Sunday, April 29, 2007

Potato Cakes with Smoked Salmon & Mustard Dressing

Another breakfast from Bill Granger, this one from Bill’s Food. As I absolutely love potato pancakes of any description, even the ones from Macca’s when I have a hangover though of course it has been a long time since one of those was present, ahh those were the days! Anyway I thought that I would try this recipe of Bills even though I thought it sounded like an odd combination, you never know until you try right? The pancakes were good but I hate to admit that I don’t think they worked too well with smoked salmon & most of all not with the mustard dressing but who knows some of you might love these 3 together, all elements were great alone, they just didn’t do it for me as a mix, you decide.

Potato Cakes with Smoked Salmon & Mustard Dressing

3 large potatoes (about 700g)
2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
60g butter, melted
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
60ml (1/4 cup) olive oil

Mustard Dressing

2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons sugar
½ teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
60ml (1/4 cup) canola oil

To serve
8 slices smoked salmon

Preheat oven to 150c. Grate the peeled potatoes & squeeze out any excess liquid. Put the potato in a bowl & add the chives, butter & a little salt & pepper.

Heat the oil in a large non-stick pan over a medium to high heat. For each potato cake, spoon 1 ½ tablespoons of mixture into the pan & fry until golden on both sides. Drain on paper towels & keep warm in the oven until all the potato cakes are made.

Meanwhile to make the dressing, whisk the mustard, sugar, salt & vinegar together in a bowl until the sugar has dissolved, then whisk in the oil in a thin stream.

Put two potato cakes on each plate, top with salmon & drizzle with dressing

Spaghetti con Gamberetti e Rucola (Spaghetti with Prawns & Rocket)

This is a lovely version of one of my favourite combinations, prawns, chilli, garlic & spaghetti. The addition of lemon juice & sun dried tomato puree gives it an extra nice tangy taste. The recipe comes from Jamie’s Italy.

Spaghetti con Gamberetti e Rucola (Spaghetti with Prawns & Rocket)

455g dried spaghetti
sea salt & freshly ground black peper
extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves of garlic, peeled & finely chopped
1-2 dried red chillies, crumbled
400g peeled raw prawns
1 small wineglass of white wine
2 heaped tablespoons of sun dried tomato puree or 6 sun dried tomatoes blitzed in a blender
zest & juice of 1 lemon
2 handfuls of rocket, roughly chopped

Cook your spaghetti in a large pan of salted boiling water according to packet instructions. Meanwhile, heat 3 good glugs of olive oil in a large frying pan & toss in the garlic & chilli. As the garlic begins to colour, add the prawns & sauté them for a minute. Add the white wine & tomato puree & simmer for a couple of minutes. When the pasta is ready, drain & reserve a little of the cooking water. Toss the spaghetti with the sauce, squeeze in the lemon juice, add half the chopped rocket, adding a little of the reserved water if the sauce needs loosening a bit. Correct the seasoning & serve sprinkled with lemon zest & remaining rocket.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Jam Roly Poly & a letter from the past

Yesterday my mum was over for the day to help out & hangout with Chloe. To amuse me she brought over some of my old school essays & other mementos that I hadn’t seen in years, in fact I can’t even remember writing any of them. They all had me in stitches, stories of running away from home, robbing the town snobs & setting up house in the Hilton Hotel to a plane crash in Columbia where I met Scott Carne (for those of you who remember he was the lead singer of Kids in The Kitchen & my first love!) & lived happily ever after with him. Amongst these treasures was this letter to my parents declaring what I wanted for Christmas, I found it hysterical & had to share it, I was in about grade 5 or 6 when I wrote it, I hope you find it amusing too.
Anyway all of this reminiscing reminded me of the Jam Roly Poly that I learned to make in home economics in Year 7 & which I used to cook up for dessert all of the time when I was a teen, I don’t think I’ve made it since I left home 15 or so years ago so of course it had to be done, with some adjustments – I added fresh strawberries which gave the syrup a berry flavour & changed it quite a bit, either way is great. And as you can see I did start my love of cooking early, in fact in one of the papers my mum brought over I declared cooking to be my favourite subject at School & she also had my old primary school black & white photography license & what do I do in my spare time now, funny how things end up isn’t it?

Jam Roly Poly

Scone Dough
1 cup self raising flour
pinch of salt
1 tablespoon of butter
½ cup milk

1 Cup water
1 tablespoon of butter
1 tablespoon golden syrup
juice of half a lemon

Strawberry Jam
Strawberries, hulled & cut in half (optional)

Sift the flour & salt into a bowl & rub in the butter with your fingertips until mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Add the milk to form a dough & roll into an oblong.

Meanwhile bring to the boil all of the syrup ingredients.

Spread jam on the dough & top with fresh strawberries if desired. Roll up lengthways & place roll into a cake tin. Pour over the syrup & bake in the oven at 200c for 35-40 minutes. Serve with custard.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Store Cupboard Chocolate Orange Cake

I made this fabulous cake for Rach’s birthday. It comes from Nigella’s ‘How to be a Domestic Goddess’, a book I have been trying out a lot lately, the recipes are all great & usually pretty simple too, I have bookmarked heaps to try out. The theory behind this one is that it can be whipped up in 5 minutes using things you already have in your cupboards or if not then the corner store, this may be a little more true for Brits as I don’t know if every cupboard or corner store in Melbourne stocks marmalade, luckily I had a nice jar of tangelo marmalade sitting in my pantry just begging to be put to use. My cake turned out a little thin as I used a bigger tin than the 20cm specified, no problems other than the thickness & the cooking time didn’t change. The cake is beautifully moist & chewy (in a good way) thanks to the sticky marmalade & of course the flavours are amazing, choc orange always works doesn’t it? Suggested variations are for any jam of your choice, raspberry, apricot, prune puree or I think cherry would work really well here too.

