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!