Category Archives: baking

Easy upsidedown pineapple cake

Now that during the day we are three, me, a very little and helpless human and an independent, talkative, whirlwind of a toddler, activities to do with the later, to make her feel included and secure with the new family dynamic are more important than ever. And it’s been a beautiful discovery to find that she enjoys cooking. The weighing and the mixing and sometimes even the eating. We’re still working on the eating and it’s sad for me to admit that as a chef I have an extremely tiny, fussy and plain eater. Anyway, she does still enjoy cooking, and this week we made an easy pineapple upside down pineapple cake.

easy upsidedown pineapple cakeEven before children, I had visions of the kind of activities that I would like to do with them when the time came. Painting, drawing, gluing, sticking and cooking. Of course cooking. Cutting out gingerbread men and decorating them with Smartie buttons, baking fairy cakes and licking all the butter cream icing off first, making chocolate chip cookies and munching them with an ice cold glass of milk. I have very fond memories of routinely preparing rock cakes with one grandma and cupcakes with the other. Spending time together in the kitchen doing a common activity and sharing the pleasure of the final culinary creation.

easy upsidedown pineapple cakeAs a lot of my day is spent holding Pat, feeding him, burping him, carrying him sleeping in a sling (this one’s the bomb), Thea loves it when it’s time for her to have some uninterrupted focus. Don’t get me wrong, she knows what’s what and why I’m investing so much of my time with Pat, but she still craves one on one attention. And cooking seems to be a solution. It’s almost an out of bounds area that she gets to enter into, up on her little stepladder spooning flour into a bowl, haphazardly cracking eggs and pressing buttons on the processor. Yes, it’s messy, especially when there’s cocoa or hundreds and thousands involved, but we both laugh, and surely that counts for more.

easy upsidedown pineapple cakeDSC_1030easy upsidedown pineapple cakeThis easy pineapple upside down cake is a really great recipe to make with a small person. They can be very hands on with its preparation as there are essentially just two simple steps. Plus the finished product is so pretty and colourful. There is no guarantee however that participating in making the cake will mean that beyond nibbling the edges your little helper will want to eat it… But that’s ok. We had fun. And it means more for everyone else!

easy upsidedown pineapple cakeeasy upsidedown pineapple cakeeasy upsidedown pineapple cake

Easy upsidedown pineapple cake

Adapted from a recipe in Nigella Express by Nigella Lawson

  • 2 tbsp caster sugar
  • 6 pineapple rings from a tin (reserve juice to thin cake batter)
  • 11 or so glace cherries depending how many your toddler eats
  • 100g flour
  • 100g soft butter
  • 100g caster sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp bicarbonate soda
  • 1 tsp ground ginger

Pre heat the oven to 200C and butter a 24cm isn cake tin.

(Get your toddler to) sprinkle 2 tbsp of sugar in the bottom of the cake tin and arrange the pineapple slices on top. Fill the gaps with glace cherries.

Add the remaining ingredients to the bowl of a food processor and (get your toddler to) process until a smooth batter is achieved. Thin with a little, maybe 2 tbsp pineapple juice from the tin of pineapple rings.

Pour the batter into the cake tin on top of the pineapple rings and pop the tin into the oven for 30 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean.

Remove the cake from the oven and leave to cool in the tin for 5 minutes before sliding a spatula around the outside of the tin. Place a plate on top of the tin and then turn it upsidedown. Easy pineapple upsidedown cake!

Enjoy with cream and a cup of tea. Your toddler may or may not do the same.

Like this easy upside-down pineapple cake recipe? Then you might like almond tart with strawberries

Almond tart with strawberries

I can’t really keep it a secret any longer. If you visit here often you’re going to notice sooner or later anyway, so I’d better come clean. For the last three months I have been living in a house with views that take my breath away daily. With gardens so pretty and scent heavy, I feel like I’m in a fairytale when I walk through them. I’ve fallen asleep to the reassuring sound of breaking waves and woken to magnificent patchwork orange and magenta skies. So this almond tart with strawberries was perfect for a Sunday lunch with friends in such a special place.

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You might recall that back in April a tree fell on our house, and as a result we relocated that same night to Ma and Pa’s. Well a very generous friend offered us their home for the months of August, September and October. And so this is where my photos have been taken lately. In the beautiful kitchen of a Palm Beach house with panoramic views of the ocean. Believe me that I am not exaggerating when I say that sometimes I look up from the dishes to catch a glimpse of a whale breaching. That at night I can see Barrenjoey lighthouse intermittently twinkle in the distance. That I am extremely lucky and grateful for the opportunity to have stayed in such a beautiful location.

strawberry and almond tart

I think that Thea has enjoyed her stay too. We go the beach daily, sometimes twice, making the most of our temporary seaside location. I put her porridge in a little container, grab a coffee and we go, with obligatory bucket and spade in tow, to have our breakfast on the sand. I don’t know if I would do this if it was our full-time home. There is definitely something to be said for being placed in situations that not only force you to realise how fortunate you are, but also to make the most of your time.

strawberry and almond tart

The spotted gum tree that crashed through our roof has also made realise that our house overlooking the sparkling Pittwater, a five-minute walk to Clareville beach, was a great home. I’m not sure that we fully appreciated that. We were so focused on renovating it and making in to the thing that we wanted it to be, that we never stopped to fully acknowledge how good it was: All those evenings spend sharing food with friends and family on the deck, this one and this one, oh and this one, especially stand out, as well as the dinner parties inside by the fire like this one.

