Saturday, August 18, 2018

Weekend Cooking:The Great Kitchen Reno of 2018

When I first moved into this house nearly 13 years ago, I knew that at some stage I would have to do some updating because it is a very 1970's house. You can tell this by the mission brown skirting boards and door frames, the green kitchen, the bright green bathroom benchtop. I've even got a chocolate brown toilet in the ensuite.  In fact, the only thing missing from the classic 1970s colour palette was really the bright orange, but luckily I bought that with me in the shape of orange vinyl dining chairs.

When I started seeing the sous chef, we talked a bit about plans, but it was more pipe dream kind of plans. Earlier this year though it became a serious conversation. We had a kitchen planner come in and give us some idea (and then he quoted a fortune to do the installation so we didn't go ahead). Gradually though, we took all of our ideas, SC did some research because he loves that kind of thing and so we arrived at the point where the cupboards, oven, etc had been purchased and it was time to actually get this done.

The SC is actually very handy. He loves any excuse to buy new tools and to use them, to research things, to think about how to fix a problem. He's been very good for me as well as very good for my house. I think in a way this reno process has also been good for my son. He's had to spend some time not locked up in his bedroom playing Xbox and doing some handyman things that he would otherwise not have had exposure to.

It's funny. I never really thought my kitchen bothered me, but the closer we got to getting a new kitchen the more I realised that there were things that were kind of annoying. Lets hope I don't find that gradually with the new kitchen as well.

I did decide to make one last cake on Friday night, but I think the oven must have caught wind of the fact that it's days were numbered as it took me 5 attempts to get it started. But I did get it going in due course, and then 3 hours later it was disconnected and then the next day out on the back lawn!

One of the things that we didn't expect was finding out that we have to get all our gas pipes replaced. It's not really part of the reno but the timing means that it happens to fit nicely in to get the gas plumber in to connect the oven, redo all the pipes to the cooktop, the hot water system and the underfloor heating.

I must say a kitchen reno feels like a very grown up thing to do. I mean, what next? Buying a set of matching glasses instead of just using the old jam jar glasses and freebies from Macdonalds?

We are not quite done yet. After we have recovered from the unexpected expense of replacing the pipes we will put new flooring throughout the house but for now, the kitchen is done and I am super happy with it. There are some cool little things like lighting in the cutlery drawers, and the under cupboard lighting, I love the drawers instead of cupboards, and I LOVE the benchtops. You can't see it in the photos but there are little specks of silver embedded in the stone so that it catches the light as you move around the room. So cool, and I don't think it will ever get old.

One of the interesting things we did was used adhesive peel and stick tiles instead of tiling and grouting. We think they look great, but the test will be in how they stand up to regular kitchen use. They cost a fraction of getting tiling done, so if they last a few years it will be worth it, and then later we can do a glass splashback or proper tiling or whatever we decide.

Here are some before, during and after pictures

















Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, photographs. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend. You do not have to post on the weekend. For more information, see the welcome post.

Saturday, August 11, 2018

Weekend Cooking: Christmas in July (in August)

I don't know if Christmas in July is a worldwide thing or if it is just something that we in the Southern Hemisphere like to partake in, or maybe even just here in Australia. Whichever it is, it is an event that seems to be gaining more and more popularity here.

What having a Christmas in July does is enables us to have some form of Christmas dinner when the weather is cold rather than slaving in a hot kitchen in the middle of summer when it is really Christmas. Having said that, in our family we do tend to do the full on traditional Christmas dinner regardless of the heat, so maybe it is just an excuse to bring people together for good food and company.


 My sister hosts a Christmas in July every second year and when she does, it is the full on traditional Christmas dinner, and there is even a non traditional form of gift giving, usually by playing Bad Santa (where you open gifts one by one and other people can steal the gift that you received if they want).

This year, we went to a work friend's apartment and everyone bought something to share. She lives right on the beach so some people were out on the balcony looking out at the bay (brrrr!!). The food varied from a really delicious chicken dish, to potatoes cooked in goose fat, cauliflower broccoli cheese and more, with panna cotta for dessert.

The date had to be changed to early August for a few reasons, so in the end we were celebrating Christmas in July (in August)

My contributions were some marbled fondant sugar cookies. This is a Bake it Box that I have had sitting in my cupboard for a while now. I knew that I wanted these to be my first bake in my new oven. The kit included a little stamp kit so you can put whatever words you like in the icing. My plan was to have some cookies that said Christmas and the rest would say August? but in the end I just had them all saying Christmas because it was getting late on Friday night.


