October 20, 2008

hen's night cupcakes

I couldn't let V.'s hen's night last weekend go by without making cupcakes. As we were seeing "Puppetry of the Penis" it was pretty easy to decide on the decorations. I've had the penis moulds since the early 80's. There used to be a furniture shop in the next suburb that sold X-rated chocolate moulds from under the counter. How straitlaced we were back then. Stuff like this is displayed all over the place now in gift shops but was considered pretty risque then.

We had a fun night with lots of laughs. Now for the two week countdown to the wedding!

August 28, 2008

kitchen love

We've not done much house-hunting since we sold this house, mainly due to the shortage of houses on the market. Estate agents assure us this will change once spring arrives. Meanwhile I've started thinking about how much stuff I'm going to have to get rid of. When we extended the house14 years ago I designed the kitchen myself, and my intent was to make it not just functional but with as much storage space as possible. So I'm so spoiled for cupboards and drawers that some things are seldom used but kept just because I've got the space, or they're behind glass and just for show.

I have two big pantries...

plus these...

plus this...plus these...

Now I'm not sentimental about houses and am looking forward to moving and living in a new neighbourhood, but there's no doubt I'm going to miss my kitchen dreadfully.

Meanwhile for the next few months we're making the most of it while we can.

We had this for dinner the other night...snapper with spicy yogurt marinade...cooked by Georgie. It was one of Jeremy and Jane Strode's recipes from this week's Good Living. It took no time to prepare and tasted fantastic. The recipe is here.

August 27, 2008

spring risotto

I love love love broad beans. They're my absolute favourite vegetable. They have such a short season - maybe I wouldn't love them so much if they were available all year round - so we tend to have them several times a week in spring.

My new delicious turned up yesterday. Ben O'Donoghue's spring risotto starring broad beans and asparagus (my second favourite vegetable) was my obvious pick for dinner last night and it was great. Here's how I made it - I altered the method slightly as I didn't fancy peeling the broad beans raw as the recipe stated.

Risotto Primavera (serves 4-6)

120g unsalted butter

1 white onion, finely chopped

2 celery stalks, finely chopped

2 cups (400g) carnaroli rice (I used arborio)

1 cup (250ml) dry white wine

5 cloves garlic

1/2 cup (80g) frozen peas

1 cup (120g) podded fresh broad beans, cooked and peeled

2L chicken stock, kept at a simmer

1/2 bunch asparagus (I used a whole bunch) thinly sliced at an angle - tips intact

1 cup (80g) grated parmesan

4 T mascarpone ( I omitted this)

1 T finely shredded mint leaves

Cook the broad beans in boiling water for a minute or two, drain, peel when cool enough to handle and set aside. Cook the asparagus slices in the simmering stock for a couple of minutes, remove with a slotted spoon and set aside.

Melt 80g of the butter in a wide pan over med heat. Cook the onion and celery, stirring, for 10 mins or until softened, adding the garlic for the final minute. Add the rice and stir for a further minute to coat the grains. Add the wine and cook, stirring, for 3 mins until absorbed. Add a ladleful of hot stock, stirring until almost all the liquid is absorbed. Continue to add stock, a ladleful at a time, gently stirring and making sure each is absorbed before adding the next, until the rice is al dente. This will take 20-25 minutes (you may not need all the stock). Add the last ladleful of stock, turn off the heat, and gently stir in the remaining butter, parmesan, peas, beans and asparagus. Cover and let stand for 10 mins. Serve topped with mascarpone and mint.

August 25, 2008

goat's cheese and spinach souffle

I made this for dinner last night. I've got a bit of a thing for savoury souffles and have been dying to make it since I cut the recipe out of a Gourmet Traveller mag. It was great, but maybe not quite as good as these twice-baked ones and a bit more time-consuming. Last night's recipe is here. It was also sinfully rich...so much for the last month's gym-work and healthy eating. Check out all the high-fat dairy ingredients!......

I might try putting some spinach in the twice-baked ones next time.

