Tuesday, March 31, 2009

TWD - Coconut Butter Thins

This week’s TWD recipe is coconut butter thins chosen by Jayne, The Barefoot Kitchen Witch. These cookies turned out totally different to what I expected. Dorie’s description is that they are thin, lacy biscuits – I was imagining tuile type biscuits. In fact, these were more like shortbread. This may have been because I didn’t roll them as thinly as Dorie suggested. I think I liked them better as more substantial shortbread type cookies.

These biscuits were deliciously crisp and were made using coconut, chopped macadamia nuts and a pinch of ground coriander, something I never would have thought to add, but it really made the difference – a pinch was all that was needed to give the biscuits a taste of something extra. The recipe called for shredded coconut, but I used dessicated , as shredded would have been too big to get neatly cut out dough I think. Dorie said not to be scared to use salted macadamia nuts, so I wasn’t. Macadamia nuts are my all time favourite nut, so it took great self control not to just eat all the nuts before they made the cookie dough.

And talking about the cookie dough – it was delicious raw! I love raw cookie dough better than the cooked thing, and shortbread style cookie doughs are my favourite. I did put the cookies in the freezer before baking to try and keep the edges firm, but as with Dorie’s pecan shortbread, the cookies did spread a little. Not unattractively so, but next time I will make smaller shaped cookies.

I loved these and will make them again. See what everyone else thought here.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Cookie Carnival - Carrot Cake Cookies

This month’s ccokie carnival recipe is for carrot cake cookies. These are almost like cookie shaped carrot cakes – they are not at all crisp like a typical NZ biscuit would be, but are totally cakey – a bit like the whoopee pies we made for a cookie carnival challenge last year. This wa a great pick for me as I've never made cookies like this before. My preference is for crisp style cookies, but there is something about these ones which makes you want to keep eating them.

The cookies were subtly cinnamon spiced and had as well as grated carrot, chopped walnuts and raisins. I didn’t have quite enough walnuts so I used a mixture of walnuts and hazelnuts and I don’t like raisins, so I left them out. The cookies were joined together with cream cheese filling made by simply beating together cream cheese and honey. I really liked this as with no icing sugar addition it meant that the cream cheese filling retained a tart flavour. I have sent these cookies onto the building site today – it will be interesting to see what the tradespeople think of them. Speaking of which, we now have a kitchen carcass which is pretty exciting. We move in in less than two weeks and more than likely wont have a bench top until mid to late April, but I can live with a piece of ply across the bench top for a few weeks!

You can check out the cookie carnival here.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Daring baker Challenged

As you can see from the photo above, I was challenged rather than being a challenger in the March Daring Bakers challenge. The March 2009 challenge is hosted by Mary of Beans and Caviar, Melinda of Melbourne Larder and Enza of Io Da Grande. They have chosen Lasagne of Emilia-Romagna from The Splendid Table by Lynne Rossetto Kasper as the challenge.

I have to be honest, I actually thought that this was more of a challenge for the new Daring Cooks monthly challenge as I think lasagne is more of a cook’s than a baker’s kind of thing. I really enjoy cooking as well as baking, but didn’t really feel like this challenge fitted within the parameters of the daring baker challenges. And that ‘s not just because my lasagne was a no show disaster!

I have never made fresh pasta before. Firstly, because I don’t have a pasta machine and secondly, we don’t eat pasta all that afternoon and I actually really love the dried Italian pastas that you can get without faffing around, making my own. I wondered how I would go making pasta from scratch and then rolling by hand. Not well! The pasta was meant to be spinach pasta. I had a really hard time getting my flour, eggs and spinach to turn into a nice smooth ball of pasta. I added another eggs and keep kneading, but to no avail. It had been a busy weekendand I had had enough, so I gave up in disgust and threw my ball of pasta dough in the bin. What a waste of 3 c flour, 3 eggs and spinach.

I still had beef mince out and had to make something for dinner from it. So, I made my old favourite, nana’s spaghetti and meatballs recipe. My husband and I both love this. It is very unconventional and has a realy sweet and sour type of flavour. Firstly you make your meatballs with your minced beef, abut 1 c rolled oats soaked in ¼ c milk, about ¼ c tomato sauce and salt and pepper. Nana would roll her meatballs in cornflour and then pan fry them. I tend to just put them on trays and fan bake or fan grill them for about 12 minutes.

