Thursday, February 25, 2010

The Cookbook Challenge Week 15 - Muffins

This weeks theme for The Cookbook Challenge is muffins.  I like muffins though only the sweet variety, I never quite got savoury muffins, maybe that's because I have never eaten a good one yet?  Anyway I do find them a little uninspiring and particularly unphotogenic though they are always quick to whip up and cook, usually only requiring some stirring in a bowl so no messy appliances to wash up either which is a good thing.

So trying to find a really good recipe was a challenge for me, no boring old banana, I had a few options & nearly settled on Bill Granger's Pumpkin muffins but in the end these apple & berry muffins won out.  Who doesn't love anything with a crumble topping?  The muffins themselves were very moist as they were jam packed with fruit so the nice crumble was a great contrast on top.  A really good muffin recipe & one I would definitely make again.

Apple and Berry Crumble Muffins - From Marie Claire Breakfast

155g (1 1/4 cups) self-raising flour
150g (1 cup) wholemeal self-raising flour
1/4 tspn ground cinnamon
pinch of ground cloves
115g firmly packed soft brown sugar
185ml (3/4 cup) milk
2 eggs
125g unsalted butter, melted & cooled
2 granny smith apples, peeled, grated
155g (1 cup) blueberries

50g plain flour
55g (1/4 cup) demerara sugar
35g (1/3 cup) rolled oats
40g unsalted butter, chopped

Preheat oven to 190c.  Line 12 regular muffin holes with muffin papers.  Sift the flours, cinnamon and cloves into a large bowl, add the husks and stir in the sugar.  Make a well in the centre.

Put the milk, eggs and butter in a bowl, whisk and pour in the well.  Fold until just combined.  Fold in the fruit.  Divide among the muffin holes.

To make the crumble, put the flour, sugar and oats in a bowl.  Rub in the butter until most of the lumps are gone.  Sprinkle 2 teaspoons of the crumble over each muffin.  Bake for 25 minutes, or until golden.  Cool for 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Happy 3rd Birthday Chloe

Happy 3rd Birthday to my beautiful baby Chloe.  We had a bit of a bash at home to celebrate, afternoon tea with the family & a few friends....

The birthday cake was this spectacular Choc-cherry Tiramisu ice-cream cake from Super Food Ideas Dec2009/Jan 2010 issue. I dont normally buy this magazine but I was standing at the check out one day & this was on the cover and caught my eye.  What little girl can resist layers of chocolate & vanilla cream cheese ice cream with cherries & biscuits in between all topped with chocolate curls, cherries & silver cachous???  You cant tell in the photo but this cake was huge, think 4 litres of ice cream plus extras, happily served everyone, 25 or so adults plus kids & decent servings too & we even have some leftovers.

For the rest of the food I kept the savoury food simple, sandwiches and dips, plus my mum made chicken wings & pigs in blankets for a childhood flashback, yum & I couldn't believe how many people actually had never had or heard of them either.

The sweet food however I went all out on & baked for 2 days, funnily it was all Bill Granger food, he never lets me down on the sweets, vanilla cup cakes & blueberry trifle from Bill's Open Kitchen, lime slice from Bill's food, and lastly, cranberry & white chocolate cookies & chocolate caramel slice (minus the salt) from Holiday.  I loved all of the recipes, the one I got the most compliments for would have to be the caramel slice though.  I was so busy on the day that oops I didnt get a chance for photos, I was actually quite lucky to get a photo of Chloe and the birthday cake!

Monday, February 15, 2010

The Cookbook Challenge - Week 14 - Japanese

The Challenge for this weeks Cookbook Challenge was Japanese.  At first I thought I would something authentic, though in the end I was bored by that idea & came across this Jamie Oliver recipe that I had bypassed many times as it seemed too fiddly.  It's Japanese style Pork with Plums, Coriander, Soy Sauce & Spring Onions, too me it really doesnt sound all that Japanese apart from the use of plums which I absolutely adore, but hey I really dont know much about the cuisine apart from typical food I eat out in restaurants, you know sushi, tempura, teppanyaki, you get the drift.    Anyway in the end it wasnt as time consuming as it looked & I really loved it, the pork was very lean & steamed so top points for the healthy factor there, the plum sauce was amazing but then again what isn't amazing when made with plums, we had heaps leftover so actually used it as a dipping sauce on the side too & the greens & soy pulled it all together very nicely.  So well done I say & I am really going to start using some cook books that aren't my well worn favourites soon too I promise.