August 24, 2008

best healthy muffins so far

Over coffee-after-the-gym the other morning Corry brought out a new mag to show us- BBC Australian Good Food. I hadn't seen it in the supermarket but a quick look through made me interested enough to buy it. As if I needed any more food mags. It looks quite similar to delicious, and features some well-known chefs like Gordon Ramsay and Kylie Kwong. But unlike delicious, whose recipes are featured on taste.com.au , I couldn't find any of the recipes online.

There was a nice-looking and fairly healthy-sounding carrot and walnut cake recipe featured, so I tried it out (tho' I made muffins). They were terrific - really soft with a great flavour - and probably the nicest of the healthy muffins I've made lately. I modified the recipe a bit, substituting buttermilk for the full-fat milk soured with lemon juice, and CSR Smart for the sugar. I didn't make the cream cheese frosting either but they really didn't need it and neither do my hips. Here's my version :

Carrot & Walnut Cakes (makes 15)

1/2 cup (80g) sultanas

juice of an orange

2/3 cup (160ml) buttermilk (or milk soured with 2 t lemon juice)

2 cups (320g) wholemeal SR flour

1 t bicarb

1 t mixed spice

160g CSR Smart or 1 1/2 cups (330g) raw sugar

1/2 cup (50g) walnuts, chopped

3 medium carrots, grated

1 granny smith apple, peeled, grated

grated rind of 1 lemon

1/2 cup (125ml) rice bran oil

3 eggs, lightly beaten

Preheat oven to 180C. Line 15 holes of 2 x muffin tins with paper cases and spray lightly with non-stick spray.

Combine sultanas and orange juice in a small bowl and let stand for 10 mins.

Combine buttermilk, oil and lightly beaten eggs in a separate bowl.

Sift flour, bicarb, spice and 1/4 t salt in a large bowl and return husks from sifter to bowl. Stir in CSR Smart, carrots, apple, lemon rind and sultana mixture. Pour in the buttermilk mixture and stir until well combined. Fold in chopped walnuts.

Spoon into paper cases and bake for 20 mins. or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool on a rack.

If making one big cake, use a greased and lined 25cm springform tin and bake for 50-55 mins.

August 22, 2008

chickpea & tuna patties

A Sydney friend sends me the Good Living section out of Sydney Morning Herald on a Tuesday. I prefer it to Epicure in the Melbourne Age - there are more recipes and the articles are better, though some are a bit irrelevant when we don't live in Sydney. Jeremy and Jane Strode - co-owners of Bistrode in Surry Hills - have a weekly column. These chickpea and tuna patties were one of their recipe's from this week and they were delicious. I reckon they taste even better than the ones I usually make with mashed potato, with the added bonus that they're much quicker to make. The recipe is here. I made the slight alteration of rolling the patties in cornflake crumbs before frying for a bit of crunch.

August 17, 2008

nigella's chocolate marsala cake

I made this for dessert last night. It was a delicious change from all the low/no fat, no sugar cake I've been baking lately, and was a cinch to make. It's from How to be a domestic goddess and this is how it appears in the book , with my note at the end.

Chocolate Marsala Cake
100g unsalted butter
100g dark chocolate, broken up
4 large eggs
175g caster sugar
50g self-raising flour, sifted 3 times
3 tablespoons Marsala
for the Icing:
100g dark chocolate
1 tablespoon Marsala
100ml double cream*

22cm Springform tin, greased and lined.

Preheat the oven to 180C / Gas Mark 4.
Melt the butter and chocolate together in the microwave or a double boiler, and then set aside to cool slightly. Beat the eggs and sugar together until thick, pale and moussy, and greatly increased in volume; it should double, triple even. Gently fold the sifted flour into the egg mixture, trying not to lose all of the air. Now fold the butter and chocolate very carefully into the cake mixture. Pour into the tin and cook for 35 minutes, by which time the top should be firm and the cake underneath dense and desirably damp.
Cool in a rack for 5 minutes, and then pour over the Marsala. I find it easier to do this by the teaspoonful so that the liquid is evenly distributed. Leave the cake to cool completely before releasing it from it’s tin.
So, the icing: melt the chocolate, Marsala and cream in a heavy-bottomed saucepan over a gentle heat. Take it off the heat, and whisk until it reaches a good icing consistency; smooth, thick, but not solid. I like to spread this just on the very top of the cake, which anyway sinks on cooling so that you have a roughly circular sunken pond to fill, leaving an outline of cooked-cake rim. When set, you're left, beautifully, with a Sacher-shiny disc of ganache suspened on top of this dusty-brown, matt cake.

