Sunday, November 7, 2010

Chocolate Cupcakes

Recently a friend at work brought me a huge chocolate cupcake that his wife had made.  It was so delicious and it made me realise that I've never made chocolate cupcakes.  Since then, that fact has kept nagging at me so today I made some!  I searched online for ages to find the perfect recipe and I found one over at Joy of Baking. Stephanie's description of the cupcakes and the icing really caught my eye!

I'm really happy with the way they turned out although I never seem to be able to bake BIG cupcakes.  Even when I almost fill the entire patty pan up, they always end up minute or spilling over the edge.  The icing is the magic with these cupcakes.  It is so buttery and soft and whippy.  Jared was well pleased to see them sitting on the rack when he got home from golf and pretty much swallowed one whole.  I couldn't quite make out what he was saying as he had his gob filled with chocolate but I think it was positive!  The best way I can describe them is that they actually taste like a block of chocolate.  They dont taste like cake that has been flavoured with chocolate - they taste like proper chocolate - and right now my whole house smells like chocolate.  So I'll be taking them all to work tomorrow to get rid of these little balls of chocolatey calories!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Apple and Coconut Friands

It's been six weeks since we moved into our new amazing home and the excitement ha died down at all. We spend so much time talking about all the things we love about our new home and things that we discover and what we'd like to add to it and ways to decorate.  Jared has found a new passion for gardening and has spent most weekends out the front planting native trees or at the nursery buying big pots and fertilizers. 
I, on the other hand, love being inside; and I've headed back to the kitchen in a big way.

We've had guests non stop since we moved in as everyone has wanted to check out the new pad, but now we've fallen back into our homely weekend routine and Jared has gone back to playing golf every Sunday.  So today I baked Apple and Coconut Friands and I'm in the middle of preparing meatballs for dinner. 

The friands were so easy to make.  I've always loved apple in cakes.  I used to have a recipe when I was in early highschool for an apple cake where I'd put tinned apple through the centre of a basic cake mix, then the icing was a simple mixture of milk and icing sugar.  I lost the recipe unfortunatley but these friands bring back those memories in a big way.  The flavour is so simple and delicate but so lovely and comforting.  I'll be taking them all to work to give away however, as I'm going to Sydney for a weeding next weekend and I must fit into my dress.  I'll definitely be making these again!

Post Script - Since baking these and delivering them to work and to my regular food critic Richard - I now have the below review to post:

Wow, I forget what those cakes things are called, but I'm not going to forget how they taste. Best of all I'm eating guilt free today because I've been to the gym. How many of them did Jared eat after the meatballs? They are deceptively small, but could stack up very quickly if you didn't have your wits about you. The coconut cake flavour was a great follow up to the meatballs. I'm now officially ready for a sleep.

Friday, September 17, 2010

The Pie Floater!

It's AFL grand final time in Australia and I had a house full of boys tonight to watch to footy.  I asked Jared what he wanted for dinner (hoping he'd say home made cheeseburgers) and he said he wanted a Pie Floater!  Many people around the world won't know what a Pie Floater is.  I think it might be a purely South Australian cuisine.  A Pie Floater is a bowl of hot pea soup with a meat pie upside down in the middle.  And according to Jared, with vinegar sprinkled over the soup and tomato sauce on the pie. 

So I set about trying to find a recipe for pea soup that was quick and easy. It is Friday night afterall and I really don't want to spend hours in the kitchen.  I nearly gave up after finding countless recipes that involved pushing the mushy peas through a seive and blending garlic and other spices in a blitzer.  But in the dying seconds of Jared's dream meal becoming a reality Nigella Lawson came through for me.  I found her recipe for Quick and Easy Pea Soup.  And it certainly was.  I really enjoyed it, and so did the boys.  The whole dish was quick, easy and cheap.  I bought the pies from the Central Markets from a gourmet baker.  It was delicious.  I didn't add the olive oil or the parmesan cheese to the pea soup as I was dumping a great big pie in the middle, but I will use this pea recipe again and use those last tasty additives.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Cookies & Cream Slice

I was searching online for inspiration for something to bake on the weekend and as usual found it at Taste.  I find that anything that is Cookies and Cream flavoured is generally a winner in my book so I started reading this recipe.  Underneath the recipe were 36 comments from other baking enthusiasts who said this slice is nothing short of amazing.  Everyone said it was rich, but also that it's a complete winner.  So I just had to make it.   The slice is very simple to make and turned out perfectly.

As the comments had said it is a very rich slice.  One piece is more than enough.  If you don't stop at one piece then you will start to feel sick; but having said that - I couldn't help but eat three slices in one sitting.  I brought the lot to work so my co-workers could try it and everyone was amazed at how beautiful the slice was.  They didn't last long at all.

I gave six slices to my Personal Food Critic, Richard.  He sent me an email asking if the slice should be eaten with a cup of tea or a hot chocolate.  I told him I prefer a big glass of ice cold milk.  He then sent back this below FABULOUS review which I think says it all....

