Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Claypot Chicken Rice

I seem to be on an eternal search for the perfect way to organise my recipes. I used to have hand written books - one for sweet, one for savoury and I filled the back with sticky notes of lists of recipes I wanted to cook from magazines. These days I don't have time for handwriting and so many of my favourite recipes come from blogs and websites. I also end up with so many cuttings. These days so many of my recipes are on my blog, or someone elses, so I cook dinner with the laptop up on the kitchen bench (oh for an ipad!). I have folders of recipes which end up over full so now I am starting a folder of favourite recipes - those we cook over and over, the recipe below will be in this folder!

I cut this recipe out from Good Weekend in the Sydney Morning Herald a couple of years ago but only just started making it, I rediscovered it in one of my sort outs! This yummy and easy chicken is perfect asian comfort food and is loved by everyone in this house. Serve with stir fried greens or a cucumber salad.

Clay Pot Chicken Rice
serves 4
The flovour from th chinese sausage and dried mushrooms really make this dish, both are available in the asian aisle of my local Woolworths.
4 dried shiitake mushrooms
2 tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp sesame oil
1 tbsp Chinese rice wine
1 tsp sugar
2 tsp cornflour
1 tbsp ginger, finely chopped
2 spring onions, finely sliced 
300g chicken thigh fillets, cut into bite sized pieces
2 Chinese sausages (lup cheong), finely sliced diagonally
2 tbsp vegetable oil
100 ml light chicken stock
1 red finger chili, sliced diagonally (optional)
300 g jasmine rice, well-rinsed and drained
550ml light chicken stock

Soak the shiitake mushrooms in hot water for about 30 minutes. Drain, cut the stems off and slice the tops.

Mix the soy sauce, sesame oil, Chinese rice wine, sugar, cornflour, ginger, onion and half the spring onions, I do this in a large freezer bag sitting in a bowl. Add the chicken, sausage and mushrooms to the marinade, tightly twist the bag closed to squeeze the marinade arounda ll teh chicken and refrigerate for an hour.

Place the rice in a heavy lidded pot with 550ml stock. Bring to the boil, stirring, then put the lid on and cook over the lowest possible heat fo 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat the oil in a wok or frypan and cook the chicken mixture and its marinade for about 3 - 4 minutes until almost cooked. Add the remaining 100 ml stock and bring to the boil, stirring.

Spoon the chicken mixture on top of the rice, cover tightly and cook for a further 10 minutes.

Serve scattered with remaining spring onions.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Isabele's Lime Poppyseed Syrup Cake

I ate this cake at my friend Isabele's recently and couldn't get enough of it; its a sour cream cake, a syrup cake, a lime cake - a great combination! I have since made it myself and it wasn't as good as Isabele's, because when someone else cooks for you it always tastes better!

Lime and Poppyseed Syrup Cake
You could replace the lime with lemon or orange or some citrus combination!

¼ cup (40g) poppy seeds
½ cup (125ml) milk
250g butter, softened
1 tablespoon finely grated lime rind
juice of 1 or 2 limes
1¼ cups (275g) caster sugar
4 eggs
2¼ cups (335g) self-raising flour
¾ cup (110g) plain flour
1 cup (240g) sour cream
Lime Syrup
½ cup (125ml) lime juice
1 cup (250ml) water
1 cup (220g) caster sugar

Preheat oven to moderate (180°C/160°C fan-forced). Grease base and sides of deep 23cm-square cake pan.

Combine poppy seeds and milk and soak for 10 minutes.

Beat butter, rind and sugar with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating until combined between additions. Stir in sifted flours, cream and poppy seed mixture and lime juice, in two batches.

Spread mixture into pan and bake for about 1 hour.

Meanwhile, combine ingredients for lime syrup in small saucepan. Stir over heat, without boiling, until sugar dissolves. Simmer, uncovered, without stirring, 5 minutes.

Stand cake 5 minutes, turn onto wire rack over tray. Pour hot lime syrup over hot cake.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Chocolate and Coconut Macaroons

I have been making these delicious little treats for years, since 2003 to be precise. Today I pulled the recipe out (from Gourmet Traveller February 2003) and there is a photo of a much younger Gary Mehigan from MasterChef, it is his recipe back from before we all knew who he was. The macaroons are fudgy chocolatey coconut mouthfuls, a simple recipe of meringue with cocoa and coconut folded through, don't let the word macaroon scare you. The magazine make theirs all professional looking with a piping bag, I just scoop spoonfuls onto the tray.
Chocolate and Coconut Macaroons
makes 40 depending on the size you make
4 egg whites
110 g (1/2 C) caster sugar
110g icing sugar
30 g cocoa (dutch cocoa gives the best flavour)
85g desiccated coconut

Preheat oven to 140C and line two baking trays with baking paper.

