Saturday, 24 November 2007

Random fruit loaf

One of my ways to deal with stress is to bake. I get these urges and I just can't resist the temptation to make biscuits, or bread or whatever I can create from the contents of my pantry. Well, I have been having a rather full-on week this week, so when I got home from work last night it was time to raid the shelves and invent!

I had a big box of mixed dried fruit and chocolate bits that I had put together for a road trip but which had not been finished, so that was to be ingredient number one. I still have too many eggs, so that's ingredient number two. The final dish... obviously, fruit loaf!

There are of course, different types of fruit loaf - you can make a form of bread with yeast, or a light cake batter, or a heavy dense loaf (eg date and walnut loaf). While there was definite appeal to the idea of taking out some of my frustrations on a yeast dough, I decided to go the faster lighter option. The result of my experiment was a light moist cake with continuous taste surprises as you encounter cranberries, apricots, sultanas (aka raisins), currants, slivers of coconut and morsels of chocolate.

Don't you love the jewel-colours in this freshly sliced cake?

Random fruit and nut loaf - original recipe by Kiriel
  • 175g butter
  • 1 cup caster sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 tsp of vanilla paste
  • 2 cups plain flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 and 1/2 cups dried fruit & nuts* (You can use any proportion of dried fruits or nuts that you like)

Preheat your oven to 175 degrees C.

Cream the butter and sugar together. Add the eggs one at a time, beating until smooth. Stir in the milk and vanilla.

In large bowl combine the flour, baking powder, and salt. Stir in all the fruit and nuts. Make a large well in the flour, and pour in the liquid. Fold together gently (rather like muffins, this mix is not to be perfectly combines) and pour into a greased medium sized inch loaf tin (8 cups in volume).

Bake for an hour and a half (check with a skewer at an hour 15). Allow to stand in the tin until the tin is cool enough to be handled, then tip out of the pan. Allow to cool and wrap in a tea-towel to keep fresh. Because the amount of fruit in the recipe, I advise leaving the pieces in place as you slice, so that the previous slice of cake supports the next.

Fresh out of the oven - I wish I could do scratch and sniff photos, as this smells fantastic!

Thursday, 22 November 2007

Pickled eggs with a slight asian twist

I have a bit of a plethora of eggs at the moment and, having already thrust half a dozen on a friend, I still needed to use up some.

So, I went for something obvious.. pickled eggs. A search on the internet produced some interesting recipes, including some including beetroot which looked rather fun. But I didn't have any beetroot, or bay leaves, or pickling spices. But am I the sort of person that would let a little thing like that put me off? Never! So here is the recipe I invented, and I must say that the pickling liquid tastes great... I will let you know how the eggs taste in a day or two.

Pickled eggs with an Asian Twist

6 eggs, boiled and peeled
1/2 cup cider vinegar
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
1/8 cup brown sugar
1/8 cup white sugar
2 lime leaves
1 small piece of dried galingale
2 teaspoons dried lemon grass
a pinch of dried birds eye chillis

After boiling and peeling eggs, place in a wide mouthed jar (I had to use a plastic container having no glass jars around!). Put all the other ingredients into a small pot and bring up to a slow boil.

Boil for 5 minutes, then pour over the eggs. Pop the lid on and keep in the refrigerator for at least two days before eating.

Monday, 19 November 2007

Parmesan Lollipops

Parmesan Lollipops

1 cup of good quality parmesan, grated
1 dessertspoon of plain flour.
20 wooden skewers

Preheat an oven to 220c. Line a baking tray with silicone paper.

Toss the grated cheese and flour together in a bowl. Place five or six skewers on the tray, spread out to allow room for the cheese to spread. Put a dessert spoon of grated cheese on alternating ends of the skewers. Bake for about 4 minutes until light golden. Remove and allow to cool. Serve like lollipops standing in a jar.

Spiced pavlovas with leatherwood honey clementines

My original idea was to do pavlovas with figs on top because I had seen lots of figs in the shops and markets, but when it came to time to cook I went to shop after shop and found not a fig!

But clementines were everywhere, so pavlovas with clementines it became and oooh they were goooooood.