Store Cupboard Chocolate Orange Cake

125g unsalted butter
100g dark chocolate, broken into pieces
300g good, thin cut marmalade
150g caster sugar
pinch of salt
2 large eggs, beaten
150g self raising flour
20cm springform tin, buttered & floured

Preheat the oven to 180c. Put the butter in a heavy bottomed saucepan & put over a low heat to melt. When it’s nearly completely melted, stir in the chocolate. Leave for a moment to begin softening, then take the pan off the heat & stir with a wooden spoon until the butter & chocolate are smooth & melted. Now add the marmalade, sugar, salt & eggs. Stir with your wooden spoon & when it’s all pretty well amalgamated, beat in the flour bit by bit. Put into your prepared tin & bake for about 50 minutes or until a cake tester or skewer comes out clean. Cool in the pan on a rack for 10 minutes before turning out.

You can eat this warm with perhaps some crème fraiche or double cream or even ice cream would go beautifully. It tastes just as good cold.

over the top. Serves 4.

Lentil & Beetroot Salad

I had some leftover beetroots from last week so I made this salad from the Marie Claire ‘Luscious’ Cookbook. It was good although the beetroot still needed quite a bit of cooking after the hour so plan on that in advance. The lentils were great with the salad, every time I cook them I forget how much I love them & promise myself to cook more real soon, hopefully more lentil recipes coming up soon!

Lentil & Beetroot Salad

4 beetroot, about 150g each, washed but not peeled
100g puy lentils or tiny blue-green lentils
½ teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
juice of 1 orange
100g baby rocket leaves
100g marinated goat’s cheese

Preheat oven to 200c. Sit the beetroot in a roasting tin & pour in 250ml/1 cup of water. Cover with foil & bake for 1 hour or until a knife passes easily through the beetroot. Remove the beetroot from the tin & leave to cool.

Meanwhile, put the lentils in a saucepan with 500ml/2 cups of water. Add the sea salt & bring to the boil, then reduce the heat & simmer for 20-30 minutes or until the lentils are tender. Drain off any excess water, tip the lentils into a bowl & stir in the vinegar & olive oil.

Wearing rubber gloves to stop your hands staining, peel the skins from the beetroots. Cut the bulbs into wedges, put them in a bowl & pour the orange juice over the top.

Scatter the rocket leaves on a serving platter & arrange beetroot wedges on top. Spoon the lentils over the top, season with salt & pepper & drizzle with any remaining orange & beetroot juice. Crumble the goats cheese over the top. Serves 4.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Lemon-Raspberry Muffins

For Mothers Group this week I took along a treat, as you know I don’t need much of a reason to bake up a storm so as soon as it was suggested we bring something along I was ready for it. Being somewhere that children are always present the rule is nothing with nuts in it is to enter the premises, fine with me, just something to keep in mind for the future. I chose these delicious, packed full of fresh sweet raspberries with a lovely tang of lemon muffins. Muffins are great, they take about 5 minutes to whip up which is good for when you don’t know if you’re going to have a good or screaming baby on your hands when you need to prepare them, I had a pretty good one this morning though I did need to get a feed in while they were in the oven, lucky she is a fast drinker like her mum! The recipe is courtesy of Nigella, from How to be a Domestic Goddess.

Lemon-Raspberry Muffins

60g butter
200g plain flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
150g caster sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
juice & finely chopped zest of 1 lemon
approx 120ml milk
1 large egg
150g raspberries
12 bun muffin tray lined with paper cases

Preheat oven to 200c. Melt the butter & set aside to cool. Stir together in a large bowl, the flour, baking powder, bicarb, sugar, salt & zest. In a measuring jug, pour in the lemon juice, then enough milk to come up to the 200ml mark, then beat in the egg & butter. Pour into the dry ingredients & stir briefly, the batter should scarcely be combined. Fold in the raspberries, spoon the mixture into the muffin cases & bake for about 25 minutes. When cooked, the tops should spring back to your touch. Leave in the pan for 5 minutes to cool slightly, then sit them on a rack to cool for a further 10-15 minutes. Makes 12.

Chicken & Sweet Leek Pie with Flaky Pastry

This is another dish from Jamie Oliver’s Jamie’s Dinners in his top ten. It’s a pretty good pie, I’m a pie fan loving any type of pastry dish so this was a winner for me, a good combination including lots of veggies & the filling was not too runny as I find a lot of pie recipes are. One note however, the recipe is to serve 4, once you add the mash & any other sides you will get at least 6 very generous serves out of it & that’s saying something as Michael & I are pretty big eaters (I hate to admit it but its true, can you tell?)

