Wednesday, July 20, 2005

cabbage, ham and potatoes

i'm in the middle of reading angela's ashes by frank mccourt and i had to try cooking this because of the following excerpt:

Every morning Grandma cooks Bill's dinner and takes it to him at the lime kiln. Mam wonders why he can't take it with him in the morning and Grandma says, Do you expect me to get up at dawn and boil cabbage and pig's toes for his lordship to take in his dinner can?
Mam tells her, in another week school will be over and if you give Frank sixpence a week he'll surely be glad to take Bill Galvin his dinner.
I don't want to go to Grandma's every day. I don't want to take Bill Galvin his dinner all the way down the Dock Road, but Mam says that's sixpence we could use and if I don't do it I'm going nowhere else.
You're staying in the house, she says. You're not playing with your pals.
Grandma warns me to take the dinner can directly and not be meandering, looking this way and that, kicking canisters and ruining the toes of my shoes. This dinner is hot and that's the way Bill Galvin wants it.
There's a lovely smell from the dinner can, boiled bacon and cabbage and two big floury white potatoes. Surely he won't notice if I try half a potato. He won't complain to Grandma because he hardly ever talks outside of a snuffle or two.
It's better if I eat the other half-potato so that he won't be asking why he got a half. I might as well try the bacon and cabbage too and if I eat the other potato he'll surely think she didn't send one at all.
The second potato melts in my mouth and I'll have to try another bit of cabbage, another morsel of bacon. There isn't much left now and he'll be very suspicious so I might as well finish off the rest.
What am I going to do now? Grandma will destroy me, Mam will keep me in for a year. Bill Galvin will bury me in lime. I'll tell him I was attacked by a dog on the Dock Road and he ate the whole dinner and I'm lucky I escaped with being eaten myself.
Oh, is that so? says Bill Galvin. And what's that bit of cabbage hanging on your gansey? Did the dog lick you with his cabbagey gob? Go home and tell your grandmother you ate me whole dinner and I'm falling down with the hunger here in the line kiln.
She'll kill me.
Tell he don't kill you till she sends me some class of a dinner and if you don't go to her now and get me a dinner I'll kill you and throw your body into the lime there and there won't be much left for your mother to moan over.
Grandma says, What are you doin' back with that can? He could bring that back by himself.
He wants more dinner.What do you mean more dinner? Jesus above, is it a hole he has in his leg?
He's falling down with hunger below in the lime kiln.
Is it coddin' me you are? He says send him any class of a dinner. I will not. I sent him his dinner.
He didn't get it. He didn't?
Why not?
I ate it.
I was hungry and I tasted it and I couldn't stop.
Jesus, Mary and holy St. Joseph.
She gives me a clout on the head that brings tears to my eyes. She screams at me like a banshee and jumps around the kitchen and threatens to drag me to the priest, the bishop, the Pope himself if he lived around the corner. She cuts bread and waves the knife at me and makes sandwiches of brawn and cold potatoes.
Take these sandwiches to Bill Galvin and if you even look cross-eyed at them I'll skin your hide.
Of course she runs to Mam and they agree the only way I can make up for my terrible sin is to deliver Bill Galvin's dinner for a fortnight without pay. I'm to bring back the can every day and that means I have to sit watching him stuff the food into his gob and he's not one that would ever ask you if you had a mouth in your head.
Every day I take the can back Grandma makes me kneel to the statue of the Sacred Heart and tell Him I'm sorry and all this over Bill Galvin, a Protestant.

i don't know about you, but i love reading books which refer in some way to food; they add some reality and human aspects. in angela's ashes, the references are there because they're starving and too poor to buy food (but not a pint), and the dish frank describes here is basic, not fancy in any way. we aren't starving, maybe sometimes hungry because it's close to mealtime, and we still find the appeal of this dish. it is comfort food in the truest sense. i cannot imagine what torture frank must have had to endure on the days following the first delivery of bill's lunch. he couldn't resist the smell the first day, what happened on the days following? he had had a taste already. if you do get a chance to try this, i'm sure your heart will go out to frank and be grateful for never knowing what it must be like to go through what he did as a child.

i used a ham bone, sliced carrots, whole potatoes and shredded cabbage, added just enough water to cover the potatoes and left it to simmer until the potatoes and carrots were cooked through.
miss c and miss k thought it was delicious, and considering the ease of getting the whole thing together, i thought it was excellent winter fare. told them that traditionally the leftovers were used to make bubble and squeak and they thought that that sounded pretty good, having heard of it before, but never having tried it. next time, they want me to make more so there'll be there'll be bubble and squeak! i can't wait.

just think. we thought this was delicious. frank must have felt like he died and went to heaven when he ate bill's dinner....

