Monday, 24 March 2014

Bits and bobs

I'm going to start today off with a wee story in true Calamity Jayne styles.  Last week we took pleasure in getting one of those 'make your own cheese' kits.  We love cheese, and eat a lot of it, so thought it would be great to be able to make our own.  On Saturday we decided to give it a whirl and make some ricotta - the easiest one.  It really is simple!  Was quite fun, almost like doing chemistry!  And it worked!  It was very satisfying. Until ...

... in my infinite wisdom, I decided to attempt to make gnocchi with it.  I have never made gnocchi before.  Normally it is made with potato, but I found a Jamie recipe using ricotta and parmesan.  I got to work making it, and even though it felt too weak to hold up in boiling water, I persevered.  The recipe said to sit them in semolina flour for two hours to bind the semolina to the ricotta and protect it in the water.  I did this.  It said to leave it in the fridge for two hours to firm it up.  I did this.

When it was time to make dinner, I started on a passatta (onions, garlic, tomatoes, salt and pepper) to go with the gnocchi.  My kitchen was smelling wonderful. 
I put the water on to boil.  I added salt.  I added the gnocchi - slowly lowering it in with a spoon and ... it instantly separated.  I was left with a pot of water and cheese.  So not only did I ruin our dinner, I ruined our first attempt at making cheese!  We hadn't even had a chance to try it!
Oh well, there's always next weekend ... :)

Anywho, onto some recipes that actually worked!  Let's see. I've made toasties, ginger crunch, sultana cake, a twist on curried sausages, muesli slice, and lamingtons. 

First up the toasties.  I know it's just a sandwich, but it's a really good one!  We have these for dinner occasionally, just for something a bit different. 
Spread cream cheese on a slice of bread.  Top with crushed pineapple (drained) and grated cheese, add a slice or two of ham.  On the other piece of bread, spread some honey mustard.  Sandwich together and heat in your grill press.  So good!
Another good one is using ham, apples, cheese and honey mustard. You just cook the apples up first so they are soft.

The curried sausages was really one of those 'make it up as you go' meals.  I had sausage meat out but hadn't decided on what to make.  I kind of kept adding to it as I went along and I think it turned out quite tasty.

Curried Sausages

500g sausage meat
2tsp curry powder
3tsp brown sugar
3tsp wholemeal flour
1 onion
1/2 - 2/3C passatta (the leftover from the gnocchi incident)
2Tbsp butter
3Tbsp cream cheese
1/4C mozzarella
salt and pepper
sprinkle of parmesan
Peas and corn

Start off by slicing potatoes about 5mm thick.  Place in a pot and bring to the boil for a few minutes then drain.
Combine curry, sugar and flour in a bowl.  Using wet hands, break off pieces of sausage meat about tablespoon size, and roll in the spice mix.  Place in a greased dish.
Slice onion and sprinkle half over the sausage balls.  Place blobs of butter and cream cheese around the top.  Scatter some peas and corn over this.
Top with passatta.
Layer potatoes over top, season with salt and pepper and dot more butter and cream cheese around.  Sprinkle remaining onion on top.
Layer the rest of the potatoes on top, seasoning again and adding more butter and cream cheese.  Scatter mozzarella and parmesan over top.
Bake in oven at 180C for about an hour, until golden and cooked through.

As for the ginger crunch, this was a good old Edmonds recipe. Tried and true.  I assume that everyone has one of these and I don't need to give these recipes - if you don't have an Edmonds at home - shame on you!  Every home needs one of these and I insist that you stop what you are doing and go and purchase one!

The sultana cake is also from the Edmonds, only I changed a bit of it.  I discovered that I only had 1C of sultanas instead of two, so I used a combination of cranberries and raisins for the other cup needed and it was delicious.

Sultana Cake

2C sultanas (or 1C sultanas, 1/4C cranberries, 3/4C raisins)
250g butter
2C sugar
3 eggs beaten
1/2 tsp lemon essence
3C flour
1 1/2tsp baking powder

Put fruit in a saucepan and cover with water.  Bring to the boil and simmer for 15 minutes.  Drain thoroughly.  Add butter (chop it in pieces first) and essence.  I like to put the lid on to keep the heat in and help it melt faster.
In a large bowl, beat the eggs with the sugar until well combined.  Add fruit mix and mix well.
Sift flour and baking powder into the bowl and fold together.
Spoon mix into a greased and lined square cake tin.  Bake at 160C for about an hour (I always check after 30mins and then every 15mins after that).  I like to bring it out when it's not quite cooked through in the centre, the cake is moist all over then.  Sometimes when you cook it the whole way through, it goes a bit dry.  Cake should spring back when touched.  I have made this so many times now that I can normally tell by just looking at it.
Leave in tin for 10mins before turning onto a wire rack to cool.