Using an electric mixer whisk egg whites and caster sugar until firm peaks form. Sieve icing sugar and cocoa together and fold in followed by the coconut until just combined.

Spoon tablespoons of the mixture onto the trays for rustic meringue looking macaroons, alternatively use a piping bag to pipe 2cm rounds for a more professional macaroon look.

Bakes at 140C for 15 - 20 minutes or until crisp on the outside. Cool on trays for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Failsafe Food

I am a bit cooked out at the moment. My two older daughters have been on the RPAH/Failsafe elimination diet for the past month (free of additives, low in salycalates, amines and flavour enhancers), find information here and here. I have been making everything from scratch and having to think about every bite they consume. But I had a few wins with very limited ingredients so I thought I would post my most succesful recipes here - Pasta, Chow Mein, Chicken Meat Balls, Pear Pikelets and Muesli Bars.

A few tips on how we survived the diet and made it easier for the whole family to get involved:
  • Incentives! 50 C pieces in a jar on the bench for good eating and no complaining twice a day worked for us. I took them to the shops early on so they could decide what they were saving for (Barbie dolls!).
  • Treats - milky bars, milk bottles, werthers original caramels.
  • Salt and garlic and lots of them, particularly in the meals we were eating too.
  • Lots of baked goodies on hand - white chocolate chip biscuits, pear muffins, homemade muesli bars (recipe below), vanilla cake.
  • Magic cordial - homemade citric acid cordial since regular juice and cordial are not allowed.
  • Make a list of options for every meal. For example our Breakfast list - rice bubbles, weetbix, porridge, toast (golden syrup, pear jam, cashew spread), eggs, pancakes, homemade waffles... I also included a column of NO foods to remind us of regular items they couldn't have. (This really helped my husband and enabled him to feed the kids without running everything by me).
  • Empty out a shelf of the pantry at kids height and put everything they are allowed on that one shelf. And hide all their usual favourites out of site and reach.
  • Try and eat the same food as your kids some nights - they started to check what we were having! Other nights we waited til they were in bed to eat forbidden food.
  • We explained to the kids they could only have "no numbers" food. They were very good about checking and if I they wanted something they would ask if it "had numbers".
You can find other failsafe recipes on these sites:
Fed Up Website Recipes
Fed Up Newsletters Recipes
Real Meals blog
Cooking for Oscar blog
Bambi and Bimbi blog
Search: failsafe and thermomix

Unfortunately there hasn't been the improvement in behaviour I was hoping for so after nearly 4 weeks we are stopping and seeing what happens.
Ed: turns out it was helping as things went downhill when we stopped so we are back on the diet again!
Failsafe Mince and Lentil Pasta
makes 2 family serves
The whole family enjoyed this for dinner, grown ups included (we were pleasantly surprised). I made this into a pasta bake topped with a white sauce which disguised the grey unappetising colour of the sauce! I made individual serves of the pasta bake in small ramekins and froze them for ready meals for the kids - they reheated well.

canola oil
1/2 swede, grated
4 brussel sprouts, finely chopped
1/8 white cabbage, finely chopped
1/2 tin cannelini or kidney beans, drained
500g mince beef
1 leek, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 sticks celery, finely diced
1 can lentils
1 - 2 C chicken stock (homemade to keep it failsafe)
1 tsp cornflour (optional - to thicken sauce)
White Sauce (enough for half the above sauce recipe)
60g butter
4 tbsp flour
2 C milk
1/2 C ricotta or cream cheese


Heat a splash of oil in a large frypan and fry swede, brussel sprouts and cabbage until cooked. Remove and puree with tinned beans.

In the same frypan heat a little more oil and fry the mince until browned and remove.

Finally heat a last splash of oil and gently fry the leek, garlic and celery until softened. Add the pureed vegetables, beef, lentils and stock and simmer for 5 minutes. Add the cornflour dissolved in a little water if required to thicken the sauce. Season to taste.

To make the white sauce, 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 then stir in cheese. Season to taste.

Cook enough pasta to serve your family (double if you want to freeze a pasta bake). Stir the sauce through the pasta and spoon into a baking dish. Top with cheese sauce and bake at 180 C to warm.

Failsafe Chow Mein
1 family serve

canola oil
500g beef mince
2 cloves garlic
1 leek, finely chopped
1 celery, diced
1/8 white cabbage, finely chopped
2 C rice vermicelli, broken into short lengths
1 C swede, boiled and pureed
1 C chicken stock (home made)
1 C beans, cut into short lengths

In a wok or large frypan, heat the oil over high heat and fry the beef until browned. Remove from the pan and set aside.

