Category Archives: Food glorious food

Milk and Chocolate Shortbread

This is another Offspring special, a basic shortbread recipe with added chunks of Plaistowe dark cooking chocolate. My contribution was the milk. πŸ˜€

The photo is a little washed out because it was taken at night with a flash. The shortbread actually looks more like this:

For those who have never tasted shortbread before, it’s an odd combination of dry, crumbly texture that literally melts in your mouth. It’s very easy to make and we love it. If you want to try it yourself, the recipe follows:

Traditional Shortbread [with added chocolate]

Note: the recipe is on the back of the McKenzie’s rice flour packet, and you will need rice flour in addition to ordinary wheat flour.

Ingredients:
  • 225 gm of plain flour [all purpose flour], sifted,
  • 115 gm of rice flour, sifted
  • 115 gm of caster sugar, sifted
  • pinch of salt
  • 225 gm of unsalted, room temperature butter [do NOT use spreadable butter as the oil and/or process used changes how the butter works in recipes].
  • about 1/4 cup good quality cooking chocolate, chopped into smallish ‘chunks’. We used Plaistowe cooking chocolate because it’s actually good enough to eat on its own so long as you don’t like your chocolate very sweet.
Method

Pre-heat oven to 150 C. This is a slow oven.

Grease your baking tray [we didn’t, we lined it with baking paper instead].

Combine both flours, sugar and salt in a bowl.

Rub in butter and knead gently until a smooth dough forms.

Add the chopped chocolate and gently mix into the dough.

The recipe says to transfer the dough to a floured surface and ‘shape as required’. That basically means you can cut pretty shapes out of it. We don’t do any of that. We place the dough directly onto the baking tray and spread it out by hand or with the back of a spoon until it’s about the right ‘depth’. Shortbread should not be thick! 1/2 an inch is more than thick enough.

Prick the dough with a fork. We also ‘score’ the surface lightly with a knife. This makes cutting the cooked shortbread easier.

Bake for 20 – 30 minutes until a light, golden brown. The end.

A tip from us: leave the shortbread on the tray and gently cut along the scored lines while the shortbread is still a bit soft and pliable. The shortbread will firm up as it cools. Cutting it once it’s cold and crumbly is…not very successful.

And there you have it. Another day, another treat. If you have favourite treats of your own, please link to them in comments. Oh, and if you have favourite cups or dishes to go with the treats, please link them as well.

Cheers
Meeks


Red Tea and Sweet Bread

I did no work for this post whatsoever. The Offspring made the sweet bread rolls, and I can’t even tell you where the cup-and-saucer came from as the mark is so small and smudged I couldn’t make out even a single letter. But it is pretty. πŸ™‚

The bread rolls turned out to be delicious, and vaguely reminiscent of croissants. Not as fluffy and flaky, of course, but the kind of flavour that you could eat with either jam or something more savoury. Definitely a hit.

The Offspring found the recipe for the bread rolls on Youtube and followed the instructions on the video. There are a lot of breadmaking videos so here’s a selection of good ones:

All three videos use plain [all purpose] flour, egg, butter, yeast, salt and sugar, but the techniques are slightly different. Oh, and the buns won’t rise quite so well if you make the gap between each ball too wide – i.e. they need to be close enough to support each other as they rise.

And now for the red tea. I couldn’t get the same ‘pink’ tea as before, so this time I tried Twinings ‘Cranberry & Pomegranate’. The flavour is great but it’s the smell that blows me away. I think they add hibiscus to the tea because the aroma is strong, distinctive and fruity/flowery.

-blush- Apologies, I sound like some wine buff waffling on about the ‘bouquet’ but honestly, the smell is divine, and that’s coming from someone who loves coffee!

If you’ve had a special treat lately, I’d love to hear about it. πŸ™‚

cheers
Meeks



Coffee and pop tarts

For your gastronomic pleasure, I present the Offspring’s home made apple pop tarts!

And one of my beloved lustreware cup-and-saucer sets:

Oddly enough, it wasn’t until today that I noticed this set is made in Japan as well:

I really have had a love affair with Japan for most of my life!

