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Monthly Archives: June 2010

Chocolate Hedgehog Slice

I’m not sure why I am feeling so nostalgic and almost homesick lately. I moved out of the family home 7 years ago to start a new life and create a new home with my now husband and to be honest, I couldn’t wait to get out of there.

But in the last few weeks, I have pining for the days, all those years ago, when life was easier and the most simple of things brightened my day.

I’ve been craving a lot of the food I grew up with. It was by no means glamorous or complex, it was purely simple, comforting food and it now reminds me of a simpler time.

For the past few weeks, I have been cooking a lot of this food. A bite of mum’s tuna casserole reminds me of getting my first pair of platform heels back when they were in style, the second time round. God, I thought I was so cool walking around with those bricks on my feet. Two sprained ankles later, I was more interested in my hyper-colour overalls.

The coconut macaroons she used to make remind me of coming home from school on winter afternoons, the house would be warm and filled with the scent of toasted coconut. It reminds me of sitting on the floor in front of the wall heater and TV, doing homework as the light faded outside, anxiously anticipating our first bite of macaroon or plotting to steal a few, warm off the tray, before dinner.

I remember when she was pregnant with my youngest sister, she went on some sort of wild baking, nesting rampage and was baking everyday. We’d come home from school to a kitchen covered in cooling trays of apricot cookies, coconut cookies, apple and cinnamon cookies, hedgehog slices, vanilla slices, Mars Bar slices…. It was like Christmas every day of the week.

Which brings me to today’s recipe I thought I would share. Nothing original or fancy, just a reminder of my childhood. The hedgehog slice reminds me of buying my first CD for my Very First CD Player. It was probably the most thrilling day of my life. Incredible. I won’t tell you what CD it was because it is completely mortifying, but rest assured if I ever hear that song it brings to mind memories of that excitement…and chocolate hedgehogs.

I’ve taken the recipe from here as it was the closest I could find to my mums because as we all know I am hopeless with measurements.

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 x 200g packets Marie biscuits, coarsely chopped
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1/2 cup desiccated coconut
  • 250g butter, chopped
  • 1 1/4 cups caster sugar
  • 1/3 cup cocoa powder
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 150g dark chocolate, melted
  • 1/2 teaspoon vegetable oil

Method

1. Grease a 20cm x 30cm lamington pan; line base and two long sides with baking paper, extending paper 2cm above edges of pan.
2. Combine biscuits, nuts and coconut in large bowl.
3. Place butter, sugar and sifted cocoa in a medium pan; stir over heat until butter is melted and sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat; whisk in egg.
4. Pour chocolate mixture over biscuit mixture; mix well. Press into prepared pan. Cover; refrigerate overnight.
5. Turn slice onto a chopping board; cut into pieces. Spoon combined warm, melted chocolate and oil in a small snap-lock plastic bag. Squeeze chocolate to one corner; twist bag, then snip tip of bag. Drizzle chocolate over top of slice; refrigerate for 15 minutes, or until chocolate is set.

Tip: Slice can be made up to four days ahead; store in an airtight container in your refrigerator.

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Posted by on June 29, 2010 in Devilish Desserts, Sinful snacks

 

Lemon & Herb Grilled Chicken with Fennel, Orange & Chilli Salad

I know it’s winter here in the southern hemisphere here and all and this meal has a certain summer feel about it, but it was so delish that it would be a real shame to have to wait until summer to enjoy it (not that I would ever be so silly!).

A few notes about this recipe. It serves 4 for a light meal or two really hungry beasts (aka, The Husband and moi).

I added the chilli slices to the fennel and orange salad because The Husband is a chilli nut and will eat it on everything….Yes, everything.

The orange and fennel salad is obviously so versatile, you can leave the chilli out and team it with seafood as well. Of course, the dressing is completely open to interpretation as well…

I sliced a few of the oranges with the skin before peeling them, just for some colour (oh, please don’t hurt me Donna Hay!) These oranges were bought from the local farmer’s market and were so fresh that the skin just detached quite easily with the knife and fork during the meal, no biggie.

A very simple and quick meal, perfect for the mid-week rush.

