Monday, September 13, 2010

Slow Cooker Beef Curry

I would like to introduce my first guest blogger...exciting!! My BFF has kindly produced this recipe for us all to enjoy. I have only recently got my slow cooker, and it seems there are few tricks to that trade, so I am loving getting everyones' secret recipes to play around with. This recipe looks fabulous because you need very few ingredients, and is perfect for feeding a crowd on a budget. So to hand it over to my lovely BFF....

Let me just say from the very beginning that unlike my BFF, I am not much of a chef. I am lucky to have very capable friends who can whip things up with very little effort, whereas I am not so gifted in the cooking department. I am particularly bad at anything which requires a recipe - generally baking. The last Brownie effort I made, I doubled the recipe and forgot to add the sugar to the second batch - therefore a slow cooker has proved to suit my style.

To further elaborate on my technique, I am not one for tasting anything while I cook. I really like surprises and therefore to experience how good or bad the food is, as everyone else does. It is a hit and miss technique obviously and not ideal if I am cooking for anyone other than my endlessly loving and supportive husband.


Anyway, enough about me and moving onto the recipe that I thought I would submit as Jo has recently acquired a slow cooker...

SLOW COOKER BEEF CURRY

aprox 500g BEEF suitable for stewing (chuck, gravy beef etc), cut into small chunks.
2 tbspn cooking OIL
3tbspn FLOUR, I used gluten free cornflour which was fine
3 tbspn CURRY POWDER
2 cloves of GARLIC, finely chopped
Veges of your choice, I used carrots, potatoes, courgettes and some spinach thrown in at the end.
2 rashers of BACON, chopped into cubes.
about 2 cups of BEEF STOCK (chicken would probably be OK too)

Combine flour and curry powder and toss to coat the meat.

Heat the oil in a frying pan, add the garlic, and then the meat to brown. Do this in batches if your pan is small.

Set beef aside and chop the veges into large chunks.

Fry the bacon in the unwashed pan. This will allow the bacon to pick up all the delicious left overs from browning the beef.

Add beef, bacon, veges and stock to the slow cooker. Make sure the stock just covers everything.

Serve with rice and a sprinkling of coriander. This should serve a crowd of about 4-5, so down size if there is less of you, or pop in the freezer for another night.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Sticky Lemon Slice

I can not believe how much of a slacker I have been with this blog, I am not even remotely sticking to my self proclaimed 'rough guide'...hopeless! I don't even know what I have been doing that keeps me so very busy. I am now counting down the days to my return to work, The little Boss is going to be looked after by someone new for three whole days a week, I am stressing out! I keep thinking how lucky I am that I can do part time, and I know it will become easier over time, but right now I can not imagine being apart from our wee man for more then a few hours, let alone a few days. On a positive note, Spring is finally here, One Tree Hill is full of the related joys, lambs, calves and daffodils. Unfortunately we don't yet have the sunshine as proof, in fact we have had the opposite, rain and gail strength wind...ripped off!


In honour of the first day of spring I made a delicious Lemon slice, thanks to Alison Holst. She totally knows here stuff when it comes to old school slices and biscuits...and her recipes are always super easy and absolute crowd pleasers. The base has a short bread flavour and texture and the topping is like a lemon custard with a slightly caramelised top...oh so good!

STICKY LEMON SLICE

You will need a food processor for this recipe.

Base
2 cups plain FLOUR
1/2 cup ICING SUGAR
150g cold BUTTER, cut into cubes


Topping
1 1/2 cups SUGAR
thinly peeled rind of half a LEMON (use a vegetable peeler for best results)
3 large EGGS (or 4 medium)
1/4 cup of LEMON JUICE (you'll need about 2 lemons)
1/4 cup self-raising FLOUR (or 1/4 cup plain flour with 1/4 tspn baking powder well mixed)

Turn oven to 160C. Line a 23cm square tin with baking paper, ensuring the sides are covered and corners are sealed (fold the paper rather then cutting) so the liquid topping will not run off.

Measure the flour, icing sugar and butter into the food processor and blend until the butter is finely blended through the dry ingredients. It will look quite dry and powdery, but don't fret. Tip the mixture into the tin and press down using the back of a fish slice or something similar. Put in the oven and bake for 15-20 mins, or until firm and straw-coloured.


While the base is cooking...Without cleaning the blender add the sugar and lemon rind, blend until the rind is finely chopped through the sugar. Add the eggs, lemon juice and flour. Process until smooth.


Pour onto the partly cooked base and put back into the oven for about 30mins. The top should be lightly browned and there should not be any wobble when the tray is jiggled.


Once cooled slice into squares with a heavy oiled knife. If you are serving to guests you could sprinkle with some icing sugar just before you put it on the plate.


Dont you think the yellowness just screams spring!


Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Daring Bakers...Baked Alaska


I finally got around to completing my Daring bakers challenge. This month the Daring Bakers challenge was hosted by Elissa of 17 and Baking. For the first time, The Daring Bakers have partnered with Sugar High Fridays for a co-event and Elissa was the gracious hostess of both. Using the theme of beurre noisette, or browned butter, Elissa chose to challenge the Daring Bakers to make a pound cake to be used in either a Baked Alaska or in Ice Cream Petite Fours. The sources of Elissa's chellenge were Gourmet magazine and David Lebovitz's The Perfect Scoop.


I chose to go with the Baked Alaska, mainly because the idea has always intrigued me. Again the recipe was quite laborious with three components to put together (cake, ice cream and meringue). I have never eaten pound cake and think it must be an American cake as I remember it being mentioned on Grey Anatomy once (both entertaining and educational). The process of browning the butter was quite interesting and not something I had ever done before, I think it contributed a wonderful flavour to the cake, and will do it again.


Overall I didn't think too much of the dessert, the meringue was really soft and fluffy, which is not my favourite thing, I find things that are airy in texture make me feel a bit gross when they are in my mouth. The pound cake was quite dry, which I think was caused by sitting in the freezer allowing the meringue to set and then blasting it in the hot oven to brown it off.


I would recommend giving the pound cake a whirl, it was dense and quite rich with a lovely flavour from the browned butter. It would make a good birthday cake if you felt like a change from a plain sponge cake.


POUND CAKE

275g Unsweetened BUTTER

2 cups cake FLOUR (never heard of, put 2 tbspn of cornflour into your measuring cup and make up to a standard cup with plain flour)

1 tsp BAKING POWDER

1/2 tsp SALT

1/2 cup lightly packed BROWN SUGAR

1/3 cup granulated SUGAR

4 large EGGS

1/2 tspn VANILLA EXTRACT


Preheat the oven to 160C, place a tray in the centre of the oven and prepare a 25cm x 25cm baking tray with some baking paper.


Put the butter into a saucepan and heat slowly. On a medium heat gently brown the butter, it will smell delicious and nutty. Watch it like a HAWK it will burn easily. Once ready allow to cool, transfer to a shallow bowl and pop in the freezer so the butter congeals, but doesn't go completely hard (about 15mins).


Sieve together the flour, baking power and salt.


Beat the butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs one at a time. Mix in vanilla.


Combine mixtures gently until just mixed. Scrape into prepared baking tray.


Cook at 160C for about 25 minutes or until lightly brown on top and a skewer comes out clean.


Allow to cool for 10 minutes in the tray and turn out on a rack.


You could cut this in half and fill with jam and cream, or ice with a really rich ganache. The cake is quite plain, but a perfect base to impress.