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When we do move back to our home (seemingly still light years away as our insurance hasn’t even been settled yet) I’m planning on throwing the biggest dinner party ever. I intend to celebrate where we live. With lots of delicious food. Delicious wine. Flowers. Music. And possibly even bite size versions of this almond tart with strawberries. It really is that good and definitely fitting for a special occasion. Even Thea thinks so.

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Almond tart with strawberries

Adapted from a recipe in The River Cafe Cookbook 2

For the pastry

  • 225g plain flour
  • 75g self raising flour
  • 55g icing sugar
  • 100g butter, cold, cut into cubes
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 2 tbsp cold water

For the almond tart filling

  • 265g soft butter
  • 265g caster sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 265g almond meal

To serve

  • 250g strawberries, hulled and halved
  • icing sugar
  • creme fraiche

To make the almond tart pastry, pulse the butter, two flours and icing sugar in a food processor until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Add the yolk and pulse until mixed in and then with the motor running add the cold water in a steady stream until the pastry comes together. Remove from the processor, wrap in plastic wrap and chill for at least 20 minutes before rolling out (with extra flour) and lining a 28cm diameter, 3.5cm deep loose bottomed fluted tart tin. Pop the lined tin in the fridge for another 20 minutes or so and then bake it in a 180 C oven.

**A note on baking the tart shell. Use baking beans. Seriously. I don’t know why I waited so long to become the owner of these little ceramic balls that have changed the appearance of my pastry shells for the better. I used to bake my tart shells with nothing and the sides would always shrink and the bottom bubble up. Then I got a little less lazy and started using dried kidney beans to keep the base of the tart shell flat. But after a while they began to smell. And just weren’t all that pretty. So one day, when in a kitchen shop looking for some platters, I came across Tala baking beans and my tart shells have been beautifully golden and even specimens ever since.**

For the almond tart filling, using a hand-held or stand mixer, beat the sugar and butter together. When the mixture is pale and fluffy, add the eggs one at a time, followed by the almond meal. Spoon the mix into the baked tart shell and bake for around 40-50 minutes until the filling is set. Don’t be tempted to overfill the shell as the mixture does puff up and will spill over the edge resulting in a messy end result.

Once the almond tart is cooled, decorate with strawberries, lots of icing sugar and enjoy with spoonfuls of creme fraiche.

Like this dessert recipe? Then you might enjoy my two tiered Pavlova

 

Oven baked strawberry French toast

oven baked strawberry french toast

When it comes to strawberries, I’m pretty fussy. I grew up in an area where you could pick your own strawberries. In summer. Not all year round. They tasted like strawberries. Sweet, soft and juicy, oozing fruity nectar with each bite. And they smelt like strawberries too. Fragrant and jammy. Now these berries are ubiquitous, in every shop, during every month of the year and they just don’t taste of my childhood anymore. They just don’t taste like strawberries. Or so the story goes until I found some succulent strawberries at the farmer’s market this week, and with much excitement bought more punnets than I sensibly needed. I ate them with cream, in smoothies, Thea ate some, Mark ate some and there was still some left. So I made this. Oven baked strawberry French toast.

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oven baked strawberry french toast

I’ve wanted to try a baked French toast recipe for a while now, thinking that it would make a great communal breakfast centrepiece. And let me tell you. When I invited the girls over to breakfast one day this week. This one did. The roasted seasonal strawberries provided lots of ooos and ahhhs and pauses of appreciation. Plus, it just looked so darn pretty, all yellow and pink, wobbly and crisp all at the same time. Everyone dug in, taking seconds and thirds.

oven baked strawberry french toast

Since becoming a Mama, I reckon breakfast parties are the way to go. For a start instead of the alcohol that you would expect at an evening event, in the morning there’s coffee. Sometimes more essential to a new parent than a glass of wine anyway. Also, babes can come along to breakfast parties, no questions asked, and small people are usually at their best first thing after a night’s sleep. Due to the presence of children, breakfast parties end on time too, as little ones are taken home for naps. A combination of winning factors. And the best thing of all. This oven baked French toast can be made the night before, so all you have to do for the party is put the kettle on.

