Saturday, June 23, 2018

Weekend Cooking: Word of Mouth TV

I have soooo many Weekend Cooking posts in my head and have done for a couple of months, but the process of sitting down and writing one or more just hasn't happened. There was the post about eating while we were away in South Africa, the fact that I have become pretty good a making swiss roll style sponges in the last month or so, the fact that I made pastry from scratch, a few new recipes, the initial steps in an upcoming kitchen renovation and possibly more that I can't think of right now. Maybe some of those posts will still happen but probably not all of them.

Today, I want to post about Word of Mouth TV which is a relatively new Youtube TV show that has been put together by one of my favourite Australian authors, Kate Forsyth and her friend Sarah Mills (also an author).

The basic idea is to combine two loves, food and books, into one Youtube TV show. Each episode features an author guest who comes to eat delicious food but also to talk about their writing, their food loves, their favourite recent reads and favourite cookbooks.  The first episode featured husband and wife authors Graeme Simsion (author of The Rosie Project) and Anne Buist. Other guests have included Jennifer Egan, Richard Fidler and more.

On the Word of Mouth TV website, there are the recipes for the dishes that have been cooked for the show, plus details of the books that have been featured and by the authors that have been guests. There is a also a blog which includes a series of posts called  Iconic Literary Food Moments, which so far has included posts about Ernest Hemingway's Bellinis, fried green tomatoes (as in Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistlestop Cafe by Fannie Flagg) and Charles Dickens' Sage and Onion Roast Goose

There already have been a couple of episodes that have inspired me to look for specific cookbooks, and to at least think about trying different authors.

In order to give you a taste of the type of thing you might see in this series I have included one of the Soundbites, a short video featuring author Kelly Rimmer recommending a cookbook that I have to get my hands on and soon!

My question to you all is..... if you could only recommend one cookbook that you own, which one would it be?

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.

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Thank goodness for audiobooks

As anyone who is still reading my blog knows I have had a long, long reading slump that has lasted years (no exaggeration). Whilst I am nowhere near reading as much as I did back in my hey day, I have rediscovered audiobooks this year, and so I am getting through a few books at least.

I thought that I would write a few words about the audiobooks I have listened to this year over a couple of posts. That's the plan anyway

The Summer Queen by Elizabeth Chadwick - It took me more than 4 years to read this book, which is actually a bit of a travesty because that makes it sound like I didn't really like it. I actually started reading the actual book in my pre slump days but put it down and never picked it up again. Then last year I started listening to the audiobook but then holidays and life got in the way, but finally I finished it.

Like all of Elizabeth Chadwick's books we get a great glimpse into the medieval life of her characters - in this case Alienor of Aquitaine, the only woman to be queen of both France and England. We follow her life from her marriage to Louis as a very young woman, through trials and tribulations, including plenty of scandals. Alienor is a strong woman who faces the challenges life throws at her the only way she knows - head first. There are two more books in the trilogy which I will get to eventually I'm sure. The narrator is Katie Scarfe. It took me a little while to get used to her somewhat breathy narration but I got there in the end

Ambulance Girls by Deborah Burrows - I have previously enjoyed reading Deborah Burrows' books that have been set in Australia during World War II. This time, the setting has moved to war time London, but still featuring an Australian as a main character. Lily Brennan is an ambulance officer in the Blitz, having to put herself in danger time and again as the bombs rain down. I liked Lily but there were times when I felt like her insecurities were overdone and got in the way. The narration was good from Penelope Freeman although I didn't think all the accents worked as well as it could. Like all of Burrow's previous books there was a mystery element to the book which was interesting s well as a romance. There is a a sequel to this book but unfortunately it isn't available on audio so who knows if I will get to it or not.

Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman - I downloaded this book last year with the intention of listening to the book whilst on a road trip with the man. In the end, it ended up being just me listening to it on the commute. It was a complete change of pace to the books I had been listening to and it was a breath of fresh air. Whilst I have read lots of Pratchett books I haven't ever listened to one so I was very curious as to how this would work, and it was lots of fun. It starts when the Anti Christ is born, but unfortunately due to a case of mistaken identity he ends up living in England. When it is time for the end of the world, things don't quite work out as the gods and demons expect. I do think that the authors deserve an award for the most use of the word ineffable!

I did see that there is also a full cast performance available to listen to and then there is the TV adaptation that's coming next year as well.

Welcome to Rosie Hopkins' Sweet Shop of Dreams by Jenny Colgan- I actually wrote a full review of this. Shocking but true! There is a couple of more books featuring the same characters. I really should make an effort to listen to them.

Sylvester by Georgette Heyer - As narrated by Richard Armitage - le sigh. Do I need to say anymore! I have listened to this maybe 3 or 4 times now and I love it every time. In fact, I think I only last listened to it last year (when I wrote a review). That's how much I love it.  I think that Mr Armitage has been busy recording lots of audiobooks including a romance, which I am definitely going to listen to at some stage. Listening to that voice whispering sweet nothings in my ear...mmm hmmm. Could be a bit awkward if someone else gets in the car with me.

Here's hoping for a follow up post to this one with the next few audiobooks

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.



 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)
  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.

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Weekend Cooking: Jam Drops

We are big fans of Bake Off in this house, and it doesn't really matter if we are talking about the British version, the Australian version, the Celebrity Comic Relief version or even the professional baker version (Creme de la Creme)

There are many reasons to enjoy it. Unlike so many other reality TV shows there aren't any manufactured rivalries (I'm looking at you My Kitchen Rules) and there genuinely seems to be a great camaraderie between a whole group of people who have a common interest in baking.

Over the years, there have been countless occasions where I have watched an episode and thought I would like to try making that, but until this recipe, I have never actually had enough courage to actually give it a go.

I haven't made a lot of jam. I did make some a couple of years ago for this recipe, but other than that one exception, it isn't something I have done. this recipe also had a couple of other firsts for me. I have never ever purchased figs before, let alone cooked with them, and I don't think I have ever actually bought vanilla pods and scraped the beans out of them. Normally I would use vanilla extract instead.

The biscuits themselves were delicious, and I am totally going to use this recipe in future for other variations, and the fig jam was really good as well, although we did have a lot left over which never actually got eaten but never mind.

Jam Drops

Fig jam

300g fresh figs (about 7-8)
110g caster sugar
1 lemon, finely grated rind & 2 tbs juice


100g chilled unsalted butter
100g caster sugar
1 lemon, finely grated rind
1 vanilla bean, seeds scraped
1 egg
1 egg yolk
1 teaspoon baking powder
250g plain flour
Pinch Australian pink salt flakes


Pure icing sugar, for dusting

1. Pre-heat oven to 160°C fan-forced.

2. For the fig jam: Remove and discard stem from the figs. Roughly chop figs and place into a small chopper attachment and blend with stick blender until smooth. Transfer mixture to a bowl and combine with sugar, lemon rind and juice. Cover with cling film and stand until ready to use (about 10 minutes).

3.For the biscuit dough: Combine butter, sugar, lemon rind and vanilla bean seeds in the bowl of a stand mixer. Beat until white and fluffy. Add egg and egg yolk, beating well and scrapping the bowl to make sure all is incorporated evenly.

4. Meanwhile, sift dry ingredients together twice. Turn the mixer to the lowest speed and add the dry mixture and beat until dough just comes together. Scrape dough onto bench and bring together, place in a bowl and rest, covered, in the fridge for 20-30 minutes.

5. To make the jam:  Place fig mixture into a small saucepan and bring to the boil. Reduce heat, cook, stirring continuously for 4-5 minutes on a medium-low heat until mixture thickens, being careful of mixture spitting (to at least 98°C). Remove from heat and push through a sieve placed over a bowl, let cool at room temperature, cover until needed.

