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Thursday, February 7, 2013

New Blog!

Due to looking after my bub instead of cooking all day everyday, I have started a new blog which combines cooking, crafting and a bit of everything else too! 



Come and follow me there!

xx

Friday, May 18, 2012

Corn Fritters

I've noticed that Corn Fritters have become a fancy brunch dish of choice over the past few years, whereas growing up, they were on the side of garlic crumbed chicken with greens (which was delicious in a very different way). 

But, I decided that I would make some brunch-style fritters for dinner one night, and they were indeed somewhat delicious! 

The corn fritters were made with sweet corn kernels, flour, eggs, milk, fresh coriander and salt & pepper. I roasted some tomatoes, passata and basil together to create a rustic coulis.  I also cooked some bacon and served with rocket and creme fraiche! 

Its a great meal because you can really pair anything with corn fritters, which makes them very versatile but yet remains a simple base for a meal. 

Yum yum. 


Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Joyful Honey Joys

I have moved this recipe over to meg-made

Wonderful things await you there!!

Meg xx

Friday, April 20, 2012

PB&J Cookies

My cousin was visiting London this week from Finland and I sewed a few little goodies for his adorable kids, and wanted to send him home with something for his Texan wife Andrea! Andrea has commented a few times on different recipes I've blogged about, saying that she doesn't think she'd like some of them as they sound too sweet. So, I needed to make something that would survive a day in a suitcase, and that wasn't too sweet.

I opened my cupboards and fridge for inspiration and looked no further than the jar of peanut butter! Did I mention she's Texan! DONE! 

I've always heard about Peanut Butter and Jelly from sitcoms growing up, but didn't think anyone actually ever ate them, until our American friends educated us differently last year. As an Australian, it took learning that jelly wasn't actually what we know to be jelly, but more a jam, to start the process of understanding how this could possibly taste any good on a sandwich! I was picturing a great big wobbly mess of jelly lumped on bread smeared with peanut butter.... and whilst the real thing isn't all that different, it certainly is better than I expected! 

So, enter the PB&J cookie (I'm even giving you the word cookie instead of biscuit, gotta make it authentic!). I thought about my good old jam drops and wondered whether adding peanut butter to the biscuit dough would be a good idea or not... but got my answer half way through baking....how good does this batter look?!?! It looked like spun gold! 


I can't say that this recipe will work everytime, as I made it up today and have thus only cooked it the one time, but a little instinct goes a long way, so if it needs more PB or J, go with it!

Ingredients
100g butter
100g peanut butter (crunchy adds a really good texture and, well, crunch)
1 cup caster sugar
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 and 3/4 cup of plain flour
Jam/Jelly of your choice - I used strawberry as "grape jelly" wasn't in my fridge!!!! 

Method:

1. Cream together butter and sugar with electric beaters. It will be a little stiff until you add the peanut butter. 

2. Add the peanut butter and continue to beat until the mixture looks like the spun gold as above!

3. Add the egg and combine well. 

4. Combine the flour and baking powder and gently fold into the mix. 

5. Roll into small balls and make an indent in the top of each one, ready for jam! 

6. Fill each cookie with 1/2 a teaspoon (approx) of jam

7. Bake in a moderate oven for about 15 minutes or until golden brown.


I'll be interested to hear what Andrea thinks of them, and may find a few Yanks to test them out over the weekend too...if any will oblige me that is....

Monday, April 9, 2012

Easter Fudge!

For the past 10 years Pete and I have made fudge each Easter, as I can't eat chocolate and so its been our way of making Easter still fun and sugar-filled! We started our tradition in Stanthorpe (Pete's home) and have developed quite a liking to become skilled fudgiers! (You think of a better name for it!!!). 

This year we got a little bit more creative and made 6 different flavours of fudge, from two different bases! 

From the caramel based batch, we did a salted caramel and maple and walnut. 
From the vanilla batch we made lemon, rose, cinnamon and plain vanilla. 

We werent as impressed with the vanilla batch, as we both prefer crumbly fudge rather than the smooth soft form that this recipe produced. However, the cinnamon worked the most successfully and set better than the other three. 

I have previously blogged about the salted caramel fudge, which is still amazing, but, I LOVED the maple and walnut fudge! The crunchy walnuts added such a great texture to the fudge and the maple flavour complimented the caramel and nuttiness perfectly. 

To make, follow my recipe for the salted caramel, making the following changes:

1. Supplement 2.5 tablespoons of maple syrup instead of golden syrup
2. Omit adding salt
3. Just before pouring the fudge into a tin, mix in chopped walnuts!

Simple additions, well worth trying!!!


I have a few more Easter things to come, was a little creative this year (including a somewhat un-traditional roast turkey for Easter Sunday lunch!). 

Happy Easter!

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Arancini

I first discovered Arancini when we lived in Melbourne, as I had never seen them at all in Brisbane. When our first southern winter rolled in, the idea of risotto filled with a surprise and then deep fried became very appealing! I assumed they would be difficult to make, and what's more, too unhealthy to learn how. 

But, for some reason, I got it in my head the other day that I wanted to try. It was only time-consuming because  of making normal risotto, so if you make that ahead of time and then  create the arancini in the evening, it won't feel quite so laboursome. 

You can fill the risotto balls with anything at all. We used sauteed mushrooms and cheese, but next time, I think I would use a bolognese filling.