If you remember last blog I made a whole lot of sponge cake for the freezer?  Well I used some of that this weekend to make some lamingtons.  Another first for me!  My sponge was a brownish colour because I had added a tsp of cocoa powder to the batter, just to see how it would turn out.  I sliced it into 4cm squares.  I made some icing - 25g butter, 1/2tsp vanilla, 2tsp cocoa and 1tsp milo (I ran out of cocoa!) about 5Tbsp of hot water and about 1 1/2C icing sugar.  I made my icing quite thick.  Instead of dipping the sponge into it, I spread it on each side - made very little mess this way too.  Lastly, roll it in coconut and hey presto!  Lamingtons are born.

I would also like to point out that sponge is super easy to make so don't be afraid to try it.  I remember the first time I tried to make it, I was so worried it would flop!  I'm happy to say, I am yet to have a sponge go wrong.

Lastly, I made some muesli slice.  My children are always eating and I'm always trying to come up with new things to make for them.  I made this recipe up as I went along.  I have made similar ones in the past.  There is no right or wrong to this, you just put in what you like really.  As long as you have the liquid mix to bind it, you're set.
Here's what I did:

Muesli Slice

(all rough estimates)
1 1/2C rolled oats
1/3C coconut
6 dried apricots chopped into small pieces
1/4C dried cranberries
A sprinkle of chocolate drops
1/3C cornflakes
25g butter
2Tbsp golden syrup
3Tbsp maple syrup
3tsp brown sugar

Put all dry ingredients in a bowl.  This is just a guideline, you can add nuts, seeds, other fruits or cereals ...
In a small saucepan, put remaining ingredients and heat until melted.  Stir and then increase heat slightly and keep heating until it is kind of frothy looking.
Pour into the dry ingredients and mix thoroughly.  Press into a slice tin or square cake tin depending on how much you are making and how thick you want them.
Bake at 180C for about 15 mins or until golden.  Leave to cool in tin.

There you go, that should keep you going for a while :) Rug up nice and warm and make some of this yummy comfort food to eat by the fire.  Happy cooking!

Monday, 10 March 2014

Almost time!

Well the update on the cook book is that it is finally done!  I just have to do one last edit and then I can submit it!  Yay for me!  I will keep you all posted on further progress.

Now for the latest in my kitchen.  Let's see...  I've made biscuits, huevos rancheros, vege pasta bake, cheese straws and macaroon cake.  I'll start with the baking and then move onto the meals. 

First up, the biscuits.  I saw this recipe on Facebook and thought "Brilliant!  One batch of cookies that makes 100 - that should keep the cupboard well stocked."  Now I must have made mine a bit bigger than theirs, as I only managed to get 75, but still that's a fair amount.  I was able to freeze half so that they lasted for two weeks. 
Basically, this is a plain biscuit recipe that you add your own flavour to.  I made some with choc chips, some with cinnamon, coconut and oats, some with raisins and cinnamon, some with jam, some with cocoa and hazelnuts, and one last batch with 100s and 1000s, choc chips and apricot jam. 
I found them to be a little drier than my usual cookie recipes, but not bad.


500g butter
1/2 C sugar
5 C Self Raising Flour
1 tin condensed milk

Cream butter, sugar and condensed milk.  Slowly add flour.  And ... that's it!  Just add whatever flavours you desire.  Make one batch or separate into several.
You could try peanut brownies - cocoa and peanuts, white chocolate and cranberries, ginger...

The macaroon cake I made was just from the Edmonds.  I've never made it before, but a friend gave me some eggs for baking so I thought I'd give it a go.  Very glad I did!  If you're not a fan of coconut then you probably won't like this though.  It tastes like a stodgier lamington if that makes sense.

Macaroon Cake

125g butter
1/2 C sugar
3 egg yolks
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 C flour
1 tsp baking powder
pinch salt
2 Tbsp milk

3 egg whites
1/2 C sugar
1 1/2 C coconut

Cream butter and sugar until light fluffy.  Add egg yolks and vanilla, beating well.  Sift flour, baking powder and salt together and add to the creamed mixture alternatively with the milk.
Spread mixture into a greased and lined 20cm square cake tin.  Spread with macaroon mixture.  Bake at 180C for 30 minutes or until skewer comes out clean.  Leave in tin for 10mins before turning onto wire rack.