6. To bake the jam drops:  Line 2 oven trays with baking paper. Divide dough into 24, roll into balls and place among prepared trays. Make a little well in the centre of the ball to make a hole (pressing down slightly with your finger or end of wooden spoon and making a 2cm hole). Fill hole with ¼-½ teaspoon jam.

7. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until cooked.

8. Transfer cooked biscuits to cooling rack to cool slightly, top up with ¼ teaspoon of jam, sprinkle with icing sugar and place on a rectangle serving plate.

I will confess that I used Himalayan Pink salt and didn't put on a rectangle serving plate! Shocking I know!!

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, February 17, 2018

Weekend Cooking: A Profusion of Peaches

We recently went for lunch at a family member's house and they were talking about how productive their fruit trees were. As inevitably happens in such circumstances we were offered some to take home. Now, when she said would you like some peaches and a zucchini to take home, I kind of expected to get half a dozen or so, but instead we ended up with two full shopping bags of peaches, and a giant zucchini. We decided pretty early on to do stuffed zucchini but it did mean that suddenly we needed to find things to do with so many peaches.

Thank goodness for the internet as I found a recipe that I wanted to try pretty much straight away, but then when I was talking to someone at work they said how about grilling peaches, so today I am posting both recipes!

In the end, the ideas themselves were great but the peaches, whilst heading towards overripe, weren't all that sweet, but I am keen to try both recipes again, especially the grilled peach one.

Peach Clafoutis 

2cups peeled peach slices (about 4 peaches)
2⁄3 cup milk
2 tablespoons flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1⁄2 teaspoon vanilla
1⁄ 4teaspoon nutmeg
1pinch salt
confectioners' sugar(optional)

Preheat oven to 375 and grease a 9-inch pie plate. Arrange the peaches in a single layer.

Combine all other ingredients and mix well. Pour mixture over peaches.

Bake until puffed and golden, about 30 minutes.

Sprinkle with confectioners sugar if desired. Cut into wedges.

Serve with ice cream or frozen yogurt, or in our case, it will always be cream and lots of it!!

1 peach per person
1 teaspoon neutral-flavoured cooking oil per peach
1 tablespoon brown sugar per peach, optional (approx measurement)
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon per peach, optional (approx measurement)

Prepare a gas, barbecue or charcoal grill to medium heat.

Cut the peaches in half and pit them. If you want to add cinnamon and/or sugar, grill entire peach halves; otherwise, you can cut them into wedges, if you like. 

Lightly brush the the peaches with the oil, being particularly aware of coating the cut sides well.
Set the oiled peaches on the medium hot grill. 

Cook the peaches until grill marks form, turning as necessary to mark all cut sides for the best presentation. Turn the peach halves over, sprinkle with the cinnamon and sugar, if using. Cook until the peaches are tender, but not falling apart, about 8 minutes total.

Serve grilled peaches hot, warm, or at room temperature.

I did also see a recipe where you mixed butter into the sugar and cinnamon and smeared that over the surface of the peach which could also have been good!

So, what would you have done with a profusion of peaches?

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, January 27, 2018

Weekend Cooking: Eton Mess

If the boyfriend has one fault it is that he doesn't like ice cream, or anything really cold.  I know right...shocking!! It's not all bad because it does mean that if we are out having dessert and it comes with a scoop of ice cream then I get to eat his and mine but no ice cream? What's that about? To be fair, I haven't had any for a while now and I don't particularly miss it.

Not all hope is lost though. He might not like ice cream but he does LOVE cream! The more cream the better! Around here he is known as the cream whipperer because he does like to whip it real good. And he also likes it when I make new recipes for him to try.

Not long ago we were talking about something and I mentioned a dessert called Eton Mess. He didn't know what that was but when I said that if was fruit (generally berries of some description), cream and pieces of meringue and his eyes lit up.

