Wednesday, 18 February 2015

The Katering Show – WE QUIT SUGAR





I just love these 2 funny girls! They make the world of food, foodie fads and nutty diets seem as crazy as they sometimes are....

Wednesday, 11 February 2015

Berry relaxing...

Baking always relaxes me. Unless I'm rushed. Do not rush me. Things turn badly fast - sunken cakes, dried out muffins, burnt toast.
I'd seen this recipe on my Facebook feed, followed it to Pinterest then finally located the recipe on annie's eats lovely little blog page. I really love following links to new places; it's like going for a walk in the forest and wandering down different paths.
So, I left it for a few days, had the recipe open on Safari, looked at it a few times, thinking thinking... Why do I think so much about a recipe? I like to have all ingredients on hand. That is, nothing too fancy that will cost the earth, no trips to the supermarket. Given my 13 year old son will be devouring this, I want to make sure he will like it. I will only have a taste. Moderation is in style for me.
Also, I have to like the blog or webpage I get recipes from, and this one I liked. Cute photos of kids covered in raspberries, fields of freshly grown berries...
I could only get frozen berries but they still work a treat! I must say I wasn't sure what a pastry blender was, but I figured my hands would do (I did make sure my fingers were cold when I rubbed the butter into the flour mix).
So, here's to summer berries and relaxing!

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Trouble in the kitchen

I got in a little bit of trouble the other day. I'd whipped up a batch of lemon cheesecakes and some lemon curd, packed my little babies into containers and took some out to work. I handed out jars of curd for folks to devour in their own time (and apparently, straight out of the jar in a few decadent mouthfuls). I had 2 for lunch that day, with fresh curd on top. I'd used butter nut snap biscuits this time for the base, which turned out fabulously! So, where was the trouble? Innocent, blind little me. I'd forgotten how food can make people feel special. My special person in my life had loved these morsels when I first baked them for him.  They made him feel loved, the warm lemon texture of the cakes straight out of the oven had surrendered him to love, carried him off to that very special place where the inner chatter stops completely. Joy. My mistake was that I was giving away this love and joy. It took me a few days to understand why he was upset - because I'd made them for him and that made him feel special. I'd poured my love in with the soft ribbons of whipped cream cheese and while I did know this, I didn't consciously know this. If you know what I mean.

My understanding is greater now. I know the powerful effect food can have on the soul. It's not always a rational thing. Biting into a warm lemon yoghurt cake this morning, dusted with icing sugar had the effect of 're-setting' my senses. The warmth of the cake, the icing sugar going up my nose and my hot cup of tea was nurturing. Time slowed. Alone in my  kitchen with my recipes books sprawled across the kitchen table, I felt happy.

So, with my new found understanding of food and my man I will keep a few things just for him, for family and our own special comfort that we all need at times. Time to go searching for a new recipe that will melt his big heart.

Recipe for Lemon Yoghurt Cake [Click here]

Sunday, 14 July 2013

Winter mojo

Seems like my mojo has taken a winter break. It's sped off into the wet and grey day, looking for greener pastures, or new ideas maybe. At any rate, my cooking mojo disappeared without so much as a 'see ya, I'll be back later'. My little man left on a jetplane to sunnier climes for 12 weeks, maybe he took it with him, disabling me to cook without him here. Or maybe my heart just sank like the carrot cake last week. It sank deeply and profoundly. In total disgust I threw it in the bin (the cake that is). My heart, well, it still beats but without a major arterial. 
You can never really prepare yourself for these things. I'd been so positive for my boy, telling him how great it will be in Arnhem Land, soul country for many Indigenous Australians. What a wonderful experience he'll have, with his dad, little brother and step-mum. Such an adventure for an 11 year old boy, soon to be stepping out into that manly world. My friend Danni said it was like an initiation - going out bush with the Yolgnu people, learning language and culture that only a few white fellas get the privilege of learning.  
As a single mum of nearly 10 years, I know that it is a great thing and his world will be so enriched. 
In my quiet moments, I have the time to reflect on my life. A rare thing for a parent to do at length. Who are we without our children? It's more about purpose I think, for example I now have no purpose to bake. No little ankle biters to feed after school. No little man to cheer up with chicken soup and a warm afternoon tea cake straight from the oven, drizzled with buttery cinnamon sugar....

on his way up...
So, I need to look outwards, see what I can do. Tomorrow is 'Baking Our Blues Away' annual day of good will. I've attempted my 2nd cake this week - so far so good. It's called the Lazy-Ass Cake from www.onionringsandthings.com. Surely nothing can go wrong! Teamed with Donna Hay's Chocolate cream cheese frosting and some blueberries on top, I hope to put a smile on others faces at least. That makes me smile. 
Purpose is a good thing. Good to have and even better to find. With purpose I shall bake, for others. One of the main reasons I like to cook is for other people. Nothing like food to warm hearts. Think I might go and make some lemon curd for my mum...


Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Say Cheese - Cake!

Cheesecake - you either love it or hate it. My old school friend Shanta never liked it because she couldn't get over the fact that cake had 'cheese' in it. It is a bit strange if you look at it like that. I can't imagine a delicious sweet dessert with a reggiano parmesan! I remember trying to convince her otherwise - I wonder to this day if she now likes cheesecake. We don't catch up often but these are the peculiar things I dredge up from my memory...Maybe when we do meet up again I will make her this recipe (I won't tell her it's cheesecake!).

I've always loved cheesecake - the creamy sweetness of the filling topped with lemon curd and a chocolate base to crank things up a bit! Depending on your recipe, cheesecakes can take ages and need a range of ingredients - lots of sour cream & cream, all whipped up and aerated. This little gem can be made in an hour and as they are individual servings, they are a perfect little dessert or snack. I made them a few weeks ago and my partner said they were the best thing he has ever eaten. I took a bite and it was like marshmallow (but way better), it floated down my throat. Pure food ecstasy.

Individual Baked Cheesecakes [Print Recipe]


9 Marie Biscuits (or any of your favourites)
2 tsp cocoa
80g butter (approx. depending on what biscuits you use)

250g cream cheese - room temperature
1/2 cup fine sugar
1/4 dessicated coconut
2 Tblsp fresh lemon (or orange) juice
1 tsp coconut essence (or lemon)
2 eggs
Icing sugar, to dust

Preheat oven to 160C. Line a muffin tray with 9 scalloped muffin cups.
Crush biscuits, add cocoa and melted butter. Check the mix just stays together on your finger. Put in fridge while you make the filling.

Beat the cream cheese, sugar, coconut, lemon juice & essence until smooth. Add eggs, 1 at a time until combined. Divide the mix among the cups and bake for 25 mins or until just set. Turn the oven off and leave cheesecakes in the oven with the door ajar until completely cooled.

Remove and dust with icing sugar - or top with lemon curd if you like. Chocolate ganache would make for a decadent dessert!

Try these little babies, I have taken them out to work twice  now and they have been devoured, lovingly. The ultimate test will be my old school buddy, I reckon I can convert her for sure!


Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Plums!

It took me the best part of the afternoon to decide what to do with my freshly picked plums... I got lost in a sea of Internet recipes and wonderful blogs.....I read about one blogger who suffers depression and finds solace in cooking. She is not alone there. I find cooking such a heart-warming and uplifting past-time. Sometimes I listen to tunes, other times I bake in silence just listening to the kids outside, the odd car driving past and usually the south westerly wind that blows the leaves down my driveway.  Baking makes me happy in ways that are soulful. I don't even have to eat any of what I cook, I like the process plain and simple. Although, the rewards I've gotta say, are usually always good.

Today, I had a mission. A heap of wonderful dark plums, picked from the trees at one of my current workplaces'. At times I am incredibly indecisive - today is one of them. So many choices! My original idea was to make a strawberry vanilla tart and use plums instead, but some little voice inside my head (that got extremely loud mind you) told me to keep looking. I stumbled across The Bojon Gourmet, who not only had the most luscious sounding dessert but won me over with the photos. Always judge a dessert by its cover....well nearly always, yes. She had adapted it from a book called 'Pure Dessert' and I in turn adapted them both! Very easy to make with all the ingredients in the pantry. I have to wait to taste because I'm taking it to a bbq....ok, I might have just tried a little bit, really....

Sunday, 16 December 2012

Chocolate Christmas!

Sunday morning...pancakes have been made, devoured and are digesting...slowly. Coffee is hot, the dog is lying in the sunshine, the cat curled up in her corner of the world and the son & heir....well, he's doing what many 11 year old boys do - play cricket on the PlayStation until his little mate arrives to play the real thing. Brushing up his skills he tells me! 

I'm just out of my jammies and into trackies - yes, its all about class here on slow Sundays! Haven't checked the mirror yet for bed hair, sleepy eyes and dream chaos; best not to and just get cooking. It's time for (more) hot chocolate fudge sauce. Same recipe as yesterday, but a little more carefully as I convert to metric, exactly as my scales tell me. This time I also stir the cream, golden syrup (oh my that stuff is heaven!), sugar and cocoa BEFORE I heat the hell out of it and add the chocolate. When I tried this last week, it went a bit grainy because I hadn't combined the ingredients properly. 'From little things BIG things grow' or rather, big mistakes happen (to take a really beautiful song line from Paul Kelly and turn it into a foodie mantra!).