In hindsight there was no need to ask what drink would be most relevant. I picked it up and never put it down. Two men saw the slice and asked to try some. I took the liberty of cutting the pieces in half so I only lost a total of one piece (I'd done this before they asked). After eating the slice one man offered to marry me, and the other, in a more manly way, asked me who he had to kill to get the recipe (not much more manly I grant you).

As you predicted it is clearly the type of slice you could continue to eat until it made you feel unwell. It has taken all the will power at my disposal, and the common sense to make a contract with myself prior to starting it, to limit my consumption.

My immediate response was of the seven deadly sins, and in-particular gluttony, but not only. One of the men has been back to my office three times since I started this (make that four). He refuses to accept it was a slice and insists on calling it a cheese cake. I'll direct him to the web site.

Back to my write up. 'Rich and naughty, with the bonus of leaving you not caring about the guilt. If this slice doesn't excite you then get therapy!' Simply stunning. 'It's tough to be consistently brilliant, however you seem to find a way.' The rest of the week is looking good from where I sit, although it would be better if I had a clear view to the fridge, just to keep an eye on things.


Sunday, August 29, 2010

Chilli Con Carne

I've posted a Chilli Con Carne once before but this one is quite different.  I don't mind trying new things so I decided to give Jamie Oliver's Ministry of Food Chilli a go.  Its really good!  And it's so much better for you because it's packed with veg and uses less mince than I use in my original chilli.  So these days I'm a "veggies in my chilli" kind of girl!  The only chnage I made is that I added a lot more spices because I really love a lot of flavour.  The below recipe is what I did...

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Sticky Date, Hazelnut & Maple Slice

I have not blogged for over three months!!!  I have missed it so much.  My computer got a virus in early May, then we sold our unit and bought a beautiful big house in the hills - so the packing began.  The computer was thrown away and a new one was purchased but there was no point setting it up only to pack it up again for the big move.  We have been in the new house for 11 days and we are so happy. 

We've gone from a 2 bedroom upstairs unit to a four bedroom home with two bathrooms, a heated pool, a spa, a billiard room with open fire and a huge darkwood bar!  The custom made pool table gets delivered in 2 days and the dart board has gone up.  This house was built for entertaining! But my favourite part is the laundry room, the spice cupboard that I have alphabetised, the gas cookers, the double sink and the DISHWASHER!!  I am in heaven.  I honestly pinch myself every morning when I wake up.  I cannot see myself getting sick of this place. Ever!

And so back to the blogging which I have been pining for!  I baked this slice months ago and kept the photos, eagerly waiting to have my new computer set up so I can post them.  This slice was fantastic!!!  It was a real pleasure to make and with every ingredient I added I could tell it was going to be divine. 

My number one critic Richard emailed me the following review and I think he describes the slice perfectly:

Delectable and delicious without being decadent. A masterpiece of cuisine posing as a humble piece of slice. Yum. The human palate can not afford for you to continue to work in an office.
Kindest regards
Richard Hilton

I think this slice looks really impressive and the taste is even better!  Its so good to be back!!

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Jamie's Ministry Of Food Lasagne

It's Mothers Day in Adelaide tomorrow so Jared and I invited his Gran and Pop around for lunch.  I decided on lasagne as the dish.  I have cooked my favourite lasagne recipe for years; (here is the recipe) but I had heard great things about this Jamie Oliver version and I was keen to try something new.

Jared and I hit the town last night and crawled into bed in the wee small hours.  I lost my mobile phone while having shooters of Jam Donuts! Thankfully the bar text my dad today to let him know they have my phone.  Phew!  Isn't it so funny how we never learn that the next day will be pure torture!?  We just wouldn't stop, put the drink down and GO TO BED!  So needless to say this morning we were very rough.  At 10am our realestate agent came over to value the unit so we can put it on the market next week so there was a lot of last minute running around and tidying up before he walked in.  By the time he left and I got the lasagne on - I was very pressed for time. The guests arrived before I had even assembled the lasagne.  But it was all fine. Gran and Pop happily and patiently waited for it to cook.

The end result was great.  And the fact that I didn't have to make a bechamel sauce made my day!  Dolloping and spreading creme fraiche was so easy.  And I loved the flavour it produced in the end.  It really helped cut through the richness of the lasagne. I loved it even more, hours later, when I crawled up on the couch in front of Sex and the City with my uggies on and had another piece.

Happy Mothers Day Mum & Nana  xx

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Creamy Pea, Mint & Leek Soup

I am a fan of pea soup but I never had any idea how many flavoursome ingredients actually go into it!  I was doing the usual Sunday morning trawl through my cook books to find something special to cook for dinner tonight (we had already decided on soup) and I came across this Valli Little recipe from her cookbook Faking It.   It tastes so divine.  Very creamy and so much flavour.  What with mint, leek, celery, peas and cream how can you go wrong?  I love it, and it doesn't take long to cook at all and is extra delicious with my home made croutons and some extra crusty bread and butter on the side.   Perfect Sunday night comfort food.

Jared described this dish as "spot on" and "restaurant quality".  It doesn't get much better than that!!