Now, I have made Eton Mess before but I used shop bought meringue and I am not alone there. When I was looking for the recipe even such accomplished chefs as Nigella Lawson and Jamie Oliver have recipes where they just tell you to buy pre-made meringue.It was actually easier to find a recipe with shop bought meringue than it was to find one where you had to make it yourself.

I had decided, however, that I wanted to try to make it myself, which I have never done before so I kept searching and I eventually found this one on Meringue is one of those things that I have wanted to try to make but I always had this idea that it was too hard, but it turned out it really wasn't, or at least not now that I have my stand mixer.

I may need to practice reading recipes though. After I had made the meringue mixture and smoothed it evenly over a tray, I realised that what the recipe was trying to say was that I was supposed to make little meringues by shaping them between two spoons, rather than just spreading over a tray using two spoons. Whoops!

For the mess itself, we only had strawberries and no liqueur so mine was all strawberry, but I did still make the puree but just with a little water to make it the right texture and it was all strawberry, all the way through.

We are now making variations on this on a regular basis, even if it is just the two of us, using shop bought meringue of course.

Eton Mess

1 punnet ripe strawberries
1 punnet raspberries
2 tbsp berry liqueur or Cointreau
2 tbsp icing sugar, plus more to serve
300ml thickened cream
100ml natural yoghurt
6 meringues

Meringue (makes 16)

4 egg whites (about 130g) at room temperature
pinch salt
180g castor sugar

For Meringue

1. Heat the oven to 120C. Use an electric hand-held mixer to beat the egg whites and salt until they form soft peaks. Add the sugar, a spoonful at a time, beating until just combined.  Once the sugar has been added, continue beating for two minutes until the mixture is thick and glossy. Using two teaspoons, spoon the mixture on to two trays lined with baking paper. Place in the oven and reduce the heat immediately to 100C, and bake for one hour and 15 minutes or until crisp underneath. Turn off the oven and leave to cool in the oven for three hours. Store in an airtight container for up to three weeks.

For Eton mess

1. Hull the strawberries and cut in half or quarters if large. Toss with one tablespoon of liqueur and one tablespoon of icing sugar and set aside for 30 minutes.
2. Whiz half the raspberries to a puree with one tablespoon of icing sugar and remaining liqueur.
3. Whip the cream lightly until just firm, fold in the yoghurt, and chill.
4. To serve, roughly crush the meringue, and layer it in dessert glasses or jars with the cream, strawberries and remaining raspberries. Drizzle with the berry puree, dust with icing sugar and serve.

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, January 07, 2018

2017 - My (non) reading year....again

It's no secret that I am really struggling to read at the moment and have been for the last couple of years. That doesn't mean to say that am not reading at all, just that the days of sitting down to start a book and finishing it a few hours later and then starting the next one are long gone.

And really, I don't have much to complain about because my 2017 was amazing. As in A-maz-ing. If, when I woke up on New Year's Day last year, you had of told me about everything that would happen I wouldn't have believed it. I met an amazing man, we've laughed and loved, cooked together, travelled (including to one of my bucket list destinations), my son has moved to America to play basketball, and more. Apart from work, which is .... average....but everything else! Fantastic.

In terms of reading, here is a list of the books that I did read this year:

The All You Can Dream Buffet by Barbara O'Neal (audiobook) 3.5/5
Sylvester (or the Wicked Uncle) by Georgette Heyer (audiobook) 4.5/5
Truly Madly Guilty by Liane Moriarity 3/5
The Chocolate Tin by Fiona McIntosh 3.5/5
A Crown of Bitter Orange by Laura Florand 4/5
Barbed Wire and Cherry Blossoms by Anita Heiss 4.5/5
Ross Poldark by Winston Graham (audiobook) 3/5
The Little Breton Bistro by Nina George (audiobook) 4/5
The Secret Son by Jenny Ackland 3/5
A Letter from Italy by Pamela Hart 4/5
Trust Me by Laura Florand 3.5/5

I did start any number of books, even from some of my favourite authors, that I just put down at some point and didn't pick back up again.

