September 27, 2013
This is a short but sweet post - sweeeeet yes it is! I am a lover of shortbread. I have made a few variations over the years, but never full on chocolate. I took as standard recipe, added some cocoa powder and choc chips, and voila, you have the perfect accompaniment to coffee. These come together very quickly, so were a great thing to bake last weekend when I had a urge to bake, but little time.
200g unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 3/4 cup plain flour
1/3 cup cocoa powder
1 cup dark choc chips
In a bowl, beat the butter and powdered sugar until smooth, and light and creamy. Add the vanilla and salt, and continue beating. Slowly add the cocoa powder and flour (sift if it is lumpy) and mix together well. Stir in the choc chips so they are evenly distributed.
Lay the dough on baking paper or cling wrap, and roll into a log. The thickness of the log depends on how big you want the shortbread to be - I made roll about 6cm thick. Place this in the fridge for 30 minutes, or the freezer for 15.
Preheat the oven to 180C.
Line two trays with baking paper, then unroll the cold cookie dough log, and cut into 1 to 1.5 cm thick pieces with a bread knife. Place the shortbread on the tray and bake for 15 - 20 minutes. If you made large ones, leave them in the oven longer. Allow to cool on a wire rack.
Makes about 24 shortbread.
September 20, 2013
There's a saying - life happens when your busy making plans - and that saying couldn't be more true for me right now. I haven't done a post in almost two months, and it's not because I haven't been cooking, the complete opposite actually, but because so many things have been happening that I haven't had time to post. I've been so busy with all life's plans, that days are passing so quickly. What I thought was a few weeks, has turned into two months. So sorry, if you continue to visit this blog and are constantly having to look at balls (my mum complained of this).
Things aren't going to slow down either. In the last couple of months I have gone back to uni to finish my last unit - designing and printing on textiles. I have been trying to finish off my home renovations (I tiled my own kitchen splash back which I am super proud of!). And just recently my partner and I bought a house together. So this means I will be packing up my little place and moving, not to mention the extra renovations that will need to happen to BOTH houses.
So it's busy times ahead. But I am so determined to keep this space going, so hang in there! I promise I will have some awesome recipes for you soon. Some recipes are already half done, it's just the photo / editing part that holding them up (I think my camera has dust on it).
July 23, 2013
July was supposed to be the month I cut out sugar - or at least tried to cut out sugar. It started well. I stopped having sugar in my tea and coffee, I resisted all urges to eat cake and sweets, I made stewed apples with Greek yogurt when I wanted something sweet. I even baked an apple tart with no sugar - it didn't taste very good. But then it hit - my birthday. How could I not eat cake?! In the last week my will to refrain from sugar passed, and I ate sweets. And it was gooooooodd...
It got me thinking about these so called diets, which to me is when someone cuts out a food group/s for periods of time. They never work because you know when the diet is over you will get to eat those foods again, so what's really going to change? I've always been a firm believer in eating well as a lifestyle. Reducing my sugar intake is something I'm going to have to do slowly, and is something I've been consciously doing for a while. For example, whenever I bake a recipe that calls for one cup of sugar, I'll halve it, or replace it with honey. I won't make things that are heavily sugar based (except for marshmallows cos they are amaze-balls). My tolerance for sugar has dropped as well - these days I find things too sweet.
I'm my efforts to not buy another bag of Mars bars and eat them all, I wanted to make a healthy snack that was good for me and involved NO SUGAR.
These babies, they have no sugar, no gluten, no dairy, and no egg. And, they're yummy! Feel free to mix it up and use your favourite dried fruits or nuts (except keep the dates of course). And if you can, try to use stuff already in your pantry, as these can get a little expensive if you have to go and buy everything! When I made these, I only had to buy the apricots and cashews, everything else was randomly in my pantry.
FRUITY NUTTY BALLS
150g dried dates
1/2 cup water
100g apricots, roughly chopped
100g cashews, roughly chopped
100g pistachios, roughly chopped
3/4 cup of shredded of flaked coconut (desiccated coconut tends to be too fine)
1 tablespoon chia seeds
1 tablespoon flax seeds
1 tablespoon sesame seeds
Preheat the oven to 160C. Line a tray with baking paper.
In a small saucepan, add the dates and water, and cook for 5-10 minutes, or until they are soft and the water has been absorbed. Use a wooden spoon to mash the dates up a little, then place the mix into a food processor and blend til smooth. You might need to add a little more water to loosen it should the mix be too thick. It should be the consistency of baby food.
In a large bowl, add all the chopped fruit, nuts and seeds (all other ingredients!), then add the pureed date and mix well so it's all evenly incorporated.
Take a tablespoon of the mix, and using you hands, mould it into a ball, a bit smaller than a golf ball. Place it on the baking tray. When all balls are on the tray, place in the oven and cook for 20 - 30 minutes. 20 will give you chewy balls, 30 will produce a more crunchy ball (sorry, so many balls!)
Makes 30 balls.
Last ball reference, I promise. Did I mention the nuts though?
July 1, 2013
I'm not an emotional eater. When I'm sad, I tend lose my appetite. When I'm stressed, I don't eat at all. Lately though I've been a bit down, so I've been craving everything I shouldn't be eating - chocolate, cakes, lollies etc. It's not been good. In response to this over-indulgance I have decided to give up sugar during July. It's day one, so I really don't know how long it will last. I also have 9 cupcakes on my kitchen counter that need to be eaten. Dammit. I will freeze them, then eat them all in August! Mwahahaha..
