Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Quick and Easy Home Made Gifts

Harry had a very busy Sunday a couple of weeks ago as we had been invited to a second birthday party in the morning and a first birthday in the afternoon. In my pre Harry days I would have spent ages decorating little biscuits for my friends children, but with time being a bit more precious, these easy but still cute shortbread cookies were the quick version of decorated cookies.

A set of number shaped cutters are a great thing to have on hand to make quick and easy birthday gifts. These cookies were obviously for the two year old’s present. I simply made the shortbread in the number 2 shapes, whipped up a batch of royal icing (I whisk an egg white until frothy and then whisk in the desired amount of icing sugar – this kind of icing is less runny than glace icing and also sets to a nice thick consistency) and sprinkled over “boy” coloured sprinkles. The one year old party was for a girl and I made Number 1 shaped cookies and sprinkled them with pink sprinkles. In the past I have also made these for adult presents (a bag of 5s and 0s for a 50 year old, 3s and 0s for a thirty year old etc. Even just decorating the cookies with coloured icing gives some impact.

Friday, October 22, 2010

FFwD - Hachis Parmentier

This week’s FFwD recipe is Hachis Parmentier. If there was no photo of the recipe in the book, I would have gathered from the name of the recipe that it is some kind of hash, and that is one way of describing this recipe. Dorie describes it as a French version of Shepherds Pie. The full recipe, which my sister made, takes a long time as it involves making your own beef broth and cooking basically a casserole before topping it with a cheesy potato mash. I made the quick version which is made with mince, and I am glad I did as my sister said she felt like she did a lot for what is essentially a fancy shepherds pie. I am sure Hayley’s hachis had a much greater depth of flavour than mine. I actually added more tomato paste to my meat mixture to give it a bit more depth. I am not a lover of shepherds pie or mashed potato, but I did think that the grated cheese through the potato and scattered over the top was a nice touch. See what the other FFwDers thought here.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Cupcakes, At Last!

Last week book club was at my house, so for the first time in a long time, I made cupcakes. For my birthday at the start of the year, one of my good friends gave me the hummingbird bakery cook book. It is a lovely book full of delicious cakes, cupcakes, muffins etc but I had only ever made cookies from it. I had a look through it and found this recipe for peaches and cream cupcakes. They sounded delicious and also easy as they used a drained tin of peaches rather than fresh peaches.

The other thing I liked about the recipe is that it only had one egg and only 40g of butter. So many cupcake recipes have huge quantities of butter and numerous eggs, so not only was the recipe easy, it was also economical and fairly low in fat. Instead of making a buttercream icing, I topped the cakes with swirls of whipped cream. I love using whipped cream to top cupcakes, as I love cream far more than icing and it negates the need to serve some cream alongside the cakes. I made the cakes in pretty blue cupcake cases and topped them with little silver balls and blue flowers which I made a while ago. I think they looked really elegant and my book club friends enjoyed them too.

Peaches and Cream Cupcakes (from the Hummingbird Bakery cook book)

120g flour
140g sugar
1 ½ tsp baking powder
40g softened butter
120ml milk
1 egg
400g tin peaches, drained

• Combine flour, sugar and baking powder, then mixing in the softened butter using a cake mixer
• Combine the egg and milk and then gradually add to the dry ingredients. Mix to combine
• Place two slices of peach in each of 12 cupcake cases. Divide the cake mixture between the cases and bake at 170c for 20-25 minutes

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

TWD - Caramel Pumpkin Pie

Short but sweet post today. TWD recipe is Caramel Pumpkin Pie and was chosen by Janelle of Mortensen Family Memoirs. Pumpkin Pie is not big in NZ and I think this is only the second time I have made it. I thought this pie was ok. I didn’t really love the highly caramelised flavour of the pie. I prefer my caramel to be on the sweeter, creamier side rather than the highly sugared almost burnt caramel flavour. I halved the recipe and made two mini pies, and cooked the rest of the pie filling in a small ramekin for my gluten free mum who was up staying over the weekend. Mum hadn’t tried pumpkin pie before and loved it. See if the other TWDers enjoyed it here.