Chicken & Sweet Leek Pie with Flaky Pastry

Olive Oil
2 knobs of butter
1kg boned & skinned chicken legs (cut into pieces) – I used thigh fillets
2 medium leeks, trimmed, washed & sliced into 1cm pieces
2 carrots, peeled & roughly chopped
3 sticks of celery, finely sliced
a small handful of thyme, leaves picked
2 tablespoons flour
1 wineglass of white wine
285ml/1/2 pint milk
sea salt & freshly ground black pepper
255g good pork sausages
1 x 500g pack of all butter puff pastry (or a couple of sheets of ready rolled as I used)
1 egg

Preheat the oven to 220c. Take a large casserole pot & add a lug of olive oil & the butter. Add the chicken, leeks, carrots, celery & thyme & cook slowly on the hob for 15 minutes. Turn the heat right up, add the flour, and keep stirring for a couple of minutes before adding the wine, a wineglass of water & the milk. Season with a little salt & pepper, then cover with a tight fitting lid & simmer very slowly on the hob for about 30-40 minutes until the chicken is tender. Stir it every so often so it doesn’t catch on the bottom of the pan. The sauce should be loose but quite thick. If it’s too liquid, just continue to simmer it with the lid off until it thickens slightly.

Pour the mixture into a pie dish. Squeeze the meat out of the sausage skins, roll it into balls, brown then in a little oil & sprinkle them over the stew. Roll out your pastry to about 0.5cm thick. Egg wash the rim of the dish & drape the pastry over the edges & trim. Egg wash the top, crimp the edges & cut criss crosses into the top to allow the pastry to go crisp & flaky. Cook in the oven for about 30 to 40 minutes, until golden on top. Serve with sweetcorn & mash.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Pears baked in red wine and vanilla

After my wonderfully light & healthy tuna salad for dinner the other night I was left wanting more, can you blame me? So to not entirely spoil my good intentions I steered away from cakes or anything stodgy & instead tried out a new recipe for baked pears. These were sensational, the best I have ever made & maybe even eaten! The red wine sauce goes all sticky, sweet & syrupy which is perfect with the soft juicy pears & tiny dollop of cream on the side. The recipe also comes from Ben O’Donoghue and Curtis Stones’s Surfing the Menu.

Pears baked in red wine and vanilla

4 ripe pears
55g unsalted butter
100g caster sugar
2 vanilla pods, split in half lengthways
grated zest of ¼ orange
500ml red wine (Cabernet)
4 tablespoons crème fraiche, cream or ice cream to serve

Preheat oven to 150c.

Wash & dry the pears, then cut a small slice from the bottom so each can stand upright. Smear the butter all over them & sprinkle with 2 tablespoons of the sugar.

Mix the remaining sugar with enough eater (1-1/2 tablespoons) to make a paste. Place in a heavy based flameproof pot large enough to hold the pears upright. Heat until the sugar paste turns a light golden color. Add the vanilla pods, zest & half the red wine. Place the pears upright in the pot & transfer to the oven.

Bake, spooning the red wine sauce over the pears at frequent intervals until the pear is soft and the syrup is reduced, about 45 minutes. Add more wine if the liquid reduces too much.

The pear is cooked when the flesh is soft & the outside slightly wrinkled. Remove from the oven & cool in the pot to room temperature. Serve drizzled with syrup & a dollop of crème fraiche, cream or ice cream.

Barbecued Hot & Sour Tuna Escalopes

Here is s simple marinade for tuna or any firm fish or even prawns, great for the bbq or grill. It’s healthy & the flavours are fresh & clean, serve it with a salad & do your insides some good. The recipe comes from Ben O’Donoghue and Curtis Stones’s Surfing the Menu.

Barbecued Hot & Sour Tuna Escalopes

2 tablespoons chopped shallots (escahlots)
2 tablespoons chopped garlic
2 tablespoons chopped ginger
2 tablespoons chopped chilli
2 tablespoons crushed lemongrass
zest & juice of 1 lime
2 tablespoons chopped mint
2 tablespoons chopped basil
2 tablespoons chopped coriander

4 tuna escalopes, weighing about 150g each
1 tablespoon olive oil
mixed salad leaves, to serve

To make the marinade, place all ingr4edients in a large bowl & mix well. Add the tuna & rub in the marinade. Cover & chill for 30 minutes.

Heat the barbecue or grill. Add the olive oil to the bowl & toss to coat. Cook on a hot barbecue or flat grill until cooked through. Serve on a bed of fresh salad leaves.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Garlic Prawns

One of my favourite ways to eat prawns is simply cooked with olive oil, garlic & a bit of chilli, nothing else needed, here is Bill Granger’s version from Bills Food.

Garlic Prawns

20 raw king prawns, peeled & deveined, tails left on
250ml (1 cup) olive oil
5 garlic cloves, finely chopped
3 fresh small red chillies, split lengthways but intact at top
1 teaspoon sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat leaf parsley

To serve
Lemon wedges
Crusty bread
Green salad

Preheat oven to 250c. Cut a slit down the back of each prawn & place the prawns in an ovenproof dish that will hold them snugly in a single layer.

Heat the oil in a large frying pan over high heat. Add half the garlic and all the chillies & cook for 1 minute or until the garlic starts to change colour. Pour over the prawns, then sprinkle with the remaining garlic. Season with salt & pepper, cover with foil & bake for 10 minutes, or until the prawns are pink & cooked through. Don’t overcook – remember that the prawns will continue cooling after being removed from the oven. Sprinkle with parsley & serve with lemon wedges, crusty bread & a green salad. Serves 4.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Chocolate Berry Torte

To finish off the bbq on the weekend & to celebrate James birthday, of course I had to finish with a cake. Today I chose this wicked chocolate Torte from Green and Black’s Chocolate recipes. It was sensational, note the small amount of flour which resulted in a thin intense cake which was rich, smooth & a perfect blend of chocolate and berries, as well as the suggested whipped cream I also served it with a berry coulis but forgot to serve with the extra berries!

