Friday, February 29, 2008

The Daring Bakers go French

The Daring Baker challenge for February is Julia Child’s French bread. I quite enjoy making bread, but I have never made a plain white loaf and not in the style of French bread.

The bread in France is unbelievable! I am not a big bread eater, but when we spent time in France four years ago, I think I ate my bread quota for about a year in 3 weeks!!! My favourite memories are of a still warm pain aux lardon (bread with bacon in it) and a divine anchovy fougasse. Yum!!!!! The Julia Child recipe was for a plain French loaf.

The instructions for making the bread were very long and thorough. I used the mixer method, rather than the by hand method – I usually use my kenwood for kneading bread. The bread turned out well, but did not have the WOW factor that I would have liked.

I followed the instructions as much as I could–although didn’t leave it to rise as long as the recipe said. My funny old atlas oven is not the best thing to make bread in – It probably doesn’t get as hot as French Bread needs. Also, I don’t have a pizza stone, so made the bread on a normal oven tray. I did put ice in the oven to create steam which is meant to keep the bread nice and moist.

The bread tastes really yummy – especially warm from the oven with some lovely butter on it. But it didn’t go a glossy brown colour and the outside was not as crisp as I would have liked. I made a rather mis-shaped baguette and a kind of a boule. We ate the baguette hot from the oven and I have put the boule in the freezer.

I am not sure that I would make the French bread again. I don’t think I can re-create the French bread oven enough to get a good result. I think I will stick to making things like fougasse and foccacia.

You can see the other daring bakers’ French bread here.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

The first masterbake challenge - cinnamon

Nikki from Crazy Delicious has started a new monthly blog challenge called master bake. She has the most gorgeous web design – I am so tempted to get mine re-designed by the same designer!!!! Anyway, this month’s challenge is cinnamon. Now, because I enjoy the challenge of making new recipes I would almost always try a new recipe for a blog challenge. However, this time I haven’t, making Belgium Slice, which is a tried and true family recipe. There are two reasons why I picked Belgium Slice – one is that I thought it would be a good recipe to share as not too many people know about it (and I bet especially not those in the States) and secondly, it is a favourite of my Dad and one of my sisters, both whom I am going to see this weekend when we go down to the Hawkes Bay for the mission concert.

You may be more familiar with Belgium biscuits than the slice version. I am not sure of the history as to why they are called Belgium biscuits, but they are a cinnamon dominated spiced biscuit, joined together with raspberry jam and then iced on top with either pale pink or white icing and sprinkled with raspberry jelly crystals!!! They also have a little cocoa in them which gives them a browner look. They are yummy and are very popular in NZ, especially in Southland where I grew up.

Belgium Slice is a slice version of this – it has a more cakey texture rather than the crisper biscuits. I think I like the slice better than the biscuits. I don’t actually like raspberry jam and the jam doesn’t seem to dominate the slice like it does the biscuits. The slice is a good keeper as well, and actually keeps better than the biscuits which soften on keeping – the slice is meant to be soft!

You can make the icing pink, but I prefer to leave it white. I do add a few drops of raspberry essence to my icing which gives a slight raspberry lift to the sweetness of the icing. Usually the recipe calls for 2 tsp mixed spice and 1 of cinnamon but in the spirit of the cinnamon masterbake theme, I swapped the ratios around. If you haven’t tried Belgium Slice before, I would love to know if you make this and what you think!!

Belgium Slice

120g butter
1c sugar
1 tbsp golden syrup
1 egg
2 c flour
2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp mixed spice
about ½ c raspberry jam (I used my own home made which I think makes a flavour difference)

· Cream butter and sugar, then add golden syrup then egg
· Mix in dry ingredients
· Roll out half of the mixture to cover the base of a 18 x 23cm slice tin
· Spread with raspberry and jam and then cover with the other half of the mixture rolled to fit (this patches really well)
· Bake at 180c for 20 minutes
Once cold ice with plain white or pink icing (I used about 2 c icing sugar, 1 tsp butter and enough hot water to make a smooth icing, then I added a couple of drops of raspberry essence). Sprinkle with raspberry jelly crystals

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

A number of things!

I’ve got a few things to talk about today. First of all, yesterday my Dorie Greenspan book arrived!!!! I am so excited!! It is so much better than I had even hoped. I can’t wait to start participating in the Tuesdays with Dorie challenge!!

In the weekend my husband and I went to our dear friends’ daughter’s 1st birthday party. We were very excited as it was the first 1st birthday party that we had been invited to! It was a real celebration. I had Monique from Neak’s corner make Loula a little bracelet for her birthday and I also made these number 1 shortbread cookies. Unfortunately the photo is a bit blurry, but you get the idea!!

