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 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 @ - 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 - 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!