I made the sauce separately – all you do is mix together a can of condensed tomato soup, a can full of water, 1 tbsp soy suace, ¼ sugar and 3 tbsp vinegar (I use white). Bring to the boil and then add a can of crushed pineapple. I don’t bother draining this. Keep simmering until thickened (you may need to add some corhflour to help the thickening process), serve over the meatballs and spaghetti.

I hope that the other daring bakers were better pasta makers than me. Check it out here.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

You have to try this one

In the weekend I was looking for something different to bake and wanted to make something that would really appeal to my husband. Looking through my recipes I found this recipe for a toffee slice using chopped up jersey caramels.

Well, this slice sure is moreish! I am usually pretty good at not eating things once they are baked (I prefer the raw mixture) but this combination of almonds, jersey caramels and chocolate was just too good to resist! Ostensibly I made the slice for the tradesmen on our house, but I think my husband and I made a pretty good attempt at devouring most of it ourselves. I would say that I will definitely make this again, but it may be too dangerous to have in the house!!!

Last night we had chicken for dinner. I followed a recipe from Cuisine about 5 years ago for chicken thighs cooked with cumin, ginger, coriander, sliced onions, chicken stock, chick peas and dried apricots – kind of like a casserole. I browned the thighs first, then removed them, sweated the onions, added the spices, the reserved chicken and other ingredients and then simmered for about 30 minutes until cooked and thickened. We had this with bulghar wheat mixed with spinach and almonds and green beans. A very easy but tasty dinner. I really enjoyed the Moroccan flavours of the meal.

Chocolate Caramel Almond Slice (Julie Le Clerc recipe from NZ WW)

125g butter
¾ c brown sugar
¼ c sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
¾ c flour
¼ tsp baking soda
¼ tsp grated nutmeg
170g jersey caramels or soft toffee, chopped
¾ c blanched almonds, chopped
¾ c dark chocolate bits

· Cream butter and sugars, add egg and vanilla
· Stir in remaining ingredients
· Press into a 18 x 27cm slice tin (the mixture is quite wet) and bake at 170c for 25 minutes or until set
Once cold cut into pieces

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

TWD - Blueberry Crumb Cake

This week’s TWD recipe was blueberry crumb cake and was chosen by Sihan of Befuddlement. I was really looking forward to making this recipe as the photo in the book looks really appealing. Unfortunately, even though the cake was delicious, my photos don’t look all that appealing.

This is quite a simple everyday cake that contains a whole two cups of blueberries (I used frozen as we are just out of blueberry season here). It is topped with a crumble topping which is reminiscent of apple crumble topping – a mixture of sugar, butter and flour with some chopped walnuts thrown in for good measure. I wanted to save the walnuts that I had for another purpose, so I used almonds instead.

The cake was really easy to make and bake. I was a little concerned that the mix was too much for the specified 20cm square tin and that it would over flow onto the bottom of my oven, but it baked up perfectly. It did take a little longer than the recipe said, which was interesting as most of Dorie’s recipes for cakes take less time than specified. The only issue that I had with the cake was that my blueberries sunk to the bottom. This was a shame. I wonder if it is because I used frozen berries, or maybe I should have coated them in flour before adding them to the mixture. I actually think next time I make this I will actually just scatter the blueberries on top to let them sink into the mixture themselves.

I did love this cake though, my favourite part being the crumble topping. See if the other TWDers also loved it, by looking here.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Bournvita Biscuits

I remember making bournvita biscuits as a teenager. In fact I have quite a distinct memory of making a huge batch of these cookies to take back to my flat at university in my second year. Bournvita is a chocolate drink powder – like milo. I haven’t seen it for years and so havent made the biscuits for years either. But I was thinking about these a few weeks ago and yesterday I decided to make some for the trades people on the house.