Ingredients

For the chicken

  • 2 boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • 2 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 sprig of rosemary leaves
  • 2 tbsp dried oregano
  • salt and pepper to taste

For the salad

  • 1 bulb fennel, thinly sliced (core removed)
  • 1 navel orange, peeled and cut into segments
  • 1 orange, juiced
  • 1 small, red chilli
  • 1 great big handful of flat leaf parsley (get rid of those stems though)
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tsp wholegrain mustard
  • 1 tsp honey
  • 3 tbsp white wine vinegar

Method

  1. Begin by combining  2 tablespoons of the olive oil, lemon juice, rosemary leaves, oregano, salt and pepper into a bowl and whisk to combine.
  2. Slice chicken breast fillets in half so that you have 4 pieces of chicken. Beat the crap out of it with a mallet if you need to even them out to ensure they cook evenly.
  3. Add the chicken to the marinade, ensuring it is coated well. Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, you can prep your salad.  Combine the fennel, orange slices and chilli in a serving bowl.
  5. To make the dressing, whisk orange juice, olive oil, mustard, honey and white wine vinegar together until well combined. Season to taste. Pour the dressing over the fennel, orange and chilli and toss to combine. Set aside.
  6. Preheat cast-iron grill, or BBQ and cook the chicken, in batched until golden and cooked through.
  7. Serve alongside the fennel, orange and chilli salad immediately.
 
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Posted by on June 26, 2010 in Delish Dinners, Luscious Lunches

 

Brown Sugar & Oatmeal Raisin Bread

In the quest to develop my baking skills, I’ve spent many an afternoon covered in flour, splattering dough all over the kitchen cupboards in an attempt to be all sophisticated and master the art of making bread. And yes, it is an art. One which I am yet to perfect, especially in terms of presentation and also in terms of getting that light, fluffy bread packed with flavour. But I’m slowly getting there…

With this recipe, please make sure you use bread flour, it is crucial to it’s success and also make sure your dry yeast is relatively fresh, you don’t want the container that’s been hiding out the back of the fridge.

This bread was the best straight from the oven – as most homemade breads don’t store too well that long, it’s important to get stuck into it ASAP- not that I’d have to tell you twice, I’m sure.

Ingredients

Dough:

  • 2 1/4 cups buttermilk
  • 2 tablespoon butter
  • 1 egg ( beaten )
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 1/4 teaspoon instant yeast
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 1/4 cups rolled oats
  • 1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 2 cups bread flour
  • 1 cup raisins

Filling:

  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 3 tbsp butter, melted

Method

  1. Add the buttermilk to a saucepan and heat just to a scald. If the buttermilk curdles thats OK. Pour into a large bowl. Add in brown sugar, salt and butter. Mix till well blended and cool down.
  2. Add in beaten egg. Add in rolled oats, whole wheat flour, cinnamon and yeast. Mix for a few minutes till well mixed. Allow to rest uncovered for 10 minutes.
  3. Start to add in bread flour. When it becomes to hard to mix, pour out onto a flat surface and continue slowly adding more flour. Knead for 8 minutes till the dough become smooth and elastic. Allow to rest again for 5 minutes.
  4. Knead in raisins. Add a little oil into a bowl and flip dough few times to lightly coat all sides. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to rest till double in bulk; about 1 hour.
  5. Cut in half. Take one piece of dough and roll out to a 16 x 7 rectangle. In a small bowl combine the sugar and cinnamon. Brush half of the melted butter onto the dough. And sprinkle half the sugar cinnamon mixture on op of the butter.
  6. Roll the dough like a jelly roll and pinch the seam closed. Place onto a piece of parchment paper that is sprinkles with cornmeal. Repeat other piece.
  7. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to double in bulk, about 1 hour. After that, take a wooden spoon and press down the middle of the dough. All the way to the bottom of the dough. Cover with plastic wrap again and allow to rest for 15 minutes.
  8. Now, place into a preheated 375 degree oven with a baking stone and a cast iron pan to create steam. To create some steam by placing a cast iron pan on the bottom of the oven the same time that you turn on the oven.
  9. Once you place the breads onto the baking stone pour about a cup of boiling water into the hot pan and close the door. Bake for 30 -35 minutes or till golden brown. You can allow to cool on a wire rack or brush some more butter on the sides of the bread and sprinkle some more sugar and cinnamon. Then allow to cool on a wire rack.