Add a bit more oil and fry the garlic, leek and celery. Add the remaining ingredients and the cooked beef and cook a few minutes until the noodles and beans are cooked.

Serve on rice.

Failsafe Chicken Balls
These freeze well uncooked, ready for an instant meal for the kids. My 8 month old loves these and eats as many as we will give her.

Canola oil
1 leek, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
4 brussel sprouts, finely chopped
1/2 swede, boiled and pureed
500g chicken mince
1 egg
1/2 C homemade breadcrumbs

In a frypan over medium heat cook the leek, garlic and sprouts until softened. Remove from the heat and cool. Combine with all the other ingredients in a large bowl and mix, hands is best! Shape into small meat balls. Freeze at this stage if required.

Cook balls in a little oil in a frypan, rotating regularly.

Serve with pear ketchup (recipe on fedup.com.au).

Pear Pikelets

3/4 C self-raising flour
1 egg, beaten
2/3 C milk
1 pear, peeled and grated

Combine flour, egg and most of the milk and mix with a whisk until combined. Stir in the grated pear with a spatula or spoon. You are after a thick dropping consistency. Add the remaining milk as needed.

Cook in a frypan over medium heat in a little butter.

Serve spread with butter and/or golden syrup.

Muesli Bars
This is a failsafe version of my favourite muesli bar recipe. If not failsafe add your favourite dried fruit, nuts and seeds such as pumpkin, sunflower and sesame.

2 C rolled oats
2 C rice bubbles
1/2 C dried pear, chopped into small pieces
1/2 C cashews, chopped
1 tin sweetened condensed milk

Preheat oven to 130 C. Grease and line a slice tin.

Heat the condensed milk in a saucepan. Pour over the remaining ingredients in a large bowl and mix with a spatula.

Spread mixture into the prepared tin and bake for 45 minutes for soft chewy bars, longer for crispy.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Homemade Yogurt

I watched an episode of the River Cottage with my 5 year old Molly (when she should have been in bed) and they made yogurt so we decided to give it a go. I always knew you could make your own yogurt but for some reason I didn't think it would be that good... I was wrong. We made a plain sweetened yogurt and it is delicious, the kids devoured bowls of it! They enjoyed it plain and with various additions including lemon curd, pureed mango, passionfruit and jam, I have been sending it in their lunchboxes all week. I am going to have trouble paying a fortune for flavoured yogurt for the kids from now on.
Homemade yogurt
I suggest scaling the recipe to fit whatever thermos you have, mine holds about 900ml so I made a bit less than the recipe below. Most recipes suggest adding powdered milk to make the yogurt thicker, I didn't have any and it still worked but was a pouring yogurt consistency. I drained half my finished yogurt through muslin for a few hours and was left with beautifully thick yogurt, this is what greek yogurt is.

1 L milk (I used full cream but I have read that skim will work)
1/2 C natural yogurt with live cultures
Optional extras
1/4 C powdered milk (makes thicker yogurt)
3 T sugar (for sweetened yogurt)
vanilla bean or extract
thermos ~ 1 L capacity
small saucepan
heatproof spatula
strainer and muslin or new chux cloth

Fill the thermos with boiling water and leave to heat.

Heat the milk in the saucepan, stirring to prevent it scalding on the bottom, to 95C or until almost boiling, that is when bubbles are just appearing around the edges of the pan. Remove from heat and add the powdered milk, sugar and/or vanilla if using, stir to dissolve.

Cool until it reaches 43°C or when the milk is just cool enough for you to comfortably hold your finger in it for 10 seconds. Place the saucepan in a sink/bowl of cold water if you are in a hurry.

Add a slurp of warm milk to the yogurt in a bowl and mix until smooth. Return to the warm milk and combine.

Empty the water from the thermos and fill with the mixture. Seal and leave overnight. Some recipes I read said it may set in 3 hours, mine wasn't so I left it till the morning. The longer you leave it, the more tart it will become. Ours was only mildly tart after 12 hours.

Store in the fridge.

If you want thicker yogurt drain in a muslin lined strainer in the fridge.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Lemon Delicious in the Slow Cooker or Oven

Lemon Delicious is my absolute favourite dessert and tonight I successfully made it in the slow cooker for the first time. To those unfamiliar with it, this is a lemon self saucing pudding with a light sponge cake layer on top of a runny lemon custard, I like it with a generous serve of cream. It takes one hour to cook in the oven and the batter needs to be made shortly before cooking so the egg whites don't deflate, so this means it needs to be made just before you serve dinner which isn't exactly convenient. In the slow cooker it takes 2 hours on high or 3-4 hours on low meaning you can make it hours before your guests even arrive and you can eat it in summer without heating up the kitchen.