DSC_0187 oven baked strawberry french toast

 

Oven baked strawberry french toast

Serves 6

Inspired by recipes from Butter baking and Pioneer Woman 

  • 1/2 loaf stale sourdough bread cut into rough cubes the size of large walnuts (about 4-5 cups bread once cut up)
  • 2 punnets strawberries hulled and halved
  • 5 eggs
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup – optional depending on how sweet the fruit you use is. I didn’t need to use it here, but with for example raspberries, it might be a good idea.
  • 2 cups whole milk

For the crumble topping

  • 50g brown sugar
  • 50g plain flour
  • 50g cold butter, cubed
  • 1 tbsp cinnamon
  • pinch sea salt

This is so easy. The night before, put the bread in a baking dish and scatter the strawberries over the top.

Mix the eggs, milk and syrup, if using, together and pour over the bread. Cover and refrigerate.

For the crumble topping, whizz all the ingredients in a food processor until they resemble breadcrumbs and then also store in the fridge overnight.

In the morning, pre heat the oven to 180C. Sprinkle the crumble topping over the bread and cook the oven baked strawberry French toast for about 45 minutes until the crumble topping is browned.

Love seasonal fruit? Then you might like Apricot jam

Home made crumpets in under an hour

I have fond childhood memories of weekend breakfast’s consisting of hot toasted crumpets spread with so much butter and honey that the two would melt and run down through the little holes on the crumpet’s surface and onto the plate below. Let’s be honest. This is the only way to eat toasted crumpets. An occasional treat bought from the supermarket, crumpets are not something that you can easily make at home. Or are they? Seeing a recipe for them in this month’s Gourmet Traveller, I read the list of ingredients. All pantry staples. And the method looked straightforward too. Before I knew it, I’d measured everything out, mixed it all together and crumpet dough was sitting in front of the fire proving. Half an hour later it had doubled in size and I poured mounds of the mixture into a pan and proudly watched as tiny holes formed in the batter. My first batch of home made crumpets.

home made crumpets

Ok. So that’s not the whole story. It took me three attempts to perfect my home made crumpets. After my first fail, I considered writing to Gourmet to tell them that their recipe hadn’t worked. But I had kept the batter in the fridge overnight and tried to make the crumpets the next morning. So I reconsidered. Not one to simply give up, I decided to have a second try and this time make the crumpets without leaving the batter chilling overnight, but cook it straight after it had doubled in size. I didn’t have any egg rings though, so although my second batch of crumpets had the signature divots in their surface, they were quite flat and more like drop scones.

home made crumpets

With two trials under my belt, on the third go, I even impressed myself with the results. Using buttered egg rings to cook the batter in made a huge a difference and my home made crumpets were tall, fluffy and perfectly dimpled.  I flipped a couple over in the pan to brown the tops and immediately spread them with rather a lot of butter and twirlings of sticky honey. Delicious.

home made crumpets

It’s very comforting when someone is able to try something out for you and report back that whatever it was is easy. Straightforward. Uncomplicated. It makes you feel safe and gives you confidence. I am now able to do this and tell you that home made crumpets are easy. That the recipe in the magazine does work. That a non stick pan will make the process a lot easier. That egg rings aren’t vital, but they do make a taller crumpets. That from start to finish, making crumpets will take under and hour. And they freeze beautifully. So go on. Have a go. PS. Thea is under the impression that Vegemite is best on crumpets.

home made crumpets

Home made crumpets

Recipe by Sean McConnell from August 2015 edition of Gourmet Traveller

  • 7g dried yeast
  • 30g caster sugar
  • 30ml warm just above blood temperature water
  • 500g plain flour
  • 3 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 50g butter
  • 800ml milk

Combine the yeast, sugar and water in a bowl and leave to stand in a warm place for 15 minutes.

Combine the flour and bicarb in a large bowl.

Melt the butter in a pot with 200ml of the milk. When the butter has melted, add the remaining 600ml of milk and when the time is up, the yeast mixture.

Add the yeast and milk mixture to the flour mixture and stir to combine. Now leave this mixture in a warm place for about 30 minutes or until the batter has doubled in size.

Heat a non stick pan over a medium heat and pour the batter into buttered egg rings inside the pan. Cook for about 10 minutes until holes have appeared and the surface of the crumpet is set.

At this point, the crumpets can be stored for future use, either in the fridge or freezer or toasted right away, smothered in butter and honey and enjoyed.

Gingerbread men

Gingerbread men

I got a bit carried away. My daughter’s second birthday, a planned quiet family affair, somehow turned into a full blown high tea complete with grandma’s best china. It started with a cake topper. The famed green sheep from the gorgeous children’s book of the same name that I read to Thea every night before bed. I thought it might be nice to make her a cake that she would recognise and diligently sought out my nearest art shop so that I could purchase some fimo to make the little model from (I sentimentally thought that she could keep the lovingly made clay sheep). Simple. The next step was to find a cake recipe. And this is where my imagination got the better of me and I started book marking dozens of pages from an equal number of books. Cheese and olive biscuits, lemon meringue tartlets, double chocolate brownies. And gingerbread men.