I did, however, have the words 1st Bake and Reno in a couple in celebration of the fact that the kitchen renovation is nearly done! So close. I am planning to post about it when the last finishing touches are done. I did have a few issues getting the letters around the right way at first but I'm very pleased with how they turned out.



Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, photographs. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend. You do not have to post on the weekend. For more information, see the welcome post.


Sunday, August 05, 2018

Weekend Cooking: Ginger and Walnut Carrot Cake

The sous chef and I are big fans of Masterchef Australia. We have watched this season and I don't think we have missed a single episode. When I say big fans I may be overreaching a little, because by the end of the 3 months we are/he is ready for it to be over. The sous chef gets annoyed at one of the hosts and I often hear mutterings of "shut up George" and the like. But come next year, we will be there watching again from the beginning.

One of the things that I like about watching is the masterclasses that they have. Often they are big name chefs who come in and show a recipe or two, other times it will just be the hosts. Sometimes the masterclasses are way out of reach of ordinary cooks. For example, this  year there was a guest chef and in order to make his recipe you would have needed a sous vide machine, a dehyrdator and numerous other types of fancy equipment.

There are, however, numerous times when you can take the recipes and use them without too much difficulty. For example, earlier this season, Matt Preston demonstrated a recipe for roasting a whole head of cauliflower, adding in lots of Middle Eastern ingredients. Whilst we haven't done the whole recipe yet what we have done a couple of times is just roasted the whole head of cauliflower when we were having a roast, and it is sooo delicious. Similarly, Curtis Stone came on a couple of weeks ago and demonstrated how he cooks prime cuts of steak. Last time we had steak we used his methodology and it was definitely really good.

This recipe comes from a masterclass that Nigella Lawson did very early in the season. I am normally not that big a fan of carrot cake. If I had to choose between carrot and banana cake I would generally choose banana, but this cake looked so easy and so tasty that I thought I would give it a go. It was definitely worth it, and the sous chef has requested that it be made again which I did yesterday. We took it to an afternoon tea and there were thumbs up all round. And then the sous chef requested that I make it again at some point. Sounds like this has gone into our regular recipes now.

During her time on Masterchef she also did a chocolate feast that included an olive oil chocolate mousse, white chocolate cookie pots, chocolate brownies and a ruby chocolate cheesecake. Ruby chocolate is the new type of chocolate that has been developed which apparently has a fruity flavour that occurs as part of the growing process rather than being an introduced flavour. I have plans to try the chocolate mousse recipe, and I definitely am looking forward to trying ruby chocolate when it finally becomes available.

You can watch the video of Nigella appearing on Masterchef and making this cake. Not sure if the link will work or if it is geo-blocked.

Ginger and Walnut Carrot Cake


200g/7oz plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
2 tsp ground ginger
¼ tsp fine sea salt
175g/6oz soft light brown sugar
2 large free-range eggs, at room temperature
200ml/7fl oz vegetable oil, plus extra for greasing
200g/7oz carrots, peeled and coarsely grated
100g/3½oz walnut pieces, roughly chopped, plus extra for decorating
75g/2½oz crystallised ginger, finely chopped, plus extra for decorating

For the icing

100g/3½oz unsalted butter, softened
100g/3½oz icing sugar, sieved if lumpy
1 tsp cornflour
100g/3½oz cream cheese
1 tbsp coarsely grated fresh ginger


Preheat the oven to 170C/150C Fan/Gas 3½ and grease the sides and line the base of a 20cm/8in springform cake tin with baking paper.

Mix the flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda, ground ginger and salt together in a bowl.

Beat the sugar, eggs and oil in another large bowl until they are completely mixed together, then gradually add the flour mixture. At this stage the mixture may seem alarmingly stiff, but the carrots will loosen it up. Beat in the carrots and then fold in the walnuts and crystallised ginger, until everything is evenly combined.

Spoon into the prepared tin. Don’t worry if it looks as if you haven’t got enough batter, as the cake will rise well as it bakes. Smooth the top and bake for 45–55 minutes. When it’s ready, the cake will be set and golden-brown on top, beginning to shrink away from the edges of the tin and a cake tester will come out with just a few crumbs stuck to it. Transfer to a wire rack and leave to cool in its tin.

Meanwhile, to make the icing, beat the butter and icing sugar together and when combined, beat in the cornflour, followed by half the cream cheese. Once that’s incorporated, beat in the remaining half. Be careful not to over-beat or the icing will get too runny. Squeeze the juice from the grated ginger into the bowl and mix in, discard the ginger flesh. Cover with cling film and place in the fridge.

When the cake is completely cold, take the icing out of the fridge for about 20 minutes. Beat briefly to make sure it’s smooth. Remove the cake from its tin and place on a plate or cake stand. Spread the icing on top, swirling it a little, then sprinkle some chopped walnuts and crystallised ginger on top.



Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, photographs. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend. You do not have to post on the weekend. For more information, see the welcome post.

Sunday, July 29, 2018

Weekend Cooking: Lemon Tart

 I mentioned a couple of weeks ago that I had recently made a couple of Donna Hay recipes when I shared her recipe for Salted Caramel and Vanilla Baked Cheesecake. Donna Hay is probably one of Australia's best known food identity and I have several of her cook books, but I don't tend to cook out of them very often. Indeed the cookbook that I got this recipe out of has languished on my bookshelf unopened for many years. When I did finally look at it I was pleasantly surprised.

At work, we take turns in making birthday cakes for each other. Each person makes the cake for the next person's birthday but in June we have lots. There are about 4 birthdays in two weeks and that typically means lots of chocolate cake. My birthday cake recipient and I had a chat and we agreed that we wanted something different than chocolate cake, and so I thought it was time to finally attempt making a Lemon Tart.

I say finally because I have been saying that I wanted to attempt one for several years now. The main reason is because they taste delicious, but the second thing was that I wanted to make my own pastry which is something I have never done before.

Like so many things that I am making recently it is something of a surprise to find that this form of pastry wasn't particularly difficult, which is lucky because I ended up making it twice. I didn't have to make it again because it wasn't right (although the second time I made it I rolled it a lot a lot thinner which I think was better.

I had to ditch the first lot of pastry because I made a rookie mistake. The pastry was blind baking in the oven and it was time to remove the baking beans. All good so far. But here's a hint. If you are using a loose bottomed tart tray it is best not to carry it from the bottom because what ends up happening it that you end up putting your hand through the base, ruining your pastry, and burning your arm as the outer ring slides down. Won't do that again any time soon I hope.

Anyway, I was really, really pleased with how the lemon tart came out. The pastry was beautiful and the tart very lemonny. I think I am going to make it again next week.


 Lemon Tart

 

Pastry Base

1½ cups (225g) plain (all-purpose) flour
125g chilled butter, cut into cubes
½ cup (80g) icing (confectioner’s) sugar, plus extra, for dusting
3 egg yolks
1 tablespoon iced water 

Filling
1 cup (250ml) single (pouring) cream
2 eggs
3 egg yolks, extra
½ cup (110g) caster (superfine) sugar
½ cup (125ml) lemon juice



Place the flour, butter and icing sugar in the bowl of a food processor and process until mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. While the motor is running, add the egg yolks and process to combine. Add the iced water and process until the dough just comes together. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and gently bring together to form a ball. Flatten into a disk, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour.
 

Preheat oven to 180ºC (350ºF). Roll the pastry out between 2 sheets of non-stick baking paper to 3mm-thick. Line an 11cm x 34cm lightly greased loose-bottomed tart tin with the pastry, trim the edges and prick the base with a fork. Refrigerate for 30 minutes. 

Line the pastry case with non-stick baking paper and fill with baking weights. Bake for 15 minutes, remove the paper and weights and bake for a further 10 minutes or until the pastry is light golden. Reduce temperature to 140ºC (275ºF).
 

To make the lemon filling, place the cream, eggs, extra yolks, sugar and lemon juice in a bowl and whisk to combine. Strain through a sieve and pour into the tart shell. Bake for 30–35 minutes or until just set. Allow to cool and refrigerate until completely set. Dust with icing sugar to serve. Serves 4–6.

 

Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, photographs. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend. You do not have to post on the weekend. For more information, see the welcome post.

 

Saturday, July 21, 2018

Weekend Cooking: Brioche buns

My sous chef and I enjoy cooking together, and we have been experimenting with making bread over the last year or so. We are big fans of the no knead bread recipe that I have previously posted

The other week we were watching Masterchef Australia(which we never miss) and in one of the team challenges they made a  Smoked Salmon on Brioche dish. We haven't done the smoked salmon part, but we have now made the brioche a couple of times, and it's really delicious and not too difficult given that most of the kneading is done in the stand mixer. We also haven't put the sesame seeds on, but we will one day I'm sure.


Brioche Buns


400g 00 flour, plus extra to dust (we are just using normal plain flour)
35g caster sugar
14g / 2 sachets dried instant yeast
3 eggs
40ml olive oil
1 tsp fine salt
3 tsp black sesame seeds
3 tsp white sesame seeds
1 tsp salt flakes
30g butter, melted

Preheat oven to 180C.

