Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Chocolate self-saucing pudding (or gooding)

At our house growing up it came from a packet mix and was referred to as gooding - because it's just so good (Thanks Mum!)

I didn't ever actually realise how easy it was to make from scratch. Chocolatey sponge with a miracle sauce that just appears underneath.

This is what I made as dessert to go with Frederick the Free Range Chook in case I had difficulty eating it, I knew that there was yummy dessert coming!

But this is no ordinary gooding. I borrowed the recipe from Donna Hay's Modern Classics 2 and altered it a little because of the contents of my pantry (as always!)

The lovely thing about Donna's recipe is the addition of hazelnut meal. It alters the whole texture from a light sponge to a dense, moist pudding- plus with a kick of hazelnut flavour. Her recipe called for malted milk powder which I substituted with great success to Milo! I know it seems totally naff to get the brand name daggy products involved but ever since Nigella cooked her Ham in Coca-Cola I've felt a bit more freedom in that area :)

Anyway, the Milo was a delight and added a richness and depth to the sauce that I couldn't have produced any other way - highly recommended!

This pudding is massive! If you are feeding 8 then it would suit but for just the 2 of us I would cut the recipe in half to eat over a few nights.

135g softened butter
1 & 1/4 cups caster sugar
2 eggs
1 &1/2 cups plain flour
2 & 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1/2 cup hazelnut meal
1/4 cup Milo
1 cup milk

Preheat oven to 170C

Cream butter and sugar until pale. Beat in eggs. Sift in the dry ingredients and add the hazelnut meal and milk and beat until smooth.
Smooth into a greased dish.

For the sauce mix 2/3 cup brown sugar, 2/3 cup Milo, 1.5 Tablespoons cocoa and 1.5 cups of boiling water and then pour it over the pudding mix.

Pop in the oven for 45-50mins until risen and a skewer comes out clean.

Rich and lovely, I could (and sadly did) eat the sauce straight out of the dish with a spoon.

Have a lovely day

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Bruschetta Cups

I'll have to bypass my promised Chocolate self-saucing recipe due to popular demand.

Today I made bruschetta cups for the lovely Susie's birthday at work and now people are demanding the recipe so they can use it on the weekend - there's never been a more flattering compliment than that! I was hunting for something savoury (others were bringing sweets) and something including goat cheese (one of the birthday girl's favourites) so I hastily grabbed some quick bruschetta ingredients thinking I could think of a way to involve the goat cheese somehow on the drive home :)

This is a recipe that I first made in about 2003 adapted from a recipe in a magazine for the bread cups. It is so simple that it isn't worth the accolades!

For the bread cups you cut circles out of slices of white bread and press them into a muffin tray that has had a light spritz of cooking spray until they look like little pastry cases. I then brushed mine lightly with olive oil and sprinkled with a little salt. They then go into a 180C oven for about 15mins or until golden brown. Keep an eye on them though - the timing always seems to change! Cool them on a rack and then store in an airtight container.

For the filling I did a traditional bruschetta and a mushroom version that I invented. I just felt like 2 options was a bit more fun, and I'm glad I did - the mushroom one was definitely the more popular!

Traditional Bruschetta

Roma Tomatoes (about 5), seeded and chopped
Half a red onion, chopped.
4 Basil Leaves, chopped.
Balsamic Vinegar
Olive Oil.

Combine to taste.

Put a blob of goat cheese in the case and then fill with the tomato mixture.

Mushroom filling

1 container of sliced mushrooms (I bought them already sliced!)
1 teaspoon (or clove) minced garlic (I used from a jar!)

Fry these together in a little butter until brown - I did mine in two batches so as not to crowd the pan, take off the heat and stir through half a cup of grated parmesan/pecorino (I had a packet that was a ready grated mixture) and half a cup of toasted pine nuts (I bought a packet ready toasted!!)

Place Tablespoons full into the bread cases.

Clearly this was SO easy. And I know I sound terribly lazy for buying everything in packets ready made but it works, it was really tasty and as no one had to melt down from the stress of making it all - I think everyone wins. Obviously this includes the supermarket :)

I assembled these at work and 5 of us demolished the equivalent of an entire loaf of bread. It's the best work lunch I think I've ever had. And the birthday girl was happy too!

If you make them let me know how they go!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Frederick the Free Range Chook

If you happened to read my facebook status last Tuesday it went along these lines:

'Just bought one of the school chickens and was given the instruction "Don't eat it tonight, it was only killed this morning." The ex-vegetarian in me feels very squeamish.'

This was followed by a flurry of comments about rigor mortis setting in and needing 2 days for the muscles to relax again so it won't be tough. Ugh. Yes, I was vegetarian. And for fluffy bunny reasons. Health reasons are actually what forced me to go back to eating meat and I don't regret it. I actually enjoy it now and have gotten over my issues.

