Archives for the month of: October, 2012

This week seems to be the week of recipes inspired by other blogs. After trying a new recipe for the guilt free banana bread, I felt like going back to an old favourite for dinner Sunday night. I’ve also been asked by a friend to put this one up. Given it is a favourite of mine, I didn’t mind fulfilling the request.

I came across this recipe a year ago at Delicieux, an Australian vegetarian blog. Although not vegetarian myself, I do like cooking vegetarian dishes (I know that hasn’t been reflected in my blog yet…but I’ll get there) and I often find myself ordering a vegetarian dish at restaurants. I find more and more these days that the vegetarian options just seem so much more creative and interesting when I read them on the menu. For this dish I’ve added prosciutto and goats cheese resulting in a non-vegetarian version, but it’s just as nice without the prosciutto.

I  find I always have extra of the marinated tomatoes mix left whenever I make this. Rather than use less tomatoes, I like to add a couple of tablespoons of balsamic vinegar and extra virgin olive oil to the remaining tomatoes and their juices, and use this as the dressing (with the tomatoes) for the salad greens. I usually get enough for six tarts from 4 large onions (although I used one less onion this time and still made the 6 tarts, so there wasn’t as much onion as usual – hence the gaps in the picture). You could also make these into smaller squares for a nice entrée or canapé.

with basil, prosciutto & goats cheese

click here for the recipe

It’s weekend baking time again. When I started this blog a few weeks back, I wanted to try to bake something new each weekend, as well as trying at least one new savoury dish a week. And so far I’m on track. But after my mid-week decadent brownies, I thought I’d better try something a bit lighter this weekend. It’s all about moderation and balance right?

I often have an overripe banana or two leftover in my fruit bowl. And whenever I do, I pop them in the freezer. The skin goes quite black but the fruit inside is fine and is great for cooking.  This weekend I had a collection of about nine bananas built up in the freezer, so it was time to use some of them up and what better way to use them up than by making some banana bread?  I usually bake banana bread using Nigella’s recipe from her book How to be a Domestic Goddess. However, that recipe is definitely not guilt free. A few weeks back though, one of the food blogs I follow Not Quite Nigella posted a fat free banana bread recipe using apple sauce instead of butter or oil that I wanted to try.

So recipe chosen, it was time to cook. After a few setbacks (we had a short thunderstorm and the power was off for an hour or two), I finally got to baking. I made a few tweaks to the original recipe, such as adding some cinnamon and ginger (a half and quarter teaspoon of each – I think I might add a bit more next time). I might try it with brown sugar as well too next time. I couldn’t find any apple sauce at my local grocery store, so I used some tinned pie apples which I blended up. The smells that filled the house while it was cooking were wonderful and it was difficult to wait until it was finished to try it. The end result was a lovely moist and dense bread, but without feeling heavy, with a hint of spice. Definitely one I will be trying again.  I’m looking forward to having a slice for breakfast tomorrow.

click here for the recipe

I have a confession to make. I am not a chocoholic. Don’t get me wrong, I like chocolate. But if I was given the choice between a chocolate and a citrus dessert, the citrus would win every time. I much prefer my citrus coconut cupcakes to the death by chocolate ones I make, I would rather a berry sorbet than a chocolate ice-cream and if given the choice between a chocolate bar and nougat, nougat would win every time. The only exception to this is hot chocolate in winter. Give me a mug of hot chocolate with a shot of white chocolate liquor in it…yum.

When I do have chocolate, I prefer it with something (chocolate and caramel, cherries, citrus, berries, coconut – the list goes on and on). Yet for the last two and a half years I have made these fudgy chocolate brownies with just chocolate (dark chocolate melted for the cake mix then with milk chocolate bits mixed through). They are incredibly rich and I cook them so they are still gooey and fudgy in the centre (as a good brownie should be in my opinion). They are great hot with ice-cream as a dessert or cold straight from the fridge (like a cross between cake and fudge).  A few months ago however, I decided to try making them with frozen raspberries instead of the milk choc bits. Wow, what a difference. I find the raspberries cuts through some of the richness, as well as  adding to the moistness of the brownie. And I love the flavour. I won’t make them without the raspberries now.

