Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Olive savoury muffins.

I'm the kind of person who needs to bake things. I don't know what it is, but I get this urge to bake. I can't help it. And when I don't want to make something sweet, I have to make something else.

A little while ago I went to the bakery with my friend and bought a savoury muffin. It was full of pumpkin and roast capsicum and sun-dried tomatoes and olives. Yum.

These savoury muffins aren't quite that full of things, but they still taste great. They're a mix-and-bake sort of a muffin. The cheese on top makes them a little bit tastier. And they're super good straight out of the oven with some homemade relish on the top. These muffins are crumbly and moist.
Here comes lunch!

Olive savoury muffins.
Adapted from Stephanie Alexander's 'The cooks companion' 
Makes 12

220g self-raising flour
3/4 cup milk
1 egg
1/2 cup oil (I used olive)
70g pitted kalamata olives, chopped
1/4-1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
salt and pepper
grated parmesan, to top the muffins

Preheat oven to 180C and grease a muffin tin.
Put flour, cayenne pepper and salt and pepper (to taste) into a large bowl.
Make a well in the centre and pour in milk, oil and the egg.
Mix everything together until just combined.
Fold in the olives.
Spoon into the muffin tins and top with grated parmesan.
Bake for 20-25 mins.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Friday I'm In Love: Crafty lady's.

It's no secret that I love everything to do with food. Not just eating, but food blogs, cookbooks, food photography... you get the idea.
But I like other things, too. I like music, reading, walking, art, and playing guitar.
You might not know this about me, but I used to do a lot of art and crafty things. I did photography and art in school and at one point, I was really into street art and I thought that that's what I wanted to do with my life.

With holidays coming up, I've gotten really into craft blogs. They've always got such good ideas that seem really easy, and get me really excited about sitting inside with a mountain of off-cut material, ribbons and a hot glue gun. My mother would be so proud!

So I'm sharing my favourite crafty blogs with you in the hope that you might also get excited and inspired. They all seem to be done by lovely lady's (aren't guys into craft?), so there are lots of girly ideas, like making cushion covers and headbands. But that's the kind of thing that makes me happy when the weather is so cold outside...

In no particular order:

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Contradictions and lessons: Quince cake.

quince cake

This cake was both a disaster and a success. It seems odd that one cake can be so contradictory, but it's true. It was a success because I hadn't made a cake with quinces before, and there were so many opportunities for it to go badly, but it didn't. The quinces were perfectly poached, the batter tasted good and the syrup on top was amazing.
It was a disaster, though, because of the syrup on top. If you only learn one thing today, please, let it be this: Don't be impatient.
I poured the syrup on the cake while it was cooling in the pan. And then I flipped out the cake onto a plate. When I tried to flip it back onto the cooling rack, the syrup was stuck to the plate and ripped the sticky top off the cake. Not completely, but enough for me to freak out.
I freak out a lot when I'm baking.
And I don't think the cake was quite cooked properly.

So there you have it: Contradictions.

quince cake

A quince is not a pretty fruit. They're motley yellow and covered in a grey fluff. You can't eat them raw because they're outrageously tart. And when you peel and chop them, not only do they brown almost instantly, but they smell funny. After they've been poached, though, they turn a lovely rosey colour and they taste much better than you could have imagined.
I made a fairly simple tea cake batter (is that what you call it?) for this recipe and mashed half the poached quinces into the batter. Then I put the rest of the quinces into the batter, imagining that they would be nice to bite into. Next time, I'd mash all the quinces into the cake, just to see what a difference that makes. I'll have to wait till next year, I guess, because I used all my quinces in this cake.

I took this cake into work and made everyone eat it, and they all seemed to like it. So take that, Disaster!

Quince tea cake.
Adapted from Epicurious

2 cups poached quinces*
220g self-raising flour
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
110g unsalted butter, softened
330g sugar
3 eggs
1/2 cup pure cream
1 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat oven to 160C. Grease and flour a 20cm springform pan.
Cream butter and sugar.
Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each one.
Mix flour, cinnamon and salt together.
Beat in half the flour mix.
Add the cream.
Beat in remaining flour mix and vanilla.
Strain poaching liquid from quinces and reserve.
Mash half the poached quinces and fold into the batter.
Pour half the batter into the prepared tin.
Arrange remaining poached quinces over the batter.
Pour the remaining batter over the quinces.
Bake for 1 1/4 hours, or until cake tester comes out clean.

[Optional] Make a sticky quince syrup. In a small saucepan, mix the reserved poaching liquid with 1/2 cup water, 3 tbsp caster sugar and 2 tsps lemon juice. Cook over a low heat, stirring until the sugar has dissolved, until mixture starts to thicken. Pour this over the cake once it has cooled.

*Poach peeled, cored and chopped quinces with about 2 cups water, 4 tbsps sugar, cinnamon and 1 vanilla bean, until soft, about 20-30 mins. If you're new to quinces, you could use less than 2 cups.
This was about 8 medium quinces that were a bit bruised and had been eaten by bugs. So I ended up with less use-able fruit than I anticipated.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Beetroot soup with sour cream and chives.

beetroot soup

I like the word borscht.

I'd like to say that this is a recipe for borscht, but if I said that, I would be lying. This is a recipe for beetroot soup.
Not that I'm complaining. Who wouldn't want to eat that bowl of purple soup?
The sour cream helps to cut through the sweet, earthy beetroot, and the chives add lovely texture and (more) colour. The soup really needs the sour cream and the chives to make it perfect. Otherwise it's just a big bowl of colour.

Although I'd like to call this borscht, it really isn't. And I definitely would not tell any Russian that I made borscht. But you can call it that if you want.

It sure does make it sound fancy.

beetroot soup

Beetroot soup with sour cream and chives
serves four

7 small/medium organic beetroot
1 litre vegetable stock
1 medium potato
1 medium onion
2 cloves of garlic
1/2 cup sour cream
salt and pepper
chives and extra sour cream to garnish

Peel and chop the beetroot and the potato. Be careful of your hands/clothes/bench, as they will definitely get stained by beetroot (Don't worry, it washes out. Eventually).
Chop the onion and fry it in a big saucepan until soft. Add the garlic and cook a little bit longer.
Add the potato and beetroot and cover with the stock.
Bring to the boil and cook until everything is soft, about 20-30 minutes.
Let the soup cool slightly.
Blend the soup in batches before returning to the saucepan on the stove. It's important to blend in batches, otherwise the soup can be a bit grainy. If this happens, add some water to help smooth it out.
Stir through the sour cream.
Reheat the soup gently, until hot.
Serve in (white) bowls, topped with extra sour cream and snipped chives.

beetroot soup

p.s. I've just downloaded this new program to help edit my photos. I used to just take the photos and upload them, but now I can play around with them and brighten all the pretty colours. So if some of the photos look overly bright in the future, that's why...

Friday, May 20, 2011

Friday I'm In Love: Too many pots of tea and Cameo Lover.

Since confessing that I'm both obsessive and fickle, I've decided to put this into practice with a new weekly post: Friday I'm In Love

It will show you what I'm loving each week, and will force me to post here more often. The only thing is, I didn't really want this blog to turn into a place for me to post lots of pictures of myself that I've taken in the mirror (because, lets face it, I'm not 16 anymore. Thank god). But this is my blog, and I can write posts about whatever I want! I've already done a couple of craft posts here before, so I guess it's ok to branch out a little bit. And I promise there won't be any photo's of me that I've taken of myself in a mirror (well, not too many anyway).

And who knows, it might only last two weeks before I find something else to do...

This week I'm going to share two things with you.
I drink way too many cups of tea. I think I'm addicted.

The other thing I'm sharing is this song by ex-New Zealand artist, Kimbra. I've had this song stuck in my head all week. I love the video for it too. Everything from the fluoro colours to the tambourine. I can't wait till her album comes out.
There is one line in the song that I can't work out what the lyrics are.
It goes: "everyday's like talking in your sleep, love is like a ..........., open up your heart."
What goes there? Huh? Silhouette in teams? Silhouette in Jeans? Cigarette and tea? I don't know.
Either way, the song is great.

And there you have it! The first Friday I'm in Love. Hopefully there will be more of these to come!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

What to do with an old potato.

potato stamp

Do you sometimes forget that you bought potatoes, and then they get lost at the bottom of the potato basket until you find them, months later, shrivelled and sprouting?
I do. All the time. And I never knew what to do with these shrivelled creatures, until one day I had a stroke of brilliance.

potato stamp

Instead of throwing them away, or trying to grow them, I've decided to turn this sad little potato into a stamp! How crafty of me.

potato stamp

Remember potato stamps? Yeah, I'd forgotten about them too. But they're cute and super easy. I remember doing them in primary school.
You just have to draw your design on the potato, cut it out, and stamp it on.

potato stamp

potato stamp

Wow! That WAS easy.
And now you can make cute cards for all those nice presents that you wrapped.

potato stamp

And you should probably listen to this song while you're carving and stamping...

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Obsessed with soup.

potato and bacon soup
Sometimes I get obsessed with things. Lets call them fads.

When I first got The Shins album Kissing The Lipless, I played it everyday until I couldn't listen to it any more. Even now, I still can't listen to it. I ruined it for myself. I do this with lots of things. Running, for example. A few months ago I became obsessed with running. I ran every second day for a month, until one day I woke up and decided that I just didn't want to get out of bed. And I haven't run since.

At the moment, I'm obsessed with soup. I usually have Wednesday off work, so I go to the grocery store and buy whatever vegetable is on special and in season. Cauliflower. Sweet potato. Spinach. I make a big batch of soup and freeze some of it so that I can eat it for lunch during the week. Eating soup makes me feel healthy and full and wholesome.
Potato and bacon soup

A while ago a saw a recipe for baked potato soup. It sounded delicious but much too much effort. Little did I know that it wasn't made of baked potatoes, but was supposed to imitate what a baked potato tastes like. So last night when I felt like soup, I searched for this recipe and found two completely different recipes that claimed to make the same thing. So I just winged it in the end and it was a Success! I have to admit, though, that the extra bits on the top were my favourite part.

Potato and Bacon Soup.
4 spring onions
1 medium onion, diced
4 (or more) bacon rashers, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
5 medium potatoes, peeled and chopped
5 cups of stock or water
3-4 tbsps sour cream

Fry the onion in a little olive oil in a heavy bottom saucepan, on medium.
Meanwhile, dice the spring onions. Adding this in with the onion, keeping a little bit of green for garnish later.
Add half of the bacon and all of the garlic and cook until everything is soft.
Add the potatoes and stock. Turn the heat up and bring to the boil.
Then turn the heat back down and simmer until the potatoes are really soft, about 30 mins.
Stir in the sour cream and cook for another 2-3 mins.
At this point, I mashed my soup with a potato masher, because I wanted it to stay a bit chunky. But feel free to blend it in batches in a blender.
Taste for seasoning (mine needed quite a bit of seasoning, but it depends how salty your stock is).
Fry or grill the remaining bacon until really crispy.
Top the soup with crispy bacon, diced spring onion, grated cheese and sour cream.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

I can't stop thinking.

When I'm waiting for the kettle to boil in the morning, when I'm walking home from work, when I'm doing the shopping, when I'm making coffee for customers, before I fall asleep... I can't stop thinking.

Sometimes I think about what I'm going to write in my assignment, or what to have for dinner, or what I should get my step mum for her birthday. But sometimes I think about what I'm going to write about here. I plan it out in my head, try to come up with something funny to say (which doesn't usually happen), and think of things other than uni to talk about.

But even if I've come up with a great story to write about, I haven't cooked anything to go with it. This is where the problems start. Because I can't stop thinking, the stories that I come up with get pushed out of my brain by new, more exciting stories to write about. And then these ones get pushed out of the line by some other, even more interesting story to tell.

And then, all of a sudden, I've forgotten all my stories. I end up with nothing to say. This usually happens just as I've cooked something nice. Something so nice and new and delicious that I've got to share it. But the worst thing is, that I really want to write something. Anything.

For the last week, I've been thinking about what I could write about. But then all the stories got pushed out of my brain by the end of semester, because I had to fill it up with boring references about lesson plans.

But the good thing is, I haven't even cooked anything that I haven't cooked before, so I've got no food ideas to share with you. What I do have, though, is some pictures of Brent and I at the snow on the weekend, and a really nice song by a band called The Chemist.

 I hope we can still be friends.


Sunday, May 8, 2011

You said I must eat so many lemons: Limoncello.







I made this limoncello for a friends birthday. I was really late with the present, but with something as nice as this, I'm sure he won't mind. It was pretty simple, really. Just zest all the lemons, juice them, put them in a pan with some sugar and water, simmer, mix it with some vodka, bottle it all up. See? How easy was that! If you want to impress your friends, def make this. I've already decided that I need to make this again for some people who's birthday's are coming up.

From 'Gifts from the kitchen' by Annie Rigg

5-6 unwaxed lemons, washed
250g caster sugar
100ml water
700ml bottle of vodka

Zest the lemons. I just used a vegetable peeler for this.
Juice all the lemons, and set the juice aside.
In a small pan, mix the water, sugar and zest.
Set over medium heat and stir until sugar is dissolved.
Reduce heat and simmer for 15 mins.
Add the lemon juice and simmer for another 5 mins.
Set aside to cool.
Pour the vodka into a large sterilised* jar (The jar needs to be big enough to hold the vodka and the lemon syrup).
Add the lemon syrup, zest and all, and give it a good shake.
Leave in a cool, dry, dark place for a week. Shake the jar every day.
Strain the liquid into a pretty bottle. If you're going to put the liquid back into the bottle that the vodka came in, there will be a bit left over. Feel free to keep this for yourself.

*Sterilise your jar by washing it in hot soapy water, and then setting in a 200C oven for 20 mins, on a shelf covered with newspaper. Take the jar out and leave to cool before pouring the liquid in. (Remember, cold liquid in a hot jar equals cracked jar.)

Hollandaise sauce.

My Mum has taught me lots of things. The right way to hang your clothes on the line so that you don't have to iron anything, the proper way to do the washing up (glasses first, pots and pans last), how to wrap presents so they look pretty, how to look after my cat, how to get stains out of your clothes, how to sew the hem on your skirt. Useful things.
But one of the most important thing she taught me, was how to cook. She started teaching me when I was little so that now I feel like these cooking tips are basic things that everyone learnt, even if they're not.
Things like, how to tell if a cake is ready without sticking a tester in it, how to make bolognaise sauce, how to chop onions, how to get the skin off a garlic clove. Again, useful things (She's a handy type).
Don't get me wrong, my Dad has taught me lots of things too (how to flip pancakes, how to make a good omelette, how to make mayonnaise). But this isn't a blog post about Dads. It's a post about Mums. Because it's Mothers Day today. My Mum lives in a different state, so I don't get to see her very often. And although I rang her this morning, I thought it would be nice to tell her how much I love her.

There is one thing that Mum taught me to make really well. And I make this at least once a month, if not more. Usually on a Sunday, when Brent requests Eggs Benedict for breakfast. Actually, the first time I made this by myself, was when Brent and I started going out and I was trying to impress him. It must have worked because it's one of the only things that he actually asks me to make.
[Notice the burnt toast in the picture above? I can make hollandaise but I can't make toast.]

Mastering hollandaise sauce is a pretty useful skill. It doesn't just have to go on eggs, either. Think steamed asparagus and pan-fried salmon fillets. And it is really easy to scale up or down, depending on how many people you're feeding.
In my recipe book, the recipe for hollandaise goes a bit like this:
1 egg yolk, butter, lemon juice. Don't scramble the eggs. Serves two.
But that isn't very helpful to you, really. So I thought I'd write it up a bit better, so that you can impress your beloved, or make your Mum a nice breakfast.

Hollandaise Sauce.
Serves two

1 egg yolk
50-70g butter, chopped
 1-2 tsp lemon juice, or to taste
salt and pepper, to taste

Set a small pan on the stove with 3/4 cup water. Bring to a simmer.
Put the egg yolk into a medium bowl and set the bowl over the pan. Make sure the bowl isn't touching the water. This is really important.
Whisk the egg yolk, and put one cube of butter in. Keep whisking until the butter is incorporated.
Add another cube of butter and keep whisking. When it is nearly all incorporated, add another butter.
When you've added a few cubes of butter, you can start putting in more than one cube at once.
Keep doing this until all the sauce starts to thicken and is a nice pale colour.
Make sure that the eggs don't start to scramble. If they look like they are beginning to scramble, quickly take the bowl off the water and whisk it like crazy. If they look really bad, or you're a bit nervous, you could plunge the bowl into some cold water to stop the cooking process.
When the sauce is thick and all the butter is mixed in, whisk in the lemon juice and some salt and pepper to taste. Serve warm.
If the sauce cools down too much, just set the bowl over the simmering pan of water again, and whisk until it heats through.
This amount of sauce is enough for two poached eggs.