Whichever way you make it, you have to try this! The
passionfruit version is also a good option.

Lemon Delicious

serves 4
Most recipes where you beat egg whites have you beat the butter and sugar first then the egg whites meaning you need to wash the bowl in between which drives me crazy. I have written this recipe so there is no washing in the middle - you beat the egg whites first and as long as you have everything measured and work quickly they won't deflate.

50g butter

grated rind and juice of 1 lemon
3/4 cup sugar
3 eggs, separated
3 tablespoons flour, sifted
1 C milk

Preheat the oven to 160ÂșC. Grease a small casserole dish that fits in your slow cooker or a roasting tin. Boil the kettle.

Using an electric mixer, beat the egg whites until stiff, scrape into another bowl and set aside.

In the same bowl cream the butter with the lemon rind and sugar. When it is creamy and light, beat in the egg yolks. Stir in the sifted floured alternately with the milk.

Fold the whites into the mixture with the lemon juice, lightly yet thoroughly. Pour into the prepared dish. Place the dish in your slow cooker or roasting tin and pour boiling water half way up the sides.

Cook in the oven for 1 hour or in the slow cooker for 2 hours on high or 3-4 hours on low. It is cooked with the top sponge layer is cooked and there is a runny custard beneath. If you cook it too long the custard will set and the top layer will dry out; still edible but not as good.

Serve with cream or icecream or both!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Hot Date Cake with Caramel Sauce

I made a very old favourite last night, the recipe comes from an old Vogue or Gourmet Traveller, my Mum was making it before I had heard of sticky date pudding, which this is a grown up version of. I think anything would taste good with caramel sauce on it, but this cake really is delicious!

Hot Fresh Date Cake with Caramel Sauce
I have halved the amount of sauce from the original recipe and there is still plenty. The leftovers are great on icecream or pancakes, or on a spoon straight out of the fridge! The sauce can also be frozen, as can the whole cake.
serves 8
250g                dates, fresh or dried
185g                firm unsalted butter
185g                sugar
3                      eggs
1½ tsp             vanilla
185g                self-raising flour
¾ tsp               baking powder
150ml              water
75ml                milk
225g                brown sugar
40g                  unsalted butter
225ml              cream
1 tsp                vanilla
2 tsp                pecans
1-2 tbsp           brandy (optional)
                       thick cream to serve

Line and grease a 22-23cm round springform tin or 20 cm square tin, make sure it has a good seal as this is a very runny cake batter and will leak through a loose tin. Preheat the oven to 180C.

If using fresh dates, stone and coarsely chop and set aside.

Place in a food processor, the butter cut into pieces, sugar, eggs, vanilla, flour, baking powder, water and milk. Process 15 seconds only or to just mix. Add dates and process 2 seconds to mix through. Alternatively, in an electric beater, cream the butter and sugar, beat in the eggs and vanilla, then add flour, baking powder, water and milk and mix.

Place the sloppy mixture in the tin. Bake at 180C for approximately 1 hour or until a skewer comes out clean from the centre of the cake. Remove from oven, run knife around the cake and cool in the tin. Cake can be frozen at the point or stored for a few days.

An hour before serving, place cake in an ovenproof tin and marinate with some of the sauce. Fifteen minutes before serving, reheat in the oven at 180C. Serve with sauce and cream.

Place all ingredients except the thick cream, bring to the boil and simmer for 6 minutes.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Mexican Dip with Corn

This week we harvested at least 10 cobs of corn from our vegie garden and for the first time ever they are delicious, must have been all the rain we have had this year.
So when I was making something last night to take to a bbq it had to have corn in it! I made an old favourite - layered mexican dip, but added a layer of corn which worked really well.  I made a big dip to take and a mini one which I am snacking on now.

The first layer of the dip is refried beans which I didn't have any of, so I googled it and made my own from a tin of kidney beans.

Mexican Dip
makes 1 large serving dish, I use a flat bottomed dish such as a  pie or small lasagna dish
I didn't have tomatoes so left them out which didn't matter at all. The corn was my own addition to the recipe, which was great.

1 tin of refried beans, or see the recipe below to make your own
2 tomatoes, diced
1-2 avocados, mashed with lemon juice
3/4 carton sour cream
1-2 corn cobs, kernels cut off
1 jar salsa or taco sauce
handful grated cheese

Starting with the beans, layer the ingredients in the serving dish finishing with the grated cheese.

