Friday, October 31, 2008

one of my favourite things

i have to tell you that one of my favourite things is a non stick frypan with the handle removed. i just buy one of those non stick frypans from woollies (it's on specials every now and then) and take off the handle with a screwdriver. make sure the one you get is one with the thicker base - there are also the thinner ones, but i prefer the thicker one, and i don't think there is much of a price difference, so you may as well get the thicker one because it cooks more evenly. since i've just mentioned price, these are under $20 - a bargain for a non stick roasting pan, i think.

these pans come in 2 sizes and they are so versatile, i have several of them. that way, i can put my roast in one, have vegetables in another and an upside down cake in yet another. you can do the roast and the vegetables in one pan if you like, but i always like cooking too much food, so find it's easier to use another pan.

these pans put a nice crust on vegetables and caramelise carrots and sweet potatoes deliciously. roasts can be browned and roasted in the same pan without having to dirty a frypan and a roasting pan. and these are a dream to clean because they are non stick. just wipe off any muck with paper towels, wash with a little detergent and rinse.

i love it when favourite things are as practical as this.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

hot chocolate fudge sauce

this is something for true chocolate die hards. also, very simple, and microwavable, if a stovetop isn't available or too much trouble. try it on ice cream, as if u needed to be told.

1/2 cup cocoa
1/2 milk
125 grams dark chcoclate
125 grams butter
4-6 marshmallows

place everything in a saucepan over low heat and stir until smooth, adding sugar to taste. serve immediately once sauce boils.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008


miss k was reading this blog and thought that she would put its address on her msn.

won't you be embarrassed?

no one will know it's me.

i'll be embarrassed.

shrugs her shoulders.

48 hours later, i ask why she'd removed the address.

too embarrassing.

i told you.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

brandy snaps

brandy snaps are one of those things which have always posed a mystery to me because whilst they are called brandy snaps, they don't have any brandy in them. why are they called brandy snaps? because you chomp on them whilst having a brandy? because they are brandy coloured? because someone called brandy dreamed them up one day (or night)? (my english teacher would be having a fit right now - you don't start sentences with because!!!! and where's the punctuation???) if anyone knows the true story, enlighten me now!!!

that said, i always thought brandy snaps were supposed to be difficult to make because the first time i came across a recipe for them was in a margaret fulton cookbook and she put three dots against the recipe. she had this way of grading recipes whereby she would put dots next to her recipes to indicate the level of difficulty, and three dots was the most difficult. well, brandy snaps are not difficult at all, so banish all thoughts of difficulty out of your head and just make them. if anything, they make anything look special, so if anyone eating them wants to think they're difficult, go ahead and let them think just that. but between us, we know that is just not so.

even the recipe quantities are so easy - equal quantities of melted butter, golden syrup, sugar and flour are mixed together with a teaspoon of ground ginger added for every 1/2 cup of flour. if you need measurements, here they are:

125 grams butter, melted
1/2 cup golden syrup, eyeball this if you're like me
1/2 sup sugar
1/2 cup flour
1 teaspoon ground ginger

preheat the oven to 180 degrees celcius.

mix this all together and place teaspoonfuls (or tablespoonfuls, if you want larger brandy snaps) of the batter onto baking sheet lined with baking paper. don't try to fit too many rounds of batter on each baking sheet or the resulting snaps will run into each other because they will spread as they bake.

bake for 5-10 minutes or until golden. remove the tray from the oven and allow to cool for a few moments. this will allow the snaps to set a little so you can lift them up with a knife or spatula; quickly either wrap the snap around a tube or handle of a wooden spoon to form them into tubes. alternatively, drape them over an upturned bowl so as to form brandy snap baskets. should the snaps become firm before shaping, just pop them back into the oven for a few moments to soften so you can shape them as you like.