And now for the pop tarts. This is not a hard and fast recipe so you’ll have to adjust the quantities to suit your own tastes.

The pastry is plain old, shop bought, frozen shortcrust. You should be able to use flaky or puff pastry as well. It just so happened that shortcrust was what we had in the freezer.

The Offspring allowed the sheets to thaw and then cut each one into quarters. One quarter for each pop tart.

The filling is where things get truly yummy. The apples are Granny Smiths but any tart, cooking apple will do. Sweet apples just don’t have enough flavour.

After washing the apples, the Offspring simply cut out the core and chopped the apple into bite-sized chunks. No peeling required. The skin actually adds to the flavour.

The apple went into a saucepan with some brown sugar [suit your own tastes], a lot of cinnamon, 1/2 a teaspoon of allspice and…a splash of champagne. The champagne is not mandatory, but like the pastry, it was what we had left over from the Un-Christmas dinner last year.

And before you ask, the Offspring doesn’t drink and I don’t like champagne so cooking is a great way of not wasting a perfectly good bottle of booze. I also use it in my Bolognese because I’ve been out of Shiraz for months. The champagne is ‘dry’ so it works pretty well.

The trick to making the apple is not to overcook it. Any liquid you add, whether it be wine or water, should only be enough to stop the apples from burning before they release their own juices. You really do not want to make apple sauce! As soon as the apples are cooked but still firm, remove the pan from the heat and allow to cool.

Preheat the oven to moderate [about 375F or 180C].

To assemble the pop tarts, place a generous spoonful of the cold apple in the middle of the square of pastry, moisten the edges with a little water [so the pastry will stick to itself], fold over, removing as much air as you can [without going insane about it], and press the edges closed.

Make a few small holes in the top of the pop tarts with the point of a sharp knife. This is to allow the steam to escape. Otherwise you might end up with exploding pop tarts. πŸ™‚

Place the pop tarts on a baking tray and glaze with a little warm apricot jam [optional]. Bake in the middle of a moderate oven for about 10 minutes. The exact timing will depend upon your oven.

When the pop tarts are golden brown, remove from the oven and transfer to a cake rack to cool a little.

Warning: the apple inside these tarts is VERY hot. We discovered this the hard way…;)

The pop tarts will keep in the fridge for about three days, and we’ve found that they reheat beautifully. Just pop them back in the over for about 5 minutes.

Enjoy,
Meeks

p.s. I’m trying hard to get back into writing so I won’t be posting as much for a while. Don’t worry though, we’re both quite healthy!


Cookies and Milk

The title of this post should have been ‘Coffee and Cake’, but we made the Triple Choc Chocolate biscuits last night, and it was too late for coffee, so…

Ahem. The Offspring and I adore these biscuits because they really are made with three lots of chocolate. There’s cocoa and melted chocolate in the biscuit dough, and then there are lumps of chocolate in each biscuit as well [the recipe is at the end of this post].

You can see how gooey and melted and divine those lumps of chocolate are here:

and here:

and here:

That’s why these biscuits are at their most divine straight from the oven. They are delicious cold as well, but not quite as delicious. πŸ™‚

Now, a word about sweetness. If you love super sweet, commercial biscuits, you will not love these triple choc biscuits. There is sugar in the biscuit dough, but not a huge amount, and the chocolate is unsweetened, dark chocolate. The cocoa is unsweetened, Dutch cocoa as well so the overall effect is not overly sweet.

There, you have been warned. For everyone else, I hope you enjoy the following recipe. πŸ™‚

Provenance: Vogue Entertaining & Travel, June/July 1999.

[We only ever make half quantities at a time so I’ve provided the cut down quantities in brackets. They’re not exactly half quantities, but they work.]

