Saturday, June 30, 2007
I had originally wanted to make wattle seed, macadamia and chocolate chip cookies; however, the only wattle seed at Prahran market (my "local") was a large jar costing $30 - and I only wanted a teaspoon! Weirdly enough, right next door to the wattle seed was a jar of wild hibiscus flowers. These are normally used in champagne cocktails to create a very girly, pink bubbly glass of champagne. I have previously indulged in hibiscus flower champagne at Jade Buddha in Brisbane while passing time between a friend's wedding and the wedding reception. It is a top drop!
However, for this blogging event, I thought that the hibiscus flowers would be perfect as gorgeous edible decorations atop individual baked cheesecakes. I chose a low fat baked lime cheesecake, and substituted some of the citrus juice used in the original recipe with the hibiscus flower syrup. I had hoped that the syrup would turn the cheesecakes a pretty shade of pink, but this was not to be!
The recipe is as follows:
Individual lime & hibiscus flower cheesecakes
(Recipe adapted from Livinia Nixon's low fat lemon & lime cheesecake, Woman's Day, 2005)
150g ginger nut biscuits
50g melted low fat margarine (I used olive oil spread)
500g light cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup low fat fresh ricotta cheese
1/2 cup white sugar
2 tbpns plain flour
2 tspns lime juice
2 tspns hibiscus flower syrup
2 tspns finely grated lime zest
wild hibiscus flowers in syrup
1. Preheat oven to 160 degrees Celsius.
2. Line a 12 hole muffin pan with paper cases and spray with cooking oil.
3. Crush gingernut biscuits in a food processor until fine crumbs form, then add melted margarine. Press approximately 1 1/2 teaspoons of the biscuit mixture into the bottom of each muffin case. Chill for 30 minutes.
4. Beat cream cheese and ricotta together until smooth, then beat in sugar and 1 tbspn flour until combined.
5. Beat in eggs, one at a time.
6. Beat in remaining flour, lime juice, hibiscus syrup and lime zest.
7. Pour cheesecake batter over prepared biscuit bases, and bake for approximately 35 minutes or until the filling is set. Turn off the oven and allow cheesecakes to cool in the oven with the door ajar.
8. Chill cooled cheesecakes in the refrigerator.
9. Just before serving, top each cheesecake with a hibiscus flower that has been doused in champagne or mineral water to open the flower, and a drizzle of hibiscus flower syrup.
This cheesecake is quite light, especially for a baked cheesecake. The lime flavour was very subtle, so if you like your cheesecake to be tangy, you could increase the amount of juice and zest that you include in the mixture. I also liked the gingernut base, which complements the lime nicely.
You can eat the hibiscus flowers themselves - the makers claim that they taste like raspberry and rhubarb. While I'm not so sure about that, they certainly taste good!
Friday, June 29, 2007
This meatloaf is a rather ugly looking beast, but it is very tasty. The recipe is from Woolworths Fresh magazine from May 2006, and is as follows (with my modifications):
1 chopped onion
1 crushed garlic clove
600g mince (lamb or beef)
1 tbspn gravy mix
1 cup fresh breadcrumbs
1tbspn mixed herbs
2 tbpns tomato paste
1 cup frozen mixed vegetables
Preheat oven to 200 degrees Celsius, and grease a 6 cup capacity loaf tin. Fry onion and garlic until soft, then transfer to a bowl to cool. Add mince, breadcrumbs, gravy mix, herbs, tomato paste and egg to the onion and garlic, and combine well (I find using my hands to do the mixing is the best). Stir through the frozen vegetables, and transfer the mixture to the prepared loaf tin. Place in the oven on a baking tray, and bake for 1 hour. Remove the cooked meatloaf from the oven drain off the excess liquid, remove from the tin and slice into 6 serves. (The recipe recommends using 1kg mince, but for dietary reasons, I have limited the serves to 100g of mince.)
I served my meatloaf with "heaven and earth" mash (so named by Nigella Lawson), comprising of mashed potato and apple, tomato sauce (ketchup) and steamed broccoli. My verdict: homely but delicious.
I fell in love with this book at first site - not only for its evocative title, but because the cover is lolly pink and red and features a photo of perfect little red girl's shoes on the cover. Tessa has subtitled this work as "Recipes for Life", and has classified the recipes by colour (which is so cute!). Each recipe comes with its own story of where it came from and why it is featured in the book, and Tessa's description of the method for each recipe is written like an extension of those stories. This book is absolutely adorable just to gaze at and leaf through, even if you never make anything out of it (which, until now, I hadn't).