*Note: I had a bottle of thickened cream in the fridge and foolishly used it instead of double (pure) cream. Eeew - the result was an oily, curdled mess, which I had to throw away and remake with the correct cream. A waste of 100g of good Callebaut chocolate.

August 16, 2008

yet more healthy muffins...

I wish I'd kept my copy of Julie Stafford's mid '90's muffin book. I donated it to the choir garage sale a few years ago which I now regret. I'm going to try and get another one, although I'm not sure it's still in print. In the meantime I found a recipe from the book on the net for Rhubarb and Ginger muffins. It sounded similar to Rhubarb Daisy Cake (recipe here) created by Jamie Oliver's mum. It's an upside down cake topped with a pinwheel of rhubarb sticks and glazed with a mixture of golden syrup and ginger syrup which I've made and which looks and tastes divine. The muffins were never going to taste as good as the cake seeing as there's no butter or syrup, but they're pretty good. Here's my version :

Rhubarb and Ginger Muffins (makes 15)

All ingredients should be at room temperature.

1 1/2 cups SR flour
1/2 cup
wholemeal flour
1 teaspoon
ground ginger
300 g
rhubarb (1 bunch), finely chopped (choose nice red thin stalks)
1/4 cup finely chopped
glace ginger
1/2 cup canola oil
1/3 cup CSR Smart

1/2 cup apple juice
3/4 cup buttermilk
2 eggs

Preheat oven to 180C. Line 15 holes of 2 muffin tins with paper liners and spray liners lightly with non-stick spray.

Sift dry ingredients together in a large bowl. Add the rhubarb and ginger.

In another bowl, lightly beat the eggs, then beat in the oil, followed by the apple juice and the buttermilk.

Add the liquid mix to the dry mix and stir well.

Spoon into muffin tray and bake for 20 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Remove muffins from tray and cool on wire rack.

As there's no sugar in them they look a little anaemic but a dusting of icing sugar makes them look more appetising.

August 3, 2008

more healthy muffins

Here's another great low GI muffin recipe from the same cookbook as yesterday's. The original recipe uses blueberries which I don't like much, so I use frozen raspberries instead.

Low GI Lemon Raspberry Muffins (Makes 10)
All ingredients should be at room temperature except the raspberries.
180g wholemeal plain flour
30g wheat bran
80g sugar substitute (eg Splenda)
1 T baking powder
1/2 t salt
240ml buttermilk
1 egg
50g soft margarine, melted, or rapeseed oil (I use Nuttelex)
1 T grated lemon rind
140g frozen raspberries - don't thaw first

Preheat oven to 190C. Line 10 holes of a muffin tin with papers and lightly spray them with non-stick cooking spray.

In a large bowl stir together all the dry ingredients.

In a small bowl whisk together the egg, buttermilk, margarine and lemon rind. Pour over the dry mixture, add the raspberries and stir until just combined.

Spoon into muffin papers and bake for about 20 mins or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool on a rack. These will freeze well for a few weeks.

August 2, 2008

low gi muffins

I'm on a health kick at the moment. I've joined a gym again after a 10 year gap - and have amazed myself by going every weekday for the last 2 weeks - and am trying to cut out empty calories. I've found the hardest part of the day to get through is late-afternoon to dinnertime, even with a mid-afternoon snack. I've tried a few of the high-protein bars that they sell at the gym and they were all dreadful. This is my version of a muffin recipe I copied a couple of years ago from a Low GI cookbook. They taste pretty good, and if I eat one in the afternoon it keeps me going 'till dinnertime and cuts out the craving for dangerous pre-dinner nibbles. They also freeze well.