I don’t really like milo – I am more of a hot chocolate girl, but my husband loves it and has a milo almost every night after dinner. But I do love these cookies. Seeing as I couldn’t seem to find bournvita in the supermarket, I used milo to make these as I figure the difference between milo and bournvita is possibly that one is a nestle product and one is a Cadbury product (although I could be wrong here as it is so long since I have had bournvita). The cookies are a variation on the kiwi chocolate chip cookie and you could add chocolate chips if you wanted. The raw cookie dough is delicious, but cooked they are the perfect thing to fill the tins with and are delicious with a glass of milk!

Bournvita Biscuits

250g butter
150g sugar
4 tbsp condensed milk
350g flour
2 tsp baking powder
4 tbsp milo or bournvita

· Cream butter and sugar, then beat in condensed milk
· Stir in dry ingredients
· Roll mixture into balls and place on baking tray. Flatten with a fork
· Bake at 170c for 12-15 minutes until firm and lightly golden

Friday, March 20, 2009

Wedding Cakes

We went to a wedding in the weekend. It was really lovely – there were only 10 guests and the bride and groom and it was held in a boutique hotel in Herne Bay. The food was stunning, the atmosphere gorgeous and the champagne, delicious. We went to the bride and grooms house the following afternoon and I took these little cupcakes. They are simply chocolate cake topped with a white glace icing and then decorated with the cashous - they are meant to look like a wedding ring and engagement ring entwined. They do if you kind of look from a distance and squint! They tasted good though, and it is the thought that counts.

We have another wedding to go to not this weekend but the next, so I think I will make some decorated biscuits to take to that. The week after next, the new kitchen should, all things going to plan, be installed in our new house. I am very excited about it and will post some photos once it takes a bit more shape. At the moment it is just empty spaces where the scullery is etc, so not much to look at. Not long to go now!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Ladies, A Plate

Yet another recipe from my favourite book, Ladies, A Plate. These cookies are called spice biscuits, but are very similar to gingernuts, just with spices additional to ginger added. Gingernuts are (I think) an iconic New Zealand biscuit and are commercially made by Griffins. Griffins gingernuts are very very hard and are often dunked in tea before eating – doesn’t sound very appealing to me. My mother loves gingernuts though and that is one thing she craved when she was pregnant with my second to youngest sister.

I personally don’t like bought gingernuts – I don’t really like bought biscuits at all, but a nice home made gingernut is delicious. These spice biscuits were delicious and very easy to make. The balls of raw cookie dough are rolled in sugar before baking. I always use castor sugar in any baking that I do, regardless of what the recipe says, but for these you would definitely need to use castor sugar in the rolling phase I think. Otherwise, you would end up with large chunks of sugar which wouldn’t be great. I did make these as part of my hospice baking, but my husband ate his way through half the batch which is saying something as he doesn’t like ginger flavoured things. I have adapted the original recipe slightly, adjusting the spice quantities and using golden syrup instead of treacle

Last night’s dinner was lamb steaks – this is usually the cut of lamb I buy for a week day lamb dinner. I rubbed the steaks with some olive oil and cinnamon (I find lamb goes well with North African flavours such as cinnamon), pan fried the steaks and served them with a cous cous salad of cous cous tossed with peas (I used frozen and added them to the cous cous before pouring over the boiling water), almonds and sliced preserved lemon. We had baked eggplant and green beans on the side. Quick, easy and yummy.

Spice Crisps (adapted from Ladies, A Plate)

170g butter
200g sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 egg
100g golden syrup
280g flour
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
½ tsp ground cloves
1 tsp ground ginger
extra sugar for rolling

· Cream butter and sugar, beat in egg and vanilla
· Mix in remaining ingredients (other than the extra sugar)
· Roll into balls and then roll each ball in castor sugar and place on tray. Don’t flatten
· Bake at 190c for 10-12 minutes. They will flatten as they bake
· Leave on trays for about 10 minutes and then cool on racks.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

TWD - French Yoghurt Cake

This week Liliana of My Cookbook Addiction has chosen French Yoghurt Cake with Marmalafde Glaze as the TWD recipe. I was excited to make this after not liking last week’s recipe at all. Dorie says that this French yoghurt cake is a variation of the kind of cake that most French people would bake if they had to bake a cake. And, I can see why. This cake is easy to make and absolutely delicious. You could dress it up or down – it’s almost the little black dress of the cake world.