I went from a 15 Year old who had to cut raw chicken with a knife and fork because the texture made me heave, to a 30 year old who will happily eat, cut and handle it. But rigor mortis? brought back some residual squeam. The thought that this morning it was happily pecking grass just down the path and then had a date with a person at the abbatoir and then was in the plastic bag in front of me.... I know we are all about sourcing food locally these days but this was a bit personal!

I've mentioned that I'm a school librarian. Well, the school has an agriculture plot so we often get the opportunity to buy fresh eggs at low cost to help the program pay for itself. This week was the first time I remember fresh chickens being offered and at $6.00 for a small and $8.00 for a large free range, it was an offer I couldn't pass up. It can't get more free range than being born and bred 100m from my office window. I can see how lovely it is out there. A utopia for chooks of grass, gum trees, dams and blue sky - plus the affectionate attention of Year 10 trying to get a decent grade.

The chickens were apparently a year 10 agriculture project, and they appear to have done pretty well. It was the largest "small" chicken I've ever seen. Weighing in at about 2 kilos, I had to look up how long to cook it - according to Donna Hay about 1.5hrs for the poor dear.

That was the other thing. I started referring to it as the 'poor dear' all the time as it sat in my fridge "relaxing". My friend Kate at work (the country girl) suggested it was better not to name it as that would make the process more traumatic. She then suggested if I needed to call it something i should call it "dinner" or "chicken with lemon and thyme". I thought this to be very wise but when I got it home and explained it to the lovely husband he immediately christened it Frederick. Oh dear.

Then it came to actually cooking poor Frederick. I made Husband cut off his still existing neck the night before and remove it from the blood/water in the bag.
When we gave the neck to the cat for a treat, the citified creature had no idea what to do with it, looked at us quizzically and went back to munching on her dry cat food - apparently the taste for fresh meat is not instinctual. I hear you sister. Looks yucky to me too.

It may surprise people to know that I've never actually roasted a whole chicken before. Husband occasionally does, but I always buy the deboned rolled ones from Leonards (mmm honey macadamia stuffing!) so I looked up a few recipes and decided to put cut up lemon and garlic and thyme in the cavity, - that is a kind of gross process i must say- paint him with olive oil and sprinkle him with salt, thyme and paprika.

I roasted him in a 190C oven for 1.5hrs with pumpkin, potato and some lemon wedges.

And the flavour.... it was good. I have to say I did feel a little bit odd eating it and I think that affected my view of the flavour but Husband said it was great and the house did smell delicious. I made dessert too, so that if dinner made me a bit uncomfortable I would have a yummy back up plan. More about the wonderful chocolate self saucing pudding next time!

Would I do it again? Yes. Possibly without a name next time.

Alas poor Frederick, I knew him well. And he tasted pretty decent too....

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Brown Butter Blondies

This week we are faced with renovations at work and so are moving out of large sections of our building. This might not sound too dramatic until you consider the fact that I work in a library. Moving stacks of books and resources is such a drain on the morale and energy. So I decided the office needed some sustenance to make it through.

These things are like death by brownie (well blondie actually) - Be warned: there are large amounts of butter in your future!

But how delicious, rich and intense with a flavour you've never known if you've never browned your own butter. This stuff is amazing. It gives you the impression of a culinary disaster as you watch the butter boil and turn dark golden.

I found this recipe on and thought if I'm ever going to find a good opportunity to brown butter this is it!

I'll let you find the recipe on her site. It's really simple and the batter tastes awesome. Good luck getting it all into the pan without too much taste testing.

In lieu of cinnamon chips from the US I attempted to DIY them. Half a pack of white chocolate bits melted and then mixed with 2 teaspoons of cinnamon, spread out flat on baking paper and then popped in the fridge until firm then chopped into bits. This is another flavoursome delight that has to make it through the taste test. I could've eaten the melted cinnamon mixture with a spoon, and did scrape out the bowl with a spatula.

Unfortunately the batter was still quite warm and melted my lovingly made chips immediately - but the flavour was still there!

I added some white choc chips for extra texture and the lovely little squares have been eaten with great delight by the ladies in my office with one of them declaring "I think this is better than all the other treats you've brought in"

I actually think there is a bit too much butter so go easy on it and add some extra flour to soak it up if you think that will help.