When I make shortbread for iced biscuits, I don’t use my buttery shortbread recipe that I have shared earlier. I make a much sturdier biscuit that seems to cope better with the rigours of both the icing process and being iced. This recipe doesn’t seem to soften as much as my other recipe for vanilla cut out biscuits. The ratio is 250g butter, 1 c icing sugar, 2 c flour and 1 c cornflour. It rolls out well and doesn’t need too much resting.

It was also my business partner’s 50th party in the weekend – a bit weekend for parties!! Today is his actual birthday and so I thought I would also make him some number cookies – these 50 shaped cookies.

The biscuits are quite a spicy gingerbread biscuit with a good dose of ginger, cinnamon and mixed spice as well as golden syrup. The blue icing didn’t turn out quite as blue as I wanted, but I think he will still like them.

And lastly, we are heading into fresh fig season!!! I love fresh figs. At our old house we had planted a fig tree and last year I got 2 or 3 ripe figs from it each day during the season (it was just a baby tree). I was so sad to leave it, but have found two fig trees in the neighbourhood, bit which really overlap the footpath!!!!! :0) One is absolutely abundant with figs, most will come ripe in about two weeks I think, but I collected about 6 figs on Sunday and another 7 last night. They are so good fresh that it would seem wasteful to cook with them, but tonight I think I might put some in a salad with reduced balsamic vinegar and goats cheese. Yum!

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Hay Hay Donna, it was a disaster!

Bordeaux from Marita Says picked little coconut chocolate tarts for the February Hay Hay, It’s Donna Day. The recipe is from Donna Hay’s book, Fast Food and is basically a macaroon crust with a chocolate ganache filling.

Unfortunately I didn’t read Brodeaux’s instructions properly - he said it was a good idea to line the muffin tins with cupcake cases before putting the coconut base into the tins. I made 12 mini tarts using a mini muffin tin and 8 normal muffin sized tarts. In reality I only got 6 mini tart and the larger tarts were deconstructed tarts, as I had to scoop the macaroon base out of the tins and then re-bake on a tray. What a mess!!!! If you try this recipe you must use cupcake cases!!!! When the coconut mixture is warm it is too soft to get out of the tin and as it cools, it sets hard onto the tin.

I made the chocolate ganache filling and was thinking of a way to make my tarts a little different (other than the fact that the look nothing like tarts!!!). I really wanted to flavour the ganache with raspberry liquer, but not having any in the cupboard, I thought of another flavour combination that I love – chocolate and caramel. So I topped the ganache with a small dollop of caramel, using a tin of caramelised condensed milk. I also altered the ratio of chocolate to cream as I like a firmer style ganache. For a firmer ganache I use a ratio of 2:1 chocolate to cream.

The taste of the tarts is yummy, it is just the look that is a bit disappointing. Now I also have the best part of a can of caramelised condensed milk in the fridge that I need to do something with before I end up eating the lot! Looks like it might be a caramel slice later in the week.

Monday, February 25, 2008

It's all about me!

I am quite excited as I have been tagged for a MeMe by cakelaw. This is basically some questions about me! I guess, so that you can get to know me a bit better. I have seen other bloggers respond to memes and other tags, so it is exciting that other people are reading my blog and want to know a little bit about me!! I thought I would put this photo of me in the meme as well so you can see what I look like – I like to be able to put a face to a name! It's an unfortunate photo taken at my birthday brunch! But it was the best I could do today!

Here goes:

What were you doing 10 years ago?

I was living my first year in Auckland, having just moved in with my boyfriend (now husband!) and funnily enough, working for the law firm where I am now a partner (I worked at another two firms in between times)

What were you doing 1 year ago?

I had only just become a partner at my law firm 4 months prior, so was just getting used to the new role of business owner as well as lawyer!

Five snacks you enjoy

I enjoy lots of snacks!! But these are 5 I have most regularly

1. yoghurt

2. a bowl of frozen corn, microwaved and eaten with soy sauce

3. crackers with relish and cottage cheese

4. steamed broccoli with sweet chilli sauce

5. chocolate! What list wouldn’t be complete without chocolate featuring somewhere

Five things you would do if you were a millionaire

Like Cakelaw, I am assuming this is an everyday kind of millionaire rather than someone like Bill Gates!

1. Be more flexible with my working hours!

2. Do a lot more international travel

3. Treat my family all the time to as much as I could afford

4. Do a lot more shopping!!!

5. And I guess I should be a bit philanthropic!!! So I would like to help more kids get breakfast at school – it worries me that there are children going to school without proper breakfast!!!!

Five Bad Habits

1. eating the chocolate off chocolate biscuits (especially double chocolate mallowpuffs!) and then throwing away the biscuit! I don’t even like bought chocolate biscuits!!!