The cake is made in a loaf tin, but Dorie says you can also make it in a round tin and turn it into a layer cake. It is so easy to make as there is no creaming of butter etc. All you do is rub lemon zest into your sugar (which is a fantastic way of infusing your baking with the flavour of lemon – so much more effective than just adding the lemon zest), add yoghurt, eggs and the dry ingredients and then stir in some oil (I used rice bran oil which I always use when a flavourless oil is required). The dry ingredients include ground almonds which contribute to the moistness of the cake.

Once the cake has baked and cooled, you top it with a glaze of warmed and strained lemon marmalade. I didn’t have any lemon marmalade on hand and the only stuff I had is some home made marmalade which I made ages ago (we don’t eat it) and it seemed to thick to be bothered straining it. So, I used some quince glaze which I made last year to glaze the top of the cake. It gave it a nice glossy sheen. You could even leave the glaze off or pour over a lemon syrup which would be delicious.

I sliced up most of the cake for the tradesmen on our site, but ate one slice still slightly warm with some extra yoghurt. This cake would also make a great dessert served with whipped cream and fresh berries or a stone fruit compote, of if you had leftovers (which I doubt) it would make a fantastic base for trifle or a very rich bread and butter pudding. This is my new “go to” loaf recipe. See if the other TWDers loved it as much as I did here.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Baking for Hospice

I did some more baking for hospice in the weekend and made these little cakes. They are orange, almond and cranberry. The combination was really yummy. The icing is butter cream, but I didn’t make quite enough which is why the icing is a little sparse looking.

Last night I made the most delicious dinner. I really felt like fresh fish, so bought some gurnard and roasted it in the oven with a topping of combined grated tasty cheese, panko crumbs (these are Japanese breadcrumbs which you can buy in Asian shops. They are lovely and light and give a really crisp result), chopped anchovies, chopped olives, capers and a drizzle of lemon infused olive oil. I also sliced the top off some tomatoes and put the crumb topping on those too and baked them for about 40 minutes, with a slosh of verjuice in the bottom of the dish. I served the fish and tomatoes with little roast potatoes and a spinach, almond and avocado salad with my favourite dressing of 2tbsp olive oil whisked with 1 tbsp raspberry vinegar and 1 tsp Dijon mustard and a little sea salt.

Friday, March 13, 2009

You Want Pies with That - March

This month all the You Want Pies With That players are posting on the same day - that is meant to be tomorrow 14 March, so I hope I don’t get told off for posting a day early. But, tomorrow we have got a wedding to go to. My husband is the best man and I’m just not sure when I will get the time to post, so I thought I would just do it now and hopefully no-one will notice!

This month’s theme is a pie using herbs or spices which was chosen by Elizabeth from Cake or Death. A spice which I think you either love or hate, is cardamom. I love it and I also love it combined with plums which are currently in season here, it being late Summer, early Autumn. So, after much deliberating on my pie, I decided to make these individual cardamom and plum tarts.

They are actually kind of like cheat’s tarts, as they are so easy to make. All you do is make a dough (which turns out a bit softer than a crisp tart base), press the dough into tart tins (I used 6 individual 8cm tart tins, but you could do one big tart – square shaped would be nice), then push your plums into the tart dough, sprinkle with sugar and bake. The sugar nicely caramelises the plums and the baking powder in the tart dough helps the dough to rise nicely round the plums.

These are such easy tarts and would be great for a dinner party as they look lovely, are very quick and easy and taste great with a dollop of whipped cream or scoop of ice-cream. I bet there will be heaps of creative tarts, so check them out here.