Friday, August 20, 2010

The best muesli slice...ever



I cannot believe it has been nearly 2 weeks since my last blog....shocking! It has been a very busy couple of weeks, The Boss' Great Grandmother came to stay and we went on a road trip up north to Keri Keri, I love Northland so it was a real treat. I suspect Great Grandma left with a bleeding tongue due to the number of times she had to bite it, as she witnessed my attempts of 'modern' parenting. The wonderful thing about my Grandmother is she makes her own pastry and bread, she could not hide her disappointment when she caught site of my frozen bought pastry and bags of bread. So while she stayed she made us a wonderful bacon and egg pie, which nearly had me converted to making my own, yet to be truly converted though. She also made us a Yorkshire pudding, which I am going to have a go at asap, so watch this space. Yorkshire pudding is not for those threatened by heart disease, but is a delicious treat with a slow roasted piece of beef and gravy.


Onto this super slice I made for Mr Hoopers lunch box this week. You need a few ingredients, but things are flexible with this recipe so feel free to mix things up a bit. You may recall a previous blog for a muesli slice, well this one has similar ingredients, but is naughtier, and doesn't need cooking, fabo!

THE BEST MUESLI SLICE...EVER

125g crushed BISCUITS such as malt, arrowroot or wine (not too fine, a chunky rubble)
25g shredded COCONUT
100g SULTANAS
25g PUMPKIN SEEDS
50g CHOCOLATE CHIPS
100g chopped HAZELNUTS or WALNUTS
125g ROLLED OATS, toasted (about 7-10mins spread on a tray in a hot oven)
50g chopped DATES
100g chopped DRIED APRICOTS
100g melted BUTTER
200g SWEETENED CONDENSED MILK

ICING
150g CREAM CHEESE
about 100g ICING SUGAR
zest and juice of half a LEMON

Mix all the dry ingredients in a bowl. Pour in the melted butter and condensed milk, mix very well. Line a 25cm x 30cm (approx) tray with some baking paper. Press the mixture into the tray and refrigerate until set, about 1 hour.

You can either mix the icing ingredients by hand with a vigorous stir, or throw everything into a food processor. Spread icing on the slice and decorate with a sprinkling of nuts or pumpkin seeds if you so desire.

Some variations you could try out...
-replace the rolled oats with you favourite muesli
-replace the choc chips with currants, dried cranberries, or crystallised ginger
-use macadamia or pecan nuts

I hope you enjoy this slice, it is so easy and a fabulous sweet treat to fill the 3pm void, and quite frankly who can resist cream cheese icing!

I am planning a baby shower at the moment, so if you have any hot tips on throwing the best shower ever, please share them.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Date Snowballs

Today began poorly. As Mr Hooper walked out the door for work, I clung desperately to his leg, begging him to pull a sicky. He refused. As the door shut behind him, I rocked gently back and forth in the corner of our living room, watching my 6.5 month old son move around the room leaving behind him a trail of destruction. The Boss has transformed into The Beast, he is crawling and pulling himself up, so I am now on strict concussion watch, his head is massive so gravity enjoys dragging it towards the floor at a tremendous rate.



To maintain moderate sanity I imprisoned him in his high chair, with the wonderful satisfaction that ultimately I have the upper hand, well at least for now, no doubt I will receive years of pay back when he is twice me size and has a drivers licence. So as The Beast writhed with frustration in his new limited dwelling, I set about making these super delicious treats. My Mum makes them often and calls them Date Slugs, I have changed the name to glam them up a bit!


DATE SNOWBALLS
4oz BUTTER
1 loosely packed cup of soft BROWN SUGAR
1 1/2 cups DATES chopped finely
1 beaten EGG
1 tspn VANILLA ESSENCE
2 1/2 cups of RICE BUBBLES, aka rice crispies.
about 1/2 a cup of shredded COCONUT for rolling
Melt butter in a pot, and add the sugar, dates, egg and vanilla. Bring to the boil. Reduce heat and stir for 5 minutes. Allow to cool until warm, don't let it go cold. Stir in the rice bubbles. Make into small balls with damp hands and then roll in the coconut.

Since this mornings 'episode' I have eaten 5 of these date snowballs and am feeling remarkably better, perhaps they are also medicinal.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Daring Baker - Swiss Swirl ice cream cake


The car got broken into last night. It is not a flash car, in fact it is a pretty average car,full of Mr Hoopers crap, so I'm not too sure what they were hoping to achieve. They did try to steal the petrol, but the tank was empty, so my first suspicion is BP have decided instead of drilling for oil, they are just going to go on a global syphoning campaign. Good luck mighty BP, we are always running on empty anyway.

So onto my first Daring Bakers Challenge.

The July 2010 Daring Bakers challenge was hosted by Sunita of Sunita's world-life and food. Sunita challenged everyone to make an ice-cream filled Swiss roll that's then used to make a bombe with hot fudge. Her recipe is based on an ice cream cake recipe from Taste of Home.


The recipe required loads of different components, which is the kind of recipe I tend to shy away from. I prefer to compile in one go, where as this recipe took about 3 days to complete, mainly due to freezing time. It began with making a Swiss Roll, which I found really hard, it cracked all over the place, but due to time I managed to sort of squish it all together. Then there were two batches of ice cream to be made and a hot fudge sauce, this was all layered together to create an ice cream cake sheltered with a layer of swiss roll slices. I moaned the whole way through this recipe, however Mr Hooper hovered like a starving rabid dog, licking everything in sight. As it turned out, the dessert was really yummy, kind of like ice cream with brownie bits, which is my kind of pudding.

The recipe is very long and detailed so if you are interested in giving it a go, check out at the Daring Bakers Website, and if that doesn't work let me know and I will post the recipe details.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Blueberry and White Chocolate Muffins

The last few weeks have been all about low fat food, bran and lentils......yawn. Today I have decided to turn an old page and return to my love of butter, chocolate and sugar. Before I go on to this delicious recipe, I need to ask...if you are reading this, I need help. Last night I cooked pork chops, and they were a disaster. I have two pork chops left in the freezer, and they will remain there until I discover a recipe that will actually produce a delicious, tender, juicy chop. Mine were dry and chewy, just terrible, please let me know if you have any super tips.

Onto less piggy issues, the muffins.....yum! I made these this morning while The Boss was snoozing, they took me about 10 minutes to put together, and about 25 minutes to cook. I found the recipe on another blog Blisstree. The recipe included a streusel topping which I didn't do, I wanted to be quick before the beast arose.

BLUEBERRY AND WHITE CHOCOLATE MUFFINS

makes 12 good sized muffins

2 cups FLOUR
2 1/2 tspn BAKING POWDER
1/2 cup GRANULAR SUGAR
1/4 cup BROWN SUGAR, packed
1/4 tsp SALT
1 large EGG, beaten (I used 2 small eggs)
1/4 cup melted BUTTER
1 tspn VANILLA extract
1/2 tspn LEMON zest
1 cup WHITE CHOCOLATE, either use chips or buttons chopped up
2 cups BLUEBERRIES, should have been fresh, but the frozen ones I used worked great.

Set oven temp to 190C (375F)

Sieve together the flour and baking powder and stir in the sugars and salt.

Mix together the beaten egg, melted butter, milk, vanilla and lemon zest.

Fold the wet and dry ingredients together, adding the blueberries and white chocolate while you mix.

Spoon into the muffin tray. I used cupcake cases, but if you don't have them make sure you grease and flour the tray well, the chocolate and berries can get a bit sticky. Instead of the struesel I popped a white chocolate button on top before they went in the oven. They are done when a skewer comes out clean.

Leave to cool and then turn out of the tray, you might need to get a knife to help release them from the tray.

These are such a great way to start the week, and so fast and easy, enjoy!


Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Fat Free Apricot Bran Loaf

I stewed beetroot last night...it was weird. I am not sure what compelled me to give it a go, but before I knew it I was peeling and dicing. Mr Hooper detests beetroot, and picks it out at every given opportunity. There is something about this that inspires me to cook with beetroot as often as possible, I am determined to try and convert Mr Hooper into a lover of all things vegetable related. Unfortunately what started out as a delicious beef stew, turned a sharp corner into yuckville! Even after 4 hours in the oven, the beetroot still held onto its crunchy texture which I didn't really like and it went a strange pale pink, which wasn't very pleasant either. I tried stirring some sour cream into the stew in an effort to improve things, which helped to provide a moderate improvement. So the morale of that story.......don't stew beetroot!
So on to more interesting things, a recipe that will please both your taste buds and your bowels (sorry that's really gross, but it is true!). This recipe contains All Bran which is high in fibre, and also provides a good source of B vitamins, Folate and Iron. There is no fat, and it still tastes pretty good....can you imagine such a thing!!

APRICOT BRAN LOAF (make a day in advance as there is soaking required, don't be put off as it is still super dupa easy)

1 cup packed ALL BRAN (care of Kellogg's)
1 cup firmly packed BROWN SUGAR
1 tbspn HONEY
1 cup FLOUR
1 tspn BAKING POWDER
200g DRIED APRICOTS, chopped
1 cup MILK
pinch of SALT

Oven temp 180C.

Mix thoroughly together the All Bran, brown sugar, honey, apricots, milk and salt. Cover and leave to sit for several hours or overnight. I left it on the bench because it is damn cold here at the moment, but best it goes in the fridge for really warm climates.

Stir in the flour and baking powder. Stir well.

I used three mini-loaf tins. But you could also use a small circular cake tin or loaf tin. Be careful when using a loaf tin as this can take a while to cook in the middle, so you can get a bit of burning on the top.

Grease the tin well, and shake a little flours all over, or use baking paper.

A full sized loaf will take about 1 hour. My little tins took about 35-40 minutes. So depending on what tin you use, you will need to keep an eye for the first time you make it.

I like slices of this loaf served warm with low fat margarine (well to be honest I like it with butter, but as I have already mentioned, I jiggle). It is dense and chewy and helps to fight those chocolate urges come 3pm!

Monday, July 19, 2010

Blue Cheese and Mushroom Tart

Its Monday morning, Mr Hooper is back at school, The Boss is in bed, and I am at a loose end. I have tried distracting myself with housekeeping duties, but I am not feeling it. I have pureed some food for The Boss, which I have to say is rather tasty. A delicious combo of broccoli, cauliflower and sweet potato all cooked in a yummy vege stock I made on the weekend. I am tempted to put the whole family on the 'puree' diet, I love that there is no chewing required, and the tasty goodness just slides down your throat. I feel quite militant as I wield my electric hand mixer as if it is some kind of weapon, not a scrap of broccoli floret remains intact! I have also spent some time 'working out' this morning, while I huff and puff my way through squats, kick-thrusts and lunges I can still feel the central area of my torso jiggling...will the jiggling ever cease!

Anyway onto what we had for dinner last night, it was delish! I had a couple of lonely looking big mushrooms in the vege draw, and decided to try out a pastry tart. Teamed with some caramelised onions, this was just a perfect Sunday supper.

BLUE CHEESE AND MUSHROOM TART with caramelised onions (serves 2)

CARAMELISED ONIONS
1 large ONION sliced
1 tbspn BUTTER
2 tbspn SUGAR (I used white but I think brown sugar would improve the flavour)
a generous splash of BALSAMIC VINEGAR
SALT and PEPPER to season
a little water if too thick

Melt butter in a small frying pan, add onions and fry gently for about 5 minutes. Sprinkle in the sugar and stir until onions are well covered. Add the splash of Balsamic Vinegar and stir. Lower the heat right down and cook very gently until the onions are well cooked and sticky, allow about 20 minutes. Season. Add a little water if too sticky.

THE TART

1 sheet of ready rolled PUFF PASTRY (I used one block from a twin pack, and rolled out to the same thickness as a ready rolled sheet, about 35cm x 25cm, give or take)
2 big brown MUSHROOMS sliced thinly
a good handful of dry SPINACH leaves
the CARAMELISED ONIONS
30g-40g BLUE CHEESE




Using a blunt knife mark a border around the pastry, not cutting all the way through. The border should be about 3cm from the edge of the pastry. Smear the onions all over the pastry (within the border). Sprinkle the spinach leaves across the top. Layer the mushrooms ontop, so they cover the entire area. Drop nuggets of the cheese randomly across the top. Brush the pastry edge with some milk.


Pop in the oven at about 180C and cook for approx 10minutes. The edges should puff up, and the cheese should be bubbling. The pastry was quite soft on the bottom, but it didn't bother me, so keep that in mind if soft pastry offends you!



We had squares of this with some diced ripe tomatoes and a few slices of spicy sausage. The sweetness of the onions was just perfect with the strong flavour of the cheese, yum! I think these will make an appearance next time I need a super quick entree, they would be great made individually.


Thursday, July 15, 2010

Daring Cooks....Nut Butters

The July Daring Cook's Challenge was hosted by Margie of More Please and Natashya of Living in the Kitchen with Puppies. They chose to challenge Daring Cooks to make their own nut butter from scratch, and use the nut butter in a recipe. Their sources include Better with Nut Butter by Cooking Light Magazine, Asian Noodles by Nina Simonds and Food Network online.

I am really excited at the prospect of being a member of The Daring Cooks, this is my first crack at it, and I thought it all went very well.

The challenge was to make nut butters. I have made lots of asian style sauces using peanut butter, so I was pleased to see the challenge recipe was to make your own nut butters. I chose a recipe that required cashew butter, and the recipe goes a little bit like this....

ASIAN NOODLE SALAD WITH CASHEW DRESSING (Serves 3-4)
CASHEW BUTTER
1 cup unsalted CASHEW nuts, makes about 1/2 a cup of butter (I used my mortor and pestle as I halved the recipe, and it worked fine, you just need to put in some time and muscles grinding)

CASHEW DRESSING
1cm slice of GINGER, chopped
8 cloves of GARLIC, chopped
1/2 cup CASHEW BUTTER
1/4 cup SOY SAUCE
3 tbspn SUGAR
3 tbspn VINEGAR (I used Rice Wine Vinegar)
3 tbspn SESAME OIL
1/4 cup WATER
Hot Sauce to taste (I added half a red chilli, seeds and all)


NOODLE SALAD
225g thin RICE NOODLES
3 CHICKEN breasts, grilled and sliced
1 RED CAPSICUM, sliced thinly
1 CARROT cut into thin match sticks
4 shredded SPRING ONIONS
1/4 cup chopped CORIANDER leaves
some CASHEWS for garnishing
LIME wedge to serve

You can add any vegetables you like in an asian salad, and also use other meats such as prawns or seared beef.

The dressing was quite thick, so I would add some more water and some lime juice next time. If I didn't know, I would have thought I was eating a peanut sauce, so if you want to spend less, I would just make this with peanuts in the future. Also, Mr Hooper and I love garlic, but we were tasting it for days after this meal, so I would cut back to 5 or 6 cloves.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Fish Chowder in 30 minutes


I am on a diet. Well I am kind of on a diet. Basically I am eliminating excess in the hope I may shed the wobbly bit that jiggles away roughly where my waist once was. I am easing into things by initially removing daily pudding from the menu. Mr Hooper is sad, but with constant reassurance that he 'will be ok' he seems to be coping, we have at least survived day 1 of operation diet.