Gingerbread men Gingerbread men Gingerbread men

I’ve always wanted to make gingerbread men, but haven’t for fear that the process would be too hard. Baking is not a process that I naturally turn to in the kitchen. I prefer to roast and simmer. Having a small person in my life though who has a penchant for all things crunchy and crisp, I’ve been doing more baking lately, preferring her to have homemade treats rather than ones in crinkly bright coloured packets from the supermarket. So with this in mind, I decided it best I set about learning how to make the gingery dough people.

Gingerbread men

Historically, I’ve never been one to let a recipe’s complexity put me off. As a chalet girl in France preparing dinner for 12 guests every night, my first real cooking job, trying out new recipes was second nature. Individual roasted shallot tart tatins, which I didn’t realise had to be inverted before serving. A cherry clafoutis made with cherries that I never thought to pit. Beignets, which are deep fried choux pastry. Apparently choux pasty is quite hard to master, but I dived in to the recipe head first, overcrowded the deep fryer and got oil all over the kitchen floor. The beignets worked out quite well though. A dodgy lamb curry from an English newspaper than one of my guests left behind, the spice paste made from scratch and the lamb and spices bought with more guesswork than exact translation. Looking back these mistakes makes me cringe. I was so eager to experiment and learn that I broke the golden rule of entertaining. Never try a new recipe out on your guests.

Gingerbread men

Making these gingerbread men for Thea’s party, I suppose I was breaking that rule again. But my family are used to being experimented upon. Besides, someone has to try my dishes after their first rendition. The spicy molasses coloured men with their happy faces and white outfits turned out really well. There was just the right amount of spice and they had a perfect snap. In fact I was so pleased, that I’ve made a mental note to make a gingerbread advent house for Christmas. So for all my cringing over previous failed efforts, though I would still advise not to try new recipes at dinner parties or on people that you aren’t that familiar with, do have a go at making new things. You never know where the process may lead you.

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Gingerbread men

Adapted from a recipe from Bake by Alison Thompson

Makes about 30

  • 100ml water
  • 200g soft brown sugar
  • 180g golden syrup
  • 3 tbsps ground ginger
  • 3 tbsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground cloves
  • 250g butter, cut into cubes
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 550g plain flour

Lemon icing

  • 1 egg white
  • 250g icing sugar
  • juice 1/2 lemon

Place the water, sugar, golden syrup, ginger, cinnamon and cloves in a saucepan and bring to the boil over a medium heat.

Now add the butter one cube at a time and stir until it’s all melted, then add the bicarbonate of soda and make sure everything is well combined.

Pour the mixture into a bowl and allow to cool a little before sifting in the flour and stirring to until dough forms

Wrap the dough in cling wrap and allow to rest in the fridge for at least 2 hours.

When the allocated amount of time is up, preheat the oven to 160C and line three baking trays with baking paper.

Take the dough from the fridge and cut it in half. Roll one half out evenly to a thickness of about  5mm and then being as space efficient as possible, cut gingerbread men from the dough with a gingerbread men cookie cutter. Place the cut out men onto the baking trays.

Bake the men for 20 minutes and then cool on the baking trays.

When the men are cool, ice them with lemon icing and then decide where you’re first bite will be. Head, arms or legs. Thea goes for the head!

To make the icing, whisk the egg white until soft peaks form and then still whisking add the icing sugar one spoonful at a time and then the lemon juice. Pour into a piping bag with a tiny little hole and decorate.

Enjoy this? You might like chocolate fork biscuits.

Brown sugar meringue roulade

The prunes kept staring at me from the shelf in the pantry. I had bought a packet of the sticky, black fruit to make devils on horseback, and decanted the remainder neatly into a glass jar. But every time I went to the shelf for some ingredient or other, the prunes looked on woefully, and the little voice in my head said to me, you have to use them up you know. For what though. The last encounter I had had with the dried fruit was in little, yellow, single serve packets, for breakfast every morning while in hospital waiting to have Thea. Which is rather apt as it was around this time two years ago. So I decided to create a recipe to honour the prunes. I came up with a brown sugar meringue roulade filled with cinnamon stewed prunes and cream.meringue roulade

I’m like the proverbial bull in a shop full of delicate objects when I get an idea in my head. I have to make it come to life. NOW. It’s probably a very annoying attribute for those around me, but at least I can be described as a doer. Without a moment’s hesitation, even though it was 10pm, and half the house had gone to bed, I found the recipe I needed for the fruit and began the stewing process. My mother in law questioned me in disbelief, was I cooking again this late at night. No, just soaking some oats for porridge, I sheepishly lied.