Chocolate Berry Torte

25g plain flour
5 teaspoons cocoa powder
75g dark chocolate, minimum 60% cocoa solids, broken into pieces
25g unsalted butter
5 teaspoons double cream
4 egg whites
3 egg yolks
3 tablespoons caster sugar
250g fresh blueberries or raspberries
125ml whipping cream, to serve

100g dark chocolate, minimum 60% cocoa solids, broken into pieces
50g unsalted butter
3 tablespoons double cream
1 teaspoon icing sugar

Preheat oven to 140c. Butter and line a 18-20cm cake tin with greaseproof paper.

Sift together the flour & cocoa & set aside.

Melt the chocolate in a heatproof bowl suspended over barley simmering water. Remove from the heat, add the butter & the cream, and stir well until the mixture is quite liquid.

Whisk the egg whites until stiff peaks form, add the sugar & continue to whisk until thick & glossy. Beat together the egg yolks & then gently fold in the flour & cocoa mixture. Add the melted chocolate & mix well. Spoon a few dollops of egg white into the mixture, stir, then gently fold in the remainder of the egg whites.

Gently pour half the mixture into the prepared cake tin, dot half the berries evenly over it, then pour the rest of the mixture on top of the berries.

Bake for 35-40 minutes, until a skewer inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean. Cool in the tin for 5 minutes and unmould on to a wire rack to cool.

To make the icing, melt the chocolate in a heatproof bowl suspended over a saucepan of barely simmering water. Remove from the heat, stir in the butter, cream & icing sugar. Immediately pour over the cake to coat it completely, smoothing the icing using a palette knife. Leave for 1 hour to harden.

Serve with whipped cream & remaining berries.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Lynda’s Lemon-rub Steak with Charred Tomato Salsa

For my bbq on the weekend, as well as various snags, including some gorgeous kransky & some lamb chops I made some steaks with a gorgeous rub & salsa from Ainsley Harriott’s Ultimate Barbecue Bible. The rub was easy, just bash everything up in the mortar & pestle & it made the steaks lovely & tender & gave them a great flavour, they weren’t too hot either despite the extra hot cayenne pepper in the rub. The salsa went well alongside & the green chilly surprisingly packed quite a punch. I also made up some garlic bread to thrown on the Barbie after seeing a recipe for it in his book too, I know its daggy & old fashioned but what boy doesn’t like a bit of garlic bread & they all did, it was very well received indeed & the barbecue gave it a nice smoky flavour (and the house too, so much smoke came in that the smoke alarms even went crazy – Michael does it every time). We also had a few salads & as usual went way overboard with everything so guess what’s for dinner this week most nights?

Lynda’s Lemon-rub Steak with Charred Tomato Salsa

2 x 175g Sirloin Steaks ( I used Rump)
grated rind of 1 lemon
2 garlic cloves
½ teaspoon black peppercorns
½ teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon dried oregano
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
½ teaspoon coarse sea salt

3 plum tomatoes
1 small bunch fresh coriander
1 small bunch fresh mint
1 red onion, finely chopped
1 fresh green chilli, finely chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
juice of half a lemon
rock salt & freshly ground black pepper

Using a mortar & pestle, grind the lemon rind, garlic, peppercorns & cumin seeds together until well blended. Add the oregano, cayenne & salt & grind again. Run the mixture into the meat & set aside for an hour or two.

Meanwhile, halve the tomatoes lengthways and place on the barbecue, cut side down, for 5-8 minutes until softened & a little charred. Slip off the skins & roughly chop the flesh. Finely chop the herbs & mix with the tomato, onion, chilli, olive oil & lemon juice. Season well to taste.

Barbecue the st4eaks for 3-4 minutes on each side for a nice medium to medium rare cooked steak. Serve with the salsa.

Traditional Garlic Butter Bread

1 long fat French stick
3 garlic cloves
75g slightly salted butter, softened
3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
salt & freshly ground black pepper

Cut the bread diagonally into 2.5cm thick slices without cutting right through. Peel the garlic& crush in a mortar & pestle with a little salt until you have a smooth paste. Mix the butter with the garlic, parsley & some pepper. Spread both sides of each slice of bread with the butter & place the loaf on some foil. Wrap well & place on the side of the barbecue for 1012 minutes, turning regularly until crisp & hot.

Not so Purple Potato Salad

Another potato salad from Jamie Oliver, this one from Jamie’s Kitchen. I made this for my Barbie on the weekend, it is supposed to use purple potatoes which of course I couldn’t find, if anyone has seen any in Melbourne please enlighten me & let me know where. The salad was nice though I have to say it wasn’t anything special, some of his others are much tastier. I think the trick is the purple potatoes, they would make it look great so next time I find some I will give them a go.

Purple Potato Salad

6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
juice of 1-2 lemons, to taste
255g crème fraiche or fromage frais
500g baby new potatoes
500g purple potatoes
sea salt 7 freshly ground black pepper
1 bunch radishes, finely sliced
1 handful of fresh mint leaves, chopped
1 handful of chives, chopped

Make the dressing by mixing together the olive oil, lemon juice and crème fraiche. Cook the potatoes in plenty if boiling salted water for around 20 minutes until tender & drain well. When the potatoes are cool enough to handle rub off the skins with a knife and slice into bite size pieces. Mix with the dressing, then add the radishes and herbs & season well to taste.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Salmon with Horseradish & Beets

This recipe comes from Jamie Oliver’s Happy Days with the Naked Chef, under the chapter, Quick Fixes which is exactly what I needed last night being busy prepping some stuff for the bbq we’re having today. It was very quick apart from boiling the beets, I had giant ones as no babies in the shops & they took quite a while so you need to get them started pretty early on. The beets were fantastic, this was a lovely way to serve them & I loved the marinade, the marjoram really stood out & has a lovely & unusual (to me) flavour, I have some growing on my herb shelf so nice to find good uses for it. If I had known how nice they would turn out I would have bought heaps & made a bowl for the Barbie today! Also the horseradish cream brought it all together, going very well with both the salmon & the beets.