Low GI Cinnamon Bran Muffins (Makes 12)
All ingredients should be at room temperature.

50g wheat bran
30g All-Bran
pinch salt
120ml boiling water
240ml buttermilk
150g sultanas (you can use dried cranberries instead)
4 Tabs artificial sweetener eg Splenda
1 egg
60ml canola/rapeseed oil
150g wholemeal plain flour
1 1/4 t bicarb soda
1 t cinnamon
Preheat oven to 190C. Line a 12-hole muffin tin with muffin papers and spray them lightly with non-stick spray.
In a bowl combine the bran, All-Bran and boiling water. Stir in the buttermilk and sultanas.

In another bowl, whisk together the sweetener, egg and oil. Stir into the bran mixture.
In a large bowl stir together the flour, salt, soda and cinnamon. Pour the bran mixture over the flour mixture and stir until just combined.
Divide the mixture between the lined muffin cups and bake for about 20 mins or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool on a rack.

July 28, 2008

winter comfort food

I'm back! This is my first post for weeks. With the house auction in mid-July I've been flat out keeping the place spotless for the twice-weekly Open-for-inspections. The house was sold - yay - so it's no longer pristine but all back to normal! What a relief being able to leave tea towels out on the rack, put the calendar back behind the kitchen door, not having to keep fresh flowers everywhere, and most importantly, being able to plan meals without worrying about whether there'll be any cooking smells.

We had our usual Sunday night family dinner last night. There's no way I'm cleaning the still-gleaming oven again before we move, which means no more roasts. So last night I made my new favourite winter recipe - Chicken and Chorizo Hotpot, which is really a sort of chicken cacciatore. It's a cinch to make - you just put everything in a roasting tin and bake it. The recipe is here.

There were 6 of us so I doubled everything. I've found the shallower the baking dish the crisper the chicken turns out. There might be too much liquid at the end of the cooking time, in which case you just drain it off and reduce it in a saucepan for a few minutes.

I served it with little fried potatoes, but mashed is good too. I forgot to take a photo of the finished dish but here are the leftovers....

For dessert I made Jill Dupleix's version of Sticky Date pudding. It's not only every one's favourite (even date-haters), it's perfect to make ahead and reheat. Here's the recipe.

I usually blitz the cooled date and water mixture for a few seconds with a stick mixer so that it resembles a lumpy batter, before adding it.

I reckon individual puddings look nicer than a slice so instead of baking it in one big tin I used a muffin tin, filling only 9 of the holes. Also this way any leftovers are easily frozen.

I've found the amount of sauce in the recipe is only enough for 6 serves as the pud soaks it all up, so make half as much again if you're using all the puddings.

June 13, 2008

lemon lemon cupcakes

With the house auction coming up in less than a month and the first Open for Inspection looming next weekend, I've thrown myself into a cleaning frenzy. It's a necessary evil but oh, how I hate housework, especially tedious jobs like washing down doors and cupboards. So yesterday I took a break from the rubber gloves and bucket and made a batch of cupcakes...

Lemon lemon cupcakes with cream cheese frosting (makes 12)

All ingredients should be at room temperature:

175g plain flour
150g caster sugar
1 1/2 tspns baking powder
pinch salt
125g softened unsalted butter, cut into 1-cm cubes
2 large eggs
120ml ml milk
finely grated rind of a large lemon

Preheat oven to 160 C°. Line a cupcake pan with paper liners. Whisk the milk and eggs lightly together. In the bowl of an electric mixer combine flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt and mix on low speed until combined. Add butter and half the egg/milk mixture and beat on medium speed for 2 mins. Scrape down sides of bowl and add the remaining egg mix in 2 batches, beating for 20 secs. each. Using an icecream scoop measure mixture evenly into the liners and bake for 20 - 25 mins. or until a toothpick comes out clean. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Cream cheese frosting:

Beat together 125g cream cheese (use straight from fridge) and 35g butter (softened) until smooth.
Gradually add 1 cup sifted pure icing sugar and rind of a large lemon, beating until smooth. Spread over cakes and serve at room temperature.

