As the Offspring and I are totally paranoid about decontaminating everything that comes to the house, fresh vegetables, especially the ones eaten raw, have been an issue. So, like a lot of our neighbours, we sowed some seeds and waited for our own produce to appear. And here it is!
Snow peas! You have no idea how much pleasure it gave us to harvest these beautiful, fresh peas. I think this was the moment that the Offspring really got the gardening bug. 🙂
But there was better to come. This is what the Offspring turned those lovely fresh peas into:
I have to tell you, the Offspring’s stir fry was delicious. It included the snow peas [of course], fresh red capsicum, fresh wombok cabbage, fresh spring onions, frozen broccoli and ‘shelf fresh’ singapore noodles.
The best things in life really do boil down to just a few simple things: good food, good music and good people. 🙂 To all the good people in the US – you did. You did it. Nothing can stop the march of progress now. 🙂
Today’s delicious offering was baked by the Offspring based on a recipe given to me by a fellow kindergarten mum, Diana. I won’t tell you how long ago she gave it to me. 😉
The thing I like about this recipe is that it’s very easy. It’s also very forgiving of variations. In the following recipe, our variations are shown in italics after the base recipe.
1/2 cup soft butter [we used Lurpak Slightly salted spreadable butter which contains a small amount of vegetable oil],
1/2 cup of white sugar [we used caster sugar],
1.5 cups of self raising flour,
1 cup of plain yoghurt or milk. Yoghurt makes it rise more. [We only used 1/2 a cup of yoghurt so we could add more banana]
1 cup fresh fruit [we used 2 cups of bananas, chopped into decent sized ‘chunks’. NOT mashed]
a little extra butter to grease the muffin tins [we used paper cupcake thingies? to save on clean up]
Preheat oven to 200 C [392 F]. If using fan bake, lower the temperature a couple of degrees.
Grease muffin tins [or use paper thingies for easy clean up].
With an electric mixer, blend the butter with the sugar until it changes colour and looks ‘creamy’.
Beat in 2 whole eggs. If the mixture starts to separate or ‘curdle’, add a tablespoon of the flour.
Beat in the yoghurt.
Remove from beater and fold in the chunks of banana. [This is a trick I learned by accident. If you mush the banana the flavour will be very bland. If you leave the banana in chunks, you’ll get a burst of strong banana flavour whenever you bite into a piece].
Fold in the flour [no need to sieve].
Spoon mixture into the muffin tin [or into the paper cupcake thingies inside the muffin tin].
Bake for 15-20 minutes until golden brown.
Remove from the muffin tin and place onto a cooling rack
You can eat these muffins straight from the oven with a bit of butter, just watch out for the chunks of banana, they are hot! Or you can eat them plain, hot or cold. Either way they’re delicious with your beverage of choice.
I’ve loved profiteroles – also known as cream puffs – for decades but never tried my hand at making them because I thought they’d be ‘too hard’, ‘too fiddly’, and probably wouldn’t work anyway.
Part of that negativity stemmed from the fact that I ordered a Croque-en-bouche [Croquembouche in English] for my wedding cake, and it really was a gastronomic delight. Mine didn’t have strawberries, otherwise it looked a lot like this:
No way in the wide world I could make something like that…right?
Wrong. In fact, as the profiteroles at the top prove, I couldn’t have been more wrong. Making them was probably one of the easiest things the Offspring and I have ever done. And we owe it all to my good friend Marian Allen, author extraordinaire, and a damn fine cook!
If anyone’s interested, I first met Marian via her book ‘Sideshow in the Centre Ring’ which I thoroughly enjoyed. I’ve since read just about everything she’s published and…I’ve fallen in love with her cats. Waves to Tipper and Chickie. And now back to dessert…
The only thing I messed up that didn’t quite work was the chocolate ganache on top of the profiteroles. I was getting a bit tired by the time it came to putting the profiteroles together and the ganache [the chocolate on top] turned into a delicious, but runny sauce instead.
Oh, and if I’m being honest, I made one more mistake: I made seven profiteroles. Not six, or four, or any other number that is easily divisible by two. No, in my infinite wisdom I made seven…
Have you ever tried to cut a profiterole in half so both of you could share equally? Don’t. Just don’t. 🙂
Anyway…the Offspring and I were so impressed with the profiteroles I decided to do this post and give you guys the chance to try them as well. Without further ado, here is Marian Allen’s recipe for profiteroles/cream puffs with my comments in brackets!
1/8 cup unsalted butter [or 30 gms or 1 oz]
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup all purpose flour [plain flour to us Aussies]
1/8 teaspoon salt
cream for whipping [however much you want or have on hand]
chocolate and extra cream for the ganache [we used about 3 oz of each but the ratio wasn’t right. Maybe 3 oz of chocolate to 1 of cream?]
This makes about four biggish puffs. I doubled this and made them smaller and got 10. [I compromised and made 7. Next time I’m making it an even number!]
Bring water, salt and butter to a boil. Add the flour and stir it until it forms a ball that pulls away from the sides of the pan. If you’re not making a large batch, you may need to take it off the heat immediately. [The Offspring did this part and the dough came together very quickly so don’t wander off!]