Serve with corn chips.

Refried Beans
1 tin kidney, pinto or mexe beans, drained and mashed
2 rashes bacon (don't cut the fat off - you want this to cook the beans in)
1 small onion, finely diced
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander 

Fry the bacon in a frypan until crispy. Remove the bacon from the pan but leave the fat. Finely chop the bacon.

Lower the heat and fry the onion and garlic until softened. Add the spices and fry until fragrant. Add the beans  and bacon and 1/2 C water. Cook the beans, continuing to mash and stir as they absorb the water. They are done once a paste has formed., can be mashed until smooth or left lumpy.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Pasta Dinner for 1

Tonight I had the pleasure of cooking dinner just for myself. The kids ate early and my husband went out. So I cooked up pasta with anchovies, garlic, herbs and chilli and topped with crispy breadcrumbs, it was delicious! Unfortunately the kids got out of bed and joined me on the couch and complained that I had made something they didn't like!

Pasta for 1

1 serve spaghetti, cooked to packet directions
1 tbsp olive oil
2-3 anchovies
1 small clove garlic, finely chopped
sprinkle chilli flakes or fresh chilli, chopped
2 tsp capers
1 small handful basil leaves, chopped
1 small handful parley leaves, chopped (or any herbs you like really)
drizzle good olive oil

Add olive oil and anchovies to a frypan and cook over medium heat, breaking up the anchovies. Add the garlic, chilli and capers and cook briefly to cook the garlic but not brown. Add the herbs and pasta, toss to coat and drizzle with extra olive oil to taste. 

Serve and hope you get to eat it in peace and quiet!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012


Tonight we had quiche, I haven't made it in ages. I prefer to make my own pastry but I was home this afternoon with just a sleeping baby Willa for company so watching a movie in bed seemed like a better use of my time than making pastry :) I have given the recipe I use for shortcrust pastry in the food processor below, if you haven't tried making your own pastry try this - it works every time! I will have to make it next time as even my 5 year old complained about the pastry tonight!
Oops, this was all that was left by the time I got the camera out!
I made the quiche half bacon and half smoked salmon - two of my favourite things!

makes enough for a 22cm dish
serves 3-4
shortcrust pastry case
3 eggs
3/4 C cream
3/4 C milk
1 tsp flour
1/2 tsp salt
Bacon version (Quiche Lorraine)
6 rashers bacon, sliced; or
2 handfuls grated cheese
Smoked Salmon version
6 slices smoked salmon, sliced into strips and a 
2 tbsp chives or dill, finely chopped

Preheat the oven to 200C.
Fry bacon pieces until beginning to crisp, drain.
Combine eggs, cream, milk, flour and salt in a bowl and gently beat. Overbeating will cause bubbles to form on the quiche.
Sprinkle bacon and cheese, or smoked salmon and chives in the pastry case. Pour the egg mixture over.
Bake at 200C for 10 minutes then lower the temperature to 180C for 20 - 25 minutes or until just set.
To the quiche you could add fried mushroom slices, slices of boiled potato, ribbons of zucchini, peas, or any other vegetables you care for really.

Shortcrust Pastry in the Food Processor
This makes sufficient dough to line two 20cm pie plates or make a top and bottom for a pie. This recipe is foolproof pastry – I learnt to make pastry from my Mum using this recipe by Margaret Fulton and never understood why pastry was hard till I tried other recipes. I use this whenever I need shortcrust, even if whatever I am making has its own recipe, as it always works. It freezes well but doesn’t keep well in the fridge, so is best used the day it is made.
2 C flour
125g frozen butter (cold butter from the fridge works too but frozen is better)
pinch salt
2 eggs
1 tbsp cold water
squeeze lemon juice

Place flour, butter and salt in a food processor with steel blade in place. Process turning on and off rapidly, until butter is cut into flour and mixture looks like coarse breadcrumbs. Mix eggs with water and lemon juice. With motor running pour liquid quickly through feed tube. Do not use it all unless necessary (I usually do) – stop pouring as soon as a ball of dough starts to form around the blade or if this doesn’t happen just pour the mix into a freezer bag or onto a big bit of gladwrap and squidge together. Flatten into a disc and chill in the fridge for 1 hour before using.
Variation: for sweet pastry add 1/3 C caster sugar to the processor with the flour.