Monday, April 26, 2010

Easy Carrot Cakes & Sausage Rolls

Jared has been working on a huge project at work for three years.  Project Harry.   Our business is getting in a new computer program and Jared has worked as the consultant who has told the computer designers what we need the program to do and then test it to make sure they've done the right thing.  It has been full on!  So many hours, so many disasters, many stressful sleepless nights; plus so much discipline and dedication has been required from Jared - but he has handled it so gracefully. I am so proud of him.  As far as I am concerned, he is Superman!  So tomorrow is "Go Live".  The new program is turned on for the 400 staff and we jump in at the deep end. 

Today is a public holiday in Adelaide but Jared and his team are working all day and into the night to test the system.  It's such beautiful morning right now - I know he'd give anything to be on the golf course.  So yesterday I baked a big batch of carrot cake cup cakes to send in to work to keep everyones spirits up while they work on a public holiday.  I was a little concerned at how these cakes would taste as they require 2/3 cup of olive oil.  My parents have their own Olive Oil company and the oil is phenomenal but I thought perhaps not the best flavoured oil for baking sweets.  It has a real grassy after taste and when I tasted the batter all I could taste was grass!  But after being cooked there was no trace of grassiness.  Just fluffy carrot and walnut.  I'm very pleased with the flavour -although I broke nana's number one rule - don't open the oven door when baking because everything will deflate.  And deflate they did.  The oven has no light!!! I needed to see how they were going.  So that was disappointing but the creamy icing certainly made up for it!

I also made sausage rolls.  Loads of them!!! Normally I do a really fancy method with all sorts of gourmet sauces and spices.  This time I did stock standard sausage rolls and I actually think they are the best I've ever done. 

Carrot Cakes
125 g self-raising flour

3/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
2/3 cup Olive Oil
2 eggs, lightly beaten
2 cups finely grated carrot
60 g roughly chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 180.  Roughly chop the walnuts.Grate the carrots in a whizzer.
In a bowl, add the flour, sugar and the spices. Add the oil and the eggs and then beat them up with an electric mixer for about 1 minute.Now stir in carrot and walnuts.  Pour into approx 20 patty pans. Bake until golden brown, approx 20 minutes. Let them cool.

Mix about 120g of Philadelphia cream cheese, with 60g melted butter and 250g icing sugar.
Spread over the cakes.

Sausage Rolls

1 teaspoon Olive Oil
1 onion, finely chopped
500g sausage mince
1 cup breadcrumbs
2 tablespoons tomato sauce
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon chicken salt
1 teaspoon tabasco
5 sheets frozen, ready rolled puff pastry, thawed
egg to glaze
sesame seeds

Preheat oven to 200 degrees celcious.  Lightly grease a baking tray.  Heat the oil in a frying pan and cook the onion over low heat until soft and transparent.  Transfer to a bowl and mix with teh mince, breadcrumbs, tomato sauce and egg.

Lay the pastry sheets on a lightly floured board and cut each sheet into two strips.  Divide the filling into equal portions and spoon across the long edge of the pastry.  Roll up to make a long sausage shape.  Brush lightly with the egg and sprinkle with sesame seeds.  Cut the rolls into 4cm lengths and place on the tray, seam side down. 

Bake for 20 minutes, or until rolls are golden.  Serve with tomato sauce.

NOTE:  Sausage rolls can be frozen for up to 2 weeks after baking.  Thaw and reheat in a preheated moderate oven 180 degrees celcious for 30 minutes.


Saturday, April 17, 2010

Vegetable Soup with Bacon Bones - AND A NEW KITCHEN!!!

The Kitchen is complete!!  It took a while and quite a bit of stuffing around, a replacement bench top because the one they originally installed was cracked, and the tiler having to come back several times but it is done!  The walls need a bit of paint and there's a hole where the old exhaust fan was but one of Jared's mates is doing that for us next week.  I've never loved being in the kitchen so much.  It's all mine!

Below are the before and after pictures.

So it has been a very boozy few weeks.  We have had birthdays and bucks shows and farewells, we went to Tasmania for four days over Easter to visit Jared's dad; and today we have a wedding.  So last weekend I decided to make a huge pot of vegetable soup so Jared and Jay could fill up on nutrients before heading off to a bucks show and a fourth evening of drinking.  Jared taught me that the secret to a great vegetable soup is to use bacon bones.  You just drop two of them in, cook it all for a few hours and at the end the meat shreds off the bone and you leave it in the soup.  It creates such a comforting, smoky flavour.  Pure bliss.  We polished this soup off over a few days with crusty bread and butter.

All veg diced finely:
2 potatoes
1 sweet potato
2 carrots
3 sticks celery
1 onion
1 clove garlic
1 turnip
2 parsnips
1/2 cabbage
1 zucchini
1 head brocolli
1 tbsp Olive Oil
1 large container vegetable stock
1 large container chicken consomme
2 bacon bones

Fry the onion and garlic off in some olive oil.  Once soft, add the rest of the vegetables.  Fry off until they begin to collapse and soften.  Add the stocks and 2 bacon bones.  Cover with a lid and simmer on low for at least four hours.  Season to taste and serve with crusty bread.


Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Traditional Beef Daube with Aligot Mash

Jared's best mate Jay has moved back to Australia after living in Bristol for 6 years.  He is staying with us until he can find a job, a home and get back on his feet.  It must be so surreal for him to be back in Adelaide after being away for so long, so I'm thoroughly enjoying feeding and pampering him and making him feel cosy.  So for his first Sunday night back I decided to cook something extra special.  I have made this dish once before but I remember getting rather intoxicated with my friend Frances while we made it and I never took photos.  I do remember it tasting amazing and Jared, who was sober - assures me that it was.  I was always so disappointed I didn't get to post it on the blog and Jay's arrival home was the perfect excuse to make it again!

I had my first fight with my new oven when I made this Beef Daube! I was so hungry and so eager to feed the boys that I put it on nice and early so we could eat at around 6pm.  After over 2 hours of slow cooking I took it out to have a look.  To my absolute horror the pot was barely warm.  I had set the oven on DEFROST rather than fan forced. I had to get the manual out before I could figure out what I had done wrong.  So in it went again, for another 3 hours...    By the time I served it I think the boys were very grateful.  They loved it.  Jay was very impressed and I was chuffed.  I didn't eat any of mine.  By the time I served it Laura had come over with a bottle of wine and I was more interested in that. 

The next night, Jared and I arrived home from work and we were starving.  I whacked my serve of Beef Daube in the microwave and we both sat eating out of the same bowl with two forks while swapping stories about our day's.  It was very romantic actually.

P.S. The Aligot Mash is amazing.  So French and creamy and moreish.  It really does compliment the dish and I'd very much recommend doing it!

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Osso Bucco Pasta

I have actually posted this dish before a few years ago when my blogging days first began - but I have removed the original post and I'm posting it again because the way I cook it has changed, and I got a much better photograph this time.  The original recipe involved a lot of fiddly work and separating the meat and the sauce and adding a teaspoon of sauce for every 100g of meat in the oven... blah blah...  wank wank!  I've cooked this meal about 5 times now and my confidence has grown and I feel very comfortable just throwing it all in one pot and cooking it for 3 hours. 

The thing I love the most about this meal is that it is a very rich dish, but by adding the lemon and parsley at the end it gives it a bit of a zing which stops the richness taking over and it becomes quite zesty - which means you eat several serves because you don't get overpowered by the rich flavour. I also love the fact that it is served with pasta.  It could easily be a dish on its own but the pasta gives it that extra bit of comfort.

I've decided to enter this dish at Pasta Presto Nights because I think its a worthy candidate.  Ruth has some fantastic, delicious entries each month and I'd like to see how this pasta fares!

This was the last ever dish I cooked in our OLD kitchen!  Thats right - the NEW kitchen is in.  And it is beautiful.  The tiles still need to go up so I won't post any photos yet.  The new kitchen has so much more benchspace and the cupboards are so much deeper.  I haven't stopped cooking in it.  And my brand new fan foced oven and cook top is my pride and joy. 

Saturday, March 20, 2010

White Chocolate Fairy Cakes

There's a chick at work called Carly who is a PA in Jared's department.  Carly requested something made with white chocolate as she had missed out on all the treats I'd sent Jared to work with as she cannot eat normal chocolate.  I was more than happy to oblige.  I've never been a fan of white chocolate - I find it way too rich or sweet or something that I can't quite put my finger on.  But I did really enjoy these cupcakes. 

I hand delivered four of them in a little box to my personal food critic Richard's workplace.  Two security guards at the front desk took them and made the obvious jokes about how they were going to eat them and that Richard would be lucky to see them but THEY DID EAT THEM!!!  At least we think so.  Richard has done a lot of investigating and these two security guards (who are actual COPS by the way) originally said that "someone" had collected them on Richard's behalf but they couldnt remember who.  But Richard kept pressing them and their story changed to "someone stole them from the reception counter while we weren't looking".  Unbelievable.  Poor Richard missed out and I didnt get my review.

The actual recipe asks for fairy floss neatly piled on top of each cake.  All video stores, supermarkets and party shops had sold out of fairy floss last Saturday so I opted for the pink sprinkles instead!  They were great.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Moderator's Slice

I have no idea why this slice is called Moderator's Slice. It came from my favourite baking cookbook The Blue Ribbon Cookbook which contains all of the Blue Ribbon winners around South Australia for various baking feats.  This recipe comes from Valmai Roeby from Quorn which is an amazing country town in the Flinders Ranges where I did a lot of my growing up as a kid; hence the reason I've been wanting to make this slice.  That, and the fact that it looked deeeeeelish!

By looking at the recipe I couldn't figure out what this slice would taste like, but now I can describe it perfectly.  It tastes like a chocolate crackle with gooey, thick caramel through the middle.  TO DIE FOR!  It was so good, and so naughty that I had to send most of it to work with Jared so he could give it away.  If it stayed in our fridge I was going to devour it and put on about 25kg. Jared gave a slice to my usual food critic Richard who emailed me this feedback:

OMG I've just started to eat it. You are going to kill Jared with this food. I'm guessing the last thing he will be doing before he dies is eating and feeling very happy about it. Having eaten it, it is indeed remarkable that it ever found its way to me.