With my diet in mind I realised I need to increase the amount of fish we eat. I have never been very creative with fish, when ever I buy it I think about doing something fancy, and always turn back to breadcrumbs, cooked in a bit of butter with a wedge of lemon. I constantly return to this method because it is yummy, and suits any kind of fish which is handy for those on a budget. Fish is a hugely important ingredient in our diet, it provides a fabulous source of Omega 3, oily fish more so, but white fish too can increase your intake. Because I am currently taking care of The Boss's nutritional needs I have become very aware of my own dietary needs, and Omega 3 is something I think I need to eat more of. It is meant to improve visual development as well as language, comprehension and cognitive function....who would have thought!

I have never made Chowder before, but I thought this recipe looked so simple that I would give it a go. It only took about 30 minutes, so whats not to love.

Fish Chowder adapted from Ruth Pretty's Favourite Recipes

1 tbspn BUTTER
3 rashers rindless BACON (diced)
1 large ONION (diced)
1 BAY LEAF
2tbspn FLOUR
1 large or 2 small POTATOES (peeled and diced)
2 stalks CELERY (finely diced)
1 tsp WHITE PEPPER
2 1/2 cups WATER
1/2 cup of MILK
1/2 cup of CREAM
300g firm flesh white FISH diced (I used Tarakihi and it worked well, you could also use Groper or Cod)

1/4 cup flat leaf PARSLEY (chopped)

1 tspn SALT


Melt butter over a medium heat. Add the bacon, onion and bay leaf, cook until the onion is soft, stirring occasionally.


Add the flour and combine well, stirring for a couple of minutes.


Add the potatoes and celery, stir and coat them with the onion mixture. Keep stirring to prevent sticking on the bottom of the pan.


Add the water and pepper, cover and simmer until the potatoes are cooked but still holding their shape. This can all be done in advance, you can set the pot aside until your ready to finish the chowder.


Pour the milk and cream into the saucepan and stir until hot, but not boiling. Don't allow the chowder to boil, you need to watch it quite carefully from this point. Add the fish and parsley, stirring frequently, heat the chowder until just before boiling, until the fish is cooked. Depending on how big your fish chunks are, this should only take a matter of minutes.


Add the salt to taste and it is ready to serve. We had ours with delicious buttered toast, which I highly recommend.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Roasted Mushrooms and Feta

Today is going to be quick recipe, and one that we have eaten two times already this week, because I LOVE it so much. There's not really much of a recipe, the key ingredients are big brown flat mushrooms and feta cheese, any additional ingredients are a bonus, and can be added in if you happen to have them.

So you want to pop your big mushrooms on a baking tray, I normally do one large one per person or a couple each if the mushrooms are smaller. At this stage you can smear the gills of the mushroom with some pesto, crushed garlic or seasoned oil. Then crumble chunks of the feta so the gill area of the mushrooms is filled up. Then they are ready to roast. Depending on the size of mushroom they take about 10 minutes at about 180C. I like my mushrooms to be quite meaty, so don't allow them to get too soft. Liquid will bubble up, I just tip that off before serving. The feta holds its shape, but goes wonderfully creamy.


We eat these mushrooms with anything and everything, this week we had them with some crumbed lamb cutlets which was just delicious. They work great with barbequed meat, roast meat....any kind of meat. They are also fab for a quick lunch with some thick buttered toast.


These mushrooms are rich in flavour, and would be great if your serving a vegetarian, they are so quick to make, and aren't too bad on the fat scale either.


I am going to be back to normal next week, so expect an exciting recipe from the random selection, I am hoping it won't be anything to do with pastry!


Have a fab Friday!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Perfect Pikelets


The Boss has lost his roomy, Grand Mama left this morning for the sunny Hawkes Bay, so I now sadly have to return to the reality that washing does not do it self. But all is not lost, as it just so happens to be the school holidays, so we have Mr Hooper home for two whole weeks, how fabulous! Since having a baby I have a new hobby, it involves drinking cups of coffee and eating multiple offerings that are dense in butter and sugar...I am referring to the exclusive world of mothers groups, I LOVE it. We get together once a week to talk babies and all things in between. A few months ago I could not have imagined ever entertaining the thought of sitting around for hours of baby talk, but I now consider it a form of therapy. My coffee group was established after we all went to the same antenatal class. As strangers we awkwardly examined graphic footage of labour, and found our favourite 'birthing position' together, it did not take long for the barriers to break down and for friendship to evolve. Nothing like watching a 'natural' birth filmed in 1982, to bring people together.


I like to take along a treat every week, and last week I took some perfect little pikelets. This is another NZ classic, and again I began with the Edmonds cook book. But by accident I have modified the recipe, with great results. Pikelets, as opposed to pancakes are sweeter and have a denser texture. Cooked in melted butter, these are just splendid served with some jam and cream. As our wee ones get bigger this recipe will be perfect for toddlers to enjoy, spread with a little butter and sprinkled with 100s & 1000s.


PIKELETS (12-20 depending on size)
1 cup of self-raising FLOUR (or plain flour with 1 tspn of baking powder)
1/4 tspn SALT
1 tbspn GOLDEN SYRUP (if you don't have any just add an extra tbspn of sugar)
2 tbspn SUGAR
1 EGG
1 tbspn BUTTER
1/2 cup of MILK mixed with 1 tspn LEMON JUICE (or buttermilk)

extra BUTTER for the pan

TOPPINGS
Whipped Cream, Jam, 100s & 1000s, Butter, fresh berries....etc.
Measure the golden syrup and butter into a saucepan. Warm to soften, and then mix in the sugar, milk and egg. (Using a warm spoon helps with managing golden syrup).


Sprinkle in the flour through a sieve, then mix briefly with a whisk or electric beater.


Using a paper towel smear a frying pan with some butter. Using a dessert spoon drop a dollop off the end of the spoon into the pan, so they are nice and round. I cook about 4 at a time. As soon as you have small bubbles bursting on the surface flip them over. When the centres spring back you know the other side is done. Place on a clean tea towel, and bundle them up while you cook the rest.
They are best served warm, but its not essential. Pop them in a container and warm when you need them, if desired. I served them with some whipped cream and Plum Jam, our very clever Grand Mama had made for us.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Afghan Biscuits

I can't believe its Thursday already, this week is going so fast! Yesterday Grand Mama, The Boss and I squeezed a little culture into our day. We went to the Auckland Museum to check out the free exhibition kai to pie, it was fabulous, so if you are looking to kill half an hour and you happen to live in Auckland, it is worth paying the museum a visit. So with all the reminiscing on New Zealand food I thought it was time to pull out my faithful Edmonds cook book. This is a classic, that has been around since my mother was a girl. If you need to whip up a quick white sauce, make some hokey pokey or throw together a fish pie, its to this cook book I would turn.

I had some cornflakes in the pantry, so without a flinch I turned to the biscuit section in search of my beloved Afghan recipe. Why you may ask does a classic New Zealand cook book have a recipe for Afghan biscuits, unfortunately I have absolutely no idea. Perhaps it is a symbol of how cultured we are...or perhaps not. Either way I hope that it is not offensive to the Afghan people, as it really is a yummy biscuit, so I am sure it was named with complimentary intentions.

AFGHANS
200g BUTTER
1/2 cup SUGAR
1 1/4 cups PLAIN FLOUR
1/4 cup COCOA
2 cups CORNFLAKES

CHOCOLATE ICING
2 cups ICING SUGAR
1/4 tspn BUTTER, melted
approx 2tbsp WATER
1/4 tspn VANILLA ESSENCE

GARNISH
WALNUT halves

Heat oven to 180C and grease a baking tray or cover with grease proof paper.