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

cauliflower soup

this has to be one of the easiest soups around, and one of the nicest ways to enjoy cauliflower. cheese croutons or cheese toast round this off as a light meal.

1 head of cauliflower, washed and trimmed of the green leaves
1 onion, chopped
4 rashers bacon, trimmed and chopped
1 rib celery, sliced
1 cup stock (or water, if stock is not on hand)
300mls cream
parsley, to garnish

place the cauliflower, onion, bacon, celery and stock in a pot just large enough to hold everything snugly. bring to the boil over a medium flame. reduce the heat and simmer for about 20 minutes or until the cauliflower is very tender. remove from heat and blend with a handheld blender until smooth. stir in the cream and return to the stove until heated through. sprinkle with a little parsley prior to serving.

sometimes, i add a little stock powder (less than 1/4 of a teaspoon) just to bring the flavour out, but that is purely optional.

Sunday, April 24, 2005

brazilian cheese puffs

i love these cheese puffs, in fact, i don't know anyone who doen't like them. even miss k, who doesn't like cheese, loves them! they are also great because you can serve them to those who don't eat wheat for whatever reason.

1 cup milk
1/2 cup butter
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups tapioca starch
1 1/2 cups grated cheese
2 eggs
preheat oven to 200 degrees celcius.
bring the milk, salt, and butter to a boil.
remove from heat.
add tapioca starch, stirring constantly until thoroughly mixed.
add the eggs, and then the cheese.
mix until combined. i actually find it easier to mix the dough/batter with a knife or chopsticks.
form into walnut sized balls and place on a baking sheet lined with baking paper.
bake until golden brown, approximately 15 minutes.
eat while hot.
these puffs can be frozen and reheated successfully in a hot oven for about 5 minutes; thaw them beforehand to make sure they heat through.
alternatively, the dough can be made up a day or two in advance, refrigerated, then baked before serving.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005


these are groovey looking meatballs with "something extra"- the rice pops up during cooking so the meatballs look like little porcupines! real old fashioned comfort food. i've suggested minced beef and tomato soup here, but the choice of meat and soup can be varied to suit individual tastes. i'll give you some examples to get you started:

chicken with cream of chicken
lamb with vegetable
beef with cream of mushroom

i'm sure you get the idea.

also, this is easily translated to an oven ready meal by using a casserole dish instead of a frypan, and popping it into the oven heated to 180 degrees C for an hour. easy, really.

1/2 kg minced beef
1/2 cup uncooked regular rice
1 finely chopped onion
1 teaspoon celery salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 can tomato soup
1 cup water

combine minced beef, rice, onion and seasonings together.
form tablespoonfuls into meatballs.
arrange meatballs in a single layer in a non stick frypan.
stir together the tomato soup and water and pour over the meatballs gently.
cover the pan with a lid and place over medium heat, then simmer for 45 minutes.
Uncover and simmer for another 15 minutes.
serve over extra rice, if desiredrice.
makes 4 to 6 servings.

Friday, February 18, 2005

crunchy chocolate peanut slice

this slice is delicious, no doubt about it and to think that it came about from a decent, but not favourite biscuit. on the 4th, i made chocolate peanut biscuits which had to take a back seat to the hokey pokey biscuits. since i couldn't let the perfectly good biscuits go to waste, and also to satisfy my desire to try out a new slice recipe, i hit two birds with one stone and put them together and the result was a great new slice!

this process also lead to a new discovery - i thought it might be better to refresh the week old biscuits by microwaving them. well, warm biscuits simply crumble with gentle agitation - no need for a food processor of rolling pin here. do make sure it is gentle agitation as anything too rough will render tough crumbs rather than tender ones, or just crumble the biscuits with your fingers.the plain biscuits i thought were a necessary addition to add texture, as without them, the slice is very dense and rich - the crunch gives the whole a another dimension.

this, again, is a very easy slice - just melt and mix, really, and you can't have it any easier than that. quite delectable.