I wasn't at work when Jared handed out the slice as I've been off studying, furthering my computer knowledge - when I went back to work today and wandered through Jared's floor I received several compliments on my fabulous slice.  I can see why this won the blue ribbon!

Monday, March 8, 2010

Simple Paella

It's a long weekend in Adelaide and the weather is fairly miserable.  As sad as it is to see summer go, I'm quite welcoming of a bit of cold and wet and getting my trackies back on; I'm even tempted to pull out the ugg boots...   I was so excited about this long weekend because we made no plans.  The entire weekend was all ours to do with as we please - and for me that meant spending some time in our kitchen - which has exactly 15 days left until it gets replaced completely.  I am so excited!!

So on Sunday while Jared played golf I pulled out all my cookbooks and started searching for something to cook for dinner.  Absolutely nothing was jumping out at me except risotto, and even that wasn't inspiring me too much.  After searching for risotto recipes I found a paella recipe that I thought seemed really yummy.  It's a bit of a faux paella recipe. I don't have the special pan or the special rice, and I don't eat prawns so I ommited them too... 

I found this recipe on an Australian cooking website called  Taste.  I love this website because it is so easy to use and I generally find what I'm looking for. Plus, many people write reviews of the recipes which really helps when you decide to make it too.  For example, for this paella recipe one reviewer said to use medium grain rice as it absorbs the flavour better than long grain, another said to use more stock, another suggested saffron and chilli is a great addition.  I took on all of this advice and my paella was perfect. I even got the crust on the bottom!  Jared said it's the best Paella he's had outside of Spain.  Isn't he a sweety!?  I assume he hasn't ever eaten Paella except when in Spain but I will definitely be making this again.  The whole meal took about 45 minutes to prepare, cook and have it on the table!  And the colours were magnificent.  I was very impressed!

also,  HAPPY BIRTHDAY MUM!!!  xx

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Slow Cooked Tandoori Chicken

I wasn't even sure what meal I was creating when I marinated some chicken thighs in Tandoori paste and yoghurt. Every other time I've made Tandoori Chicken I've cooked it on a baking tray in the oven and although I would enjoy the tandoori flavour, the meat always dried out. So then it occured to me to use the slow cooker!! Everything that goes in the slow cooker always turns out juicy and luscious and as an added bonus, dinner is ready when I walk in the door after work - which was great tonight as there were a few sore heads at our place after the ACDC concert last night!

So as I walked home from work today I was thinking about what I could serve the chicken with and I decided to make a raita and serve it with pita bread. The rice was a last minute addition by Jared who was craving carbs - we don't usually eat any rice, bread or pasta, so I thought we'd have a treat and I made some.

The great thing about this dish is that the chicken cooks all day and becomes so juicy and tender, it just shreds as you put your fork into it, and the raita can be made the night before. This means that if you are having guests over after work then this meal is a great idea because the rice is all that you really need to cook, and heat up the pita. I think this may become one of our favourites... Tandoori chicken in the slow cooker is definitely a winner!  I also throw a cube of chicken stock in with the cooking rice and sprinkle fresh coriander over the chicken.  I heated the pita bread in the oven for about 5 minutes.

This dish is most satisfying because you pile the rice, chicken, raita and coriander onto a piece of warm pita and devour it like a taco!  So divine!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Chocolate Hazelnut Celebration Cake

Today is Jared's 35th Birthday!!  Happy Birthday honey!!  Unfortunately we both had to work, so I decided to bake a special cake for him to take to the office.  Jared and I work together but in different departments. I enjoy cooking for his area as they are all great people who give fantastic feedback - or maybe they'll just say anything to be fed??!!?

Anyway, I started flicking through my Donna Hay cookbook and came across this recipe.  It was the picture that sold me and that it looked like such a great birthday cake and everyone loves chocolate.  So I baked the cake on Monday night and put more love into it than I've ever put into anything I've baked (my nana taught me to have all ingredients at room temperature when baking) and I made sure I had the best quality for every ingredient.  I made the icing on Monday night as well as it has to cool down afterwards before you really work your magic.  So Tuesday night I came home and whipped the icing into the delectable, velvety treat that it turned out to be.

The cake was a hit.  I received nothing but great feedback.  About thirty people had a slice, including the CEO!  Eep!  Here is some of the feedback I received via email:

I was lucky enough to get a slice of Jared’s birthday cake – and must congratulate you on it’s total awesomeness! You are the best cake baker ever!!!!  It is really really good.  I told Jared he must marry you immediately as he is way lucky to have someone spoil him like you do! 

OH. MY. LORDY LORD. Best chocolate cake I’ve had in forever.


I refuse to take credit for the above comments as the cake itself wasn't difficult to bake at all and the icing was relatively easy.  I think we have Donna Hay to thank for this one.  I apologise for the shitty photograph of a slice of cake taken at my desk with the crappy plastic spoon!  I was in a bit of a hurry and the lighting wasnt great - but you get the idea!

