Thursday, October 30, 2008

Iced Lychee and Mint Drink

Oh hai!! My name is Smeagol. I lives with my hoomin across the road from KJ. I wants to be a LOL cat, but is very hard. Too much competitions. So KJ says if I want, I can go on her blog to be on the interwebs. So here I is.

First I says something about meh. Den KJ asks me to introduce recipe for hoomin food.

Name: Smeagol as I says.

Age: Dunno akshually. I's not a kitten and I's not a senior cat. I's somewhere in betweens.

Favourite things: Jumping up onto da roof. Is very high. I hangs my paws over the gutter and watch KJ jumpin and yellin. She so funny. I just laff and laff.

Snoozin' on da neighbours BMW. Is most comfy car in da street. He's always yellin. I dunno why.

Poles. I likes gliding against poles. Is my thing. This one my favourite. Is nice.

Things I no like: Hoomins pattin meh on da head. On left cheek and behind right ear is OK. Else, hands off the kitteh.

Dat big black kitteh that lives down da road. I hate him.

Now for the recipe. Is a drink akshually - Iced Lychee and Mint. I no know what dat is. But is pretty colour - no!!!.

Thank Smeegs. As you can see I am a cat person. I find them intriguing creatures. Take Smeagol here. One day it's all BFF forever and I am showered with love and affection. Next day I am cut dead. She looks at me like I'm some stranger trying to lure her into a car with a bag of sweets. There's no reckoning with that little feline mind.

But there is nothing complicated about this drink. It's a cinch to whip up. Mint is always refreshing. It's fantastic on a long hot day.

Iced Lychee and Mint Drink
(adapted from marie claire Kitchen)

Place 5 lychees and 125ml of syrup (from a tin of lychees in syrup) in a blender. Add 15 large mint leaves, 1 tbspn lime juice and 10 ice cubes.

Blend until smooth. Pour in chilled glasses.

Makes 2 small or 1 large drink.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Pizza with a pastry crust

First of all, a big thank you to everyone who left such kind encouraging comments in response to my last post. It means a lot to me. I am soldiering on as best I can. Being home from work I get to watch Dr Phil and Masterchef Goes Large, so it's not all bad. But onto my post.

If I wanted to I could walk out my door right and enjoy an authentic meal from any number of countries around the world. This is light years away from my childhood. Growing up in a small country town there was a choice of various clubs and pubs serving steaks and sausages, the fish and chip shop and a lonely chinese restaurant that served glow in the dark sweet and sour pork. Plus my parents were homebodies and eating out was a rare treat that was reserved for birthdays.

As a result my idea of international dishes was whatever my Mother served up. A far as I was concerned curry was flavoured from a little tin and always had sultanas in it, fried rice had pineapple and pizza was made with pastry.

While my family has gladly left most of these behind, we have grimly hung onto our pastry pizza. Because we all really love it. The pastry is really light and melting and to my mind really complements traditional pizza ingredients.

The source of the pastry recipe is long forgotten, but my Mum thinks is might be a Margaret Fulton recipe. Margaret Fulton was the pioneer for cookbook writing in Australia and has had a huge influence on our food culture.

The pizza sauce recipe came stuck to the pizza tray my Mum bought back in the early 1970s. There's never been any reason to update it because it's a really good sauce.

The topping was always sliced up kabana sausage and grated cheddar cheese. There was no such thing as mozarella or pepperoni in our town. But really any topping you chose would be good.

I am not sure how to describe kabana sausage. I think it's a peculiarly Australian thing. It's very long and thin and red. It's kind of like a cabanossi. I have no idea what kind of meat it's made from. Apparently, it's beef and pork but it could be anything. It's best not to ask those kind of questions I find. You generally find it sliced up and served cold with cheese and jatz biscuits as an appetizer at parties and barbecues.

Anyway, put all that together and you get an unorthodox but delicious pizza. I promise!!!!!

Pizza Pastry Crust

1 cup self raising flour
1 cup plain flour
1/2 tspn paprika
4 oz butter
1 tbspn lemon juice
3 tbspn cold water
pinch salt

Put flour into the bowl of a food processor, add butter and process until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Sprinkle over water and lemon juice and mix to a firm dough. Knead lightly.

roll out on a lightly floured board. Fit to two 12" pizza trays. Cover with filling. Bake in a 200C oven for 18-20 minutes or until golden and cooked.