meringue roulade

I learned how to a make meringue roulade from a no-nonsense, very practical, very experienced lady named Rosie, whilst attending her information laden cookery course in 2003. A course that, enlightened after working as a chalet girl in France where I realised that cooking was for me, I managed to squeeze into after another attendee dropped out. Fate? I like to think so. During my time with Rosie, I learnt the technique for making an amazing and versatile little salad dressing, since tweaked to become my own. I learnt how to make my first ice cream. Elderflower and gooseberry, the ingredients picked straight from the garden. I learnt how to make puff pasty and croissants. To lay a table. And pop a champagne cork, or not as the case may be.

meringue roulade

I also learnt from Rosie about the characteristics that make a really good recipe. It’s thoroughly tested with clear instructions and reliable. And I was told that if you get just one recipe from a cookbook that you use time and time again, then the book was worth the money that you paid for it. This could explain why my cookery book collection is so large. And still growing. Hopefully though, this meringue roulade recipe, personalised with the use of brown sugar to complement the prunes, is one that you will be able to make over and over. Fill it with the fruit of your choice, stewed rhubarb perhaps or fresh raspberries. Replace the whipped cream with Greek yoghurt or even mascarpone. But do try it.

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Brown sugar meringue roulade

  • 100g brown sugar
  • 125g caster sugar
  • 150ml egg whites (4-6 whites, it’s always best to measure the whites exactly as eggs can vary in size so much)
  • 1 tbsp icing sugar
  • 2 tsp cornflour
  • few drops white vinegar
  • 400ml cream, whipped
  • cinnamon stewed prunes as per Molly Wizenburg’s recipe

A stand mixer will make life much easier when making meringues, but a hand-held mixer will work as well. You will just be left standing in the one spot for a while.

Begin by whisking the egg whites until soft peaks form. Now add the cater sugar, one spoonful at a time, over about 5-7 minutes. Do not rush. This step ensures that the sugar is well combined with the egg whites.

Now add the brown sugar, a little quicker than the white, one spoonful after the other. Just make sure that each spoonful is visibly incorporated before you add the next.

When all the sugar has been added, turn the whisk off. Add the icing sugar, cornflour and vinegar and then turn the whisk on again for about 10 turns, or until everything is just combined.

Transfer the meringue roulade mix onto a baking paper lined tray (mine was 42cm x 30cm) and spread it out evenly. The mixture does not need to be even, peaks and waves will make the finished roll a little more spectacular.

Bake in an oven preheated to 150 C for 30 minutes, or until the top of the roulade is firm, but the base still slightly soft. Cool in the oven with the door held ajar with a folded tea towel.

When the roulade is cool, which will probably take a few hours, lay a clean tea towel on a work surface. On top of this lay a piece of cling wrap. Now invert the roulade on to the cling wrap. Spread it with cream and decorate with prunes.

To roll up the meringue roulade, use the tea towel to help you fold the edge of the roulade over and then to push it along as you continue rolling. This way you don’t have to handle the delicate, and somewhat sticky meringue, and you can use the tea towel to provide momentum.

Slice as neatly as you are able and maybe garnish with some toasted flaked almonds before devouring.

Love making meringue? You may also like my top Pavlova making tips

 

Strawberry homemade sprinkles

homemade sprinklesThea is almost two. Two. The days and weeks went by slowly when she was first born, as we got to know each other and I became accustomed to my new routine as a mama. Then something happened without me noticing. Time sped up and I find myself here today, one month away from her second birthday. I don’t feel like a mum. Somedays I am amazed that the world let me become a mother as I struggle through the everyday, utterly confused as to what my daughter, happy one minute, loudly uncheerful the next, wants. One night she sleeps peacefully for 12 hours straight. The next she wakes at two o’clock, ready to start the day. On Tuesday she loves homemade chicken nuggets. By Thursday, she won’t touch them and wants porridge. For breakfast, lunch and dinner. One thing I hope she really likes though, is the birthday cake that I’m going to make for her. With homemade sprinkles.DSC_1572

I’m not much of a baker. I suppose that’s because I’m not much of a cake eater either. I prefer pate and cheese and dark chocolate. But when I do bake, I usually go all out. Chocolate dipped honeycomb, presented in little handmade boxes and given to people as gifts. A dozen little Christmas puddings, made in September, and lovingly tied in cheesecloth and hung in a wardrobe ready for December (when I lived in England and it’s chilly during those months). A gigantic seven layer black forrest cake constructed for ma’s birthday, that lent slightly to one side. And now I’m attempting to make strawberry flavoured homemade sprinkles for a second birthday cake, staunchly ignoring comments that I could simply buy them from a supermarket for a couple of dollars.homemade sprinkles

Cooking being about showing love and all that, I want to make Thea a cake from scratch. A creative cake that takes time and effort. A cake that I have to think about and plan in advance. A cake that I can be proud of and say, I made that. I realise that she won’t be aware of my efforts. But I will. And that’s what counts. Because despite on occasion being confused as to how to do the right thing by my daughter, I love her. Unconditionally. Even when she refuses my chicken nuggets, will only eat porridge or wants to get up at two in the morning. Her little face is the best thing in this world.