Cream butter and sugar until pale and fluffy.

Sift flour and Cocoa. Stir into creamed mixture.

Add the cornflakes to the bowl. The recipe suggests folding them in, but I have deemed this impossible. I get my hands in there and gently squeeze the mixture together until the cornflakes are evenly dispersed, trying to avoid reducing them to a fine crumb.

Still using your hands take dessert spoon sized dollops, roll into a ball (of sorts) and pop onto the prepared tray. Press, but don't press too thin, you want them to be quite fat so they don't over cook and go crumbly.

Bake at 180C for about 15 mins, my oven requires staunch observation so I hold vigil in front of the glass and turn the tray at about 7 minutes.

To make the icing, mix the icing sugar, butter and cocoa together, slowly add the water until it reaches a spreadable consistency.

When cold ice with the icing and decorate with a walnut half.

This recipe claims you can also press into a tray and create an Afghan slice. I have found this less successful, the slice comes out slightly stodgy and dry in texture, but it is a bit quicker to prepare.
I hope you enjoy this super quick biscuit, I'd love to hear from anyone who can shed some light on the name.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Chocolate and Pistachio Cream Pie


I am one day behind on my beloved routine. Grand Mama has arrived to stay for the rest of the week, so in honour of her stay I decided to postpone the recipe Mr Hooper selected at random. The cookbook this week is 'pie' by Angela Boggiano. When I worked as a nanny in London a few years ago, I ran a bit of a side project making pies to sell at the fancy pants school my kids went to. I made chicken, fish and cottage pies all organic and low in salt and fat, I managed to sell a few and even got some repeat business, which was a great boost to my ego. Although short lived, I did enjoy the thrill of manufacturing, all be it on a small scale. I will delve further into pies one day soon, and share my recipes that were great for kids.


Anyway, back to the recipe, another dessert, which is getting awfully suspicious, I suspect there is some skulduggery with the 'random' selection process. Chocolate and Pistachio Cream Pie, doesn't it just scream...'I WILL MAKE YOU FAT!' Another pastry adventure, oh dear.


I didn't end up using the pastry recipe in the book, this was because the recipe called for lard, of which I had none (well in the culinary sense). So I turned to my ever trusted Stephanie Alexander 'the cook's companion'.


THE PASTRY (shortcrust)
180g cold unsalted BUTTER(I only had salted)
240g plain FLOUR
zest of one ORANGE
pinch of SALT (I left this out)
1/4 cup WATER
MILK, to glaze


Mix the zest through the flour. I decided to grate the butter, so measured it out and wrapped it in tin foil. To avoid the butter softening the tin foil gives you something to hang onto while you grate. So I grated the butter on top of the flour and using a knife mixed thoroughly until I had very rough bread crumbs. Still using the knife I very slowly mixed in the water, until I had a damp crumbly mixture. I brought it all together briefly with my hands, made into a ball and wrapped with glad wrap. It sat in the fridge for about a day/night until I used it.


THE CREAM FILLING
2 EGGS
150g CASTER SUGAR (plus a little extra for sprinkling)
150ml thick CREAM
150g dark CHOCOLATE, finely chopped
25g PISTACHIO nuts, toasted and roughly chopped

This recipe required a rectangular fluted tart tin (36 x 11cm), but I didn't have one, so I instead used a 24cm diameter circular tart tin. Divide the pastry into about one bigger lump, leaving a smaller lump for the lid. Roll out the big lump and line the tart tin, cover with glad wrap and put in the fridge. Roll out the small lump making sure there is enough to make a lid and wrap in glad wrap and into the fridge.


Heat oven to 180C.


Place the eggs and sugar in a bowl and beat together. At this point things went a bit down hill. I just gave it a whisk, but the Grand Mama informed me afterwards I should have beaten, until thick, something the book could have mentioned. So to the eggs/sugar add the chocolate and pistachio's, pour into the case.


Brush the rim with some milk and position the lid over the top. Press the edges to seal, I rolled the rolling pin over the rim, which worked really well, and is handy for trimming the edges. Make a steam hole in the centre (one swift stab with a knife), glaze with milk and sprinkle with sugar. In the oven for 30-35 minutes.


I had over flow which I suspect was a result of the filling being too runny. But other then the pastry being a bit gooey around the edges, this pie came out pretty good. The pistachio's weren't too much of a feature and it was very rich, a slither was about all you needed, with a dollop of vanilla ice cream or cream fraiche. I think it could also be nice served cold with a strong cup of delicious coffee.


The Grand Mama is busy tidying up my water logged vegetable garden so I had better get out there and lend a hand.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Best of the week....Seared Spring Onion Sauce

Today I tried to put one of my weetbix into the coffee plunger. I am all for experimenting in the kitchen, but I suspect a plunged weetbix would not be very good, and certainly not a suitable replacement for my beloved morning coffee. So it would appear I am tired. Tired I may be, but I did wake up in a celebratory mood, The Boss has stopped waking three times in the night, he is now waking at 4am, which in my new found world, is something to rejoice. I hate to think what I was eating for breakfast when he was waking at 10, 1 and 4!

This week I found a fabulous recipe in my beloved Stephanie Alexander 'the cook's companion'. What a wonderful book, it is literally the A-Z for cooking. This recipe is incredibly simple, and used a method I had never thought of employing.

SEARED SPRING ONION SAUCE
4 SPRING ONIONS, finely chopped (I creep into the green bits, as I like the colour, but its up to you if you prefer using only the white section)
1 tspn FRESH GINGER, finely chopped
1 tspn GARLIC, finely chopped (that's about 2 cloves)
1/4 cup light vegetable OIL (I use rice bran oil and it works just fine)
1/4 cup SOY SAUCE
1 tbspn rice wine of dry sherry (I have neither, but threw in some rice wine vinegar)
1 tspn SESAME OIL

Mix the spring onion, ginger, and garlic in a heat proof bowl.

Heat oil until just smoking hot and pour it over the contents of your bowl. There will be a brilliant sizzle as the oil hits the bowl.

Stir, and add the remaining ingredients. The oil does separate, so have a whisk handy to give it a good mix before drizzling.

We had this sauce drizzled over some poached chicken and steamed asian greens with a bit of rice and it was delicious. Mr Hooper commented that it tasted very 'authentic', which translated, means it tasted like a stir fry from the local Chinese take away. I think that it is a huge compliment to the recipe, as we both love a good stir fry from the local Chinese take away! This could be our takeaway replacement, as its cheaper and MSG free, something I am happy to give up (even if it makes food taste awesome!).

I think this sauce is going to be super versatile, next time I am going to toss it through some egg noodles and serve with grilled prawns...YUM! Let me know how you served the sauce so I can add other combos to my repertoire.

Have a fab Friday!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Lemon and Poppy Seed Drizzle Cake




This week has been moving pretty slow, The Boss is growing teeth, and we all know about it! He has got two jagged beasts creeping through his bottom gum, and at times I think he might be growing two shards of glass...ooww! Apparently if he does any biting I tell him a stern no, but I find this a very curious theory....does a 5 month old really understand, I suspect not.

Gone are the days of my body being a temple (well perhaps a slightly run down temple), instead I have accepted the harsh reality of being a vessel. So to nurse my wounded soul, I have had to bake something deliciously sweet and a little bit sour....

This cake would make for a perfect Friday shout, if your work mates have been behaving themselves, or perhaps invite some friends over to enjoy with a cup of tea, or better yet deliver it to an elderly relative, I think all old people love a good drizzle cake. It is so moist and sticky and delightfully peppered with poppy seeds. Sadly for my waistline I like drizzle cake that is both drizzled and iced. Originally this recipe was an orange and poppy seed cake with glazed slices of orange on it, care of Donna Hay I think. With a few tweaks here and there the cake goes a little bit like this...