My photograph of this pasta dish is a little cloudy because the steam from the hot pasta kept fogging up my camera lens. The resulting pasta has a subtle rather than overpowering flavour, which I rather enjoyed. However, I will add more olives than recommended by Tessa if I make it again.
The recipe for this sponge pudding can be found at p132 of Nigella Lawson's How to Be A Domestic Goddess.
As you can see from the photos, this pudding consists of a beautiful, golden, light and sweet sponge, with its own rich syrupy sauce.
The rather unglamorous container into which I upended the completed pudding was necessary so that I could transport it to my friend's house, as Nigella warns that you shouldn't wait more than a few minutes before turning out the pudding once it has finished steaming - presumably because the sauce would solidify and refuse to pour out over the delicious sponge once cool.
My friend didn't have any icecream, cream or custard to serve with this pudding, but it was delightful on its own. Even better, there was plenty left for both of us to have another night.
This pudding is exceptionally easy to make, and although it takes two hours to steam, it only requires you to check on the water levels every now and again while it is steaming to make sure that the pudding doesn't boil dry.
This is the perfect sweet for a chilly winter's evening - it truly warms the cockles of the soul.
Thursday, June 28, 2007
However, given that once again it is baking Friday, in keeping with the Dickensian theme of tales that come in twos, I thought that I would blog about the two very different birthday cakes that I made this week for work colleagues.
The first cake, which I made on Monday night, was for a lovely lady in our finance section. It is a lemon blueberry yoghurt cake, which I found some time ago on Niki's blog, Esurientes. The recipe is here. This cake is light, delicate and flavoursome, and instead of icing, is coated with a lemon glaze. It is also rather a pretty cake, for those who insist on their food being aesthetically appealing. Here is my version:
I also believe that it is relatively low in fat. I echo Niki's comments about the fragility of this cake - the first time I ever made it, I made it in a loaf tin, and it was in grave danger of cracking in two. Accordingly, you cannot be careful enough when turning it out of the cake pan to cool. However, it is well worth the effort - everyone at work commented on how much they liked this cake, despite it not being a traditional birthday cake.
The second cake, which I made tonight, is eons apart in every respect. It is a chocolate date cake, which I made for a gentleman in our finance section. This gentleman has endured for months while everyone else indulged in sweet treats, which he cannot have because he is on a low cholesterol diet. Accordingly, I looked on the Web for a cake that I could make for this gentleman's birthday which met the low cholesterol criteria. My efforts resulted in the following:
Now this is definitely not a pretty cake, and I have no idea how it will taste. It is dead easy to make, with nearly everything being done in a food processor. Under the unusual icing, which consists solely of dates, cocoa and water, one side of the cake went a little tipsy, rising much more than the other side and cracking a little.
The recipe for this cake can be found here. You will see that my cake is not half as pretty as the one on the website (even if you take the berries on theirs out of the equation). However, it is totally dairy free, and the chocolate taste comes solely from cocoa. The website promises that this is "a tasty cake". I hope that it lives up to that promise, despite its unusual ingredients and appearance!
Postscript: This cake was a hit, not only for the gentleman concerned, but also for some others, who loved the fact that it was sweet and chocolatey while being relatively good for you!
Friday, June 22, 2007
Ginger crunch is a slice with a shortbread like base and a ginger caramel topping. I was first introduced to ginger crunch (without actually knowing what it was) as a ten year old. The mother of one of my friends made it for us, and I liked it so much that I copied down the recipe on the back of a ten pin bowling score card. While I never actually made that recipe, it is still in the bottom drawer of my desk at my mother's house. As my mother lives interstate, I couldn't just pop around to pick up the recipe. However, luckily for me, I had a recipe for ginger crunch at p295 in Cook by Kate McGhie, which I have made once before with pleasing results. However, I found the topping (my favourite part!) a little thin, so I was pleased when Bron Marshall made a delightful looking ginger crunch with a thick topping, the recipe for which can be found here. Accordingly, I used Kate's base and Bron's topping, and was very pleased with the results, which can be seen here:
The ginger is really quite subtle, so even if you think you don't like ginger, but like caramel and shortbread, give it a go! It is delicious.