homemade sprinkles

I don’t know about you, but I love sprinkles. As a kid, my favourite ice lolly was a Fab. A strawberry ice block with a white, milk flavoured cap that was covered in multicoloured sprinkles. To tell you the truth, once I’d nibbles all the sprinkles off, I didn’t much care for the strawberry flavoured ice underneath. Another thing I loved growing up was banana splits. A banana cut in half lengthways and positioned in a glass dish with scoops of ice cream between the two lengths, anointed with whipped cream, wafers and you guessed it. Sprinkles. I will also admit to garnishing. No. Garnish is too polite. Drenching whipped cream sitting a top a hot chocolate with sprinkles, ahem, when I was pregnant. So two years ago. With these stories in mind, it seems only fair that my daughter will enjoy sprinkles too. Pretty, pale pink, strawberry, homemade sprinkles.

homemade sprinkles

Strawberry homemade sprinkles

From a recipe by Stefani Pollack

Begin by grinding the freeze dried strawberries to a fine powder. I did this in a small spice/coffee grinder.

Next simply mix all the ingredients together. This could be done by hand or with the help of a free standing mixer. I chose the later option.

Now transfer the icing sugar mixture into a piping bag. I used a disposable piping bag, which I cut a very small hole in the end of. If using a piping bag with a nozzle, the nozzle should be about 4mm.

Pipe lines of the mixture onto baking paper. They do not have to be perfect lines, but the closer together that you can get them the better. It will make the chopping process easier and mean that you have to use less pieces of baking paper.

Now wait. 24 hours. This will allow the iced lines to completely dry. After the time period has elapsed, take a long knife and cut the lines into little sprinkle size strands.

And that’s it. Homemade sprinkles, that really do taste like strawberries.

Enjoy this. Then why not try your hand at some homemade vanilla ice cream to go with them?

Chicken and chorizo empanadas

chicken and chorizo empanadas

Happy that I was organized for an upcoming  job, I was sitting comfortably on the lounge sipping peppermint tea after dinner. Tomorrow I would make the chicken and chorizo empanadas, part of the Mexican street food spread that I was preparing for a party at the weekend. But right now I was in front of a beautifully warm open fire browsing restaurants in Bali for our upcoming holiday. I could hear that outside, the powerful wind had amped up again and that rain was still lashing angrily at the windows. It was an aggressive storm that had caused mass flooding and uprooted trees on every single street over the last two days. From our deck, Thea and I had been watching arborists in fluorescent rain coats all day, brave the elements to remove a fallen gum tree that had ploughed straight through one of our neighbours homes. Nonchalantly believing that we were lucky to have escaped the same fate, I was about to be proved very wrong.

chicken and chorizo empanadas

There was no loud crack to fore warn that a tree was about to fall. It just happened. All of a sudden the power went out and in the darkness the only sound that could be heard was crashing. Usually when something falls on our tin roof, it’s noisy and can make your heart pound, fallen debris sounding bigger and more damaging than it really it is. There was no doubt this time though. Whatever had fallen was huge and very destructive. The clattering noise was relentless, and Mark and I held each other bracing for impact from overhead.

chicken and chorizo empanadas

It felt like as soon as it had started, the noise stopped. I jumped up, ever so slightly hysterical. THEA. My baby girl was in bed and if I hadn’t been hit by whatever had fallen, did that mean that she had? Mark pulled me close and told me to calm down. That she was fine. It was our chimney stack that had collapsed and that if I went in and got her in the state I was in, I would scare her. I took on board his wise words, breathed deeply and using the light on my phone went to her room. She was sitting up waiting for me. I packed a bag while Mark put out the fire, a hazard that had completely gone over my head as I stuffed nappies, toothbrushes and underwear into a bag. Our neighbours were yelling up at us. Were we ok? I yanked at the front door to let them know we were. It wouldn’t open. I went to the window and pulled back the curtain. All that I could see in front of me through broken glass was a mass of branches and leaves, fractured floorboards and crumpled sheets of roofing. Our whole deck had splintered away from the house.

chicken and chorizo empanadas

When firemen arrived to check that our fire was out and to escort us around our home to collect any valuables and emergency items, I pleaded with them to save my Mexican beef stew. A strange last minute grab from a house just rendered unsafe by a falling tree, but that pot of food was not going to go to waste. Onions, carrots, capsicums, celery and garlic had been whizzed up in a food processor first thing that morning and then sweated slowly over a low heat. Tomatoes, bay leaves, cumin, coriander and chilli were added, along with a five kilo hunk of beef, and the pot had simmered undisturbed all day, only occasionally interrupted to be stirred. My neighbours kindly let me store the hefty stainless steel pot in their fridge, as I explained it was for a job at the weekend and despite a tree just having fallen on my house, I was not going to pull out of the work and let anyone down.

chicken and chorizo empanadaschicken and chorizo empanadas

Safely installed at Ma and Pa’s a few days later, I resumed preparations for the party. Referring to my list, 100 chicken and chorizo empanadas needed to be made. Unfamiliar with how to go about setting up a production line in Ma’s kitchen, I started by investigating what was in all the cupboards and drawers. Ma looks after things with such care that the majority of her utensils and appliances are older than me. And I love that. Well looked after kitchen equipment with soul. Great grandma, who happened to be visiting at the same time we became homeless, was shocked with the number of pastry pockets that I had to make, but intrigued as to how I would actually go about the process. With Thea being blissfully entertained in the garden by Ma, I began the empanadas. In between sneaking glances through the window of Thea on the swing and chatting about TV detective series with G g Ma, the task was completed in no time. Somehow, despite the odds, I was back on track.

