Category Archives: recipes

Apricot cake & triple-choc-biscuits

I remembered to take some photos this time so here are our latest baking creations [recipes follow for those so inclined]:

First up, the apricot cake:

All the apricots in the cake came from our own harvest, which was quite spectacular. These are photos of what we picked five days ago:

and these:

The total haul has probably been twice that much, all of it with a sweetness you have to taste to believe. We literally have apricots coming out of our ears. This is a pic of the compote we preserved:

The instrument of torture in the foreground is for removing boiling hot bottles from the sterilizing water. Worth every penny!

And finally the biscuits [cookies to my US friends]:

The odd lumps in the middle are whole pieces of chocolate [some dark some dairy milk] that bake with the biscuits. Like my chocolate mousse cake, this is something we don’t make often because it, too, is death-by-chocolate. If you scroll down to the recipe you’ll see why. I may have to go on a starvation diet once the last of the indulgences are eaten. 🙂

RECIPES!

Apricot Cake 

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 170 C [165 C if using fan forced] or 360 F.
  2. Lightly grease a 10″ [ 25 cm] diameter ringform cake tin and line the bottom with grease proof baking paper.
  3. Separate four large eggs. Place the yolks into a small bowl and the whites into a mixing bowl.
  4. Add 75 gm of caster sugar to the egg whites, plus a tiny pinch of salt, and beat on high until shiny and very stiff. Set aside in a cool place but not the fridge. You do not need to wash the beaters.
  5. In a second mixing bowl, place 200 gm of room temperature, unsalted butter and another 75 gm of caster sugar.
  6. Cream the butter and sugar until it’s pale and creamy.
  7. Add the egg yolks one at a time, beating well between each addition.
  8. Gently fold the stiff egg whites into the creamed butter. Do not over mix.
  9. Sift 200 gm of self raising flour and fold into the butter/egg mix. The cake mix will be quite firm. Only fold until it’s just combined.
  10. Pour the cake mix into the prepared tin and gently press to the edges.
  11. Lightly press fresh apricot halves all over the top of the cake mix. [I used about 3/4 of a kilo of fruit. If you want to use less, reduce the baking time a little to compensate].
  12. Place the cake in the middle of a preheated oven and bake for approx. 45 – 50 minutes. Do not open the oven for the first 20 minutes of baking.
  13. As the cake cooks it will rise up around the fruit. The cake is cooked when it shrinks slightly from the sides of the baking dish and/or a skewer pressed into the middle comes out clean [i.e. not sticky-gooey].
  14. Take the cake out of the over and allow to stand, in the baking dish, for about 5 minutes.
  15. Remove the outer ringform and place the cake [still on the bottom of the pan] onto a wire rack.
  16. Using the baking paper, gentle ease the cake off the bottom of the pan and onto the rack.
  17. When the cake is a bit cooler, and firmer, you can finally ease it off the baking paper as well. I wait until the cake is cool and then ease it straight onto the serving platter I intend to use.
  18. Dust the top of the cake with a little icing sugar [optional] and serve on its own or with cream. Bon appetit!

Triple Choc Biscuits

The main ingredient of this recipe is chocolate. I kid you not, a total of 500 gms of chocolate! 😀

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 180 C [375 F] or about 175 C if using fan forced.
  2. Prepare the baking trays you will use to bake the biscuits. We used an Avanti biscuit press to make the smaller biscuits and discovered it does NOT work on baking paper; the biscuit dough has to be pressed directly onto the baking tray. We also made large, manual ‘balls’ of dough. These we placed on baking paper.
  3. Chop approx. 450 gm of dark cooking chocolate or a mix of dark and milk chocolate. We used 1/2 and 1/2 of Plaistowe Dark and Dairy Milk Chocolate. Reserve approx. 50 gm for the choc chip ‘dots’.
  4. Gently melt the 450 gms of chocolate with 125 gms of unsalted butter. [In the past, I’ve also use Slightly Salted Butter and simply omitted the salt later on]. You can use a microwave or simply use a bowl placed over a pot of gently simmering water on the stove.
  5. Remove the melted chocolate from the heat and stir in 1/2 a cup of caster sugar. It will look quite granular.
  6. Next, stir in 3 large, whole eggs, one at a time.
  7. Finally, sift 1 1/4 cups of plain flour with 2 tablespoons of unsweetened cocoa, 1 teaspoon of baking powder and a good pinch of salt. [If using slightly salted butter, omit the pinch of salt].
  8. Add the flour mix to the chocolate mix and stir until just combined.
  9. Cover the dough with cling wrap and place in the fridge for up to 1 hour [minimum of 10 minutes].
  10. Remove the dough from the the fridge and use a biscuit press to mould the biscuits.
  11. If you don’t have a biscuit press, scoop out a spoonful of dough with a spoon, very lightly roll into a ball and place the ball on the baking paper covered tray.
  12. Leave enough room on the tray for the biscuits to expand as they bake.
  13. When all the biscuits have been formed, gently press a small knob of chocolate into the middle of each biscuit and bake.
  14. For the Avanti biscuits, baking time should be no more that 6 minutes.
  15. For the hand-rolled balls, baking time should be around 10 minutes.
  16. The biscuits will still be a little soft when you take them out of the oven. Leave them on the baking tray until they firm up.
  17. Place biscuits on wire racks to finish cooling. Store in an air-tight container for up to 3 days [if they last that long]. 🙂