Happy Birthday Pinky.  I love you.  x

300g butter, chopped
3 cups brown sugar
4 eggs
1 cup hazelnut meal
1 cup milk
2 cups plain flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 cup cocoa powder
fresh berries to serve (I didnt do this)

Chocolate Icing
2 cups pouring cream
1 cup cocoa powder
800g good quality dark chocolate, chopped
300g butter

Preheat the oven to 160 degrees celcius.  Place the butter and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer and beat until light and creamy.  Add the eggs and beat well.  Add the hazelnut meal and milk, sift over the flour, baking powder and cocoa and mix until combined.  Spoon the mixture into 2 x 20cm round greased adn lined cake tins and bake for 55 minutes or until cooked when tested with a skewer.  Allow cakes to cool.

To make icing, place the cream and extra cocoa in a saucepan over low heat and stir until smooth.  Place the mixture in a bowl and refrigerate until cold.  Beat the icing with an electric mixer until light and fluffy.  Spread teh icing over eth tops of both cakes and place one cake on top of the other.  Ice all around the edges.  Keep cool until ready to serve.  Serve with berries.


Sunday, February 14, 2010

Summer Tomato Pasta

This dish was one of the first savoury dishes I ever made.  (Garlic chicken was my actual first).  I would have made it at least three times a week for the first few months after I discovered it.   I would try to make it for every person that I knew because I wanted them to know how yummy it was, and in hindsight I now realise I had discovered my love for cooking - not just baking.  I remember, back in those early days, that I would follow the recipe to the letter. I've learned a lot since then and confidently cook using guestimations these days, especially with this dish.

So why is this dish so good?  Because it's easy, quick, refreshing and fantastic in summer because it isn't heavy at all.  I haven't met anyone yet who didn't like it.  The marrying up of all the different italian flavours creates this zingy, strong flavour that leaves you wanting more and more.  I made way too much tonight so our neighbours Leslie and Steve kindly took the leftovers off my hands.  It would have been such a shame to throw what was left in the bin.  And this isn't the type of dish you can have as leftovers as the tomatoes end up slushy.

6 ripe tomatoes, chopped
1 bunch of basil, finely chopped (I blitz mine)
1 large clove of garlic, finely chopped
Juice of one lemon
3 tablespoons Olive Oil
150g parmesan cheese, finely grated
salt & pepper
200g bacon, chopped into small cubes
1 packet wholemeal spaghetti

Mix the tomatoes, basil, garlic, lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper together in a large bowl.   Put the pasta on to cook.  Fry the bacon until it is crispy.

Once the pasta is cooked, drain it and add the parmesan and the tomato mix.  Mix together well and serve in large pasta bowls.  Sprinkle the bacon over the top and add a little extra parmesan.  Serve.


Monday, February 8, 2010

Chilli Con Carne

The first time I cooked Chilli Con Carne was about 5 years ago.  It was a Jamie Oliver recipe and it involved blitzing the onions in a food processor; then blitzing sundried tomatoes and fresh chilli to make a paste; there were cinammon sticks, bay leaves and HP sauce.  There was even a ritual of placing greaseproof paper over the top for an hour or so.    I admit that this Jamie Oliver recipe is OH SO GOOD but it involves such a lot of work that it isnt something I'd cook on a Monday night after work.  And because of that fact, I thought my days of eating home made chilli were all but over....     Until I met Jared!

Jared made this for me within the first week that we were dating and it blew me away!  Especially the fact that he roasted his own capsicums and stuffed them with the chilli!  That totally takes away the naughty corn chip side of chilli con carne which I was always a sucker for! The capsicum smells amazing and sweet as it turns black and bubbles. Jared also used to put a three bean mix in about 5 minutes before serving.  I've never done this as I don't see the benefit.  I don't dislike it but I don't think the dish gets any better because of it.  Its up to you! It is so simple, so quick, so cheap and yet so very very tasty and rich and moreish.  He taught me how to make it straight away so now he lays on the couch while I make it - but that's ok because it is really so easy.  Plus Jared and I are always looking for healthy, low fat, low carb meals to eat during the week and needless to say, we eat this A LOT!

There are some photos below of our shitty oven and I am so very pleased to say that its days are numbered!  Four hours ago a Kitchen Man came to our place to measure us up for a whole new kitchen and oven!!!  The oven we currently use still measures in farenheit! And it's this retro blue glass which is smashed and you can see all the cords behind it!  Our kitchen is quite embarassing - but I still love to cook in it. I guess you get used to what you have and learn how to make it work.  Unfortunately I wont get to use the new kitchen for long as we'll be putting this place on the market straight away so we can buy a new house.  It is so much fun looking for a house.  I always go straight to the photos of the kitchen, then I check out the decking/backyard/pool area where we'll be doing most of our eating and entertaining.  Oh the excitement! 

But anyways - please please do yourself a favour and try cooking this chilli.  I guarentee you won't be disappointed!

1 tablespoon Olive Oil
1 onion chopped
800g premium mince
3 tablespoons paprika
3 tablespoons cajun spice
2 teaspoons cayenne pepper
2 teaspoons dry chilli
1/2 teaspoon tabasco sauce
Salt & Pepper
3 tablespoons tomato paste
2 tins tomato
2 capsicums
low fat sour cream
coriander - chopped
Sweet paprika

Over medium heat fry the onion in olive oil in a deep fry pan.   When they are transparent, add the mince and brown.  Add the paprika, cajun spices, cayenne pepper, chilli and tabasco and stir.  Add the tomato sauce and paste and salt and pepper to your liking.  Simmer over medium heat for about an hour, if it begins to dry out cover it almost completely with a lid.

