Sunday, December 18, 2011

Christmas Baking

I have had a lovely night tonight alone in the kitchen baking lots of Christmas treats. With all the children asleep, this is my idea of a relaxing evening! The oven was broken all week so was having baking withdrawals. Inspired by the desire to make some edible gifts for my daughter's teachers I browsed online for recipes. I envisage giving them a jar full of something, so we will see whats successful. Here is what I made, I will post back later with the verdict(s)... Ed. see comments below

Almond, Vanilla and Coffee Bean Brittle @
 - this was fantastic, see this post about it
Chocolate Caramel Crackers @ Smitten Kitchen
 - this unusual combination was delicious. Bit hard to give as gifts due to the chocolate melting but great to eat as an after dinner treat!
Beer and Chilli Candied Peanuts @
 - not that great. The beer didn't add any flavour and I wasn't sure about the chilli and sugar combo, might just do regular candied nuts next time.
100s of Biscuits @ Planning with Kids
 - these were yummy and easy with a nice texture, I flavoured mine with giant freckles I had left over from a birthday party. I made the dough into long logs that were quick to slice into biscuits. I still have one log in the freezer.

And a few more recipes I may still make (not tonight, its nearly midnight!)...
 Ed. never got to these - maybe next year!
Caramel and White Chocolate Fudge @
Salted Caramels @

Candied Nuts @ Chocolate and Zucchini

Berry and Pistachio Biscotti @

Cranberry and White Chocolate Shortbread @

I have also soaked the fruit for my favourite christmas cake that I discovered last year - Date, Hazelnut and Currant Christmas Cake. The recipe for this Italian cake was printed in the Sydney Morning Herald last year, I made it then and once in the middle of the year because Christmas was too long to wait. I will do a full post on this once its baked. Doesn't look like it will get its two weeks wrapped in foil to improve with age, never mind!

Tomorrow I along with two little helpers will be making Christmas treats for my daughters classmates, I don't expect it will be quite as peaceful as tonight! We will be making Reindeer Biscuits from Planning with Kids - mint slice biscuits with jaffa noses, cachous eyes and pretzel ears (theirs use mint leaves but I couldn't get these and have seen reindeer cupcakes with pretzel ears that look great).
 Ed. see this post about the biscuits - they were great!

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Chocolate and Banana Muffins

This delicious and easy recipe comes from my friend Christina. She generously cooked us a meal and brought along a batch of these. I had to freeze half of them straight away to stop myself from eating them all. I begged the recipe from her and we cooked up a batch the other day. I often find muffins dry but these are moist and light with only a mild banana flavour - quite different to a banana cake. This time I dropped off half to my husbands work, but still managed to eat alot!

I made another kids picture recipe like I did with scones back in May so Molly, my 5 year old, was able to do most of the steps herself, ably assisted by Ava of course!

I recently bought myself a silicon mini muffin tray made by Scanpan; it is great, the muffins cooked well and just fell out. My metal trays always stuck. :(

Chocolate and Banana Muffins

The recipe states it makes 12 muffins. I made 26 mini muffins plus 4 regular muffins.

2 C self raising flour
½ C castor sugar
½ C chocolate chips or cooking chocolate, chopped
½ tsp salt
100g butter
1 C milk
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla essence
1 C mashed banana (2-3 mashed bananas)

Preheat the oven to 220C. Spray muffin tins if needed.

In a large bowl stir together the flour, caster sugar, chocolate chips and salt with a fork.
Melt the butter, remove from heat, then add the milk, egg and vanilla and beat well. Mash and measure the bananas and stir them into the liquid.

Tip all the liquid mixture into the bowl with the dry mixture. Fold everything together carefully until all the flour is dampened. Stopping before the mixture is smooth.

Spoon mixture into muffin tins. Bake at 220 C for 12-15 min until muffins spring back when pressed in the centre.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Vietnamese Smoked Trout and Vermicelli Salad

Lots of lovely people have been cooking us meals since Willa was born. My sister is visiting this weekend to meet her new niece. She made this delicious salad for lunch, I had to record the recipe because I will definitely be making it again. And she and her fiance are currently preparing dinner - Thanks!

Vietnamese Smoked Trout and Vermicelli Salad
You could substitute the smoked trout for cooked prawns or poached chicken.
serves 4

1/2 packet rice vermicelli noodles, cooked according to packet directions
1 whole smoked trout, flesh removed from bones and broken into pieces
1 telegraph cucumber,  cut into batons
1 punnet cherry tomatoes, halved
handful mushrooms, sliced
1 bunch asparagus, cut into thirds and blanched
4 spring onions
handful mint leaves
handful coriander leaves
handful peanuts, chopped
handful fried onions/shallots
3 tbsp fish sauce
3 tbsp rice vinegar
2 tbsp sugar
1/2 C hot water
2 tbsp lime juice
1 garlic clove, minced
1 small chilli, finely chopped

Place cooked  noodles on a large platter or flat bowl. Top with vegetables, then fish then herbs and peanuts.

Dress the salad or offer dressing at the table.

In a small jar, combine fish sauce, vinegar, sugar and hot water. Put the lid on and shake to dissolve sugar. Add remaining ingredients.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Willa - my new baby girl is here!

I gave birth to a beautiful little girl last Monday. We named her Willa Beth. Her sisters completely adore her, it is lovely seeing our three girls together.
Willa with gifts from her sisters
I don't think I will get much time for cooking or blogging in the next few weeks... Typing this one handed is rather slow.  But I am about to try and make a Blueberry and Apple Cake before the next breastfeed. I need cake to snack on!

I am using this recipe from for Blueberry Bake but am going to add apple as well. Like all my favourite cake recipes at the moment it has sour cream in it. Will let you know how it goes.
Update: The cake was a success. I iced it with a maple syrup butter icing but next time might just stick with the lemon. I used 1 apple and 1 C blueberries, I think you could increase this to 2 apples, mixing one through the cake mixture and sprinkling one on top with the berries.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Chorizo, Eggplant and Chickpea Soup

I made this soup a couple of times over winter. The chorizo gives it a great flavour and it is quick and easy to whip up as it doesn't need a long cooking time. You could add any other vegies that take your fancy - zucchini, carrot, sweet potato...

Chorizo, Eggplant and Chickpea Soup
serves 4+

olive oil
1-2 chorizo, skin removed and diced
1 onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
1 eggplant, small dice
400g tin tomatoes
400g tin chickpeas
1 L chicken stock

In a heavy based saucepan, fry the chorizo in a dash of olive oil until browned. Set aside.

In the same pan, add more olive oil and fry onion, garlic and eggplant until onion is softened and eggplant browning. Careful not to burn the onion. Add the chorizo and remaining ingredients. Simmer for 10 minutes.

Serve with crusty bread.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Mexican Vegetarian Lasagna

I made Pea and Three Pod's Mexican Lasagna for dinner last night. My husband devoured his first serving and declared I can "add it to the list" which surprised me greatly given it was vegetarian and full of kidney beans! This delicious dish is flavoured with fresh coriander and ground coriander and cumin, and topped with sour cream, avocado and jalapenos is really tasty! The kids ate it but were annoyed the wraps were already in the "pie" and they didnt get to make their own burritos.

It was quick and easy to whip up and made from pastry staples. I will be making this again. If you want a meaty version, I have also made this Enchilada Pie.

Camera cord is still missing despite extensive nesting induced tidying ... Might need to buy a new one with the baby due soon!