Plum and Cardamom Tarts

100g sugar
200g flour
1 tsp baking powder
2 tsp ground cardamom
90g cold butter
1 large egg, lightly beaten with 1 tbsp water
3 halved plums (or more if you are making a large tart)
75g sugar, extra

· Combine first measure of sugar, flour, baking powder and cardamom in a food processor, then add butter in chunks and pulse until the mixture becomes breadcrumb like.
· Add egg mixture and pulse until the dough starts to come together
· Tip onto bench and gently bring together
· Press the dough into oil sprayed tart tins
· Place a plum half in each tin, cut side up and sprinkle with the remaining sugar
Bake at 180c for 30-40 minutes until golden and the plums are caramelised.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

wee treats

I am really in the swing of cookie decorating at the moment. It was a friend’s birthday on Monday and I made these dress, hat, handbag and shoe sets for her. Instead of my usual shortbread recipe I used the recipe for Paula’s shortbread from Ladies, A Plate. It is still an icing sugar shortbread (I usually use an icing sugar shortbread for decorating cookies, but one with a castor sugar base for just plain shortbread), but I actually like it better than my usual recipe. It doesn’t have as much cornflour in it and I wonder if that is the difference?

I also made these quite simple round ones as a thank you gift. I really like the tear drop effect and I was also pleased with the brightness of the colours which I managed to achieve by mixing different food colourings together. Actually, just a word on food colourings, I always use the gel colours as they give a much more intense outcome. You don’t need very much – I always add mine with a toothpick. They are about $5 for a small bottle, but they last for ages. The other trick to good consistency icing is to use Chelsea icing sugar (for those readers who live in NZ). Other brands of icing sugar are more grainy and the result (especially for royal icing) is not as good.

One thing people have told me they would like to read more about is the everyday meals that I cook, so I will try and incorporate those into my posts a few times a week. Most of my after work meals take about 40 minutes to an hour to prepare and cook. They are usually easy and not using extravagant cuts of meat. One of my favourite meats is mince – whether it be lamb mince, pork mince or beef mince. I don’t like “mince stew” kind of meals and I have never liked mince pies, but I do like all the other things you can do with mince.

Last night I made pork mince meatballs, adding chopped garlic, coriander and fish sauce for an Asian inspired meal. I also added an egg and some breadcrumbs to bind. I never pan fry meatballs but fan grill them for about 12 minutes in the oven. If you don’t have fan grill 12 minutes at 200c will do the same trick. We had the meatballs with sweet chilli sauce, spinach stir fried with garlic and red peppers and rice which I flavoured with more chopped coriander and some lime juice. A simple meal which took only 40 minutes to prepare and cook, but very tasty.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Spicy Apple Cupcakes

My friend gave me a bag of granny smith apples from her tree. I usually semi stew them and put into small zip lock bags in the freezer for the winter months. I also used them to make these apple and hazelnut cupcakes. The recipe is adapted from a recipe in Cuisine magazine a few years ago. That recipe was for a macadamia and nutmeg crumb cake. I didn’t have any macadamias and was too lazy to grate nutmeg, so my cakes became Hazelnut and clove apple cakes.

The recipe was a very easy one – melt butter, add to dry ingredients, save some of the mixture for the crumb topping and then mix in the rest of the ingredients. The hardest part was peeling and coring the apples. The cakes turned out lovely and moist and quite spicy. Because I made cupcakes rather than one large cake, I cut the apple into quite small pieces to ensure that they cooked through in the shorter baking time. These are a deliciously easy way of incorporating apples from the tree in the backyard into something for the tins.

And, speaking of cupcakes, I was practising my straight line sewing in the weekend (don’t look too carefully!) and made these napkins for my Mum from some leftover fabric she gave me to play with. Hopefully she will be able to use them when my niece comes for dinner.

Nutmeg and Macadamia Apple Crumb Cakes (adapted from Cuisine)

185g flour
100g brown sugar
85g sugar
1 tsp ground cloves
75g butter melted and cooled
1 tsp baking powder
½ c buttermilk
1 egg
1 granny smith apple, peeled, cored and chopped into small pieces
½ c toasted hazelnuts
1 tbsp sugar extra
1 tsp cinnamon

· Mix flour with sugars and cloves, stir in butter until mixture resembles crumbles
· Reserve 2 tbsp of the mixture for the topping
· Add baking powder, buttermilk and egg and beat with an electric mixer until smooth
· Fold in chopped apple, then spoon into 10 cupcake cases
· Combine the reserved crumb with the chopped hazelnuts and extra cinnamon and sugar and sprinkle over the top of the cakes
Bake at 180c for 18-22 minutes or until a sharp knife inserted in the middle comes out clean

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

TWD - Lemon Cup Custard

This week, Bridget of The Way the Cookie Crumbles, chose lemon cup custard as the TWD recipe. There had been some quite negative feedback on the TWD site where members had found the custard cups to be too eggy. I was curious to know what I would think.