Salmon with Horseradish & Beets

2 x 225g Salmon fillets, pin boned & scored ½ cm deep
salt & freshly ground black pepper
6-8 baby beetroots, cooked until tender then sliced
1 small handful of marjoram, leaves picked
extra virgin olive oil
balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons crème fraiche
2 tablespoons creamed horseradish
juice of 1 lemon
a handful of rocket or watercress

Add your salmon fillets, skin side down, to a hot non-stick pan. Lightly press them with a spatula so they don’t curl up. After a minute they should be lightly golden. Turn the salmon over, sprinkle with salt & then place under a grill for 10-15 minutes until just cooked. While cooking, marinate your beetroots with the marjoram, a little olive oil, balsamic vinegar & seasoning. Mix the crème fraiche with the horseradish & season to taste, carefully, with salt, pepper & lemon juice. Place the beets & salmon on your serving plate, sprinkle over the rocket & drizzle with the horseradish sauce.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Madeira Cake

Here is a recipe for Madeira cake, a nice change from my usual rich offerings, this cake is beautiful in its lemony, buttery goodness, try some. The recipe is from Nigella Lawson’s ‘How to be a Domestic Goddess’

Madeira Cake

240g unsalted butter, softened
200g caster sugar, plus extra for sprinkling
grated zest & juice of 1 lemon
3 large eggs
210g self raising flour
90g plain flour
23 x 13 x 7 cm loaf tin, buttered & lined

Preheat oven to 170c. Cream the butter & sugar, add the lemon zest. Add the eggs one at a time with a tablespoon of the flour for each. Then gently mix in the rest of the flour and, finally, the lemon juice. Sprinkle with caster sugar as it goes into the oven & bake for 1 hour or until a cake tester comes out clean. Remove to a wire rack & let cool in the tin before turning out.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Alcoholic Hot Chocolate

Last night I had a chocolate craving but a) there was no ‘eating’ chocolate in the house & b) I didn’t feel like going all out & whipping up a cake or anything that elaborate. It was then that I remembered seeing a very wicked looking recipe for Hot Chocolate in Nigella Lawson’s Feast so I made a batch right away. I’m not much of a hot chocolate drinker, preferring tea or coffee when I want a hot drink, but this was so rich & full of good flavours & not too sickly sweet it was irresistible. The recipe makes two & I urge you try it, you wont regret it. Also I would be tempted to try it out with all sorts of different alcohol, Kahlua will be next I think.

Alcoholic Hot Chocolate

500ml milk
100g dark chocolate
1 cinnamon stick
2 teaspoons honey
1 teaspoon brown sugar
1 teaspoon real vanilla extract
2 tablespoons dark rum or to taste

Put the milk into a saucepan. Break the chocolate into pieces & add to the milk along with the cinnamon, honey & sugar. Heat gently until the chocolates melted. Add the vanilla & mix with a small hand whisk and, still whisking, add a spoonful of rum first & taste to see if you want more & add more sugar if you want this sweeter, too. Take out the cinnamon stick & pour into two cappuccino cups or caffe latte mugs. Heaven!

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Hot Cross Buns & A Belated Happy Easter

Being Easter of course I had to make my first ever batch of hot cross buns & what better book to look to for the recipe but Nigella Lawson’s Feast of course. Traditionally they are meant to be eaten on Good Friday however I made them for Easter Sunday as that’s when the family was getting together for a picnic & I wanted to share them (read – not eat the whole batch myself). The fact that you make the dough the night before I loved as with little Missy on my hands these days, recipes done in stages are better than long drawn out sessions in the kitchen which would be interrupted by a hungry baby no doubt & of course the baby does come first! In the end the flavour was pretty darn good with all the extra’s, ie cardamom & cloves though due to my own stupidity (I misread & didn’t notice the ‘let come to room temperature first ‘ bit) I think my dough was a little on the hard & chewy side & possibly could have risen a bit more if I had followed the recipe correctly. They still rocked, especially when first out of the oven, later I tried them at room temp – nice & in the microwave – even better I think so all in all pretty good & much nicer than the store bought variety by far.

Hot Cross Buns

150ml milk
50g butter
zest of 1 orange
1 clove
2 cardamom pods
400g bread flour
1 packet easy blend yeast 97g)
125g mixed dried fruit
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
¼ teaspoon ground ginger
1 egg

Egg Wash
1 egg, beaten with a little milk

For the crosses
3 tablespoons plain flour
½ tablespoon caster sugar
2 tablespoons water

Sugar Glaze
1 tablespoon caster sugar
1 tablespoon boiling water

Heat the milk, butter, orange zest, clove & cardamom pods in a saucepan until the butter melts, then leave to infuse.

Measure the flour, yeast & dried fruit into a bowl & add the spices. When the infused milk has reached blood temperature take out the clove & cardamom pods & beat in the egg. Pour this liquid into the bowl of dry ingredients.