Oh, and…enjoy!

Meeks

 

 


A European Christmas…Downunder

As some of you may know, I was born in Hungary and was four when we arrived in Australia as refugees. To keep some of our Hungarian heritage alive, we spoke only Hungarian at home, and we always celebrated Christmas on the 24th. That’s a tradition the Offspring and I have continued to this very day, so we’ve already had our Christmas, but now I’d like to invite you all to share a digital Christmas feast with us. 🙂

We had duck last year, so this year I decided to cook a whole eye fillet with scalloped potatoes [a la Mumma], and the Offspring made a huge green salad. No turkey [not fond of turkey], and salad instead of hot vegetables because it was hot, hot, hot yesterday. I think it got to about 35 C [roughly 95F].As it was, to counteract the heat of the oven, we had to have the air conditioner on all day.

If any of you cooks out there are interested, I made a stuffing/marinade for the eye fillet by mixing together:

  • 3 large cloves of garlic [mashed],
  • 1 tablespoon of dijon mustard,
  • 1-2 tablespoons of peanut oil,
  • 1 tablespoon of fresh, finely chopped parsley,
  • freshly ground black pepper,
  • a pinch of dried chillies,
  • a heaped tablespoon of breadcrumbs,
  • a pinch of salt.

Next, I lightly scored the ‘skin’ of the eye fillet [just enough to expose the meat underneath] and gently pressed the stuffing/marinade all over the top of the fillet. Then I placed the fillet in a small baking dish, covered it with foil and placed it back in the fridge for about 8 hours [overnight is fine too].

About an hour before we were ready to eat, I placed the dish containing the fillet in a cold oven and turned on the heat [approx. 160 C on fanbake]. I left the foil on for the first 1/2 an hour so the meat would cook gently.

After 1/2 an hour, I removed the foil and continued baking the fillet for another 1/2 an hour until the ‘stuffing’ on top turned into a crust. I allowed the fillet to rest for about 15 minutes before serving.

Baking the fillet for an hour created a moist, juicy roast that was just a tiny bit pinkish in the middle. That’s how we like our beef. If you want your beef to be more rare, reduce the amount of time the fillet stays under foil.

I have to say that the fillet was literally melt-in-the-mouth tender, and the tiny bit of heat from the chillies went perfectly with the full cream goodness of the scalloped potatoes and the tart freshness of the salad.

Everyone has a scalloped potato recipe, and mine comes from my Mum. It starts with pink, Desiree potatoes. I cooked them, in their skins, along with the eggs. The eggs came out first, obviously, and went straight under cold tap water. The cold water causes the inner membrane of the eggs to slightly detach from the whites so the eggs are dead easy to peel.

Next, I tested the potatoes with a bamboo skewer. As soon as the skewer just managed to go through, I drained the water and plunged the potatoes into cold water as well. Again, this made it much easier to peel the skin, plus it stopped them from cooking further.

Finally, I sliced both eggs and potatoes and layered them in a baking dish with a generous drizzle of cream and a sprinkle of table salt between in each layer. I drizzled more cream over the top, then placed the dish into the same oven as the fillet. When the potatoes turned a golden brown, everything was ready to come out of the oven:

To say that the potatoes were rich would be a monumental understatement. To cut that much richness, you just have to have a big salad:

The Offspring made the salad with Romaine lettuce, sweet red capsicum [peppers?], cucumber and spring onions [scallions?]. The dressing included oil, Balsamic vinegar, crushed garlic, Dijon mustard, salt and freshly chopped parsley [about 1 tablespoon].

