Sunday, November 29, 2009

Raspberry cake for morning tea...

When something is made twice in one week, it must be good. And this cake certainly is. Why I've not made it before now, I'm really not sure. There are only good things about it - lots of butter and sugar, zing from some raspberries, light texture, made in a decorative tin.

I was needing to fill in for morning tea at work. As the designer of the roster, it is my responsibility to ensure that everyone on my team contributes equally to our food intake. And when someone left the team recently, it seemed easier to me to make a cake than change the roster. The cake needed to be done with minimal fuss, and without too much glam. After, it was not really my turn at providing the food. This was the perfect thing to prepare, simple yet delicious, elegant without showing off too much.

Please enjoy with a cup of tea.

Raspberry Cake

Serves up to 10.

250 g butter, softened

1 ½ c sugar

1 tsp vanilla essence

4 eggs

2 ½ c plain flour

2 ½ tsp baking powder

1 c milk

2 c frozen raspberries

Spray oil, or similar for greasing your cake tin

Pre-heat your oven to 160 ◦C. Grease a fluted tin with a spray of oil – I have a silicone one that works wonders for this cake.

Beat the butter, sugar and vanilla together in your electric mixer for five minutes, until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time beating well between each one. Turn off the mixer, sift in the flour and baking powder and beat together on a low speed. Slowly add the milk with the mixer beating, until well incorporated. Turn off the mixer, fold in the raspberries.

Justify Full

Spoon the mixture into the prepared tin. Bake in the oven for around one hour and fifteen minutes until cooked. It may take more or less time, so start checking after an hour of cooking.

Cook for five minutes in the tin before turning onto a wire rack to cool. Delicious with some cream, with some homemade ice cream, or just as it is dusted with icing sugar.

Donna Hay magazine, Issue 17.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Strawberry Sponge Deliciousness...

Mmmmmm, ice cream. The bug has surely bitten, and it won't let go. How did I ever consume the version purchased from a store in a carton? How could I have once declared it to be my most favourite thing to eat, ever? Obviously this was before I seriously got into home made ice cream. And I think the fella is won over too. Tonight he turned up his nose at ice cream on the wharf for the variety we had setting in the freezer - burnt caramel with a fig jam swirl. Can't say I blame him, and indeed partook in some of this deliciousness too. The jam was an addition to the butterscotch/caramel we make often. But this time I was having so much trouble getting the butter to brown rather than burn. But that is a post for another day.

Back to the jam. Ice cream making fits in with my desire to be industrious and self sufficient. It is a very therapeutic thing to create, with stirring, patience and a few days before having a finished produce. This is not particularly dissimilar from making preserves. If I find fruit on sale, I will buy a few kilos and make jam. Apricots are hard to pass by, strawberries when they are in season, figs when they are in abundance on a friendly neighbour's tree... Generally the results are amazing. But with strawberries I often end up with a luscious sauce with a few chunks. The lack of pectin in strawberries is a real challenge when jam making, but perfect with topping off a cake-flavoured ice cream.

I found this recipe's inspiration on a fantastically bespoke blog called The Kitchy Kitchen. It called for cake mix in with cream and ice cream. And boy does it work. But rather than ending up with a cake flavour generally, I took inspiration from the humble sponge and swirled through some runny strawberry jam. It adds a different texture to the mix, it imparts a hint of tartness. Oh, how it works. Oh, how good the original recipe is also.

(Sorry about the terrible formatting!)

Strawberry Sponge Ice Cream
Makes c. 1 L

3/4 c cake mix
1/2 c sugar

1 1/2 c milk

2 c cream 3 egg yolks

2 tsp vanilla
pinch salt
1/2 c strawberry jam

Sift cake mix into a medium saucepan. Add sugar, 1 c milk and 1 1/2 c cream. Stir over medium heat to combine.

Meanwhile, beat the yolks in your mixer. Slowly add 1/8 c amounts of the hot cake mixture, stirring throughout. Add around half the cake mix to the eggs. Transfer this egg-cake mix back into the saucepan with the remaining cake mixture. Add vanilla and salt. Cook over medium heat until thickened, stirring continuously. Remove from heat, stir in remaining milk and cream. Transfer to a bowl, cover the surface of the ice-cream mixture with glad wrap. Set aside to cool before refrigerating overnight.

Churn in your ice cream maker, for around 20 minutes until the ice cream is smooth, chilled and thickened. Stir in the jam, transfer to a freezer container and freeze overnight.
Adapted from the Kitchy Kitchen blog.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Honey and Spice and All Things Nice

(Firstly, sorry for the dodgy photo. We ate all of this ice cream before a good picie could be taken).

