Saturday, August 18, 2018

Weekend Cooking:The Great Kitchen Reno of 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here are some before, during and after pictures

















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

Saturday, August 11, 2018

Weekend Cooking: Christmas in July (in August)

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

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


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

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

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

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


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



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


Sunday, August 05, 2018

Weekend Cooking: Ginger and Walnut Carrot Cake

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ginger and Walnut Carrot Cake


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

For the icing

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


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

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

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

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

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

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



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

Sunday, July 29, 2018

Weekend Cooking: Lemon Tart

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

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

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

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

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

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


 Lemon Tart

 

Pastry Base

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

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



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

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

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

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

 

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

 

Saturday, July 21, 2018

Weekend Cooking: Brioche buns

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

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


Brioche Buns


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

Preheat oven to 180C.

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

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

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

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

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Weekend Cooking: Dinner with Friends

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

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

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

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

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

Crispy Skin Pork Belly with Caramelised Apples


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

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

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

We went from this:



To this:




This was when cake making felt a little bit like craft



The finished product


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

All in all a very successful evening.

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

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

Saturday, July 07, 2018

Weekend Cooking: Salted Caramel and Vanilla Baked Cheesecake

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

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

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

Anyway, I digress.

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

Salted Caramel and Vanilla Baked Cheesecake


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, June 30, 2018

Weekend Cooking: Sponge rolls

A couple of months ago I posted about my first Bake It Box adventure where I made a beautiful Red Velvet Cake with a mirror glaze finish. In that post I said something stupid along the lines of I am going to have to complete the boxes I had before I can buy more. I'm afraid I am hooked on buying these boxes, and I always have good intentions of making them, but I do now have multiple boxes here to make.

Today, I want to talk about one of the skills that I learned through making the last box that I actually did make. The May box was for a Pattern Swiss Roll Cake which was a vanilla sponge cake filled with salted caramel whipped cream. 

The salted caramel was delicious so now I need to work out what else we can do with it so I can make some more, but today I am going to focus more on the sponge roll itself. A while ago I made a Honey Log Roll which used this technique, but I hadn't done it since. Since making this one  (well technically the second attempt) I have now made several more and feel like I now have the sponge roll technique mostly down. There's always room for improvement, but they are pretty much turning out every time now.

So firstly,about the Bake it Box

The kit came with fuchsia food colouring but I had decided I was going to make it for my partner's birthday so I went and got green colouring instead. The instructions said to create dots for the pattern, and I was really happy with how it turned out, but then when I made the first sponge, I think my dodgy oven wasn't hot enough so instead of ending up with a light and fluffy sponge I ended up with flat, cooked eggs.

I was determined not to be defeated and I had plenty of the pattern mixture left, but what I didn't have was the pattern sheet, so instead of dots, we ended up with a squiggly kind of messy design (definitely not a pattern), but it tasted amazing, and he was happy with it, which is the main thing.

One thing that perplexes me is how this is a vanilla sponge cake given that there is no vanilla in, but that gives me something to ponder in the shower and other places that I do my deep thinking!!


Sponge Roll



1/2 cup (105g)caster sugar
 1/2 tbspn (5g) corn flour
1/2 cup (65g) plain flour
4 large eggs
2 1/2 tbspn (40ml) milk
Icing sugar

Pre-heat oven to 180c (160c fan forced)

Beat the eggs and sugar for at least 5-8 minutes or until it has turned pale and nearly doubled in volume

Sift in half the flours at and a time and fold in very carefully. Pour in the mile and gently fold until incorporated.

Pour the mixture into your greased and lined tray . Drop the tray a few times to burst any air bubbles. Bake for 12-14 minutes until golden brown. Allow to cool for just a few minutes.

Lightly sprinkle icing sugar onto a sheet of baking paper. Whilst the sponge is still warm, run a knife along the edges and carefully flip it over the dusted sheet. Slowly peel the baking paper that you lined the tin with.

Carefully flip over the sponge and then using the peeled baking paper roll the sponge. Allow to cool completely and then fill with the filling of your choice. I have been doing strawberries and whipped cream



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, 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.


Lasagne

 

 Meat Sauce

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

White Sauce Mixture

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

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

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

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

Preheat oven to 180C fan forced.

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




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

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Weekend Cooking: Pork and Pineapple Thai Red Curry

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

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

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

Pork and Pineapple Thai Red Curry

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



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

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

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


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

Sunday, April 08, 2018

Weekend Cooking: Bake It Box


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

She then told me about Bake It Box.

This is the description from their website:

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

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

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

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

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

Here are some pics from the process






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

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

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

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

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