But, of course, no feast would be complete without dessert. The Offspring made Gingerboys, lots and lots of Gingerboys:

…and I made chocolate mousse cupcakes:

These cupcakes were made using the exact same recipe as for Chocolate Mousse Cake. The only difference was in the banking. I made ten little sponge cupcakes [approx. 7 minutes in the over], glued two together with about an inch of chocolate mouse and shaved dark chocolate over the top. Bite sized versions of death-by-chocolate. 😀

Wherever you are, and whatever you’re doing, The Offspring and I wish you all a very happy Holiday with oodles of delicious food and even more good company.

-massive hugs-

Meeks & The Offspring

Christmas 2018

 


Schnitzel – tips & tricks

I rarely order schnitzel in restaurants because it’s almost always awful – thin, dry and tasteless. If you dislike conventional schnitzel as well, this recipe is for you.

SCHNITZEL from Meeka’s Mum

Moist, tender schnitzel begins with good meat:

  • Pale, young veal,
  • Yearling beef,
  • Chicken thigh fillets [not breast!],
  • Pork [lean].

Next, the meat should not be ‘tenderised’. You want it thick so it doesn’t dry out into a nasty piece of crumbed leather.

To begin, sprinkle a little table salt over the meat and pop it back in the fridge until you’re ready to start preparing the schnitzel. Minimum resting time is half an hour but you can leave it overnight if necessary. [The salt will give the meat just the right amount of ‘tenderising’].

Next I prepare three bowls, 2 small, one large:

Once the meat has tenderised enough, dip the first piece into the flour and pat off the excess. Next, dip the floured meat into the beaten egg and allow the excess to drain off [just hold it on the end of a fork]. Finally, bury the meat in the breadcrumbs. This is why you need a big bowel. Press down on the meat with your knuckles to force lots of breadcrumbs into the meat. Turn, cover with more breadcrumbs and press down hard again. You should end up with a nice thick crust of breadcrumbs. Set aside.

Repeat the crumbing process until all the meat is ready to be cooked.

The final trick to perfect, tender, crunchy schnitzel is the cooking. You will pan fry it. You will not deep fry it.

I use a heavy cast iron frying pan on a medium gas burner. Adjust the heat to suit your frying pan/stove.

Pour just enough peanut oil into the bottom of the pan to cover to about 1/8th of an inch. [I always use peanut oil for frying because it works well with high heat and has a mild, pleasant flavour that doesn’t interfere with the flavour of the actual food].

The oil has to get hot but not to smoking temperature! To test the temperature, drop a breadcrumb into the middle of the hot oil. If the crumb immediately sizzles, the oil is ready.

When the oil is hot enough, gently place a couple of pieces of schnitzel in the pan, taking care to leave enough room around each piece so they all cook evenly. Now comes the critical step!

Turn the heat down as low as it will go and put a big lid over the top.

[The lid keeps the meat cooking at just the right temperature so it becomes tender but not dry and chewy].

When you hear activity from beneath the lid [5-10 minutes depending on the thickness of the meat and the heat of the oil], lift the lid and have a look. If the bottom of the meat is golden brown, flip each piece over and fry them for a few minutes more, without the lid, to make the second side crisp and crunchy.

 

[I did make schnitzel last night, but I forgot to take photos so this one is from freeimages.com. The shallow frying technique is exactly the same though.]

When frying the second side, be careful not to burn it. [The meat is already cooked so it browns much faster than the first side!]

Once both sides are golden brown, remove the meat from the pan and drain on absorbent paper or a few slices of bread.

Repeat the exact same cooking process until all the meat is cooked. [You may have to add a little extra oil between batches]. The schnitzel will be tender and juicy on the inside and crunchy on the outside.

 

Bon appetit!

Meeks


Fried Rice, from leftovers

I’m sitting here shoveling down the leftover fried rice from last night, but the leftovers began the night before. If you like fried rice and never know what to do with leftover roast chicken, read on.