Friday, October 15, 2010

FFwD - Vietnamese Chicken Noodle Soup

This week’s FFwD recipe is Vietnamese Chicken Noodle Soup. Goodness, this was a hard recipe to photograph nicely! The soup almost has Thai flavours without the curry paste. It’s a coconut milk based recipe with fish sauce to season, chicken gently poached in the soup and noodles. There were also a myriad of things you cold flavour the soup with - I was a bit boring and just used lime juice.

The soup was nice – probably nicer the next day once all the flavours had had a good chance to meld together. I think if I made it again I would make the curry paste version just to give it a bit more depth of flavour. Check out the other FFwDers’ versions here.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Improvising for Harry

When I am cooking dinner for my husband and I like to think of ways I can make a version of what we are having for Harry. Last week I made us a basmati rice, eggplant and lamb mince dish which had Moroccan flavours. It was obviously too spicy for Harry and also I don’t salt his food, and I found this dish needed a reasonable amount of salt to bring out the flavour. So after browning the mince with a little garlic, I put some in a different pot for Harry and added some rice and frozen peas. I cooked this mixture until the rice was cooked through.

Now by itself, this was pretty bland as you can imagine. I thought of adding tomatoes, but Harry has quite sensitive cheeks and I don’t want to give him anything too acidic until he is a little older. So, instead, I grated some cheese and stirred this through the mince mixture. I also added a cube of mashed pumpkin from the freezer. This mince and rice dish actually turned into a very tasty little dish. Harry loved it – it was a bit like risotto. And no, I didn’t let him eat it with his hands as the photo suggests –once again, trying to capture a little of Harry, he was too quick for me and had his hand in the bowl before I knew where I was. But I always have a wet cloth at the ready for times like those. My mum always says when we were kids she walked round with a hairbrush in one hand and a face cloth in the other – I think I will be the same!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

TWD - Fold Over Pear Torte

This week’s TWD recipe was chosen by my good blogging friend Gaye of Laws of the Kitchen. I was interested to see what Gaye would pick and she chose the Fold Over Pear Torte. Gaye said she chose it because there is no photo in the book and she was curious as to what it would look like. Reading through the recipe I must say it wasn’t one that I would pick first, but once it was made, it was so delicious I would definitely make it again!

I ended up making this torte on Sunday afternoon. As it would be just my husband and me eating it, I quartered the recipe and made it in a little 10cm round cake tin. Because of the size of my tin and the amount of pastry I had, my torte ended up looking like a pie. The crust is Dorie’s good for anything pie crust and it is delicious. In this case it was used to line a spring form tin and then was filled with a mixture of chopped pears, dried apricots and walnuts – I subbed flaked almonds for the walnuts. The fruit was then topped with a custard flavoured with vanilla and almond essence, the pie crust folded over the top and the torte baked.

We ate the torte warm out of the oven. It would have been wonderful with whipped cream, but we ate it with no accompaniment as we did the dishes after we put Harry to bed. Yum! Thanks Gaye for choosing something I may not have otherwise made! See what the other TWDers thought here.

Monday, October 11, 2010

The Elusive Metro Chocolate Chip Cookie

Many years ago I tried a chocolate chip cookie in a cafĂ© called Metro in Christchurch. It was the best chocolate chip cookie I had tasted – large chunks of chocolate, a texture that I guess is not crisp or chewy but is almost cakey, and large, oversized cookies. I remember at the time trying to re-create the metro cookie and I got pretty close – I even rang them at one stage to see if they would part with the recipe, but no luck!

Well, for her birthday I gave my sister a subscription to the foodtown magazine and she rang me a couple of weeks ago to say that a reader had written in requesting metro’s chocolate chip cookie recipe and they had printed it!! Hayley sent me through the recipe and it seems that the secret ingredient is not ground almonds as I had thought, but caramelised condensed milk. Now, I would never have guessed this, as whenever I have used caramelised condensed milk in cookies, I have ended up with quite soft cookies. Also, the cookies have a much higher ratio of flour than my usual recipe and less baking powder. The mixture is quite dry, but persevere with mixing that flour in. Nevertheless I faithfully used the recipe and I had them – the elusive metro chocolate chip cookie! This is one of the best. I also think that milk chocolate goes well in these cookies – usually I prefer dark chunks, but try milk chocolate in these.