2. Eating the mixture when baking

3. Drinking too much wine!!!! (does everyone or is it just me??)

4. being impatient and intolerant

5. Sitting in the sun to get a tan (I know!!!!)

Five things you like doing

1. Spending time with my gorgeous husband and wonderful friends and family

2. baking and cooking!!!!

3. running and going to the gym

4. Sitting in the sun, getting a tan and reading my book (preferably drinking a glass of wine!!!)

5. Writing entries for my blog which is probably as close to writing a cook book as I will get

Five things you would never wear again

1. Barkers track suit pants and logan rugby jersey

2. tartan trousers

3. bubblegum jeans

4. cord stirrup pants!!!

5. plastic shoes – they hurt so much!!!

Five Favourite toys

I am not at all technologically inclined, so these are mostly cooking gadgets:

1. my digital sports watch for timing my runs etc

2. kenwood cake mixer

3. magimix food processor

4. hand held electric beater

5. my digital camera because how else could I make my blog look nice?!

Now I get to tag 5 more people. Like cakelaw, I apologise if you have already done this or if you don’t want to do this! :

1. Jenny at Pimp My Longies

2. Deborah at Taste and Tell

3. Stephanie at a whisk and spoon

4. Marie from A Year at Oak Cottage

5. Rachel from Confessions of a Tangerine Tart

I did do some cooking in the weekend! More about that later in the week. But, I must mention the roast chicken I did last night – I rubbed some precious truffle oil in between the skin and the breast and sprinkled some dried tarragon in there as well. Then I wrapped the chicken in baking paper, tied it with string and roasted it for about 1 hour 30. The chicken was so tender (it was a free range corn fed chicken which does make a difference!) and the flavour of the truffle oil permeated through the meat. We had it with boiled Maori potatoes with green olive aioli and honey roasted carrots and parsnips.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Getting liquored!

Laurie’s cupcake hero challenge for February is liquor. I kind of found this a bit hard, as while I am a big wine drinker (a bit bigger than I should be I think!) we don’t really have a lot of “liquor” as such at home. I do like the odd vodka and lemonade, but vodka cupcakes sound like something that an alcoholic would take to a picnic!!!!

However, a few years ago I bought some crème de cassis for making kir royales (a champagne cocktail with cassis and champagne. I am not sure that I made many kir royales, but I did use the cassis in truffles (white chocolate and cassis truffles). Cassis is a blackcurrant flavoured liquer. There are not that many blackcurrants available at the moment, so I decided to make mixed berry cupcakes with a cassis syrup. The results were pretty yummy!!!

I based the cake on a berry & vanilla cake in an Australian Womens Weekly cook book. I made it with frozen raspberries and blueberries (which I had bought fresh and frozen). The ground almonds made the cakes lovely and moist. Initially I made the syrup just with cassis and the sugar syrup, but it tasted a bit like cough mixture!!! So I added the juice of half a lemon which balanced the flavour out nicely. I had a tub of cream cheese in the fridge that was about to expire, so made cream cheese icing which worked with the other flavours. One thing to note is that lite cream cheese does not work for icing. For some reason the lite stuff drips all over the place. You need the full fat stuff!!

I then made the little fondant flowers to top the whole thing off. I am quite proud of the flowers actually!!!

We had the cakes for lunch on Sunday when our friends and their toddler came for lunch. Even little Ava enjoyed them! I’ve called them Kir Royale cupcakes, even though they don’t actually have any champagne in them.

Kir Royale Cupcakes (makes 13 cupcakes)

125g butter
1 c castor sugar
3 eggs
½ c flour
¼ c self raising flour
½ c ground almonds
1/3 c natural yoghurt
2 c frozen berries (I did 1 cup each of blueberries and raspberries)

· Cream butter and sugar, then add eggs, one at a time.
· Stir in remaining ingredients
· Spoon into cupcake cases
· Bake at 180c for about 20 minutes
· While still warm, spoon over a cooled syrup made by simmering 1/2 c sugar and ½ c water together for about 4 minutes, then stir in 2 tbsp cassis and the juice of half a lemon
Ice with cream cheese icing (250g tub cream cheese, juice of half of lemon and enough icing sugar to make a spreadable icing)

Thursday, February 21, 2008

more chocolate chunk cookies

It was my brother-in-law’s birthday about three weeks ago. We don’t normally give presents to the in-laws and just send cards. But, this year I totally forgot to send him a card even!! So I thought I would make some biscuits and send them to him as a belated birthday treat.

I thought he would appreciate something chocolatey and he might even want to share them with my adorable 6 year old nephew and 4 year old niece!! I have a tried and true double chocolate cookie recipe that I have made for a long time, but if you have been reading this blog, you will know that I always like to try new things.