CAKE
125g BUTTER, softened
1/2 cup CASTER SUGAR
2 EGGS, room temp
1 tbspn finely grated lemon rind
1 cup SELF-RAISING FLOUR, sifted (or 1 cup plain flour with 1 tspn of baking powder)
2 tsp POPPY SEEDS
1/4 cup MILK

DRIZZLE
100g CASTER SUGAR
100ml LEMON JUICE

ICING
about 2 cups ICING SUGAR
zest and juice of 1 LEMON
a little warm WATER if you need it

You will also need a 5 cup capacity loaf tin.

Preheat oven 160C. Cream butter and sugar with a beater, until pale and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well in between. Add the poppy seeds, lemon rind, milk and flour and beat until just combined. Spoon into a lightly greased loaf tin, lined with baking paper, and into the oven for 50 minutes, it should be golden and a skewer should come out clean. This actually took 50 minutes in my oven, which is very rare. How easy is that, it literally took about 10 minutes, most of which was getting things out of the pantry!

While the cake is cooking, throw the drizzle ingredients into a pot and heat at a medium heat until the sugar is dissolved, set aside and allow to cool a little.

When ready, take the loaf out of the oven, allow to cool for about 5 minutes take out of the tin and put on a serving plate or board. Stab the loaf a few times with a skewer and drizzle over the drizzle. Don't be alarmed if you end up with a pool of drizzle at the bottom of the cake, this is to be expected.

Mix together the icing ingredients, and once the cake is cold, ice.

To make it pretty you could sprinkle over a few ribbons of lemon zest.
Why not spread a little love in the office this week, you may start a trend, everyone benefits from a trend that involves baking for morning tea once a week. Let me know if it works!


Monday, June 21, 2010

Random #3 - Apple and Almond pudding and it's Gluten Free!



This weekend it was one of Delia Smith's books that was to be cracked, she is such an old school English chef, I was delighted at the prospect of something warm and hearty to make as we plunge towards the shortest day. I have a copy of The Delia Collection: Puddings. Its a book that I very rarely refer to, and I'm not sure why, its strange how some cook books you buy, because you HAVE to have them, and yet they end up being sent to the back of the cupboard along with the random collection of cook books produced by your local primary school! I have started using the public library for cook books, I figure the books you are happy to pay on-going late fines for are the books you should probably invest in. When Mr Hooper announced the recipe on Friday night I felt waves of relief, it was a simple recipe that I actually had all the ingredients for. My under arm dangle, was safe to dangle with gay abandon this weekend, and the rolling pin remained safely tucked away.


The recipe is Baked Apple and Almond Pudding. It contains very few ingredients and was really yummy served warm with a drizzle of cream. An added bonus is that the pudding is gluten free. I am a big fan of gluten, in general most meals I cook are laden with gluten based ingredients. Lately lots of my friends have been trying life without gluten to see if it will improve certain ailments, mostly of the aggravated tummy kind. I have been reviewing the gluten free options, and have discovered that it is quite tricky cooking for a completely gluten free diet, so I have something to work on for the next time I have my GF friends over for dinner. If you have any suggestions on good gluten free dinner party meals, please let me know.


My BF is going gluten free, and as she is one of the few readers of this wee blog, I am going to dedicate this recipe to her (sorry Mum I will dedicate one to you soon). The recipe calls for cooking apples, but I used what we had, which I think were Pacific Rose.


450g APPLES, peeled, cored and sliced, make sure you get all the rough bits from the core, as these will never soften no matter how long you cook them.
50g soft BROWN SUGAR
110g ground ALMONDS
110g BUTTER, at room temp
110g golden CASTER SUGAR (I only had the regular kind, and it worked just fine)
2 large EGGS, beaten

You will also need a 20cm oven proof baking dish. Pre heat the oven to 180C.

Place the apples in a saucepan with the brown sugar and about 2tbsn of water. Simmer gently until soft, but not falling apart. This took about 30-40 minutes on a very low heat. Layer them on the bottom of the baking dish.
In a mixing bowl cream the butter and sugar with a beater, until pale and fluffy. Beat in the egg a little at a time, you want to avoid curdling the mixture. When all the egg is in, carefully fold in the ground almonds, the mixture should still be light and airy. Spoon the mixture over the apples and smooth out with the back of a spoon.

The recipe suggested baking for 1 hour. But in my oven at 180C it was ready after about 45 minutes, and probably could have come out a little earlier.

The pudding was very delicious, but if I were to go back and do it again I would double the amount of apples used, I felt it was a little lacking in the fruit department, and I would have also sprinkled in some cinnamon with the apples, or perhaps simmered them with a cinnamon stick for flavour. It was quite sweet so I think it would benefit from being served with some creme fraiche or natural yoghurt.



This would make a great mid week pudding if you are craving something sweet and delicious but not so naughty that you can't go back for seconds.....there is fruit in it after all.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Best of the week, for all you stew lovers...Moroccan Beef Stew with Apricots

This weeks best is a Moroccan beef stew, I am going to say it is the best stew I have ever made, a big call I know, but I was literally licking my plate, which is not something I would usually stoop to for stew, that kind of breakdown is manners is usually reserved for my pudding bowl. I never went to Morocco while I lived in London, but it was on my list of to do's, which sadly never got done. So I shall take my stew and perhaps the latest Sex in the City film, and try not to feel too hard done by. However, I can tell from what I have already seen that I might be over the Sex in the City thing. I spent years clinging to the fabulousness of the show, I loved the promiscuous attitudes of the characters and the amazing clothes. But sometimes great things must come to an end. I thought the first movie was OK, but in my new found limited free time, I don't think I can bring myself to spend it watching over 2 hours of a sequel......perhaps after wine number 2 I might think differently. Not that I am currently allowed wine number 2, even wine number 1 fills me with guilt. The Boss hasn't complained yet, but if he grows up to be raging booze hound I will be prepared to take a small amount of responsibility!





So to the stew (for 2 plus one school lunch), I found and modified a recipe on ifood.tv, I made this the conventional way in the oven, but a slow cooker would do the job as wel. You are going to need...


about 500g diced BEEF, cuts such as chuck, gravy or shin are great, and very economical
1/4 cup FLOUR
3tbs vegetable OIL
1 large ONION, chopped
3-4 cloves GARLIC, chopped
2 large CARROTS, diced
1 can whole or diced TOMATOES
1tsp ground CORIANDER and CUMIN
3/4tsp ground GINGER
1/2tsp TURMERIC
1/2tsp SALT and BLACK PEPPER
1/4tsp CINNAMON
1 1/2 cups of beef or chicken STOCK
2tbs HONEY
2 CINNAMON STICKS
1 cup dried APRICOTS



Heat the oven to 160C. Roll the beef in half the flour and brown in small batches using the vegetable oil. Add more oil as you need it, our pan is of the pretend non-stick variety so I need a bit more oil. Transfer each batch to a heavy oven proof dish and set aside. (Sorry for the distracting carrot photo, this is the first time I have ever grown a carrot that actually looks like a carrot, isn't it beautiful!)


Add the onion, carrot and garlic to the same pan and gently cook until soft, this will take about 5 minutes. Scrap the pan to get all the tasty bits left behind by the meat.


Stir in the coriander, cumin, ginger, turmeric, salt, bp and ground cinnamon, over a medium heat, stir until the spices have become deliciously aromatic, about 30 second to a minute should do it. Add the remaining flour and stir.


