take all 4 pieces of salmon, and marinate the salmon in it for 3 minutes on the first side and 2 minutes on the second. Meanwhile heat a large non-stick frying pan on the hob.
2 Cook the salmon in the hot, dry pan for 2 minutes and then turn it over, add the marinade and cook for another 2 minutes.
3 Remove the salmon to whatever plate you’re serving it on, add the rice vinegar to the hot pan and warm through.
4 Pour the dark, sweet, salty glaze over the salmon and top with the spring onion strips. Serve with rice or noodles as you wish, and consider putting some sushi ginger on the table, too.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Tracey's Tea Party

My sister Tracey held a lovely tea party at her place yesterday. Lots of effort went into both the food and the setting and we were graced with magnificent weather too.

The tea party was an idea in the making for quite some time, it began as an excuse for Tracey to use her large collection of bone china, but of course evolved into a much larger monster! Before long there were plans afoot for garden makeovers, a bathroom renovation and lots of spring cleaning!

I of course jumped on the bandwagon as I spied an opportunity to bake and decorate (and eat!) lots of lovely cakes. I have a bit of a weakness for baking at the moment! Plus I adore doing all the decorating touches so pitched in on that front too.

Here are some photos of the 'event', I will do a follow up post with a selection of recipes.

The Menu:
The decorations:
The Tea:

The Food:
The Guests:
The Hat:
We decided to encourage hat wearing, which everyone did! I designed my hat around a lovely silver and black butterfly that Sally had sent me, along with several other gorgeous butterflies which adorned the decorations for the table, so thanks Sally! She was also very helpful with designing the invitation! The kids couldn't wait to get their hands on the hats, Kate sneaked Tracey's on, while enjoying a cake!

It was a very successful day, great food and company, a chance to play ladies and dress up. We might need a while to recover before we decide what form the next one will take!

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Hot Cross Buns

This time of year simply would not be complete without Hot Cross Buns. In years gone by I have had steady supplies from both my mother and sister (who both make gorgeous ones) but in recent years I have been doing them myself. I find it a little odd that they are so wonderful and yet I only make them at Easter -perhaps it is a little like fruitcake at Christmas, lovely but you know you would be the size of a house if you made it (and ate it!) too regularly.

So this is really just one of those ocassional indulgences, the likes of which seem to join together to create special food all year!!!! The minute Easter is over with there will be some new celebration to make something for!
I always feel very cagey when posting about breadmaking as I use a breadmaker. It is my sneaky shortcut that renders me an unauthentic cook I know, but since starting to use one some 7 or so years ago (I actually do remember the exact date but didn't want to sound that sad by announcing it! The date has stuck with me though as the impact was significant, it has transformed my bread making/baking!!!!).

This recipe was taken from a bread baking book but is much like the recipe my mother uses, which is I think from Jo Seagar. I have found that most conventional bread recipes work in the breadmaker, in fact I am yet to have one go pear shaped. I rarely cook a loaf in it, I mainly only use the dough cycle then shape and bake.

These buns are rich and tasty, they are only lightly spiced, but that's how I like them. I didn't put the crosses on before baking them either, instead I piped them on with a basic icing after they had cooled. This recipe made 16 medium sized buns.

Hot Cross Buns (for the breadmaker)

4 c high grade flour
1/2c sugar
1 tsp salt
4 tsp yeast
1 c milk
2 eggs
125g soft butter
2 tsp grated lemon peel
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp mixed spice
3/4 c raisins

Put all ingredients except raisins in breadmaker pan in order suggested by your bread machine instructions.
Set for white bread dough and press start. Add the raisins after the first kneading or when the machine signals it's time to add fruit. When dough is ready, remove and punch down. Cut into 16 pieces and shape into rolls.
Place on a baking paper lined tray then cover loosely and set in a warm place to rise until doubled, 45 mins to an hour.
Bake in oven at 190C for 12 - 15 minutes.
Brush with sugar syrup glaze (I make sugar syrup by dissolving 2/3c sugar with 1/3c water over heat) as soon as they come out of the oven and when cooled pipe crosses on with basic icing (icing sugar, knob of butter and hot water).
Enjoy with more butter! Happy Easter!