Metro Chocolate Chip Cookies

250g butter
½ c sugar
2 tbsp caramelised condensed milk
3 c flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 ½ c milk chocolate buttons

• Cream butter, sugar and caramelised condensed milk
• Stir in flour, baking powder and lastly the chocolate
• Form large balls of dough and press down lightly with a fork
• Bake at 170c for 15-18 minutes or until golden and firm

Friday, October 8, 2010

FF - Gerard's Mustard Tart

Today’s French Friday recipe is Gerard’s Mustard Tart. This is a leek and carrot tart with a custard filling with two types of mustard in it – Dijon mustard and wholegrain mustard. I always have both those mustards in the fridge and buy the Maille brand which is French. Maille mustards are fairly mild, so there wasn’t too much kick from the mustard.

I had some tomatoes at home, so substituted those for the carrots. Dorie’s recipe said to pour the custard into the tart shell and then arrange the vegetables on top. I did that, but if I was making the tart again, I would put the vegetables in and then pour the custard over the top. My leeks browned quite a lot and I think this was because I had more leek than I needed.

This was a yummy tart though. The home made shortcrust pastry is a winner and as we love mustard, the mustard filling was very yummy. See what the other FFwDers thought here.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Semolina for Harry

I love childhood puddings (custard, tapioca, semolina etc) so it has been a pleasure to start making these puddings for Harry. Semolina has always been a favourite of mine and it must be years since I had it, but when you make it in the microwave, it is such a quick and easy pudding to make. It is also really stable, so you can make some today and then keep it in the fridge for a couple of days.

To make enough for two servings (when combined with fruit), put 125ml full fat milk, 2 tbsp semolina, ½ tsp sugar (or to taste) and ½ tsp vanilla into a microwave proof jug and stir. Microwave on high for 1 minute, then stir. The semolina pudding may need another 20-30 seconds to thicken it up a bit. Let it cool and then stir through your fruit of choice. You could have the semolina plain, but I like the idea of naturally sweetening it with a bit of fruit, and it also means that your baby is getting the goodness of the fruit as well.

Last week I mixed peaches and apple into semolina. This week I made pineapple semolina, by putting a drained can of pineapple pieces in the food processor and processing to the desired consistency (a little bit chunky for Harry at 8 months). I then stirred about three tablespoons of this and three tablespoons of pureed apple through the semolina. Harry absolutely loved it and so did I! I could easily eat this for my lunch too.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

TWD - Double Apple Bundt Cake

This week’s TWD recipe is Double Apple Bundt Cake and was chosen by Lynne of Honey Muffin. I made this on Saturday when we had my husband’s brother, his wife, her son and his friend staying with us. We had it for pudding after eating fresh snapper my husband had caught in the afternoon (delicious!!).

This cake was amazing. Everyone went back for seconds. It had a real apple flavour, but because it used grated apple instead of chunks of apple, it was much nicer on the palate. I must confess, I don’t know what apple butter is, which is one of the ingredients. I’ts not something we have in NZ and I can only imagine that it is a bit like lemon curd. So I did a substitution of apple jelly, using an apple jelly I had made quite a few years ago, but never used. Perhaps that was the secret ingredient to this delicious, moist cake. I drizzled over a lemon drizzle made simply with icing sugar and lemon juice. We had it with whipped cream. Perfect!

See what the other TWDers thought here.

Friday, October 1, 2010

French Fridays - Gougeres

Today is the first day of a new challenge called French Fridays with Dorie and I, with a large number of others round the world (including my sister who I have convinced to participate) will be cooking our way through Dorie Greenspan’s latest book, At my French Table. Each week a new recipe will be selected and I will be cooking it and blogging about it on Fridays. The book is a beautiful book and full of lots of lovely recipes that I cant wait to cook.

The first month’s recipes have been chosen by Dorie herself and today’s recipe is Gougeres, the first recipe in the book. Gougeres are light, savoury choux pastries. They are made using the choux pastry method of boiling butter and water, adding flour and cooking the paste, then beating in eggs and in this case, finally cheese. My sister is staying with us at the moment and we made these together on Wednesday night. They are delicious warm from the oven and would be the perfect thing to have as a pre-dinner nibble with drinks. Hayley and I finished them just before bed time and we ate a couple each and then I popped the rest in the freezer. I will re-heat them in the oven another time when we have people over for drinks.

See what the other FF participants thought of gougeres here.