Add the tomatoes, liquid stock, honey and cinnamon sticks. Bring to the boil and simmer for 5 minutes. Transfer to the dish and stir to combine with the meat, cover with a lid or foil. Pop in the oven and leave for 2 1/2 hours, or so. I like to give it a stir every now and then. The ideal scenario is meat that will fall apart when pressed with the back of a spoon.


Once cooking time is done stir in the apricots and put back in the oven for about another 30 minutes, or until the fruit is swollen and soft.


I like my stew to be rich and thick, but if you prefer stew of a thinner consistency add some more water when you add in the apricots.









Serve the stew with some buttery couscous and green beans.





I love stew, and find it so economical, let me know your favourite stew, I am always keen to try different recipes.

We are off to another pot luck dinner this weekend, it may seem like this is the only social activity in out lives, and in truth without the occasional pot luck dinner we may never leave the house! Now I must go and decide what to cook, we are watching the All Blacks play so I think a sporting theme may be in order.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Feel Good Muesli Bar....the consequences of too much Pain!

So The Boss and I have just returned from his swimming lesson, it was rudely cut short by an 'incident' in the pool, nothing to do with us, thank god! I refrained from expressing my disgust, as I am guessing this can happen to any parent at any time. Its a bit like when I use to board planes and see children getting on, I am not a religious person, but I truly use to pray that the children would be sitting far far away from me. I am guessing I will be punished for my intolerance, at some point in the future, although I suspect we are a long way off jet setting by air.


Anyway, onto a more savoury topic...food. We managed to devour the bulk of the pastry's, I snuck two into the freezer, a pathetic attempt at self control. As a result of our unrestrained gluttony, I have made some muesli slice. This is not just regular muesli slice, there is so much goodness in this recipe, I don't know where to begin. A friend of mine kindly delivered a mountain of it when I first had The Boss, and she said it was a life saver for those moments when you have never felt so hungry in all your life. Breastfeeding seems to suck every calorie from your body, something I am very grateful for of course. But to avoid turning to a packet of Tim Tams, I found this muesli slice has been fabulous! Mr Hooper even agrees, and gobbles it up with glee (well maybe not glee, lets just say he will eat it).




So you need to get to the supermarket and head straight for the bulk bins as they will have pretty much everything you need, aside from the pantry staples:
125g butter
200g raw sugar
1 egg
125g wholemeal flour
1/2 tspn baking soda
125g rolled oats
30g pumpkin seeds
30g sunflower seeds
30g sesame seeds
30g slivered almonds
25g ground linseed
25 shredded coconut
50g dried apricots
50g raisins

Melt Butter. When cooled add sugar and egg, mix well.

In separate bowl mix all the other ingredients together.
Mix dry ingredients into butter mixture. I get my hands in there to make sure everything is mixed well. It might seem quite dry, but once it is all mixed, and pressed firmly into a 25cm square tin, it should be ready for baking. I use an expandable tin, to make things easier.

Bake at 180C for approx 10-15 minutes, depending on depth of mixture and how chewy you want it.




Turn it out of the tin before it is completely cooled and cut into pieces.








I mix things up with the dried fruit, I have made batches with crystallised ginger instead of raisins, and that was really good.


So with this slice of goodness you are getting all the great things LSA has to offer, such as digestive regularity, B vitamins, Omega 3 and fibre. As well as a great Zinc fix from the pumpkin and sesame seeds, which is essential in a good diet. Most importantly I have been loading up on Zinc as I started loosing hair by the handful when The Boss hit the 3 month mark. So if you are suffering from breastfeeding baldness, then this is the slice for you! I am encouraged by the knowledge the hair loss is not permanent, but right now my hair is a disaster site, thank goodness for elastic bands and headbands.


Make this slice for your friends who have had babies, its a good excuse to pay a visit, or make it for yourself, just because it is yummy and makes you feel so good.



Have a fab wednesday.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Pain au chocolat...with pleasure there comes pain

I am going against my own rules today, and pushing baking day to Wednesday. This is mainly because I spent the bulk of the weekend in the kitchen tyring to perfect the French pastry better known as pain au chocolat. We also need to have a break from baked goods. As it turns out my pastry worked perfectly, and as a result I have to avoid my jeans for the rest of the week, I think I can actually feel my hips growing wider....I keep looking at the baking tin and thinking I should pop them in the freezer, but my will is not strong enough, they are sooooo good.
I declared to Mr Hooper yesterday that I can officially cook anything, his response was that until I can 'perfect his spag bol recipe' (the only thing he can cook), I cannot award myself with such acclaim. There is something to be said about the old adage of opposite attracts, spag bol, is he kidding! Anyway, it is true I cannot officially cook anything, but I am certainly one step closer.


So I began on Friday night, at my third attempt of creating dough (some may say the easy stage!), I finally had something to work with. By Sunday afternoon I was putting the first bundles of joy in the oven. I am unsure how these can be considered a breakfast snack, as I would have had to be working in the middle of the night to present them at breakfast time.


I found my recipe in Leiths Baking Bible very unsatisfactory, so I turned to the net and found this great recipe and step by step guide for croissant. It is much the same pastry base as for pain au chocolat, and with a few tweaks I had created both croissant and pain au chocolat, what delight. As Mr Hooper and I shared the first offering, we were both struck by how much they tasted like the real thing, we were both stunned into silence, and had to try a few more, just to make sure. My only advice is to put them into the oven in small batches, it wasn't until about the third batch that I had my oven at the right temperature to prevent burning. Also I suggest you have the vacuum cleaner handy, I had made such a floury mess I had to vacuum the entire kitchen, including the benches. If you are planning a quiet weekend at home, and have always wanted to try making pain au chocolat, I would highly recommend giving it a crack. However if you have a favourite patisserie, I would suggest letting the professionals do all the hard work!

Here is some photographic evidence.....
I am so proud, I think I better go and have another one, just to make sure it wasn't all a dream.




Saturday, June 12, 2010

Weekend Random Recipe #2....Pains au chocolat

HELP....This weekend my recipe as selected at random is Pains au Chocolat.....WHAT! I am already onto my second attempt at just getting the dough to double in size, so this could be a very long weekend of desperate attempts to perfect french pasty. The recipe is in Leiths Baking Bible, and the book recommends making bread and regular pastry first. I have made bread before but never pastry, but I am choosing to disregard the advice....sometimes experts don't know everything (I hope!).

Wish me luck....

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Best of the week....Corn and Coriander Pancakes

As I draw towards the end of my first official week of blogging, I am feeling quite reflective about the future prospects of busy peas. If anything it will be very handy to have an on line record of all my fav recipes but I hope that it will eventually be a useful source of scrumptiousness for others as well....so I will persist, Rome was not built in a day (corny I know, but as I said I am feeling reflective!).


So to remain true to the 'Rough Guide' Friday is dedicated to a meal that featured as a highlight from the culinary week that was. This week it has to be the corn pancakes we had for dinner on Wednesday night. Now Mr Hooper is a hard man to please (bearing in mind he is content to eat ham and cheese sammies every single day of his life), and when I asked for his feedback he said they were good, but would be better if I took the corn out, which would essentially make them a pancake, which would mean eating pudding for dinner, which would please him very much.

I love pancakes, and have modified a pancake recipe a little to create these delicious savoury treats....


1 cup self raising FLOUR
1 cup BUTTERMILK
2 EGGS
1/4 cup POLENTA
1/2 tspn BAKING SODA
1/2 cup chopped CORIANDER leaves
1 tspn fresh CHILI, deseeded and sliced
pinch of CAYENNE PEPPER
1/4 tspn SALT
1 can whole kernel CORN drained
40g melted BUTTER




With a whisk, mix everything together in a bowl except the melted butter. Just before you start cooking the pancakes, add the butter and whisk until well mixed.