Sunday, March 16, 2008


The perfect scone has eluded me until now, in fact I would go so far as to say I am a crap scone maker. It has always weighed heavily that I have never mastered something so seemingly basic. They say that some people can't make pastry because of their 'hot' hands, well I have apparently a similar affliction when it comes to scones. I have made oodles of versions and yet none have quite hit the spot as far as lightness and volume are concerned.

My sister in law on the other hand is a fantastic scone maker, she has the knack! So, last time I visited I asked what her secret was and it came down to, among other things, adding more baking powder!
I have toyed with a number of recipes and adapted them all until finally I came up with this one, which worked magnificently! These were light and got plenty of height on them and were demolished in no time! The basic recipe follows and for the cheese version I added 1c grated cheese, 2 tbsp whole grain mustard and 1/3 c of finely chopped spring onions. For the raisin version I added 3/4 c raisins, 2 tsp cinnamon and 2 tbsp sugar to the mix. Usually I would sprinkle with cinnamon sugar as well, but forgot this time!
Basic scone recipe (makes 12 large scones)

3 c SR flour
3 tsp BP (yes I added it on top of the SR flour!)
pinch salt
pinch sugar
200 ml cream
1 egg
250 ml lemonade

Set oven to 220 C. Sift dry ingredients into a bowl. Beat egg into cream and add with lemonade to dry ingredients. (add in your variations before the wet ingredients) Mix with a knife to just bring together, turn onto floured bench and knead lightly, adding more flour if needed. Pat out to approx 2cm thickness and cut out shapes, then place on a baking paper lined tray. Bake in middle of oven for 12-15 mins or until golden brown. Remove from oven and place on cake rack to cool. Split and slather with butter before devouring!

Cheese, spring onion and whole grain mustard scones:
Raisin and cinnamon scones:

Friday, March 7, 2008

Meal Medley

Now that my camera is back in action I have gotten busy catching up on lost time! I cooked a few trusty favourites and 'borrowed' a recipe from another blog to try, which I will tell you about first!

First up, here is the link to where I got the recipe of course I will translate into English but I thought you might like to see the lovely picture there. All the pictures on this blog are lovely, I always enjoy looking at them! I also love to keep up to date with certain Danish celebrations through this blog, it was gorgeous to look at over Christmas and I see there is some lovely stuff there for Easter too! I have a soft spot for Danish food, having lived there for a year as an exchange student. I took my husband and son with me when I finally returned and they too became converts to Danish food. One of our favourites and a regular on the menu in our house is frikadeller, or pork meatballs. These are sometimes made half and half with veal but I have never been able to get veal so we do the plain pork version. They are so simple yet so lovely, in the winter they get teamed up with caramelised apples, mashed potato, red cabbage (done Danish style) and onion gravy. Truly a fabulous meal.

Tonights version though is a 'light' and 'green' version, so no gravy etc! The herbs through them gave them an extra dimension of flavour and I served them with corn on the cob, salad and a herb and yoghurt sauce.

500 g pork mince

1 large handful parsely

1 large handful basil

1-2 onions

1 dsp flour

1 egg

salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

oil or cooking spray for frying

Chop parsley, basil and onion finely in a food processor. Add in mince, egg and flour process until mixed through. Season. Shape into medium sized meatballs and fry in a little oil, or spray fry pan with cooking spray. Brown well and turn after 5-10 minutes. Fry until cooked through.
Other meals for the week were roasted vege (courgette, aubergine, onion, tomato and red pepper) with feta and basil and olives, served on spaghetti and prawn laksa. I never seem to make laksa the same twice, but have come to rely on this brand of laksa paste which I find gives a very good result. My main components are always a good chicken stock, laksa paste, coconut milk, spring onions, noodles and fresh chopped coriander. I will often pop in prawns or chicken, and maybe one or two other vege like mushrooms, red pepper or carrots. Not terribly traditional but always heaven in a (preferably large) bowl!