200g butter
300g chocolate peanut biscuits, crumbled
100g plain biscuits, chopped roughly
6 tbsp golden syrup
4 tbsp cocoa powder

line a 20cm square baking tin with baking paper.
melt the butter and syrup in a pan. stir in the cocoa, then thoroughly stir in the biscuits.
spoon into the tin and press down firmly with the back of a spoon.
chill until set.
slice as desired.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

whisks' marinated feta

a few days ago, while doing my groceries, i walked around the cheese selection at woollies and was very tempted by the marinated feta, but a quick calculation suggested i could make a more economical version at home.

i bought a good quality plain feta soaked in brine, drained it well, being careful not to touch it with my fingers, or anything else for that matter, for fear of contamination. as i don't have a herb garden ast the moment, i used dried herbs in the marinade: ground sage, ground oregano, thyme, smoked paprika and cracked peppercorns (one is granted liberties here; whatever herbs and combinations one desires would make for an exciting flavoured cheese - my future attempts may involve celery seeds or chillies. one variation i fully intend to work on will involve lemon grass- just think of the endless possibilities!). i then drowned the whole container of feta and herbs with a fruity extra virgin olive oil: first cold pressing, early harvest. the result was spectacular (would have made it into the stratospheric had i access to finer herbs and given it the liberty of a few days to really soak in and mature). the olive oil was just so delicious i could have had just that on woodfired bread. miss c just couldn't stop eating it, and has not stopped devouring it after school these last few days.

the ideal situation would perhaps be to be well prepared and allow the feta to marinate a while, so, in a way, preparing a double (or triple portion, if one is so inclined) and having the extra on hand (for after school snacks or whatever glamourous occasion may arise).
just a note, do not be alarmed that the olive oil goes cloudy and solidifies in the refrigerator - it is just an indicator that it is olive oil, as canola retains the golden liquidiness when refrigerated (hence purchased marinated feta will be inferior to one's own effortless creation as canola or vegetable oils are used to give them shelf appeal).

from this lazy concoction, a myriad of opportunities arise:

black olives can be partnered with the cheese and strewn over the simplest of lettuce leaves, or progress to a more elaborate salad with avocados, tomatoes, roasted capsicums and cucumber

antipasto platters

quiche, frittata and savoury tart fillings

as a filling for rolled lamb or chicken

cut into small finger sized batons and rolled inside finely sliced prosciutto, drizzled with the flavoursome oil (i had this when i was in france, and it was very good)

my favourite though, is to have the cheese very simply on rustic italian bread so the divine melded flavours of the cheese, herbs and oil can be appreciated very simply.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

pineapple biscuits

these biscuits are crisp and crunchy, with a chewy surprise of dried pineapple. the weetbix added another dimension to the texture (airiness) and flavour (maltiness). all in all, a good, easy biscuit to add to one's repertiore.

miss c and miss k had them in their lunchboxes today as a surprise, and i dare say they were delighted. delight yourself and those around you and make a batch soon.

1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
1 egg
125 grams butter, melted
1 cup self raising flour
6 crushed weetbix
3/4 cup dried chopped pineapple

preheat the oven to 180 degrees celcius.
line 2 baking trays with baking paper.
use a whisk to combine the sugars, vanilla, egg and butter in a bowl.
add flour, weetbix and pineapple.
stir thoroughly until well combined.
drop tablespoonfuls of mixture onto the prepared trays.
bake for 20 minutes or until light golden.
leave the biscuits on the trays for 5 minutes before transferring them to a wire rack to cool. they need this time to settle and compose themselves, otherwise they'll crumble and fall apart. they're delicate like that. but once they've cooled a little bit, they're fine.

these are already delicious to eat as they are, but if you want to make them look really fancy, the following icing may be spread over the cooled biscuits, then sprinkled with more of the dried pineapple.

pineapple icing.

1 3/4 cups icing sugar
2 tablespoons pineapple juice
2 teaspoons melted butter
1/2 cup chopped dried pineapple

combine the icing sugar, pineapple juice and melted butter in a bowl and use a whisk to stir it until smooth. spread over the biscuits and sprinkle with pineapple and allow to set.