Middle Eastern Meatloaf and Pizza

This week for dinner I made the middle eastern lamb meatloaf from Pod and Three Peas Blog. I have never been a fan of the traditional meatloaf but this looked interesting. It was tasty and moist although perhaps a little too sweet for my taste buds (I would leave the honey out of the loaf next time) but this kids liked this about it! The crunchy topping of pine nuts was great. 
I served the meatloaf with pita chips, cucumber and yoghurt, peas and broad beans, and a tomato eggplant salad. The salad recipe is below.

Two nights later we needed to have a leftovers night as there was still half the loaf in the fridge. There was also two large pita breads left so I decided to turn it all into pizza. And it was great! I used the meatloaf diced with pinenuts, eggplant, tomatoes and feta.
Eggplant, Tomato, Lentil and Feta Salad
olive oil
1 eggplant, cut into small cubes
2 tomatoes, quartered
1/4 C green lentils, cooked according to the packet (mine were left over from this salad)
1/4 block feta, crumbled
red wine vinegar
olive oil

Roast the tomatoes drizzled with a bit of olive oil at 180C until soft.
Heat a frypan with olive oil over medium high heat. Fry the eggplant, tossing regularly until cooked and brown.
Assemble all the ingredients in a bowl and dress with vinegar and olive oil.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Old Fashioned Favourite - Eton Mess and Trifle

My lovely friend Skye gave me some of the berries she picked at the local berry farm - delicious raspberries and strawberries that were perfectly ripe. These were sitting in the fridge with several egg whites left from another recipe, so I was inspired to make Eton Mess which I have always wanted to try - I don't know what took me so long! A fantastic combination of whipped cream, berries and meringue, the adults and children were fighting over the last serve. I looked at lots of recipes but based it on one from Taste.com.au that used a combination of cream and yoghurt. The yoghurt gave it a nice tang and made it feel not so decadent!
Following this I decided to give trifle a go, another classic I have never tried. There are a lot of varieties out there, from the basic with packet jelly, tinned fruit and packet custard to gourmet versions with marscapone and lemon curd that are verging on a tiramisu. I decided on berry trifle, with sponge finger biscuits (savoiardi) for the base. I wanted to make my own jelly but didn't have any suitable juice on hand to make it with, so used packet raspberry jelly with real raspberries in it - this really ruined it for me, but everyone still managed to finish a bowl full! The recipe below includes a jelly recipe that I will use next time, or if I couldn't make jelly I would just use a layer of sweetened raspberries. I finished the trifle with strawberries and crushed meringues (sounding familiar?) which gave it a nice texture. Here are a few other trifle recipes that inspired mine or that I would like to try:
Middle Eastern Trifle @ SBS Food, pictured in the latest Feast Magazine
Limoncello Trifle @ Taste.com.au - with blueberries, lemon curd and marscapone

Eton Mess
The original recipe suggested cooking the raspberries and sugar and then pureeing and folding through the mess. I didn't want to do this to my beautiful fresh raspberries but might try it next time with frozen. I have no idea how many berries I used so just add to taste or what you have.
serves 6
1/4 C caster sugar
450g strawberries, hulled, quartered
225g  raspberries, fresh or frozen
300ml thick cream, whipped
300ml thick Greek yoghurt
4 large meringues, crumbled - see recipe below

Slice strawberries and place in a bowl with sugar for several hours.
Place strawberries and half the raspberries in a bowl with the puree, cream, yoghurt and the meringue. Fold everything together until just combined. Serve in a large glass bowl or individual glasses. Sprinkle with remaining raspberries.

This makes 6 very large meringues, good for breaking up into the eton mess, or many more small ones.
3 egg whites
1/8 tsp cream of tartar
1 C caster sugar
Preheat oven to 120 C.
In an electric mixer, whisk egg whites until frothy. Add cream of tartar and whisk on high speed until stiff peaks form. Add 2 tablespoons of sugar and whisk for a few minutes more. Add the remaining sugar and fold through.
Spoon or pipe onto trays. Bake for 1 hour. Then leave in oven, switched off, for 30 minutes.

Berry Trifle
serves 6-8
~10 sponge finger biscuits
100ml Cointreau, grappa, sweet white wine, limoncello or any other sweet alcohol that takes your fancy (optional)
3 tbsp berry jam
1 punnet or 200g frozen raspberries
300ml cream, whipped
3 large meringues, broken into pieces (recipe above)
125 g berries
3 egg yolks
3 tsp corn flour (some recipes use plain flour)
caster sugar
300ml milk or cream
500ml juice of your choice
2 tbsp caster sugar
1 1/2 tbsp powdered gelatine
1 punnet or 200g frozen raspberries
Warm the jam and thin with a little water or your alcohol of choice if too thick. Dip the biscuits in the  jam and line the bottom of your glass bowl. Drizzle over the alcohol if using and remaining jam.
Pour over the cooled custard, refrigerate. Follow with the cooled jelly, you can even set the jelly in another bowl and break it up a little to spoon over.
Top with whipped cream, meringue pieces and berries.
Whisk together the yolks, sugar and cornflour in a large bowl.
Heat the cream/milk until nearly boiling. Pour over the yolks whisking continuously. Pour the mixture back into the saucepan and heat gently, stirring constantly, until thickened.
Place 250ml juice and sugar in a small saucepan over high heat and stir until sugar has dissolved. Sprinkle over gelatine and stir to dissolve, strain mixture into a bowl. Add remaining 250ml juice, then the berries, stirring until combined. Refridgerate til set.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Date, Hazelnut and Currant Christmas Cake