Ingredients

1 1/4 cups plain or all purpose flour [1/2 a cup and a ‘bit’]
2 tablespoons unsweetened Dutch cocoa [1 tablespoon ]
1 teaspoon baking powder [1/2 a teaspoon]
3/4 of a teaspoon salt [1/4 teaspoon]
500 gm good quality bittersweet dark chocolate [250 gm]
125 gm unsalted butter [60 gm]
1/2 cup sugar [1/4 cup sugar]
3 large eggs [add 1 whole egg, then crack a second egg into a bowl, beat it and add half of the beaten egg only]

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 180o C or 356 F [make it a little less if using fan forced]
  2. Line a large baking sheet with baking paper
  3. In a large bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa, baking powder and salt
  4. Melt 3/4 of the dark chocolate [about 190 gm if making half quantities] with the butter in a small saucepan – don’t let it burn!
  5. Remove the saucepan from the heat and stir in the sugar [I let the mixture cool a tiny bit before the next step]
  6. Stir in the eggs, one at a time until well mixed
  7. Add to the flour mixture and mix until just combined
  8. Cover the dough with cling wrap and chill for up to 1 hour
  9. Remove teaspoon sized balls of dough and place on the baking sheet, about 3.5 cm or 2 inches apart [the balls will expand a lot as they bake]
  10. Push small [or larger] chips of the dark chocolate into each biscuit [we like big gooey lumps so tend to use 1 large piece in instead of 2 or 3 smaller ones]
  11. Bake in the middle of a hot oven for 10 minutes or until just done. I set a timer for 8 minutes, turn the sheet, and reset the timer for another 2 minutes. The biscuits should feel slightly squishy to the touch. This is what you want as they will harden as they cool. If you leave them in for even 2 minutes longer, they’ll be hard and biscuity instead of soft and chewy.
  12. Allow the biscuits to cool on the baking sheet for 5 minutes before transferring them to a cooling rack. That’s the official line. The unofficial line is that you can eat them as soon as they don’t burn your fingers….

Have a wonderful day, and don’t eat the Triple Choc Biscuits all at once!

cheers
Meeks


Coffee and cake, 28th April, 2020

Coffee with toasted cheese and bacon bread

I was tempted to change the title to ‘Coffee and Toast’ but decided to go with consistency instead. πŸ™‚

I’d like to start by thanking Robbie for the bread recipe. I had to make a couple of substitutions, but the end result was a million times better than I’d hoped. You can find the recipe at the end of this post.

And now for the cup and saucer. Back in the dim and distant past, my Mum gave me two cup-and-saucer sets. They’re Lustreware and quite beautiful.

Ever since then, I’ve been haunting op. shops [second hand opportunity shops] to add to my collection. I now have quite a few beautiful pieces. Most are not Lustreware but they are lovely in their own ways, so I thought I’d give each set its own 5 minutes of fame. Ta dah:

As always, apologies for the photography.

If you look at the bottom of the cup you’ll see a mark that says ‘Hand painted, Nippon.’

Nippon was the old name for Japan, but I can’t imagine that a Japanese company would put a mark written in English on its product, so…? No idea. If there are any experts out there, I’d love to know the story behind this piece.

And now for the bread recipe. I’ll start by saying I’ve rarely baked anything this easy. Plus, the recipe is most forgiving of substitutions. And finally, I love the fact that I almost always have the ingredients in my pantry and fridge.

Robbie’s Cheese & Olive bread [my substitutions are in italics]

Ingredients
500 grams self raising flour (I didn’t have SR flour so I used cake/plain flour and added 15 ml (3 teaspoons) of baking powder);
2 cups (500 ml) grated yellow cheese (I used strong gouda) [I only had mozzarella so used that, not cheesy enough but okay];
5 ml (1 teaspoon) salt;
2 cups (500 ml) plain yogurt; and
200 grams of black olives, drained, stoned and halved [I didn’t have olives so used 2 rashers of middle bacon cut into small squares]
Method
Sieve the flour and salt into a mixing bowl. Add the grated cheese and olives. Make a well in the centre and add the yogurt. Mix until it forms a sticky dough. [I found that I couldn’t incorporate all the dry ingredients without making the dough too tough so about 2 tbspns of dry mix left over. I used thick pot set Jalna yoghurt which may have been less ‘wet’]

Place in a prepared loaf tin and bake in the oven for 50 minutes at a temperature of 190 degrees Celsius. [I used fan bake which may have been a little too hot. As each oven is different, check the bread before the 50 minutes just in case].