Thursday, February 10, 2005

chocolate peanut butter dreams by whisks

these are surprisingly good, especially when you consider how easy they are to make. they're fudgey and they don't heat up the house too much since they're a stovetop creation, so no oven required! they are quite rich, so don't go overboard eating them, unless your constitution can handle it (how many times can i keep saying they/theyare/they're?). i made mine by pouring the mixture in a loaf tin lined with baking paper and slicied bars off as required, rather than making little mounds of mixture.

1 1/2 cups sugar
5 tablespoons cocoa
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup milk
3 cups quick oats
1 cup peanut butter (smooth or crunchy)
1 teaspoon vanilla

put the sugar, cocoa, butter and milk in a large saucepan and bring to the boil. allow to boil for one minute, then remove the saucepan from the heat.

add the oats, peanut butter and vanilla and mix well. this can be done with a wooden spoon, or if you don't have the energy, an electric mixer.

at this stage, you can either drop tablespoons of the mixture onto a baking sheet lined with baking paper, or pour the mixture into a lined cake tin to set in one piece so you can slice it up to serve.

leave the mixture to cool before serving. refrigerating the mixture will make it fudgier. your call - i like it fudgier.

Wednesday, February 9, 2005

ginger crunch by whisks

ginger crunch is wonderful - a crunchy biscuit base smothered with ginger flavoured icing topped with little bijoux pieces of crystalised ginger. it's a very old fashioned slice popular in both new zealand and australia, and whilst it has ginger in it, it is only mildly spicy and is much loved by lots of people - miss c and miss k bring it to school and have friends clambering for it, and when i bring it for the life line volunteers, i suddenly have the lovely ladies there hugging me.

it seems to turn out best when the base has been baked a beautiful golden colour - if the oven doesn't heat evenly, consider rotating the baking tin to acheive an even gold.

125 g butter, softened
1/4 cup white sugar
1 cup self raising flour
1 teaspoon ground ginger


90 grams butter
1 1/2 cups icing sugar
1 tablespoon golden syrup
2 teaspoons ground ginger
10 pieces crystallized ginger, chopped

preheat oven to 180 degrees celcius.
cream the butter and sugar in a medium sized bowl.
add the flour and ground ginger and mix well.
lightly press the mixture into a shallow sided baking tin measuring approximately 27cm x 17cm or 20cm square, lined with baking paper. be gentle when pressing the base into the tin - you don't want the base to be rock hard - you want it to have some crunch and still melt in the mouth.
bake on the centre shelf of the oven for 20-25 minutes or until golden.
during the last few minutes of baking, combine all the icing ingredients in a small saucepan and melt over a low-medium heat, stirring constantly. i like to use a whisk to mix the icing so there aren't any lumps. i love using a whisk.
remove the biscuit base from the oven and immediately pour the hot icing mixture as evenly as possible over the hot base. try to distribute the crystallised ginger evenly on top.
remove the slice from the baking tin when it has cooled by lifting the baking paper up and using it to help slide the slice onto a cutting board.
cut the slice into pieces as desired.
share the ginger crunch with someone - it's a nice thing to do and it makes the slice taste even better.

Friday, February 4, 2005

chocolate peanut biscuits

while i was in london, julia asked me to find a recipe for these biscuits. julia had tried them when we were at high school. debbie gates' mother had made them and julia had never quite gotten over the delicious peanutty, chocolatey crunchiness. she did get the recipe, but has since lost it. my mission, should i chose to accept it, and i have, was to endeavour to recreate or find a recipe for such a biscuit. hmmm....chocolate, peanuts AND crunchy....

unfortunately, these aren't IT, but they are very nice nonetheless - it just gives me an excuse to try out other variations until i achieve THE biscuit.

125 grams butter
3/4 cup sugar
1 egg
pinch salt
1 cup peanuts
1 1/4 cups self raising flour
2 tablespoons cocoa

preheat oven to 180 degrees celcius.
cream the butter, sugar, salt and egg in a medium bowl with a mixer.
add the nuts and cocoa.
mix, then add flour. combine well.
form the dough into walnut sized balls and place them on a baking sheet lined with baking paper. press the balls down lightly with a fork or the bottom of a glass dip in sugar (so the dough doesn't stick to the glass).
bake for 15-20 minutes.

