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

Thursday, 13 April 2017

Fibre Arts with Hannah Lamb

Home after a week away at Fibre Arts. This time I did a class with Hannah Lamb called Pattern of Place. You can read about her here , here  and here With a focus on experimenting with fabric, paper, cyanotype and Eco printing and stitch and taking the time develop some ideas and work in response a particular environment.

These two pieces are very small samples of Hannah's work

 Unusually, I do not have any finished pieces but there are many pieces in production. Some will remain as bigger pieces, however, most will be small pieces or for a book.

The weather was mostly grey and gloomy. Good for our eco printing but not so good for the cyanotype printing

I think the gloominess is reflected in this piece. Constructed with eco dyed fabric, hexagons made with papers that were cut up from an earlier exercise.

This task required us to draw our journey or walk from memory and use symbols and colours personal to us.

The journey interpreted in stitch and eco printed.

A close up

Eco print bundles, another form of pattern and place. 

Some of the fabrics from the bundle

Playing around with a cyanotype on silk and eco print.

Some more drawing exercises, without looking at the paper.

Interpreted in stitch

Another weed

Interpreted with fabric and stitch

A similar weed

This time a Cyanotype print, blurred because it started to rain.

On paper and under glass

Gum leaves

Lace daisy print

Group photo

Monty, the class mascot.

Friday, 7 April 2017

Beef/Lamb with Chipotle Sauce and Black Beans

This is another of what I refer to as a concept style of recipe.  I usually make this with meaty beef spare ribs, shin or large pieces of braising beef, however, a of lamb boned and cut into large pieces or shanks are also very good. Pork and chicken can also be used, although the cooking time may need to be reduced. The sauce is made with fresh tomatoes, however canned can be substituted. Chipotle chillies are dried and have a rich smoky flavour. The chillies need to be soaked. I buy dried black beans. Soak them overnight and then rinse and cook in fresh water until tender. This will take two hours. I tend to cook a lot and then freeze containers for use another time. Black beans can be purchased canned or you could substitute kidney beans. Long slow cooking ( or a pressure cooker) is essential for this dish.

This version is made with a boned leg of lamb

Beef with Chipotle Sauce and Black Beans

6 large beef spareribs
10 Roma tomatoes
2 onions
4 -6 cloves garlic
40g chipotle chillies, soaked to soften
2 cups cooked black beans
Salt and Pepper to season
Optional extra chilli/chilli flakes.


Place meat in a large casserole dish and season the meat with salt and pepper.

Purée the tomatoes, garlic and soaked chillies together and pour the sauce over the meat. It can be left to marinate overnight, however, cover and refrigerate.

Cover with foil and place in a 140 degree C oven. Cook for at least an hour. 

Remove foil. Taste sauce and add a little chilli if you want a spicier dish. 

Add beans and cook a further 30 minutes. If you prefer a thicker sauce remove the meat from the sauce, put sauce into a saucepan and boil down until the desired consistency is achieved

It reheats well and can be extended with some vegetables, this version has some diced yellow zucchini.

Wednesday, 5 April 2017

Chia Breakfast Puddings

Chia puddings make an excellent breakfast. I make up a large batch, keep it in the fridge and then make a breakfast combo according to what is my fridge or season. I like to include nuts and fruit and will often include oats either as cold cooked porridge or a scattering of toasted muesli and yoghurt. There are many versions of this pudding around, however, it is so simple to make and can be easily adapted to your tastes. I find the addition of the vanilla extract makes it sweet enough, add a little maple syrup or honey if you need a sweeter product.

Chia pudding, yoghurt, stewed fig/fig compote, fresh figs and walnuts.

Cold oat porridge, chia pudding, yoghurt, plum compote, blueberries and walnuts.

Chia pudding, yoghurt, milk, blueberries, walnuts and a dollop of pureed stewed figs.

Chia pudding, yoghurt, plum compote, hazelnuts and ground flax seeds.

Chia pudding, yoghurt, vanilla syrup, banana, nectarine, blueberries, walnuts and flax seeds.

How To

Combine 1/4 cup chia seeds (white or black), 1 cup milk ( low fat, soy, almond or whatever you prefer) and 2 teaspoons good quality vanilla extract. Use more milk if you prefer a softer pudding.

Mix well and refrigerate. Stir whisk after twenty minutes and refrigerate. Repeat. The chia seeds will absorb the milk and produce a thick jelly like mixture after awhile. Keep refrigerated.

It may seem strange to combine cold porridge with the chia pudding. It is delicious if the porridge is made with milk and creamy. Add a spoon of yoghurt and toppings of your choice.