Strange things are afoot in our place. We make bread. We don't own glad wrap. We are thinking of selling our car and riding everywhere. We have started smoking occasionally (and I really do know how bad this is for my health). We don't buy ice cream, it has to be home made to be consumed. Strange.

But home made ice cream is surely a treat. The texture is smooth. The flavour possibilities are only limited by your imagination. So far we have largely stuck to a butterscotch/caramel and also a rich chocolate. But inspiration has hit, the need to clear out the cupboards of perishable has ment discovering new options for ice cream flavours. My fella insists that the butterscotch/caramel cannot be beaten, but I am trying that's for sure. Am I on to a winner with this one? I think so, but he is yet to be convinced. Perhaps next time I will win him over.

I have a few tips for making ice cream. They are simple but necessary. Too often I've ended up with expensive custard. Too often the ice cream churner has been religated to the appliance cupboard. After trial and error the churner now lives in the freezer, ready to make ice cream at short notice. So here is what to do:

1. Have your churner frozen for at least 24 hours before you churn;

2. Make sure your ice cream has a thickening agent - eggs or cornflour - otherwise it is challenging to get it to set and you get crunchy ice cream;

3. Cool your ice cream mix overnight before churning it, make it cold!

Honey & Spices Ice Cream

Makes around 800 mls

200 mls thickened cream

500 mls milk, plus 50 mls more

4 cloves

½ tsp ground cinnamon or ½ cinnamon stick

½ tsp ground cardamom or three cracked cardamom pods

150 ml honey

2 tbs corn flour

Place the bowl of your ice cream maker into the freezer.

Combine the cream, milk and spices together in a medium saucepan. Heat gently until steaming. Remove from the heat and leave to infuse for around 10 minutes. Strain the milk through a sieve to remove the spices. Add the honey and stir well. Bring it gently to the boil, stirring often and simmer gently for around 5 minutes so that the flavours infuse well.

Pour the extra 50 mls milk in a small bowl. Add the corn flour and stir until smooth. Return this mixture to the main milky mix. Stir well, and simmer for a further 5 minutes. Stir it often as you don’t want burnt ice cream! The mixture will boil and hopefully thicken somewhat.

Remove from heat, pour into a bowl and cover the surface of the liquid with either grease proof paper of glad wrap. This will form a “skin” and prevent your ice cream from forming a thick top layer. Leave on the bench to cool to room temperature before transferring to the fridge to chill overnight.

Remove the covering from your ice cream mix, stir it well to ensure mixture is combined and pour into your ice cream maker. Churn for 20 minutes, until beginning to thicken. Transfer to a freezer container, seal and freeze until more firm.

Inspired by a recipe from Tessa Kiros’s Falling Cloudberries.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Fajitas frying the brain...

Has the heat turned our brains to mush? Or just inspired us to lounge underneath the fans? In this weather, most things are an effort. Simply moving around means that bits stick - to furniture, to clothes, to other bits or other people. And there is little end in sight. The build up is continuing, the rains remain unpredictable. There is no reliable break expected in the hot weather until mid- January. That is months away!

Until then, lots of cool drinks... at work is aircon is on minimum and I need a cardie... lots of swanning around with minimal clothing on... lots of salads, dips and no effort food.

Speaking of no effort food, what could be more simple than quick-cook fajitas? Jamie Oliver claims this to be a 19 minute recipe, from start to finish for a beginner. I knew I should have timed myself! It comes from Mr Oliver's book Jamie's Ministry of Food. Unfortunately this is my most least favourite of his publications - along with the pork documentary where artificial insemination occurred on stage/telly. The recipes just don't inspire me. They are far too simple. Pedestrian most certainly. Maybe they inspire cooking in the every day folk, but I think that the pizazz that was Master Chef did a better job.

Anyhow, after the whinging... This recipe is good. It is simple, it is tasty. It is easy to prepare. The other day the fella did the cutting and marinating while I went grocery shopping. A few hours later he warmed the tortillas while I cooked the meaty mix. So tasty, so easy to prepare. But enjoy these fajitas with mango salsa if you please...