Recipe – Fried Rice à la Meeka

Ingredients*

Leftover roast or braised chicken, meat removed from bones

Leftover cooked rice [boiled or via the absorption method]

1 – 2 rashers of middle bacon [or ham]

1 – 2 eggs

Capsicum, red [diced]

Spring onion [the white part, cleaned and chopped into small pieces] 

Leftover corn on the cob if available [kernels cut off the cob]

Sesame oil [a drop or two]

Soy Sauce [Light or dark]

Peanut oil for frying [it has a light, clean flavour that’s perfect for Chinese dishes, but I use it for everything]

A large wok

An egg slice or some other tool for stir frying the rice

*quantities will depend upon how many people are to be served and how much they like certain ingredients. As a rule of thumb, you’ll need approx. 1.5 – 2 cups of cooked rice for two medium sized people.

Method

Heat a couple of tablespoons of peanut oil in the wok until you can see a ‘heat haze’ rising from the oil.

While the oil is heating:

  • beat the egg[s]
  • cut the rind off the bacon and cut the meat and fat into small cubes/squares.
  • wash and cut the capsicum into small squares.

When the oil is hot, pour the beaten egg into the hot wok and swirl it around to spread it as much as possible [a bit like making a pancake].

When one side of the egg pancake is done, flip it over and cook the other side until it too is golden. Remove from wok and place on a cutting board. Cut into bite sized pieces and set aside.

Next, place the bacon pieces into the remaining oil along with the capsicum. Lower the heat and allow to cook gently until the bacon is nicely coloured but not quite crisp.

If using, add the corn kernels to the bacon and capsicum. Allow to cook gently for a few minutes more. [This is just to heat the corn through as it’s already cooked].

Remove the bacon, capsicum and corn from the oil. You can add it to the cooked egg.

Add a drop or two of sesame oil to the oil remaining in the wok. Don’t throw this oil out as it contains all the lovely flavours of the bacon etc!

Add the cooked rice to the wok and break up the lumps, tossing the rice almost constantly until the grains are nice and loose.

Return the egg, bacon, capsicum and corn to the wok and toss through the rice.

Add the pieces of cooked chicken.

Keep tossing until all the ingredients are heated through again, and the flavour has had a chance to spread through the rice.

Finally, add the chopped spring onions and a slosh of soy sauce to the rice. Do NOT overdo the soy sauce. 1/2 a tablespoon is more than enough at this stage. People can add more later, to suit their own tastes.

Toss the soy and the spring onions for a minute or two until the rice is slightly…beige? It will get a little colour from the soy, but it shouldn’t be brown. That means there’s too much soy!

Serve as is or braise some Chinese vegetables to serve with the rice.

To reheat the next day, place the leftover fried rice in a pot and add 1 tablespoon of water [the water will steam the rice and stop it from burning]. Cover and heat on a very low flame until it’s hot enough.

Bon appetit!

Meeks

 


Sunday decadence!

What do you do with a rich, moist cake that kind of falls apart? Easy, you make a trifle, of sorts. Then you eat it for Sunday brunch because…hey, all that cream will go off, right?

So…are you curious? Thought so. 😀

This first photo is actually showing the bottom of the cake. I put a heap of Morello cherries into the batter and they all sank to the bottom. Duh.

That meant the bottom stayed a bit wetter than the top, and that resulted in the top of the cake falling ‘away’ from the bottom when I decanted the cake onto the cooling rack. Sigh. Had to scrape the ‘bottom’ out and place it on top of the rest of the cake.

Note: the cake is a variation on the ‘Apricot and Olive Oil Cake’ recipe found in the ‘Made in Italy with Silvia Colloca’ cook book. And yes, it does use olive oil instead of butter. Anyway, when made according to the original recipe, the cake turns out perfectly every time. I made a few changes…

This next photo is a closeup of the cake showing the morello cherries [circled in yellow]:

So, anyway, the cake tasted sensational, it just looked sad. That’s when the Offspring had this brilliant idea: why not make some crème frangipane and turn the cake into a trifle?

I was a little skeptical, but as the cake had turned into an ugly duckling because of me, I could hardly demure.

The Offspring made the crème frangipane and proceeded to put a very simple trifle together [no jelly and the custard was kind of folded into the whipped cream, but who’s being a purist?]. Then we ate it…

No pics coz there’s no trifle left. You’re just going to have to take my word for how utterly delicious it was. 😀

But to show I do have a heart, here’s the recipe for the crème frangipane we used [it’s not the authentic French recipe, but it’s delicious and MUCH easier to make]:

Ingredients

1/3 cup caster sugar

1 tablespoon corn starch

2/3 cup full cream milk [light milk just doesn’t quite work]

1 egg yoke [from a fairly large, free-range egg]

300 ml of thickened cream [that can be whipped]

Method

Mix the sugar, corn starch and milk until there are no lumps. Then place the mix in a small saucepan and bring to the boil. Stir constantly until the mix thickens.