The custards were a simple combination of warm milk infused with lemon zest (I also added some whole cloves which was one of the variations suggested by Dorie in the book), sugar and eggs. I made ¼ of the recipe which gave me 1 ½ ramekins. Even though I like creme caramel and crème brulee, I did not like this pudding at all. In fact, I threw it out without even giving my husband a taste of it. It was very eggy – I wonder if it was the ratio of egg to milk which was high, or maybe it was because it used egg white as well egg yolk – I don’t know. The lemon flavour was not overly pronounced and I could taste the subtleness of the cloves, but the egg was the predominant flavour. My custards also developed a slight skin on top and I have written in the past about my dislike of skins on baked puddings. Unfortunately, this is one of the few Dorie recipes I will not be making again. See what the other TWDers thought here.

On a positive note, our house is getting towards the completion stages. The painters are there doing the outside and starting on the inside. The tiler is also there this week. The kitchen is one of the last things to go in, but I will post some photos upon completion.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Autumn Produce

Summer is by far my favourite season, but I do love the start of autumn – there is an ever so slight chill in the air, the leaves are changing colour and of course there is all that lovely Autumn produce – autumn fruit and vegetables are my favourites. It is also the time of year when I make jam, preserve and pickle, readying the stores for the winter months. This year though, seeing as we are living in a small apartment and the majority of my preserving jars and also my large pots, are packed away, I had no intention of preserving this year.

However, a couple of weeks ago, a friend gave me a big bag of tomatoes from her garden to make tomato relish. Tomato relish is our favourite relish and we go through it by the truck load. I always use my Nana’s recipe, and while Mum has kept us in good supply over the last six months, it was a good opportunity to replenish the supplies. When I was given the tomatoes, I put them in the freezer – Mum said that nana used to do that sometimes, and then used them yesterday when I had more time. The relish turned out beautifully – I was surprised as I wasn’t too sure what freezing the tomatoes would do to them. This relish is fabulous with anything – we often have it as a before dinner snack with crackers and cheese or cottage cheese, it goes well with cold meats or sausages and is fabulous as the base for mousetraps and in salad rolls.

Yesterday morning I went to the Takapuna market for only the second time this year. I bought this lovely bunch of hydrangeas – I just love hydrangeas, the colours are so vivid. I also bought tomatoes, red peppers, coriander, freshly dug potatoes, garlic, red and brown onions, eggplant and rainbow silverbeet (chard). We had steak on the bbq last night and to go with it I made a yummy salad by roasting some tomatoes, red peppers and red onions with crushed garlic and cumin seeds, cooling the lot and then tossing with a dressing made from olive oil, lemon juice and basil leaves. It was really yummy.

Thanks to everyone who has left comments about my blog. It is so nice to read such lovely feedback and to know what people are interested in reading about. My favourite comment though was about the number of exclamation marks I use! ;0) It made me laugh, as I totally agree – I use far too many of them and it even drives me crazy. So, from now on you will see far less !!!!!s. I also think that a useful recipe index is a great idea and I will incorporate that as part of the up-date of my blog’s look.

By the way, I had my first run today in 7 weeks – 25 minutes and I loved it. Even though I had no pain from my stress fracture, I did manage to trip over 5 minutes into the run and have badly scraped both knees, my elbow and my hip. I think I will be stiff tomorrow!