I'm cleaning the old labels from the jars. I've decided soapy water and patience is the best trick, although I've read everything from vinegar to oil to peanut butter works! I'm not wasting good (and expensive peanut butter, especially when I've only got organic macadamia nut paste in the pantry). 

I decide I don't like my labels and spend the next few hours cutting, drawing, and gluing new ones together. I'm happy with plain old brown paper, white tags and string. Simple.

I now have 12 jars of delicious decadence - fudge sauce, salted caramel and lemon curd (thought I'd whip up another batch with the duck eggs I get from a lady at work). They look great, taste unbelievable and now I need a little lie down with a packet of chips, I'm sugared out!



This recipe is adapted from various sources, and I added a bit of this and that to make it my own. Print if you dare! Print Recipe

Friday, 14 December 2012

A tempest in the kitchen!

For years I've been meaning to make Christmas food gifts, but always seem to run out of time, get distracted with having holiday fun and end up buying some mass made, corporation ruled gift. This year I have my 'buy local, eat local' hat well and truly on. It's time to get those old jars off the top shelf of the (very crowded) pantry, get my funky new apron on and cook up some delights. 
I've decided on salted caramel sauce, hot chocolate fudge sauce and lemon curd. I have my labels ready to go, it's raining outside so there's not much gardening to be done. I just went for a wander around the green lush backyard - that until yesterday was looking decidedly dry - and propped up the corianders, now going to seed, standing tall but on a lean. I wrapped them in string and just watch them flower, seed and then move on to the next phase. Sometimes I collect the seeds but generally I am lazy and just let them do their thing where they are. Organic gardening at it's best. Coriander seem to like growing in the same spot. As my mum says - "I am the coriander Queen" - she can't grow it at all. 
Anyway, I digress. Salted caramel sauce is on the agenda. I follow a simple recipe from Recipe Girl, converting tablespoons of butter to grams. It seemed too little butter but I went with it anyway. Caramel has always scared me, its tricky and a bit tempestuous - it looks like a tempest when it's bubbling and gurgling away. I measure everything out before I start (I'm learning, slowly) and I watch it like a hawk. The mixture bubbles peacefully, I add the cream and all hell breaks loose. It spits at me like a hissing feline. Then it starts to solidify, as in lumpy, gooey and not smooth caramelly at all! I add the butter and vanilla, then the salt and whisky away. The lumps stay but the rest of it goes nice and smooth. I take out those little sticky mounds of badness and am left with a delicious caramel sauce. Phew! This is quite stressful.
I'm wondering if there's another version I can try, just because I want to get this right. I go to old mate, Google and find Nigella's recipe. I love her cooking style, it's usually uncomplicated and this one has golden syrup which I love!It's very easy - the measurements are metric which I like as I can use my favourite digital kitchen scales. No satan's uprising here, all is calm on the caramel front and I have another lovely jar of sauce, ready for labelling and wrapping. They both taste fabulous - the 2nd recipe is richer because of the golden syrup and easier - for someone like me who is still scared of hot gurgling sauces that just do their own thing. Conquered part of my fear at least. 

Sunday, 25 November 2012

A quiet morning in the kitchen

Sometimes I make decisions quickly, mostly I make them slowly. When it comes to baking, I'm slow. I like to take my time, pour over recipe books, my favourite magazines and sometimes I consult the internet; although I’ve learnt that there is a LOT of dodgy recipes out there! So, with a discerning eye (some may call lazy) I find at least 3 recipes I like parts of. I’ve always thought that with baking you have to be precise, it’s such a science. Mostly, this is true – to make a mousse set, fillings not ooze out of their encasings and the right ratio of butter to sugar for that perfect cupcake. However, I have learnt that I can adapt – yes, a huge revelation for me – as long as I keep my measurements about right, I can add flavours and subtle changes to my baked goods.
Spreading out my Australian Women’s Weekly ‘Old Fashioned Favourites’, my collection of photocopied recipes from various sources - friends, old magazines (in the waiting rooms of medical clinics...shhh you have to be quiet when ripping out pages while people are sitting in close proximity) and the internet, which I usually document the origin but with this particular Chocolate Mousse layered cheesecake I did not. The layer I used was adapted from Dorie Greenspans Baking: From My Home to Yours. The 3rd recipe I really liked was from Doughmesstic’s Toasted Raspberry Coconut Cheesecake - for the addition of a raspberry coulis layer. Making life complicated for myself? Hmm.... I've always taken the long road, the scenic route – often coming back to the start but somewhat wiser...I think!