Take the pot off the heat and immediately stir in the egg yoke. [This is a kind of cheats custard].

The original recipe* says to flavour the custard with either Kirsch or vanilla, but we left it plain. At this point, the custard is very sweet.

Use a whisk, hand beater or an electric beater to whip the cream until it’s quite thick.

Place both the custard and the cream in the fridge until the custard has cooled.

Once the custard is quite cold, add the whipped cream and gently fold the two together. Ta dah!

You can use this crème frangipane as a filling or for any recipe that calls for sweetened cream. It’s so good. Also, so fat….:/

Hope your Sunday is as nice as mine,

cheers

Meeks

* The original recipe comes from the Sunset French Cook Book, 1976. This is my favourite cook book of all time. It’s falling apart, literally, but it has never failed me. 🙂

 


Spinach sauce with savoury French Toast – a recipe

This is a very Hungarian meal and may not be to everyone’s liking but Mum made it for me all through my childhood and I still make it for The Offspring [and myself].

Spinach sauce

1 large bunch of English spinach

2 cloves of garlic

3 tablespoons of plain [all purpose?] flour

2 tablespoon of Peanut or olive oil

milk

Method

Begin by stripping the spinach leaves off the stalks and washing them AT LEAST 3 times. This is the part I dislike because it takes time and patience but if you don’t get all the minute bits of grit or sand or whatever it is off the spinach leaves your sauce will crunch between your teeth – most unpleasant!

Once the spinach is clean put a small amount of water to boil in the bottom of a pot large enough to hold all the spinach. When the water is boiling throw the spinach into the pot, cover and let the spinach wilt for no more than 1 minute. As soon as the spinach collapses into a green ball remove from heat, strain through a colander and refresh with a quick rinse under cold water. Let it drain.

While the spinach is draining peel the garlic and mash it with a heavy knife. I find the easiest way to do this is to use the back of the knife to scrape away at the cloves until they break down into a paste. Garlic presses are no good because you end up with small bits of garlic that can be rather overpowering when you bite on them.

Once the garlic is mashed make a white roux with the oil and flour in a pot large enough to hold the finished spinach sauce.  To make the roux stir the flour and oil together over a gentle heat and keep stirring for about 2 minutes until the flour cooks. Do NOT let it go brown!

Remove the pot from the heat and stir in the mashed garlic. The roux can now sit for a little while.

Put the strained spinach onto a wooden chopping board and chop until very fine.

Add the chopped spinach to the roux and combine well until there are no lumps of white showing.

The next bit is a little hard to quantify but pour in at least 1 cup of cold milk and immediately stir into the spinach mixture. At this stage the sauce should be quite ‘wet’. If it looks too thick add a little more milk then return the pot to the heat and allow the sauce to come to a simmer. You must keep stirring [with a wooden spoon] until the sauce is completely cooked. Depending on quantities this could take ten minutes.

As the sauce simmers it will start to thicken and the spinach will ‘bleed’ that lovely green colour into the milk. The sauce is done when it has a nice overall green colour and has thickened to the point where you could almost eat it with a fork – so not runny but not like porridge either. Set aside while you make the french toast.

French Toast

The Hungarian version of french toast is called ‘Bundás kenyér’ and translates as ‘fur coated bread’ [bunda means fur coat. Don’t ask]. Each slice should be golden brown, slightly crunchy and sprinkled with salt, not sugar!

4 whole eggs

6 slices of bread – stale or fresh. [I allow roughly 1 egg to 1.5 slices of bread, depending on the size of the slices]

peanut oil for frying – should cover the bottom of the frying pan with a bit to spare but remember, you are not deep frying here.

Method

I use a heavy cast iron frying pan so it needs to be heated ahead of time while I prepare the rest of the ingredients. Adjust to suit your own pan.

While the oil and pan are heating, crack the eggs into a bowl and beat lightly with a fork – just enough to mix the white and the yolk.

Cut each slice of bread in half and arrange bread and egg mix near the frying pan. Place a serving plate within reach of the pan.

Once the oil is hot [it should be radiating heat but not quite smoking] dip a piece of bread into the egg, flip it with a fork and immediately lift out of the egg. Let the excess egg drip back into the bowl and then gently place the bread into the hot oil.

