Thursday, September 29, 2011

52/655 - Coconut ice

I just love coconut ice and I made this batch specifically to bring some lovely colour to a party table. 

It was, however, almost a disaster. I put the mixture into a tin that was not quite big enough, and so the coconut ice was quite thick and deep which made it extremely hard to get out. After muttering a few choice words that I am pleased my children were not around to hear, I managed to get the majority of it out and in fairly well shaped pieces.

Disaster averted, it tasted like it was supposed to and provided a good hit of sugar for my guests as energy was flagging. 

51/655 - Brutti ma buoni (ugly but good)

These little biscuits are like slightly chewy meringues, flavoured with hazelnuts. They are aptly named because they are really not the most attractive biscuits I have ever made, but they certainly are yummy.

My special tip for anybody who makes these biscuits would be to NOT drop them all in a tin together expecting them to come apart easily. I was mortified to find a massive ball of biscuit when I pulled the tin out a couple of days after I had made them. With some careful prising I managed to pull them apart but I am thinking that a single layer in a long, flat tupperware container might be a better option next time I make them.

50/655 - Old-fashioned almond bread

I was so thrilled to make this bread and have it turn out so well because it has always been a favourite of mine. 

The first bake takes the bread to a dense cake-like consistency which is then cooled and finely sliced. Lucky for me I have an old laser cut knife that was perfect for a fine job such as this. The slices are then put back into the oven where they become golden and crisp.

Ridiculously easy and a yummy, not-too-sweet bite to have with a coffee.   

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

49/655 - Honey madeleines

A madeleine would not be a madeleine without the distinctive shell shape. Luckily I didn't have to buy the madeleine trays myself as my mum has a set that she bought many years ago.

I took Stephanie's advice and rested the batter overnight and was surprised to find that it was quite firm when I pulled it out to use the next day. It certainly made it easier to spoon the batter into the tins which I had very liberally painted with butter and coated with flour.

Once cooked the madeleines fell straight out of the tin as they were meant to (hooray!) and were a hit with my guests, although I did manage to sneak one off the plate before they disappeared.

An encore performance is definitely on the cards.


My first, slightly more blonde, effort.
Still fabulous.

48/655 - Janni's dolmades

Dolmades can be a bit time consuming to make but in my opinion they are absolutely worth it.

I am sure I take much longer than is necessary when filling the vine leaves, but I absolutely love taking my time and wrapping them as perfectly as possible. I find it very satisfying to see the finished pile of neat little parcels when the job is done.

Once they have been put together, Stephanie's version has them cooking in tomato juice rather than stock and so I was interested to see how they would turn out. I was pleasantly surprised with the flavour the tomato juice added and as usual, was pleased I had trusted the recipe rather than doubting it and sticking with a method that was more familiar to me. 

The only detriment was that being covered in tomato they were a little messier to pick up than usual, but as well as tasting fabulous I think the tomato made them look particularly bright and pretty on the plate.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

47/655 - Smoky eggplant purée

This turned out to be another lovely dip, but unfortunately fell a little short on the "smoky" element. Having an electric oven and stove top means that I do not have ready access to an open flame. I was planning to roast the eggplants over the chiminea instead, but at the time I was making this, the rain was coming down in buckets and there was no way known I was getting wet just to impart a smoky flavour into a dip.

I decided instead to slice the eggplant and dry fry it in batches which I thought worked rather well. I then blitzed the eggplant (less skin) with garlic, salt, parsley, basil, lemon, olive oil and pepper.

This was really lovely and was popular with my guests although as with the hummus it became the never ending dip and I have been happily munching my way through the remainder today.

46/655 - Hummus

I used tinned chick peas for this recipe and so I know the result was not quite as good as it could have been. Probably due to this, I had to do a bit of flavour adjustment to the final mix. I also added my secret ingredient which is a dash of sesame oil. It adds an interesting flavour but you have to be very careful not to overdo it as sesame oil can be quite overpowering.

I am convinced my dips turn into magic puddings at parties. No matter how many people dig into them, there always seems to be a mountain left over the next day.

I am certainly not complaining as I could live quite happily on raw vegetables and home made dip for quite some time.

Monday, September 26, 2011

45/655 - Flaky goat's cheese biscuits

These biscuits have a lovely soft texture and quite a subtle goat's cheese flavour. Stephanie recommends rolling the mixture into a log and leaving it in the fridge for several hours before cooking, however I left mine in there for a couple of days which didn't appear to do it any harm. It was still very easy to slice and was definitely nice and firm!

Reports from guests at a recent gathering suggested that these biscuits were a hit. There was only one guest who did not notice that they were set on a cheeseboard and mistook them for shortbread. An easy mistake given their appearance!

44/655 - Cheese straws

This is basically a cheesy pastry recipe that turns out lovely crumbly cheese straws. I think I may have cut mine a bit too thin (I really should learn not to doubt Stephanie!) and so some of them ended up a bit too crumbly.

They are very yummy though and I am thinking I might make a nice vegetable soup in the next couple of days and crumble some of these over the top.

Friday, September 23, 2011

43/655 - Miniature omelettes

I served up a very unusual dinner tonight. It started with lettuce soup, followed by these little omelettes and finished off with some chicken served with leftover apple, cheese and prosciutto salad. It worked in a very bizarre way.