I contemplated getting out of my jammies, but I was comfortable and it’s my kitchen, so what’s the point of getting dressed? Only at the moment where I realised (in mild panic) that my spring-form cake tin was NOT going to fit in any of my roasting dishes. And, yes, I’d already done the base and filled it with the creamy lusciousness of the cheesecake filling. There was no going back to the smaller tin. It was time to face reality and get dressed to solve this problem. Normally I would've rung around my friends – Katie being first, she is an awesome cook and has lots of goodies! But, we are in technological silence here in Port Fairy with the phone exchange being burnt down – no Internet and no phones. Well, extremely limited. I could get in the car, drive around to all my friends’ places until I found a large pan. Or, I could go next door (with my ruler, oh dear....) and see if my lovely neighbour Mary has anything. I know they entertain a lot, so my hopes were high. I knocked on the door and waited...nothing, bugger. I looked around my quiet street and worked out my next target. Judy on the other side has a fabulous fruit and vegetable garden and we are always chatting over the fence. Just as I was walking away, Mary called out to me. She was just getting out of her pyjamas too! That’s ok, it’s only midday. She had the pan, I measured it up, Mary laughed at me and my ruler.
I laughed at me and my ruler.

Back to the (now) epic baking session at hand....all ready for the oven in its cosy water bath, I gently and lovingly placed my lemon cheesecake in to bake for and hour and a half. Now, waiting time until I can lavish it with lemon curd. That will have to wait as I have run out of caster sugar. Talk about organised!

Notes to self: Make sure your spring-form cake tin fits into a roasting dish before you fill the tin and realise your dish isn't big enough and like me, need to run next door and ask your neighbour. Not such a bad thing for community good will.

Mental note – make your kind neighbour something special to thank her. There will be no leftovers on this cake you can be sure, especially when you are taking it to your work Christmas party where it will be devoured in a breath full.

Post it note: I used a different recipe for my lemon curd this time. I consulted the September 2012 edition of Delicious where they had a nice, simple version of this delicious treat, using whole eggs instead of just the yolks. It was either going to be scrambled lemony eggs or a silky lemon delight!

So far, all is well in lemon curd land. Looks like there will be leftovers to pop in a jar with my label and thank my neighbour. [Print Recipe]

Saturday, 17 November 2012

A Sunny Saturday

It's chocolate cake Saturday here by the sea. The morning was spent wandering around the local farmer's market - sourcing free range meat (trickier than I thought), eating Rita's samosas - the best in the district with the queue 10 deep, and checking out the range of macarons, finally choosing triple chocolate. Doggie's nose was on fire with the delectable treats on display - the stall holders guarding their goodies protectively.
The farmers market is always a social event, I never expect to just walk through without a chat. 

After discussing farming methods with a local producer of pork and lamb, I walked away feeling somewhat disheartened at the difficulty in obtaining not only good quality meat products, but sustainable, environmentally friendly and cruelty free. Easier to be vegetarian, but I do like meat, so it's a difficult choice. I will keep on researching. My aim is to find local meat producers, that do not consider their animals as 'waste' products at any stage of their lives and are free to range all of the time. We as consumers are so brainwashed it's scary. Ignorance truly is bliss.

Ok, back to chocolate. My 11 year old son stated earlier in the week that he wanted to make a chocolate cake with chocolate icing today. He wants to give some to his teacher at school and eat the rest, of course. Finding a basic chocolate cake recipe amongst my array of cookbooks and magazines was harder than I thought. Most of them involved extra ingredients and methods - I wanted him to start with an easy one that he could do totally on his own. Baking is such a science and for a 'word' person like myself, I am not brilliant at science. But I am a very ordered kind of person, so baking is perfect - exact measurements and times (well, generally). I helped with the measuring and little things that make baking easier - softening the butter for 10 seconds in the microwave for example. You've no idea how many years it took me to realise this! The amount of times I creamed sugar and butter straight out of the fridge! 

Little friend Oscar turned up, just in time to help clean the beaters (err...lick them 'til glistening). After adapting a recipe from The Women's Weekly Old Fashioned Favourites, we poured the velvety batter into a large cake pan and let the oven do the rest. The boys are outside in the sunshine playing cricket with doggie (he tends to run off with the ball a lot). I wonder how long it will take them to remember the cake in the oven? Hopefully, I will eat my own words along with a moist, chocolately cake that may or may not make it to school on Monday. After all, there are children and a whole Sunday to go before then....


P.S They did remember the cake! We ate half of it when my dear friend Maria and her lovely Irish fella popped in - with pink champagne of course! No time to ice it, straight down the hatch. Now, for that second slice with chocolate icing....