The recipe I made last night is a Julie Le Clerc recipe from the NZ Womens Weekly. It was called chocolate, fruit and nut cookies. I left out the fruit (1/2 c raisins) as I don’t really like them. The main difference between this recipe and my usual is that it had all brown sugar in it rather than a combination of white and brown. The biscuits were absolutely delicious!! I would definitely make them again. The recipe also isn’t too different to one I blogged about last year, but I think that the addition of self raising flour made them a little less soda tasting and there is more sugar in these ones which helps with the chew. They are relatively crisp, but are kind of chewy as well. I like having the white chocolate as well as the dark in them and the nuts are also a welcome addition. They seemed to survive the humidity ok as well and didn’t soften as some of the biscuits I have made lately have. I recommend trying them out. Perfect with a glass of milk!!!

Chocolate and Nut cookies (Julie Le Clerc)

125g butter
1 ¼ c brown sugar
1 egg
1/3 c cocoa
1 c plain flour
¼ c self raising flour
1 tsp baking soda
½ c each of chopped white chocolate, chopped dark chocolate and chopped nuts (I used almonds)

· Beat butter, sugar and egg until smooth
· Stir in dry ingredients and then the chocolate and nuts
· Put spoonfuls onto lined oven trays and flatten slightly
· Bake at 180c for about 15-17 minutes until firming up around the edges
Cool on tray about 5 minutes and then transfer to a rack

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Waiting for Dorie

I have been following with interest the Tuesdays with Dories blog – a weekly baking challenge to bake through Dorie Greenspan’s book From My Home To Yours. As New Zealand follows more of an English culture than an American, Dorie Greenspan was a foreigner to me until I entered the world of blogging. Now I have ordered her book from Amazon on the strength of what other bloggers say and also the delicious looking recipes being created on the Tuesdays with Dorie challenge – I can’t wait for my book to arrive so I can start to join in the fun!

Anyway, while I was looking at Dorie’s website I came across the Linzer biscuits that she had made for Valentines Day. She had made Linzer biscuits into heart shapes and half dipped them in chocolate. I have never made Linzer biscuits before, but have often looked at the recipe before in a Martha Stewart cookie baking magazine I have.

By the weekend Valentines Day was over, but I wanted to make something for my Uncle in Dunedin. My aunty (Mum’s sister) is going through chemo at the moment and is in hospital. I have sent her some wee gifts, but they have no children and so Uncle Bill is home alone and I thought he would appreciate a wee treat. A good chance to test out the Linzer biscuits!!! Instead of using Dorie’s recipe (thought I would save that for when I have The Book!), I used the Martha Stewart recipe. A lot of people say that her recipes don’t work all that well. Only comment here is that I added a bit more flour. Also, I didn’t have any hazelnuts, so used ground macadamia nuts. I filled mine with home made raspberry jam.

Linzer biscuits are kind of a cross between Shrewsbury biscuits and Belgium biscuits. They don’t have as much spice as Belgium biscuits, but are not as plain as Shrewsbury. I guess the big difference is that they have ground nuts in them. I will make these again, but will try Dorie’s recipe and maybe wont join them together with jam, but chocolate dip them as she suggests.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

something different

On Friday night I was home alone as my husband went to the pre-season league game. I spent the evening watching Trinny and Susannah on TV (I am an addict!) and making some cards – something that I haven’t done for a while. I had been to the scrapbooking shop during the day and bought some new paper. I was quite pleased with the outcome!

On Saturday we went up to Matakana to the farmers market. Once again we got some great organic produce – rocket, buttercrunch lettuces, cherry tomatoes, red chillies, Maori potatoes and Black Doris plums. Last night for dinner we had sausages on the bbq and I made a delicious salad that was in the most recent cuisine magazine. It was baby potatoes (I used Maori ones from the market) braised with rosemary and garlic, then red peppers and peas were added and at the end a dressing made from olive oil, sherry vinegar, anchovies and capers. I am not a big potato fan, but the flavours were gorgeous. I love anchovies and seem to be using them in recipes more and more lately.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Valentines Treats

Last week was Valentines Day – my blog seems to have got a bit behind! Apparently Valentines Day and Mother’s Day are the busiest days of the year in restaurants! We are not really big on Valentines Day, but I usually make a nice meal and we have a nice bottle of wine.

Last week we had fresh tuna. I have never cooked tuna before, but I do really like it. I followed a recipe in and Annabel Langbein book for a nicoise style salad. The tuna was marinated in a mixture of olive oil, rosemary, black pepper and chilli flakes. The salad was a mix of beautiful fresh beans, capers, baby salad leaves and black olives with a dressing of good olive oil, sun dried tomatoes, lemon juice, chopped basil and anchovies. I also cooked some waxy potatoes. I served the tuna on the salad with a dollop of anchovy mayonnaise that I had made earlier in the week.

My husband actually cooked the tuna on the bbq. It was beautiful –melt in your mouth!! I will definitely be cooking tuna again soon!!

