Saturday, April 21, 2018

Weekend Cooking: Lasagne


Symply Too Good to be True - Annette Sym Used softcover low fat cookbook Book 1I am going to unashamedly admitting that I am posting this recipe for me, and for no one else. To be honest, I can't quite believe that I haven't posted it before as this is my go to lasagne recipe, mainly because I like to kid myself that it is a relatively healthy version that isn't too difficult to make and it tastes pretty dam good. I have been making it for a few years now after finding it in one of the Symply Too Good to be True cookbooks when I first bought them.

It is the kind of meal that I make a full 8 portions of, rather than scaling the recipe down, because I know that I can take some for lunch during the week, put some in the freezer and eat leftovers and it will still taste really, really good.


As I was typing this recipe up, I realised that I have become one of those people who make a recipe but then say, this recipe was really good, but I did this and this and this differently. At least I keep the key ingredients the same. I do find it amusing when you read a review of a recipe on a website, say for something raspberry and the commenter says I changed the raspberries for banana and this for that but it was really good. It may have been really good but it wasn't really the recipe that you are leaving a review of!! Anyway.....

For this, I always cook the onion and garlic first until it softens a little and then add the mince because I don't want to end up with not quite cooked onion. When it is all browned I just add all the other ingredients in and simmer. I also tend to add in basil as well as oregano.  I also cook the white sauce more thoroughly over the heat, stirring until it thickens rather than setting it to one side and hoping it thickens enough.


Lasagne

 

 Meat Sauce

750g very lean mince
Cooking spray
2x425g cans tomato puree
1x 140g can no-added-salt tomato paste
1 cup water
1 onion finely diced
2 tspn crushed garlic
2 tspn salt-reduced beef stock powder
2 tspn oregano
pepper to taste

White Sauce Mixture

1 tbspn light margarine
3 tbspn plain flour
2 1/2 cups skim milk
pepper to taste

8 instant lasagne sheets
1/4 cup reduced fat grated tasty cheese

To make meat sauce: Brown mince in a large saucepan that has been coated with cooking spray, drain well and remove to a plate. In same saucepan add all other ingredients, bring to boil, simmer 5 minutes. Return mince to pan, cook a further 5 minutes, leave to one side

To make white sauce: Melt margarine in a medium size saucepan, add flour, mix well with a whisk to avoid lumps. Slowly add milk, stir constantly until sauce boils, pepper to taste. Remove from heat, leave for a few minutes to allow sauce to thicken.

Preheat oven to 180C fan forced.

To assemble lasagne: Spoon 1/3 of meat sauce over base of lasagna dish, cover with 1/2 of white sauce. Top with 4 lasagne sheets. Spread 1/2 of meat sauce over lasagne, cover with remaining white sauce, top with remaining lasagne sheets. Spread with remainder of meat sauce and sprinkle with cheese. Cover with foil (coat foil with cooking spray to stop cheese sticking). Bake 40-45 minutes, remove foil, cook a further 5-10 minutes until pasta is cooked and cheese is golden brown.




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, April 14, 2018

Weekend Cooking: Pork and Pineapple Thai Red Curry

We are now at the end of summer now and we have had our first cool autumn day. Such an occasion tends to retrospectiveness about the summer just gone. Somewhat strangely, I found myself having a summer of pineapple. I like pineapple most of the time but recently we have had a lot.

Just the other weekend I decided to make an old favourite recipe (Thai Pork Burgers with a Pineapple Chilli Relish) and found myself trying to find a recipe to use the rest of the fresh pineapple up. There were plenty of options ranging from cakes to tarts and more but in the end we found this recipe for a pork curry with a pineapple twist.

The good thing about this recipe was that it was quick and tasty, which makes it ideal for a mid week meal.

Pork and Pineapple Thai Red Curry

1 tablespoon peanut oil
1 brown onion, finely chopped
500g pork fillet, thickly sliced (see Notes)
2 tablespoons Thai red curry paste
270ml can coconut milk
1 cup Massel salt reduced chicken style liquid stock
1 1/2 tablespoons fish sauce
1 tablespoon palm sugar, grated
1/4 small fresh pineapple, peeled, cored, roughly chopped
1 tablespoon lime juice
1/4 cup fresh coriander leaves
1/4 cup fried shallots
Steamed jasmine rice, to serve



Heat a large wok over high heat. Add oil. Swirl to coat. Add onion. Stir-fry for 3 minutes or until softened. Add pork. Stir-fry for 3 minutes or until browned. Add curry paste. Cook for 1 minute or until fragrant.

 Add coconut milk and stock. Bring to the boil. Reduce heat to medium. Simmer, stirring occasionally, for 5 to 7 minutes or until sauce thickens and pork is cooked through. Add fish sauce, palm sugar and pineapple. Simmer for 2 minutes or until heated through. Stir in lime juice.