This is what the loaf looked like when it came out of the oven:

The loaf is a tiny bit over done, but I love a good crust so I’m very happy with both the taste and the texture.

There are many things I miss not doing during this pandemic, but the one thing I miss eating is nice bread. We’ve never liked commercial sliced bread, the Woolworths bakery bread is…not that nice, and my home made efforts have been a little disappointing. This is the first time I’ve managed to reproduce a type of bread I used to buy once a week, as a treat.

Do you have a special treat that makes you happy? Please share in comments. And remember, it doesn’t have to be DIY!

cheers
Meeks


Sourdough from scratch

I don’t actually like the taste of sourdough, sorry, but I absolutely loved this Youtube demonstration of how to create your own sourdough starter.

You know how I’m obsessed with teaching ‘absolute beginners’? Well, this video how-to is literally the best I have seen. It’s clear, perfectly paced and step-by-step, with no small-but-vital bits of knowledge taken for granted.

Seriously, if sourdough is your thing, this video could change your life.

You’re welcome. πŸ˜€

Meeks


Coffee and cake

Coffee and a buttered cheese scone

Okay, that is not a picture of coffee and cake, it’s a picture of coffee and a scone, but let’s not get too thingie about it. πŸ˜€

I’m posting this picture because an online friend mentioned how hard it was not to be able to share coffee and a chat with her friends. That’s something I’ve missed as well, so I’m going to share some home baked ‘something’ once a week.

When the ‘something’ is home made, I’ll share the recipe, but I don’t bake all the time so it may just be a pic of coffee [or tea] and a biscuit. πŸ™‚

If you feel like doing the same, please leave a link to your ‘coffee and cake’ post in comments so we can all share a chat and a bit of togetherness.

Okay, I’ve already posted about the cheese scones so click here to see the recipe. No apologies for cheating. πŸ˜€

cheers

Meeks


Recipe – Italian rice croquettes

The Offspring and I are trying to reduce the amount of meat in our diet and have discovered some sensational vegetarian dishes. Rice croquettes [or Arancini here] are one such delectable dish:

This one, lonely croquette is the only one of the 18 that survived for the photo. The rest were wolfed down. πŸ™‚ To give you some idea of size, that’s a bread-and-butter plate with sliced sweet and sour pickled cucumber on the side.

The dish we actually ate was served with raw julienned carrots, pickles and a dipping sauce made from one, beautifully ripe avocado, mashed, and mixed with about two tablespoons of Jalna Greek yoghurt. Thisyoghurt is pot set, creamy and absolutely plain. Beautiful stuff. πŸ™‚

Oh, I forgot, inside each croquette there was one of these:

These are baby Bocconcini – small mozzarella balls around which the rice croquette mixture is formed. In hindsight, getting the very small ones may have been a bit of a mistake as the flavour was a little lost amidst the rice, but still, very moorish. πŸ™‚

I found the recipe for the rice croquettes in an old, slightly battered cookbook that I picked up from an op. shop many years ago. The book is called ‘The Italian Cookbook’ and was written by Maria Luisa Taglienti, copyright 1955. I haven’t cooked many of the recipes, but each one I did try worked beautifully. So here’s my version of rice croquettes. πŸ™‚

Ingredients

2 cups of rice [I usually cook with long grain rice but bought arborio rice just for this recipe. It was worth it]

3 tablespoons ready-cooked tomato sauce [I wasn’t sure what she meant by tomato sauce so I used I sacchet of Leggos tomato paste. The flavour of the rice was delicious]

4 tablespoons butter [I used lightly salted butter as I prefer to sprinkle a little more salt on top rather than over salt the whole dish]

1/2 cup of grated Parmesan cheese [I used shaved Parmesan and added a little more to get the correct amount]

2 eggs, beaten

1 cup diced bel paese or soft white cream cheese [I didn’t know what Bel Paese cheese was so looked it up and found it could be used as a substitute for mozzarella, so I bought the Bocconcini. Next time I may try a cream cheese instead]

1.5 cups of breadcrumbs

2 cups of olive oil [I don’t like deep frying so I only used just under 1 cup and substituted peanut oil for olive oil as it is excellent for frying].

