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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

 

 


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


#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

 


Caramelised belly pork with sour [Morello] cherries

With a heatwave forecast for the next three days, I thought it might be a good idea to cook dinner this morning, while everything was still nice and cool. So I did, and it turned out to be one of the yummiest recipes I’ve ever tried. Sadly I can’t post a photo because we ate it before I thought of taking one.

The idea for the recipe came from Aussie chef Kylie Kwong. She makes a delicious looking dish with bacon, red wine and cherries :

http://www.abc.net.au/kyliekwong/recipes/s952509.htm

My version is a much simpler dish featuring fresh belly pork and sour cherries, two ingredients I almost always keep on hand.

Ingredients [for 2]

4 lean rashers of fresh belly pork :

belly pork

2 cups of sour, Morello cherries and [their] juice. They come in a jar like this and 2 cups will be approximately 2/3 of the jar :

morello cherries jar

1/4 cup raw sugar

2 cloves garlic [crushed]

1 fresh bay leaf or 2? dried ones

1/2 of a large white salad onion roughly sliced

salad onions

1 tablespoon peanut oil

1/2 teaspoon table salt

Method

Mix all the ingredients of the ‘marinade’ in a baking dish just large enough to hold the meat. Arrange the pork in the marinade and spoon the cherries and onion mix over the top – i.e. you cook the pork in the marinade straight away.

Loosely cover the baking dish with foil and place in a moderate oven [approx 150 C] for about an hour.

[I don’t like the flavour of the bay leaf to be too overpowering so I removed it when I turned the meat – after about 1/2 an hour].

When the meat is tender, remove the foil and allow to bake for a further 1/2 an hour or until most of the juices have evaporated leaving a lovely, caramelised sauce over the meat.

Allow to stand for 10 minutes before slicing and serving, or make ahead and refrigerate until needed.

[I made it ahead and heated it up for dinner…but only until the meat was just warm and the sauce sticky. Over cooking at this point could burn the whole dish].

The Offspring and I ate a small lettuce and avocado salad first, as a sort of entree. Then we ate the meat on its own. It was so rich we didn’t need anything else. I think this is going to become one of my favourite no-fuss dishes.

cheers

Meeks

 

 

 

 

 


Banana cake recipe WANTED!

I have about 6 beautifully ripe bananas that are too soft to eat but way too nice to throw out. Anyone have a simple but tasty recipe they can give me for banana cake?

cheers

Meeks

p.s. I could google recipes but I’d rather try something that comes with a recommendation.


Paprikás krumpli betataster needed!

Hi guys. I’m just about to race off to work, but I thought I’d throw this at you before I go – can someone betataste this recipe for me please!

Paprikás krumpli [Literally potatoes with paprika]

This is probably one of my favourite examples of poor man’s food because it is so tasty and satisfying – and so cheap to make.
The basic recipe requires only chopped onion, oil [or lard], sweet paprika powder and potatoes. I usually dress it up a little with either bacon or chorizo, or both, but essentially the flavour just gets better the more you add. Just do not add tomatoes. That would take this dish right over into the realms of Italian food.

Basic Ingredients

1 medium onion
1 chorizo [optional]
3 tablespoons of good quality sweet paprika powder
3 large potatoes peeled and cut in 6ths [i.e. big but not too big]
1/2 a teaspoon of salt
3-4 tablespoons of peanut oil [or oil of your choice]
3 cups COI chicken soup [optional] or water

Method

– Chop the onions, and cut the chorizo in bite-sized chunks. Gently saute both in the oil until the onion is translucent.
– Add the paprika powder, mix in and allow to cook for about 1 minute on low heat.

Before the liquid is added

Before the liquid is added

– Add the potatoes, stirring to coat each piece in the paprika mix. Allow to cook very gently for about 5 minutes, stirring frequently. This step is important to get the flavour into the potato before it’s diluted with the liquid.
– Sprinkle with salt and add the soup or water. The liquid should just cover the potatoes.
– Stir and bring to the boil, then cover and lower the heat.
– Simmer until the potatoes are tender and the sauce has thickened a little, and is a rich red in colour.

Serve this dish on its own with fresh crusty bread and a simple salad [traditional], or serve as the accompaniment to a ‘dry’, fairly bland meat.

Many thanks

Meeks


Lentil stew – a quick, home-alone recipe

The Daughter is away this weekend, so last night I indulged myself by cooking a lentil stew she hates! If there are other lentil haters out there, turn away now. 😀

Ingredients

1 plain Kransky sausage [or Chorizo or salami or even just a couple of rashers of bacon]

1 medium onion

2 cloves of garlic

2 tablespoons of tomato paste

1 or 2 sad, leftover fresh tomatoes [optional]

1 x tin lentils

a pinch of cayenne [hot and optional]

1 tablespoon of oil [I use peanut or olive]

Method

Slice the smoked whatever and gently saute in the oil.

While the meat is sautee-ing, finely chop the onion and add to the meat.

Allow the onions to cook for 5 minutes before adding the finely chopped garlic.

Allow the meat mixture to cook for another 5 minutes before stirring in the tomato paste, chopped tomatoes [if using] and the cayenne. Do NOT add salt as the cured meats are salty enough already.

Empty the tin of lentils into a colander and rinse under cold water before adding to the meat mix. Stir, add about 1/4 cup of water and allow to simmer for about 10 minutes. If the stew gets too dry, or looks as if it might burn, add a little more water, but remember – this is a stew not a soup!

The longer you leave the stew simmering the better the flavour becomes, but if you’re very hungry you can serve up as soon as the fresh tomatoes have softened. Last night, total cooking time was about 1/2 an hour.

You can make steamed rice to go with the stew, or even mashed potatoes, but I just ate my quick stew with fresh, crusty white bread. It was delicious, and I had the added satisfaction of knowing I had well and truly had my fibre for the day. Better still, it was faster than getting takeaway, and cost next to nothing as I keep most of the ingredients on hand at all times. If you had to buy in the ingredients this stew might cost $6 – 7, tops.

Lentil stew will never be mistaken for haute cuisine, but if you don’t mind lentils, it will provide a hearty, delicious meal in a hurry.

cheers

Meeks


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