 Spoon curry into serving bowls. Top with coriander and shallots. Serve with rice


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, April 08, 2018

Weekend Cooking: Bake It Box


I don't typically spend a lot of time on Twitter anymore, but when I do I tend to see tweets from the same people. One of those people is Kaetrin from Kaetrin's Musings. A couple of months ago she posted a photo of a super impressive lemon mousse cake. It featured several layers, curd, filling and more, so I naturally said something along the lines of there is no way I could ever make that.

She then told me about Bake It Box.

This is the description from their website:

Bake It Box delivers a delicious, exciting, & new baking kit directly to your door every month. Each bakeitbox contains easy step-by-step instructions, pre-measured dry ingredients and all the decorations needed to create a standout baking masterpiece!

Now, I consider myself a competent baker. Most of what I cook tastes good, but I am not very good at making things pretty, but it's good to challenge yourself isn't it? I therefore waited for the announcement of the next box knowing that I intended to order it.  I also ordered a kit for my sister who already does a lot of cake decorating but I think this is a technique she hasn't used before.

I must confess that I doubted the wisdom of that decision when I saw that it was going to be a Red Velvet Cake with a Mirror Glaze. The red velvet part was fine. I mean, that's cake so it should be okay as long as you follow the recipe, but the mirror glaze part was far more challenging. It's the kind of technique you see on baking shows and think wow that looks amazing but I couldn't possibly do it. Part of the reason for buying this kit (and the other one I have bought but not yet made) is to challenge myself so this weekend I am finally biting the bullet and making it. There were a couple of reasons for doing it this weekend. One is that we don't have to do any moving furniture etc so there is time to do all the processes, and the other is that I have told myself that I can't buy the next box until I have made at least one of the two that I have here.

When I did decide to make it this weekend, I knew that I was going to my sister's for dinner on Sunday night, so I thought that I could take this for dinner. Ironically, she decided that she was going to make her box this weekend too so I see plenty of red velvet cake in my immediate future!

So what do you get in your box. Basically, you get your pre-measured dry ingredients, plus things like disposable cake tins and food colouring to help you with your creation. You also get an ingredient list so you know exactly what else you will need to buy, and a step by step instruction card that gives you all the ingredients so you can make the recipe again at a future date. In addition, there are resources such as online tutorials (this is the tutorial for this recipe). The instructions also tell you what the techniques are. For example, in this recipe you mix your gelatine into cold water and then mix that into hot liquid. This technique is called blooming (or so I learned from the instruction card!!)

Here are some pics from the process






   
I have to say I am really really pleased with how this has turned out. All there is left to do now is transfer it onto the serving board without messing it up and it will be done. Of course that might turn out to be the hardest bit yet!!

I will definitely be using the cream cheese frosting recipe in the future as it was the best I have ever made. And for all the leftover bits that we cut off to make the heart shape? Well, I think we are going to make a trifle type concoction next weekend with all the offcuts!

So, am I going to keep buying kits from Bake it Box. Absolutely!! I might even try and make them in the appropriate month too!

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.

Wednesday, April 04, 2018

Year One by Nora Roberts

I've been reading Nora Roberts books for a long time now. Whilst there are plenty of her books that I have really enjoyed, over the last few years there have been a number of her books, particularly the trilogies, where I felt like I had read them all before. Yes, the names have been changed, and the locations but there was a certain sameness that lead me to think that maybe, just maybe I was done with her books. At least the trilogies with a paranormal bent. I didn't necessarily feel that way about the standalone suspense titles, but I also haven't read any, mainly because I haven't been reading very much anyway.

Recently, a few of my online friends began talking about this book and how it was different from other books by her. After one person said it was different I wasn't interested, but after hearing several people saying the same my interest began to be piqued. I was looking for a new audiobook and I wanted something different from the historical fiction and crime I had been listening to so I thought I would give this a go.

So, was it different? It most certainly was, and yet there were also parts of the book where  it was definitely a Nora Roberts book.

The story basically unfolds as an epidemic called the Doom spreads around the world. It starts in Scotland but soon spreads all around the world as people travel and make contact with strangers who then make contact with others and and travel etc etc. Soon, law and order, government and communication collapses as millions of people die. For those who are immune, or who have special talents, survival becomes paramount, and it soon becomes survival of the fittest.

There are entire sections in this book where it is full of the horror of a world falling to pieces and it was really well done. The fear that the characters feel as they try to get out of New York, running the gauntlet through humans who fear the uncanny - the faeries, the witches and warlocks, the elves - but also the uncanny who are on the dark side and who prey on humans. Really, these scenes are the strength of the novel.

