Tuesday, 23 May 2017

March 2017 - Zodiac

An astrological interpretation seemed to be the way to interpret the theme of Zodiac.

My swap

Pisces.  3/3

The swaps that I received.

Capricorn - Goat and Constellation.  2/3

A Contemporary Zodiac,  Aurea Frenos - the Goose's Bridle.  2/12

Thursday, 18 May 2017

Pumpkin Honey Cake

I love belonging to a community of growers and producers.  My friend Helena is a beekeeper and often gives me a jar or two of her delicious honey and knowing me as she does, a packet of scrumptious old fashioned thick crumpets from a specialty baker. What a treat! I really enjoy a well toasted crumpet with lots of butter and honey and whilst I keep them as treat, they are one of the great morning pleasures.

There always seems to be a couple of open and nearly empty jars of honey in the pantry and from time to time I make this cake to use them up including any that have crystallised. 

The type of honey really impacts on the flavour of the cake, I prefer the more robust styles of honey for this cake, however, use any honey that you like. The cake is best made in advance and left for the flavour to mature. It can be eaten plain, with the glaze or for a more luxurious treat add a layer of whipped honey cream. If not creamed there is no need to refrigerate the cake. Sometimes for dessert I just use the honey cream and cover the top and sides as well as in the layers.

Mostly I bake the cake as a slab and use the glaze  on top with the honey cream filling.

Pumpkin Honey Cake

180 g soft butter
1 cup honey
4 eggs
3 cups SR flour
1 cup sour cream
½ teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
1 cup grated pumpkin (150 g or a bit more)

Honey Cream
300 ml cream
2 – 3 teaspoons honey

Extra honey for filling - optional
Finely ground pepitas - optional

Honey Glaze
1 1/2 cups icing sugar
2 teaspoons butter
1 tablespoon honey

Preheat oven 170 deg C. Grease and line cake tin or two sandwich pans.

Beat the butter and honey together, gradually add eggs, beating well.

Add sour cream, pumpkin, spices and bicarbonate of soda. Stir in flour and mix well.

Bake at 170 deg C for ten minutes and then reduce heat to 160 deg C until cooked. Golden brown in colour, the edges will shrink slightly from side of cake tin and a skewer comes out clean. Allow to cool. 

To Serve
Split cake (cakes) in two or three depending on the thickness of the baked cakes and how many layers you would like. Spread the base with a little honey if desired and sandwich the layers together with whipped cream. Ice the cake with the honey glaze and top with the ground pepitas. Refrigerate for several hours or overnight.

Honey Glaze
Melt butter and honey in a microwave bowl large enough to hold the icing sugar. Add the icing sugar and stir well. If necessary add a little water or extra to make a spreadable icing. Microwave the icing on high for 10 seconds, mix and microwave for another 10 seconds. The icing should go runny, pour over the cake. You need to do this immediately as it will set quickly.

Honey Cream

Whip cream and honey together until stiff.

I use a cutting board or heavy plate to flatten a cake that has risen too much in the middle. A non stick cake cooler stops the board from touching the cake.

Wednesday, 10 May 2017

'Evil' Slice

I have been working in a casual position at a local cookware shop. A customer came in wanting to purchase a new slice tin.  In the course of assisting him we got to discussing cooking and I was intrigued by his description of the slice and especially taken by the title - Evil Slice. To my surprise, Andrew returned to the store and left the recipe for me. Thank you Andrew for sharing the recipe for the 'Evil' slice.

Yes it really is 'evil' and absolutely delicious. A chocolate biscuit base, topped with a decadent caramel and chocolate bar filling and sprinkled with nuts. I made one or two changes to the recipe - treacle for the golden syrup, more picnic bars than the recipe stipulated and I added a teaspoon of sea salt flakes. Toasted almond slivers were chopped and sprinkled over the caramel mixture. Be warned, it is hard to stop at one piece.

Evil Slice
250 g Chocolate Ripple biscuits, finely crushed
125 g butter, melted
1 cup (can) condensed milk
1/4 cup golden syrup (treacle)
1/2 cup brown sugar
90 g butter, extra
250 g Picnic chocolate bars (400g / 4 x 100g bars)
1/4 cup crushed nuts  ( toasted almond slivers)

Optional, 1 teaspoon salt flakes

Grease and line slice tray with baking parchment.

Combine melted butter and crushed biscuits, mix well. Press biscuit mixture into the slice tin and refrigerate.

