Saturday, September 22, 2018

Weekend Cooking: Steak with Mushroom Sauce

We interrupt the recent cake fest on my blog to bring you something savoury!!

It may be a bit hard to tell from all the cakes I have been posting lately but in theory we are still trying to eat a bit healthier. This is a recipe we have made a couple of times now so I wanted to save it somewhere we can find it!!

This week I am sharing a recipe that is not only delicious but it includes a fair amount of vegetables too. It comes from the last edition of Diabetic Living. I do still buy this magazine, I just haven't quite been cooking out of it constantly as I have been in the past. I possibly am paying the price for that weight wise, but never mind.

Steak with Mushroom Sauce

500g lean rump steak, trimmed of fat, cut into 4 pieces
2 cloves garlic, crushed
Freshly ground black pepper
2 tspn olive oil
1 bunch broccolini, trimmed, diagonally halved
290g (2 cups) frozen peas
250g Swiss Brown mushrooms, sliced (or a selection of other mushrooms)
250ml (1 cup) salt-reduced beef stock or gluten-free stock
1 tbspn wholegrain mustard
2 tspn cornflour or gluten free cornflour
1 bunch baby carrots, trimmed, scrubbed, steamed, to serve
500g small potatoes, halved, steamed, to serve

Preheat over to 180C (fan forced). Rub steak with garlic and pepper. Heat oil in a large cast iron or stoveproof frying pan over medium-high heat. Add steak and broccolini. Cook for 2 minutes, turning steak once. Place peas around steak. Add pan to oven and cook for 5 minutes, or until steak is cooked to your liking.

Transfer meat and vegies to a platter. Cover with foil to keep warm. Add mushrooms to pan and cook over medium-high for 3 minutes or until the mushrooms are soft. Whisk stock, mustard and cornflour together. Stir into pan. Cook, stirring, until sauce comes to a simmer. Simmer for 2-3 minutes until sauce thickens.

Slice the steak. Return steak and peas to the pan. Sprinkle with pepper. Serve with the steamed carrots and potatoes

Serves 4

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, September 16, 2018


Whilst I am not reading anywhere near as many books as I used to, things are much better than they have been over the last few years when it comes to reading. I think last year I read 12 books in total for the year. 12!! A few years ago, reading 12 books in a month would have been a bad month! At the moment, I am on track to read about 50 books for this year, which I am pretty happy with.

When I was on Instagram the other day I saw about RIPXIII - the Readers Imbibing Peril challenge that is hosted at Readers Imbibing Peril. This is a challenge that I used to look forward to every year, and that I participated in regularly. It is something of a shock to realise that I haven't participated in it for 5 years. When I was thinking about my previous participation in this challenge it has lead me to think about so many people who blogged but have now disappeared, including Carl who originally hosted this challenge. It pleased me to see that the challenge is still recognisable as the RIP reading challenge of old, but still moving forward as well.

When I looked at what I want to read over the next few weeks though, I realised that quite a few of the books I want to read fit the challenge criteria which is to read and enjoy books that are

Dark Fantasy.

The books that I have in mind to read before the end of October include The Ruin by Dervla McTiernan, The Clockmaker's Daughter by Kate Morton and Lethal White by Robert Galbraith.  I am thinking that I am going to try and stretch myself to read one more and therefore meet the Peril the IVth level of participation. I have no idea if I will actually review any other books, but there's still fun to be had on Litsy, Instagram, Twitter etc even if that doesn't actually happen.

I actually finished listening to The Ruin yesterday and I have to say that I really enjoyed it. The audiobook was narrated by Aoife McMahon and she did a great job in telling the story. I wasn't always 100% convinced by her Irish-Australian accent, but I think that every Irish-Australian out there probably have different inflections in their accent anyway. I also swear that at one point the wrong name (Ella) was used for a character  (Emma) but I didn't end up trying to find it again to see if it really happened of it was just my hearing!

The story itself was interesting. It starts with a young police man being sent to a house where there has been a report of domestic violence but when he gets there he finds two kids who have been obviously neglected and abused, and their dead mother who has apparently died of a heroin overdose.

Fast forward 20 years and Cormac Reilly has just returned to Galway having lived in Dublin for many years and worked his way up into specialist units in the Garda. He has returned to Galway for personal reasons and finds himself ostracised from his colleagues, not knowing if he can trust some people he called friends, suspicious of some of the events that are happening within the station and only being allocated cold cases.

One of the cold cases he is allocated to reinvestigate is the death of the mother, and he is taken back in time to the case that he has thought of many times over the years. But when the young boy, now grown, is found dead in a suspected suicide, things get complicated.