Knead the dough either by hand or with a machine with a dough hook. If it is too dry add a little more milk or water. Keep kneading until you have silky, elastic dough but bear in mind that the dried fruit will stop this from being exactly satin smooth. Form into a ball & place in a buttered bowl covered with cling film, & leave to prove overnight in the fridge.

Preheat the oven to 220c. Take the dough out of the fridge & let it come to room temperature.

Punch the dough down, and knead it again until it is smooth & elastic. Divide into 16 balls & shape into smooth round buns.

Sit the buns on an oven tray lined with baking paper. Make sure they are quite snug together but not touching. Using the back of an eating knife, score the tops of the buns with the imprint of a cross. Cover with a tea towel & leave to prove again for about 45 minutes – they should have risen & almost joined up.

Brush the buns with the egg wash, then mix the flour, sugar & water into a smooth thick paste. Using a teaspoon, dribble two lines over the buns in the indent to make a cross, then bake for 15-20 minutes.

When they come out of the oven, mix the sugar & boiling water, and brush each bun to make then sweet & shiny.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Crispy Duck with Spiced Plum sauce

Duck is one of my favourite meats, some hate it, I can’t get enough of it & whenever it’s on a menu when I’m out I find it hard to go past & usually end up ordering it with no regrets. This recipe from Allan Campion & Michele Curtis ‘Food with Friends’ is a winner, the aroma of the spices while cooking is amazing & the plum sauce is really good with its combination of sweet & sour flavours. Quite easy to put together too though there are a few steps & pots to use!

Crispy Duck with Spiced Plum Sauce

Master Stock (below)
4 duck breast fillets
110g caster sugar
2 star anise
2-3 cinnamon sticks
4-6 plums, halves, stones discarded
80ml (1/3 cup) fish sauce
80-125ml (1/3-1/2 cup) lime or lemon juice
oil for cooking

Bring Master stock to the boil. Add duck, cover & cook for 10 minutes at a gentle simmer. Remove from heat & allow duck to cool in master stock. Once cool, remove duck from master stock & refrigerate.

Make sauce by putting 2 cups of the master stock in a saucepan over a medium heat. Bring to the boil, add sugar, stir to dissolve, then add star anise & cinnamon & cook for 10 minutes or so to infuse the flavours. Add plums and cook for 2-3 minutes. Remove saucepan from the heat.

Preheat oven to 180c. heat a large frying pan over a medium heat, add a splash of oil & cook duck filets for 3-4 minutes on each side until golden brown. Place on a tray, cook in preheated oven for 10 minutes. Remove, cover & rest for 5 minutes.

Reheat plum sauce, adding fish sauce & lemon or lime juice to taste, so the sauce is tart, sweet & sour. Carve each duck fillet into 6-7 slices. Arrange duck pieces on a platter and pour hot sauce & plums over.

Serve with steamed rice & garlic Stir Fried Greens (below)

Master Stock

1.5 litres (6 cups) water
250ml (1 cup) soy sauce
125ml (1/2 cup) Chinese rice wine
3-4 slices fresh ginger
1 lemongrass stem, sliced
2-3 pieces tangerine peel, optional
2 star anise
75g (1/3 cu) caster sugar

Put all ingredients in a large saucepan & bring to the boil.

Garlic Stir fried Greens

2 bunches gai laan (or bok choy, wonga bok, etc)
oil for cooking
4 garlic cloves, crushed
2 tablespoons grated ginger, optional
125ml (1/2 cup) chicken stock
1-2 tablespoons soy sauce

Wash greens well, discard big old leaves, thinly slice, chop up.

Heat a wok over high heat, add a splash of oil, the garlic & ginger and cook for 2-3 minutes, stirring often, making sure the garlic doesn’t burn. Add gai laan, toss for 1-2 minutes, add stock & cover with a lid. Cook for 3 – 4 minutes, tossing occasionally to ensure greens cook evenly. Remove lid & season with soy sauce.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Ricotta Hotcakes with Honeycomb Butter

Over Easter I whipped up another fantabulous breakfast from Bill Granger’s Sydney Food to snack on over the break. More on the pancake theme which I have to say is my favourite breakfast item at the moment & the honeycomb butter is truly special.

Ricotta Hotcakes with Honeycomb Butter

1 1/3 cups ricotta
¾ cup milk
4 eggs, separated
1 cup plain flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
a pinch of salt
50g butter

To serve
Honeycomb butter (below)
Icing sugar for dusting

Place ricotta, milk & egg yolks in a mixing bowl and mix to combine.

Sift the flour, baking powder & salt into a bowl. Add to the ricotta mixture & mix until just combined.

Place egg whites in a dry clean bowl & beat until stiff peaks form. Fold egg whites through batter in two batches, with a large metal spoon.

Lightly grease a large non-stick frying pan with a small portion of the butter and drop two tablespoons of batter per hotcake into the pan. Cook over low to medium heat for 2 minutes, or until hotcakes have golden undersides. Turn hotcakes and cook on the other side until golden & cooked through. Transfer to a plate & quickly assemble with other ingredients.

Slice one banana lengthways onto a plate, stack 3 hotcakes on top with a slice of honeycomb butter. Dust with icing sugar. Serves 6-8.

Note: Batter can be stored for 24 hours in the fridge covered with glad wrap before cooking.