Pizza Tomato Sauce

1/4 cup onion, chopped
1 tbspn olive oil
1 can crushed tomatoes
1 tspn sugar
1 clove garlic
1 can tomato paste
1 tspn dried oregano
1 bayleaf
dash pepper

Saute onions in the olive oil. Add the remaining ingredients. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Simmer, stirring often until thick.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Challenge Book #27 - Strawberry Cream Butterfly Cakes

I'm not sure how to approach this other than to just say - that right now I am dealing with some substantial health issues. All I really want to say is that it is not life threatenening, but it is hard and while the end is far away it will all be over eventually. I just have to get through it.

When this all began I blithely thought that my baking and cooking and blogging could just continue on - it would be a refuge and a solace. It hasn't quite worked out that way. It's been harder and harder to get into the kitchen, both physically and mentally. In a way, it's been one of the worst things about this whole ordeal - slowly losing something you love - your normal life just slipping away.

So anyway, I will continue to post what I can, when I can. But it may not be often and it may not always be great. I have also resigned from the Daring Bakers for now. I just can't commit to a regular baking schedule and it wouldn't be fair for the group. I still try to visit my favourite blogs. Even if I don't comment often I'm still blown away by all the great food that is being posted.

But enough of that. Onto a brighter note, I did make these strawberry cream butterfly cakes a few weeks back. I didn't make them for any particular reason. I just wanted to make something pretty to cheer myself up. I picked lots of bright cheerful flowers to decorate the plate. Then I poured a big glass of milk, sat myself down in a nice sunny spot and ate away. Life became a much better place.

Generally, when I make cupcakes I use the excellent Vanilla Vanilla cupcake recipe I first discovered on Stephanie's lovely blog A Whisk and a Spoon. But for these I decided to test another recipe from Marie Claire Kitchen for my KJ wants a Kitchen Aid Challenge.

I'm glad I did because this is a great cupcake recipe. I do not like dense, heavy cupcakes - especially for butterfly cakes. In my view, they should be light and fluffy. These fit the bill perfectly. They are as soft and airy as I think cake can get. And very basic to make. I was just delighted

Not having the energy for buttercream or anything too elaborate. I simply whipped some cream and mixed in some finely diced fresh strawberries to make the filling. A little drop of strawberry preserves at the based of the cake before piling on the cream also added a little extra taste sensation.

This is Challenge Book #27 in the KJ wants a Kitchen Aid Challenge. I have generally used this book for its great basic recipes. It also has some great drinks recipes - I can particularly recommend this cheesecake shake. It is scrumptious.

Vanilla Cupcakes
(adapted from Marie Claire Kitchen)

175 gm unsalted butter
175 gm caster sugar
3 eggs
125 ml milk
1 tspn vanilla extract
175 gm self raising flour

Cream butter and sugar. Beat in the eggs, milk and vanilla extract. The mixture may look slightly curdled at this stage, but that's okay.

Sift the self raising flour and fold in.

Spoon the mixutre into patty cases and bake for 15-20 minutes in a 180C oven.

Monday, October 06, 2008

KJ Wants a Kitchen Aid Challenge - Second Quarterly Review

As you may or may not know, on 1 March this year I made a resolution. I would not buy a single new cookbook until I made at least one recipe from every cookbook I already own. All 52 of them. If I am good, I can buy myself a new mixer. Namely a Kitchen Aid (yipeeeee!!).

Anyway, now that I am at the the halfway way mark I thought it was time for another quarterly recap. The first quarterly recap can be seen here. I am still really enjoying this challenge. I have tried so many new things.

The highlight for this quarter was definitely the cha sui bao and the ginger lemon eton mess. YUM.

Again a big thanks to everyone who has left such kind and encouraging comments. I am simply delighted that anyone visits my blog and I love hearing any thoughts, advice or feedback.

Here is a brief overview.

Challenge Book #14 - cha sui pork adapted from Into the Vietnamese Kitchen by Andrea Nguyen.

Surprisingly easy and delicious to boot.

Challenge Book #15 - Cha sui bao adapted from A Little Taste of China.

Yummy, yummy, yum!!! So tasty and delicious.

Challenge Book #16 - Raspberry Chocolate Lattice Slice adapted from Care for Kids Morning Tea Recipes Charity Cookbook.

A rediscovered old favourite. As good as I always remembered.

Challenge Book #17 - Lovely Lemon Curdy Pud adapted from Happy Days with the Naked Chef by Jamie Oliver.

A good old fashioned favourite. Tangy and lemony and comforting.