June 3, 2008

fish in a bag

For dinner the other night I cooked Jamie Oliver's Steamed Fish in a Bag which was very quick and easy and tasted really good - definitely a keeper! I altered the method slightly as I went along. Jamie's recipe started by mashing up the lime leaves with a pestle and mortar. I tried that but only succeeded in tearing them slightly. So I just blitzed all the ingredients into a paste with the stick blender and poured it over the raw fish.

Jude's Jamie's Steamed fish in a bag (serves 2)

6 kaffir lime leaves, cut up roughly
1 clove garlic, sliced
1 large red chilli, seeds removed and roughly chopped
3 cm piece ginger, roughly sliced
handful coriander leaves plus extra for garnish
grated rind and juice of a lime
1 T soy sauce
2 T dry sherry
2 T olive oil
2 thick pieces of snapper

Preheat oven to 220C. Place a large oven tray on the centre rack. Tear off a metre of foil (I used the wide one), fold in half, then open out and turn up 5cm all round to create a shallow "tray". Spray or lightly smear with cooking oil. Place fish on one side.

With a stick blender, puree all the ingredients except the fish together to form a thickish sauce. Pour evenly over the fish. Fold over top half of foil and seal the 3 open sides securely with a double fold. Don't fold the foil right up to the edge of the fish - leave a 5cm or so space so that the steam can circulate.

Place the parcel carefully on the hot tray and bake for about 12 mins. until cooked through. Garnish with coriander and serve over steamed rice.

May 31, 2008

good food & wine show

Yesterday C., G. and I spent a lovely day at the Good Food & Wine Show at Jeff's shed. We all had lots of tastes and samples and each ended up with a big heavy bag of edible goodies. How envious we were of all the clever people who brought their shopping trolleys!

There were lots of great food and wine exhibitors to talk to...

and lots of great ideas...

Gorgeous gifts at Edible Blooms.

Tastes and recipes from Brookfarm macadamia products.

Exceptionally good chocolate from Loving Earth.

G. had to leave early but C. and I had a very nice relaxed lunch at the Lindemans Early Harvest Restaurant...

I had Peter Evans' delicious Chicken larb salad (recipe provided!) and a glass of Lindeman's Early Harvest Crisp Dry White...

while C. had his Prawn on an avocado stack and a glass of Lindeman's Early Harvest Semillon Sauvignon Blanc.

And we signed up to do a French Macaroon class at Savour Chocolate & Patisserie School in July. All in all a very pleasant day...we'll definitely be going back next year - with trolleys!

May 28, 2008

nanaimo bars

I noticed I still had an old recipe for Nanaimo Bars when I was looking for the one for Lattice slice the other week. Like the Lattice slice, I used to make these bars back in the 80's for afternoon teas at various playgroup/kinder/Mothers' Club meetings. Then yesterday I came across this post on the wonderful Cakespy blog, and that gorgeous photo made my mouth water. So of course I had to make a batch right away. My recipe is almost exactly the same :
Nanaimo Bars
2 cups crushed digestive biscuits ( I used McVitie's)
125 unsalted butter, melted
1/3 cup insweetened cocoa
1/2 cup chopped pecans (or walnuts)
1 cup coconut
1 egg, lightly beaten.
1/4 cup sugar (I intentionally left this out as the other layers are very sweet)

Preheat oven to 170C. Mix all ingredients together and press into a non-stick paper-lined tin measuring approx. 27cms x 17cms. Bake 15 mins. Cool slightly. While base is baking, make the filling:

125 g unsalted butter
2 cups icing sugar
2 T custard powder
2 T milk
1/2 t vanilla extract

Cream all ingredients together until light and fluffy. Spread over cooled base. Refrigerate while making the topping:

180g dark chocolate
60g unsalted butter.

Melt together in a heat-proof bowl over boiling water. Stir until smooth and spread over top. Chill until set and cut into bars to serve.