Mexican Lasagne
serves 4
olive oil
2 cl garlic, chopped
1 onion, diced
1 red capsicum, diced
1 chilli, chopped with seeds (optional - I left it out)
½ tsp sea salt flakes
bunch fresh coriander
400g tin chopped tomatoes
1 tbsp tomato ketchup
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp coriander

400g can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
400g tin refried beans
sweetcorn kernels from 2 cobbs or 1 tin
tasty grated cheese
4-6 soft tortillas

To serve
Avocado, sourcream, spring onion, fresh coriander, lime, jalapenos

Spray a round ovenproof dish, about the same size as your tortillas, with olive oil spray and preheat the oven to 200 C.

To make the salsa, heat the oil in a frypan and add the onion, capsicum and chilli cook till softened, then add the salt, cumin, coriander and garlic and cook for another couple of minutes before adding in the tin of tomatoes, ketchup and half a cup of water, simmer for 15 minutes, then turn off the heat and stir thru most of the chopped coriander.

To make the filling just combine the beans and corn. Now you can assemble it like a traditional lasagne starting with some salsa then a tortilla, bean mix, salsa, handful of cheese, tortilla... finish with salsa and a nice big handful of cheese. I managed four layers, the original recipe had 6 but I found I didn't have enough filling.

Bake for 30 minutes till is golden and bubbling. Let it sit for ten minutes before you slice into wedges and serve with some diced avocado, jalapenos, spring onions, coriander, squeeze of lime juice and don't forget the sour cream.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Left-over Cereal Chocolate Slice and Triple Chocolate Cookies

I haven't had much energy for blogging lately. Only 5 weeks to go til the baby is due and I am definitely nesting - the inside of my fridge has never looked so clean. So that and organising a bathroom renovations seems to zap all my time.

I have also been trying to have a clean up of my recipe collection. I have accumulated 3 years worth of Good Livings (from the Sydney Morning Herald) so have had a lovely time going through them cutting out recipes - of course I can't just throw them out. I need to do the same with 3 years worth of Gourmet Traveller Magazines!

I have been browsing blogs lately for baking ideas. I like having something home-baked to send in lunchboxes (and for me to snack on!). It has to be nut-free to send to preschool of course, but sometimes I make a nutty item later in the week or just for me!

I found the slice recipe on Cate Can Cook and it was perfect for this week when we finished the packet of weetbix. There was exactly 1 C of crumbs in the bottom of the pack. Usually these go to the chickens but this is a better use!

This recipe has been around for years. I found a few variations on my search. I added an egg to Cate's recipe as my mix was dry. The result was a yummy soft chewy cakey slice with a thick layer of chocolate icing - whats not to like? I sprinkled mine with Hundreds and Thousands which the kids liked!

I also baked a batch of triple chocolate cookies for my husband to take skiing. These were chosen with his chocolatey tastes in mind but I must admit I enjoyed them a lot!

The camera cord is missing so photos will come later!

Here are a few other recipes I have in mind to bake:

Puffed-Rice Slice with Peanut Butter and Chocolate @ Mathilda's Market Blog
Oaty Chocolate Caramel Rice Bubble Bars @ Cate Can Cook
Chocolate Chip Shortbread @ Cate Can Cook
Brown Sugar Shortbread @ Not Quite Nigella
Afghan Cookies @ Not Quite Nigella
Jelly Slice @ Pod and Three Peas
Banana Sour Cream Cake @ Pod and Three Peas (bananas are supposed to get cheaper soon!)
Chocolate Crackle Top Biscuits @ Taste
Fresh Strawberry Cake @ All Recipes
Pear, Date and Hazelnut Cake @ Bill Granger in the SMH

Left-over Cereal Chocolate Weetbix or Cornflake Slice
1 cup self raising flour
1 cup crushed weetbix or corn flakes
1 dessertspoon cocoa powder
1 cup brown sugar (firmly packed)
3/4 coconut (dessicated or shredded)
125g butter, melted
1 egg

Preheat oven to 180 C.

Mix all ingredients in a large bowl. Press mixture into a slice/lamington tin. Bake in oven (180C) for 10 minutes.

Remove from oven - allow to cool slightly. Smooth the chocolate icing onto slice. Sprinkle with hundreds and thousands or coconut and leave to set.

Chocolate Icing
1 C icing sugar
2 tbsp cocoa
1/4 tsp vanilla essence
20g butter, melted
1 tbsp milk (plus extra if needed), warmed
Hundreds and Thousands or Coconut, to sprinkle

Place the icing sugar, cocoa, vanilla, and butter in a bowl. Mix together, then add 1 tablespoon of milk, adding more if necessary to form a smooth paste.

Triple Chocolate Cookies
makes 30 - 40
This is a large batch of cookies, you can halve it or you can freeze uncooked dough in balls or logs to bake later.

250g unsalted butter, softened
350g soft brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 eggs, lightly beaten
310g (2½C) cups plain flour
60g (½) C cocoa powder
2 tsp baking powder

a pinch of salt
250 - 350g dark and white chocolate, chopped or chocolate bits (The original recipe had 350g, I thought this was a lot so reduced to 250g. I used 100g chopped white chocolate and 150g dark chocolate.

Preheat the oven to 180 C.

Place the butter and sugar in a bowl, and beat until light and creamy. Add the vanilla and eggs and stir together well.

Sift in the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt and mix until just combined. Fold in the chocolate.

Place large spoonfuls of cookie mixture on a greased and lined baking tray, allowing room for spreading. Cook in batches for 15-20 minutes, until the bases are cooked. Allow to cool on the tray.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Chocolate, Almond and Currant Cookies

I made Chocolate, Walnut and Currant Cookies from the Pod and Three Peas blog the other day with the kids. I thought these would be a good snack cookie for the kids - fruit, nuts and oats to make them "healthy" and chocolate to make them appealing. But the results were even better - they were flat and chewy with a slightly caramel flavour - reminding me a bit of a chewy florentine. I think I ate more than the kids! I used flaked almonds and chocolate chips with the currants.

What to do with ... lemons

Our lemon tree has just ripened so we have a big box of lemons to work our way through. Not that I am complaining - I love lemons! If I choose dessert I would probably go lemon flavoured (Lemon Delicious pudding is my favourite - see below), where as my husband would always go for chocolate.
The lemons last quite a few months but the last few years I have taken lots of them, zested them then juiced them. I freeze the zest in an airtight container, you can just scrape out as much as you need, and freeze the juice in ice cube trays, then store in a container or ziplock bag once frozen. That way I have lemons on hand all year!

I haven't tried all the recipes linked below. My favourites are marked with a *. I must blog some of these recipes!

Lemon chicken - Bill Granger
Lemon linguine - Nigella
Greek egg and lemon chicken soup (Avgolemono) -
Broccoli with Lemon Sauce - Women's Weekly

*Lemon Delicious (self-saucing pudding) - my favourite dessert
*Lemon Tart - River Cafe (I make half the recipe in a 20cm flan tin)
*Lemon No-bake Cheesecake - Philadelphia packet recipe
Lemon Meringue Pie
Crepes with lemon and sugar
Lemon and Blueberry Trifle -
Lemon Semifreddo -
Lemon sorbet

cakes, biscuits, slices...
*Sour cream and lemon cake @Pod and Three Peas
*Melting moments - Women's Weekly
*Lemon poppyseed cake - here is the lime version
Lemon slice
Sponge cake with lemon curd filling
Lemon icing (lemon juice, icing sugar and a little butter) on banana cake

Lemon curd/butter -
Preserved lemon - Stephanie Alexander

check out this lemon recipe collection @ The Happy Housewife

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Playschool Salad

After Monday's episode of Playschool on which they made a salad, Molly (my 5 year old) announced she wanted to make salad. She has never eaten salad! She then asked everyday if we were having her salad. So on Wednesday we had Playschool Salad and Chicken Schnitzel. And Molly ate a whole bowl of salad! With dressing! And she helped make it.
Thankyou Playschool! If only they could also give a lesson in how to eat your dinner in under an hour...

