Category Archives: 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. 😀

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. 🙂

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. 🙂

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. 🙂

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


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. 😀

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. 🙂

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. 😀

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

 


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

 

 


Cities without streets?

This is the jigsaw puzzle I completed this morning – just to see what the image was actually about:

Isn’t it amazing? A straight, boring street completely re-purposed to provide a beautiful green space for both residents and casual visitors to enjoy.

I know nothing about that street, other than the title of the jigsaw puzzle: ‘Lombard street’. If anyone knows where it is, please share in comments!

Anyway, the Lombard Street puzzle got me thinking about another place that I did know about: Havana. It’s become the urban agriculture capital of the world, with citizens and government working together to create food gardens on every available urban space. There are chickens and rabbits being ‘grown’ on roof tops, vegie plots on balconies, larger communal gardens in the middle of parks, and street markets selling the locally grown produce back to this city of two million.

The birth of Havana’s urban agriculture was painful to say the least, and driven by need. You can read the history in this great article:

https://www.dwell.com/article/havana-world-capital-of-urban-farming-659b65ad

The point though, is that it began as a grass roots movement with ordinary, hungry people taking food production into their own hands because they had to. The food they grew was organic because Cuba couldn’t afford herbicides and pesticides. The food Havana grows is still organic or semi-organic because the Cuban government recognized the value of what was happening and formalised it. Commercial pesticides are not allowed within the city limits. And the weird thing is that those organic, urban gardens really do supplement the diets of Havana’s residents.

Getting back to the jigsaw puzzle that triggered this post, I started wondering how much real estate our cities devote to roads. What if those roads could be re-purposed for parks and open spaces and communal gardens? What if we had alpacas wandering down Swanston Street, mowing the grass? [I chose alpacas coz they poop in the same spots all the time, making clean up a lot easier].

Seriously, we could go from this:

Image copyright Anthony Frey Photos – click photo to visit site

to this:

Original image by Anthony Frey Photos. Alpacas by acflory

Now I know that roads are like the veins and arteries of a city, but do they have to be so wasteful? Surely we have the technology to put them underground? Maybe not all of them, but the freeways could definitely go…

I’m sure that anyone with real engineering experience will shoot this idea down in flames, but still…it appeals to me. At some point we really will have to rethink the design of our cities. Maybe then we’ll find a way to stop wasting all that space on roads. 🙂

cheers

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. 🙂

 


Recipe – Cheese scones without butter

This is not a very accurate recipe, apologies in advance, but it is very easy and very forgiving! The only thing to remember is to be quick. This dough does not like to be over worked so rein in the perfectionist!

For non-Australian and UK residents, scones look like this:

Attribution: https://www.kidspot.com.au/kitchen/recipes/easy-pumpkin-scones-1048  The post includes a recipe for pumpkin scones.

Ingredients for Cheese Scones:

  • 1 cup self raising flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder [yes, a whole teaspoon]
  • pinch of salt [parmesan is salty so don’t over do the salt]
  • about 1/3 – 1/2 cup of parmesan – I used flaked but grated will do as well
  • and cream…

Method:

  1. pre-heat the oven to fan bake 160 C [conventional oven 180 C or 350 F]
  2. place a piece of grease proof paper onto a flat baking tray
  3. mix all the dry-ish ingredients in a large bowl, including the parmesan
  4. make a shallow well in the middle of the dry ingredients and add a dash of cream
  5. using a knife, or a fork, NOT hands, start working the cream into the dry ingredients
  6. keep adding a bit of cream until the scone mixture starts to hold together, only then go in with your hands [you want the scone dough to stay cool]
  7. quickly mix the dough into a ball – do not over work!
  8. place on a lightly floured board and kneed just until the dough starts to feel a bit elastic
  9. spread out with your hands [or a rolling pin if you have one] – 1/2 to 3/4 of an inch
  10. cut out scones and place on baking tray
  11. gently kneed leftovers into another ball, flatten and cut out
  12. place the scone tray in the oven and bake for 15 – 20 minutes

Cooking time will vary according to your oven and how thick you made the scones. They’re ready when they have a nice pale brown blush on top [very much like the photo of the pumpkin scones above].

To serve, spread with good butter and eat. Enough for two medium sized people as an afternoon snack or to have with a bowl of soup as a simple evening meal.

Good appetite. 🙂

Meeks


%d bloggers like this: