Friday, October 29, 2010

Peanut brownies.


Sometimes I wish I didn't sleep so well. Just so that I had a reason - an excuse - for staying up indecently late and baking things. I never do though. I always bake at a reasonable hour. 3pm: There I am, mixing something or other in the kitchen. Actually, usually any time during the day I could be busily doing something else, and then it starts to creep up on me, The Urge To Bake Something. It's like somebody whispering in your ear. Subliminal messages just like 1984. 
I don't resist the pull though, I flow freely with the tide like a piece of driftwood. The call is always different: Brownies. Biscuits. Even savoury things. But the feeling is always the same: that indescribable need to be mixing, stirring, baking. To make something delicious and pretty out of a lump of dough.
And so I go with it. I follow my gut instincts and make whatever the moment calls for. I relish these times.

Just so you know, these are not Peanut Butter Brownies, just delicious, chewy, Chocolatey Brownies With Peanuts. This is different to the other brownie recipe that I posted, as this has melted chocolate and cocoa, rather than cocoa with chocolate chunks in it.

Adapted from "Sweet Food"

Makes about 16.
Oven 180C.

125g dark chocolate, melted
90g butter, softened
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
2/3 cup plain flour
1/4 cup cocoa powder
2/3 cup salted peanuts, chopped.

Cream the butter, sugar and vanilla.
Add the eggs, one at a time, beating after each.
Stir in the melted chocolate.
Fold in the dry ingredients, followed by the peanuts.
Spoon into a lined square tin and bake for 30-35 mins or until done.
Cool before cutting and eating (the nuts taste better when they're cold, rather than when they're still a bit warm, so try and wait before eating them).

Monday, October 25, 2010

Lemon & horseradish potato salad.


When Brent and I were in England, I discovered lots of new things. These were mostly foods that I've heard about through my love for British television, but had never had the chance to try. Horseradish on roast beef sandwiches. Mushy peas with fish and chips. Yorkshire puddings with a Sunday Roast. Brown sauce with pretty much everything.
The only one that I brought back with me was horseradish. I'm still trying to find other ways to use it and salad dressings are my favourite at the moment. The idea for this potato salad came from a recipe that I stumbled across, but I decided that I'd just make up my own. I love potato salad, and as my Dad says, "you can never have too much potato salad."
In the past 5 days, I've made this twice, two different ways. One with a mayonnaise base and one with a yoghurt base. They were both good. It just depends on what you're looking for.
I didn't measure any of my ingredients out, because I was just making it up as I went. So if the levels aren't quite right, just taste it and add whatever else you think it might need.

Serves 4 as a side.

4 medium potatoes, peeled, cubed.
3 eggs
heaped tsp horseradish
1/2 cup Greek yoghurt, or mayonnaise
juice of half a lemon
2 tbsp of white vinegar
salt and pepper

Boil the potatoes. In a separate saucepan, boil the eggs. I like to do them for the same amount of time.
Mix all the dressing ingredients in a jar. If the dressing isn't runny enough, add a little bit of olive oil. If the dressing is too tart, add half a tsp of white sugar.
If you're not eating the salad right away, leave the dressing off until you're ready to eat it, otherwise it soaks into the potatoes.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Cupcakes on impulse.


I had a super morning today. I had breakfast with my brother and sister and went shopping. My sister was meant to be going on a picnic, and had to make something to take, so we went back to my house to make some cupcakes. Actually, I didn't make them, Caitlin did. All I did was get the ingredients out of the cupboard and take photos. How good of me!
I didn't even get to taste a cupcake. Caitlin ran off to her picnic as soon as they were iced. But that's ok, I don't mind. I'm cool like that.


This is our basic cupcake recipe. It's from Nigella Lawson's "How to be a Domestic Goddess." We use this one because it's a simple one-bowl recipe (They're always the best, aren't they?). And when you've only got 20 minutes before you have to be at a picnic, they're the perfect thing to make. This recipe has been made so many times that the page in the book has become worn; greasy and floury with age. I often add another flavour to the cakes, lemon for instance, just mix the zest in before you put them into the paper cases and use lemon juice instead of milk.

From Nigella Lawson's "How to be a Domestic Goddess"

Oven 200C
Makes 12

125g butter
125g sugar
2 eggs
125g self-raising flour
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2-3 tbsp milk

Put all the ingredients, except milk, in a bowl, and mix with electric mixers until smooth.
Slowly add the milk, not all at once, until you get a "soft, dropping consistency"
Bake for 15-20 mins.
Cool before icing.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Sugar & spice biscuits.

time for biscuits.

tea time

sugar & hearts

Obviously if I'm icing biscuits for fun, I've got too much time on my hands. But anyway, they were tasty and fun to do, and that's the main thing, right? I'd like to tell you that my childhood was filled with making biscuits like this, but alas, I was no such child. I'll definitely be the kind of mother that makes these biscuits for her children.
Next time I make these, I'll up the spices, because I think they need to be more spicy.

Adapted from an old 'Gourmet Traveller' magazine.

Oven 170C
Makes about 30

for the biscuits:
180g butter
100g dark brown sugar
3/4 cup golden syrup
1 egg
3 1/2 cups plain flour
1 tsp bicarb soda
3 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp mixed spice

In a saucepan, melt the butter, golden syrup and sugar. Stir until butter is melted and sugar is dissolved.
Let mix cool, then stir in the egg. (If you don't let the mix cool, the egg will get cooked in the hot liquid. If this happens, whisk like crazy, then try to take out as much cooked egg as you can. Or just wait until the liquid is cool a bit to save you this hassle).
In a bowl, mix the dry ingredients.
Pour the liquid into the dry ingredients. Stir to combine.
When combined, turn out onto a floured surface and knead for a bit.
Cover in cling wrap and put in the fridge for 30 mins.
Roll tablespoon sized balls of the mix with your hands and place on lined baking trays (I made half circles and half 'fingers').
Bake for 10-12 mins, they'll be golden on the bottom. Let cool before icing.

for the icing:
1 1/2 cups icing sugar
2 tsp plain flour
1 egg white
1 tsp lemon juice
food dye.

Mix icing sugar and flour.
In a separate bowl, whisk egg white until frothy.
Gradually mix in icing mix.
Add lemon to make a thick paste.
If you want to do two colours, like I did, put 3/4 of the icing into a separate bowl. Colour this lot and use the other lot for piping.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Chocolate crackle cookies.

chocolate crackle biscuits

chocolate crackle biscuits

When my mum moved recently, she gave me some of her cooking books. After flipping through one of them, I found a recipe for some biscuits that I'd been trying to find a recipe for for ages. Success!
The recipe specified nuts, but I didn't have any, so told myself that they'd be fine without them. They were, but I think they would have been better with them. Anyway, use what you have!
I halved the recipe because I hate having lots of biscuits in the house (I'm too tempted to eat them, and seriously, I'm worried about my waistline), but I'll give you the full recipe and you can decide for yourself.

From "Sweet Food"

Oven 180C
Makes about 60

125g butter, cubed
2 cups dark brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla essence
2 eggs
60g dark chocolate, melted
1/3 cup milk
2 3/4 cup plain flour
2 tbsp cocoa powder
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp cinnamon
2/3 cup chopped nuts (i.e pecans), optional
icing sugar to coat

Cream butter, sugar and vanilla.
Add the eggs, mix.
Stir in the chocolate and milk.
Add dry ingredients, except nuts, and mix.
Add the nuts (if using).
Refrigerate for at least 3 hours.
Roll tablespoons of the mixture into balls. Coat each ball in icing sugar. Don't flatten the balls! They do this by themselves in the oven, they're very clever.
Place apart on the tray and bake for 20-25 mins. They'll be brown on the bottom.

Raspberry yoghurt bars.

raspberry bars

I originally made these so that Brent would have something quick to eat on his way to work. Unfortunately, they tasted so good that I ended up eating them all myself. They're sort of wholesome and breakfasty, but not so much so that you don't feel like you're getting a treat. Like when you're a little kid and you get to have cocopops for breakfast and it's a big deal. You almost feel naughty for eating them for breakfast, until you remember that it's all wholegrain flour, oats and yoghurt. Did I mention that I like oats?

I used two recipes when I was making these, from Everybody Likes Sandwiches and Smitten Kitchen. The reason I used two was because one didn't have eggs in them, and I didn't have any eggs, and the other didn't have enough sugar in it, but the other did... you get the picture. I halved the recipe, but feel free to double it back up again.

Adapted from Everybody Likes Sandwiches and Smitten Kitchen.

Oven 190C

1 cup rolled oats
1 cup wholewheat flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
3 tbsp cold butter, cut into chunks
1/2 cup plus 1 tbsp plain thick yoghurt
1/3 cup white sugar
1/2 tbsp cornflour
2 1/2 cups raspberries (frozen is good)

Mix the oats, flour, baking powder, cinnamon and sugar.
Add the butter, and mix in with your hands, until mix is slightly sandy and the butter is mixed in.
Add the yoghurt and mix.
Press roughly 3/4 of this mix into a lined baking tray (I used a 9" by 9" dish).
In a separate bowl, mix the raspberries with the cornflour and another tbsp sugar.
Tip the raspberries over the oat base, making sure they cover the base.
Crumble the remaining dough over the raspberries to make a sort of 'crumble'.
Bake 45 mins or until golden.
Cool the bars before cutting.

Sweet and sour chicken

sweet & sour chicken

Because I cook every day: dinner, breakfast, lunch, snacks, I've got a back log of posts to put up. Seeing as it's raining on my first day of holidays, I thought I'd put them all up now. So if you're wondering why some of the posts are just photo's and don't have any writing, that's why. There's only so much a girl can say in one day that doesn't revolve around the weather. Although, I could talk about the weather, I just figured that you'd get bored, and rather look at photos instead. Correct me if I'm wrong, though, and we can have a lovely conversation about how it's meant to be spring but there's still snow on the mountain. And how I can't go outside and start my holiday list, because it's cold and raining.

Anyway, I really like sweet and sour chicken. And this one tastes just like the one we get at the little asian place down the road. It's super easy, too. It'll take you 20 mins starting from when you step in the door with the groceries to putting it in bowls to eat in front of the telly on a cold, rainy day.

Adapted from "Home Food"
Serves 2

1 chicken breast, cubed
1 egg
3 tbsp cornflour
1 red capsicum, cubed
1 onion, diced
1/2 cup white vinegar
1/4 cup  tomato sauce
1/2 cup white sugar

Mix the chicken with the egg and 2 tbsps of the cornflour.
Fry the onion in some olive oil in a big fry pan, or wok if you have one. Add the capsicum.
Add the vinegar, sugar and tomato sauce. Stir until sugar dissolves.
Bring to the boil.
Mix the remaining cornflour with 2 tbsp water. Add to the sauce mix. Stir until it thickens a bit.
Pour the sauce into a bowl.
Fry the chicken until brown, add the sauce.
Serve with rice.

Chocolate Loaf Cake.

chocolate cake

chocolate cake

chocolate cake

This cake is moist and light and dense all at once. Next time I make this, I'll substitute the water for some kind of alcohol, like baileys or schnapps. Not that I'm obsessed with making boozey cakes or anything...
Adapted from Nigella Lawson's "How to be a domestic goddess."
Oven 190C

225g butter
375g dark brown sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
100g dark chocolate
200g plain flour
1 tsp bicarb soda
1 cup boiling water

Melt the chocolate in a metal bowl over boiling water.
Meanwhile, Cream the sugar, butter and 1 egg. Add the vanilla and the other egg.
Fold in the melted chocolate, being careful not to put too much air into the batter.
Mix the flour and the bicarb.
Add 1 spoonful of flour mix, and then 1 spoonful of water. Repeat until all mixed in.
The batter will be pretty thin.
Pour into a lined loaf tin.
Bake for 30 mins. Then turn the oven down to 170C and bake another 15 mins.
Cool completely before taking out of the tin.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Candy nuts & survival techniques.

Candy nuts

It's nearly time for holidays. Uni has so many holidays, I just don't know what to do with them all. I've started planning ways to spend my long, and sunny days and hopefully I'll get to do them all, rather than just hanging around and wasting my time, which is what I normally do. So I've made a list. Of things that I desperately want to do in my holidays, before the next uni semester starts and I start wishing that I'd done something fun over the summer.
  • Go to the beach. If it's warm enough, I might even get to go swimming (!)
  • Have a picnic. With a proper wicker basket and potato salad and champagne and big sun hats.
  • Have a barbecue. At the beach!
  • Go to the place where you can pick your own berries. I need to find out what that place is called...
  • Make jam. With the berries that I picked.
  • Make tomato relish.
  • Make lots of yummy christmasy things to give as presents.
  • Decorate the house all nice for christmas.
  • Spend time with friends. Thats an important one.
  • Go camping. For a couple of days, at least.
Before any of that can happen, I have to get through my final three days of study. Having snacks is a good way to get you through.
I looked at lots of recipes for candy nuts before I made these. I ended up using two recipes, from David Lebovitz and Everybody Likes Sandwiches. The nuts were meant to be sweet and salty and spicy all at once, but because I never properly measure spices out (seriously, who does that?) mine were just sweet, with a big salt hit every now and then. I'm not complaining though. They're still good. I took these to work and they were gone in an hour. But next time I'll remember to put more spices in.

Adapted from Everybody Likes Sandwiches and David Lebovitz

1 cup salted peanuts
1 cup raw almonds
1 cup sugar (I used mostly white with a bit of brown thrown in for good luck)
1/3 cup water
sprinkle of course sea salt, cinammon, paprika and cayenne pepper.

In a big pot, mix the nuts, sugar and water. Heat over medium heat and stir frequently. After a while, the nuts are supposed to get sandy with the crystalised sugar (mine didn't, I just had heaps of syrup, which didn't go away).
Keep stirring until the nuts and syrup start to get golden/bronze. (It should take you roughly 20 mins to get to this stage).
Take off the heat, and scrape the nuts onto a tray lined with baking paper.
Leave to cool and then break up the nuts and try not to eat them all at once!

p.s. if you'd like better instructions than mine, I'd recommend going to David Lebovitz, he's got pictures for each stage of the process.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Savoury scones to make the CWA proud.

scone mess
I don't have very much to say today, but I wish I did. You know those days you have when you've just run out of things to say? Nothing interesting has happened, I've only been doing uni work, finishing up for the year. My last assignment must have drained all the words out of me, and left me devoid of interesting things to say. Luckily uni hasn't drained me of cooking. I can still bake. What a disaster it would be if I couldn't! Imagine spending a whole Saturday and not cooking one thing!

I love the idea of scones, as part of an afternoon tea with jam and cream and patterned china and floral dresses. To be honest, I've only made them a few times and I've never made them savoury before. Brent's sister Kirby makes a good savoury scone, and hell, now I do too.
I adapted this recipe from Stephanie Alexander by adding vintage cheese and chopped bacon.
They were best straight out of the oven with lots of butter and a good song. I've listened to this Adrian Lux song so many times in the last 2 days. I know I'll get sick of it soon, but at the moment, it's still pretty great.

Scones to make CWA proud

Adapted from Stephanie Alexander's 'The cooks companion.'

Oven 220
Makes about 20 smallish scones.

500g plain flour
4 tsp baking powder
100g butter
100g vintage cheese, grated
3 rashers of bacon, diced
300mL water .

Put the flour, baking powder and butter into a food processor and blitz until it looks like sand.
Tip into a bowl and add the cheese and bacon.
Add the water and mix (mine was a bit sticky here, but I just put a bit more flour when I was cutting them out).
Tip out onto a floured surface and flatten out to about 3 cm.
Cut the scones out with a round cutter, twisting the cutter down, rather than pressing it. Cut all the scones and when you've got out as many as you can, press the remaining dough back together and start again.
Put the scones onto a lined baking tray. Make sure they're touching, as it makes them rise better (Thanks Masterchef, for teaching me this!).
Bake for 12-15 mins until golden.
If you can wait, put them onto a wire rack to cool. Otherwise just eat them hot straight off the tray.