Hopefully they will give us the strength to make it through - or in any case we'll burn off the huge amount of calories by ferrying huge boxes of books into storage :)

Monday, September 13, 2010

Bran and Honey Muffins

If you've read this before you'll know of my distaste of breakfast foods- although I will make a solid exception for the grilled field mushrooms at Bluewater Cafe in Manly. If I had had a camera with me on that day I would've added a restaurant review component to the blog. I could eat those every day!
But in the absence of a chef to prepare field mushrooms on sourdough with rocket, goats cheese and pesto for me every morning, I am usually a breakfast skipper who is starving by 10am and eats hopeless snacks to compensate :)

To combat this a lady I used to work with - The lovely Gail, gave me this recipe. Healthy breakfast muffins that are according to her recipe "so full of goodness that if you look at them closely you can sometimes see a halo"

1 cup wholemeal flour
1 cup bran
1 tsp bicarb soda
1 egg
3 Tbsp light olive oil
150ml honey
1 cup milk (I used soy)
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup dried fruit (I used apricots)
1 cup chopped nuts (I used pepitas and sunflower seeds - that's all I had!)

Mix wet into dry and then bake at 180C for 20mins until a skewer comes out clean.
Can be served with a yoghurt dressing- 150ml natural yoghurt, 2 tsp honey and 2tsp orange zest.

I make a batch, freeze them individually and grab one on the way to work. 20 seconds in the microwave sorts them out and I get something useful into me to get the day started.

These make the house smell divine too - using honey rather than sugar is a revelation! It's so aromatic, the house just feels cosy and comfortable.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Coconut & Passionfruit Slice

Well this one is pure old fashioned, daggy, fete fodder. The kind of thing you expect to find on the "school stall" on a little foam tray covered in wrinkly plastic wrap with a label sticker on top.

I say that but the last time I went to a school fete I bought amazing gingernuts dipped in dark chocolate and displayed in a mini american chinese food box with a tiny gold label- so I guess the "school stall" is moving up in the world!

I was left to my own devices on a rainy Saturday morning with an afternoon tea to bring a plate for. After I made the previously blogged Macadamia Walnut Tart my rainy day baking urge had not yet been fulfilled and I had a tin of condensed milk winking at me from the pantry.

I flicked through my big notebook of recipes and found this one.

Coconut & Passionfruit Slice

1 Cup SR Flour
1 Cup desiccated coconut
1/2 Cup caster sugar
100g butter (melted)

Mix together and press into a lined slice tin. bake at 180C for 12mins

395g Can sweetened condensed milk
1/2 cup lemon juice
2Tbsp Passionfruit pulp

Whisk together and pour over the hot base, bake for 15mins

Cool in tin, cut into squares with a hot, wet knife.

I used tinned passionfruit and lemon from a bottle - how trashy! I know - but it works and tastes like a simple form of cheesecake in slice form.

My only tip is based on my personal preference - I strained out the seeds. I can't stand little crunchy black bits interrupting the smooth creamy texture but if you like them go for it.

It has to be the easiest slice ever invented and would probably be even better with real ingredients!

Have a lovely day


Saturday, September 4, 2010

Macadamia Walnut Tart

Since I was a little girl I've always loved to cut out recipes from magazines, collect them from friends and wheedle them out of family. I have scrapbooks and notebooks full of the things I dreamed of making or thought would be glamorous dinner party options. About 5 years ago I was given a big, fat, blank hardcover notebook and I still love cutting and pasting recipes in there, in fact it's almost full and I'd say I've only made about ten of the goodies I've selected.

So I've given myself a challenge - no more purchasing cookbooks for myself (gifts don't count, and are encouraged ;) until I've made a decent dent in trying out all these things I've wanted for years. So here we go!

This one is a handwritten recipe listed as "Mardi's Pecan Pie Slice - From Kate" I used to be assistant to two lovely girls (Mardi & Kate!) in catering a women's event, and they are both wonderful cooks. Mardi used to make this often and it was always a hit.

I've altered it a little based on what was in my pantry. I didn't have any pecans but I did have macadamias and a small amount of walnuts. The waxiness of both really works well together here.

1.5 cups plain flour
0.5 cups icing sugar
150g butter

Line a tin with baking paper. Rub butter into dry ingredients until well combined and press into the tin. Blind bake for 5mins at 180C then bake normally for 10mins until light brown and crisp. Cool completely (or just a bit works!) in tin.

2T Golden Syrup
2T Pouring Cream
1/3 Cup brown sugar
1/2t Vanilla
75g melted butter
2 beaten eggs
1T plain flour

Whisk until smooth then add 2 cups chopped nuts. Pour onto base and bake for 25mins or until golden.
Cool in the tin before cutting into slices.

This is lovely. It is the real essence of pecan pie without a pie tin or pastry. Easy to transport and serve and delicious. Good for morning tea or with a blob of cream as dessert. Yum!

Thanks Mardi and Kate!