I'm not sure that this year my reading will be any better but I hope so because I still love looking at books and talking about them and buying them and then not reading them. We'll see I guess.

Saturday, January 06, 2018

Weekend Cooking: No Knead Bread

I have long been a fan of Great British Bake Off and by extension I now watch anything that Paul Hollywood is in. 

A couple of years ago now I was watching Paul Hollywood's City Bakes, and there was an episode set in New York. There were two segments that caught my attention. The first was when he mixed chocolate brownies and cheesecake together, which I do intend to try and make at some point in the future, and the second was when he learnt how to make no knead bread.

Now, I loved the idea of making bread, but it definitely feels like something that is too hard to do. All that kneading and having to get the gluten stretched to the right point, and rising. See, just thinking about it is challenging.

Anyway, not all that long ago I happened across that episode again and this time the BF was watching so it was agreed that we would try to make it. And, oh my goodness, it was good.

Now, to be fair, this isn't the kind of bread that you decide that you want to make now and eat later today. The most important ingredient is time. On the 3 occasions we have made it so far we have started it on Saturday morning and eaten it for Sunday brunch, but it is totally worth the time investment, because it looks and tastes amazing, and there is very little physical effort involved.

There is a video that you can watch from Paul Hollywood's show here (sorry can't embed it) but there is another video

We have recently found another version which apparently only takes 2 hours so we may well give that a try soon too.

 No Knead Bread

3 cups (400 grams) all-purpose or bread flour, plus more for the work surface
1/4 teaspoon (1 gram) instant yeast
1 1/4 teaspoons (8 grams) salt
1 3/8 cups (320 millilitres) water
Cornmeal or wheat bran, as needed

1. In a large bowl, stir together the flour, yeast, and salt. Add the water and mix with your hand until you have a wet, sticky dough. This should take roughly 30 seconds. You want it to be really sticky.

2. Cover the dough and bowl with a plate, towel, or plastic wrap and set aside to rest at warm room temperature for at least 12 hours and preferably about 18 hours until the dough is roughly double in size. You’ll know the dough is properly fermented and ready because its surface will be dotted with bubbles and take on a darkened appearance. This long, slow fermentation is what yields the bread’s rich flavor.

3. Flour your work surface. Turn the dough onto the surface in one blob. The dough will cling to the bowl in long, thread-like strands and it will be quite loose and sticky. This is exactly what you want. Do not add more flour. Instead use lightly floured hands to gently and quickly lift the edges of the dough in toward the centre, effectively folding the dough over onto itself. Nudge and tuck in the edges of the dough to make it round. You don’t knead the dough.

4. Generously coat a cotton towel (not terry cloth) with flour, wheat bran, or cornmeal. Place the dough, seam side down, on the towel and dust the surface with a little more flour, bran, or cornmeal. Cover the dough with another cotton towel and let it rise for about 2 hours. When it’s ready, the dough will be more than double in size and will hold the impression of your fingertip when you poke it lightly, making an indentation. If the dough readily springs back when you poke it, let it rise for another 15 minutes.

5. A half hour before the dough is done with its second rise, preheat the oven to 450°F (230°C). Place a heavy pot and its lid (whether cast iron or enamel, Pyrex or ceramic) in the oven as it heats. We use cast iron

6. When the dough is done with its second rise, carefully remove the pot from the oven and uncover it. Also uncover the dough. Lift up the dough and quickly but gently turn it over into the pot, seam side up, being very careful not to touch the pot. Cover the pot with its lid and bake for 30 minutes.

7. Remove the lid and bake until the loaf is beautifully browned, which take 15 to 30 minutes. Carefully lift the bread out of the pot and place it on a wire rack to cool.  It should sound hollow when it is tapped on the bottom.

Try to resist eating it before it is cooled, but it will be tough as the bread smells amazing.

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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