Combine extra butter, golden syrup, condensed milk and brown sugar in a saucepan over low heat.

Stir until mixture thickens and leaves the sides of the pan.

Add the chopped Picnic bars and salt, if using and stir through the caramel mixture.

Spread the caramel topping over the biscuit base and sprinkle with the crushed nuts.

Refrigerate until set, turn out and slice into small squares or fingers.

Thursday, 4 May 2017

Sweet Treats with Low Added Sugar

Recently, I was asked to prepare a lunch for a community group. The brief was to produce food that would suitable for a group of people with a number of health concerns and dietary problems including a need for gluten free. What celebration is complete without a sweet treat? These are the two items that I made. They are not sugar free but are low in refined sugars, however, they are still high in kilojoules and should be eaten sparingly. The sweetness comes from the dried fruits.

The chocolate cake is not as sweet as you might expect and can be made into supcakes. This version are butterfly cakes with a whipped cream filling and a light dusting of grated chocolate.

The same cake mixture made as a layer cake with whipped cream and a more generous layer of melted chocolate icing.

(Low Sugar)Chocolate Cake
250 g prunes
1 cup water
½ cup grapeseed oil
1 -2 Tablespoons Agave syrup or 1 -2 tablespoons Nutrasweet granules or to taste

1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs
½ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
4 tablespoons Dutch Cocoa or raw cacao
2 cups almond / hazelnut meal

Soak prunes with the water until soft then puree in a food processor.
Combine oil, agave/nutrasweet, prune mixture and water together in a large saucepan. Melt/cook on low heat until just warm.
Stir in vanilla, eggs, bicarbonate of soda, cocoa and baking powder. Mix well.
Stir in almond/hazelnut meal and mix until combined.
Spoon the mixture into greased and lined lamington/brownies tin or into individual cup cake papers.
Bake at 160 deg C until golden brown and tests just clean with a skewer, approximately 40 minutes
Allow to cool in tin.

(Low Sugar)Chocolate, Almond Coconut Balls
2 cups natural almonds
10 fresh, pitted dates (Mejdool)
1 cup almond meal
125 g butter
3 tablespoons coconut oil

1/2 cup raw cacao powder or Dutch cocoa
1 - 2 tablespoons Agave Syrup/Stevia Sweetener Granules or more to taste
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 cup coconut for balls
1/2 cup extra coconut to roll the balls

Chop natural almond in food processer until roughly chopped, add dates and process until a “squidgy” mass has formed.
Add remaining ingredients and process until mixture forms a stiff paste
The mixture should be moist enough to hold together and roll into small balls. If too dry add a little water. If the mixture is very sticky add some extra coconut.
Roll mixture into small bite sized balls and then into the extra coconut. Place on a tray and refrigerate.
Store the balls in the refrigerator, they will last for a week or so.

Wednesday, 26 April 2017

Slow Roasted Carrots and Lamb

I love Autumn and really look forward to the changing weather and garden. The last week or so has seen the end of our tomatoes and some much needed tidying of the garden. A slow roasted piece of lamb is a good dish to make when you want the comfort of a hearty meal but need to be out in the garden. It just cooks away without the need for much attention.  We did not have quite as bountiful crops this year due to in part to a 'poorer' season and relinquishing our plot in the community garden. Mostly the excess fresh tomatoes are slow roasted and frozen, however, some were put aside for a small run of homemade tomato sauce, tomato and chilli jam and chutney. I like to have a few preserves on hand, they remind me of the bounty of our Summer garden and can make the plainest or simplest of meals seem that little bit special.

This is one of my preferred ways to have lamb at this time of the year, although, for me it is all about the carrots.  Roast or BBQ lamb is delicious with my friend Helena's Chutney and these roasted carrots with onion. Simple, tasty and no fuss makes this a great dish when you want the comfort of a roast but not the bother of the full on roast and all the trimmings. Perfect for that lazy Sunday late lunch just add some crispy roasted potatoes and some steamed greens or a green salad.

I have taken to using the carrots and onions as a trivet when roasting the lamb. The juices from the lamb drop down into the carrots to create a really flavoursome side dish. 

Here's How

Place a generous layer of thickly sliced carrots and onions in the dish. 

Place the boned leg of lamb on top. This one has been seasoned with a little garlic powder and a splash of olive oil.