Ingredients:
Risotto (just a basic risotto recipe is required, doesn't need to be flavoured. 
Filling of your choice
Eggs
Flour
Breadcrumbs
Oil

Method:

1. Make risotto as per usual, and leave to cool completely before making into balls. 

2. Use a deep spoon and scoop out a small handful of risotto. Have flour on your hands to make it a little less messy...

3. Roll the risotto into a ball and create a deep indent into the middle of the ball.

4. Place a small amount of filling in the middle of the ball, and then re-shape the ball around it so that the filling is in the middle of the ball.

5. Roll the ball into flour and place aside and complete the remainder of the balls.

6. Dip each ball in egg mix (lighten beaten eggs) and roll in breadcrumbs.

7. You can deep fry the arancini balls, but I chose to shallow fry, in a weak attempt to make them a little less unhealthy! In a shallow fry pan, put about a cm of oil, and heat.

8. Put the arancini balls in the oil and turn regularly until all sides are golden brown.

9. Cool slightly on paper towel and eat warm.

We made a little tomato salsa to eat with the arancini, made from reduced tomato, basil and pepper. Delish!




Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Meggs Benedict


I love eggs benedict. 

It is my all time favourite breakfast food. I get so disappointed when the hollandaise is rubbish, but completely blissed out when its done well. I am yet to find a really good benedict in the UK, and so once a month or so I make it for Pete and I on the weekend. I had given up this favourite of mine during the first half of my pregnancy, but find that by making it myself, I can cook the hollandaise to the recommended temperature, and just cook my eggs through instead of having them oozing their gooey goodness all over my plate.

I will make it slowly one weekend and photograph how to make the hollandaise, to which when you've mastered it, you will indeed consider yourself a skilled saucier. I just wanted to photograph this on Sunday because taking an hour or so to have a delicious breakfast at home with my husband was such a treat, for so many reasons.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Mumbo Jumbo Monday - Prosciutto and pancetta and bacon....oh my!

What is the difference?!?

To be honest, we never really used much proscuitto or pancetta in Australia, but having found that we aren't in love with bacon in the UK, substitute them in quite a lot. Without really knowing the difference, I thought (ok, Pete suggested) that I learn what the differences are, and when we should  be using each!

Prosciutto 
Prosciutto is also called parma ham and is Italian. It is a dry-cured ham that is sliced thinly and usually served uncooked (known as prosciutto crudo). It is made from a pig or wild boars' hind leg. The process of making proscuitto can take up to two years, depending on the size of the ham! It is basically cut and hung to dry for a few months, pressed to remove all blood, salted and air dried some more. Proscciutto is used in simple pasta's, as a pizza topping, in baguettes or served as anti pasta.


Pancetta
Pancetta is Italian bacon, made from pork belly. Pancetta is salt cured and seasoned with any variety of the following flavours: nutmeg, fennel, peppercorns, peppers and garlic. Once seasoned, it is rolled up like salami and dry cured, for around three months. It commonly comes in flat strips or cubed. Both need to be cooking and is a direct substitute for bacon. 


Bacon
Bacon is by far the most well used of the three meats, however, Pete did have pancetta and eggs for breakfast on the weekend! Bacon comes from pig, from a variety of cuts. It traditionally comes from the side or back of the pig, but interestingly, in the US, it is almost always cut from the belly, which is the fattier region and gets the name "streaky" bacon. Back bacon is the cut from the loin, just above the ribs. It is more commonly smoked in America, whereas everywhere else it is predominantly only cured. Bacon is prepared by injecting it with curing agents, mostly sodium nitrate. Ham, is cured with a sweeter brine than bacon, which is the main difference between the two. 



Bacon around the world - I thought this was interesting too...

 - In Australia, our bacon is called "middle bacon" which has the streaky section at one end and the lean loin at the other. You can purchase the leaner cut only, called "short cut bacon".
- In Canada, back bacon is the from the boneless eye of the loin, which is what the US calls, "Canadian Bacon".
- In the UK, the back bacon is the most common, however, in my opinion, is a very odd tasting form of bacon, which goes through a very odd smell when you're frying it!!
- America. Oh America. Unsmoked or smoked with corncobs or hickory and then many are flavoured and sweetened. Strip bacon from the belly of the pork is the most popular cut.There is such a phenomenon as Bacon Mania in the US to describe the bacon passion in the States. There's such things as: bacon icecream, bacon infused vodka, baconnaise and the Wendy's Baconnator, which is 6 strips of bacon on a half pound cheeseburger, which sold 25 million in the first 8 weeks!!! Oh and don't forget chocolate dipped bacon strips!!! 
But I wonder, has anyone done salted caramel bacon...??

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Rustic Spag Bol

One thing I like about Spaghetti Bolognese is how many varying ways there are to cook it. We never ate pasta growing up and so it was actually one of my brothers' rugby mates who taught me to cook my first spag bol when I was 16! I've cooked hundreds since that time, and recently discovered my new favourite way of preparing it, a la rustique!! 

I am needing more iron in my diet these days, so in an attempt to up the red meat intake, without eating too much  mince (as it really isn't as good as it ought to be in the UK), I started making my spag bol with real beef steak. 

I like that there are only a few ingredients, and all of which (aside from the canned tomato) are fresh! It was quick to prepare, and even quicker to disappear from our plates (which, given the caveman portion that Pete had, was quite worrying!!). 

Ingredients:
Beef - rump steak or similar 
Onion
Garlic
Tinned tomato 
Fresh basil
Pasta - linguine/spaghetti
Salt and pepper

Method

1. I like to seal the beef first so that it remains super tender and juicy. Cut the meat into strips about the size of your little finger. Put some oil in a pan and toss the beef for about two minutes or until all sides have turned from pink to brown. Take off the heat and set aside in a bowl to rest. 