Let this rest for 5 minutes while you crack and mix up your egg(s). Add the egg(s) to the flour ball. It will look alarming, but keep mixing: It WILL combine. [So glad Marian made that comment because we looked at the dough plus egg and might have given up otherwise. The Offspring used a wooden spoon to start with but then I had a go with a whisk and it mixed beautifully, exactly as Marian said it would]
Pipe into the shape you want using a pastry bag, or plop it in spoonfuls (the MomGoth method onto an ungreased baking pan. [We used the MomGoth method too but placed some baking paper on the baking tray first. Easier clean up. 🙂 ]
Bake at 375F [180 C for us, a tiny bit less if using the fanbake setting of the oven] for about 1/2 hour, or until there is not one glint or bubble of moisture on the surface of any of the puffs. Don’t check very often. I got a stove with a glass front just so I could make creme puffs. Crazy.
When they’re done, cool them on a rack.
Meanwhile, make ganache for the top. Dead easy.
Measure equal amounts of chopped semi-sweet chocolate or good chocolate chips and cream. [This was where I messed up. I weighed the chocolate and the cream. I think I should have used a cup measurement instead.]
Put the chocolate into a bowl. Heat the cream until it just begins to simmer. Pour the hot cream over the chocolate. Let sit for a few minutes, then stir until it’s all mixed together and dark and glossy. [This really was as simple as it sounds!]
Put the cream into a piping bag. I don’t have one (have one on order), so I put the cream into a plastic sandwich bag and cut off the tip. [We didn’t have a piping bag either and decided to use the cookie machine instead. It worked but made a mess as the cream was wetter than cookie dough. Oh well. Piping bag placed on order too].
Poke a hole in the side of a puff, stick the pointy end of the bag into the hole, and squeeze the cream in. [We whipped the cream with about two teaspoons of icing sugar, so sweetish but not gaggingly sweet. Adjust to suit your own tastes].
You can feel the puff inflate with it. When the puffs are all filled, dip the tops into the ganache or spoon it over them.
And then see how fast they disappear! Honestly, we could have eaten another whole batch, they were so delicious. I can see us baking these scrumptious goodies on a regular basis because the process really was easy.
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.
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.
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.
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. 🙂
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!
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. 😀
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:
Place 3 cups of rolled oats in a large baking dish.
Add 1 cup of almond meal and mix.
In a small pot, place
1 tablespoon of good apricot jam and 2 tablespoons of raw sugar [or make it all apricot jam].
1 tablespoon of good oil [I use peanut coz it’s mild but olive would be good too].
1/2 teaspoon of Cassia cinnamon*
1/4 cup water
Bring the wet ingredients to a gentle simmer – just enough to make the mixture easy to pour.
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.
Place the pan of muesli in the middle of a cool oven [Fan bake 150 C/Fahrenheit 302] and bake for about 30 minutes.
VERY IMPORTANT: Stir the muesli every 5 minutes or so to ensure it ‘toasts’ evenly instead of burning on the bottom.
When the muesli is the right colour, remove the pan from the oven and allow to cool.
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 notlike 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!
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:
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:
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. 🙂
Pre-heat the oven to 170 C [165 C if using fan forced] or 360 F.
Lightly grease a 10″ [ 25 cm] diameter ringform cake tin and line the bottom with grease proof baking paper.
Separate four large eggs. Place the yolks into a small bowl and the whites into a mixing bowl.
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.
In a second mixing bowl, place 200 gm of room temperature, unsalted butter and another 75 gm of caster sugar.
Cream the butter and sugar until it’s pale and creamy.
Add the egg yolks one at a time, beating well between each addition.
Gently fold the stiff egg whites into the creamed butter. Do not over mix.
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.
Pour the cake mix into the prepared tin and gently press to the edges.
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].
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.
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].
Take the cake out of the over and allow to stand, in the baking dish, for about 5 minutes.
Remove the outer ringform and place the cake [still on the bottom of the pan] onto a wire rack.
Using the baking paper, gentle ease the cake off the bottom of the pan and onto the rack.
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.
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! 😀
Pre-heat the oven to 180 C [375 F] or about 175 C if using fan forced.
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.
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’.
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.
Remove the melted chocolate from the heat and stir in 1/2 a cup of caster sugar. It will look quite granular.
Next, stir in 3 large, whole eggs, one at a time.
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].
Add the flour mix to the chocolate mix and stir until just combined.
Cover the dough with cling wrap and place in the fridge for up to 1 hour [minimum of 10 minutes].
Remove the dough from the the fridge and use a biscuit press to mould the biscuits.
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.
Leave enough room on the tray for the biscuits to expand as they bake.
When all the biscuits have been formed, gently press a small knob of chocolate into the middle of each biscuit and bake.
For the Avanti biscuits, baking time should be no more that 6 minutes.
For the hand-rolled balls, baking time should be around 10 minutes.
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.
Place biscuits on wire racks to finish cooling. Store in an air-tight container for up to 3 days [if they last that long]. 🙂
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:
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
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. 🙂