Challenge Book #18 - Ginger Lemon Eton Mess adapted from Cook with Jamie by Jamie Oliver.

Just divine!!!!

Book #19 - Chocolate Custard Tarts adapted from bills Open Kitchen by Bill Granger.

Crisp buttery pastry and soft deeply chocolaty custard. So good!!!

Challenge Book #20 - Marshmallow Clouds adapted from Mrs Fields Cookie Book by Debbi Fields.

Not the most beautiful looking biscuits, but do they taste good or what!!!

Challenge Book #21 - Pineapple Tea Cake adapted from Day to Day Cookery by some miser or other.

A cake and a book to be avoided at all costs.

Challenge Book #22 - Small cheese pies adapted from The Best Traditional Recipes of Greek Cookery.

Easy, quick and delicious.

Challenge Book #23 - Chocolate Melting Moments and Passionfruit Butter Yo Yo Bites adapted from Wicked by the Australian Women's Weekly.

Biscuits which are both easy and oh so elegant. The best of both worlds.

Challenge Book #24 - Maple Banana Porridge adapted from Sydney Food by Bill Granger.

A bit of a revelation - great tasting porridge.

Challenge Book #25 - Zucchini Slice adapted from Care for Kids Easy Meals Charity Cookbook.

A great budget classic. Packed with taste and it's actually on the healthier side of cooking.

Challenge Book #26 - Cabinet Pudding adapted from Home Collection Desserts by Le Cordon Bleu.

Another english classic. A quick and simple dessert.

And here is a sneak peek of Challenge Book #27. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Challenge Book #26 - Cabinet Puddings

I love computor effects. My parent's computor has all these great ones. I've spent ages churning out Andy Warhol inspired cucumbers and all kinds of things. This is one of my favourites - pen and charcoal. I think it has done wonders for this cabinet pudding.

Not that the pudding is not worthy in itself. Cabinet pudding is a traditional English dessert of baked custard studded with liquer soaked cake, sultanas and cherries. They came about as a way to use up left over stale cake.

But, what is it with the English and stale baked goods? There seem to be endless traditional recipes for using up old cake and bread, which suggests that they were constantly having to deal with the stuff - trifle, bread and butter pudding, summer puddings, stuffing, bread sauce. It says good things about their thriftiness, but you would have thought that they would have learned to regulate the quantity of their baking at some point or other. Oh dear Henry, those ten loaves of bread and five cakes I baked yesterday are just sitting there going to waste, whatever shall I do with them?

Anyway, back to these puddings. They are very simple, very quick and quite delicious. Just the thing when you are caught out for a dessert and you just happen to have some stale cake knocking about :} I think you could add any number of flavourings - maybe some ginger, some mixed peel, some cinnamon and nutmeg. I think they would be very adaptable. I used brandy rather than kirsch. And I didn't use quite the quantities of cherries, currants and sultanas outlined in the recipe. I think it is a bit much, but I have included the proportions from the printed recipe here. It's a question of personal taste.

This recipe is by the way, from Challenge Book #26 in the KJ wants a Kitchen Aid Challenge - Le Cordon Bleu Home Collection Desserts. My Mum gave me this book a few years back. She also bought a copy for herself and for my sister. None of us have ever made anything from it until now. A bit of a travesty really. I should make better use of such gifts.

Cabinet Puddings
(adapted from Home Collection Desserts)

100gm sponge cake
1 tbspn glace cherries, chopped
2 tbspn currants
3 tbspn sultanas
3 tspn kirsch
2 eggs
1 1/2 tbspn caster sugar
1/2 tspn vanilla
250ml milk
exra caster sugar

Lighly grease four 160ml moulds or ramekins with softened butter. Coat with the extra caster sugar.

Cut the sponge into small cubes and mix in a bowl with the cherries, sultanas and currants. Pour over the kirsch, toss and leave to soak for a few minutes. Divice the cake and fruit mixture between the moulds.

Beat the eggs lightly and whisk in the sugar and vanilla. Warm the milk to just below boiling point. Whisk the egg mixture and as you do so, slowly pour in the milk. Return the mixture to the saucepan and place over a gentle heat. Stir until the custard thickens and coats the back of a spoon.

Half fill a baking or ovenproof dish with water and place the moulds inside. Gently pour the custard into each of the moulds.

Bake for 1 hour in a 150C oven or until puddings are just firm to the touch. Remove from the oven and leave to cool for 5 minutes before turning out. Serve with custard or cream.

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