Honeycomb butter

250g unsalted butter, softened
100g sugar honeycomb, crushed with a rolling pin
2 tablespoons honey

Place all ingredients in a food processor & blend until smooth. Shape into a log on plastic wrap, roll, seal & chill in fridge for 2 hours. Store leftovers in the freezer, apparently its great on toast too!

Good Friday - Three Fishes with Three Herb Salsa

Dinner for Good Friday called for fish, not that I am religious (even though I was brought up a Catholic), it just seems to be the thing to do. So I tried out this simple dish from Nigella Lawson’s Forever Summer. The recipe feeds 6-8 so I reduced the quantities for the two of us. A very simple dish for when your feeling very lazy yet so much better & quicker than fast food any day, my favourite was the salmon.

Three Fishes with Three Herb Salsa

2 Salmon fillets, approx 150g each
2 swordfish fillets, approx 150g each
2 tuna fillets, approx 150g each
3 tablespoons olive oil for frying

Herb Sauce
125ml extra virgin olive oil
zest of 1 lemon, juice of half
3 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
2 tablespoons capers preserved in vinegar, drained but not rinsed
half teaspoon dried oregano
half teaspoon dried mint
salt & pepper

Make your herb sauce by combining everything in a bowl, whisking together & leave to macerate for at least 15 minutes for the flavours to develop.

Cut each fillet of fish into three pieces so that you have longish strips. Fry them in the olive oil beginning with the salmon as it will need the longest, then the swordfish, then the tuna.

Arrange on a large flat plate so that the different fish intermingle, and drizzle the herb sauce over the top. Serve the remaining sauce in a bowl alongside.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Carrot Cake with Lime Mascarpone Icing

The other day I had people in and out so I baked this pleasing cake from Jamie Oliver’s Cook with Jamie. Whilst it turned out very nice in the end it wasn’t without some drama. Firstly I have an electric fan forced oven that usually cooks perfectly as per recipe instructions or if anything faster so I was surprised when after cooking for a bit over the recommended 50 minutes and a skewer coming out clean, I left it for 10 minutes then went to turn it out & it started dripping out!!! Maybe I should have left for 5 seconds as recommended, I thought he was just being fussy in the recipe. I was not happy so I quickly turned the oven back on & stuck it in for another 20 minutes or so by which time it was finally cooked. After all of that fussing it did break in half when turning out but I managed to patch it back together with the very yummy icing which tasted just like cheesecake & a not too sweet one at that. I also had heaps of icing left over & I iced the sides too.

Carrot Cake with Lime Mascarpone Icing

285g unsalted butter, softened
285g light brown soft sugar
5 large eggs, separated
zest and juice of 1 orange
170g self raising flour, sifted
1 slightly heaped teaspoon of baking powder
115g ground almonds
115g shelled walnuts, chopped, plus a handful for serving
1 heaped teaspoon cinnamon
a pinch of ground cloves
a pinch of ground nutmeg
½ teaspoon ground ginger
285g carrots, peeled & coarsely grated
sea salt

115g Mascarpone cheese
225g full fat cream cheese
85g icing sugar, sifted
zest & juice of 2 limes

Preheat the oven to 180c. Grease and line a 22cm square or round cake tin with greaseproof paper. Beat the butter & sugar until light & fluffy. Beat in the egg yolks one by one, and add the orange zest & juice. Stir in the flour & baking powder & add the ground almonds, walnuts, spices & carrot & mix together well.

In a separate bowl, whisk the egg whites with a pinch of salt until stiff, then gently fold them in the cake mix. Scoop the mixture into the prepared cake tin & cook for about 50 minutes until golden & risen. Check to see if cooked by poking in a cocktail stick, remove after 5 seconds & if it comes out clean the cake is cooked. If sticky it needs a bit longer so put back in the oven. Once cooked, leave the cake to cool in the tin for 10 minutes then turn onto a wire rack to cool for at least an hour.

Mix all the icing ingredients together & spread generously over the top of the cake. Sprinkle with chopped walnuts & serve.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Pasta e Ceci (Pasta with chickpeas)

This soup/pasta dish is a hearty warmer for those chilly autumn nights that we are now having, nice & thick & full of goodness yet still light enough not to be too much to handle. From Jamie Oliver’s Italy. Note that the recipe at the end says if the soup is a little thick add some boiling water, mine was so thick it needed heaps of water added & it still remained nice & thick.

Pasta e ceci (Pasta with chickpeas)

1 small onion, peeled & finely chopped
1 stick of celery, trimmed & finely chopped
1 clove of garlic, peeled & finely chopped
extra virgin olive oil
a sprig of fresh rosemary, leaves picked & finely chopped
2 x 400g tins of chickpeas
500ml chicken stock
100g ditalini or other small Italian ‘soup’ pasta
sea salt & freshly ground black pepper
optional: a small handful of fresh basil or parsley, leaves picked & torn

Put the onion, celery & garlic into a saucepan with a little extra virgin olive oil & the rosemary & cook gently with the lid on for about 15 to 20 minutes, until all the vegetables are soft, without any color.

Drain your chickpeas well & rinse them in cold water. Then add them to the pan & cover with the stock. Cook gently for half an hour then using a slotted spoon, remove half the chickpeas & put them to one side in a bowl.

Puree the soup in the pan using a handheld blender. Add the reserved whole chickpeas & the pasta, season with salt & pepper, and simmer gently until the chickpeas are tender & the pasta is cooked.