Japanese Rolled Pork with Plums, Coriander, Soy Sauce & Spring Onions - from Jamie Olive - Happy Days with the Naked Chef

10 plums
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 star anise
2 thumb sized pieces of fresh ginger, peeled & finely grated
2 cloves
2 heaped tablespoons muscovado sugar
600g pork loin
Salt & freshly ground black pepper
1 small handful fresh coriander, washed & chopped
Spring onions
Soy Sauce

Wash the plums, then halve, remove the stones and dice into 1cm cubes.  Heat the oil in a pan and fry the star anise, ginger and cloves for 1 minute.  Add the plums & sugar with a couple of tablespoons of water, place a lid on, simmer slowly for about 20 minutes until chunky & pulpy.  Allow to cool in the fridge.

Take your pork & trim off the fate & sinews.  Cut into 0.5 cm slices & ione by one bash out the slices to about half their original size. 

Season the plum sauce and stir in half the coriander.  Smear each pork slice with some sauce & roll up like a swiss roll.  Place the rolls into a bamboo steamer & steam over simmering water for about 10-15 minutes until the meat is just cooked.  Remove from the steamer & serve on a bed of finely sliced spring onions, sprinkled with the remaining coriander & doused with soy sauce.


Brown sugar is fine in place of muscavado if you havent got any.

I lined my steamer with baking paper & as a result the basket was full of liquid when finished, it didnt seem to compromise the flavour though it probably didnt help either

Thanks Michael for making the sauce in the morning while I was out doing the shopping!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

The Cookbook Challenge - Week 13 - Love

This weeks theme for The Cookbook Challenge is love.  I had to have a good think before I knew how I wanted to interpret this one.  Rather than going for the obvious Valentines Day romantic commercial love that was probably the most obvious I wanted to cook something I LOVE cooking for someone I LOVE.  This could have been many different foods for many different reasons.  I finally settled on pancakes, they have to be my favourite breakfast indulgence & cooking someone breakfast is an act of love, dinner has to be eatan & cooked pretty much every night apart from the occasional take-away or night out, lunch somehow gets scraped together most days (usually vegemite & cheese sandwich I have to admit), however breakfast which is normally cereal, either out of a box or my home made muesli, is very special when I go to the trouble to actually cook up something. 

Chloe loves pancakes, thats right Chloe got the love not Michael this time sorry, so I settled on Bill Granger's (the king of brekky), Oaty Hotcakes with Caramel bananas from Feed me Now.  Somewhat healthy hotcakes topped with absolutely wicked & drool worthy bananas, need I say anymore other than you have to try these out for yourself.

Oaty Hotcakes with fruity toppings - from - Bill Granger - Feed Me Now

185g plain flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
good pinch of freshly grated nutmeg (optional)
pinch of sea salt
1 tablespoon caster sugar
25g rolled oats
375ml buttermilk
1 medium egg, lightly beaten
35g butter, melted, plus extra to grease pan

To make the hotcake batter, sift the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg & salt together in a bowl.  Stir the sugar and oats through then make a well in the centre.  Pur in the buttermilk & egg, stirring until just mixed.  Add the melted butter & stir to combine.  Set aside.

(At this time I made up the caramel bananas so they were ready as soon as the pancakes were cooked.)

To cook the hotcakes, heat a large non-stick frying pan over medium heat & brush a little butter over the base.  Pour in 2 or 3 small ladlefuls of batter, being careful not to overcrowd the pan, and cook for 2-3 minutes.  Transfer to a plate & keep warm while cooking the rest (or serve up to hungry nearly 3 year olds while you get on with the rest).

Caramel bananas

3 bananas
60g butter
90g brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Halve the bananas lengthways & cut each piece into 3.  Put the butter, sugar, vanilla & 3 tablespoons water in a large frying pan over medium heat & cook until the mixture forms a caramel and darkens.  Add the bananas and toss through until well coated.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

A peak at some of my garden

Some of my grapes starting to ripen up.  This is the first year we have lived here that we have let the vines fruit so I have no idea how long they take to ripen or if they will be nice or not, fingers crossed.  Notice the gigantic rosemary bush underneath - love it!

My pots against the garage wall ( to be knocked down at an undecided date in the probably far off future to make way for real trees & garden beds).  From left to right, baby Bay tree which will stay in the pot given that they apparently can reach 12 metres tall, lemon tree, to be relocated to the real garden once the garage finally dies, mint, baby cherry tomato plant, Vietnamese mint, blood orange tree, again waiting for a real garden, garlic chives & apple tree, again in waiting...