Playschool Salad
Prepare amounts to suit your family. Remember to cut ingredients small/thin enough that your little ones can eat them with a fork.

Get the kids involved - my 5 year old was able to wash and chop the lettuce, peel the carrot, string the snow peas and pull off the grapes.

lettuce, shredded
carrot, grated or finely chopped
celery stick, finely chopped
snowpeas, ends and strings removed, chopped in half
red grapes, halved
apple, chopped into small pieces

Dressing - combine in a jar and shake
olive oil
lemon juice

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

What to do with ... sour cream

I thought I would start a new series of blogs about what do with ingredients that I end up left with or produce that I have a bounty of. I am starting with sour cream as I often end up with half a carton in the fridge after a mexican meal.
Sour cream is the ingredient guaranteed to get my children to eat anything, any vegetable soup is gobbled up with big dollops of sour cream, but rather than just handing the tub to them with a spoon I might try some of these recipes instead!

Sour Cream

serve with...
mexican - chilli con carne, burritos, tacos, enchiladas, chicken and corn soup, taco soup
jacket potatoes
soup - pumpkin, mushroom, zucchini

substitute into...
pasta bake
mashed pototoes
scrambled eggs

whip up...
Salsa Dip - mix sour cream with salsa

Stroganoff - beef, chicken or mushroom
Creamy paprika chicken [150g] @Not Quite Nigella
Baked taco chicken - mix sour cream with taco flavouring and pour over chicken fillets, bake.
*Annie's potato salad - combine 1/3 C sour cream, 2/3 C mayonnaise, 2 tsp lemon juice, parsley. Mix through 750g chat potatoes boiled, 4 eggs hard boiled chopped and 4 bacon rashes chopped and fried. Serve warm or cold.
Quiche made with sour cream instead of cream

Maggie Beer's sour cream pastry [60g] by Maggie Beer
Lime and Sour Cream cookies [90g] @FoodRSO
Sour cream carrot cake [140g] @Nigella
*Old fashioned chocolate cake [150g] by Nigella
*Sour cream and lemon cake [185g=3/4C] @Pod and Three Peas
*Strawberry Streusel Cake [250g] by Nigella
Sour cream pound cake [250g] @NotQuiteNigella
Nigella's sour cream and white chocolate icing [125g] @NotQuiteNigella

Cheesecake with sour cream topping by Nigella
Blueberry Muffins [250g] by Donna Hay
Sour cream and choc chip cake[250g] @Nigella

* = favourite recipes

Next week what to do with ... lemons

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Butternut Macaroni Cheese with Rosemary, Bacon and Parmesan

This yummy recipe comes from a Delicious magazine back in 2005. I have been making it since then and the kids now like it too! I have found normal macaroni and cheese too rich so this has the advantage of being moist from the pumpkin and still cheesy, but the best bit is the crunchy bread crumb and bacon topping!

Butternut Macaroni Cheese with Rosemary, Bacon and Parmesan

serves 4-6
Olive oil
3 garlic cloves, sliced
1 dried chilli, crushed or 1 large pinch dried chilli flakes (optional)
½ cinnamon stick
1 large butternut pumpkin, peeled, flesh chopped into 2 cm cubes
400g macaroni
300ml milk
1 cup thickened cream
150g parmesan, grated
8 slices pancetta or streaky bacon
1 sprig fresh rosemary, leaves picked (dried works well here too)
3-4 slices day-old bread, crusts removed, torn into chunks (150g)

Heat a splash of olive oil over medium heat and gently fry garlic till golden. Add chilli, cinnamon, pumpkin and small glass of water. Cover with a lid and cook on medium heat for about 20 minutes till pumpkin is soft. Uncover and boil the liquid around the pumpkin until reduced to almost nothing. Remove from heat and remove cinnamon. Mash the pumpkin and season.

Cook macaroni until al dente, then drain well. Quickly toss in a bowl with the pumpkin, milk and cream. Add three quarters of the parmesan and season, then place in large baking dish (2L).

Preheat oven to 200 C.

Cook pancetta or bacon in a large frypan over mediom heat till light brown. Add rosemary and bread, fry gently for 1-2 mins, then pulse in a food processor till chopped. Sprinkle remaining parmesan over pasta, then with bacon and rosemary. Bake for 30mins till crisp and bubbly on top.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Whats-in-the-fridge Spanish Eggs

I didn't have much inspiration or energy for dinner tonight. I hadn't defrosted anything and there was only eggs and bacon in the fridge. We had carbonara last night so I felt scrambled eggs was a bit similar...

I scraped together left overs for the kids then I thought of something - those baked pots of spicy tomato sauce eggs. I found out these are called Spanish Eggs amongst other things and usually contain chorizo and are served for breakfast.

Here is my version, with bacon and mushrooms, flavoured with chilli, paprika and cumin. My Gran and I enjoyed it with freshly baked bread.

Whats-in-the-fridge Spanish Eggs
serves 2
This would be great with the addition of fresh parsley or oregano, but it was a bit cold to go outside...

olive oil
1 C mushrooms, chopped
1/2 onion, finely chopped
1 rasher bacon, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
sprinkle smoked paprika
sprinkle dried chilli
sprinkle ground cumin
1/4 C frozen spinach
1 tbsp grilled capsicum pieces (optional, I had a jar)
400g tin tomatoes
2 eggs

Preheat oven to 200C.

In a frypan, fry the mushrooms in a little oil until browned, set aside.

Add a dash more oil and fry the onion and bacon. When the onion is softened add the garlic and spices and cook stirring for another minute. Add the spinach, capsicum and tomatoes and simmer to thicken. Season to taste.

Put sauce into individual ramekins, wider rather than deeper are better. Crack an egg into the centre of each. Bake for 10 - 15 minutes until the white is set and yolk still runny.

Serve with bread to mop up the yummy sauce.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Fairy 5th Birthday Party

My eldest daughter Molly just turned 5! We had a party for her on the weekend, she chose a fairy theme as she is very into Tinkerbell at the moment. I tried to resist having an entirely Tinkerbell party but there was a lot of her :) The 9 little girls in attendance, in their gorgeous fairy outfits, all seemed to have a good time.

I made a fairy cake with little Tinkerbell figurines on it. Molly started out wanting a carousel/merry-go-round cake with horses but we changed it to a fairy merry-go-round to fit in the theme better. It turned out really well, but I may have stayed up very late finishing it off the night before!

The base cake was a 24cm Nigella Lawson vanilla buttermilk birthday cake (1 1/2 batches) covered in pale green buttercream. The top was a Nigella Lawson sour cream chocolate cake (1/2 batch) baked in a bowl, covered in ready-to-roll fondant dyed pale pink. I piped bright pink buttercream flowers all over the cakes, which I quite enjoyed! These are the kids favourite bit of course! It was assembled with 6 ribbon covered cake dowels and a ribbon covered cardboard tube which were just poked into the cake with the top cake (on a cardboard cake board) resting on top. Some of the figurines were dangling from the top cake by fishing line so the fairies were flying.