Nana’a Tomato Relish (I have converted to metric measurements)

1kg tomatoes, skinned and chopped
1 kg onions, peeled and chopped
1 kg apples, peeled, cored and chopped
1.3kg sugar
2 tsp salt
2 tsp curry powder
½ tsp cayenne pepper
½ tsp ground cloves
3 c vinegar (Nana always used malt, but I use white)

· Combine all ingredients in a large pot, bring to a boil and simmer for an hour
· Thicken with a little cornflour mixed to a paste with vinegar
Bottle in hot, sterilised jars

Friday, March 6, 2009

Short but Sweet

Last weekend we went to visit friends who have just had a wee baby. I made these little duckling cookies to take with the baby present. I was actually really pleased with them – I think they are very cute. I also made the ones below which aren’t quite as cool as the ducks.

My blog is soon going to be over-hauled. I have got a blog designer creating a new design for me which I am excited about! I am also keen to hear from readers of my blog what you like to read about the most and is there anything else that I don’t write about that you would like to read more about. Please leave a comment or e-mail me directly. You can find my e-mail address here. Thanks for your help and there will be a spot prize for someone who comments or e-mails.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Waste not Want not

A few weeks ago when I was making the cakes for my friend’s daughter’s 21st, I had a mishap – my excuse was that it was a really hot day and I wasn’t concentrating and when I made the first of the cakes, I think I left out half of the flour. This resulted in a rather flat, but still dense and delicious chocolate cake - more of the features of a chocolate brownie. I have actually heard a story that that was how brownie was invented – someone accidentally left out an ingredient when they were making a chocolate cake and ended up with brownie.

Anyway, I obviously couldn’t use the dud cake as the 21st cake, so I put it in a zip lock bag and stuck it in the freezer. I thought I would use it for pudding one day or maybe to make into truffles. It was my business partner’s birthday last week and as I was thinking about what to make him, I thought about the cake/brownie in the freezer. I thought about making truffles from it, but then decided that the cake was delicious by itself and why not dip pieces of it into chocolate. So, that’s what I did and these brownie bites were born. Extraordinarily decadent bites of chocolaty deliciousness! I think I may have started a new craze!

Dinner last night was chicken, loosely based on a recipe from Cuisine magazine. I used chicken breasts and marinated them in a mixture of zhatar (a North African spice mix including dried thyme and sesame seeds), ground cardamom, chopped garlic and olive oil. Instead of pan frying them I baked them in the oven at 180c for about 17 minutes. To go with them I made a bulgar wheat salad – I actually like bulgar wheat better than cous cous as it has a nuttier texture. I treat bulgar wheat in the same way as cous cous, pouring over boiling water and letting it steam for about 15 minutes (it takes a bit longer than cous cous). To that I added chopped dates (leftover from the cake I made for this weeks TWD), chopped basil, a tbsp of whole grain mustard, a drizzle of olive oil, some zucchini sliced thinly with a potato peeler and the juice of half a lemon. I then thinly sliced some zucchini into rounds, pan fried them with some chopped garlic and then threw in some cherry tomatoes for the last couple of minutes. Very delicious!

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

New Favourite Cookies

These cookies are called Mexican peanut cookies – I have no idea why! This is another recipe I clipped from the newspaper some time ago. I made them for the subbies on our building site. They are delicious, easy to whip up and great to have in the tins.

They have interesting flavours – espresso powder, cinnamon and salted peanuts. As I have mentioned before, I am not a coffee drinker at all, but I don’t mind coffee flavoured cookies. Actually, one of my signature recipes which I havent blogged about yet, is espresso shortbread – one day you will hear all about that! The hint of cinnamon goes really well with the coffee flavour of these cookies – the coffee isn’t over whelming. The salted peanuts are great too. When I first put salted peanuts into baking I thought that they would be too salty, but they are just perfect. These cookies have the texture of a chocolate chip cookie made with condensed milk , which I love. I can tell already that these are going to become a family favourite!

Yesterday I wrote about the fresh snapper we got given, so I thought I would write about what I did with it. I ended up pan frying it, dusted with seasoned flour (in my opinion, the best way to cook fresh fish), and made a mango salsa to go with it. The salsa was simply chopped mango, chopped coriander and some oyster sauce – I cant say I loved the oyster sauce flavour. I think sweet chilli sauce would have been a better combination. To go with the fish I made a lovely salad of baby spinach, orange segments, toasted hazelnuts and baked feta. I treated the feta a little like haloumi, but instead of pan frying it, I drizzled it with oil and baked it at 200c for about 12 minutes or until it started to brown on the edges. This makes the feta deliciously chewy and almost a bit nutty flavoured. It works really well with the hazelnuts in the salad. I made a very simple vinaigrette from sherry vinegar and good olive oil using a 1:2 ratio. The salad was prefect with the fish!