2. Next you want to prepare the sauce. In a cleaned out pan (wash out the beef juices if using the same one), Add onion and garlic to the pan with a splash of oil and cook on medium for about two minutes, or until the onion has softened.


3. Add the canned tomatoes. I like the whole tomatoes, but the tins of chopped would be fine too!


4. Add freshly chopped basil, however much you like (I added more later too, I like basil!).


5. Add freshly ground salt and pepper. (SHAMELESS photo to show off my new grinders!!! Having informed my cousin Joanne that we've never had salt and pepper mills before, I received these incredible battery-operated grinders for Christmas, which I think it's fair to say, was worth the wait!! Current issue, REDUCING the amount we use them!!!).


6. Add the beef back into the sauce and stir. 


7. Now you want to cook your pasta, as this will take about 5 minutes, which is enough time for your sauce to thicken in the meantime. 

Submerge pasta into boiling water and stir initially to keep the strands separated throughout cooking. My pasta usually takes about 5 minutes, however I must say, I don't think I've ever timed it, so I don't know for sure! It takes however long it takes for it to be not crunchy, but not slushy! 


8. Strain pasta and check that your sauce has thickened nicely. 


9. Pile the bolognese on the pasta, add some freshly grated parmesan cheese and basil if you like, and enjoy!


As a side note.... I thought our portion sizes were quite funny! No need to gently place cutlery beside your meal when there's enough there to hold the fork up itself!! 


(And YES, I eat my pasta with a  fork and knife, and No, I do not need to consult a therapist!).

Monday, February 27, 2012

Mumbo Jumbo Mondays - Blind baking

I tried to demonstrate to Pete the other day what blind baking was, by taking a pie crust and opening the oven door and putting the crust in, all with my eyes shut... he wasn't amused!!!

Blind baking, the official meaning anyway, is when you pre-cook pastry without the filling. It is used in most sweet pies and tarts, so that the pastry cooks all the way through when you put the filling in. 

To blind bake, you put the pastry in the desired pie dish or similar, cover with parchment paper and then weigh it down with any of the following items: raw uncooked rice, baking beans, dried peas or any other pulses. It depends on the size of the pie, but generally you only need to cook it for about 10 - 15 minutes.  The purpose of filling the pastry shell with a weighted object is so that the pastry doesn't rise or form air bubbles, which will make it an undesirable vessel to be filled with!

I am happy to say that I am now the proud owner of baking beans! I have only ever used rice before, but it sure is nice to have the fancy version! I did have a bit of a pregnancy-brain moment when I first used them, and didn't line my pastry with parchment. The result, I had to fish out each bean as the pastry had of course started rising and cooking around all the beans! Not my finest moment. But, live and learn!!!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Just a simple salad!

I received this awesome Joseph Joseph salad bowl for my birthday from Saraidy, and couldn't wait to make something to fill it with!! I love the endless possibilities of filling this bowl with salads, pasta's or even the world's biggest trifle. But also, I think it will look equally as impressive just filled with fresh lemons as a centrepiece! 

I knew there was no way we could make something that just the two of us could finish off, so when we had Pete's Uncles over on the weekend, I knew it could be the bowl's maiden voyage! 

We had chicken, with a salad, just a simple salad.... kind of! 


Here's what I "tossed" in the salad:
- Mixed leaf (as Pete is finally, finally learning that I don't love spinach....)
- Peeled zuccini/courgettes
- Avocado
- Semi dried tomatoes
- Red onion 
- Toasted pecans
- Roasted pumpkin and
- Grilled halloumi (which I marinated in truffle oil! mmmmm)

Thanks Saraidy, only 6 short months till we can make your favourite Thai Beef Salad and eat it together, just the five of us!! 

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Pancakecake

Everyone who knows us, knows we like pancakes! Pete's consistent contribution to the household menu, is making breakfast on the weekends, and pancakes and crepes are his speciality! This always happens on the weekend, however, one special day of the year, the rules are broken! Shrove Tuesday is a great way to be able to justify mid-week pancakes! 

While spending many hours on various modes of transportation to get to Belfast to have our fingerprints taken last week, I had some time to kill, so purchased a copy of Hello! Magazine. Granted, reading the magazine cover to cover didn't pass all that much time, but it did provide some inspiration! There was a recipe in the back section for a cake made of pancakes! It was made with chocolate and banana's (blergh), but I thought the idea was worth trying! 

I made a large one for Pete to take in to work today, and we had a mini one last night to test it out!!!! It was really, really good! Who knew!!!! 


The fillings between the layers on my version of this Pancakecake were: Maple marscapone, and salted butterscotch with chopped hazelnuts! Pretty well my favourite sweet ingredients, all layered between freshly cooked pancakes... delish! 

I'm awaiting some feedback from Pete on how it worked out today, but ours last night was delicious, so I figured it was safe to go ahead and blog about it anyway!!!!! 

Happy pancake day!!!


Monday, February 20, 2012

Mumbo-Jumbo Mondays - Blanching

Another week, another blank blog!

I've been a little under the weather this past week, so haven't been focusing on anything other than trying to keep my little kick-boxer nourished and calm! I am realising that perhaps this is what the next 15 weeks are going to be like (is it that long to go still....) so will make more of an effort to resume regular activiites, including posting!!

But, for now, just another cooking definition!!

Blanch. Now, well, for me, it is my fabulous Kitchenaid in Raspberry Ice, but blanching is also a common cooking term. To blanch something, means to immerse in boiling water, often followed by an ice bath. For fresh vegetables, this helps retain the vibrant colour and crunch and helps to halt the cooking process. It helps to soften the skins as well, making them easier to remove. You can also blanch nuts, which, like vegetables, helps to soften the skin.