[Note : you have to be quick getting the bread into and out of the egg because you don’t want it to get soggy. If it gets soggy it will not fry to a crisp finish.]

Fry the bread in batches until the bottoms go a nice golden colour. Turn, fry the other side and then place onto the serving plate. You can drain the bread on kitchen towel if you want but I rarely bother.

Once the bread is all done, sprinkle with a little salt and it is ready to serve. Reheat the spinach just a little bit and stir the slight ‘crust’ on top until it reintegrates with the sauce.

To serve

Arrange slices of golden bread in a fan shape on a plate and pour half a ladle of spinach sauce next to the bread. It should look rather pretty. Then spoon some of the sauce onto the bread and eat the two together to get the combination of smooth, garlicky sauce and crisp, eggy bread. Enjoy!


#Recipe – Stuffed Tomatoes

This is a superb, vegetarian dish by Maria Luisa Taglienti, dating back to 1955. I’m a committed carnivore and not a huge fan of cheese, but even I love this dish. And it’s not hard to make.

Ingredients for the tomatoes

  • 4 large tomatoes, the firmer the better
  • 1/4 cup of rice
  • 6 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 tablespoon chopped continental parsley
  • 1/3 cup diced cream cheese [Neuchatel or Philadelphia]
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon pepper [white]

Method

Pre-head oven to moderate [just under 180C in a fan bake oven].

Cook the rice in salted water for 10 minutes. It should still be a little hard in the middle. Drain.

Mix the rice with 4 tablespoons of butter, the two cheeses, parsley, salt and pepper. This is your ‘stuffing’.

Take out the core of each tomato, including the seeds/pulp, [and set aside if making the optional sauce]. You should now have 4 ‘cups’.

Sprinkle the inside of each cup with salt and pepper, then stuff with the cheese mix.

Butter a baking dish and place the stuffed tomatoes inside with a knob of butter on top of each one.

Bake for approx. 25 minutes or until golden on top.

Optional green beans and simple tomato sauce

While the tomatoes are baking, lightly fry a small, chopped onion and 2-3 cloves of garlic. When golden and aromatic, add 1 sachet of tomato paste [approx. 1 tablespoon] and the pulp taken from the inside of the tomatoes. Add a pinch of salt, stir and cook on a low heat until the stuffed tomatoes are done.

While the sauce is simmering, top and tail a handful of green beans per person and steam until cooked but still firm.

To serve

Serve the stuffed tomatoes with the steamed green beans, the red sauce and crusty white bread. Enjoy!

Meeks


From disaster to a delicious biscuit

Okay, for my US friends, our biscuits are your cookies so this is a cross between a sweet lemon cakelet and a ‘cookie’. Ta dah….:

lemon biscuit recipe 001

The outside is lovely and crisp, but despite being so thin, the inside remains just a tiny bit soft and chewy:

lemon biscuit recipe 002

Before I write up the recipe I should explain that this started out as a kind of lemon tart cake that went very wrong. Cakes are not my forte, but I suspect the original recipe was at fault as it called for a tart base made from self-raising flour. Into this uncooked tart base went a very nice, cooked lemon filling and the whole lot was supposed to bake in the oven until it turned into a tart.

I don’t have a picture, but my lovely lemon tart turned into something resembling a soufle. It overflowed the baking dish like Vesuvius and made a sweet-smelling mess of my oven. What little I could salvage tasted like lemon toffee cake. I was not happy.

To cut a long story short, I had just enough unsalted butter left over to try the cake part of the recipe as a biscuit, and at last something worked! Here it is.

Ingredients

60 gm unsalted butter

1 cup self-raising flour

1/2 cup caster sugar

the rind of one lemon, finely grated

1 whole egg

Method

Pre-heat the oven to 160 C [if using fan-bake] or 180 C if just using the ordinary oven setting [this is a moderate oven].

Line baking trays with baking paper. [You will need more than one tray as the biscuit mix spreads out quite a lot as it bakes so the biscuits have to be spaced fairly wide apart].

Toss the flour, sugar and grated lemon rind together [to spread the lemon flavour evenly]. Add the butter and cut it into small chunks with a knife, mixing into the flour as you go. Once the chunks are small enough, rub the flour mix and butter between your fingers until the mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs.

Lightly beat the egg and add it to the butter mix until you get a fairly smooth ‘paste’.