Chicken Fajitas

Serves 2

2 chicken thigh fillets

1 onion

1 red capsicum

1 tsp smoked paprika

1 tbs chilli powder

1 tsp ground cumin

Good squeeze lime juice

Salt and pepper to taste

Dash vegetable oil

4 tortillas

Grated cheese

Sour cream


Sliced lettuce

Diced tomato

Mango salsa



Cut the chicken fillets into strips. Cut the onion as you wish – I like it sliced, the fella likes it very finely diced. Cut the capsicum into strips after discarding the core and seeds. Combine these ingredients in a bowl along with the spices, juice, salt and pepper. Cover and refrigerate to marinate the mixture. Give it five minutes of a few hours, whatever you have time for really.

Heat a frying pan over a high heat. Add the oil and warm it. Add the chicken mixture, but don’t overcrowd the pan. Cook for around five minutes, tossing to encourage even cooking. Remove to a plate and keep it warm. If you need to, repeat the cooking process with any remaining mixture.

Warm your tortillas – the microwave works well. Place a scoop of chicken mix onto the middle of the tortilla. Top with cheese and sour cream. Add any optional extras as you wish. Wrap up, eat while warm with a napkin handy for drips. May I suggest a cold beer with this too?

From Jamie Oliver’s Jamie’s Ministry of Food.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Flatbreads, flat out

Have you ever gotten into baking bread? I mean, really worked at it, baked often, improved recipes, tried new techniques... When I was fifteen, I discovered focacia. And fell in love with it. I tried to follow pack mixes, I made loaves from scratch. I was hooked. So hooked, that when our kitchen was being renovated I needed to stop the builder from removing the oven from the wall as I had a focacia cooking inside. That could have been a tragic moment!

While I still enjoy a slice of focacia or two, I don't make it often now. Rather we bake bread for daily consumption. Stuff that can be sliced and placed into the toaster. Stuff that works as a sandwich. Stuff that is made for vegemite and butter.

But I still love a baking challenge. Not too long ago, I tried Martha Stewart's recipe for baguettes. This had some moderate success. I will also turn to How to be a Domestic Goddess when needing to create a yeasty produce. This recipe though, is from a faithful magazine. The Aussie success that is Delicious. I have no recollection of buying this particular magazine, although for a while I was receiving the second hand copies from my cooking sis Rach. I have used this particular issue often. It has been chewed by one of my hunry felines and chunks of the cover are missing. It contains the recipe inspiration for one of my favourite salads - rocket, boconccini, roasted capsicum and onions, olives, a citrus dressing! It has a pistachio and zucchini cake I long to bake. And it has these little babies.

These flatbreads are easy to prepare, perhaps a little fiddly to shape, but a rewarding bake. They are really not too much effort, and are far superior to the comercial versions from expensive delis. They only prove once, bake for less than 10 minutes and also keep for up to a week. The chilli flavour is subtle - add more if you are keen. But the subtleness makes these flatbreads versitile, ensuring they work work with most toppings.

Herb and Chilli Flatbreads

Makes 36 or so

1 tsp dried yeast

Pinch sugar

1 ¾ c. plain flour

2 tsp dried herbs – oregano, thyme, etc

2 red chillies, finely diced

½ tsp salt

Spray oil

In the bowl of your mixer, combine yeast, sugar ¼ c. flour and ¼ c. tepid water. Leave to sit and bubble for around 20 minutes. Meanwhile, sift the remaining flour into a bowl. Add the herbs and chilli. Stir to combine. Attached the dough hook to your mixer, add the flour mix to the bubbling yeast. Stir on a low speed to combine somewhat. Increase the mixer’s speed to medium, slowly add around ½ c. more of tepid water, adding a little at a time. When the mixture is coming together as a dough, stop adding water. Beat the dough for three minutes or so, until deliciously soft and smooth. Remove the dough to an oiled bowl, cover with a tea towel (or glad wrap if you use it), and leave in a warm spot to prove for an hour until doubled in size.

Ensure the oven is divided into thirds. Pre-heat the oven to 200C. Line three trays with baking paper.

Punch down on the dough to deflate it. Divide into two pieces, and roll into logs. Cut slices off the logs around 5 mm in diameter. Using a rolling pin, roll out the pieces into little ovals of dough. Place onto the lined trays, around 12 ovals per tray. Repeat, using up all of the dough. If desired, spray the ovals with oil. I often forget to do this – in the pictures, the pieces are not golden brown as a result of my forgetfulness. Bake in the oven for 8 minutes, until cooked and beginning to golden. Rotate the trays in the oven after 4 minutes of cooking to ensure even browning.

Rest on the trays for a few minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely. Serve with a chunky dip, with a cream cheese spread on top or some other delicious topping. These little flatbreads will keep fresh for up to a week in an airtight container.