It is, however, this same uncanny element which had me thinking wait, this is definitely Nora writing here. For example, there are times when one of the main characters, Lana, lapses into trance and starts prophesying (for want of a better word) and that felt familiar and there were times when I wondered if maybe we weren't sure about what type of book it was meant to be. Is it meant to be a horror novel, or a paranormal fantasy, or a combination, or something different again.

While I was reading (or should I say listening?) I did find myself looking for the tell tale NR signs.  In a normal NR trilogy you have six people who come together and then pair off into romantic partnerships. There were times when I thought well here it comes, but in the end where ever this happened it was in effect off the page.

Now I need to wait for the next book in the trilogy which is due out at the end of the year.  I hope that the next two books are still in the same vein as this book. Undeniably Nora Roberts, but undeniably different, with the potential to be even more different if she could just step away from some of her  normal cliches.




Saturday, March 31, 2018

Weekend Cooking: Hot Cross Buns


Our continued adventures in baking...the Easter addition

As I have mentioned several times now that we have been making bread, and that continues unabated. For example, on Monday we are going to be making slow cooked butter chicken and we are going to be making the naan bread to eat with it.

I decided this year that I wanted to try making my own hot cross buns, just because we can, so on Thursday night we bit the bullet and made first ever attempt. Whilst they weren't perfect, they were definitely tasty in the traditional way, and they were very nice toasted and then spread with butter. They weren't as light and fluffy as they could have been, but we think that we know why that is. I was a bit worried that I was going to end up with hot rock buns instead of hot cross buns. Yeast can be a tricky beast, and we didn't quite get it right this time, but we will! Maybe just not for another year or so.

It's funny how divisive hot cross buns can be. There are those who hate that hot cross buns start to appear in the shops soon after Christmas, and those who look forward to them and have them regularly until Easter (that's the boyfriend). There are those who don't like sultanas in their buns, or the taste of mixed spice. There are those who like the newer flavours that include apple and cinnamon, chocolate and brioche style hot cross buns. For me, the only thing I prefer is that I like them toasted with butter. Other than that, I'm relatively happy to try anything.

Hot Cross Buns


2 tspn (1 sachet/7g) dried yeast
2 tbspn caster sugar
3/4 cup (185ml) warm milk
1 tspn mixed spice
40g spreadable butter
2/3 cup (110g) sultanas
1 tspn finely grated orange rind
1 egg, lightly whisked
1/3 cup (50g) plain flour, extra
1 1/2 tbspn caster sugar, extra
2 tbspn boiling water,
1 tspn gelatine powder

Combine yeast, sugar and milk in a small bowl. Stand in a warm place for 10 mins or until frothy.

Combine flour and mixed spice in a bowl. Rub in the butter . Stir in sultanas and orange rind. Make a well in the centre. Stir in yeast mixture and egg. Cover. Set aside in a warm place for 40 mins or until dough doubles in size. Grease and 18m x 28cm slice pan (I used a square baking tin)

Knead the dough on a floured service for 5 mins. Divide into 12 portions. Roll each portion into a ball. Place in prepared pan. Cover. Set aside in a warm place for 10 mins.

Preheat over to 220C. Combine extra flour and 2 tspn of extra sugar in a small bow. Stir in 2 tbspn cold water to form a thick, smooth paste. Place in a sealable plastic bag and cut off 1 corner. Pipe over buns to make crosses. Bake for 20 mins or until buns sound hollow when tapped on top. Turn onto a wire rack to cool.

Stir boiling water, gelatine and remaining 1 tbspn extra sugar in a heatproof jug until gelatine dissolves. Brush over hot buns. Serve warm with butter

Interestingly, I tried a recipe from our local supermarket magazine. In it, there was a link to the following video but the recipe above is slightly different to the one below






How do you prefer your hot cross buns? Have you ever tried to make them?


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, March 10, 2018

Weekend Cooking: 2 Hour No Knead Bread

A couple of months ago I posted about how excited we were to be making our own bread, especially seeing as there was little effort require.

The only thing with that recipe was that it required a long time, usually somewhere between 12 and 18 hours. It tasted delicious, but you couldn't just decide on a Sunday that you wanted fresh bread, you had to decide on Saturday that you wanted bread for Sunday.

I happened to see this recipe somewhere. Eventually I tracked it down to Jenny Jones' website. I was pleased because whilst this still has minimal effort, it also takes 2 hours at most, and the bread was still good. If I had to pick which was the better bread taste and texture wise, it would probably be the recipe that takes loner but this was way more achievable on a regular basis.

We intend to maybe try the no knead bread rolls at some point in the near future.