I am bored with my own blog. Time to start proper posts again!!!!

Monday, February 13, 2012

Mumbo Jumbo Mondays - Hulling

Oh I've been so neglectful of my blog lately, its actually hard enough to just remember to keep up the mumbo jumbo-ness on  a Monday, let alone post an actual recipe with photos!!! I have still been cooking, just not posting about it! I seem to be rather preoccupied with little internal kicks and everything that goes along with that. I will post some actual food soon....

Until then... Hulling! I had to Hull on the weekend for some cupcakes I was making, and had to look up what it meant, so it was fresh in my mind for today!

It's very basic, but just with a fancy name! Strawberries need hulling, as in, taking the green leafy tops out, along with the hard white core that the less ripe strawbs have. If a strawberry is ripe, often there isn't much of a core to take out and you simply take the tops off.

To a hull a strawberry, you place the knife in the top of the strawberry and kind of drill around the leafy top section, forming a bit of a cone shape. If you find there's still a lot of white, hard bits in the strawberry, scoop a little more out with your knife!

That's all there is to it!

The recipe I used it for was for strawberry daiquiri cupcakes.....will post about it soon.....promise!

Monday, February 6, 2012

Mumbo Jumbo Mondays - Foie Gras

I feel like I am years and eons behind the rest of the world who are all aware of foie gras, but, I’m admitting to my ignorance here all in the name of learning!

Foie gras is not typically found on your average menu at the local pub (depending on where your local pub is of course) but seems to be on every menu at every French restaurant we’ve been to in the past year!

It is made from the liver of a duck or goose that has been specially fattened. This fattening is typically achieved through gavage (force-feeding corn over a period of four to five months), according to French law. Apparently it is very expensive, the texture is smooth as silk, the taste is very rich, and animal rights activists go into fits whenever it is mentioned. This is because the birds are force-fed with more food than they would eat in the wild, and are not permitted to exercise, which, creates the huge and fatty liver, that apparently is delicious!

It really doesn’t sound all that appetising to me, and being pregnant it is off the menu anyway, but, I do like at least knowing what it is, when next I hear about it!

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Advance Australia Fare

Yes, that is the correct spelling of fare!!! 


"When the steaks are burning fiercely and the smoke gets in your eyes, 
Your sausages taste, like fried toothpaste and your mouth is full of flies....
Its a national institution, its Australian through and through, 
So come on mate and grab your plate, lets have a BBQ...."

I wish. 

For Australia Day this year, I missed home. A lot. I bought myself a G'day Australia CD of all the greats: Click go the shears boys, Home among the gumtrees, Aussie BBQ and of course, I still call Australia home. I had Australian flags and scarves hanging around the house and even managed to find fresh wattle at a florist at Liverpool Street Station, so the house even smelled like home to me. (For any non-Aussies, Wattle is the floral emblem of Australia and grows in the wild with a very distinct fragrance, and it is thought to be where our national green and gold colours "stem" from).

Without a BBQ or hope to BBQ in this weather, I decided to make a few little treats that are still very much Australia to us (and, well, to everyone I guess, they weren't too off the wall!!). 

There were meat pies and chips for dinner (If only I had procured some 4-and-twenty crinkly plastic bags to stash them in....


And there were Anzac biscuits.....


And I made biscuits that I grounded macadamia nuts into...


And for the first time I made a version of Lamingtons....


I can't eat chocolate, so haven't had the pleasure of a regular Lammo in many years, but felt inspired by a blog I read, which was about re-inventing the Lamington by playing with the flavours. So, this is a Salted caramel lamington with marscapone cream cheese. 

I used a madeira cake as the sponge, spread marscapone between layers and then dipped each finger into the salted caramel icing. To make the icing, I used some Salted caramel sauce that I bought in Paris. But, you can make a regular butterscotch sauce with cream, butter and brown sugar and add some salt for a similar effect. You then add icing sugar until it is quite a drippy consistency, but that hugs the cake as you coat it in it. 

Once you have coated the cake in the caramel, simply roll in desiccated coconut and leave to set for half an hour. 

And then eat.... Well, guests in my house have to wait an additional minute for me to photograph everything, which can be too much sometimes....


I wish this was a video blog so that I could capture some of the priceless reactions to various treats. I can't quite remember Holly's precise words, but lets just say they were complimentary. 

All food was finished. And for Australia Day, I wouldn't have it any other way. 

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Viennese Shortbread

Or Sables Viennois if you are searching for the recipe in the Laduree Sucre book!


I have been a bit tied up lately in baby-related appointments, so have been neglecting my blog a little! I have some Australia Day food to post, plenty of regular un-themed food and even a reader challenge!!! But, I just wanted to post these first, because, well they were delicious! They lasted us for days and days, until we had the Bells over for dinner.... and then suddenly, they all disappeared before dinner! But, when Pete shows up for dinner after 9, can they be blamed!!!! 

I am not sure whether the shape makes them Viennese, or whether its the addition of salt and an egg white.... or maybe it is just how delicate and romantic they are, perhaps you should be enjoying them whilst the violins play in the background.....

We just enjoyed them. Full stop. 

Ingredients:
190g butter
1 pinch coarse sea salt
75g icing sugar
A few drops of vanilla extract
1 egg white
1 3/4 cups (225g) of plain flour

Method:

1. Cut the butter into small pieces and put with salt in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of gently simmering water. Using a wooden spoon, soften until creamy. Remove from heat and whisk until smooth and pale.