For the rest of the food I made:
  • butterfly and flower shaped cheese pastries (puff pastry with grated cheese) - these were Molly's favourite and were the easiest to make
  • sausage rolls  - I like this recipe, I used beef sausage mince from the butcher and skipped the herbs - make plenty as the parents always like them too!
  • fairy bread
  • pink fruit skewers with strawberries, red grapes and watermelon
  • pink meringues
  • coconut ice

We decorated the room with silk flowers and balloons. The lolly bags had wizz fizz, strawberries and cream, musk sticks, and candy-bracelets. For prizes I found Tinkerbell glitter glues in a wand shape and mini fairy notebooks.

I find it best to keep the kids busy for the whole party, so we played lots of games:
  • musical flowers (like musical chairs but with cardboard flower shapes)
  • fairy treasure hunt in the garden - they looked for chocolate coins, the Tinkerbell glitter glues, and shiny cut out stars and flowers
  • Pin the wand on the fairy - we used the star cutouts they had found on the hunt
  • Pass the parcel - with a candy bracelet in every layer, as Molly said "it was fair because we all got an eating bracelet"
  • and we finished by turning on the Tinkerbell Movie.
I couldn't resist having a cooking activity at the party, I love cooking with kids and seem to find a whole extra patience reserve. We made marshmallow fairy wands that I saw on Juicy Bits.

Marshmallow Fairy Wands
wooden sticks or skewers
white chocolate melts
pink and purple food dye (the liquid pink dye worked much better than the purple paste)
lots of sprinkles
piece of polystyrene foam

Melt the white chocolate and add food colouring to get desired colours. Place in small bowls to allow for easy marshmallow dipping. Put the sprinkles in little bowls.

Place a marshmallow on the blunt end of the stick. Dip into chocolate and into sprinkles.

Stick skewer into piece of polystyrene to allow to dry.

Our fairies made 3 each and when they were dry I put a cellophane bag over them and tied with curling ribbon to send home.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Passionfruit Self-saucing Pudding

The Good Living section of the Sydney Morning Herald on Tuesday this week had a selection of passionfruit recipes by Jane and Jeremy Strode. I couldn't resist the self-saucing pudding, especially as I had passionfruits in the fruit bowl. The recipe is just like lemon delicious - a light spongey self-saucing pudding that I love but possibly even better! We all devoured it and I am going to have to make it again soon.

You can find the recipe here at I followed the recipe exactly but stretched it to 3 larger and 2 smaller serves.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Babi Kecap Pork in the SC - Slow Braised Malaysian Pork with Ginger, Chilli and Sweet Soy Sauce

We just had a lovely long weekend at home with my sister and her fiance staying. My sister introduced me to the Almost Bourdain blog which sadly finished recently. We found this recipe for Babi Kecap Pork which not only looked delicious but had the great advantage of using kecap manis (sweet soy sauce) and tamarind water, both of which I have quite a bit of and don't use much, as well as pork shoulder which I had in the freezer.

I cooked it all day in the slow cooker and it was fantastic, we ate all of it between the 4 of us. There was no way the kids would have eaten it (they had two minute noodles which they were thrilled about:) but I will try it again without the chilli and I think they will enjoy the sweet salty sauce (and I will add chilli flakes to my serve!).

We followed it up with a delicous apple pie cooked by Amelia and Adam - I love guests who cook us delicious food (and are great company) - thanks for the pie, pancakes, caesar salad, hamburgers and guacamole!

Babi Kecap in the Slow Cooker - Slow Braised Pork with Ginger, Chilli and Sweet Soy Sauce
recipe adapted for the slow cooker from Almost Bourdain who adapted it from Rick Stein's Far East Odyssey
I used the last of the summer's chillis from my garden - one long red and two jalapenos chopped seeds and all - it was the perfect spiciness.
serves 6

2 tbsp vegetable oil
100 g shallots, thinly sliced
50 g garlic, crushed
25 g peeled ginger, finely grated
1.25 kg lean pork shoulder, in 3cm chunks
4 tbsp kecap manis
2 tbsp dark soy sauce
3 tbsp Tamarind water
1/2 tsp pepper
3-4 medium-hot chillies, seeded and chopped
4 red bird's eye chillies, left whole
500 ml asian chicken stock
Crisp fried shallots, to garnish

Heat the oil in a large, heavy-based pan over a medium heat. Add the shallots and fry until they are soft and richly golden. Add the crushed garlic, ginger and 1/2 tsp salt and cook for 1 minute. Add to the slow cooker, or set aside.

Add the pork to the pan and fry for 2 minutes until lightly coloured. Put in the slow cooker. Add the kecap manis, dark soy sauce, tamarind water, pepper, chopped and whole chillies and stock (only enough to almost cover the meat). Cook in the slow cooker on low for 8 hours or on the stove leave to simmer, uncovered, for about 1 1/2 hours, stirring now and then towards the end of cooking, until the pork is tender.

Lift the pork out of the sauce with a slotted spoon onto a plate. Boil the cooking liquid until it has reduced to a well-flavoured, slightly thicken, shiny, dark brown sauce. Season to taste with salt, return the pork to the pan and stir in. Spoon the pork onto a warmed serving plate, scatter with the crisp fried shallots and serve.

Serve with rice and greens.

Green Eggs and Ham Pasta (Carbonara with zucchini)

Green Eggs and Ham Pasta is what we decided this version of spaghetti carbonara should be called, after the kids discovered they had just eaten and liked zucchini hidden in the sauce.

As part of my continuing effort to include vegies I have tried grating zucchini into the sauce before but the kids can see the pieces. This time I cooked then pureed the zucchini and mixed it back through the sauce. It tasted good and the kids loved the green sauce. I also included peas in the sauce so they knew they were eating some vegies - can't rely entirely on subterfuge or they will never learn!

Spaghetti Carbonara with Zucchini and Peas
serves 2 adults + 2 small kids
A delicious and nutritious version of carbonara, for the more traditional version (with cream, I know this isn't traditional but I like it that way) leave out the peas and zucchini.

250g spaghetti or other pasta shape of your choice
1/2 C frozen peas
olive oil
2 zucchini, grated
5 bacon rashers, diced
1/2 C cream
3 eggs, beaten
100g parmesan, grated

Cook the spaghetti in lots of boiling water until al dente, add peas for the last few minutes. Drain.

Meanwhile, heat a frying pan over medium heat and fry zucchini in a little olive oil until softened. Remove from pan and puree (I used my bamix).

In the same pan cook the bacon until lightly browned. Add pureed zucchini and cream and heat until almost boiling. Remove from heat.

Beat eggs in a bowl then stir in parmesan.

As soon as the spaghetti is cooked add it to the bacon and cream mix. Stir through. Then add the eggs and parmesan. Quickly mix and serve (you don't want to scramble the eggs, just warm through).

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Chocolate Ripple Cake

This would have to be the easiest dessert in the world, but anyone who eats it thinks you have gone to a lot of trouble. I have been making it since childhood and my husband has now adopted it as his own. It is best made the day before so the biscuits really soften.

Chocolate Ripple Cake
serves 6 (but I could happily eat more!)
For an adults only version dip the biscuits in liqueur of your choice before layering with cream - I like Baileys!

600ml thickened cream
1 tsp caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla essence
1 x 250g packet Arnott’s Choc Ripple Biscuits
1 x Peppermint Crisp bar, finely chopped

Place cream, sugar and vanilla in a bowl and beat using an electric beater until stiff.

Spread one biscuit with a blob of cream then sandwich with another biscuit. Top with another blob of cream then place biscuits on their side onto the serving plate, at a slant. Repeat until all biscuits have been used and form a log. Unless you have a very long plate you might need to make two logs side by side.

Spread remaining cream over log to cover entirely. Cover loosely with foil, then place in refrigerator overnight, or for a minimum of 6 hours to soften. If you are in a hurry you can quickly dip the biscuits in milk before layering with cream, but this isn't as good as the slow way!

Just before serving, sprinkle with peppermint crisp. Serve.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Rice with Egg and Japanese Seasoning - Quick and Easy Dinner

This is a favourite standby meal in this house. The kids love theirs with a soft boiled egg, I prefer mine fried with a runny yolk and crispy bits. I love the yolk running over the rice mixed with soy sauce and the salty and sweet seasoning.

I serve the kids with frozen peas or corn or vegie sticks.

Japanese Rice Seasoning are available at asian supermarkets - I buy the simple one with sesame seeds, seaweed, salt and sugar, but there are lots of other more exotic versions. I also like the Japanese chilli seasoning.

Rice with Egg and Japanese Seasoning
More a list of ingredients than a recipe
Medium grain rice, cooked (I use this for all my Japanese recipes)
Eggs - soft boiled for 3-4 minutes or fried sunny side up
Japanese Rice Seasoning (or make up a mixture of sesame seeds, crushed sushi seaweed/nori, salt and sugar)
Soy Sauce

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Pork and Capsicum Hotpot in the Slow Cooker

I have been trawling the internet looking for new slow cooker recipes to try now winter has well and truly hit! I printed off a whole lot. The first one I tried was this yummy recipe, Pork and Capsicum Hotpot from the great blog Cate Can Cook , So Can You!
The recipe recommends pork scotch fillet, I used pork shoulder which I diced into chunky pieces, it was tender and falling apart. Besides that I just followed the recipe with great success.

Next on the list is Chicken with Almonds...

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Pea and Ham Soup

Yummy, filling, comforting, cheap soup! I have made this with both bacon hocks and ham bones, both make good soup but I found the ham bone soup wasn't as smoky and salty so I recommend adding a few bacon bones if using one of these.

Pea and Ham Soup
400g yellow split peas
2 onions, peeled and finely chopped
2 carrots, peeled and finely chopped
2 sticks celery, stalks finely chopped
1 garlic clove, peeled and crushed
1 ham/bacon hock or meaty ham bone and a few bacon bones
1 bay leaf (fresh or dried)
pepper to taste
2 - 3 L water
Salt, to taste

Place split peas, onion, carrot, celery, garlic, ham bone/hock, bay leaf, pepper and water in a stockpot or very large saucepan (at least 5 L capacity).

Place pot over high heat and bring liquid to the boil. Reduce heat to medium-low so the liquid is simmering. Cover pan leaving lid ajar. During cooking, use a spoon to skim the froth from the surface of the soup. Stir often, especially towards the end of the cooking time, to prevent the split peas sticking to the bottom of the pot.

After 2 hours simmering when the peas are turning to sludge, use tongs or two forks to remove the ham bone/hock from the pot. Leave the soup simmering uncovered. Set the ham bone/hock aside until cool enough to handle (about 10 minutes). Discard the bay leaf.

Remove the meat from the bone, discarding the bone and fat. Roughly chop meat and return to the soup.

Stir soup and taste to check whether salt is needed. Soup can be stored in the refrigerator or freezer.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Cupcakes and Buttermilk Birthday Cake

I like Nigella Lawson's Buttermilk Birthday Cake recipe from her book How To Be A Domestic Goddess and use it for all my birthday cakes. It is moist and delicious and even tastes great the next day (and for many days after that) which isn't the case for lots of cakes, and it holds it shape and can be cut and piled into any shape you need.

I decided to use it for a batch of cupcakes recently as I was baking them the night before. The next morning I chopped the tops off each cupcake (I wonder if they would be flatter if I used less baking powder?), covered in a smooth coating of buttercream icing then piped letters on each one.

I have discovered Multix Piping Bags, available from the supermarket, they are only a few dollars for 3 bags and nozzles. I have found the nozzles too big for fine piping, but you can cut the bag to any size you like, so I just cut a really small hole. You can wash and reuse or just throw away.

Nigella's Buttermilk Birthday Cake
"This cake is ideal for any birthday cake you want to make in a special mould as it holds its shape brilliantly. But you don’t have to wait for someone’s birthday - it’s a great recipe to cook with the kids at any time …"
serves 10

250g plain flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp salt
200ml buttermilk (or 75g yogurt mixed with 125ml semi-skinned milk)
finely grated zest of an unwaxed lemon, plus 1-2 tbsp lemon juice
125g softened butter, plus extra for greasing
200g caster sugar
3 large free-range eggs

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/gas 4. Butter a 23cm ring mould cake tin.

Sift the flour, baking powder, bicarbonate and salt together. Mix the buttermilk (or yogurt mixture) and lemon zest.

Cream the butter and sugar together. Beat in the eggs one at a time, adding a little of the flour with the last one.

Gradually add the rest of the flour with the buttermilk, one after the other, until thoroughly mixed.

Pour into the tin and bake for about 30 minutes or until well risen and pale golden brown. Loosen the sides of the cake with a round-bladed knife and turn out onto a wire rack to cool.

Fill 16 patty pans, standing in muffin trays, 1/2 - 2/3 full with cake batter and bake at 180C for about 20 minutes ot until done.

Buttercream Icing
This makes lots of icing, more than enough for one cake or batch of cupcakes, but if you want to make lots of colours it is worth having plenty!

250 g unsalted butter,
590 g icing sugar
1-2 tbsp milk
food colouring

Cream butter until very soft, pale and fluffy in an electric mixer. Gradually beat in icing sugar adding milk if you need more moisture.

If making all one colour, add food colouring to the mixer, if you want lots of colours, split into separate bowls and stir in the colouring by hand.

Swiss Buttercream Icing
This is a great icing that is smooth, fluffy, pipes really well, and isn't as sweet or gritty as normal buttercream icing. I have used it to ice the few wedding cakes I have made with great success.

enough for a 23cm cake plus filling

1 cup sugar
4 large egg whites
370g butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Whisk egg whites and sugar together in a big heatproof bowl over a pot of simmering water. Whisk occasionally until you can’t feel the sugar granules when you rub the mixture between your fingers.

Transfer mixture into the mixer and whip until it turns white and about doubles in size. (When you transfer to the mixer, make sure you wipe the condensation off the bottom of the bowl so that no water gets into the egg whites. This can keep them from whipping up properly.)

Add the vanilla. Finally, add the butter 100g at a time and whip, whip, whip. Do not have a panic attack when this takes a while to come together,  a large batch may take up to 15 minutes.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Pasta and Beans with Pork Ragu

This dish is suprisingly delicious despite the fact that the name really doesn't sound that appealing. My husband saw the recipe book open to the page with Spaghetti Carbonara opposite this one and asked hopefully, which one are we having? But then all of us gobbled up a big bowl!

This recipe is from The Thrifty Kitchen by Suzanne and Kate Gibbs. I keep pork mince in the freezer so had everything on hand to make this for dinner tonight without any planning.