Recipe Source

 

Strawberries

I might have mentioned in the past that a few years ago, my husband and I abandoned the city lights for the green pastures and permanent smell of cow dung of country living and I honestly believe it’s one of the best decisions we have made. We’re not completely out in the sticks, not living in some ramshackle farmhouse and completely isolated from society (although sometimes I wish we were).

We live in a small town, population 2000. We have one little supermarket (who lack a lot of  basic stock that was a given back in the city, but impressively had some beautiful marscarpone cheese in the chiller, so they can’t be too bad). The region I live in is known as for its gourmet food, it’s cheeses and its wines and it’s beautiful fresh produce.

The view outside my back window is of rolling green hills and bushland. The skies are so blue, it hurts my eyes. Not the manky, grey skies of the city I had become used to. Just down the road is farmer’s market, where the locals contribute their fresh fruits, vegetables, freshly baked artisan breads, wines, creamy cheeses, pickles, relishes and preserves. It’s any gourmand’s paradise and the perfect way to spend a Saturday afternoon.

My work keeps me late most nights, so my weekends are spent recovering from the past week and preparing for the one ahead.

So deciding to head off to the market with my husband was the perfect way to wind down from the past week and fondling fresh vegetables, inhaling beautiful fresh fruits and marveling at the freshness of nature’s gifts and talents of local bread and cheesemakers was just the right way to start the weekend.

Particularly captivating were the strawberries we picked up from the local organic berry farm. They were plump, sweet still had that tantalising tang that prickles your tongue. We were like naughty little children, eagerly getting the berries to the car where, had espresso not lured us away, would have happily buried our faces in the strawberries and just feasted.

We did enjoy the strawberries though, later at home, with just a little whipped cream (no, nothing kinky)- they were that perfect that it felt like desecration to do anything else with them.

If you ever get the chance to visit a farmer’s market, even if you have to make a day trip out of it (a good drive, some beautiful scenery, a good lunch and glass of wine as well as coming home with a car full of beautiful, fresh produce- what’s not to like!), I really do encourage it. It’s great to be able to talk to the person who grew the vegetables you’re about to eat, or lovingly crafted the bread and cheese you will later be enjoying.

Here’s a few facts about strawberries:

  • Strawberries are well known for their high nutritional value and medicinal properties.
  • Just eight strawberries daily provides more than 20% of the daily recommended folate intake for expectant mothers, Folate is also important for protein metabolism and formation of red blood cells.
  • They are also rich in Vitamin C and silicon making them very useful for aterial and all connective tissue repair.  It is interesting to note that strawberries help strenghen the teeth and gums and help remove tartar.  Source
  • Strawberries should be eaten as soon as possible. Do not wash until you are ready to consume them. If you must store strawberries, place them on a paper towel in a tightly-covered container in the refrigerator for 2 to 3 days. They may also be frozen whole or in pieces. To freeze, wash and hull, sprinkle with 1/3 cup sugar, and toss gently with your hands. Place in freezer containers or zip-top bags. Use within 1 year. Source
  • Strawberries are one of the few sources, along with grapes and cherries, of ellagic acid, a compound which has been shown to prevent carcinogens from turning healthy cells into cancerous ones. Source
  • Apart from the obvious health benefits, a recent study by Dr. Gene Spiller, Nutrition and Health Research Center, has shown that eating one serving (about 8-10 strawberries) a day can significantly decrease blood pressure, which may reduce the risk of heart disease. Other studies showed additional benefits: Strawberries are found to reduce risk of cancer, enhance memory function and rheumatoid arthritis. Source

Some recipes featuring strawberries on my To-Try list:

Strawberry Croissants

Strawberry Tiramisu

Yoghurt, Rosewater & Strawberry Cheesecake

Strawberry Martinis

Strawberry and Lemon Pancakes
Watermelon, Peach & Strawberry Granita

Strawberry Amaretti Tarts

 
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Posted by on June 26, 2010 in Ingredients 101, Inspiration

 

Classic Caesar Salad

I am a Caesar Salad Whore (CSW).

Watching Masterchef last night and Donna Hay’s spin on the classic Caesar Salad stirred the Caesar harlot in me and I spent the rest of the night thinking about the crunch and creaminess of a yummy Caesar Salad.

I have to order Caesar Salad everywhere it appears on the menu. In fact, I’ve had Caesar Salads from all over this fine land and beyond and would be happy reviewing and blogging about Caesar Salads alone.

I’ve had some pretty icky salads and some that are just so deliciously moreish and of all the places I’ve devoured Caesars, I think my local pub has got it pretty down pat.

Now, in my desperate need to have this salad after watching Masterchef, I had to use iceberg lettuce (I know, string me up and stone me right now) because my ‘quaint’ little local supermarket was closed and I wasn’t able to pick up some cos lettuce. So let’s just pretend that in my photos, I’ve used deep green, crispy cos leaves as opposed to the blasphemy that is iceberg lettuce. The salad still had the right jist of flavours and the CSW in me was blissfully satisfied in the post-Caesar glow.

This recipe serves 4.

Ingredients

For the salad

2 small heads cos (romaine) lettuce

2 eggs

3 rashers rindless bacon, sliced into strips

1/2 Ciabatta roll, sliced thinly

2 tablespoons olive oil

For the dressing

4 anchovy fillets
1 clove garlic, roughly chopped
5 tablespoons olive oil
1  large egg yolk
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
salt and freshly ground black pepper

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 180C. Lay bacon slices on tray and put them in the oven to cook for about 8-10 minutes until deliciously crispy.
  2. Lay the thin slices of Ciabatta bread on a tray lined with baking paper, brush with olive oil and sprinkle a little salt and cook in the oven, until golden and crunchy.
  3. Drain bacon on paper towel and set croutons aside.
  4. Meanwhile, soft boil 2 eggs and set aside to cool once they’re done.
  5. To make the dressing: Whir the anchovy fillets and garlic in a food processor (I used my Magic Bullet). Add the olive oil, egg yolk, lemon juice, mustard, Worcestershire sauce and then season to taste with salt and freshly ground pepper. Your dressing should have a lovely runny consistency, so if it’s too thick, just whisk in a bit of water.
  6. Arrange cos leaves on a plate. Top with crunchy bacon pieces, shaved parmesan and croutons.
  7. Peel soft-boiled eggs, split in half and arrange atop the salad.
  8. Drizzle with Caesar dressing and serve immediately.
 
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Posted by on June 26, 2010 in Luscious Lunches

 

Rosemary, Black Pepper & Garlic Crusted Roast Beef

You can’t go wrong with roast beef. A favourite amongst young and old, it is classic, timeless and ever-so-hearty for perfect winter sit-down lunches or family dinners.

Everyone you speak to has their own little secrets for ‘a perfect roast’, and for some, it takes years of experience to perfect their roast.

Personally, I would happily eat roast beef every day of the year. But sometimes, just sometimes, I wonder what I could do differently with my roast to jazz it up a little, or add a new depth of flavour.

So I decided to opt for a crusted roast, rubbed and patted with my favourite flavours- rosemary, black pepper and garlic. In my photo, I admit that the meat looks dry, however because I slow cooked it, I can assure you that it practically fell apart and melted in our mouths…

A few notes: I used the slow cooker for my roast(cooked on the auto setting for about 7 hours) and finished it off in the oven to give it some colour. I also used my Magic Bullet to grind the rock salt, peppercorns and herbs to form the paste.

I served my roast with potatoes roasted with rosemary, some peas and honey glazed carrots and a red wine gravy made from the pan juices.

Ingredients

*For the roast….

1.25kg-piece beef eye fillet (this cut of meat is also known as girello)

1 tbsp rock salt

2 tbsp black peppercorns

2 tbsp minced garlic (or 2 finely chopped garlic cloves)

2 sprigs fresh rosemary

1 small bunch of Italian flat-leaf parsley

2 tbsp olive oil

*For the gravy…..