Pudding was these lovely little raspberry soufflés. I have never made sweet soufflés before – I’ve only made one large cheese soufflé ages ago. This was a recipe from Bill Granger’s latest book, Holiday. It appealed to me because it was nice and light and with raspberries looked vaguely Valentines Day like!! I actually halved the recipe so that I would just make two soufflés – no leftovers to nibble ate! But I got three out of the halved mixture.

The texture of the soufflés is lovely and light. It tastes like you are eating raspberry clouds! They are not too sweet either. One thing I did make sure of though, was that I beat the egg whites and folded them into the raspberry puree just before I put the soufflés into the oven – I didn’t want to take the risk of them collapsing on me. I will definitely be trying my hand at soufflés again!

Raspberry Souffles (from Bill Granger’s Holiday)

200g frozen raspberries, thawed
115g castor sugar
2 tsp cornflour
4 egg whites

· Brush 4 ramekins with melted butter. Sprinkle with sugar and put in the fridge
· Process raspberries in food processor until smooth
· Heat raspberries in small pot with half the sugar, bring to the boil
· Make a slurry with the cornflour and 2 tsp water and add to the raspberries. Cook for about 1 minute, stirring
· Cool raspberry mixture completely
· Beat egg whites until soft peaks form, gradually add remaining sugar and beat until thick and meringue like
· Fold the raspberries into the egg whites
· Spoon into the chilled ramekins
· Bake at 170c for 12-14 minutes until puffed up
Serve straight away

Friday, February 15, 2008

Baby cakes

Laurie’s (who runs the cupcake hero blog challenge) baby, Colby, is turning one and Laurie has issued a baby cupcake hero challenge. The idea was to make a cupcake that would appeal to small children but with none of those things that children can sometimes have allergies to (ie nuts etc).

I don’t have children myself, but I thought about this for a while and thought, well, babies often eat custard and bananas, so I created a banana and custard cupcake. The cupcakes are basically little banana cakes. I am not really a great fan of banana cake, although I love bananas. I think banana cake is sufficiently bland to be baby food! Although I slightly spiced my cake up by adding a little cinnamon, ginger and allspice, but not enough to put a small child off (I don’t think!).

I decided to fill the cupcakes with custard. I did a bit of a cheat here and just used custard powder rather than making custard from scratch. Also, the custard powder meant I could make the custard a bit thicker than usual so that it wouldn’t sink into the cakes. Unfortunately, it also means that the filling is a rather un-natural yellow colour, but maybe that appeals to a child as well!!! The one I cut open wasn’t iced, as I was a bit short on icing.

I had some leftover royal icing in the fridge, which I know is not the best thing to ice cupcakes with, but as I had also made us a nice Valentines meal last night (more about that next week) I didn’t have a lot of time. I was going to decorate the tops with hundreds and thousands, but thought that might look a bit garish, so I coloured a small piece of fondant with blue colouring and cut out stars. You cant really see , but I also used Bob the Builder cupcake cases – very child like!!!! I am actually quite pleased with the look!

Happy 1st birthday Colby!!!!

Banana Custard Cupcakes (makes 10)

65g butter
¾ c castor sugar
1 egg
1 mashed banana
¼ tsp vanilla
125g flour
½ tsp baking soda
¼ tsp each of cinnamon and ground ginger
pinch of ground allspice
¼ c milk
juice of half a small lemon

· Cream butter and sugar, add egg and then banana and vanilla
· Stir in rest of ingredients
· Spoon into cupcake cases and bake at 180c for about 16 minutes
· Cool on rack


Unfortunately for the filling I didn’t pay too much attention to quantities – I think I sued about ½ c of milk and 1 ½ tbsp custard powder and about 1 tbsp sugar to sweeten. I mixed this all together and then microwaved for a minute, stirred it then microwaved for another minute and the mixture was thick. I let this cool completely before I scooped the tops off the cold cakes, and filled them. Then I iced them with white icing and decorated them.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Saving summer produce

As I mentioned earlier in the week, Takapuna market on Sunday was a treasure trove of fabulous produce!!! I normally only go every second week, but I am considering going again this weekend as the produce was so great.

I love late summer produce – it is perfect for making into relish and jams, so on Sunday afternoon I spent a couple of hours making green tomato relish and roasted red pepper relish. I had seen the green tomato relish recipe in Stephanie Alexander’s book The Cook’s Companion, when I found the tomato sauce recipe I made a couple of weeks ago. I was curious as to what it would taste like. When I was at my in-laws in Taranaki a couple of weeks ago my mother-in-law gave me all this fabulous produce from her wonderful garden, including some green tomatoes to try out the relish.

The relish is more delicious than what I thought it would be. It is kind of a sludgy green colour, but the flavour is quite interesting – it is has cayenne pepper and garam masala in it. I imagine that it will be really nice with a strong vintage cheddar or with cold meat.