Spoon heaped teaspoons of the paste onto the trays, leaving at least 2 inches between each one, and place in the oven. Baking time is approx. 10 minutes or until the biscuits are firm in the middle and slightly golden around the edges. Allow to cool on the tray if you can wait that long…-rolls eyes-…we didn’t.

The quantity given should make approximately 24 biscuits which sounds like quite a lot, but they are very moorish. If anyone manages to keep some for more than a few minutes I’d love to know how long they last. 🙂

Happy Sunday,

Meeks

 


#recipe: Purple carrot cake

purple carrots 2

I owe this recipe to my sister-in-law, Victoria. Thank you!

The cake was delicious as Victoria first baked it, but I think my small changes have made it a fraction healthier. But then, who cares about healthy?

Where I have strayed slightly from the ingredients or quantities, I have given the original ingredients or quantities in brackets afterwards.

Let’s do it!

Ingredients

  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup raw or caster sugar
  • ½ cup oil* – peanut or olive is fine [1 cup]
  • 1 cup self raising flour plus 1/3 cup almond meal [1/3 cup wholemeal flour]
  • 1/2 teaspoon Bi-carbonate of soda [1 1/3 teaspoons]
  • 1 tablespoon plain yoghurt [optional in the original recipe]
  • 1 1/3 teaspoons cinnamon – i.e. LOTS!
  • 2 cups peeled and grated purple carrots – about 3 big ones [approx. 2 big orange carrots]
  • [optional] ½ cup sultanas tossed in flour
  • [optional] 1 cup chopped walnuts

* 1/2 a cup of oil will result in a lighter, drier, fluffier carrot cake. If you like yours more traditional, experiment with the amount of oil you add, bearing in mind that 1 cup is probably the maximum, while 1/2 a cup is the minimum.

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 150 C [Fanbake] or 300 – 325 F
  2. Lightly grease and flour a 19 cm ringform cake tin
  3. Break whole eggs into the mixing bowl and beat until frothy
  4. Continue beating as you add 1 cup of sugar to the eggs, a bit at a time. Beat well between each addition. The egg mixture should become light in colour, thick and fluffy.
  5. Continue beating as you add the oil.
  6. Remove the bowl from the mixer and sift the flour, bi-carb and cinnamon onto the egg mix.
  7. Fold in.
  8. Peel and grate the carrots just before adding them to the cake to stop them from going ‘greenish’ during cooking.
  9. Fold in the grated carrots
  10. Fold in the yoghurt
  11. Pour the cake mix into the prepared tin and sprinkle with almond flakes.
  12. Place in the centre of the preheated oven and bake for approx.. 1 hour.
  13. At the end of the hour [and not before!] test the cake with a skewer. The skewer should be a little greasy but not wet or sticky.
  14. Remove the cake from the oven and allow it to stand in the tin for about 5 minutes.
  15. Turn the cake out onto a wire cooling rack.

Serve at room temperature with cream, ice cream or just plain. Or if you’re like us, eat as soon as it comes out of the pan to enjoy the sweet, slightly toffee-like crunch of the outer ‘skin’. Once the cake cools, the skin loses it’s crunch.

The Offspring and I found no difference in taste using purple vs orange carrots, and as you can see from the photo, the purple carrots do not turn the whole cake purple so you can serve it without your guests ever knowing it’s a ‘healthy’ option. 😉

Bon appetit!

Meeks


Preserved #apricots and a #Wüsthof to grind

After the sadness of the Rickman and Bowie posts, I thought it would be nice to talk about joyful things for a change, and what could be more joyful than food and gadgets?

Before I begin though, let me tell you a little story. Back in the mists of time when The Offspring was but a twig, we lived in a leafy suburb of Melbourne called Heathmont. There I planted an apricot tree which flowered, fruited [abundantly] and sprouted a baby apricot tree of its own. When we sold the house, I potted up the baby apricot tree and it travelled with us for over fifteen years before we finally settled again in Warrandyte.

How that small, stunted apricot tree survived for so long in a pot I’ll never know, but it did, and more amazing still, it’s managed to survive and thrive in the not-so-welcoming soil of Warrandyte. But the proof of how special it is lies, as they say, in the eating, and boy are these apricots amazing. Store bought apricots may look luscious but the flavour is generally tart and ‘bland’. By contrast, the sun-warmed, sun-sweetened apricots from my little tree are incredibly sweet, even when they’re not completely ripe, and I’ve been eating them until they’re coming out of my ears!