While the chilli is cooking cut the capsicums in half and remove all the seeds and the stem.  Roast on both sides under a grill until the outer skin bubbles and turns black.  Chop up the coriander.

Place the capsicum on the plate so it creates a bowl for the chilli.  Place the chilli in the middle.  Add a big dollop of sour cream on top.  Sprinkle with a little sweet paprika and coriander.  Serve.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Yummy Pork Stir Fry

I've never been confident with stir frys.  I've always strictly followed a recipe which always called for several different types of sauce and marinades which I never had in the cupboard so I'd end up spending a fortune on the meal.  But then I met Jared.  He taught me to relax and just throw flavours together. He also taught me about timing and heat; so the meal was cooked perfectly. So now we enjoy a stir fry often and I make it myself from scratch with no help from Jared. Yay me!

Today's stir fry is pork but we often use chicken or beef or even kangaroo.  As Jared taught me, its just a matter of adding whatever sauces and marinades you like until you are happy with the flavour.  We use our mini blitzing machine on pulse to mix it all together, but don't over blitz it or it froths.

1 tablespoon sesame oil
2 tablespoons BBQ sauce
3 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons asian style marinade   (I used Kikkoman Sweet Chilli Ginger & Soy Marinade)
1 teaspoon ginger
1 teaspoon garlic
1 teaspoon chilli

2 tablespoons sesame oil
2 carrots, peeled and cut into batons
1 handful of snow peas
1 onion sliced
1 bunch coriander chopped
1 bunch broccolini
300g pork (or meat of your choice)

Blitz together all the sauce ingredients, but only on pulse so it doesn't turn to a frothy mess.   Marinate the meat in it for as long as you can.  I normally only have about half an hour once I get home from work, so it isnt that important.

Add 2 tablespoons sesame oil to a hot wok and brown the meat.  Do not pour the sauce in, just the meat.  Keep the left over sauce set aside.  Once the meat has browned,  then set aside.   Add all the veg and keep it moving and cooking.  Once the veg is close to being cooked, add the meat and the left over sauce.  At the last second add the chopped coriander and mix through.  Sprinkle some on top also.  Serve with rice or noodles.  (We prefer neither as we're always trying to avoid carbs).


Sunday, January 17, 2010

Spaghetti Bolognese

I feel a bit silly posting about Spaghetti Bolognese because it is one of the easiest meals to cook.  But Jared taught me something about spag bog which has changed the way I prepare it and makes the end result so much more satisfying.  Jared blitz's the onion, carrot, celery and garlic in a food processor after sweating it off in a pan of olive oil.  For this recipe I've also added basil and a chilli.  The end result is that the bolognese sauce sticks to the spaghetti rather than slipping off as you raise it to your mouth.   We also use wholemeal spaghetti because of its nutty flavour and its just a tad more healthy.  But I do cover it in loads of kraft parmesan.  I'm a big fan of using real parmesan wherever possible but for spag bog - I believe it is sacreligious to not use Kraft Parmesan.

I cooked this for dinner tonight after an afternoon of house hunting.  Jared and I are selling his unit and buying a house in the Adelaide Hills.  It's very exciting!  So this bolognese didn't cook for the standard 3 to 4 hours that I would prefer, but still was absolutely yummy and really comforting on a tired Sunday evening.  And shouts out to Leslie my neighbour who just delivered me Triple Chocolate Chip icecream!  Thank you.

2 cloves garlic
1 onion
1 carrot
2 sticks celery
1 large red chilli
1 handfull basil
1 big glug of Olive Oil
600g beef mince
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 tin's tomato
Bolognese Herbs
salt & pepper
Wholemeal spaghetti
Mountains of bogan parmesan

Sweat off the garlic, onion, carrot, celery, chilli and basil in a fry pan with some olive oil.  Then Blitz it in a food processor til it is fine.   Add the mince and stir until all browned.   Add the tomato paste and tinned tomatoes.  Add salt and pepper and bolognese herbs.  Stir and then simmer for as long as you can with the lid partially on, cover it if it is cooking down too much.

Cook your wholemeal spaghetti and then serve with mountains of bolognese sauce and parmesan on top.


Sunday, January 3, 2010

Lamb Tagine with Apricots and Pistachio

Once again I cooked and forgot a major ingredient!  This time it was chicken stock.  Thankfully I realised about 40 minutes before I was due to serve so I quickly got it in there.  I was hoping to cook a "Slow Cooked Lamb Chop Stew" that was in the June 2008 edition of Delicious. magazine but I've lost the magazine and no matter how hard I googled, it couldnt find it. (If you have that edition PUH-LEASE email me the recipe??) So as a substitute I cooked this for dinner. 