2. Add icing sugar, vanilla and the egg white gradually and mix well after each addition. Whisk for approx 2 minutes after adding the egg white.

3. Sift the flour and add to the mixture, stirring with a wooden spoon until smooth and well combined.

4. Transfer batter to a piping bag fitted with a star tip.


5. Line a baking tray with parchment paper and pipe ribbons of batter in the shape of the letter Z. 

6. Place tray in oven for about 15 minutes, on 150C (300F). 

7. Allow to cool completely and dust with icing sugar to serve.

If nothing else, don't they just look so pretty!!





Monday, January 23, 2012

Introducing: Mumbo-Jumbo Mondays!

I have been watching a lot of cooking shows over the past year, and we've eaten out in some more adventurous restaurants than we used to, and I've discovered that my cooking vocab needs polishing! 

I find myself skimming over words on menu's that I do not understand, and by the time I get home, have  forgotten what it was, so never look it up. I hate not knowing what is on the menu. What if my new favourite dish was overlooked on the menu, simply for fear of not knowing! Sometimes I ask the waiter to explain elements of the menu, but, it seems to pain them here and I feel embarassed for having asked. 

So, Mumbo-jumbo Mondays are going to be a regular post item in which I will explain a cooking term or ingredient that I haven't understood. I want to learn more about food, and thought, perhaps others do too! Some weeks they may be very basic, other weeks hopefully more useful. As pregnancy brain settles in for the long haul, some weeks may be VERY basic (what's the difference between heating and re-heating......), but hopefully I can learn something and perhaps pass this knowledge on, so that you too feel confident reading a menu or knowing exactly what the chefs are talking about on Top Chef! 

To kick off, I have been hearing a lot about Clarified butter of late, have even clarified some myself, but whenever I hear the words, I still instantly go blank! So, let the Mumbo-jumbo Monday's begin!!!

CLARIFIED BUTTER


Clarified butter is milk fat rendered from butter to separate the milk solids and water from the butterfat
It has a higher smoking point than normal butter or oil, so is used when you want to cook something in butter for a long period of time or over a higher heat than normal.

Known as ghee in Indian cooking, and drawn butter in America.

To make clarified butter, you heat unsalted butter in a pan until boiling point when the white foamy bits rise to the top. You spoon these off the top, strain it over gauze-lined strainers and what is left behind is the clarified 
butter.


If you then continue to cook the clarified butter, it will take on a brown colour and a nutty aroma. This is referred to as Brown Butter or beurre noisette. I just realised that I haven't put a post up yet which I cooked straight after Christmas, using Blanche for the first time. The recipe for donut-like-muffins was pure heaven, and used Brown Butter. I will post it soon, but, I warn you, bake it only when there are other people around or you will be tempted to eat the entire batch yourself, and, well, it isn't exactly good for you!!!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Its a......

We had the thrill of my 20 week scan on Monday, which all went really well. There was plenty of things to celebrate on Monday, and lots of excited phone calls to make! 

But, we wanted to be able to surprise our dear friends The Bells, so invited them around for dinner and cake the following night. I have watched many (MANY) youtube videos of couples finding out the gender of the baby via a cake, and thought, well, that looks like fun! Its definitely more popular in the States, but a lot of couples have the doctors write down the gender of the baby, which the couple then send on to bakeries/patisseries and have a cake made in that colour. The cake will then be iced in a non-descript colour, so that when they cut through, they find out what they are having! Our patience levels aren't quite up to waiting for a bakery to do all that, but I loved the idea and thought that I could surprise the Bells the same way! 

Now, for those of you who know and love Holly, you'll know that she doesn't tend to be the biggest fan of surprises. She was over before everyone last night, snooping around for signs of what gender we were having. Was the pink Kitchenaid a sign, or the blue hand soap, or the pink flowers, or blue chocolates! She even checked my hands for traces of food colouring (which, having anticipated all of this, I may have been very careful in my colouring techniques so as to not stain my hands, and may have also planted a few things around the house to try and throw her off-course!). 


After we ate dinner, which, I must say was a yummy New Zealand roast lamb (which I stuffed with pitted dates, ahhh yummy!), we finally got to the cake! After MUCH anticipation, we gave Holly the knife and set her to cut through and reveal what we were having! 

And.......


It's a girl!!

Pete and I are both thrilled and I can't wait to meet her. We feel so incredibly lucky to that she's well and healthy and we are enjoying very much calling the baby a she now!! 

The Bells were incredibly sweet and had brought gifts over for us already, a blue one and a pink one! So after the big cake reveal, we opened the most adorable little girl clothes, which, being our first pink items, made me cry many happy tears! Pete was given a pack of nappies! He can spend the next few months studying hard, but I'm sure by day two he'll have achieved beyond my expectations in that too! A big, big thank you to Holly and Jason for indulging me in the surprise and for the adorable gifts. 

This is the dessert I quickly made for Pete on Monday night... Pavlova swirls with strawberry cream and fresh crushed strawbs on top! I think he's worried we'll never eat non-pink food again!


A healthy little girl. New realms of happiness await... 

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Moist carrot cake

I've always liked carrot cake. I think mostly because of the icing, there's something unexpectedly delicious about cream cheese icing that there just never seems to ever be enough of it on a cake! I think somewhere deep down, I also like to believe that, well yes, its a cake, but it has lots of carrots in it, so if you have to eat cake, at least you're getting some form of nutrition too! Well anyway, I like carrot cake! Especially when they are moist, and with a generous lashing of cream cheese icing (cheese in icing, got to get that calcium!!).