Raspberry coconut slice was a frequent treat in my house when I was growing up. It comprises a cake-like base topped with raspberry jam (or any other type of jam that takes your fancy!) and a light coconut mixture. This recipe is my mother's own, so there are no copyright issues with my reproducing it here (I'm sure Mum won't mind!). It is as follows:
1/2 cup sugar
2 cups self raising flour
Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius, and grease a 20cm x 30cm slice tray. Cream butter and sugar, then beat in the egg. Fold in the sifted self raising flour, and press the resulting dough evenly into the prepared slice tray. Spread base with the jam of your choice (approximately 3/4 cup).
2 egg whites
2 tablespoons white sugar
Mix the egg whites and sugar together, then add enough coconut to stiffen the topping (that is as specific as I can get - that's what my handwritten notes from mum say). Spread the topping over the base, being careful to place it on top of the jam rather than mix it in. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until the topping is golden. The results are as follows:
Both slices seemed to be popular at work, and I still have some just for me and my friends for the weekend because I baked two separate slices. I am even lucky enough to have a friend down from Sydney this weekend with her boyfriend, so I have plenty of opportunities to share the joy. Have a great weekend everyone!
Monday, June 18, 2007
As a child, I loved meringues, and as a grown-up, I still do (although now not in my top 5 favourite treats). What's not to like? They're ever so cute with their pastel-coloured, dainty ballerina's tu-tu appearance, with a crunchy coat enrobing their soft, marshmallowy heart which melts in your mouth.
I had 5 egg whites left over after Friday's champagne custard making, and thought instantly that meringues would be the perfect way to use them up. Compared with some of the other alternatives I could have used them for, meringues were the easy option, with few ingredients and relatively easy to make.
5 egg whites
1 1/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons cornflour
1 teaspoon white vinegar
food colouring and flavouring of your choice (I used pink and green colouring, and rosewater)
Preheat oven to 150 degrees Celsius.
Beat egg whites with an electric mixer until soft peaks form. Gradually add sugar until mixture is white and glossy. Mix the sifted cornflour and vinegar into the mixture. Colour and flavour as desired (or not at all, if you prefer!). Spoon or pipe 3cm rounds of mixture onto baking trays which have been greased or lined with baking paper. Put meringues into the oven and turn the temperature down to 120 degrees Celsius. Bake for approximately 45 minutes, or until the meringues turn faintly golden and have set. Cool in the oven.
You can enjoy meringues in their pure, unadulterated form on their own, or served with fruit and cream or icecream. Either way, if you are a sweet tooth, I'm sure that you will love them!
Sunday, June 17, 2007
The recipe originally didn't contain orange - I added that because I love a bit of zing to my food, although as a child I would have screwed up my nose at anything containing peel and refused to eat it! The zest also gives the muffins a lovely aroma as they are baking and while they are still warm - making them irresistable.
The recipe for these muffins is as follows:
2 cups self raising flour, sifted
100g brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
200g pie apple
1/4 cup sultanas
zest of 1 orange
100g melted butter or margarine (low fat is OK)
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 cup buttermilk
Turn on oven to 200 degrees Celcius. Spray a 12 hole muffin tin lightly with oil.
Combine flour, cinnamon and brown sugar in a mixing bowl. Add apple, sultanas and zest and mix through. Finally, add egg, butter and buttermilk and mix until just combined. Spoon mixture into muffin tin (fill holes approximately two thirds full) and bake in the oven for 30 minutes or until golden brown on top and a skewer comes out clean. (The first time I made these muffins using an unfamiliar and powerful oven when I was living in Sydney, I didn't check on them, and they were truly cremated!!)
These muffins are especially good when served warm, fresh out of the oven, with a little icecream or Greek yoghurt on the side. Mmmmm ....
Friday, June 15, 2007
I chose to fill my profiteroles with champagne flavoured pastry cream (custard). The recipe is here, from Cheryl of Cupcake Bakeshop. This custard has a subtle "zing" from the champagne/sparkling wine used to flavour it, and makes a refreshing change from your usual pastry cream.
The recipe for the choux pastry that I used is Pierre Herme's recipe from p527 of The Cook's Book. However, I prepared the choux buns from the pastry using the directions from p194 of The Margaret Fulton Cookbook. My completed buns were not as attractive as Pierre Herme's or Margaret Fulton's, but they tasted perfectly fine!