The recipe for the red pepper relish comes from Jamie Oliver’s new book, At Home with Jamie. I think he calls it Cheeky chilli chutney. I didn’t put too much chilli in mine, so I called it roasted red pepper relish. It is a mixture of roasted red peppers, chillies, red onions and balsamic vinegar. My friend actually had made it when we were in Invercargill earlier in the year and it inspired me to make it as it was so tasty. Great with cheese and also I reckon it would be good to tart up a tart!!!

Lastly, on Tuesday night I made my organic plums into a red wine and plum sauce. The recipe was one from a cooking class I went to at the Epicurean workshop a few years ago. I really like plum sauce – in the past I have made a spicy version that uses canned plums and has sumac, tamarind and lots of chillies in it. The sauce I made on Tuesday was flavoured by a pinch of allspice and juniper berries. I thought I had juniper berries in the pantry, but didn’t, so I substituted a couple of cinnamon sticks. I also added a bit more sugar (only about 2tbsp) as my plums must have been a bit tart and the sauce didn’t taste rounded enough for me. The sauce (despite the bad photos above!) is a gorgeous deep plum colour.

Plum and Red Wine Sauce (from Epicurean workshop class)

1 kg ripe plums, stoned and roughly chopped
2 c red wine (I used shiraz which I don’t really like to drink, but it was good for this. The recipe specified not to use pinot noir, I guess because it is not full bodied enough)
½ c sugar
6 crushed juniper berries tied in muslin (I used cinnamon sticks)
2 pinches allspice

· Combine all ingredients, except plums, in large pot, bring to the boil and simmer for 10 minutes
· Add plums and cook until most of the liquid has evaporated and mixture is thickish (about 45 – 60 minutes)
· Puree in food processor to make a smooth sauce
Bottle in sterilised bottles

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Summer Peach Cake

We had friends over for lunch on Sunday. It was meant to be a wet day, but it rained in the morning (first day we have had rain just about all year!!) and then the sun came out brightly and we were able to eat outside. I made a very simple roast vegetable tart using the organic zucchini and red onions I got from the Takapuna market and also some potatoes. I used pre-rolled flaky pastry to line the tin, tipped in the vegetables, poured over a mixture of beaten eggs and some anchovy mayonnaise I had made last week and then topped the tart with sliced tomatoes (from my mother-in-law’s garden) and chopped parsley. We had it with a simple salad of cos lettuce, avocado and radish. Nice and simple.

For dessert I used some fabulous peaches that I bought at the market to make the peach cake pictured above. I used a recipe from Dish magazine which was actually for a nectarine cake, but of course, the peaches were equally as delicious. I don’t really like peaches, nectarines or apricots – I would never eat a whole fruit, but I do quite like them with cake. I served the cake slightly warm with lightly whipped cream. As I usually do, I added a spoon of icing sugar and a teaspoon or so of vanilla to the cream. It just tastes a bit nicer!

Summer Peach Cake (from Dish magazine)

4 tbsp muscavado sugar
zest and juice of one orange
1 tsp vanilla
4 medium sized peaches
200g butter
220g castor sugar
3 eggs
250g self raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
2/3 c buttermilk
2 tbsp extra muscavado sugar

· Slice peaches into 8ths and marinate in the first measure of muscavado sugar, orange juice and vanilla
· Cream butter and sugar, then add eggs one at a time
· Combine the flour and baking powder and add alternately to the butter mix with the buttermilk
· Spoon half the cake batter into a lined 22cm round tin
· Drain the peaches and spoon half of them over the batter, top with the remaining cake batter and then top with the rest of the peaches. Sprinkle with the remaining muscavado sugar
· Bake at 180c for 50-60 minutes. I had to cover mine with tin foil towards the end as it was starting to go a bit dark
Serve slightly warm with whipped cream

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Pear & Walnut Cookies

The recipe for these pear and walnut cookies was in Dish magazine. I made them to take as a gift when we went to friends for dinner on Saturday night. The look quite cute, but were slightly disappointing as because of the pear, they lost their crispness quite quickly.

The biscuits were a shortbread style biscuit but included lemon zest and chopped walnuts. You then thinly sliced the pears (I used my mandolin), rolled the dough out, cut out shapes, brushed the biscuits with maple syrup, adhered the pear, brushed with more maple syrup and then baked.

I made square ones which fit the whole pear slice on them and round ones which just fitted the bottom. I wasn’t sure whether I would make these biscuits again, but on reflection, they would be great when still crisp (like within 5 hours of baking!) with blue cheese!!! Especially as the biscuits contain walnuts and pears which are both natural partners for blue cheese, so maybe I will have to cut the recipe out and paste it in my recipe collection!!

