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.