Method

I thought I might have to cook the rice like a risotto with the tomato sauce, but you boil it in salted water instead [approximately 15 minutes].

Next, you have to drain the rice and allow it to cool completely. I made two mistakes here. First, I rinsed the rice instead of just draining it. I think it would have been easier to form the croquettes if I’d left the starch on the grains of rice [to make them stick together better]. The second mistake was that I didn’t leave enough time for the rice to cool. It took well over an hour at room temperature, so dinner was a bit later than usual. Next time I make these croquettes, I’ll boil the rice ahead of time so it’s ready to go by the time I’m ready to cook.

Next, I removed about 20 Bocconcini from the liquid in which they come and allowed them to drain thoroughly.

Once the rice cooled sufficiently, I mixed in the tomato paste/sauce, butter, Parmesan cheese and beaten eggs. You can use a spoon or fork but hands really are the best for this. Besides, you’ll have to form the mix in your hands anyway so why make more washing up for yourself? -grin-

Forming the croquettes is messy but relatively easy. Place a spoonful of the rice mixture in the palm of your hand. Squeeze it with the other hand until it holds together. Make a small indentation in the middle and place one of the Bocconcini in the indentation. Cover with another spoonful of rice mixture and squeeze together to form a firm ball. Roll the ball in breadcrumbs and set aside.

Continue forming the croquettes until all the mixture has been used up. I made about 18 croquettes, but they were smallish.

Once the croquettes were formed, I heated the oil in a heavy, cast iron pot rather than a frying pan. The pot was big enough to hold 3 or 4 croquettes and the oil came to about 1/3 of the way up their sides. I allowed the croquettes to fry gently, turning as required. When they were golden brown all over, I eased them out with a slotted spoon and arranged them in a pile on a platter with the avocado dip and the julienned vegetables.

Enjoy!

Meeks

 


Fried Rice with Soffritto

Most people know what fried rice is, but I bet very few of you know what ‘soffritto’ is. Don’t worry, I’ll give you a hint, in French it’s called ‘mirepoix’. Still no takers? Don’t feel bad. I didn’t know what soffritto was until a few months ago either.

Okay, no more teasing. Soffritto is an Italian flavour base made of onion, celery and carrot. All three ingredients are chopped very fine and then sauteed in olive oil or butter until they soften. When used in a bolognese, for example, the soffritto cooks down so much that you can’t distinguish the separate ingredients. But you can taste the rich flavour they impart to the dish.

For those with an inquiring mind, here’s a link to a full explanation:

http://www.italianfoodforever.com/2011/11/soffritto-the-holy-trinity-of-italian-cuisine/

But what does an Italian flavour base have to do with an Asian dish? It turns said dish into a one-wok meal, that’s what!

This is a picture of what the finished dish looks like:

Apologies for the shadow. My head got in the way.

As you can see from the photo, there’s a lot going on in this dish. Apart from the carrot and celery there’s red capsicum, chopped bacon, sweet corn, spring onions and one egg. The dish would have been a bit healthier if I’d added some pulses, but that was a step too far, even for me. Read on for the recipe.

Ingredients

1 cup of long grain rice cooked using the absorption method [or any kind of rice you have on hand].

2 rashers of middle bacon, rind removed.

1 egg

1/2 of a red capsicum cut into thin strips

1 large stick of celery, washed and cut into thin strips

1 medium carrot, peeled and cut into thin strips

1 corn on the cob, cooked

3 spring onions [mostly the whites]

1 – 2 tablespoons of peanut oil

a few drops of sesame oil

about 1 tablespoon of light Soy Sauce to drizzle over

Method

Add the oil to the wok and bring it to medium heat. [I have a cast iron ring that sits on my gas burner and raises the wok above the flames. Highly recommended as it ensures more even heat to the wok].

Add the chopped bacon and fry gently until the bacon is just coloured.