Adapted from Delicious Magazine February 2007.

They are also tasty with a gin and tonic (add a spritz of lime if you please) for afternoon tea.

Mango madness Mexican style

It is the silly season here is Darwin. Mango madness has struck. The weather is getting hotter and hotter. The nights are no longer cool. The clouds are becoming gray and ominous, but refuse to open and bring relief. Locals recommend you take holidays to a more ambiant climate. The swimming pools are crowded. Everything becomes sticky and hot. People slow down, rest often, drink more. And the trees are ladden with mangos.

I could not believe it when I heard that mangos were left to rot on trees! How could there be so many of them? How could people not gobble them up? I also couldn't believe it when I saw the price of the various kinds of mangos as the local markets. Only $ 1.50 per kilo! Outrageous! And the differing kinds - bowen, ruby blush, thai...

Inspired by a new cook book, as well as a left over mango, we whipped up this salsa to accompany our tea of fajitas tonight. All of the ingredients were at hand, and the process was particularly uninvolved. The flavours of this salsa are verbose and vibrant. Sweet juicy mango, tangy tomato, searing chilli. Simply delicious.

Mango Salsa

Makes 3 cups or so

Cheek of a fresh mango

1 tomato

¼ large red onion

Fresh chilli, to taste

Juice of ½ lime

1/3 c. fresh herbs

Salt and pepper to taste

Finely dice the mango, after removing the skin. (Reserve the remainder for a smoothy, or more salsa tomorrow!) Half and de-seed the tomato. Finely dice it, as well as the onion. If you desire, de-seed the chilli and finely chop. Place these prepared ingredients in a bowl and mix well. Spritz over the lime juice, sprinkle on the herbs – I had some coriander, as well as mint and parsley from the garden – after you have roughly chopped them. Mix ingredients together again. Season to taste.

Place the salsa into the fridge for around an hour before serving. The flavours will combine together well, with sweetness and heat permeating the mixture.

Serve the salsa as you see fit. Try it alongside guacamole and corn chips. Or on top of chicken fajitas with sour cream and cheese.

Adapted from Jake Tilson’s A Tale of 12 Kitchens.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Anzacs with a twist...

Anzacs are a real Aussie tradition. They began supposedly during the first world war, when care packages were sent to the troops. As Australia is a long way from Europe, bread and other goodies tended not to last on the journey there. Rather than just send socks, the Aussie women left behind began baking using ingredients that would not perish. So no eggs, not just flour, and something that would work dipped into a hot cup of tea. Thus the ANZAC biscuit was invented. ANZAC stands for the Australian and New Zealand Army Corp, and is the general name given to the Australian war/fighting spirit. And the biscuit is a childhood staple for many.

My mother used to make Anzacs just before we got home from school. They were hot and soft and delicious. Unfortunately I was put off them after a Home Ec class in year 7 of my education. These bickies get harder the longer they are left in the oven, so hard they can break teeth. I didn't believe the teacher when she told us this, and I cooked my batch for far too long. They were inedible. And I stopped making them.

This recipe though was made before I realised what I had actually done. It was only when there were in the oven that I realised I had just created. I was shocked. No eggs, lots of flour, being held together with golden syrup. I had made the great Aussie biscuit without knowing it! It was the figs that sucked me in, if the truth be known. I love a dried fig, and wanted a "healthy" treat for a work morning tea. And thus I've been converted back to the Anzac fold - so long as there is dried fruit embedded in them!

Figy Anzacs
Makes around 16 biscuits

1/2 c. plain flour
1/2 tsp bicarb soda
75 g raw sugar
75 g oats
100 g dried figs, finely chopped
75 g butter
2 tbs golden syrup

Pre-heat oven to 170 o C. Ensure oven shelves divide the oven into thirds.
Sift flour and bicarb together into a large bowl. Add the sugar, oats and figs. Stir to combine.

In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine the butter and golden syrup. Stir occasionally and wait until they have melted together. Remove from heat and leave to sit for around 3 minutes.

Pour the butter mix into the dry ingredients. Stir well to combine. Using your hands, shape the mixture into golf ball sized rounds (or just slightly smaller). Place onto lined baking trays.

Bake in oven for 13 minutes, rotating the trays after 8 minutes of cooking time. Remove from oven, cool slightly on the tray before transferring to a wire rack to cool. Store in an airtight container.

Adapted from Delicious Magazine Nov 2003. Original recipe by Jane Clarke.