On a different note, yesterday morning I had a fabulous time at the Takapuna market!!! Late summer is the most wonderful time for produce and I got beautiful beans, silver beet, beetroot, new seasons garlic, cos lettuce, red peppers, plums, peaches, scallopine and zucchini, all organic and all freshly picked!!! It was very exciting! Dinner last night was pork fillet in a delicious marinade from a Jamie Oliver book (included cumin seed, fennel seed, tomato sauce, smoked paprika and balsamic vinegar), fresh green beans with vinaigrette (this was so yummy – simple vinaigrette of Dijon mustard, white wine vinegar, oil, lemon juice and crushed garlic) and a potato dish of thinly sliced potatoes (agria from my mother in law’s garden) layered with thinly sliced onion and grated vintage cheddar and baked. Great to use all this wonderful fresh produce!!!

Monday, February 11, 2008

Frustrating Fudge!!

This is a disaster story with a happy ending!!! I hate letting things beat me – if something doesn’t turn out right I have to make it again until it does. That is what happened with this pistachio Russian fudge that I made for birthday gifts for three of my work colleagues.

I don’t make Russian fudge all that often, but the picture in the recipe book (Laurie Black’s book “New Home Cooking”) looked so appealing with the waxy green studded fudge. The recipe is a variation of that in the Edmonds book, using cream instead of milk and a bit more golden syrup. The most important part of making fudge is to make sure that the sugar is dissolved properly. Unfortunately, this is the step that I completely mucked up! My sugar got too hot too quickly and went quite grainy. I think that I had it in a pot that was too big – too much surface area for the sugar. And, unfortunately once the sugar gets that hot and goes grainy, there’s no going back! The fudge had a horrible sugary texture, even though the flavour was yummy. I asked my husband what he thought and he thought it was ok, but I remembered all those times you buy a bag of home made fudge only to be put off because it is so sugary! I only want to give away my successes, not the disasters!

So, not to be deterred, I made some more fudge the next night. I used a smaller pot and really took my time, stirring the sugar for nearly half an hour. This time the fudge turned out creamy and delicious and I was happy to give it away. I must also confess that I re-used the pistachios from the first batch!!!! I put the awful fudge in a bowl of hot water, dissolving all the sugar, picked out the pistachios, dried them off and added them to the new fudge. As they were still whole, they seemed to be no worse off for their ordeal!

Pistachio Russian Fudge

3 c sugar
½ c cream
2 tbsp golden syrup
200g condensed milk
125g butter
¾ c shelled pistachio nuts

· Stir sugar and cream together until sugar has dissolved – this may take a while
· Add syrup, condensed milk and butter and boil until soft ball stage (116 on candy thermometer)
· Take off heat and cool slightly; beat with a wooden spoon and then stir in pistachio nuts
· Pour into 18x28cm lined tin and leave to set
Cut into pieces and store in an air tight container

Friday, February 8, 2008


For my birthday my parents gave me an ice-cream maker. I used it for the first time on Waitangi day as we had friends over for a bbq.

In the past I have always ignored recipes for ice-cream in books and magazines (although I have made semi fredo), as the thought of going to all the effort only to have an icy result doesn’t really do it for me! So I spent quite a bit of time on Tuesday night going through books. I wanted to do basic vanilla for my first attempt. Nigella Lawson’s book “Forever Summer” had the best selection of recipes. Basically it involved making a custard and then adding some lightly whipped cream once the custard had cooled.

I have never had any problems making custard before and I was busy stirring away, lazily reading Nigella’s instructions when I noticed that she said what to do if your custard splits – mine has never split, but low and behold, as I was stirring, I noticed it start to split. I must have over-heated the pot (I was having trouble with this particular element of my stove that day!!). I quickly took the pot off the stove, threw in a couple of ice cubes (I have done this with success when my hollandaise sauce has started to split) and whisked like crazy. Luckily it pulled together again!!!

The next bit was easy – cool the mixture, add some lightly whipped cream and pour into the ice cream maker. It was soooo good! A great vanilla flavour with the lovely flecks of vanilla seeds – I used one of my prized vanilla beans that I keep for special occasions. I cant wait to make a more adventurous flavour!!

The rest of the bbq was pretty yummy too – cannellini bean and pesto dip with pita crisps for nibbles (dip was just a can of beans processed with a couple of spoonfuls of pesto, some garlic, basil leaves and sea salt); main was scotch fillet roasted on the bbq in one piece (I had marinated it in some red wine vinegar, rosemary and olive oil), a potato salad using Maori potatoes for something different and a salad of ice berg lettuce, dates, walnuts and blue cheese from the latest cuisine magazine (a divine match made in heaven!).

And, of course, dessert. I made this lovely berry shortcake which I served slightly warm with the ice cream. It was a perfect match!!! Summery and yummy!