Pasta and Beans with Pork Ragu
serves 4 (made enough for 4 adult serves plus 4 mini-kid serves)
250g pasta shells or other small shape
1/4 C olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
1 carrot, diced
1 zucchini, diced (optional - my personal addition to add more vegies)
1 bunch flat-leaf parsley, stems finely chopped, leaves chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 tsp dried oregano or handful fresh oregano, chopped
500g pork mince
400g tin chopped tomatoes
400g can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
1/3C black olives, stones removed and chopped
1/2 C chicken stock (optional)
salt and pepper
parmesan grated to serve
dried chilli to serve (optional)

Cook the pasta until just under done (2 minutes less than cooking time), as it will keep cooking when you add it to the sauce.

Heat the oil in a large frypan over medium heat and fry onion, carrot, zucchini, parsley stems, garlic and oregano for about 10 minutes, until the onion is soft. Increas the heat to high, add pork mince and fry for about 5 minutes, stirring to break up any lumps. Add the tomatoes, beans, olives (or add these to individual bowls if you have any olive haters) and chicken stock (if it looks a bit dry), stir and simmer for 5 -1 0 minutes until the sauce is thick and fragrant, then season to taste with salt and pepper.

Add the drained pasta and the parsley leaves to the pan and toss for another minute, over medium heat, then serve immediately with plenty of grated parmesan. We also served with a sprinkle of dried chilli for the adults.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Scones cooked by my 4 year old

This morning we had a delicious morning tea of scones with jam and cream, cooked almost entirely by Molly, my 4 year old. I created a pictorial recipe which she was able to understand (she can read numbers too) - you can find images for anything using google images! She did very well getting out all the ingredients and equipment (or asking for them) and measuring out. I carried the melted butter from the microwave (she put it in) and I put the tray in the oven but she was able to do pretty much everything else and was so proud of herself! I have given the simple recipe below but am happy to email you a copy of the kids pictorial version.
This is my Mum's scone recipe from a little paper book that came with her stove almost 30 years ago. They use melted butter so you don't have to rub it in which I hate! I have also had success with lemonade scones but these are my favourite. A nice variation is date and orange scones - with chopped dates and orange zest, these only need butter.
makes 8
2 cups self-raising flour
¼ tsp salt
30 g butter
200 ml milk

Preheat oven to 260 C for gas, 230 C for electric.

Melt butter with a little of the milk.

Sift flour and salt into a large bowl. Mix all ingredients together quickly and lightly, using enough milk to make a soft dough. You want to mix and handle as little of possible to ensure your scones stay light!

Turn out onto a lightly floured board and pat to a smooth shape. Roll/pat out to 2 - 3cm thickness and cut into rounds using a floured cutter.

Place on the centre of a greased scone tray allowing only 1 cm between each one. Brush tops with milk.

Lower oven temp to 230 C. Bake for 8-10 minutes until sides of all scones are set and tops golden.

Serve with butter or jam and cream.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Curry and Lentil Soup and Quick Naan from Artisan Bread in 5 Min Dough

This yummy and easy soup is from my friend Pauline. She claims she isn't much of a cook and then produces yummy things like this!
To go with it for lunch today I made naan bread from the artisan bread in 5 minute dough that I had in the fridge. I had this made in 10 minutes from fridge to plate and it was AMAZING! Golden brown, puffy and doughy in some bits and crispy in others. I could eat 3 in a row quite easily, I made my husband one for dinner tonight then ate half of it :)

Curry and Lentil Soup
serves 6
2 tsp vegetable oil
1 tbsp hot curry paste (I use Patak's Balti paste)
1 onion, finely chopped
1 carrot, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 cm piece fresh ginger, grated
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 C red lentils
1 L stock - chicken or vegetable
400g tin diced tomatoes
1 tsp lime zest
1/4 C lime juice
parley or coriander leaves, chopped

Heat oil in a large saucepan and cook curry paste, onion, carrot, garlic, ginger and cumin until paste is fragrant and onion softened.

Add lentils, stock and tomatoes and simmer, uncovered for about 20 minutes or until lentils are soft. Stir in lime zest and juice and return to the boil Stir in parsley or coriander. Serve.

Naan from Artisan Bread in 5 Minute Dough
"This delicious and buttery Indian flatbread is traditionally made in a huge cylindrical clay tandoori oven, with the wet dough slapped directly onto the oven’s hot walls. Our naan is done in a hot, cast-iron or heavyweight nonstick frypan. Butter or oil will work in lieu of Indian clarified butter (ghee), but the taste won’t be as authentic. You can find ghee at South Asian or Middle Eastern markets.

This recipe also has the distinction of producing our fastest bread, since it’s done on the stovetop without an oven preheat, and there’s no need to rest the dough. You can easily make one of these just before dinner, even on busy nights (so long as you have the dough in the fridge)."

makes 1 naan

115g/1/4lb (peach-sized portion) of pre-mixed boule dough or peasant dough which I have previously posted
1 tablespoon ghee (commercial or homemade), or neutral-flavored oil or butter

1. Dust the surface of the refrigerated dough with flour and cut off 115g piece. Dust the piece with more flour and quickly shape it into a ball by stretching the surface of the dough around to the bottom on all four sides, rotating the ball a quarter-turn as you go. Using your hands and a rolling pin, and minimal flour, roll out to a uniform thickness of 3mm(1/8in) and a diameter of 8 to 9 inches.
2. Heat a heavy 30cm cast iron or heavy non-stick frypan over high heat on the stovetop. When water droplets flicked into the pan skitter across the surface and evaporate quickly the pan is ready. Add the ghee or oil.
3. Drop the rolled dough into the frypan, decrease the heat to medium, and cover the skillet to trap the steam and heat.
4. Check for doneness with a spatula at about 3 minutes, or sooner if you smell overly quick browning. Adjust the heat as needed. Flip the naan when the underside is richly browned.
5. Continue cooking another 2 to 6 minutes, or until the naan feels firm, even at the edges, and the second side is browned. If you’ve rolled a thicker naan, or if you’re using dough with whole grains, you’ll need more pan time.
6. Remove the naan from the pan, brush with butter, and serve.

Peasant Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes

The other day I posted about my first Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes loaf. Well I have contined experimenting with great success. I turned the rest of the first batch into a sandwich loaf baked in a tin and another freeform loaf. Unlike the first loaf these were made with refridgerated dough, in my cold almost-winter kitchen the dough took a bit longer for the second rise than the recipe stated but it turned out well. I have added instructions for the sandwich loaf to the original post.

For my second batch of dough I made the Peasant Loaf dough which includes a small amount of whole wheat and rye flours. We tend to eat white bread in our house because I prefer it, even though I know I should be feeding the kids (and me) wholemeal. So I thought this was a good way to at least add a bit more fibre. It was still delicious with a great crust lots of comments on the web said they think it has more flavour.

Peasant Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes

3 C lukewarm water (+1/4 C if using bread flour)
4 1/2 tsp granulated yeast
4 1/2 tsp coarse salt or less table salt (adjust to suit your taste)
5 1/2 cups (760g) unbleached plain flour
½ C rye flour
½ C whole-wheat flour

For the method see my previous Artisan Bread post.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Artisan bread in 5 minutes (a new approach to no-knead bread) and Minestrone

During some late night blog reading last night I discovered the site Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes - this is the name of a book and website with recipes for making no-knead bread in only "5 minutes" (preparation time). This is the same principle as the Jim Lahey No-knead Bread I posted about last year but with some changes to make it easier to do on a regular basis. The ratio of water to flour is the same so the main difference is the amount of yeast but the Artisan Bread website does have adaptions for a low-yeast slow-rise version. So it mainly comes down to the method.
Basically you make a big batch of dough (4+ loaves), no kneading necessary, leave it to rise for 2 hours then put the dough in the fridge. Over the next two weeks when you want to make bread you just pull off a 500g lump of dough, shape and leave to rise for 40 - 90 minutes and bake. So you can have a loaf of bread on the table in 70 minutes.