I enjoyed the narrative a lot, and I like that this is the first in a series. I particularly like that there are still threads of the story that I suspect will flow into the next book. I think we got to know just enough about Cormac in this book to keep me reading, without having his whole backstory overwhelm the storyline of the book.

Dervla McTiernan is an Irish born author who moved to Australia a few years ago. It's a long standing Aussie tradition to claim anyone with this kind of background as an Aussie, and I am therefore counting this towards the Australian Women Writers Challenge.
I never really wrote a post declaring that I was participating in the challenge this year, but I would say at least half of the books I am reading at the moment are by Australian women writers, so my participation in this challenge over the last five or six years has definitely left a lasting impact on my reading choices.
Rating 4.5/5

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Weekend Cooking: Caramel Banana Upside Down Cake

It seems that baking has become my thing. I think it is partially because it is nice to have an appreciative audience. The SC is always happy to eat what I cook. His theory regarding cooking is that it doesn't really matter if it's not quite perfect because you can eat your mistakes. Previously, if I made something new my son would be unlikely to even try it. Actually, that still hasn't changed.

I have posted before about the Bake it Boxes that I have been doing, but the other thing I have done is joined a Facebook club called Queen Baking Club. Queen is a brand of baking products such as vanilla extract, food colouring etc here. The idea is that every fortnight, the good bakers at Queen set a challenge and then anyone who wants to can attempt to make it. They also have a better baking newsletter as well where they send out some hints on how to bake better. From this I made a raspberry roulade with an amazing cream cheese filling.

Back to the baking club. So far, there have been four challenges. The first one was for Vanilla Slice. I haven't actually done that one yet, but I will eventually. The third was for cupcakes that included unicorn and mermaid flavouring. Whilst I am keen to try the meringue frosting, I am not sure what unicorn and mermaid taste like so I am thinking I am going to give that one a miss. The fourth one was a Chocolate Sour Cream Cake with Ganache. Oh my goodness. So good! I will probably post that recipe soon. Wait, there was Chocolate Coconut Custard Layer cake too that I did make too.

The eagle eyed amongst you may notice that I missed the second one which was a Caramel Banana Upside Down Cake which is the recipe I am posting today. I made this for my son's last family dinner before he went back to America to college a few weeks ago.

I think I had the oven a fraction hot (still getting used to the new oven) so it might be a fraction dark, but everyone enjoyed it, and it was delicious with whipped cream (as whipped by the sous chef who also goes by the moniker of the cream whipperer!)

Caramel Banana Upside Down Cake

  1. 125g butter, at room temperature
  2. ¾ cup, firmly packed (165g) brown sugar
  3. 2 tsp Queen Cinnamon Baking Paste
  4. 1 tsp Queen Natural Organic Vanilla Extract
  5. 2 eggs
  6. 275g (1 cup) mashed very ripe banana
  7. 185g (1 ¼ cups) plain flour
  8. 1 ½ tsp baking powder
  9. ½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
  1. 150g (¾ cup, softly packed) brown sugar
  2. 75g butter, diced
  3. 4 medium (about 170g each, with skin) ripe bananas, peeled and cut lengthways

For the Topping

1. Preheat oven to 160°C (fan-forced). Grease and line a 20cm round cake tin.

2. Combine sugar and butter in a small saucepan over medium-low heat, stirring frequently until sugar dissolves and starts to bubble. Simmer for 15 sec without stirring. Pour into prepared tin, spread to cover base then set aside to cool slightly.

3.Arrange  bananas in tin over sugar mixture, cutting to fit when necessary.

For the Cake

1.Beat butter, sugar, Cinnamon Baking Paste, and Vanilla until pale and creamy, scraping down sides when necessary. Add eggs one at a time, beating after each addition until well combined.

2. Use a fork to mash bananas on a plate. Add to butter mixture and beat on low to combine. Sift together flour, baking powder and bicarbonate of soda. Add to banana mixture and beat on lowest speed until just combined.

3. Spoon mixture into prepared tin and smooth surface with back of a metal spoon, making a shallow well in centre.

4. Bake for 70 minutes or until an inserted skewer comes out clean. Stand in tin for at least 10 minutes before turning onto a serving plate or cake stand with a lip.

Tip: Pack the bananas as tightly as possible in the base of the tin for the best visual effect

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, September 08, 2018

Weekend Cooking: Jolly Good Food by Allegra McEvedy

A while ago now I mentioned a Youtube TV series called Word of Mouth which seeks to combine a love of books and a love of food into one delicious package. In the course of one of the episodes one of the guest authors mentioned this book and I just had to go and get it from the library.