Warm the oven up and have a tray ready to put the pancakes in while you cook them all. Add some butter to a frying pan and melt, don't let the pan get too hot as you will end up with black pancakes. Spoon mixture onto a well buttered frying pan, wait till bubbles appear and then flip. You want them to be a lovely golden colour.

If you don't have polenta in the pantry, just leave it out, I found it gives the pancakes slightly more texture and bite, but they will still be tasty without it.

We ate these with some strips of streaky bacon, cooked until crispy....divine! Along with a salad of baby spinach leaves, tomato and red onion. These would also be fantastic as miniature pancakes served as a nibbly snack before dinner, topped with perhaps a dollop of sour cream.


I can't wait for my random recipe to be selected tonight! Have a fabulous Friday.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Weekend Randomness......Lovely easy caramelle with ricotta, basil and black olives

So the recipe was selected, Lovely easy caramelle with ricotta, basil and black olives, care of Cook with Jamie, by Jamie Oliver. There was no turning back, I had no choice but to roll up my sleeves and get elbow deep in flour......I confess I have made pasta once before, without much success, it was about 3 times too thick and an official disaster. So when Mr Hooper announced the recipe, I was filled with dread. But I was determined to get it right, I got into the Italian Mama zone and started cracking eggs.


I found Jamie Olivers' recipe for pasta very good, and easy to follow, I think its best you go straight to the link for instructions from a pro. They are based on using a machine, and I used my arms, so my one tip is to roll, roll and roll some more, you want to be able to read a newspaper through the sheet, especially for pasta that is to be made into a parcel. I broke the dough into small lumps, as I was using my large wooden chopping board, so was limited on space. I also found this blog on Ciao Chow Linda really useful and very detailed.


The filling was delicious, and really easy to make.

To make 4-6 serves you will need...

250g RICOTTA (the recipe calls for buffalo, but my supermarket didn't have this)
a large bunch of BASIL, leaves picked
1/4 of a NUTMEG, grated (1/4 tsp of nutmeg powder would suffice or to taste)
a small handful of BLACK OLIVES pitted and chopped (about 10)
2 handfuls of PARMESAN CHEESE, grated
SALT and BLACK PEPPER to taste
extra virgin OLIVE OIL

Finely chop the basil leaves, reserving the small delicate leaves for garnishing. Put half this chopped basil into a bowl with the ricotta, nutmeg, olives and half the Parmesan. Season to taste and add a splash of evoo (I have been watching way too much Rachel Ray!), and the filling is done.

Now you are ready to fill your parcels. Cut the pasta into 10cm x 6cm rectangles. Place a teaspoon of filling in the middle and brush the edges lightly with water. Roll up and pinch hard at each end to secure. Keep on a flour-dusted tray in the fridge until you need them. Cook as fresh as possible. We guessed that Caramelle means it looks like a lolly in a wrapper, and it does...Italian Candy apparently.















So now its time for the sauce. You will need...

2 knobs of BUTTER
OLIVE OIL
2 cloves of GARLIC, peeled and finely sliced
400g of the ripest TOMATOES, halved, deseeded and roughly chopped
BALSAMIC VINEGAR
the rest of the chopped BASIL


Gently heat the butter with a splash of olive oil in a saucepan. When the butter gets foamy, add the garlic and the remaining chopped basil, wait a minute and then throw in the tomatoes. Bring them to the brink of boiling and then turn down to a gently simmer for 5 minutes, until the tomatoes have softened. Taste and season, add a dash of balsamic vinegar. The sauce is good to go, it will smell so splendid, nobody will be able to resist salivating in anticipation.


Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil, add the caramelle gently, cook for 2-3 minutes. They should all be floating. Scoop them out carefully with a slotted spoon, I was too scared to use a colander for fear of dismantling my wonderful little packages. Put the pasta into the sauce and gently toss about, throw in the last handful of parmesan cheese, give it one more gentle shake and pop on the lid. By the time you have filled up the wine glasses and grabbed some plates the meal is ready to serve. Sprinkle with the little basil leaves for delicious perfection.



I don't have a photo of the finished product, my photos of food once the sun has gone down, look horrendous, so I don't want to put you off. But take me word for it, this was delicious.


If you have a spare afternoon, I think everyone should have a crack at pasta, it is not as hard as you think its going to be, and my under arm dangle is way less dangley because of it.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Weekend Random Recipe #1 (and a speedy Ginger Loaf)

Well the weekend recipe has been selected, Mr Hooper chose to start with a random selection from Jamie Olivers' cookbook Cook withJamie. And the recipe chosen is called 'Lovely easy caramelle with ricotta, basil and black olives'. It sounds delicious, but eek its pasta! I am going to have to start preparing my arm muscles for tomorrows rolling marathon....wish me luck.

If you have any hot tips on pasta making, please share them with me, I need all the help I can get!

I have just whipped up a quick snack from another food blogger, Sunday Hotpants, a delicious Ginger Loaf that took literally 10 minutes to throw together, perfect for this miserable Saturday afternoon in Auckland. Fresh from the oven the outside is a glorious golden colour and has a slightly chewy crust. I confess, I also layered on some butter...so good, go through the link for the recipe.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Baking Day....Date, Chocolate & Coconut Biscuits

So its Monday, which means I need to bake something for the baking tin. I confess I make Mr Hooper's lunch every day before he trudges off to school, its either that or a mince and cheese pie. He is easy to please, his sandwhiches generally consist of cheese, cheese and ham or egg. But I am committed to ensuring he has a sweet treat after the rather average sammies.


These biscuits are a recipe I have adapted from a Nigella Lawson cookbook, Feast. They originally had dried cranberries and white chocolate, but I thought they fell a bit flat, so have modified the ingredients slightly.

If the biscuits last, they get better with a day or two behind them. By day 4 they are deliciously chewy.



So to begin....you will need


140g flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
75g rolled oats
125g butter
75g brown sugar
100g caster sugar
1 egg
1/2 tsp vanilla extract or essence
75g dates, chopped
50g shredded coconut
140g dark chocolate chopped up, as chunky as you enjoy in a cookie.

Preheat the oven to 180C. Measure the flour, baking powder, salt and rolled oats into a bowl.


Put the butter and sugars into another bowl and beat until creamy.


Beat in the egg and vanilla.


Continue beating and add in the dry ingredients combined above.


Fold in the dates, coconut and chocolate.


Put the dough in the fridge for 15 minutes.


Roll tablespoons of mixture into balls, put them on a baking tay lined with baking paper and squish balls with a fork. I needed to do two batches as I only have one tray. I also do a quick tray rotation half way through the cooking time.


Cook for 15 minutes, when ready the biscuits will be tinged pale gold, but they will be too soft to lift immediately off the tay, so give them 5 minutes to harden before transferring to cooling rack.







The nutritional info, per 100g : Energy 1842kj, Protein 5g, Fat 20g (Sat Fat 12g), Carb 55g (Sugar 35g), Sodium 142mg. A little bit naughty, but worth every chewy mouthfull.

Some titbits of info


The Books
So one of the reasons for starting this blog is to get me cracking the cookbooks. Here is the stack, and it is always growing. So my faithful companion Mr Hooper, is going to keep me honest and will be the official random book/page selector. So stay tuned for the first challenge.







The Kitchen
This is my kitchen. Its narrow, awkward and yes that is forest green. We rent so don't judge me for the colour scheme. And thats right, no dishwasher. For all its limitations, this kitchen serves me well, and the food comes out edible.






The Boss, Charlie.