Monday, March 3, 2008

Eating light

The good news is the recharger has reappeared! Thanks to my sister in law it has been found so I am excited to have my fab red camera back in action! (These photos were taken by the old Sony, still taking not a bad photo for such an old camera!)
Now that I am back into the routine of uni I am trying to eat better and get some exercise. I get plenty of opportunity for walking while in Hamilton which is great but strangely what I am really looking forward to is some cooler weather so I can revert to my old diet strategy, SOUP! I can't get enough of the stuff, it is so nutritious and filling, that I could eat it most days of the week. It is also possible to fill up on low fat, high goodness soup and curb your appetite somewhat for the kind of food that one expects will add some 'warmth' over winter!

I struggle to name a favourite, it really depends on my mood. I adore a thick chunky chowder some days, or a clear light broth others. Sometimes I go for Asian, sometimes Italian. One of the consistent things though is to start with a good stock, you generally can't go wrong if you start with this.

I have been buying chicken frames to make my stocks lately, but any time I roast a chicken I pop the carcass into the freezer until I have about four at which time I chuck them in the pot together with:

a stick or two of celery, roughly chopped
a carrot (peeled and roughly chopped)
2 onions, roughly chopped
8 whole garlic cloves (skin on)
1 tbsp peppercorns
4 bay leaves
big handful of parsley
salt to taste

Cover the lot with water, bring to the boil and simmer for at least an hour. Strain the liquid away and you have a great base to start to create with!

For tonights dinner it was turned into a lovely pumpkin soup. I won't bother you with a recipe, I follow the basic method, my only tweek is to add light evaporated milk to make it creamier. I served cheese filled calzone to go with it! As an appetiser I used Nigella's halloumi recipe from Nigella Bites, where basically you fry it in a pan and then dress it with a chilli chopped and mixed with olive oil and lemon juice. I served it on a herb and mesclun mix, it was fantastic!

Another huge favourite for this time of year, when sweetcorn is still around is this recipe I discovered a few years ago. It is by Lois Daish, who was a columnist for The Listener, her cooking column was fabulous and I have stowed away many a page ripped out for later use. She has a very down to earth style, lots of really great traditional yet gorgeous recipes that I use over and over.

It happens rarely but this is one recipe I have not altered! It is so simple yet tastes so beautiful that my family won't let me spirit away leftovers to freeze for later! Do make sure you use fresh corn, it really is what makes this soup work!

1 free-range chicken
1 carrot
1 onion
1 rib celery
1 bay leaf
1 tsp black peppercorns

1 large onion, sliced
3 cloves new season garlic
sliced; 2 tbsp peanut oil
kernels cut from 4 corn cobs
4 all-purpose potatoes, eg Red Desiree, peeled and sliced
salt and pepper to taste
big handfuls of green herbs such as coriander, parsley tarragon, chives

Rinse the chicken in cold water and put into a stockpot. Slice the vegetables, and add with the bay leaf and peppercorns.
Cover with water and simmer for 1 hour, then lift out the chicken onto a serving plate, retaining the liquid in the stockpot. As soon as the chicken is cool enough to handle, pull the meat from the bones, cool and refrigerate. Return the carcass to the stockpot to continue simmering.
To make the soup, put the onion, garlic and oil into a large saucepan and fry gently until translucent. Place a sieve over the saucepan and ladle in 4 cups of the simmering chicken stock. Add the corn kernels and potatoes and season with salt and pepper. If needed, add enough extra stock to cover the vegetables. Simmer for 30 minutes. Cut up the reserved chicken meat into medium-sized pieces and add to the soup, together with enough additional chicken stock to make a thick, chunky soup. Bring back to the boil, taste, then add the herbs you have chosen. Serve hot. Serves 6.