2 Hour No Knead Bread
  • 3 cups bread flour (all purpose works too)
  • 2 teaspoons instant yeast (1 packet/7 grams)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cups hot water (up to 130° F)
  • (about 2 Tablespoons extra flour for shaping)
Instructions:
  1. Combine flour, yeast and salt in a large bowl. Stir in water until it’s well combined.
  2. Cover with plastic wrap and let stand at room temperature for 1 hour.
  3. After 40 minutes, place a 3 to 6-quart Dutch oven with lid in a cold oven and preheat to 450° F.
  4. After the dough has rested for the hour, place it on a well-floured surface and sprinkle with a little flour. Using a scraper fold dough over 10-12 times & shape into a rough ball.
  5. Place in a parchment paper-lined bowl and cover with a towel or another bowl. Let stand on counter top for 15 minutes.
  6. After 15 minutes, carefully, using oven gloves, lift the parchment paper and dough from the bowl and place gently into the hot pot. (parchment paper goes in the pot too) Cover and bake for 30 minutes.
  7. After 30 minutes, remove lid and parchment paper. Return, uncovered, to oven and bake 10 more minutes.

**I would post a photo but my SD card has died on my phone and that is where the photo is! Maybe another time.

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, March 03, 2018

Weekend Cooking: Welcome to Rosie Hopkins' Sweet Shop of Dreams by Jenny Colgan

Recently I have been listening to the audiobook of Welcome to Rosie Hopkins' Sweet Shop of Dreams by Jenny Colgan. If I am to believe Goodreads I actually started reading this book four years ago. I remember getting it out of the library and then returning it, but I don't remember actually starting it. The timing must be right now though because I have found myself sitting in the driveway listening to the book (just to get to the end of the chapter) and I very much enjoyed the experience.

Rosie Hopkins lives in London and loves it. She loves the city, the noise, her boyfriend Gerard who she has been with for years and is still waiting for him to ask the big question, she loves her work as a nurse, even if it is only as an agency nurse working on a casual basis. So she isn't really that thrilled when her mum asks her to temporarily move to the Derbyshire country side to look after her elderly aunt Lilian. Lilian is elderly and needs to be moved into an aged care facility and for her lolly shop to be sold off as a going concern.

Rosie is ill-equipped to live in the country. Her clothes and shoes are all wrong, she can't get a telephone signal and she knows nothing about running a sweet shop.

I have no idea if it is still a thing or not, but once upon a time there was a whole genre that was classified as chick-lit, and to my mind, a lot of good chick-lit was British, and this book has all the hallmarks of one of these books. There are improbable situations and a whole village full of handsome, single men just for starters, but it also has a secondary storyline featuring Aunt Lilian.

Whilst we see the here and now realities of aging from both Rosie and Lilian's perspectives, we also get to know a much younger Lilian, about her war time experience, why she never married and, as a consequence, lived her life running her father's sweet shop in a small village.

Throughout the novel, we are also treated to excerpts of the self published book that Lilian had written all about sweets, small glimpses telling us about the history of certain chocolates (did you know that Mars Bars were first made in the 1930's), about the evils of chewing gum (Lilian can get quite opinionated on some subjects), recipes for marshmallows and many more. One was a recipe for Coconut Ice which had an instruction that said it would keep for weeks if stored correctly, but if it lasted for weeks you hadn't made it correctly in the first place. Made me laugh!

I listened to the audio version, narrated by Jane Collingwood, and I did enjoy the reading. At times, I thought that Rosie sounded a little young, but for the most part I did enjoy it, especially the portrayal of Lilian. At times she was brittle, at other times sarcastic,  sometimes scared amongst other emotions.

One of things that I did find myself thinking about at several points in this book was the role of food in memories about meals, about places, about people. I have posted several times in the past about memorable meals, but on this occasion, I found myself thinking about my grandfather.

One of the excerpts from Lilian's book was about the joys of licorice. My grandfather enjoyed sweet things, and there was always a tin filled with lollies by the side of his chair. One of his favourites was licorice allsorts, but he also always had a tin of Kool Mints within easy reach in the car.  Just that small passage had me feeling like he was still there, probably as he was when I was growing up. Lolly tin there waiting to be raided, telephone nearby, and more likely than not, him asleep in his chair as he "watched" TV. And no, he most definitely was not snoring.

As a result of this book I found myself craving licorice allsorts and so I ended up buying a bag, but I must confess that when I ate them, I didn't pull them apart layer by layer as I once would have done! I also ended up buying Crunchies for a couple of days and would have quite happily gone an bought other things that were mentioned as well, but I thought I should probably leave it at that.

 There are now 2 other books in the Rosie Hopkins series, and I think I will most likely try to listen to them at some point too, although my audiobook wishlist is a bit out of control at the moment. Who knows when that will happen!



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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