Place the flour, sugar and yeast in a bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook and mix briefly. Add 2 eggs, oil and 185ml water. Mix on high speed for 6 minutes, scraping the sides of the bowl occasionally. Add fine salt and beat for a further 1 minute to make a smooth but sticky dough. Portion dough into 6 balls and place on a lightly floured work surface.

Knock the air from each ball of dough and gently roll to form a smooth ball. Place balls on a paper lined tray, leaving space between each. Lightly dust a large sheet of cling film and place over the balls to cover completely. Set aside, in a warm place, to rise until doubled in size, about 30 minutes.

For the egg wash, place black and white sesame seeds in a small bowl, mix to combine and set aside. Place remaining egg and salt flakes together in a small bowl and whisk to combine. Brush the risen balls of dough with the egg wash and sprinkle with mixed sesame seeds. Place in oven and bake until the surface of the buns are golden, about 15-20 minutes. Remove from oven and while buns are still hot, brush lightly with melted butter. Set aside to cool until serving.

Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, photographs. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend. You do not have to post on the weekend. For more information, see the welcome post.

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Weekend Cooking: Dinner with Friends

One of the things that I am gradually learning with the sous chef* is that cooking for others need not be too stressful now that there are two of us to take care of things. Previously if I knew that others were coming for a meal I would get stressed about what to cook, about what time to start, about what would happen if they didn't like it, if the food was going to be at an acceptable standard and so much more. I don't think I have too many disasters so I am not sure why I think like that, but I always have done.

Last week we invited some of our friends around to have dinner with us. Maybe part of the reason for not feeling too stressed about it was that I knew weeks ago what I was going to cook for dessert so it was really only what we would have for mains that was undecided. In fact, what we were having for dessert came even before I knew they were coming. It was probably more that I knew I wanted to cook the next Bake It Box and therefore I invited people around!!

We were a bit undecided about what to cook during the week leading up to the meal. We debated about beef ribs, or some version of American barbecue but in the end we decided to go with pork belly. Now this meant there were some firsts for me. I've never actually cooked with pork belly before, let alone with kalettes or fennel which form part of the cooked vegetables in this dish. In fact, I'd never heard of kalettes until we watched Masterchef recently and they were included in a recipe. Part of the reason for choosing this recipe was because I had picked up the supermarket magazine for July and this was the cover recipe. It seemed like as good a recipe to try as any.

I will say that we do look forward to picking up the Coles magazine every month. There are always lots of recipes that we think we might try. Not bad for a free supermarket magazine. You can also find some of the recipes on Taste.

We did change the vegies from brussel sprouts (bleugh) to broccoli but other than that we kept pretty much to the recipe. In addition, we made some brioche buns to have with dinner (recipe coming soon). This dish was very, very tasty, although I'm not really sure about pork belly because there just isn't that much meat. I think if we were going to do this recipe again, we would use a normal pork roast but use the herb rub which was absolutely delicious.

Crispy Skin Pork Belly with Caramelised Apples


1.3kg Pork Belly Roast Boneless
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon sea salt flakes
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 brown onion, cut into wedges
1 fennel, trimmed, cut into wedges
1 cup (250ml) salt-reduced chicken stock
200g pkt Kalettes, trimmed
200g brussels sprouts, halved (we substituted broccoli cut into florets)
3 teaspoons brown sugar
3 small red apples, halved

Preheat oven to 140°C. Place pork on a clean work surface. Pat rind dry with paper towel. Brush rind with half the oil. Sprinkle with salt, fennel seeds and cumin seeds. Place the onion and fennel wedges in the base of a roasting pan. Place pork, rind-side up, over the onion mixture. Pour stock around the pork in the pan. Cover and roast for 2 hours or until pork is very tender.
Increase oven to 230°C. Uncover and roast for 30 mins or until rind is crackled. Cover and set aside for 15 mins to rest.
Meanwhile, combine the kalettes, brussels sprout, 1 teaspoon of the sugar and remaining oil in a roasting pan. Season. Sprinkle cut side of apple with remaining sugar. Add to kalette mixture in the pan. Roast at 230°C with pork, turning occasionally, for 20 mins or until tender.
Arrange the pork, onion mixture and kalette mixture on a large serving platter. Thickly slice the pork to serve.

So for dessert I made the April Bake it Box which was a Vanilla Custard Cake. This was a pretty clever cake. You make a single cake batter, but the magic is that the cake separates into a sponge top layer, a soft custard inside and a firm custard base. Very tasty! I am keen to try making it again at some point and maybe making it a chocolate flavoured custard cake.