May 22, 2008

no-stir risotto

I love risotto, and never minded making it on the stove top with all that stirring. But after I discovered this recipe in delicious a couple of years ago I realised I had never really cooked it properly. Mine had always been slightly al dente, whereas with this method the rice is really creamy. Now I always adapt different risotto recipes to use this oven method.

I lashed out and bought this gorgeous Le Creuset pot especially, and it's perfect for risotto-for-two.

This recipe makes a creamy but fairly dry risotto, so if you prefer yours sloppier (and more authentically Italian?) then you'll need to add more liquid.

And there's only one pot and one baking tray to wash up afterwards.

May 21, 2008

slice in a hurry

I received an email yesterday afternoon apologising for the short notice but asking choir members to bring a plate of something to have with supper after rehearsal. This slice was all the rage 30 years ago at our Mothers' Club meetings. It's a breeze to make and tastes like a little slice of cheesecake. I just had to pop out and buy the Lattice biscuits (boy am I going to miss the IGL down on the corner when we move) and they were done in 15 minutes.

Lattice Slice

1 pkt Lattice biscuits

125g cream cheese - straight from the fridge and cut into cubes

125g butter (softened by cutting into cubes and microwaving a few seconds on low)

125g caster sugar

2 t gelatine dissolved in 1/4 cup hot water

1/2 t vanilla extract

First dissolve the gelatine in the hot water, then pour mixture into a fresh (cold) cup or glass and stand in a bowl of cold water to cool quickly. Blend together cream cheese, butter and sugar in food processor until smooth, scraping sides once. Add cooled gelatine mixture and vanilla down the feed tube and process a few seconds until combined. Put bowl in fridge while doing the next step. Lay out half the Lattice biscuits in a foil lined tin. Don't worry if some of them are broken, they can be hidden underneath to serve. Spread the cream cheese mixture over and top with the remaining biscuits. Refrigerate until firm, separate carefully and cut in half with a sharp knife. Sprinkle with icing sugar to serve.

May 18, 2008

wintry night food

Friday was a sunny and mild 20 degrees in Melbourne, but yesterday winter arrived with a vengeance. The temperature only got to 10C and it rained most of the day. It was my turn to take the entree to a dinner party last night so it had to be both comfort food to suit the weather, and be easy to transport.

These delicious fool-proof souffles were perfect. The recipe came from an English magazine a few years back. I've made them quite a few times and they always turn out perfectly. They can be completed to the end of step 4 up to a day ahead, then baked when you're ready to serve them.

Twice-baked Cheese Souffles (serves 6)

300ml milk

1/2 small onion, studded with 1 clove

40g butter plus extra for greasing

40g plain flour

75g each of good cheddar cheese and gruyere cheese, grated and tossed together

1 t wholegrain mustard

pinch nutmeg

3 egg yolks

4 egg whites

200ml thickened cream

2 T grated parmesan

parsley sprigs, to garnish

1. Put the milk in a small pan with the onion and bay leaf. Bring slowly to the boil, then remove from the heat and leave to infuse for 30 min. Remove the onion and bay leaf. Preheat the onion to 180C.

2. In another pan, melt the butter, then add the flour and cook, stirring constantly, for 1 min. Remove from the heat, then gradually stir in the infused milk. Return to the heat and stir constantly until thickened and just beginning to boil. Remove from the heat then add 125g of the cheese and the mustard. Season well and add a good pinch of nutmeg, then beat in the egg yolks.

3. Butter six 150ml ramekins thoroughly. Put the kettle on to boil. Whisk the egg whites until stiff, then fold into the cheese sauce. Spoon the mixture into the ramekins, then put them in a roasting tin. Pour enough boiling water into the tin to come halfway up the ramekins. Bake for 15-20 min until set and golden. Remove from water bath and leave to cool.

4. Run a knife around the edge of each ramekin, then carefully turn the souffles out on to a buttered oven proof dish.

5. Increase oven to 200C. Season the cream, then pour it over the souffles. Sprinkle over the remaining cheese and parmesan and bake for 15 - 20 mins. until the cream is bubbling and the souffles have risen. Remove with a palette knife and serve immediately, garnished with parsley.