This dish has awesome flavour but I prefer tagines to have loads of veg.  This dish was only meat and a few apricots.  (I left out the raisons as I'm not a fan of them in cooking).  I also didn't feel like i was actually cooking anything.  All you have to do is mix some spices together and dump it in the oven.  There is no joy in that; so to compensate I made honey roasted carrots and moroccan zuchini.  (Slice two whole zuchini's lengthways, score in a criss cross manner across the length of the zuchinis, drizzle with olive oil, sea salt and moroccan spices and roast in the oven for an hour).

I found this meal to be really yummy but it didn't blow my mind.  Jared on the other hand said it was amazing.  He said that if he had cooked it himself he would think it was the best thing he'd ever made.  I'm very confused by this as he has cooked me many dishes that impressed me way more than this one.  Maybe I was just over it by the time I served it. 

2 teaspoons sweet paprika
2 teaspoons ground coriander
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon chilli powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon white pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/2 teaspoon allspice
2 teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons olive oil
grated rind and juice of 2 lemons
1.2kg diced lamb
1 cup chicken stock
3/4 cup dried apricots
1/2 cup raisins
1 cup thick, Greek-style yoghurt
1/2 cup pistachio kernels, roughly chopped
couscous, to serve

Combine spices and salt in a large bowl. Add oil, rind and half the juice and stir to form a paste. Add lamb and stir until well-coated in paste. Cover and refrigerate for 3 hours if time permits.

Preheat oven to 180°C. Put lamb mixture into a casserole dish with a tight-fitting lid. Add stock and remaining lemon juice. Stir until well-combined.

Cover and cook for 1 hour. Stir in dried apricot and raisins. Cook, covered for a further 40 minutes or until lamb is tender. Serve immediately with a dollop of yoghurt, sprinkling of pistachio kernels and couscous on the side.


Saturday, January 2, 2010

Passionfruit Layer Cake

I was coming on here to rant and rave about how much I hate recipes that lead you up the garden path and the end creation is nothing like the photo or as the recipe says it should be.  I've been cursing for 3 days about how my cake turned out nothing like the picture.  But just as I have logged on here to begin my bitch, I've had another read of the recipe and I've made the frosting completely incorrectly!!  I've used sour cream, passionfruit pulp and icing sugar!!  The recipe asks for cream cheese, sour cream and icing sugar!!  Where on earth did I get a cup of passionfruit pulp from and just neglected to add any cream cheese??  No wonder it was so runny and wouldn't stay on the cake!  The icing that I incorrectly made is thankfully really yummy so we didn't have to throw the cake away.  Jared and I have been living on about three slices a day since New Years Eve.
Hopefully by now you've worked out the cake in the picture above is not my cake!!

But having said that:

1. Although I forgot to add 250g of cream cheese, it still wouldn't have come close to covering this cake plus three layers through the centre - I strongly suggest doubling the icing mixture. Several reviews of the recipe at Taste suggested the same.

2. The syrup also creates far too little to be spread over three layers.  I would strongly suggest trippling it.

Overall though - this cake is actually really yummy and my own version of the icing is also really refreshing and not too sweet.  I'm not happy at all with how mine looks but clearly that was my fault by forgetting a very important ingredient which would have made all the difference. 

It has been really hot in Adelaide these past few days and I made the cake for New Years Eve which was 40 degrees Celcius.  I thought passionfruit would be more refreshing than chocolate, and it is really light and zingy and I will most definitely be making it again but will remember the cream cheese next time!  A picture of my cake is below.


Melted butter, to grease
250g butter, at room temperature
430g (2 cups) caster sugar
6 eggs
150g (1 cup) plain flour
75g (1/2 cup) self-raising flour
85g (1 cup) desiccated coconut
160ml (2/3 cup) coconut milk
Fresh coconut, shaved, to serve

Passionfruit syrup
125ml (1/2 cup) fresh passionfruit pulp
2 tbs caster sugar
1 tsp finely grated lemon rind

1 x 250g pkt cream cheese, at room temperature
125g (1/2 cup) sour cream
80g (1/2 cup) icing sugar mixture

Preheat oven to 180°C. Brush 2 round 20cm (base measurement) cake pans with melted butter to grease. Line bases and sides with non-stick baking paper.

Use an electric beater to beat together butter and sugar in a bowl until pale and creamy. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition, until combined. Stir in the combined flours and coconut. Stir in coconut milk. Spoon the mixture among the lined pans and smooth surfaces. Bake for 1 hour or until a skewer inserted in centres comes out clean. Set aside for 30 minutes before turning onto a wire rack to cool.

Meanwhile, to make the syrup, combine passionfruit, sugar and lemon rind in a saucepan over high heat. Bring to the boil. Cook, stirring, for 3-5 minutes or until syrup thickens. Set aside to cool.

To make the frosting, use an electric beater to beat the cream cheese, sour cream and icing sugar mixture in a bowl.

Use a large serrated knife to remove the top of each cake. Use the knife to split each cake in half crossways. Place 1 layer of cake on a cake stand. Spread over one-sixth of the cream cheese mixture and spoon over one-third of the passionfruit syrup. Continue layering with the remaining cake layers, half the cream cheese mixture and the remaining syrup. Spread the remaining cream cheese mixture over the top and side of the cake. Arrange the coconut over the top and side of the cake and serve.