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).