The good thing about this recipe though is you can add whatever you want. It doesn’t have to be raspberries, you could use milk or white chocolate bits, maybe some nuts. In the second picture below I used both raspberries and white chocolate. Some orange zest would make jaffa brownies. Play around with the flavours and use what you like. The most important thing though is to use a good chocolate that you like. If you don’t like the chocolate before you cook the brownie, you aren’t going to like the end result.

Bitter dark chocolate – still warm and extra gooey!

click here for the recipe

Although I watch a lot of TV cooking shows, I’ve never really liked watching any of Gordon Ramsay’s shows. Too much drama and profanities, and not enough food for me. Personally, I just don’t enjoy watching something where every second or third word is a four letter word (okay, that is probably an exaggeration, I’ve never sat down and counted – I haven’t watched long enough to do that). That’s just me. And so as a result, I’ve never purchased any of his cookbooks or tried any of his recipes.

Recently, however, I have seen him in his role as judge on Masterchef US where for the most part it seemed food, rather than the ‘f-word’, was more the focus. So I thought maybe it was time to give Gordon a chance. After all, he’s held onto three Michelin stars for a while, so he must know what he is talking about. I came across his latest book (which accompanies his most recent TV show and is aimed at teaching people how to become better home cooks) for 30% off and after having a quick look, a recipe for meatballs in a fragrant coconut broth with flavours I don’t use a lot caught my attention. There were a few other recipes that also caught my interest which I will try another time. Seeing as it was on sale, and telling myself that even though I have shelves full of cookbooks, I have a blog now so it’s okay to buy another one, I bought it. Link to book here –  Gordon Ramsay’s Home Cooking: Everything You Need to Know to Make Fabulous Food
I know. I have a problem… And I’m running out of space on my bookcase!

Pork meatballs in a fragrant coconut broth

click here for more including the recipe

Some days, things just go right in the kitchen. They certainly have for me this last week while I’ve been blogging. New recipes worked first time and my first attempt at pastry turned out pretty good. But sometimes, like today, things just don’t work. I like to think that even the best of chefs have baking disasters occasionally. Not that a failed recipe in the kitchen really is a disaster in the scheme of things. But this afternoon baking, things just didn’t seem to want to go my way.

Last week just before heading out for my first cake decorating class, I was skimming through one of my books and came across a recipe for ginger and lime kisses (two little ginger cookies with a lime butter-cream filling). I thought they looked and sounded nice so decided that they would be my next weekend baking project. They didn’t quite work out. While I followed the recipe, they spread too much, didn’t rise and just didn’t look like they should have. I think I may know what went wrong, but I’ll get to that in a minute. They still tasted great, so I have frozen them and might make ice-cream sandwiches with them or a twist on cookies and cream ice-cream another day.

Determined to still have something baked to post, and share, I decided to make some Anzac biscuitsChewy Anzac biscuits Click here for more including the recipe

With the holiday season fast approaching (much too quickly), I have been reflecting on holiday entertaining last Christmas, and what I may want to do differently this year.

In November last year, after 3 years of living in a small apartment (with limited room for entertaining), I moved to a house which much more room both inside and out. So instead of only being able to invite a few friends over for dinner, suddenly we could invite a larger group. So of course I decided to host a Christmas dinner with friends about a week before Christmas (we were flying out to Paris a few days later for Christmas with my boyfriend’s family). Read the rest of this entry »

Even though I enjoy cooking, sometimes after a busy day at work, it can be too easy or tempting to succumb to picking up takeaway on the way home. Especially as I have so many great restaurants (Indian, Italian, Japanese and many more) within five minutes of my house. Alternately, I fall back on a few tried and tested favourite recipes, which if cooked too often will no longer be favourites. So finding new quick and easy recipes that I can add to my repertoire and save the takeaway for an occasional treat is something I am actively trying to do.