We went from this:



To this:




This was when cake making felt a little bit like craft



The finished product


I'm very happy with how it turned out. Even my wafer paper flower didn't look too wonky, and it tasted great!

All in all a very successful evening.

* My boyfriend/partner/man have several things we enjoy doing together (no,.,I wasn't talking about anything like that!!). We enjoy cooking together. He is a much more organised cook than I am, but even so he doesn't mind cleaning up after me as I cook. He shall henceforth be known as the sous chef.

Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, photographs. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend. You do not have to post on the weekend. For more information, see the welcome post.

Saturday, July 07, 2018

Weekend Cooking: Salted Caramel and Vanilla Baked Cheesecake

I mentioned last week that I made salted caramel sauce for the first time ever and it was so delicious that now I am looking for any excuse to use it. In the end, my excuse came in the form of a dinner party with friends where I was nominated to bring dessert. After looking through many recipes trying to decide what to make I settled on Donna Hay's Salted Caramel and Vanilla Baked Cheesecake. This recipe met two criteria for me. The first was the salted caramel element but the second was that I have been wanting to make a baked cheesecake for a long time - something I have never done before.

I did get in a bit of trouble from my friends. I decided to make this because I wanted to push myself to make something new and to learn a new technique. My friends expected that I would bring my go-to cheesecake which is a White Chocolate Cheesecake. There was some vocalised disappointment. I think they almost forgave me when they tasted this one. Almost, but not quite.

This was the second Donna Hay dessert I had made over a couple of weeks. The first was a lemon tart that I will post about soon. It was kind of funny really. I have several Donna Hay cookbooks here, but there was at least one that I bought years ago and hadn't looked at ever since. I ended up being quite impressed by the recipes in the cookbook. I was left wondering why I hadn't cooked from it. before. This recipe, however, came from her website.

Anyway, I digress.

This recipe took a bit of time, but it wasn't too difficult. I ended with way too much of the base but I'm not sure why. If I had of used all of it, the base would have been way too thick.  As it was the filling went to the top of the tin rather than how the picture on the website showed, but I just put the cream on top when it was time to serve, Everyone was impressed. I thought it was totally delicious, and was impressed with how smooth the filling was. Sometimes baked cheesecake can be a bit stodgy and a bit dry, but this one wasn't at all. One of my friends even said that she was surprised that it was a baked cheesecake at all

Salted Caramel and Vanilla Baked Cheesecake


Base 
500g plain sweet shortbread biscuits
½ cup (60g) almond meal (ground almonds)
150g butter, melted

Filling
350g ricotta
500g cream cheese
1 cup (175g) brown sugar
4 eggs
2 tablespoons golden syrup
¼ teaspoon table salt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Cream layer
1 cup (250ml) single (pouring) cream
1 cup (240g) sour cream
1 tablespoon icing (confectioner’s) sugar, sifted
sea salt flakes, for sprinkling

Caramel sauce
1 cup (250ml) single (pouring) cream
60g butter, chopped
1 cup (175g) brown sugar

To make the caramel sauce, place the cream, butter and sugar in a saucepan over low heat and stir until the sugar is dissolved. Increase heat to high, bring to the boil and cook for 5–7 minutes or until thickened. Set aside and allow to cool. Preheat oven to 160°C (325°F). \

Place the biscuits and almond meal in the bowl of a food processor and process until coarsely chopped. Add the butter and process to combine. Press the biscuit mixture into the base and sides of a lightly greased 22cm springform cake tin lined with non-stick baking paper. Refrigerate for 1 hour.
Place the ricotta and cream cheese in the bowl of an electric mixer and beat for 5–6 minutes or until smooth. Add the sugar and beat for 3–4 minutes or until combined. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the golden syrup, table salt and 1 teaspoon of vanilla and beat until well combined. 
 
Spoon the mixture into the biscuit shell. Place the tin in a baking dish and pour in enough boiling water to come halfway up the sides of the tin. Bake for 1 hour 30 minutes or until firm to the touch. Remove cheesecake from the baking dish and allow to cool in the tin. Refrigerate for 3 hours or until set. 

Place the cream, sour cream, icing sugar and remaining vanilla in a bowl and whisk until soft peaks form. Top the cheesecake with the cream, drizzle with the caramel sauce and sprinkle with sea salt flakes to serve. Serves 8–10

Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, photographs. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend. You do not have to post on the weekend. For more information, see the welcome post.

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