At this point, if the soup is a little thick, pour in some boiling water from the kettle to thin it down & add more salt & pepper if needed. Serve drizzled with good quality extra virgin olive oil & sprinkled with some freshly torn basil.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Banana & Raspberry Loaf

A quick & healthy mid week snack, that’s right it has fruit which is good for you & brown sugar & anything brown is healthy right? Ok, well that is what I tell myself anyway & really it’s not as bad as some cakes. Delicious & you can really taste the raspberries which give the flavour a great zing. Note I don’t eat it with butter as I don’t find it’s needed at all. The recipe is from the September 2006 Australian Table magazine.

Banana & Raspberry Loaf

Butter, to grease & serve
2 egg whites, lightly beaten
2 large ripe bananas, peeled, mashed
¾ cup (165g) brown sugar, firmly packed
¼ cup (60ml) vegetable oil
1 ½ cups (225g) plain flour
1 ¼ teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon bicarb of soda
1 ¼ cups (190g) frozen raspberries

Preheat oven to 160c. Grease a 14 x 21cm loaf tin. Line base & sides with baking paper.

Combine egg whites, banana, sugar & oil in a bowl. Sift in dry ingredients & fold together until just combined. Fold through raspberries. Spoon mixture into prepared tn & bake for 1 ¼ hours or until skewer inserted comes out clean. Cool for 5 minutes in pan before turning out onto a wire rack to cool completely. Slice, toast if desired & serve with butter.

Ricotta Dumplings with Orecchiette, peas & prosciutto

For dinner the other night, we had visitors all afternoon & the as soon as they were out the door & I was about to start dinner, Missy wanted a feed so Michael was stuck cooking dinner again. I was a bit worried as the recipe I had chosen to attempt was a bit more complicated than his usual efforts so I thought I could step in and take over as soon as Chloe was done but Michael was happy to keep going so I left him to it & got some other stuff done in my few moments of freedom. The recipe comes from a recent Delicious Magazine & was delicious, a really tasty yet simple combination, it was so yum that I hadn’t even intended on blogging it yet after a couple of mouthfuls I felt I couldn’t not post about it so I tried to rearrange the dish & snap some photos. Great dish though not sure if I will make it again as it seemed a bit fiddly, quite a few dishes & a hell of a mess (Michael hasn’t yet learned the art of cooking & keeping the kitchen relatively clean as he goes!), anyway I have kept the recipe so will wait & see.

Ricotta Dumplings with Orecchiette, peas & prosciutto

2 cups Orecchiette pasta
¼ cup (60ml) olive oil, plus extra to drizzle
1 cup freshly podded or frozen peas
½ onion, thinly sliced
¼ cup (60ml) dry white wine
4 thin slices prosciutto or ham, sliced
2 tablespoons mint leaves

Ricotta Dumplings
250g fresh ricotta
2 tablespoons grated parmesan, plus extra to serve
1/3 cup (50g) plain flour
1 egg, plus 1 extra yolk
2 tablespoons finely chopped flat leaf parsley
Large pinch of freshly grated nutmeg

For the ricotta dumplings, briefly process all the ingredients in a food processor with salt & pepper until smooth. Chill until needed.

Cook pasta in a pan of salted water according to packet instructions, adding peas for the final 2 minutes of cooking time, then drain. Rinse briefly in cold water to cool slightly, then drain again. Toss with 1 tablespoon of the oil.

Heat remaining oil in large pan over medium-low heat. Add onion & cook for 5 minutes or until soft. Add the wine, prosciutto, peas & pasta & lightly toss for 1 minute or until pasta is heated through. Strew the contents of the pan with its juices in a single layer over a large serving platter.

Meanwhile bring a pan of salted water to the boil. Drop the ricotta batter by the teaspoon into the boiling water, cooking 6 at a time, and simmer for 2 minutes. Drain on paper towel while you cook remaining dumplings, then scatter over the pasta. Season well with sea salt & freshly ground black pepper, scatter with mint & a little extra parmesan, then drizzle with extra oil & serve warm.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Dench Bakers, North Fitzroy

It was such a gorgeous day yesterday that Michael & I ventured out for a walk along the Merri Creek path & emerged on St Georges road for a quick lunch with Chloe at Dench Bakers in North Fitzroy. This is a great bakery that also operates as a café which we hadn’t yet tried out. I have been inside before to purchase the brioche for my Apple Charlotte & I have tried the amazing bomboloni (sensational sugar coated, custard filled doughnut) as pointed out by a couple of local bloggers, Jamie at The Breakfast Blog & Niki at Esurientes, so I was really looking forward to having lunch here.

The place was rocking & of course there were no free tables though there were a couple of stools set up on the side walk so we sat down, had a coffee & waited our turn. A table was free in a few minutes which was great so we happily moved in. The menu was smallish but diverse with various breakfast options both hot & cold, sandwiches, paninis & a great specials board. We both went for the specials, Michael had the zucchini flower & pumpkin risotto which was great while I couldn’t go past the ricotta hotcakes with baked autumn plums even though it was lunch at 1.30 in the afternoon. My dish was sensational, the hotcakes were delicious & the simply baked plums were juicy & sweet & didn’t make the hotcakes go soggy at all which is always a good thing, and look at how huge the serve was! Anyway I love this place & it comes highly recommended, and as Jamie says, as well as eating your brekky or lunch or whatever you will end up walking out the door with a bag of goodies too, the baked goods on offer look too good not to bring some home for later.

Dench Bakers, Atrisan Sourdoughs
109 Scotchmer Street
North Fitzroy VIC 3068
Ph: 03 9486 3554