Spiced pavlovas with leatherwood honey and clementines (original recipe by Kiriel)

6 clementines
1tbsp leatherwood honey
2 tbsp sugar

400mls of cream

4 eggwhites
250 g fine sugar
1 tsp vinegar
1 tsp vanilla essence
2 tsp cornflour
1 tsp cinnamon

Beat eggwhites until it is at soft peak. Little by little, add the sugar, beating well, until mixture is firm and shiny. Gently fold in the rest of the ingredients. Spoon onto silicone paper covered trays in rounds and then pipe a wall of meringue to make sort of nests. Bake for 50 minutes at 120 degrees C and then turn off the oven and allow to cool for 1 hour with the door slightly ajar.

Meringues just about to go in the oven.

To top the pavlova: peel 4 clementines and clean up the pieces so there is no pith. In a small saucepan, heat up 1 tablespoon of leatherwood honey, 2 tablespoons of sugar and 1/2 cup of mandarin juice (squeezing the 2 clementines left) and simmer until thick and syrupy. Put in the pieces of clemetine and simmer for 20 minutes until the fruit has absorbed plenty of the flavour of the sauce and softened.

Whip 400mls of cream with a little vanilla until it has soft peaks.

Give each guest their own pavlova, topped with the whipped cream, mandarin pieces and drizzled with syrup. Scatter with crushed honey-roasted macadamias and serve.

Thursday, 15 November 2007

Lobster scented potato veloute

I was sent from Australia some lobster flavoured oil, which got my mind buzzing with ideas.
What to do with it? The scent was slightly smokey and flavour delicate. What could I cook that would complement and not overwhelm it?

Potato soup seemed to be the perfect solution.

A tiny tureen of veloute (100ml)

Lobster Scented Potato Veloute

1 medium sized leek
5 large potatoes
1 tablespooon of butter
3 cups mild flavoured vegetable stock
3 teaspoons of lobster flavoured oil

Clean and finely slice the leek, and gently cook in butter with the lobster oil until softened. In the meantime, peel and cube the potatoes. Once the leeks are softened, add the potatoes and the vegetable stock.

Cook at a slow boil until the potatoes are disintegrating (adding water if required). Using a stick blender, blend until velvety smooth. I served this soup hot with a little extra of the lobster oil on top (using an eye dropper), but in fact I think that it would be better served at room temperature.

Saturday, 10 November 2007

ANZAC biscuits - step by step

Let me quickly start by saying to my American readers that ANZAC biscuits are NO relation to the scones that you call biscuits. They are, to you, cookies. I have always wondered what strange twist took place in the universe to have scones renamed biscuits and biscuits renamed cookies in the US. Anyone out there have a clue?

Anyway, I have gotten diverted from my goal, which was to introduce you all to an Australian (and New Zealand) speciality, the ANZAC biscuit. This crisp edged, chewy centred delight has to be experienced to be believed. Unbelievably addictive, I recommend making a double batch of these so that you can give 1 batch away but still have a batch to munch on.

The history of the ANZAC biscuit is sadly not a peaceful one. Named after the Australian and New Zealand Army Corp, these biscuits were made by the wives of soldiers, who sent them to their men. The lack of eggs and milk in the recipe means that these biscuits stay fresh for ages and could be sent through the mail to the men in the trenches.

Whatever the history, I am glad that these exist. Today I will share with you the step by step recipe of how to make them.

  • 1 cup plain flour
  • 1 cup rolled oats (regular oatmeal) uncooked
  • 1 cup desiccated coconut
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 2 tbsp golden syrup (or honey)
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 2 tbsp boiling water

Combine flour, oats, coconut and brown sugar in a bowl.

In a small saucepan, melt the butter and golden syrup

Boil some water, and put two tablespoons of water in a cup. Gently stir in the bicarb soda. Once the bicarb is dissolved, pour into the saucepan of melted butter and golden syrup and give it a gentle stir to combine. The mixture will foam up into a froth.

Pour into the dry ingredients:

and stir until well combined:
Put tablespoons of the mixture on to a baking tray (I use silicone paper underneath). Make sure you leave room for the mix to spread. You can roll balls of mix and press down with a spoon for more perfect looking biscuits.

Bake in a moderate oven (180degrees C/350 F) for 15 minutes, until the biscuits start going golden around the edges (if you like your biscuits completely crisp allow to brown lightly all over). Remember that the biscuits will continue to cook after they come out of the oven! Allow to cool for a while on the tray until the biscuits set enough to move, then move to a wire rack to cool.


Sunday, 4 November 2007

Pretty food.

These beautiful marzipan fruits were on sale in the markets in Nice. Pretty and tempting aren't they?