I found this recipe for an Italian Christmas Cake in Good Living in the Sydney Morning Herald two Christmas' ago. Dates and currants are probably my favourite dried fruit so I had to try it. The cake has no spices in it but the dried fruits and alcohol still make it smell like Christmas Cake. The cake is delicious and moist and keeps for weeks, I am still enjoying this years with my cup of tea!

Date, Hazelnut and Currant Christmas Cake
I have made this in a regular round cake tin with a hole and a bundt tin, both work well. I have also made it in a regular tin but the middle sank, it is a very moist cake so hard to cook through. But whatever you do don't overcook it!
85g pitted dates, roughly chopped
50g currants
100g roasted hazelnuts, roughly blitzed in the food processor
50ml marsala (plus about 1/4 cup extra)
165g soft unsalted butter
150g castor sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 eggs
200g plain flour
1/2 C almond meal
4 tsp baking
Preheat oven to 170C.
Place dates, currants and hazelnuts in a bowl and pour in the marsala. Toss to combine and let stand for a few hours, preferably overnight. Beat butter, sugar and vanilla until light and creamy. Gradually add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.
Combine flour, almond meal and baking powder in another bowl and stir with a whisk to remove any lumps in the flour. Fold flour mixture into butter mixture and then stir through fruit with all the juices.
Mix well to combine. Spoon into cake tin and bake for 1 hour or until cooked. (If you find that the centre is still undercooked, cover the top with foil and continue baking until a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean.) Spoon/brush extra marsala over hot cake and allow to cool in tin. Keeps for 2-3 weeks in an airtight container and improves with age!

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Lentil, Tomato and Bacon Salad

Last night we had another interesting salad for dinner - Lentil, Tomato and Bacon Salad. I got the recipe from the latest Delicious magazine (December issue). My husband, who isn't usually a fan of lentils, had seconds and requested the leftovers for lunch, maybe it was the bacon. Unfortunately the kids weren't so keen:(
I served this with pork cutlets, marinated in fennel seeds, chilli, lemon zest and salt, cooked on the bbq. And made another salad with zucchini, beans and radishes (from the vegie patch!).
Lentil, Tomato and Pancetta Salad
3/4 C puy or French style lentils, rinsed
1 punnet cherry tomatoes
6 slices ciabatta or other firm bread, crusts removed
6 tsp olive oil
4 rashers bacon or pancetta, sliced into strips
1 small onion, diced
2 anchovies, chopped
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
2 handfuls of cos lettuce
1/2 lemon, juiced
Preheat the oven to 200C.
Place lentils in a saucepan and cover with plenty of water, bring to the boil then simmer for 25 minutes until al dente, drain and rinse.
Brush ciabatta with 2 tsp olive oil and tear into pieces. Place on a tray with the tomatoes, drizzle tomatoes with 1 tsp olive oil. Bake for 20 minutes or until bread crisps and tomatoes blister.
Heat remaining 3 tsp oil in a large frypan over medium high heat. Cook bacon for 2 minuts. Add onion and cook for 4 minutes. Add the anchovy and garlic and cook for 1 more minute. Stir in the cooked lentils and mix well.
To serve place lettuce, bread and tomatoes on a platter and spoon over the lentil mixture. Squeeze over lemon juice and season.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Squid, Chorizo and Chickpea Salad

Last night for dinner we had a delicious salad. I am not very good at salads and always prefer to follow a recipe or they seem to come out so boring. I found this recipe in the free Coles magazine from December. It is written by Chris Badenoch from Masterchef (the beer guy in the second season) for Primo Smallgoods. I added extra vegetables to turn it into a stand alone meal.

On New Years Eve, we caught up with friends and spend the night talking and eating. We had four courses and couldn't fit dessert in until 11:30pm. For entree our friends cooked a chickpea salad and the chickpeas were delicious - they claimed the trick is to cook the tinned chickpeas. So I tried this tonight and it definetely adds flavour and improves the texture. I will have to post about the amazing Cranberry Brie Wheel that has become a bit of a New Years tradition.. but if you can't wait, check out the recipe here.