I have posted a couple of times over the year about how much I loved the Enid Blyton books, especially the Magic Faraway Tree books and the Wishing Chair books. I wasn't as fond of the Famous Five and never read the Malory Towers books, but those books where the children found adventures in other lands were amazing to me. Such good memories.\

I am not really the target audience for this book. It is really a children's cookbook, and the recipes reflect that, but it has been fun for me to take a look at as an adult.

The book is broken into six parts and each part includes a small snippet from the relevant books. There is Breakfast with the Naughtiest Girl, Elevenses in the Secret Seven's Shed, Picnicking with the Famous Five, Teatime Treats up the Faraway Tree, Suppers on the Secret Island and Midnight Feasts at Mallory Towers.

My favourite chapter was the teatime treats of course. Why wouldn't it be when the treats include Google Buns (back before google was google), Mother's Macaroons, Silky's Pop Tarts, Toffee for Moon Face, Clementine Treacle Tart and Raspberry and Vanilla Water Ice.

Below is a video of the author making Google Buns with her daughter

I thought though that I would share a page which is the recipe for the pop cakes so you can see the style of the book and the sheer fun of the illustrations

Silky was pleased. She sat there brushing her beautiful golden hair and ate sandwiches with them. She brought out a tin of Pop cakes, which were lovely. As soon as you bit into them they went pop! an you suddenly found your mouth filled with new honey from the middle of the little cakes. Frannie took seven, one after another, for she was rather greedy. 

Beth stopped her. "You'll go pop if you eat any more!"

As an aside, do you ever find yourself reading your own old blog posts. I do it with Weekend Cooking posts, but when I do find myself looking back at some of my old content I realise that I wasn't too bad at this book blogging thing back in the day. Not now, but never mind.

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, September 01, 2018

Weekend Cooking: Raspberry-flecked Sour Cream Cake

A few weeks ago now I posted a Nigella Lawson recipe that I got from Masterchef Australia of Walnut, Ginger and Carrot Cake. As a result of how delicious that cake was I thought I would take a look at some of her other recipes.

Nigella Lawson must be one of the most famous food names in the world. Whilst I obviously know who she is and have watched the occasional episode of her TV shows I wouldn't really call myself a fan. I certainly can't remember cooking any of her recipes before.

Having borrowed At My Table from the library, I took a leisurely look through all the recipes and found several that I am interested in making. I must say I really enjoyed reading the intros to each of her recipes. There are warnings to not even think of substituting light coconut milk for full cream coconut milk, or my favourite one which is the introduction to a Brussels Sprouts with Preserved Lemons and Pomegranate. The paragraph starts "There is a vociferous anti-sprout brigade, but I have no time for the Brussels bashing bigotry." As an anti-sprouter I laughed!

There's a number of recipes I want to try. Some of the recipes that I want to try are Chicken and Pea Tray Bake, and the Chocolate Olive Oil Mousse. There's also a White Chocolate Cheesecake that I am tempted to try so that I can compare it to the one that I have been making to great acclaim for several years.

My first recipe to try though was this one, mainly because I wanted to try out the freeze dried raspberries but also because it looks really pretty and not too difficult. In the intro to this recipe it advises that you shouldn't substitute fresh raspberries, and that if you don't have a savarin ring, which I don't, then you can make this in a 1lb (450g) loaf tin.

Raspberry-flecked Sour Cream Cake

175g plain flour
1/2 tspn baking powder
1/2 tspn bicarbonate of soda
175ml sour cream, room temperature
150g caster sugar
2 large eggs, room temperature
1 tspn vanilla extract
125ml vegetable oil, plus extra for greasing the tin
2 x 15ml tbspns freeze-dried raspberries, plus more for sprinkling


125g icing sugar
1-2 x 15ml tbspns freshly boiled water

Preheat the oven to 180C/160C fan-forced. Grease your 22cm savarin ring generously with oil using a pastry brush., and leave the tin upside down over a piece of newspaper or baking parchment while you get on with making the cake batter. Or line a loaf tin.

Mix the flour, baking powder and bicarb in a bowl. Put the sour cream into a large measuring jug, add the caster sugar, eggs, vanilla and oil and whisk to mix.

Add the wet ingredients to the dry ones and beat until you've got a smooth batter. Fold in the freeze-dried raspberries, then pour the mixture into the prepared mould (or loaf tin) and bake for 30-35 minutes (or 45-50 minutes if using a loaf tin) until the cake is risen and golden brown and a cake tester pronged into two parts of the cake comes out clean. Sit the cake in its tin on a wire rack until cool before turning out, easing it gently with a small spatula first.