And it was good! Maybe not quite as good as the original no-knead but better than any supermarket loaf. I baked the first loaf on a pizza stone as recommended but might try the Jim Lahey method of baking in a covered pot next time, and since I have 3 more loaves worth of dough in the fridge, that won't involve much effort.

Tonight the bread accompanied minestrone for dinner. My friend Skye and I were discussing what we put in our minestrone the other day so I thought I had better make it again. It would have to be one of my favourite soups. Ava, my two year old, loved the soup and thought the kidney beans were olives so she gobbled up her own and her sisters!

Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes
makes 4 500g loaves
Don't be afraid of all the steps in this recipe, they are detailed and descriptive but you will really only need to read them the first time! For a pictorial description see the Artisan Bread website.
Go here for more variations on the basic bread including pizza dough, whole-wheat sandwich bread, sticky caramel pecan rolls, naan and dinner rolls.

3 cups lukewarm water (+1/4 C if using bread flour)
4 1/2 tsp granulated yeast ( you can use any kind of yeast including: instant, rapid rise, bread machine, active dry) You can also decrease the amount of yeast in the recipe by following the directions here. Or you can bake with a sour dough starter, see instructions here.
4 1/2 tsp coarse salt or less table salt (use less salt to suit your taste or eliminate it all together)
6 1/2 cups (900g) unbleached plain flour

  1. In a 6 L bowl or lidded container, mix water, yeast, salt and flour and stir until all of the flour is incorporated into the dough, it will be a wet rough dough.
  2. Rest the lid on the container, but do not snap it shut, you want the gases from the yeast to escape. Allow the dough to sit at room temperature for 2 hours to rise. When you first mix the dough it will not occupy much of the container. But, after the initial 2 hour rise it will pretty much fill it. DO NOT PUNCH DOWN THE DOUGH! Just let it settle by itself.
  3. The dough will be flat on the top and some of the bubbles may even appear to be popping. (If you intend to refrigerate the dough after this stage it can be placed in the refrigerator even if the dough is not perfectly flat. The yeast will continue to work even in the refrigerator.) The dough can be used right after the initial 2 hour rise, but it is much easier to handle when it is chilled. It is intended for refrigeration and use over the next two weeks, ready for you anytime. The flavour will deepen over that time, developing sourdough characteristics.
  4. The next day when you pull the dough out of the refrigerator you will notice that it has collapsed and this is totally normal for our dough. It will never rise up again in the container.
  5. Dust the surface of the dough with a little flour, just enough to prevent it from sticking to your hands when you reach in to pull a piece out.
  6. You should notice that the dough has a lot of stretch once it has rested. (If your dough breaks off instead of stretching like this your dough is probably too dry and you can just add a few tablespoons of water and let it sit again until the dough absorbs the additional water.)
  7. Cut off a 450g piece of dough using scissors and form it into a ball. Place the ball on a floured sheet of baking paper. Let the dough rest for at least 40 minutes, (or even up to 90 minutes, this will give you a more open hole structure in the interior of the loaf). You will notice that the loaf does not rise much during this rest, in fact it may just spread sideways, this is normal for our dough.
  8. Preheat the oven to 230 C degrees with a baking or pizza stone or cast iron pizza pan on the centre rack, with a metal roasting tray on the bottom (never use a glass vessel for this or it will shatter), which will be used to produce steam. (The tray needs to be at least 4 or 5 inches away from your stone to prevent it from cracking.)
  9. Cut the loaf with 1/4-inch slashes using a serrated knife. (If your slashes are too shallow you will end up with an oddly shaped loaf and also prevent it from splitting on the bottom.) I forgot to do this!
  10. Slide the loaf into the oven onto the preheated stone (the one I’m using is the cast iron) and add a cup of hot water to the roasting tray. Bake the bread for 30-35 minutes or until a deep brown colour.
  11. If you used baking paper you will want to remove it after about 20minutes to crisp up the bottom crust. Continue baking the loaf directly on the stone for the last 10 minutes.
  12. Allow the loaf to cool on a rack until it is room temperature.

This makes a large pot of soup. You can make it with whatever vegies you have on hand, but I have included my favourites in the recipe. We love chorizo sausage in the soup (the kids don't eat it) but if you would prefer you could buy a small piece of beef, cook it in the soup then chop/shred it and add back in, this is what my Mum used to do.

1 chorizo, diced
1 tbsp olive oil
1 onion
1 leek, chopped (optional)
3 sticks celery
1 carrot
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
handful fresh herbs eg. parsley, thyme, sage, marjoram, oregano; chopped
4 bacon rashes, chopped
½ C red wine (if you have any open)
2 L stock, chicken or beef
800g tin tomatoes, chopped
1 parmesan rind (if you have one)
2 zucchini, diced
½ cauliflower, cut into small florets
½ bunch silverbeet, stems removed and shredded
handful soup pasta or spaghetti, broken into 1 in pieces
handful basil leaves, chopped
parmesan, grated

Heat a drop of oil in large saucepan or stockpot. Fry chorizo until golden, turning to cook all sides, set aside.

Heat remaining oil, cook onion, leek, celery, carrot, garlic, herbs and bacon over low heat until soft, at least 10 minutes. Turn up the heat and add red wine and allow to sizzle. Add stock, tomatoes, parmesan, zucchini and cauliflower and cook until vegetables are almost cooked. Add silverbeet and pasta and cook until pasta is done.

Serve with basil and parmesan.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Chicken, lentil and vegetable lasagna

Suprisingly this might be one of the best lasagnas I have ever eaten, and the men and the kids happily ate it too (well the 4yr picked out the spinach). It sounds a bit healthy but all the white sauce and cheese makes up for that and it is very filling and full of vegies. This is based on a lentil lasagna recipe from the back of an Edgell's tin that my friend Jenny (also the source of the fantastic brownie recipe) gave me. I have made the original version which was good but it was even better with chicken. I am still off red meat so this satisfied my lasagna craving without having to cook beef mince. I prepared the lasagna last night, then tonight I just had to put it in the oven, so easy.
Chicken, lentil and vegetable lasagna
serves 6+
This makes a large dish of lasagna (mine is 20x30cm), if you don't need that much then halve the recipe or cook two smaller lasagnas and freeze one, or freeze half the sauce for next time you want lasagna. You will need a very large frying pan with high sides to cook the sauce, if yours isn't then fry each step in a frypan then transfer to a larger pot.You could use any meat in place of the chicken or leave it out, and add whatever vegies you like or have.

olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1 carrot, grated
1/3 sweet potato, grated
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 zucchini, finely diced
1/2 eggplant, finely diced
alternate vegetable options: mushrooms, pumpkin...
500g chicken mince
400g tin of brown lentils, undrained
800g tin tomatoes
2 tbsp tomato paste
handful basil, chopped
2 packets lasagna sheets (enough for 3 layers in your dish)
handful grated mozzarella
White Sauce (if including spinach ricotta layer you will only need 2 C worth)
90g butter
5 tbsp flour
3 C milk
3 handfuls grated cheese (tasty or mozzarella)
Spinach and Ricotta layer (optional)
200g ricotta
3 C baby spinach, stems removed

Heat a few tablespoons of olive oil and fry onion, carrot and sweet potato over low heat until softened. Add garlic and cook for another minute. Scrape onion mix into a bowl (or larger pan if your frypan is too small).