I have made plenty of carrot cakes before, but couldn't seem to find my recipe, so based this one on the Hummingbird Bakery recipe, and just adjusted it as I went along. It stayed super moist and fresh for longer than any other carrot cake I've ever made, and I think it is possibly the best one I've ever done!


Ingredients:

225g peeled and grated carrots
2 tablespoons milk
20g honey
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
130ml vegetable oil (I usually use melted butter, but the oil was incredible)
200g sugar
250g plain flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon bicarb soda
dash of salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
40g toasted pecans

Method:

1. Beat together the grated carrots, milk, eggs, vanilla, oil, honey and sugar and mix until well combined and the eggs have started to froth up a little.

2. In a separate bowl sift the dry ingredients together: flour, baking powder, bicarb soda, salt and spices.

3. In 3 parts, add the sifted dry ingredients to the egg/carrot mix, and slowly beat until well combined.

4. As this is happening, toast the pecans. I have never toasted pecans before, but think I want to bottle the smell. You know how they say when you're selling a house, you should have a pot of coffee on or a roast in the oven on open day, well, I think you should toast some pecans instead. I couldn't get over how amazing my kitchen smelled after popping a tray of pecans in the oven for about 5 minutes! I kind of want to do some again now, just to enjoy the smell again. Anyway, moving on....

5. Once your deliciously aromatic pecans have been toasted and your kitchen forever the better for it, chop the pecans and add it to the batter and stir well until smooth and even.

6. I made this batter into 12 generous sized cupcakes (which were more like muffins really), so the baking time may vary from this. After dividing the batter between the cupcake papers, place in a 170C (325F) oven, and bake for approximately 20 minutes, or until cooked through, but not overly brown on top. Allow to cool completely on a wire rack whilst making the icing.

Icing:

1. Mix together 50g of butter with 300g icing sugar. This will gradually combine, but remain powdery.

2. Add 125g of cream cheese (full fat, please, don't pretend! You're getting all the vitamin A of carrots AND the calcium in the cream cheese, enough is enough!) and beat until icing is smooth, light, and incredible!

3. Spread generously onto each cooled cupcake, allow ten minutes for it to set, and then enjoy! Or, if you are a little bored waiting for your husband to come home late from work, play around with icing colours and make some carrots for the tops!


Thursday, January 12, 2012

A new love....

Our family is set to expand in June this year with the arrival of our little bundle of joy, but, at Christmas, we had another new addition arrive that I didn't know about!

And it's a girl!

I'd like you to meet Blanche, my brand new Kitchenaid!


I've certainly never had such a fine piece of machinery before (I don't value our first car quite like I do Blanche) and already she has brought such joy and comfort to our house.


 

Blanche has settled in very well to her new home, and has made our life a little brighter and a whole lot easier! Pete thought that things may get more challenging for me in the kitchen soon, so this is his way of ensuring the kitchen won't suddenly shut down over the later stages of my pregnancy! I don't mind one bit how she came into our lives, Blanche is a very welcomed addition and I know we'll all be very happy together for a very long time.

Prawn and rocket (arugula apparently) linguine

I'm sorry, this post has been transferred over to my new blog, meg-made.

Please follow the link for the recipe and come and follow me there!!

Prawn and Rocket Linguine

Thanks! Meg

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Eggnog Cupcakes

In my last Christmas effort of the season, before sadly taking down the tree and de-fairy-lighting the house, I saw these cupcakes in the Hummingbird Bakery cookbook and just had to give them a go! I found that I even had the same little snowmen decorating pieces, had all the ingredients in the cupboards already, so with carols banned for the new year already (self-imposed ban) I thought I should act quickly before I Grinched all Christmas food too!!! 

Ingredients:

80g unsalted butter
280g sugar
240g plain flour
1 teaspoon grated nutmeg (I added this to the recipe, I wanted the cake mix to be more eggnoggy)
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
240ml milk

Method:

1. Beat together the butter, sugar, flour, baking powder, nutmeg and salt on a low speed until they have the texture of fine breadcrumbs. 

2. In a separate jug, combine the eggs and milk and whisk a little. 

3. Pour 3/4 of the milk/egg mix into the dry ingredients and mix on low speed to combine. Mix on a higher speed and add the remainder of the milk/egg mix. 

4. Fill patty papers with batter and bake in a 190C oven (375F) for about 15-20 minutes. 

5. Cool on wire rack and ice when completely cool. 

Icing:

1. Whisk 500g icing sugar with 160g of butter, 1 teaspoon of nutmeg and 1 tablespoon of brandy. Note, the recipe called for rum essence, but, I do not make eggnog with rum, I use brandy, and as brandy essence just seemed a little odd to me, I thought, what harm will 1 tablespoon of brandy do over the entire batch! (Answer: no harm, only good can come from adding brandy). 

2. The mixture will be crumbly. Add 50ml of milk gradually until the icing is light and fluffy. 

3. When the cupcakes are definitely cool, spread the icing over each one and decorate as you please! 


On a cold night, if it were up to me, I would enjoy these with a warm baileys! But, in my pregnant state, a warm cup of (decaf) tea was equally as lovely!!

And sadly, I believe Christmas in the McCosker house is now over. But, I still believe.....

Friday, December 23, 2011

A little news...

I think it may be a lovely time of the year to share a little exciting news of ours, and thought that the way I shared this news with my husband was very blog-appropriate!!