Cook in a hot oven until the surface goes nice and brown. Pour a tablespoon or two of Masala wine over the lamb. This is optional but adds to the flavour.

Continue cooking until meat is really golden and cooked. Remove lamb and allow it rest in a warm place for at least fifteen minutes, thirty minutes is better. Meat will stay hot if rested in a foam box or esky. Return the carrots to the hot oven to evaporate any liquid and the carrots and onions get a bit crispy. Place on a serving plate. Leftover carrots reheat very well in the microwave.

Thursday, 20 April 2017

One dough ...Lots of Variations

I often get asked about how I choose which recipes to cook, mostly by people who find the whole process overwhelming. My advice is always...find a few recipes that you like, that work and that you can change around easily. Use them often until you become confident. Hunting for a recipe, shopping for the ingredients and then making the dish all eat into your time. This applies to both sweet and savoury foods. I have many recipes that I use over and over. One of these is this Vanilla Cookie dough. It is my favourite for cookies that need to be cut out into shapes but works just as well for the usual style of cookies. Sometimes I just roll the leftovers into balls and make a few variations. I have written about this dough here and here

Here are some ideas for making the basic dough into a variety of biscuits

This platter was made for a post Easter afternoon tea when the request was for anything except hot cross buns. I would normally only make one or two variations at a time.  

It is a simple matter to roll small balls and flatten with a fork. 

your fingers or the bottom of a glass

Sandwich pairs together with icing such as lemon, or perhaps a chocolate ganache or a buttercream filling.

Roll the dough into balls, flatten as you press into coffee sugar crystals and top with a nut (possibly my favourite variation)

Or maybe some glacé ginger (next favourite)

No sugar and some glacé pineapple

Swap the castor sugar to brown sugar, add some choc chips or currants.

Add some jam

This is easier if you make a little indent or well with the back of a spoon

Add a chocolate button

Small chocolate eggs also work well, if you have any left from Easter.

Macadamia nuts are also delicious

Vanilla Cookies
These biscuits are very easily made in a food processor. Place all ingredients except flour and process together, and then add flour and pulse until the dough forms a ball

250 g butter
3/4cup caster sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups flour
coffee sugar crystals  and other items to decorate
Cream the butter and the sugar together.
Add eggs, vanilla, baking powder and mix well
Stir in flour and mix well until dough forms a soft ball.
Divide dough into two balls; roll out between two sheets of baking paper. Place on a tray and refrigerate for several hours or overnight.
Remove top layer of baking paper. Use cutters of your choice and stamp out cookies. Place on a tray lined with cooking paper. I use the top sheet that I removed when cutting the cookies.
Optional – decorate with some coffee sugar.
Freeze cookies, this helps prevent the cookies from spreading. Preheat oven whilst waiting for the cookies to freeze.
Bake at 170 Deg C until pale golden brown

Re roll leftover dough between two sheets of baking paper, refrigerate and proceed as before.

Monday, 17 April 2017

Fruit Loaf

This is a family favourite.

One of those quickly made loaf cakes that is equally delicious plain or spread with butter. 

I tend to buy mixed fruit in one kilogram bags and always make two loaves, however, it is easy to halve the ingredients and make one loaf.  If possible mince or process the dried fruits in a food processor as this will give the loaf a smoother texture that slices very well, alternatively blitz with a stick blender after the fruit mixture has cooled. I use a commercial blend of mixed dried fruit but any combination of dried fruits can be used.

Fruit Loaf
1 kg dried fruit
1 cup water
250 g butter
1 cup dark brown sugar

2 tablespoons marmalade
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
4 large eggs or 5 regular
½ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 cups plain flour

Mince dried fruit in a food processor. This is optional but produces a loaf with an excellent cutting quality.

Combine butter, sugar, dried fruit and water together in a large saucepan. Melt/cook on low heat until butter has melted. Mix well and then remove from heat and allow the mixture to cool.

Stir in marmalade, vanilla, eggs, bicarbonate of soda and baking powder and mix well.
Stir in flour and mix until combined.

Spoon the mixture into two greased and lined large loaf tins.

Bake at 160 deg C until golden brown and tests just clean with a skewer, approximately an hour or longer as required* The loaf is better slightly undercooked than overcooked.

When cool cut into slices/fingers and spread with butter.

*If I think the loaf is nearly cooked I turn the oven off and leave it in the oven to cool. Mostly this works very well, although there has been he odd time when the loaf was not quite cooked