Mexican Peanut Cookies

200g butter
200g brown sugar
4 tsp espresso powder
2 tsp cinnamon
300g self raising flour
200g salted peanuts

· Cream the butter and sugar, then stir in dry ingredients and lastly the chopped peanuts
· Roll into balls and flatten with a fork
· Bake at 180c for 15 minutes or until golden. Cool on a rack

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

TWD - Chocolate Armagnac Cake

This week’s TWD recipe was chosen by Lyb of And Then I do the Dishes and is Chocolate Armagnac Cake. Actually, my cake became a chocolate port cake, as all of our spirits (actually we only have gin, vodka and brandy) are packed up and I didn’t want to go and buy Armagnac or brandy for one cake, but I did have some port which a client gave me, so I used that in place of the Armagnac. I figured that I was allowed such poetic licence, given that Dorie used the same licence turning a whisky and raisin cake into a prune and Armagnac cake!

This is a delicious, dark and fudgey chocolate cake. Yes, it does have prunes in it, but I think even a non-prune lover , such as myself, would like this cake, as the prunes just seem to add to texture rather than taste. The prunes are simmered in boiling water and the steeped in Armagnac – or port in my case. You are meant to light the Armagnac once you have poured it over the prunes, but I didn’t think that port would have enough alcohol to light, and actually, I am not sure what lighting the alcohol adds other than another challenge to the recipe – if anyone can enlighten me, please do so!

I halved the recipe to make a 6 inch cake. The glaze was meant to be made from chocolate, butter and icing sugar, but I had some leftover ganache in the freezer, so used that instead and it was perfect!

We only ate a small wedge of this cake and I gave the rest to my friend for her husband who gave us a meal of fresh snapper he had caught last week. Thankfully Jenny is very understanding about receiving only 7/8ths of a cake!! I would definitely make this cake again. It would make a wonderful dessert served with softly whipped cream.

Check out the other TWDers here.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Baking for Hospice

Last weekend was the second round of baking for hospice. I baked on Saturday and the lovely Nessie came and collected the baking on Sunday morning. This time I made shortbread and these cupcakes.

The cupcakes are a very simple and quite plain cupcake recipe, but use brown sugar instead of white, which gives them a lovely caramel flavour. There is a hint of cinnamon in them, but is all it is – just a hint. They are very soft and light and I really loved them. The icing is actually cream cheese icing, but I think whipped cream would be yummy. The inspiration for these cupcakes came from a picture I saw in this beautiful book I got from the library written by another blogger, Jane Brocket, called The Gentle Art of Domesticity. The book was recommended to me by one of the readers of my blog and is such a lovely book. The photos and writing are gorgeous.

There is a photo in the book of cupcakes iced in bright colours and decorated with jelly beans – very simple but a really effective way of decorating which I just had to try. I love the contrast of the pink and white and hope to try other colour combinations soon.

Thank you to Gaye from Laws of the Kitchen for another blog award – You’re a sweetheart blog award. Well, I’m not sure if it is in the rules, but I am going to award this award straight back to Gaye as she is a real sweetheart!! Thanks Gaye!

I am also passing this award onto:

Stephanie from A Whisk and a Spoon
Nancy from The dog eats the crumbs
Mary from The Food Librarian, and
Wendy from http://pinkstripes.wordpress.com/

You guys are all sweethearts and I love reading your blogs!

Brown Sugar Cupcakes (adapted from Donna Hay magazine)

125g butter
¾ c brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla
2 eggs
1 ¼ c flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
½ c milk

· Cream butter and sugar, then add vanilla and eggs, one at a time
· Stir in dry ingredients , then milk
· Spoon into cupcakes cases (I got 12) and bake at 180c for 18-20 minutes
Once cold ice and decorate