After we had just moved from Oxford down to London and started our news jobs, I had an inkling that something was a bit different, I was feeling a random mixture of things, that just didn't add up. Well, they added up to one thing in particular, however I was sure it couldn't possibly be that. However, after another few days of waiting and seeing, I decided that I may as well find out! So, off to my local pharmacy to pick up First Choice's double pack of pregnancy tests!

Having not really considered the outcomes, I was a little suprised when a VERY strong positive sign formed in the little result window!! After a few shocked tears, I thought to myself, right, well, I need to bake.

Knowing I had only about 3 hours until Pete would be home, I set to work making him a cake. As I was baking, ideas developed, and I created the perfect way (and what I thought was blatantly obvious way) to tell my husband this exciting news!

Despite my nerves and excitement to blurt it out the second he walked in the door, I knew dessert before dinner would be odd, so waited until we had finished dinner to ask urgently if he'd like some dessert!!! I had the cake under a cake tin and sat down next to Pete on the floor and told him that I had done a little test today, and this was the result.....


With tears brimming in my eyes, I looked at Pete, and he said "Oh it looks great, gosh how did you do the icing, that turned out really well". Okay, not exactly the response I was expecting!! So, needing to be a little more clear it seemed, I emphasised that I TOOK a little test, and that this was the result. Still not clear, I had Pete articulate what the shape was.... "ummm... Positive??". Indeed it was my dear!

I am now well and truly into the second trimester, definitely showing and getting very excited to find out the sex in a few weeks! There was a good reason for the clear gap in posts on my blog, I couldn't stand the thought of cooking for about 8 weeks, so luckily had a few pics on standby that I could post about, as there was no way I was blogging about my food intake at this time, I don't think baked beans on toast would excite many people! Have had lots of support from all around the world and am looking forward to the 2nd half of the pregnancy and to meet our little bundle of joy in just 23 weeks!

Merry Christmas to everyone! I for one don't need to open a single present on Christmas morning, I have everything I could ever hope for already. xx

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Christmas drinks (2 of 2)

Its became something that appealed to me this year, food that also served as a bit of a decorative table adornment as well! When I was thinking of what other things to possibly try out for something a bit different for our Christmas drinks, I thought about a cheese ball. One of my friends in Brissie was always obsessed with cheeseballs, and at the time I didn't totally understand the obsession, but they sure look cool! I had to make it Christmasy though, which of course means either spices of cranberry to me! I also have been reading a lot of British cookbooks lately and they seem to be somewhat keen on meat wrapping other food, so I thought I could do that too, but what's better than meat wrapping meat.... meat wrapping seafood!!!!!

Recipe  3: Cranberry, almond and cheddar cheeseball


I made this cheeseball ahead of time (the previous day) and wrapped it well in foil and cling wrap and simply rolled it in the cranberries on the day, so it was very low effort on the day. The only thing that I would recommend would be to serve it in an environment where guests have two hands free, as they need to use a little cheese knife to put some cheese on a biscuit. Nobody would put Pete's mulled wine down to do such a thing, so it became a bit of a mess in the end!!

Ingredients:
2 tablespoons of soft butter
8 oz cream cheese
1 tablespoon of fresh lime juice
1 dash of worcestershire sauce
1 dash of tobasco sauce
Salt and pepper
3 oz of cheddar
1 tablespoon of mango chutney
2 oz parmesan cheese
25g almond flakes
60g dried cranberries

Method:

1. Combine butter, cream cheese, lime juice, worcestershire sauce, tobasco and salt and pepper. Beat with electric mixers until all combined and smooth. 

2. Grate cheddar and parmesan into the cream cheese mix.

3. Crush almonds (I put them in a little freezer bag and hit them with a rolling pin, great stress relief!) and put in the cheese mixture. 

4. Combine all ingredients (except for the cranberries) and form into a ball. If you are serving right away, continue to next step. If you are making a day or two ahead, roll into ball and wrap with cling wrap. Seal with foil and keep in a protected spot in the fridge until you are ready to prepare and serve. 

5. Cut the dried cranberries into small pieces and cover chopping board so that there is a layer of cranberry. 

6. Roll the cheeseball gently in the cranberries, making sure each part is covered in berries. Cover any little "bald spots" by hand as it gets difficult to continue rolling without ruining the cranberry-covered ball. 

7. Serve with crackers, sticks, carrots or whatever crudites you fancy! 

Recipe 4: Pancetta wrapped scallops

Sometimes its fun to create things using many ingredients that create a complex set of flavours, and other times, the more simple the better! This is particularly true of these scallops! They couldn't really be any easier!!


Ingredients:
Scallops
Pancetta
And that, is all! 

Method:

1. Cut strips of pancetta in half as each strip will do two scallops. 

2. Wrap one scallop in half a piece of pancetta and secure with a toothpick. 

3. That is for preparation.... keep them refridgerated until you are ready to serve them. 

4. Heat a pan with a splash of oil and place the pancetta-wrapped scallops in. Cook for about 5 minutes, or until the pancetta has crisped up. The scallop inside will cook in this time don't worry, but perhaps cut one open to check before serving! Even though tenderness is sometimes compromised, I still maintain it is better to have slightly chewed seafood rather than undercooked, so if you are doubt, always go another minute!!

5. Serve and eat! Thats all. Now, we were debating this on the night, I feel that they need a little dipping sauce but couldn't think what would be the best accompanying sauce. I got hollandaise in my head and that is all I could then consider. Does anyone else have any ideas??? A seafood cocktail sauce perhaps... 

I will do another post for the sausage scrolls and fruit-mince-pie-cake-puddings. I didn't actually get time to photograph the sausage scrolls before they were destroyed, and well, I still need a name for the latter! 