Once the cake's completely cold, transfer to a cake stand or plate. Mix the icing sugar with the freshly boiled water, adding 1 tspn at a time, until you have a thick but still pourable consistency: around 4 teaspoons of water generally does it. Make sure there  are no lumps before you spoon it all over the top of the cake and sprinkle immediately with freeze dried raspberries.

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 25, 2018

Weekend Cooking: Food through history

I find series that look back through time at food history totally fascinating. Over the years I have watched a few of them, including the funny British show Supersizers Go where the hosts go back to a particular time and eat as people would have done, and then look at what the effect on their bodies has been. Another one I enjoyed was a series set in Italy looking at the role of food in Italian history, including where pasta comes from and the humble origins of pizza. So fascinating.

Recently we have been watching an Australian series called Back in Time for Dinner. The premise is that a family has the living areas of their home restyled to show what life was like in each decade starting in the 1950's, moving through to the 2000's and beyond into the future. In each episode the family learned what food was like, what their individual roles would have been in the family structure, with particular emphasis on the slowly changing roles of women across the last 70 or so years, important historical events and the rapidly changing role of technology. The kids were very excited when the 80s came and they got a home computer.

The episodes from the 1980's on were probably the most interesting for us, because that is the era that we grew up in, and there were many times through these episodes where there was something that we remembered or that prompted conversations about how we lived and worked and ate.

There were some truly awful food things presented. The modern kids were not at all impressed with their first meal in the 1950s which was tripe in white sauce, but some of the other lowlights included a liver sausage sculpted into the shape of a pineapple, complete with a yellow coloured mayonnaise to complete the illusion, as well as food from the future which has been transformed into small gummy shapes. It may kind of taste like meat and 3 veg but it just doesn't sound very tasty or appetising.

It was very interesting to look at the way that food has changed over the years. In the 1950's the food was all fresh, but as they progressed through the decades we saw how food changed with the advent of frozen meals and microwave convenience meals but now, it seems as though we are coming full circle with the focus moving back towards fresh, and preferably local, ingredients.

The other thing that was interesting was how waves of immigrants slowly changed the food landscape here, from the first spaghetti bolognaise recipe in the Australian Women's Weekly, to the coming of Chinese food, to Thai and beyond. It was a fun series to watch.

I haven't read as much food history, but when I do I find it just as interesting. Over the last few weeks I have been browsing through A Timeline of Australian Food; From Mutton to Masterchef. It is actually a similar premise to the TV series. Each chapter is a new decade starting from the 1860's through to 2009.

This book doesn't have a narrative as such, but rather has paragraph sized snippets about the food that we were eating, the technology at the time, historical events, the origins of many of the brand names and advertising slogans (like Yoplait is French for Yoghurt) that are Australian icons and so much more.

I found it very interesting because there were plenty of snippets which I could feel a connection with. Having spent a lot of time growing up in Adelaide and in the Salvation Army, I found the fact that the first 'fair trade' tea was sold by the Salvation Army in 1888, the same year that the site the company that became Western Star began producing butter. The Adelaide Central Market opened in 1869, which is a good 9 years before the Queen Victoria Markets opened here in Melbourne.

There were some quintessentially Australian facts. For example,  there is a story about how Queen Victoria's son Prince Albert was visiting the country, so there was a big catered picnic organised, but the Prince was running late and so the crowd became rambunctious and ended up raiding all the catering. There were also strikes to protest against the early closing of pubs or when they tried unsuccessfully to change the name of Vegemite to Parwill. About 10 years ago, the makers of Vegemite tried to change things up a bit and launched a version of Vegemite that was called iSnack 2.0 which unsurprisingly was not particularly successful, but I had no idea that it wasn't the first time that there had been a spectacular marketing disaster involving Vegemite. Doesn't really matter what it is called, I am not going to be eating it! Bleugh!

A couple of other interesting facts...whilst peanut butter originally came from the U.S,  the first commercially produced versions were actually produced here in Australia in 1898. There is a brand of tomato paste here made by a company called Leggos. I would have sworn black and blue that this was a company with Italian origins but it actually was founded by a Welsh man named Leggo. In the 1970s the company even hired Gina Lollobrigida to promote the brand.

One interesting story was about one of the most iconically Australian songs - Waltzing Matilda. I had no idea that the words were changed in 1903 to be used as a theme song for a Tea company, and this is the version that we know now. Apparently the swagman wasn't originally jolly or didn't need to wait until his billy boiled!!

This was the perfect book to browse through at night, a decade at a time, and there were lots of fascinating new to me facts!

I am also linking this review to Australian Women Writers Challenge.

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 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 

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

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

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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