Archives for the month of: December, 2013

prawn linguine

My weekends at the moment are filled with Christmas baking and I find that when I am spending a lot of time baking sweet things I often forget to eat properly. I am so surrounded with the sweet smells (and tastes, as I have to check for quality!) of baking that I don’t always eat properly. Plus with all of my (limited) kitchen benches taken up with baked goods at different stages of the cooking process, it can be a hassle to clear it all away to prepare lunch or dinner.

So this weekend, before I started baking, I made a big batch of prawn linguine to last me for the weekend. I love prawns however Jerome doesn’t like them, so I rarely cook with them anymore. However he is currently away visiting his family for Christmas, so I can make as many prawn dishes as I want! The other night while I was trying to find something on TV, I saw this recipe on Better Homes and Gardens and it was exactly what I was looking for. It is quick and easy to make but delicious. I cut back on the amount of oil to make it lighter (I used more of the pasta cooking water instead to help the sauce come together) and added extra prawns. It was great reheated the next day as well. Make sure you have all your ingredients ready to go before you start, as this cooks in a flash.

Click here for the recipe

Fruit mince slice 1

Back in November I made a batch of fruit mince after attending my first Christmas baking class with Sarah Brigden (babyCakes). This weekend I am finally using it, after letting it develop its flavours for over a month. As well as the usual fruit mince pies, I decided I wanted to try something a little bit different.

One of my favourite (and quite easy) recipes is raspberry crumble slice. It is incredibly moreish and also easily adapted. I’ve used the base recipe to experiment with other combinations including an apple crumble slice. This weekend, I decided to use it as the base for a fruit mince crumble slice to take into work tomorrow.

I also made fruit mince pies, using the cinnamon pastry recipe and baked them in patty pans, topped with pastry stars (cooks for 20 minutes in a 160C fan forced oven). I’m not a huge fan of fruit mince, but I really like this recipe. I find the addition of apple cider gives it an extra flavour that I really like and the spices are just the flavours of Christmas.

fruit mince pies

  Click here for the recipe

 Gingerbread house

Last year at Christmas I went a bit overboard with my Christmas baking for my work colleagues (for a Christmas morning tea and food gifts), baking over two (very long) nights:

The late night baking sessions were a bit much, as was the burn that was the result of my tired clumsiness (I still have the scar), so I promised myself I would do less this year.

That lasted right up until we were asked to do a morning tea display challenge for our Christmas morning tea at work. As part of my team’s display, and given I had just learnt how to make them in my baking classes, I offered to make gingerbread houses. Not one house though, oh no, I said I’d make multiple houses (I made 6 in total). I also made gingerbread biscuits as well (about 50 individual biscuit houses, cars and trains).

cars and trains

sorry for the angle of the photo!

sorry for the angle of the photos!

This gingerbread recipe from Sarah Brigden (babyCakes) is great and I would certainly recommend it. It can be made up to a week in advance before baking (just wrap it well in cling wrap and store in the fridge) or it can be frozen (very well wrapped in cling film and them placed inside a glad bag). Once cooked, it should last for a month. It has quite a lot of spice in it, however if you prefer you gingerbread lighter on the spice, you can easily reduce the amount. The gingerbread house is stuck together using melted chocolate. This is fine on a cool day/night. However the weekend I was assembling these, the temperature hit above 40C, which was not ideal for chocolate work. Add to that a migraine when I was trying to decorate, and it wasn’t a very enjoyable weekend of baking.

The end result was worth it though, even with my migraine impaired/minimal decorating. These were WA Christmas houses, so no snow covered gingerbread houses in sight! Everyone who tried the gingerbread loved the taste. Once the morning tea was over, I wrapped up the houses and some biscuits in cellophane and gave them to my team to take home. They make a great Christmas gift idea.

Christmas gift idea

Christmas gift idea

In class, we made an A frame house, as this is easier to assemble for a first time attempt. To make it, you will need to make a template rectangle of 150mm x 105mm (you will need to cut three pieces for each house – two sides and a base) and a triangle of 115mm x 115mm x 115mm (you will need two pieces for each house – front and back).