The other day I was looking through a new cooking magazine and I came across a warm beef and salsa verde salad that sparked my interest. It looked like a great spring dinner, but although I liked the look of it and the idea, I didn’t feel like beef so I went with lamb instead. Then because I was cooking with lamb, I thought mint would be a great addition to the salsa verde rather than just the parsley they used. And how about some basil as well given I’m adding tomatoes to the salad, and some lemon to freshen it up? Next thing you know the recipe below was created and the result delivered was just what I was after. A quick (all up around 30 minutes), light and tasty dinner perfect, in my opinion, for a spring night in Perth. Next time I might try cooking the lamb on the bbq instead of the stove.

It’s nice when cooking ‘experiments’ work out. And as I’d never used anchovies or capers in any of my cooking before, this really was an experiment for me. Don’t be scared of the anchovies, they don’t make the dish taste of fish. The leftovers were great for lunch the next day, the flavours had intensified and I thought it was delicious.

Quick lamb salad with salsa verde and lentils click here for the recipe

After years of making spaghetti bolognaise from a jar, I recently started making my own at home. I make a big batch and freeze the leftovers. It is certainly not a traditional or authentic recipe. Doing what I often do when I want to try a new dish, I looked at different recipes for inspiration and then went of and started cooking and adding things myself, such as mushrooms and Worcestershire sauce. Neither are traditional ingredients, however I love mushrooms in this sauce, and for me the Worcestershire sauce just adds something. I always add it to my home made hamburgers and just added it automatically the first time I made this.

This recipe is something I taste as I go and make adjustments to at the end if needed (salt/pepper, maybe some more vinegar). Depending on the tomatoes you use or the sweetness of the red wine, you may need to add a small amount of sugar at the end to overcome some lingering tartness/bitterness. However I have only needed to do this one and only needed to add a small pinch. While it does have around 3 hour cooking time, most of that is taken up with the sauce slowly simmering away on the stove top, with the most you need to do is stir and taste occasionally. It’s certainly not something you want to make on a busy work night, but it’s a great one for an afternoon of cooking on the weekend. You can chop the vegetables quite small or keep them a bit larger if you prefer a chunkier sauce. It’s really up to you. click here for the recipe

For me blended vegetable soups are not just a winter staple. If I’m rehearsing or performing in a musical, a pot of soup ready to go is a must for me, whatever time of year. It makes a great quick nutritious meal on the go between work and rehearsals/performances when I don’t want anything too heavy for dinner. It also makes a great quick and easy lunch to take to work.

A few years back I was experimenting with different types of vegetable soups and I stumbled across a recipe for cauliflower soup. I looked up a few other recipes, got some ideas and then went and made this one. I was surprised with the result and it’s now one of my favourites. It’s not for everyone. If you don’t like cauliflower then you aren’t going to like this soup. But the basic principles can be used with a lot of other  vegetables for a quick easy meal.


click here for the recipe

Last night I did something new for me and went to my very first cake decorating class with Julia at Cupid’s Delight. I really enjoy going to cooking classes and baking, so thought I’d give cake decorating a try. There are 11 of us in the class, with experience ranging from me with no experience with this kind of cake decorating, others who have tried it at home, a few who have done other classes as well as two chefs. It will be interesting to see how I keep up. Most of the class seem to be hoping to set up a home business in cake decorating, which was interesting. That certainly isn’t my aim. I am happy to do it for fun, and blog about it of course.

No photos yet as the first lesson was all theory (health, food and safety, how to line a tin). I am happy to report that I passed the quiz that followed with flying colours, so I am safe to be released into the kitchen! I had a great time and am looking forward to next week when we do get into the kitchen and also get our kit of tools.

I’ve never done any cake decorating with fondant, so I am really looking forward to learning some new skills. My homework for the week is to soak my fruit for the fruit cake we will be decorating (I’m currently trying to decide what fruit and alcohol to use to make mine different – I’m currently thinking of dates and pineapple for the additional fruit, possibly some coconut as well, but not sure about the alcohol at this stage. The recipe uses brandy). I also have to find a good on-line cake decorating resource to share with the class. If anyone has any recommendations please share them with me.

More recipes to come soon. But for now, it’s off to work I go.

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