DSC_1226 chicken and chorizo empanadas vintage kitchenware vintage kitchenware Chicken and chorizo empanadas

Adapted from a recipe by Paul Hollywood

Ingredients

For the pastry

  • 150g unsalted butter
  • 300g plain flour
  • pinch salt
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten

Make the pastry first and allow it to rest in the fridge while you make the filling.

Whizz the butter and flour in a food processor until they resemble fine breadcrumbs.

Add the egg and salt and pulse until the mixture comes together. If it is still and little dry, add water drip by drip.

Tip the pastry out onto a piece of cling wrap, cover and put in the fridge for 30 minutes to rest before rolling out for the chicken and chorizo empanadas.

For the filling

  • 1 whole chicken
  • 1 onion
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 2 chorizo
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 50g rasins
  • salt and black pepper

Roast the chicken in the oven for approximately 1.5 hours until cooked. Remove from the oven and allow to cool enough so that you can handle it.

In the meantime, in a food processor, whizz up the onion, garlic and chorizo. Transfer the mixture to a wide pot and cook over a low heat until the onion is translucent and the chorizo is starting to release its red perfumed oil.

Add the raisins and cumin, salt and pepper, cook for a few more minutes to allow all the flavours to mingle and then remove the pot from the heat.

Now pull apart the roast chicken, finely shredding the meat and add it to the chorizo mixture. Save the chicken carcass to make stock.

To assemble the chicken and chorizo empanadas

On a floured surface, roll out the pastry to a thickness of about 3mm.

Using a round pastry cutter, cut circles in the pastry. In the top half of these circles,place teaspoonfuls of the chicken and chorizo filling.

Take another lightly beaten egg, and with a pastry brush, paint egg wash on the top half of the circle where the filing has been placed. Now fold over the empty half of the pastry circle and press the edges together. Seal using the prongs of a fork by pressing them into the pastry all the way around the open edges.

To bake, place the chicken and chorizo empanadas on a baking tray, brush the tops with more egg wash and place in an oven preheated to 180C for about 20 minutes.

Enjoy the chicken and chorizo empanadas while still hot from the oven, with a cold beer!

Anzac biscuits for Thea

Anzac biscuits

Making food for Thea is an interesting task. Somedays she enjoys the things that I put in front of her, other days she blows raspberries at them, turning her head away in disgust, communicating her disdain for my lack of insight into what she would like to eat. Anzac biscuits though are always well received. I break one in half and give her the pieces to hold, one in each hand. She clenches her little fists tightly around the halves and scoffs alternately from left and right. The Anzac biscuits that I make for her are a slightly modified version of the original, a ‘healthy’ interpretation if you will, but as Anzac Day is approaching I thought that to commemorate the day of remembrance, I would make Thea some ‘proper’ Anzac biscuits.

Anzac biscuits

The funny thing is that when I was at school, I was good friends with Charlotte. Every Friday we would catch the bus back to her house and before we even changed out of our school uniforms, make Anzac biscuits. Charlotte’s mum was from New Zealand and the recipe that we used was handwritten with black pen on a well referenced piece of paper. In her narrow kitchen, with Crowded House and REM playing in the background, we would carefully measure out the oats, and probably not so carefully the golden syrup, to make our afternoon snack. Warm for the oven we would take the biscuits and cold glasses of milk up to Charlotte’s bedroom and read fashion magazines, whilst munching hungrily on the crunchy oat discs.

Anzac biscuits

Oats are always a staple in the kitchen and are so much more than the main ingredient in a steaming bowl of porridge to comfort the soul on a cool winter’s morning. They make a great summer breakfast too, soaked overnight with freshly squeezed orange juice, and eaten the next day with a handful of chopped nuts and some plain yoghurt. Oats are beautifully suited to mixing with almonds, sultanas and some cinnamon and brown sugar to stuff into cored apples before they are baked and subsequently eaten with lots of double cream. They are also a nice addition to fruit crumble toppings, bringing with them a further textural dimension. Their flavour is excellent paired with fish, used in the exterior coating of smoked fish cakes for example or scattered liberally on to the mashed potato that crowns a fish pie. And of course, they are fantastic for baking biscuits.

oats

It is very safe to say that Thea enjoyed the more traditional Anzac biscuits that I made for her. The tartan tin in which they were stored was quickly remembered by association. When ever she caught sight of it in the kitchen cupboard, she made it very clear with a pointed outstretched arm and a persistant ‘mmm’ that she wanted what was inside. In fact the contents of the tin emptied very quickly indeed, Thea’s dad, grandma and grandpa all enjoying an Anzac biscuit. I enjoyed one too. With a cold glass of milk and a magazine.