Reserved pan juices, strained to remove all fat and gunk

1 tsp minced garlic

Salt and pepper, to taste

1/2 cup dry red wine

1 tsp chopped rosemary leaves

1 tsp chopped parsley leaves

1 tbsp cornflour, dissolved in water

1 tbsp butter, to finish

  1. In a food processor, Magic Bullet or mortar and pestle, grind together the rock salt and peppercorns until fine and powdery.
  2. Add rosemary, parsley, garlic and olive oil and mix well until a lovely green paste forms. Rub this paste over the roast or if you’re a bit icky about feeling up a bit of beef, brush it on with a pastry brush.
  3. Pop your roast in the slow cooker, on the auto setting for about 6-7 hours while you are at work. If you’re cooking it in an oven, pre-heat it to 240°C and cook until it’s to your liking, ensuring you baste it with the pan juices every 10 minutes or so.
  4. When the meat is ready, remove from oven, transfer to a plate, cover with foil and allow the meat to rest for about 10 minutes.
  5. To make the gravy, pour remaining pan juices through a fine sieve.
  6. Transfer the juices into a saucepan and cook over medium heat, adding garlic, red wine and herbs.
  7. Season and taste as you go.
  8. Cook until the sauce has reduced somewhat and when you are happy with the flavour, add a bit of the dissolved cornflour, bit by bit until you are happy with the texture. When it’s ready, remove off the heat, whisk in your butter and serve ASAP.
 
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Posted by on June 22, 2010 in Delish Dinners

 

Lentil and Vegetable Curry Pies

Put your hand up if you don’t have a pie-maker. If you don’t, I am ordering you to go and buy one immediately.

Pie-makers are a blessing for the lazy, the busy and the pastry-challenged (moi).

Pie-making was usually reserved for cold winter days off from work where I felt like being adventurous and trying to attempt pastry and yummy fillings, usually with dire results.

Now, with some blessed frozen pastry, armed with a saucepan and some yummy ingredients, I’m rolling out pies like some kinda crazed Mrs Mac and I love that it is just so easy.

I don’t usually buy into the kitchen fads, you know, the things that are supposed to make life easier but end up stressing you out more by taking up space in the back of a kitchen cupboard. But the pie-maker is a must.

This recipe makes 6 pies. They store well in the fridge or freezer. My pie-maker makes 4 pies at a time.

Ingredients

2 tbsp olive oil

3 sheets frozen shortcrust or puff pastry (you’re supposed to use shortcrust for the base and puff for the top)

1/2 onion, chopped

1 tbsp minced garlic

1 tbsp minced/chopped red chilli

3 tbsp red curry paste

1 can brown lentils

1 cup frozen vegetables of your choice (I used cauliflower, peas, corn and broadbeans)- set them in a bowl 10 minutes prior to starting so they’re not straight out of the freezer.

1/2 can coconut cream

1/2 cup chicken stock (vegetable stock for vegetarians)

1 can crushed tomatoes

Salt and pepper to taste

Method

  1. Drizzle olive oil in a frying pan. Cook onion, garlic and chilli for 2-3 minutes until onion is soft.
  2. Stir in curry paste and cook, stirring to dissolve for a further minute or so.
  3. Add the lentils and frozen vegetables and cook for a further few minutes.
  4. Add coconut cream, crushed tomatoes, stock and season before stirring well. Put the lid on the cook on med-high heat for approx 20 minutes, stirring occasionally until the sauce has thickened enough to scoop into your pies.
  5. If your sauce isn’t thickening as quickly as you would like, add 1 tbsp of cornflour dissolved in water and stir into your curry.
  6. When the curry mixture is ready and you’ve seasoned to taste, take off the heat and set aside.
  7. With the pastry cutter you would have received with your pie-maker (or if not using a pie-maker, just a regular pastry cutter), cut out 6 circles of shortcrust pastry for the base of the pies. Then, cut 6 puff pastry circles out for the tops.
  8. Put the shortcrust bases into the pie-maker, fill with lentil curry filling. Put the puff pastry tops on and close the pie maker. Cook until the indicator signifies that the pie is ready (I usually leave my going a few minutes extra, until lovely and golden and crispy).
  9. If not using a pie-maker, use muffin trays to make your individual pies. Brush with egg wash prior to baking in the oven at 180C until golden.
 
 
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