Basic A-Frame House

Basic A-Frame House

For the smaller (and more detailed) houses, I used a template I found online here. For some I made the roof template slightly longer so I could assemble them differently so that the join didn’t show at the front. To do this I baked the roof pieces separately after I had assembled the base of the houses and determined how long I needed to make the roof. However, if you assemble them so you can see the joins at the front, you don’t need to do this. 

Click here for the recipe

choc gingerbread brownies

With ginger, cinnamon and mixed spice filling the air, it’s really starting to smell like Christmas in my house as a result of this weekend’s baking. Aside from starting the gingerbread for some mini gingerbread houses (a future post), I also came across this recipe for gingerbread brownies that I had to try.

Not being a huge chocolate fan, brownies are usually too rich for me (although my fudgy chocolate and raspberry brownies are very popular with all the chocoholics I know). But I liked the idea of the added “Christmassy” spices and just had to try them. With the amount of chocolate in this recipe (both dark chocolate and cocoa), they were too much chocolate for me and I could only eat a small piece. But that is my issue, not the recipe’s. Besides, heading into Christmas time when most of us over indulge, only having a small piece of something is a good thing! They were very popular at work so, if you love chocolate brownies, why not give these a try instead of your usual brownie recipe at Christmas time? This would be great as a dessert warm with ice-cream too.

Click here for the recipe

The books I have bought in the last 6 months

The books I have bought in the last 6 months

I have a confession to make. In April this year I set myself the challenge of not buying a new cookbook until I had cooked a recipe from five of my current cookbooks. It was going quite well for a few months and I also discovered the huge cookbook collection at the library next to my work, so I could borrow and look through as many cookbooks as I wanted, without buying them.

Then a couple of things happened. First, I went to France in June, and told myself a couple of very small regional cookbooks in French didn’t count as they were “souvenirs”. But that was only the beginning.

Then I went to the Perth Good Food and Wine Show in July, and I just couldn’t resist the chance to meet the cooks/chefs there and get a book personally signed (I owned some that I could get signed, but there were a few I didn’t have). Plus there were a few books on sale at the show (I mean, $10.00 instead of $50.00! What would you do?). And you never know what might happen, a few words with Maggie Beer about music/singing while she was signing my book (thanks Mum) and the next thing you know, she is calling up “Sarah who sings” to cook with her on-stage an hour later, and sending me home with a big box of her products!

Thanks Maggie!

Thanks Maggie!

I bought a few books over the next few months (always on sale), and then came the Margaret River Gourmet Escape a couple of weeks ago, where there was the opportunity to meet more incredibly inspiring and creative chefs, including Heston Blumenthal (who’s book I actually won in a competition a few months back, or I would have been buying one of his books too – you should have seen how excited I was when I found out I’d won a cookbook! Then actually getting it signed by Heston!!!).

So I have to admit that I failed my challenge completely. But I do now have another eleven signed cookbooks in my collection, more inspiration and hundreds of new recipes to try, as well as the memories of meeting these amazing Australian and international cooks and chefs that inspire me.

But moving on, it is time to try again. I think I have bought enough cookbooks to last me quite a while, so let’s see if I can cook through five of them before I even think about buying another cookbook. I can do this. After all, it’s almost Christmas and it doesn’t count if it’s a present…right?

So back to cooking. This is the recipe that convinced me to buy The Blue Ducks cookbook. By 5pm on the Saturday at the Gourmet Escape, I was starting to fade after a day in the sun, but looking through this book again (which was the last book signing of the day), I gave in and bought it. This recipe for Mushrooms and Pearl Barley with Macadamia Bread Sauce just jumped out at me and I had to try it. I have since found the recipe is on the SBS website here. But having discovered other recipes in the book I also want to try, I have no regrets.

I’m not sure about the bread sauce, I found it a bit too heavy and if I was to make it again, I would thin it down even more. But I liked using pearl barley instead of rice or couscous for a change, it was very filling and had a nice nutty flavour. I think I’ll try using it more in salads for work lunches.

pearl barley and mushrooms

Click here for the recipe

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