Archives for the month of: March, 2013

Although I love cooking and baking, bread making is a skill I have not yet attempted to master. The only bread I have ever made at home is naan bread. And while it worked quite well, I’ve only made it once and that was probably seven years ago.

In an attempt to correct this omission, I have enrolled in a bread making class at Matters of Taste. However this class is still a few months away. So yesterday, given it was Good Friday, I decided it was time to make a start and give hot cross buns a try.

Most people probably think that hot cross buns, with the cross representing the crucifixion, are solely a Christian tradition. However, apparently (thank you google) the ancient Greeks marked buns with a cross. There may also be connections to the goddess Eostre (Easter – get it?), who is the namesake of the festival of Easter and is where the custom of bunnies (hares) and eggs is thought to have come from.

Anyway, I went looking for a recipe to try and really liked the sound of these hot cross buns (recipe by Paul Hollywood from The Great British Bake Off) with the addition of orange zest and apple. I left out the citrus peel (I don’t candied peel) and added some mixed spice. Don’t be put off by how sticky the dough is to start with. A dusting of  flour and a few minutes of kneading and it all comes together. I have to say I was very proud of my first attempt at hot cross buns, although I now know I need to place them closer together next time, and I think baking them at home on Good Friday is an Easter tradition that I will continue.

Hot cross buns

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Today is Good Friday, which traditionally means fish for dinner. And so that is what we had tonight. Friday, as I understand it (and I am certainly no expert) has historically been a day of fasting/abstinence in Christian faiths. For many though in current times, Good Friday is the only day the tradition is observed.

After making hot cross buns earlier in the day (recipe to come shortly), I was very glad that I had already planned on this quick and easy dish, with the added advantage of being quite a healthy one too. Which, seeing as I had to sample a few of the hot cross buns to make sure they were good, was just as well.

The whole dish took no more than 10-15 minutes to prepare and cook, making it a great week-night meal. The crisp and fresh salad, creamy tahini dressing (without any cream), lovely tartness from the apple cider vinegar and slight sweetness from the honey all complimented the salmon and each other perfectly. Healthy and tasty, yum.

Salmon and Green Bean Salad

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It’s  Monday again (just), so time for another meat free recipe, this time with seafood. Following on from my Meat Free Mondays post last week, I will try to post a meat free dish on Monday as often as I can.

I think this is a great week night recipe, quick and simply to make but full of great flavour. You can replace the snapper with any white fleshed fish you prefer, and adjust the amount of chilli flakes to suit your preference. I thought this was a nice way of cooking chickpeas, making them quite soft and creamy (though not mushy), with the tomatoes, thyme and chilli adding a nice flavour. The gremolata at the end adds a nice freshness to the dish. Cooking fish is another thing that people can often worry about and its only in the last few years I’ve become more confident and cooked it more regularly. Plus for a few years while I was at university I worked at an aquarium shop looking after and selling tropical and marine fish, and I have to admit that while I worked there I felt bad eating fish!IMG_2678

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It is only recently that I have become confident enough to make my own pastry, rather than using premade bought pastry, and I am really looking forward to going to a pastry making class with Sarah Brigden soon to learn some more techniques, tips and tricks. For a lot of people though, the thought of making pastry from scratch is quite stressful. And I think cooking should be enjoyable, not stressful.

These tarts are a great alternative to a pastry dessert. Instead of a pastry base, they have a macaroon tart base, made from egg whites, coconut and sugar.

The end result is a beautiful macaroon tart base, which is crisp on the outside and chewy in the centre with a rich and creamy chocolate filling. The tartness of the raspberries cuts through the chocolate filling, making it fresher and lighter. I think this is a great alternative to a pastry dessert and a great dinner party dessert as it can be made ahead for stress free entertaining.

raspberry macaroon tarts

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No matter how much you think you may know about cooking, there is always some new trick or technique that you can pick up from a cooking class and I continue to learn new things whenever I go. You can read about the technique of pasta making, for example, but until you actually feel the pasta dough, you never know exactly what the end result feels like for the best pasta. Over the past few months I have attended a few cooking classes from cake decorating to meat butchery and thought it was  time I shared them with you, before I head off to the next one tomorrow.

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Although I’m not vegetarian, I also don’t feel like eating meat every night. So I do cook quite a few meat free dishes. Meat can get quite expensive, especially as I prefer to buy local, free range, top quality meat. I would rather eat meat less often and buy the best I can get, than eat cheaper/mass produced and imported products.

Meat free Mondays is an international campaign aimed at encouraging us to take a day off meat and raise awareness of the personal health and environmental benefits of reducing our meat consumption. A number of Australia’s celebrity chefs and cooks are involved, including Maggie Beer and Kylie Kwong. Some of the facts quoted on the campaigns website include:

  • Australians are some of the world’s biggest meat eaters, with many consuming double the global average.
  • 9 out of 10 Australian adults aren’t eating the recommended amount of vegetables.
  • Health authorities recommend against eating large amounts of meat.
  • Australian livestock industries are responsible for approximately 10% of our total greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Livestock production accounts for 70% of all agricultural land around the world.
  • Meat production is water intensive.

While I don’t limit myself to eating meat free dishes only on Mondays, I think anything that encourages people to add meat free meals to their diet and raises awareness of the benefits of a meat free meal once a week is a great initiative. With that in mind, here is the latest meat free dish I have tried. I added in a pinch of cayenne pepper to the recipe and I think the addition of the heat from the cayenne works well with the sweet and creamy pumpkin.

I also used filo pastry from the fridge rather than the freezer section for the first time, and found this so much easier to work with than frozen filo.

Filo parcels

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The older I get, the faster time seems to move. Weeks, months and years are just flying by and there never seems to be enough time to do all the things I want to do.

I suddenly woke up this morning and remembered I needed to make something to take with me to a picnic this afternoon. That didn’t leave enough time to make my usual cupcakes, which need to be started the day before. So I decided to make this raspberry crumble slice. It is a great last minute recipe, as it uses ingredients that I usually have on hand in the house and doesn’t take too long to throw together. The rich, nutty, buttery shortbread base and crumble provide a great contrast to the fresh, tart raspberries and it is one of my favourite quick treats.Raspberry crumble slice
Click here for the recipe

Browsing through some new cooking magazines the other day, this puy lentil dish reminded me of some of the everyday home cooking we enjoy when we visit Jerome’s parents in France. So of course I had to try it. It’s only in the last few years I have started using lentils and beans in a lot of my cooking. I really like using them now as they add a different texture to food, and are also very filling.

Although the recipe takes a while to cook, it doesn’t require a lot of effort and the end result is very satisfying, rich and filling while still having a freshness from the addition of lemon and parsley.

I found the sauce tasted great even before the addition of mustard and crème fraiche at the end, so if you can’t eat dairy or want a slightly lighter meal, you could omit the crème fraiche and still have a great dish. I admit, it isn’t the prettiest looking dish , but the flavour more than made up for the appearance.

IMG_2712

Click here for the recipe

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