As I have said before, I am not a great fan of deep frying and so I fried these in just a little oil. They still puffed up like they were supposed to, although I did have to turn them over to finish them off. The recipe called for a good pinch of cumin and I added about a tablespoon - I still think they could have done with more although I confess I am a HUGE cumin fan.

Jules ate almost his bodyweight in omelettes so I think that constitutes another hearty thumbs up.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

42/655 - Simple carrot cake

As I was measuring out the ingredients for this recipe, it struck me that others might find it odd that I do not keep self-raising flour in my pantry. This is not due to a lack of space, but rather it harks back to an incident that occurred a couple of years ago.

My pantry is filled with ingredients stacked in Tupperware containers, which I prefer not to label. Instead I use a trick that my mum taught me many years ago, of cutting the name of the item from the packet and sliding it down inside the container so that it can be read from the outside. Not only does this allow me to rotate different ingredients through the containers, but there is something about the look of all the different colours and fonts showing through the containers that appeals to me.

This is, of course, a great system until a label gets lost. This would not be a problem if the contents of the container were obvious, however it is certainly a problem when the label is lost on a container of flour. By the time I noticed it was missing and was trying to figure out if it was self-raising or plain, it just happened to be the last container of flour in the cupboard and so the process of elimination was not an option that was open to me. I finally figured out which type it was by making pancakes with it, figuring that if they remained nice and thin then the flour was plain.

Clearly scarred by this experience, I made the decision that I would only buy plain flour from then on, and would convert it to self-raising as required. This is done by simply adding 2 teaspoons of baking powder to each cup of flour, and voilà, you have self-raising flour! If you don't have baking powder, you can also use 1 teaspoon of cream of tartar and 1/2 teaspoon of bi-carb soda to each cup.

I have made this cake a number of times now and each time I have been thrilled with the beautiful, moist texture. The amount of olive oil in the cake not only makes it taste divine, but also means that the cake just slides right out of the tin with no need to grease it first.

Added bonus = 7 year old boy who loves the cake, hidden walnuts and all.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

41/655 - Cracked wheat and cashew salad with mint

Tonight's recipe represents my first foray into the chapter on nuts. This particular salad caught my eye, more than likely because I can't resist anything with mint, whether it be sweet or savoury.

I was true to the recipe except for substituting cracked wheat for freekeh which turned out very nicely, but required additional water and around 10 minutes of extra cooking time. The dressing (lemon juice, garlic, mint and parsley) was stirred through once the freekeh and cashew mix was cool and added a surprising amount of flavour.

I served it alongside steamed rainbow trout and roasted vegetables, and apart from the usual grumbles about the roast pumpkin, dinner was enjoyed by all.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

40/655 - Indian-style carrot fritters

The original plan for these fritters was to have them with dinner but somehow they ended up being an after dinner snack for ourselves and our guests.

The cumin, coriander, turmeric and cayenne pepper smelled amazing as we ground them together. I say we because it was very much an open kitchen last night which saw my guests working for their dinner and having turns with the mortar and pestle. It is possible that my friend Sue may now be stuck with the title 'Sue the sous' after all of the chopping and grating she did for me throughout the evening. 

The carrots and spring onions were held together with flour, egg and beer which made for a lovely, almost doughy texture. I am not big on deep frying unless absolutely necessary and so I fried these in just a fine layer of oil.

They went down very nicely with handfuls of fresh coriander and several glasses of champagne.

Friday, September 9, 2011

39/655 - Silverbeet frittata

I love a good frittata and so I was pleased to discover this recipe when trying to decide what to do with a beautiful bunch of silverbeet.

There was a tense moment when I realised that the very large (and very deep) frying pan I had used to cook said frittata was going to impede my ability to perform a graceful frittata flip. I loosened the bottom as best I could, put a very large serving tray on the table, held my breath and flipped.

All's well that ends well. It was a well executed flip which is just as well because I have not yet decided what I will do when one of my recipes turns out edible, but altogether unpresentable.

Stay tuned.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

38/655 - Avgolemono - greek egg and lemon soup

This soup is very unusual and maybe only for lovers of lemon, and so the family were somewhat divided on this dish. I was in heaven (will make this one a regular for lunch I think!) but Trev and Jules could only manage half a bowl apiece. 

It was so simple and made from only four ingredients - chicken stock, rice, eggs and lemon juice. (For the record, I never include salt and pepper when I list ingredients). After an initial taste we all agreed that some garlic chives would set the flavour off nicely, or as Henry proclaimed, "It needs something to make it more savoury".

Clever boy. Very, very yummy indeed.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

37/655 - Gratin of pumpkin

My boys do not like baked pumpkin (weird I know) and so before making dinner tonight I thought I would forewarn Henry that there was going to be baking involved. "That's OK mum", was the reply, "but can you take the plastic off the pumpkin first please?" At least now I know it's just the skin they don't like!

This recipe is essentially baked pumpkin topped with fresh breadcrumbs which end up lovely and crunchy. Stephanie gives the option of using either rosemary or sage as the flavouring herb. I chose sage, partly because our sage plant is beautiful and blooming, and partly because it is a herb I feel I do not use often enough. I was lucky enough to score a couple of crunchy sage leaves on my plate and was very pleased with the choice I had made. 

For two little boys who have always complained about eating baked pumpkin, there were certainly no complaints about dinner tonight. Although it was probably because I remembered to "take the plastic off the pumpkin" first.