Add the carrots, celery and capsicum to the bacon, lower the heat and sautee very gently [approx. 10 minutes]. It will look something like this:

Some of you may have noticed that my soffritto vegetables didn’t include onion. That’s because I’ll be using the spring onions to add a slightly more Asian flavour at the end of the dish. Oh, and the capsicum is in there because I really like capsicum. πŸ™‚

While the soffritto mix is softening, cut the kernels of corn off the cob and give them a rough chop:

You can also chop the spring onions but do NOT add them to the dish yet.

Once the soffritto is done, add the corn and toss through the other ingredients:

Allow the corn to heat through for a minute or two and then add the rice:

Break the rice up in the wok and toss it through the soffritto base to absorb all those delicious flavours.

It was at this point of the cooking that I suddenly remembered I hadn’t cooked the egg ahead of time. Oh woe! Luckily, fried rice is a very forgiving dish. I pushed the rice to one side, cracked an egg straight into the wok and quickly turned it into scrambled egg with the spatula I use to toss the rice:

As always, abject apologies for the out-of-focus photo. 😦

Once the egg is incorporated into the rice mixture, there are only 3 ingredients left to add. Sprinkle a few drops of sesame oil over the rice [a little goes a long way]. Next, sprinkle or slosh the soy sauce on top. Add the chopped spring onions and quickly toss through the fried rice.

And that’s it. Serve in a small bowl and eat however you wish, chop sticks, forks, spoons, who cares. πŸ™‚

If you have any rice left over, scrape it into a small saucepan and place in the fridge. When you’re ready to reheat, simply add a teaspoon of water to the pot – to stop the rice from burning – cover and steam gently for about 5 minutes.

Buon appetito!

chΔ« chΔ« chī” 吃吃吃 [I think this mean ‘eat, eat, eat’. Please correct me if it’s wrong!]

cheers

Meeks

 

 


Recipe – Toasted Muesli base

Just made a batch of toasted muesli and thought I’d share:

As always, apologies for the poor picture quality. My purpose though, was to show the colour of the muesli when it’s done. Getting it to this degree of doneness took approximately 30 minutes in a low oven [Fan bake 150 C/Fahrenheit 302]. You may also notice that there is no fruit in the muesli. All of the extras are added after the muesli base has finished toasting. Or if you’re like me, you can just eat the base on its own with milk.

Okay, enough of the prologue. Here’s the recipe:

  1. Place 3 cups of rolled oats in a large baking dish.
  2. Add 1 cup of almond meal and mix.
  3. In a small pot, place
    1. 1 tablespoon of good apricot jam and 2 tablespoons of raw sugar [or make it all apricot jam].
    2. 1 tablespoon of good oil [I use peanut coz it’s mild but olive would be good too].
    3. 1/2 teaspoon of Cassia cinnamon*
    4. 1/4 cup water
  4. Bring the wet ingredients to a gentle simmer – just enough to make the mixture easy to pour.
  5. Pour the wet ingredients over the dry ingredients and mix thoroughly by hand. It’s a little sticky but the best way to get the flavour all through the oats.
  6. Place the pan of muesli in the middle of a cool oven [Fan bake 150 C/Fahrenheit 302] and bake for about 30 minutes.
  7. VERY IMPORTANT: Stir the muesli every 5 minutes or so to ensure it ‘toasts’ evenly instead of burning on the bottom.
  8. When the muesli is the right colour, remove the pan from the oven and allow to cool.
  9. When the muesli is completely cool, place in an air-tight container. Will last in the pantry for about 2 weeks.

Now, a word about quantities and taste: I do not like my muesli sweet, so if you have a sweet tooth, this recipe will need adjustment. I suggest doubling the quantity of sugar/jam and trying it out. If it’s too sweet, you can reduce the sweetness one tablespoon at a time until you get exactly the degree of sweetness you prefer. And that, my friends, is the only reason anyone should make their own toasted muesli!

cheers

Meeks

p.s. Cassia cinnamon* is not the same as the cinnamon found in most supermarkets. It has a stronger, more aromatic scent and flavour, which is why it’s used by bakers. Cassia cinnamon can be found quite easily on the internet and I would strongly recommend buying some, especially if you have a problem with pre-diabetes. Apparently it helps balance blood sugar:

https://www.webmd.com/vitamins/ai/ingredientmono-1002/cassia-cinnamon

 


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