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Christmas drinks (1 of 2)

Last night we had some of our nearest and dearest over to celebrate Christmas with some Christmasy treats and a little Vin Chaud (or Gluhwein for my German Sister-in-law). The weather outside was indeed frightful, but the fire(place) inside was delightful and with wine mulling on the stove for most of the night, our little flat tasted, looked and even smelled like Christmas. 

I was a little more creative this year with the food I wanted to prepare for this little gathering, as I was a bit tired of the regular rum balls and fruit mince pies, that I feel like I have made for the past 10 years! Without access to copha, I couldn't make White Christmas or other Australian goodies, so thought, with my vastly American audience in mind, I would make something with pumpkin instead! 

On the menu for the evening was:
Brandy balls (aka rum balls, but lacking rum in the house, they took the form of brandy balls). 
Salted caramel fudge (in.k.redible)
Sausage scrolls (I don't think anyone liked them, they scoffed them down so that they wouldn't offend anyone for too long....)
Spiced pumpkin dip (with a sweet and savoury harmony)
Cranberry, cheddar and almond cheese ball (tasty but tricky to eat)
Pancetta wrapped scallops (is that scalllllops or scollops....)
And the remain-to-be-named invention of fruit-mince-pie-cake-puddings with brandy butter!
Nobody was hoping to come to my house for a detox I'm hoping....

Recipe 1: Salted Caramel Fudge

I hadn't really known much about the joy of adding salt to caramel until (my number one blog fan) Holly introduced me to the concept! I won't tell you what happened to her entire batch of salted caramel cupcakes and their sauce, but, needless to say, first impressions last!!! When we were in Paris two weeks ago we stumbled upon an amazing chocolatier who also dedicated half of his store to the joy of caramel! We didn't purchase much in Paris over the weekend, but safely packed in our suitcases for home was a few pots of Caramel Sale (salted caramel) and a variety of bite-sized caramel pieces. There's something peculiar about adding salt to caramel that takes away a bit of the sweetness but that at the same time brings out the sweetness... I am doing salted caramel absolutely no favours in my description, but just trust me,  it is divine. 

Each year we would go out to Pete's farm for Easter and spend a few days making Easter goodies. As I haven't been able to eat chocolate since I was 9 (yes I miss it, but no, it is not worth suffering a migraine for) we would make a batch of caramel fudge when making chocolate Easter eggs so that I wouldn't be left out of the sugar binge that seems to be Easter. This very same fudge recipe has been used each year for about 8 years now, and never, had I thought to add salt! Until now! 

Ingredients:
2 2/3 cup caster sugar
1/2 cup milk
4 oz of butter (125g)
200g condensed milk
1 tablespoon golden syrup
Handful of salt flakes

Method:
1. Combine milk and sugar in a heavy based saucepan (the heavier the better and the less attention you will have to pay it), and heat for about 20 minutes to slowly bring the sugar to the boil. 

2. Add all other ingredients other than salt, and gently boil for 30 minutes. Stir every few minutes so that the bottom doesn't burn. It will gradually start turning a delicious golden brown colour as the sugar caramelises (funny that!!).

3. As the mixture starts to thicken, stir through a few pinches of salt flakes. I only put a a few pinches in as I wasn't sure how it would taste, and put extra on top before cooling. 

4. When the fudge has thickened in the pot and it starts getting difficult to stir and starts to set when left to rest, it is ready! (Warning, it is as hot as lava, don't try and put your finger in for a test!). As soon as you have poured it and evened it out in the dish, sprinkle more salt flakes evenly on top.

5. Pour into a tin/dish that is lined with parchment paper and leave to cool for a few hours in the fridge. If you are impatient like we are, we put it in the freezer, and half an hour later, were thrilled to discover it was ready!!!

6. Cut into rough bite size pieces and devour immediately, or wrap up to give as gifts for the long tube-ride home!




Recipe 2: Spiced Pumpkin dip

I am embracing the tradition that pumpkin is a "Holiday" vegetable, mostly because I love pumpkin and enjoy any excuse to eat it and there doesn't seem to be all that much of it used in the UK. I was going to make this a warm dip, and have it more like a fondue type arrangement, but perhaps I will try that next time! I used a few different ideas that I found on the web and melded them together and filled a hollowed-out pumpkin with this sweet, but savoury dip.

Ingredients:
100g pureed cooked pumpkin
9 oz cream cheese
30g icing sugar
1.5 tablespoons of giner
1.5 tablespoons of cinnamon
15g freshly grated parmesan cheese

Method:

1. The most time-consuming part of this recipe is cooking the pumpkin! Cut the skin off the pumpkin and place cut up pieces in boiling water. Let it boil for about 10 minutes, or until it is soft when skewered with a knife. 

2. Drain the water and leave the pumpkin to cool. 

3. In the meantime, prepare the cheese base. Beat together the cream cheese, icing sugar and spices. 

4. Add in the grated parmesan and when the pumpkin has fully cooled, add the pureed pumpkin. 

5. To puree the pumpkin, wait until it is fully cool and then use whatever blending apparatus you may have to blend until the pumpkin is almost soupy. Be sure you have drained out all the water, as you don't want the pumpkin to be watery, it won't add as nicely to the cream cheese mix. 

6. I left mine overnight and then served in the hollowed-out pumpkin that I had leftover, but I do think it would be extremely tasty if it were warmed up and hot bread was dipped into it too.... Something to try next time for sure!



I will continue to post the other recipes over the coming days, but for now, the warmth and comfort of bed beckons! 

Happy Christmas week everyone!!!!