Once the pastry cream and choux buns were cool, I filled the hollow in the buns with the pastry cream and iced them with chocolate icing to complete the profiteroles. I chose to ice the profiteroles rather than use chocolate sauce because it made them more readily transportable. I ended up with 18 profiteroles.
The verdict - yum! I think my work colleagues agreed - there were only 2 left at the end of the day. I am also no longer afraid of choux pastry, and would happily try it again for a special occasion.
Thursday, June 7, 2007
One of the people in my section at work leaves us tomorrow - well, sort of. After 2 years, he is taking up a new role in another group in the company, so this Friday's choice of baked goods has been selected by the man himself.
The request was for "lemon cheesecake". I am unsure whether this meant baked or unbaked cheesecake, so I have decided to make baked cheesecake, as it is just that little bit harder to make, and therefore more "special" in my eyes.
When I searched for suitable recipes, I found that many baked cheesecakes follow roughly the same formula, with minor variations here and there. Accordingly, this cheesecake is not made from any one recipe - I used my research to make a cheesecake that suited my fancy at the time, although any of the other variations would have made just as fine a finished product.
Even though the cheesecake turned out beautifully, with no cracks in the top, I decided to top it with a sour cream glaze, and once cooled, to sprinkle it with grated white chocolate. As you can see from the picture, the end result does not make a very tall cheesecake (even though I used the pan size called for in the filling recipe); however, it appears to have turned out well.
The recipe is as follows:
150g plain sweet biscuits, finely crushed
100g melted butter or margarine
Preheat oven to 160 degrees Celcius.
Mix crushed biscuits and butter together in a bowl, then press into a 20cm springform that has been greased and lined with baking paper. Refrigerate for 10-15 minutes.
500g cream cheese (I used light Philadelphia cream cheese)
150g ricotta cheese
1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons plain flour
2 lightly beaten eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest (optional - I left it out because some people do not like zest)
1/4 teaspoon salt
Beat together the two cheeses until smooth and creamy. It helps to get a smoother result if you chop the cheeses into rough cubes before beating. Combine the sugar, flour and salt in a small bowl, and beat half of this mixture into the cheeses. Add the eggs, vanilla and lemon juice (and zest) and beat well. Finally, beat in the remaining sugar mixture.
Pour the filling onto the biscuit base, then bake in the oven for 45-50 minutes until set. Take cheesecake out of the oven and turn up the temperature to 200 degrees Celcius.
300ml carton sour cream (I used light sour cream)
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
Beat together the sour cream, sugar and lemon juice. Spread evenly over the top of the cheesecake. Return the cheesecake to the oven for 5 minutes to set the topping, then switch off the oven and leave the cheesecake to cool inside it for one hour. After this time, remove the cheesecake from the oven and leave to cool completely on the bench. Once the cheesecake is cool, refrigerate overnight. Just prior to serving, remove the cheesecake from the springform pan, and grate white chocolate over the top of the cheesecake (optional).
This cheesecake had a lovely, smooth texture, and did not taste "eggy". It also did not taste very lemony! If I made this again as a lemon flavoured cheesecake (as opposed to wanting just cheesecake), I would add the zest and up the lemon juice. However, despite my fears about the uptake of this cheesecake, it went down well with my work colleagues, and none was left at the end of the day (no mean feat given that we only served it at 4.30pm). Another work colleague made a lovely strawberry refrigerator cheesecake for the occasion, so all tastes were catered for on the day.
As I was taking the pies into work, I didn't want to add vegetables to the filling, as this is not to everyone's taste. However, the fun part was that there is no recipe for the filling - I just made it up as I went along, using taste as my guide.
Making the pies in the mini muffin pans resulted in very cute, tiny pies, with only a teaspoon of filling in each. The only problem was that I made way too much meat - the leftovers have been stashed in my freezer to make lasagne at a later date.
The recipe for these cute little pies is as follows:
1 cup plain flour
1 pinch salt
60g butter (cubed)
1 tablespoon water
squeeze of lemon juice
Sift flour and salt together into a bowl, and rub butter into flour. Add water and lemon, and stir with a knife to form a soft dough. If too sticky to knead, add more flour; if too dry, add more water. Knead dough lightly, wrap in cling film and chill in refrigerator for one hour.