Warm Chorizo, Squid and Chickpea Salad
serves 2
2 squid, cleaned and scored
olive oil
1/4 tsp paprika
salt and pepper
juice of 1 lemon
4 slices ciabatta or other crunchy loaf
1/2 red capsicum
2 tomatoes, quartered
400g can chickpeas, drained
3 golden shallots, thinly sliced
1 bunch rocket, washed
1 chorizo, sliced diagonally
2 tsp sherry or red wine vinegar
2 tsp dijon mustard

Marinate the squid in paprika, salt, pepper, half the lemon juice and a splash of olive oil for atleast 20 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 200C. Cut the crust off the bread, brush with olive oil and tear into bite size pieces, put on an oven tray. Place the tomatoes on an oven tray and drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Place in the oven with the capsicum. After 10 minutes also place the bread in the oven and bake until crisp and golden. Remove the tomatoes when softened and the capsicum when the skin is looking burnt. Set the bread and tomatoes aside. Place the capsicum in a bowl and cover for 10 minutes. Then remove the skin and seeds and finely slice.

Place the chickpeas in a frying pan over medium heat and cook, tossing continuously until dry and slightly golden. Set aside in a large bowl.

Fry the chorizo in a little oil until crispy. Pour over the chickpeas oil and all. Fry the squid for 1-2 minutes each side (you could also do this in a char grill pan but I didn't want to create more dishes). Slice into strips and add to the chickpeas. Add capsicum, rocket and shallots.

Combine dressing ingredients in a jar and shake to combine. Pour over the salad and toss. Add the bread pieces and rocket and toss gently. Serve with the roasted tomatoes.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Almond, Vanilla and Coffee Brittle

Of all the baking I did before Christmas that I talked about in this post, this was the winner! It is a honeycomb candy with chunks of almonds flavoured with ground coffee and vanilla. I did half with and half without the coffee as I wasn't sure of the combo but the coffee really worked. I broke it into pieces and gave a large jarful to each of the preschool teachers.

I forgot to a photo of mine, so this is the photo from Taste.com.au - mine came out looking the same!

Almond, Vanilla and Coffee Brittle
1 1/2 C caster sugar
1/2 C glucose syrup
2 C blanched almonds (or you could use cashews or peanuts)
1/2 C almond kernels
2 tbsp coffee beans, crushed (see tip) or 1 - 2 tsp ground coffee beans
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda

Grease a 20cm x 30cm lamington pan.

Place sugar, syrup, 1/4 C cold water and a pinch of salt in a saucepan. Cook, stirring, for 5 minutes or until sugar dissolves. Use a wet pastry brush to brush sugar crystals from the side of the pan. Increase heat to high. Bring to the boil. Cook, without stirring, for 7 minutes. Add blanched almonds. Cook for approximately 10 minutes, swirling pan occasionally, or until sugar turns golden. Careful in this stage that the almonds at the bottom don't burn. Remove from heat.

Meanwhile, combine almond kernels, coffee beans, vanilla and bicarbonate of soda in a bowl. Carefully add to sugar mixture. The mixture will fizz due to the bicarb. Stir gently to combine.

Pour mixture evenly over base of pan. Set aside for 2 hours or until cooled completely. Break into pieces. Store in an airtight container.

Reindeer Biscuits

I helped the kids to make these reindeer biscuits as presents for the friends at preschool and daycare, as mentioned in my last post. I used the recipe from Planning with Kids but substituted pretzels for their mint leaf antlers.

I set the kids up with all the ingredients, melted chocolate and a paint brush and both my 5 and 3 year olds were able to make these by themselves with just a little help needed attaching the pretzels securely.

I wrapped them up individually in a square of clear cellophane tied with a ribbon and a Christmas gift tag. They looked very cute even if I do say so myself!

I tried to get my kids involved in gift giving this year, as they are somehow naturally good at receiving! This was a good way to get them to spend time and effort on something for others without just going to the shops and spending money.

Reindeer Biscuits

mint slice biscuits
cashous (silver or coloured balls)
mini pretzels
cooking chocolate, melted
small clean paint brush

Use the paint brush to apply melted chocolate on the biscuit in the location of the nose, eyes and antlers. You need quite a big blob of chocolate for the antlers.

Stick on the jaffas, cashous and pretzels. The kids should be able to do this themselves then Mum can just push everything on a little more firmly afterwards.

Leave to set then wrap up to give away!