Beat egg whites until soft peaks form.  Fold in sugar and coconut.

I was telling my girlfriend how my kids are constantly eating - they're grazers, and that it wasn't always easy coming up with new things to make for them, and she suggested cheese straws - again from the Edmonds (good old favourites!).  I'm so glad she did - they are super simple and super tasty!

Cheese Straws

1 C flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp mustard powder
pinch of cayenne
75g butter
3/4 C grated cheese
1 egg

Sift dry ingredients into a bowl.  Rub in butter until it resembles bread crumbs.  Mix through the grated cheese - I added a little parmesan too.
Add egg and mix together to form a stiff dough.  I used a spoon to start and then my hands to knead it until it was all together.  Roll it out on a floured board.  You want it quite thin.  I also added a sprinkle of parmesan over the entire dough.
Cut into straws or use cookie cutters to make fun shapes.  Place on greased tray.  Bake at 190C for 10 mins or until golden.  Transfer to cooling rack.  Store in airtight container.  Serve by themselves or with dips.

The vege pasta bake is actually one I was going to share last time, but forgot - see I told you I'd remember!  I made it again this week with a few different ingredients.  It's one of those recipes that can be adapted to what you have in your cupboards at the time.
I definitely recommend using the Delmaine chickpeas in curry sauce though, it adds so much flavour.  I have used this both times and the whole family loves it - even my son who was disappointed to hear that we were having veges for dinner - until he saw what it was.

Vege Pasta Bake

chickpeas in curry sauce
you can also use peas, broccoli, cauli, bok choy, I added leftover roast potatoes too and some leftover spaghetti.
1 - 1 1/2 C pasta

Cheese Sauce
1 Tbsp flour
1 Tbsp butter
1 C milk
grated cheese

Put on a large pot of water to boil.  Add salt and pasta and cook until almost ready.  Drain.

In a large frying pan, heat a decent blob of butter until it melts.  Add onion and cook until softened.  Add whatever veges you are using - chopped.  Fry for a few minutes.
Add chickpeas and mix through.   Once heated, add pasta and mix again.  Add cheese sauce and stir through again.  Pour into a greased casserole dish and top with breadcrumbs and extra cheese.  Bake at 180C for about 30mins until bubbling on top.

Cheese Sauce
Melt butter.  Add flour and stir for a  minute.  Add milk slowly, while stirring.  Keep heating and stirring until it begins to thicken - don't have temperature too high.  Remove from heat and add about 1/4 - 1/2 C cheese.

It tastes better than it looks!

Huevos Rancheros is something I had never made before, but as I said, I had been given eggs and this was a good way to use them.  I followed the recipe in Rachel Allens cook book, adding a few extra ingredients as I wanted it to stretch :)  We actually ended up having leftovers that we reheated for breakfast the next morning - A-maze-ing!  Even better the next day.  From what I gather it is usually a breakfast dish anyways, but I thought it was great as a main meal, served on toast.

The amount I made was for four adults - two eggs each.

Huevos Rancheros

streaky bacon
25g butter
2 red capsicum chopped
2 red onion diced finely
2 cloves garlic crushed
1 carrot chopped
1 courgette chopped
pinch of cayenne
2 tsp cumin
salt and pepper
1 tin chopped tomatoes, plus some extra fresh ones chopped
about 1 tsp sugar
8 eggs

I used two frying pans and split the recipe in two, but if you have a giant pan or you're making less then one should be fine.

Heat pan and add bacon until crisp.  Remove and leave on a paper towel to drain fat.
Add butter to the pan and once melted, add the onions, peppers, garlic, carrots, courgette, cayenne, cumin and salt and pepper.  Cook for about 8-10 minutes.
Add tomatoes and sugar and cook until liquid has reduced a little.
Make some holes in the mix and crack eggs directly into each one.  Season with salt and pepper and then cover with a lid.  Cook until just set - keep checking as it is best when yolk is still a bit runny.  Sprinkle grated cheese and cover again for a few minutes until melted. 
Serve on toast.

So there you have it.  Some delicious meals to get your mouth watering.  I hope you enjoy making them as much as I did.  It's always so satisfying to make a new recipe and have it work out.  Have a great week and Happy Cooking!