1 brown onion, chopped
400g beef mince (I had heaps left over)
1 tablespoon promite (yeast extract)
1/2 cup tomato paste
2 tablespoons worcestershire sauce
1/4 cup beef stock
salt and pepper to taste
Brown onion in frypan, then add mince and brown. Add salt, pepper, tomato paste, sauce and stock. Cook until mince forms a rich, thick sauce.
Preheat oven to 190 degrees Celcius. Grease 2 x 12 hole mini muffin pans. Remove pastry from the fridge, and roll out until approximately 3mm thick. Cut out circles of pastry and an equal number of matching tops (I got 16 sets of shells and tops from my pastry). Line mini muffin pans with pastry circles to form shells for the filling. Place one small teaspoonful of meat filling into each shell, then place the tops on each mini pie. Crimp edges of each pie with a fork to seal, and prick the top of each pie once with a fork. Brush tops of pies with either beaten egg or melted butter to help them brown in the oven. Bake for approximately 40 minutes or until pies are golden brown. Remove from oven and serve hot (or cool and reheat later in a microwave).
The recipe that I use is from p125 of Eat Well, Live Well with Diabetes. I am not diabetic, but I bought this book because it contains low GI recipes, which are useful for everyone looking to keep their weight in check. The only modification that I make is to add frozen vegetables to the dish. This may make purists balk, but the addition of vegetables means that I end up with a self-contained, all in one dish, and don't have to cook additional vegetables. I serve the chilli con carne with boiled rice.
This really hits the spot on a cold night- it is spicy without bringing tears to the eyes, and is very filling. In a word - perfect!
Sunday, June 3, 2007
I started the day with a session in the Lifestyle Channel's Celebrity Theatre presented by Donna Hay. Donna's presentation was entitled "The Easiest Dinner Party Ever", and Donna undoubtedly made it look easy. Here is Donna herself (both on the big screen and tiny from a distance down the bottom of the photo):
For starters, Donna made goats cheese and bay leaf wontons served with caramelised fennel and tomato dressed with a balsamic vinegar and brown sugar sauce:
For mains, Donna made tarragon and lemon chicken breasts served on a bed of green beans with crisp parsnip ribbons. (My photo of this did not turn out.) Finally, for dessert, Donna made gorgeous individual passionfruit souffles (you can also just see the chicken course at the front):
I really enjoyed this presentation, as Donna did make it look easy, and I believe that all of the dishes could even be successfully made by yours truly :). Donna also kept the audience entertained by her banter with Stephen, her sidekick, and Wes the cameraman.
I then hit the many stalls in the exhibition area. Despite a resolution that I wouldn't buy much, I couldn't resist all the delicious food on show, and my "loot" is as follows:
Alpine Berry Farms (from the New South Wales Southern Highlands) Christmas jelly, Lite Raspberry Jam and Lite Blackberry Jam (which are just gorgeous and nothing like those tasteless, glutinous diet jams you buy at the supermarket)
Organic Farms dips (made in Victoria)
Some trans-Tasman treats - Tasmanian Heritage cheeses and Pitango soups (from New Zealand)
I also bought two of the magazine goodie bags filled with treats for the bargain price of $5. (Sunday proved a good day to go to the Festival, as being the last day, the goodie bags were being sold for half price).
The only sour note is that when I got my the Tasmanian Heritage St Claire cheese home, I found that I had been sold a seriously mouldy piece:
This of course went straight in the bin, as I recently learned that the mould spores penetrate the whole cheese so you can't just cut off the mouldy bit and think that the rest is OK.
Of the many tastings and experiences that I indulged in, special mention goes to The Sofitel's mango panna cotta with orange jelly; Rouiz's white chocolate yoghurt; the groovy plastic kiwi fruit spoon given to us at the door, with a serrated edge at one end to cut the kiwi fruit in half and a spoon at the other end to eat the fruit with; and the warm custard danish from Dan's Danish (which I purchased from the lovely smiley boy manning the stall).
I really had a good day out, and would definitely go again.
Finally, I wanted to share my excitement at the arrival of my Chocolate and Zucchini cookbook from Amazon UK:
This book is written by one of the doyennes of food blogging, Clotilde Dusoulier, who writes a food blog of the same name as her book. Clotilde's recipes are devine, and she adds special, personal touches to her book by prefacing each recipe with a story of its significance and by taking the gorgeous photographs in the book herself. This book will eventually be on sale in Australia, and I highly recommend it as an addition to your recipe book collection (or just a cracking good read at bedtime!).