Heat a bit more oil in the frypan and fry zucchini and eggplant over medium heat until browning and softened. Add to onion mix.

Fry chicken mince, breaking it up as it cooks. When nearly cooked through add vegetables back in. Add lentils, tomatoes and paste, simmer for 15 minutes.

To make bechamel, melt butter in a saucepan. Add flour and stir with a whisk for a couple of minutes. Gradually add milk and continuing whisking to form a smooth paste. Continue stirring over low heat until thickened.

Microwave the spinach to wilt (about 30 seconds). Then pat dry on a teatowel and chop. Stir through the ricotta.

To assemble, spread a little lentil sauce over the base of a 20 x 30 cm lasagne dish. Cover with a layer of lasagne sheets, a 1/3 of the lentil sauce and a 1/3 of the white sauce. Repeat layering, replacing the white sauce in this layer with spinach and ricotta mix if using (it is easier to layer this first then lentil sauce). Finish layers with lentil sauce, white sauce and a sprinkling of cheese.

You can make it in advance up to this point and refridgerate, I prepared it the night before.

Bake in a preheated oven at 190 C (375 F) for 25 to 30 minutes, longer if it has been refridgerated.


Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Yum cha feast - dumplings, prawn toasts and wontons

I am finally feeling better and actually feel like cooking. So on Friday I gave up my opportunity to sleep, in order to prepare a feast of yum cha goodies. I have been craving dumplings for some time and given there is nowhere to get good ones where I live I had to make my own. The menu included prawn wontons, crispy prawn wontons, pork potsticker dumplings and sesame prawn toasts.
The prawn wontons and sesame prawn toasts were the picks of the night. They really don't take that long to make (when you don't make four things at once with two different sauces) so I will definitely be making them again soon.

We ate them one course at a time and  they were so tempting once cooked I didn't remember to take a photo of everything, need to work on this blogging thing!

Prawn wontons with spring onion, ginger and vinegar dressing
makes 16 small wontons, beware this may not be enough! The dressing is really delicious and makes the dish. I forgot to photograph these twice, on the night and when we ate the leftovers!

300 g (~9) uncooked prawns, peeled, deveined and diced (~150g prawn meat)
1 tbsp roughly chopped coriander leaf
1 tbsp finely sliced spring onion scallions
1½ tsp finely diced Ginger
1 tsp shaohsing wine or dry sherry
1 tsp soy sauce
1 tsp Oyster sauce
¼ tsp white sugar
¼ tsp Sesame Oil
16 fresh wonton wrappers about 7cm square ( I used shanghai wonton wrappers)
2½ tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp coriander roots and stems, finely sliced
2 tbsp ginger, finely diced
2 tbsp spring onions, finely sliced
2 tbsp kecap manis
2 tbsp malt or rice vinegar
¼ tsp chilli Oil or chopped chilli
1/2 tsp sesame Oil

Combine soy sauce, coriander, ginger, spring onions, kecap manis, vinegar and both oils in a bowl and set aside.

Combine prawn meat and remaining ingredients, except wonton wrappers, in a bowl, cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes. Next fill and shape the wontons. You can just brush the edges with water and fold in half to form a triangle, or try some of these shapes:
Gold ingots
8 wonton shapes 

Bring a large saucepan of water to the boil. Drop wontons, in batches, into the water and cook for 2 minutes or until wontons are just cooked through. To test the wontons you will need to remove one using a slotted spoon and cut it through with a sharp knife to see if the prawns are just cooked through.

Remove wontons with a slotted spoon and drain. Repeat process with remaining wontons.

Arrange wontons on a platter or in individual bowls and serve immediately drizzled with dressing.
Recipe by Kylie Kwong on Lifestyle Food
Crispy Prawn Wontons with Sweet Chilli Vinegar Sauce
These are the same wonton recipe as above, only deep fried with a different sauce. I used egg wonton wrappers which deep fry really well.

1 C rice wine vinegar
3/4 C white sugar
5 tbsp fish sauce
2 large red chilli's finely sliced on the diagonal
vegetable oil for deep frying

Place vinegar and sugar in a medium-sized heavy-based saucepan and bring to the boil. Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, for about 15 minutes or until liquid is reduced by almost half and slightly syrupy. Remove from stove, stir in fish sauce and chillies and set aside.
Prepare wontons.

Heat oil in a hot wok until surface seems to shimmer slightly (you don't want it too hot as they will brown quickly but not cook through). Add wontons in batches and deep-fry for about 2 minutes or until just cooked through and lightly browned. To test the wontons you will need to remove one using a slotted spoon and cut it through with a sharp knife to see if the prawns are just cooked through.

Remove wontons with a slotted spoon and drain well on kitchen paper. Repeat process with remaining wontons.

Serve immediately with a bowl of sweet chilli dipping sauce.
Recipe by Kylie Kwong on Lifestyle Food

Pork Potsticker Dumplings
makes about 20. These are those dumplings with a crispy base and soft steamed topped, the Japanese version are known as gyoza.

3 dried chinese mushrooms
250g pork mince (you can substitute some of this for prawns)
1/4 C coriander leaves, chopped
2 tbsp spring onions, chopped
1 tbsp ginger, minced or grated
1 garlic clove, minced or grated
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp sesame oil
3 water chestnuts, finely chopped
1 pkt gyoza, gow gee or wonton wrappers

Soak the mushroom in warm water for 20 minues, then squeeze out water. Remove stem and finely chop.

Combine remaining ingredients (except wrappers).

Lay out a wrapper and brush the edges with water. Place a teaspoon of filling in the centre. Fold up the edges and pinch together to seal, gathering one side as you go.

Heat a dash of oil in a non-stick frypan (for which you have a lid) and add dumplings, cook on medium high heat until the bottoms are golden brown, about a minute or two. Pour in 1/2 C of water and quickly cover, the steam with cook the dumplings through for 2 minutes. Remove the lid and cook until liquid is evaporated and bottoms are crisp. You don't want to over cook as this will make them tough.

Serve with a sauce of soy sauce with a dash of chinese black vinegar, or with the ginger, spring onion and vinegar dressing above.

Sesame Prawn Toast
makes 12. I served these with the sweet vinegar chilli sauce above. This is a photo of them before they are fried. Once fried we ate them too quickly to photograph, sorry!

6 slices white bread, stale or lightly toasted, crust removed halved into rectangles or triangles
500g prawns, peeled and deveined (~250g prawn meat)
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 tbsp ginger, finely chopped
2 spring onions, sliced
1 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 egg white
1/2 tsp sesame oil
1 egg, beaten
sesame seeds
oil for deep frying

Set aside 6 prawns, halfing them down the middle.

Place remaining prawns, garlic, ginger, spring onions, sugar, salt, egg white and sesame oil into a food processor or blender and process until smooth. You can do this in advance.

Spread a tablespoon of paste on each piece of bread and spread to the edges with a mound in the middle. Lay one reserved prawn half on top. Brush with beaten egg and sprinkle with sesame seeds.

Heat oil in a wok or saucepan over medium heat. Fry pieces a few at a time, about 1 minute each side until crisp and golden. Drain on paper towels.

Serve hot with dipping sauce.