Thursday, February 3, 2005

hokey pokey biscuits

this is an old fashioned new zealand recipe which i thought would be fun to make because the bicarbonate of soda fizzes and foams. naturally, something like this was well received by miss c and miss k - they thought they were great and brought them to school for morning tea.

125g butter, softened
1/2 cup caster sugar
1 tablespoon golden syrup
1 tablespoon milk
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
1 1/2 cups plain flour

preheat oven to 180° celcius. line 2 large baking trays with baking paper.

using an electric mixer, beat butter and sugar until light and creamy. place golden syrup and milk into a heatproof microwave-safe jug. microwave for 20 to 30 seconds on HIGH (100%) power or until hot. stir in bicarbonate of soda (mixture will bubble up).

add warm milk mixture to butter mixture. stir until well combined. sift flour over batter. mix well.

roll 2 teaspoonfuls of mixture at a time into balls. place onto prepared baking trays, allowing a little room for spreading. gently press biscuits down with a floured fork. bake for 12 to 15 minutes or until golden and firm to the touch. stand on trays for 3 minutes. transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. store in an airtight container at room temperature.

notes & tips

to check if your bicarbonate of soda is still active, place 1 teaspoon into a cup. pour over 1/4 teaspoon vinegar. mixture should bubble up - if it doesn't, you need to purchase a new packet.

the recipe for these biscuits is from super food ideas magazine february 2005.

Wednesday, February 2, 2005

cinnamon streusel cake by whisks

this smells so good whilst baking in the oven and tastes so good when it comes out, warm or at room temperature. what more could a person want?
i made this in little loaf tins and miss k took slices of this to school and shared it with her friends and all they could think about was cinnamon loaf....don't you love it?

cake ingredients:

125 grams butter
2 eggs
1 cup sour cream
1/2 cup cream
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 cup white sugar
2 cups self raising flour
1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
pinch salt

cinnamon mix:

3 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1 dash allspice

streusel mix:

60 grams butter
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup plain flour

preheat the oven to 180 degrees celcius.

put all the cake ingredients in a medium sized bowl and beat all cake ingredients together with a electric mixer (i like to use a hand held mixer) and spread half of the mixture in a deep 28 centimetre round pan lined with baking paper. i like using a springform tin to bake this cake because it makes the cake easier to remove from the tin. just make sure your springform tin holds the base of the tin securely - you don't want the bottom of the cake tin to fall out when you're transfering the tin to and from the oven. something like that would make me want to cry. i know this happened to my friend janet and she said that's how she felt.

mix together the cinnamon mixture in a small bowl and sprinkle over first layer.

dollop on remaining cake batter as evenly as you can (it doesn't have to be perfect) and use a knife to swirl the cinnamon through the batter. as fun as this is, try not to overdo it - just a quick zig zag through the batter is all that's needed - it's nice having the distinct cinnamony lines going throught the cake when it's finished baking.

roughly mix the struesel mixture together (it's fine if it's lumpy) and sprinkle it over the cake mixture.

bake the cake at for 45-50 minutes or until done. to check for doneness, insert a toothpick in the centre of the cake and when you take it out, if there's a wet batter on it, leave the cake in the oven for another 15 minutes, then check again. if there's a moist batter on it, leave it in the oven another 5 minutes, then check again. if the toothpick comes out without any batter stuck to it, the cake's ready.

if the cake's ready, take it out of the oven and put it on a cake rack to cool a little. if you try to take it out of the tin when it comes straight out of the oven, it might just fall apart because it hasn't had a chance to stabilise. this cake is quite moist, that's why it needs a bit of time. just be patient and leave the cake to settle down for a little bit - give it at least 15 minutes - it will still be warm even after 30 minutes or longer. i know...and it smells so good. if you don't mind what your cake looks like, then go for it.

Tuesday, February 1, 2005

about not just cake

i have always wanted to bake cakes ever since i was very young - i think it stems from having a mother who has never shown any interest in cooking, much less baking. i remember going to school and one friend used to bring homemade treats everyday for morning tea and lunch. i remember thinking that i, too, would want to do that for my children, when i had them.
so started a journey into baking and cooking and all things food, and a wonderful journey it has been because it has lead me down other avenues - this being one.