In the last couple of weeks I've been cooking quite a bit, but none of it amazing enough that I felt the need to share. I've done two test trials of home-made marshmallows, that when I nail I will share with you. I made these lemon and poppyseed cupcakes which were delicious, but I failed TWO lots of icing (I have no idea how it happened!), so didn't want to photograph them. I also made a ciambella (Italian olive oil cake) which I over-cooked, plus a few others dishes.
I wanted to make the lemon and poppyseed ones again because they were so yummy, even without an icing. Once I started eating them it hit me that a simple lemon glaze would have been perfect! So here we are...
Also, something I haven't shared yet.. my new KitchenAid! I have wanted one of these for so long, that when the opportunity came up recently to get one, I jumped on it.
It was a bit of a shock the first time I used it at the power it had, and I had to keep an eye on my icing so I didn't over beat it. I over beat it. It split. I learnt my lesson.
LEMON AND POPPY SEED CUPCAKES
125g butter, room temperature
3/4 cup caster sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
1 1/2 cups plain flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup milk
1 tablespoon poppy seeds
1/2 cup icing sugar
Juice of half a lemon
Dash of milk
Preheat the oven to 180C. Line a cupcake tin with paper cases.
In a large bowl, beat the butter and sugar until pale and creamy. Add the eggs one at a time and vanilla extract and continue beating. Add the lemon juice and zest and beat for a further minute. Add the flour, baking powder, salt, milk, and poppy seeds, and slowly mix until all ingredients are incorporated.
Spoon the mixture into the cases, then place in the oven and bake for 20-25 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean when tested.
Allow cupcakes to cool before icing.
To make the icing, stir the icing sugar with the lemon juice, and add a little milk to thin it out. It should be runny, but also thick enough to coat the back of the spoon.
Slowly spoon over the icing, trying to cover as much of the cake as possible. It will run straight down the cake, so take it slow.
Australian cupcake cases tend to be larger than American ones, so for me this mix made 10.
May 25, 2013
Perth summer has left, and winter is a few days away. As much as I love summer, I do look forward to winter - the feeling of lying in bed all warm and snuggly while listening to rain fall outside (cheesy I know), hearty soups and stews, and most of all, the clothes! I bought two coats off Asos a few months ago that were crazy cheap and so beautiful, and I'm so excited that I'm starting to wear them. While I had a bit of free time a few weeks ago, I asked Colin what he wanted for dinner. I got the usual "I don't mind, you decide..". Knowing Colin's love for those hearty winter dishes, I suggested steak and Guinness pies. How can a boy turn down a pie. I think he did a little jump.
To be honest, this recipe has been sitting in my 'to-make' list for ages. It was on Masterchef Australia episode maybe two years ago - Gary made them during a Masterclass - and I watched in awe, instantly wanting a pie. I'm a big fan of pies - love my traditional steak pie. And sauce... oh.
These pies were an interesting one. While the stew was amazing and rich and sweet from the onions, I found the pastry to have way to much butter. I had never made shortcrust pastry before so I wasn't familiar with the quantity of ingredients needed. If you have an awesome shortcrust pastry I suggest you use that. I have edited this one so there is less butter. With a rich stew, I don't think you need a rich pastry. Also, a texas sized muffin tins is the perfect size for these pies!
BEEF AND GUINNESS PIES
Recipe adapted slightly from Masterchef Australia
2 onions, cut on half then sliced
4 cloves garlic, chopped
Few sprigs of thyme
2 tablespoons plain flour
1.2kg beef (chuck steak or a cut that requires slow cooking)
Sea salt and black pepper
1 large carrot, cut into cubes
440ml Guinness (1 can)
500ml beef stock
1 beaten egg
2 cups of plain flour
125g cold butter
1/2 cup sour cream
Pinch of sea salt
Preheat the oven to 180C.
In a large pot on a medium heat, add a good slug of olive oil, the sliced onions, garlic and thyme. Cook for around 20 minutes with the lid on until they have become soft and caramelised. Remove the onion mix from the pot and set aside.
Turn the heat up slightly, add a bit more olive oil, then brown off the meat in batches (couple of minutes each batch). Once nice and sealed, add the onion mix back the pot, along with the flour and stir well so the flour cooks off. Add a good few pinches of sea salt and a generous grind of black pepper, then add the whole can of Guinness and the 500ml of stock, stir, and bring to the boil. Cover the pot and place in the preheated oven for around 2 hours, or until the stew has become nice and thick.
Remove the stew from the pot and set aside to cool (you can put it in the fridge, you just don't want to put hot stew onto pastry as it will make it soggy).
To make the pastry, place the flour and butter into a food processor. Pulse the mix until it has a crumb texture. Add the sea salt and sour cream, then continue pulsing. Pour the mix onto a clean counter, mould into a ball, cover and put in the fridge to chill.
When the stew has chilled, you can start moulding the pastry.
Preheat the oven to 180C.
Roll out the pastry using a floured surface and rolling pin. Using a circle shape the size of the texas muffin tin (or your choice of large muffin sized tin) and cut out 6 pie lids. Put those to the side and roll out more pastry to make the bases. Using the same circle cutter as a guide (I used a champagne cocktail glass by the way, so use anything that fits the size!), cut a circle around 2cm larger than the guide. This will ensure you have enough pastry to fill the whole mould.
Place the pastry bases into the tin, using your fingers to make sure it push it into shape and draw the pastry so it sits above the top of the mould. Fill each with the beef stew, then brush a little water around the pastry edges and put the lid on top. Press the edges with a fork to make sure they are sealed, then brush the tops with the beaten egg.
Place in the oven for around 30 minutes, or until the pastry is golden and flakey. Allow to sit for at least 5 minutes before eating.
Serve with tomato sauce, if you like that is.. :)