Strawberry patch by the back door, starting to take off though so far no ripe strawberry has made it inside past Chloes eager fingers

More herbs, basil, Thai basil, blood plum tree, ditto on the garden & more basil.  Lots more growing in the beds & so far havent had to buy a tomato all summer so am reasonably happy with my first ever real veggie patch though there will be lots of changes next year to improve upon the failuires & some crops that didnt bear as well as hoped

Sunday, February 07, 2010

The Cookbook Challenge - Week 12 - Eggs

This weeks theme for The Cookbook Challenge is eggs.  I had some egg whites in the freezer waiting to use up so my first recipe was going to be some sort of pavlova/meringue.  Going on from my success of the moonblush tomatoes, Nigella had a similar recipe for her Forgotten Pudding, similar as in you cook it in the oven after its turned off.  As I had a very busy morning the day I needed to cook this, it was perfect as all the prep was done the night before and all I had to do was whip up some cream and pile the fruit on top at the party - Michaels Dad's birthday lunch.  Amazingly it did cook with only the residual heat from the oven being preheated.  I liked it though due to the slow cooking it didnt have the outer crunchy layer of a pavlova, instead it was nice and soft and marshmellowy, nice for a change though my preference is for the crunch which I will go back to next time even though you cant beat this recipe for the laziness factor - my mum thinks Nigella is the laziest cook she has ever heard of!

Forgotten Pudding - Nigella Lawson - Nigella Express

6 egg whites
1/2 teaspoon salt
250g caster sugar. plus 2 teaspoons
1/2 tspn cream of tartar
1 tspn vanilla extract
butter for greasing
250ml double cream
4 passionfruit
350g berries (I used a mix of strawberries & blueberries)

Preheat oven to 220c.  In a large bowl, whisk the egg whites and salt until peaks begin to form.  gradually add the 250g sugar, then the cream of tartar and the vanilla, whisking all the while at speed, until the whites are stiff and glossy.  Butter a swiss roll tin then spread evenly with the mixture.  Put in the oven, close the door and turn the oven off and leave overnight - DO NOT OPEN THE DOOR TO PEEP!

When serving, move to a large plate.  Whisk the cream until thick but still soft and spread over the meringue.  Scoop out the seeds and pulp of the passionfruits and spread evenly over the top.  Toss the berries in the remaining sugar and heap on top (I skipped the extra sugar).  Slice and serve.

For my second egg week I had to pick a savoury breakfast dish, I love cooking breakfast on the weekends and have been wanting to bake some eggs for a while now so this was a good excuse.  I chose Bill Granger's Baked Eggs from Holiday, they are baked in a ramekin with some spinach in the bottom & a little cream & parmesan on top.  My only difficulty was that my ramekins were a touch on the small side & once I had the spinach in with 2 eggs each they were already filled to the top, my solution was to pour out a bit of egg white to make room for the cream & cheese & it was fine, egg whites are highly overated if you ask me anyway (unless whipped to form glorious meringues or macaroons of course).  Michael & Chloe had theirs with my favourite Ottway bacon & toast on the side, I skipped the toast but couldnt pass up the bacon, it's not very often that I have it around so when it's there I dig in.  Loved the eggs though Michael started the oven off for me & it wasnt until 3/4 of the way in that I realised he had the wrong setting so they took longer than required to puff up and goldenise (making up words here I know).  As a result the eggs were  hard baked rather than soft & oozing which was ok for a change even though I would have preferred the ooze.

Baked Eggs with Spinach and Parmesan - from Bill Granger's Holiday

To serve 4 (adjust quantities as required for more or less people)

1 tblspn olive oil
200g baby spinach leaves
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
8 eggs
4 tblspns cream
4 tbspns grated parmesan

Preheat the oven to 200c.  Lightly grease four 9cm ramekins & place on a baking tray.

Heat a saucepan or frying pan over medium heat and add the olive oil, spinach & season with salt & pepper.  Cook until leaves are just softened.  Drain the spinach in a colander and as soon as it's cool enough to handle, squeeze out the excess liquid.

Spoon the spinach evenly into the ramekins & break 2 eggs into each on top of the spinach.  Pour 1 tablespoon of cream in each & sprinkle with 1 tablespoon of parmesan.  Bake for 15 minutes or until the eggs are set & puffed up.  Season & serve immediately with toast.