Anzac biscuits

Anzac biscuits

 Anzac biscuits

Recipe adapted from one by the Country Women’s Association of New South Wales circa 1933

  • 1 cup each of rolled oats, raw sugar and shredded coconut
  • 3/4 cup flour
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda (dissolved in 2 tablespoons boiling water)
  • 1 tablespoon golden syrup

Begin by preheating the oven to 150C and melting the butter.

Next, add the golden syrup to the bicarbonate of soda dissolved in the 2 tablespoons of boiling water, then add the melted butter.

Mix the oats, sugar, coconut and flour together in a bowl and then stir in the wet ingredients.

Using your hands, form small balls of the mixture and press down on to a paper lined baking tray. If the mixture does not easily form into balls, add water little by little until it does.

Bake for about 15 minutes until the biscuits are deep golden brow. Cool completely before biting in.

DSC_1001paleo Anzac biscuitsThea’s Anzac biscuits

Adapted from a recipe by Teresa Cutter

  • 175 g rolled oats
  • 40 g shredded coconut
  • 60 g flaked almonds
  • 2  1/2 tablespoons coconut oil
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla powder
  • 1 tablespoon water

Preheat the oven to 150C.

Simply add all the ingredients, except the water to the bowl of a food processor.

Pulse for about 30 seconds until the mix is well combined.

Now add the water and process again. This will help the mixture stick together.

Using your hands, form the mixture into balls and press onto a paper lined baking sheet

Bake for 20 -30 minutes, checking regularly, until golden brown.

Cool completely before eating, but if you’re Thea this never happens, bite in and enjoy.

Traditional Easter biscuits

Easter biscuits

I’m smiling to myself right now as I remember the table in my grandma and grandpa’s lounge where as a child, on Easter Sunday, my chocolate eggs were placed. A ridiculous amount of them. Some with my name on, some with smaller chocolates inside. All eaten far too quickly. I can also recall hot cross buns though, toasted under my grandma’s gas grill, slightly charred at the edges and dripping with melted butter. And big, golden, round, scalloped edged, crumbly biscuits, with a fine cap of caster sugar that used to get stuck on my top lip, eaten straight from the white paper bag. Easter biscuits, bought from the bakery once a year.

Easter biscuits Easter biscuits

Easter might just top Christmas as a treat laden holiday, full of specially dedicated morsels. The weekend seems full of family feasts and over indulgence. Maybe it’s because of the preplanning involved in what’s going to fill the table, shops being closed for a portion of the time, or perhaps it’s due to there being four consecutive holiday days in a row, enough time to start to unwind, relax over long meals and enjoy respite from the everyday.

Traditional Easter biscuit

Easter biscuits

Easter biscuits

Punctuating holidays of the year with recipes, might be why certain foods are remembered so fondly, because they are only enjoyed for a brief moment on the calendar. Memories are made more vivid as anticipation builds around special dishes and the days that they are paired with. My life in Sydney is now highlighted by a Good Friday dawn trip to the fish markets to procure an assortment of seafood. Bright orange, rainbow scaled and filigree fringed creatures from the sea are prepared without haste for a long, lazy family lunch. A far cry from the roast beef and Yorkshire puddings that was served throughout my childhood. But the biscuits. Well somehow, they still taste the same.

Traditional Easter biscuit recipe Traditional Easter biscuit recipe

Traditional Easter biscuits

  • 200g butter at room temperature
  • 150g caster sugar
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 400g plain flour
  • 1 level tsp vanilla powder
  • 1 level tsp ground cinnamon
  • 2-4 tbsp milk
  • 100g currants
  • A little caster sugar for sprinkling

Beat the butter and sugar together until pale and fluffy. With the mixer still running, add the yolks. When they are incorporated, stop the mixer and add the flour, spices and milk. Turn the mixer back on to a low speed and mix until the flour is just incorporated. If it looks too dry, add a little more milk. The mixture shouldn’t look crumbly. It shouldn’t look too sticky either. Tip in the currants, let the paddle turn a few more times and then remove the dough to a well floured surface.

Using a sprinkling of flour here and there so that the dough is easy to handle, roll it out to a thickness of about 2-4cm. Use a cookie cutter to cut out circles of dough and place the discs on a paper lined baking tray. Before baking, sprinkle the biscuits with caster sugar.

Bake at160C for 12-15 minutes until the biscuits are golden, remove from the oven and sprinkle with a little more caster sugar. Enjoy.