Berry Shortcake

160g butter
1 c icing sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 ¾ c flour
½ c ground almonds
1 tsp cinnamon
2 c mixed berries (I used one cup blueberries and one cup raspberries)

· Cream butter, icing sugar and vanilla
· Mix in flour, almonds and cinnamon
· Press ¾ mixture into a 18 x 28 cm lined baking tin; scatter over berries and then crumble rest of mixture over top
· Bake at 180 celsius for about 40 minutes

Thursday, February 7, 2008

A wedding treat

My husband’s brother got married last weekend and I made these biscuits for him and my new sister-in-law. On mass they actually looked quite good – better than the photos I think. The recipe wasn’t one that I had used before and it had mixed dried fruit and brandy in it – I guess to simulate wedding cake? I didn’t have any mixed fruit, so I did a combination of dried cranberries and lemon peel.

I decided to cover the tops of the biscuits with fondant icing rather than royal icing. I had never done that before but had seen some photos in magazines and really liked the smooth finish. I will be doing it again! It was really easy and was a great way of making the icing nice and smooth. I rolled the icing out, cut it the same shape as the cookies and then stuck it on with a dab of royal icing. I then piped some little patterns on the cookies with royal icing.

I was really pleased with the effect – a bit of a novelty. I hope the bride and groom enjoyed them!

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

old Fashioned Favourite

Often when people are asked what their favourite home baking is, they say shortbread. The old fashioned crisp but creamy texture of shortbread is pretty delicious! Actually, I prefer the uncooked shortbread dough!! I am not actually a big biscuit fan – I usually prefer the uncooked dough! Although I do love chocolate chip cookies straight out of the oven – especially with a glass of cold milk!

Anyway, back to shortbread!! I always used to make shortbread using icing sugar, flour and butter. The texture of the shortbread is quite smooth, but sometimes it can have that stick to the roof of your mouth kind of texture which I don’t really like. Now I make a recipe that has castor sugar in it and I like it a lot better. The shortbread seems a lot crisper and has a much nicer texture. The recipe also has rice flour in it which I think adds to the crispness. I really like pale shortbread as well and prefer to cook it for a longer period of time in a cooler oven.

I made this shortbread for a gift last week. Often I make it into different shapes but this time I wanted to just make it into old fashioned rectangles. One good thing about making shortbread into rectangles is that you don’t have to roll out the dough too many times, so it retains it’s lightness. Shortbread is definitely one of those quick and easy things to make that always goes down well!


300g butter, softened
170g castor sugar
400g flour
40g rice flour
20g cornflour

· Cream butter and sugar
· Add half the flour and cream
· Stir in remaining dry ingredients to make a firm dough
· Knead lightly and roll onto floured bench. Cut into shapes
· Bake at 150 for about 20 minutes until still light, but starting to firm up
Cool on wire racks

Friday, February 1, 2008

Meringue cookies

I made these chocolate & craisin meringue cookies for my friend, Jenny, for her birthday. I’ve actually got a few recipes for this kind of thing, but this recipe in the latest issue of Dish caught my eye. I have mentioned already that I challenge myself each week to make something from each of Dish, Cuisine, Donna hay and the random box of recipes that I have cut out of other magazines. I am home alone this week, so not as much call for cooking (I have been living off the one salad all week! – see below). I had already made my other recipes from my other magazines (the cheese and spinach scone type bread from Donna Hay, crumbed fish with tomato rice and tomato salsa from Cuisine and some cheese and poppyseed muffins from Taste), so only had Dish to go. A good chance to make the cookies!

These cookies are basically a meringue that you fold some chopped chocolate, craisins (recipe called for dried sour cherries but they are rare as hen’s teeth!), cornflour and cinnamon into. You don’t cook them as long as meringues, so they remain quite soft in the middle. Jenny said they were yummy, but I felt like there was too much sugar in them – they left quite a sugary after taste I thought. But, maybe I just didn’t take my time enough when beating in the sugar? They make a nice gift though as they are easy to make and look fairly impressive.

The salad I mentioned above was based on one in Annabel Langbein’s latest book – a combination of fresh corn on the cob, flat green beans, borlotti beans, tomatoes, red peppers and lemon juice. I have been eating mine with natural yoghurt ( my favourite Cyclops brand).

Chocolate & Caisin Meringue cookies (adapted from Dish magazine)

2 egg whites
200g castor sugar
½ c chopped dark chocolate (I used Cadbury old gold 70%)
½ c chopped craisins
¼ tsp cinnamon
1 tbsp cornflour

· Whip egg whites until soft peak forms
· Gradually beat in sugar until thick and meringue like
· Mix together other ingredients and fold into meringue mix
· Place spoonfuls on trays and bake at 180 celsius for 25 min
· Remove from oven and cool on trays