Sadly, even my stomach has limits so this morning I stared long and hard at the 20 or so apricots left from the harvest. I tried drying the surplus last year, without much success, so what should I do with them this year?

I dismissed the idea of apricot jam without any hesitation; even I am not stupid enough to make that much of a mess for just 20 apricots. But what about compote? That would be quick and easy with minimal clean-up.

True, I thought, but compote will only last a couple of days in the fridge and I’m really sick of apricots….

Ah! But what about preserves? a sly little voice whispered in my ear.

Are you crazy? I scoffed. What do I know about preserving?

Nevertheless, a few minutes later I found myself typing ‘preserving apricots’ in Papa Google’s search box. That, eventually led to this:

apricot preserves

I’d like to say the process was simple and painless, but that would be a lie and I’m a nice girl. For starters, only one of the guides I read mentioned that it might be a good idea to have a specialist jar lifter on hand. For those not as au fait with this topic as moi -cough- a jar lifter looks like this:

jar lifter

As you can see, this nifty tool allows you to grip the lid of the boiling hot jar without burning yourself. The padded black bits on the feet [for want of a more technical term] stop the boiling hot glass from exploding when touched by a cold, metal implement.

Of course, I did not have a specialist jar lifter on hand, but I did know about hot glass and cold things, so I improvised with oven mitts like so:

apricots and oven mitts

[Don’t even think about doing this with multiple jars of preserves!]

I did manage to get the jar out of the boiling hot water without damaging it, or myself, but if I ever do this again, I will definitely invest in a jar lifter.

Another thing I might invest in is some proper, preserving equipment – like jars and lids. The jar I used originally contained Morello cherries, and I have no way of knowing if the seal still works. It looks as if it has worked as the lid has ‘sucked in’ a bit, but I still think we’ll be eating the apricots sooner rather than later. Just in case.

Once the jar was safely out of the pot, I wrapped it in a clean tea towel because another guide said to let the preserves cool down in a draft free place – again, to stop the temperature differences from damaging the jar…the kitchen…the cook….

And finally a word about the syrup. The first recipe I read called for a ratio of half-and-half for the syrup, i.e. half sugar, half water. Now to me, that would be unbearably sweet, and totally unnecessary as my home grown apricots are/were beautifully sweet already. That said, I wasn’t quite game to use plain water for the syrup, so I heated up 1/4 cup of organic demerara sugar with 2 cups of filtered water and let it boil for about a minute before taking it off the heat. As I was only preserving one jar of fruit, I ended up with about 1/3 of the syrup left over. I’ll update this post with the taste test once we’ve actually tried the preserves.:)

And now, as I’m still in a kitcheny mood, here’s an extra little bit about a wonderful gadget I was given as a gift by a foodie friend:

wusthof knife sharpener

Sorry to make you wait so long for an explanation of the title but I’m in a playful mood.

So. A knife sharpener, a German knife sharpener. What’s the big deal?

Let me start by saying that I have been sharpening kitchen knives since the days of the Wiltshire Staysharp scabbard – you know, the one where you sharpen the knife every time you push it into the scabbard, at least in theory. I also own one of those sharpening tools that butchers use. It looks good, but I’ve never used it because I don’t know how. More recently, The Offspring bought me a handy sharpener that actually does work, but I’m a little scared of sharpening myself with it so it doesn’t get used as often as it should. Net result: my knives spend most of their working lives being blunt.

Enter the Wüsthof.

I swear, I am not getting a commission or any kickbacks for this, but I have never used anything that worked as quickly and easily as this little beauty. The two grinding ‘wheels’ are labelled ‘coarse’ and ‘fine’ so I tried one of my kitchen knives on the coarse one first. I could feel the sharpener biting into the edge of the blade. After a couple of swipes I switched to the ‘fine’ grinding wheel and gave the knife a few more swipes. Then I tested it on a raw chicken drumstick.

Now I don’t know if any of you have ever tried to fillet a chicken drumstick, but it’s not easy. The shape is awkward and the meat lies snugly along the bone, making knife work difficult. But you should see how easy it is when you have a truly sharp knife! I’m just grateful I have a knife block in which to store my newly sharpened knife because I wouldn’t trust it loose in a drawer. Honestly, this thing is like a razor blade now!

So there you have it, some tips on preserving home-grown apricots [from a complete novice] and two gadgets that would be a welcome addition to any kitchen.

Enjoy!

Meeks

 

 


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