Monday, October 27, 2008

pound cake revisited

pound cake again? yes, pound cake again. this time it's a blast from the past. back to 1977, in fact.
in 1977, i was still in high school and every school holiday, i would always make an effort to get myself down to the city and make my way down to the sydney county council building on george street and collect recipe sheets. i actually remember that on this particular occasion, i was with julia and anna and one stephen o'leary and we were on our way to see star wars. my friends were good, weren't they? allowing me to detour and get my recipes sheets. well, they were eventually rewarded by a piece of cake, so there was really not too much to complain about. they did have to wait until the following year, i think, before i actually made it for them to try, because i remember taking it to musical rehearsal - we were doing bye bye birdie and i remember bringing it along and offering it around. i still remember my costume, and i have a scary feeling that it may still be somewhere hanging in someone's was a very bright yellow, so it shouldn't be too hard to find if i wanted to find it. but i digress....
barbara lynch and doreen andrews presented switched on living monday to friday at 10am on channel ten, and these recipes would be the ones they demonstrated. i loved them. and i loved this cake. it was a cake that worked and tasted good.
this is from the issue week commencing 5th december 1977, "gifts from the kitchen" part I. i hope there are still many of these treasures tucked away in someone's files or drawers or massive piles of things - i find this so comforting and relaxing....can a recipe be relaxing? well, it gives me a warm sort of fuzziness...or something.... i hope i continue to discover other pound cake recipes.

2 2/3 cups flour
1/4 level teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
1/2 level teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 level teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups butter, softened
2 1/4 sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla essence
8x50 grams eggs
1-2 teaspoons grated lemon rind

sift first 4 ingredients.
cream butter and sugar very well, add vanilla essence.
add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.
add flour mixture all at once and mix at low speed till smooth and well blended, add rind.
place into a well greased, lined and floured 23 cm (9") tube pan.
bake in moderate oven 180 degress celcius for 1 hour and 40 minutes or till cooked. cool in tin for 5 minutes before turning out.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

are glasses on a girl sexy?

miss k got some new spectacles and was telling her friend about it on msn.

do they look sexy? he asked

now, last century, i believe there was a phrase that went something like "gentlemen seldom make passes at girls who wear glasses" but i now believe that has gone out the window. there are people who think glasses are sexy. times have changed and isn't that a good thing?

Saturday, October 25, 2008

christopher robin to pooh

You're braver than you believe, and stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

honey picnic cake

this post comes courtesy of my friend liz. in an odd way. odd because i suddenly thought to call her out of the blue for no reason, or so i thought.

liz was trying to make this cake, from memory, beacuse she couldn't find her cookbook. the recipe was in one of those little murdoch cookbooks....sour cream...honey...

did you google it? i asked.

yes. couldn't find it.

and so we continued chatting while i went to my disarray of recipes and pulled out family circle's step by step quick and easy cakes. this is a different publication from lizzie's, but still published within the murdoch stable. went straight to the index and found it.

now, i could understand it if liz rang me to ask if i had the recipe, but how do you explain my calling her to give her a recipe she needed?

anyway, liz says this loaf cuts well and has made it several times, so there is your recommendation.

honey picnic cake

300 grams sour cream
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 egg
2 cups wholemeal plain flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
3 tablespoons honey, warmed
1/2 cup pecans, chopped

preheat the oven to slow 150 degrees celcius. grease a 22 x 12 cm loaf tin and line the base and the two long sides with baking paper. blend the sour cream, sugar and egg in a food processor until combined.

add the flour and baking powder and process until well blended. add the honey and process until mixed. add the nuts and process just long enough for them to mix through.

spoon into the prepared tin and bake for 1 hour, or until a skewer comes out clean when inserted into the centre of the cake. leave in the tin for 15 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack to cool.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

does this ever happen to you?

around this time last year, miss c went on a camp and came home less one thong (or flip flop, for those who think a thong is an undergarment).

more recently, miss k came home with one broken thong. being someone who keeps things for spare parts (aka i can't throw away anything which may remotely be useful one day), i told her not to worry - we still have the thong miss c didn't lose and maybe we can use it to make up a useable pair of thongs (since they are the same brand, colour and size).

unfortunately, fate was teasing us. we have TWO left sided thongs. and you know that if we throw them both away, we'll need left sided thongs.

does this ever happen to you?

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

mini pizzas like at il gianforniao

i used to buy these mini pizzette for miss c all the time when she was little because they were so cute, just like her (and because she loved eating them).

well, like they always say, if only i knew then what i know now, i wish i had known how easy it was to make those pizzette.

again, the same bread dough comes to the rescue (i told you it was versatile). again, snip off walnut sized pieces of dough. this time press them flat onto a baking sheet lined with baking paper. you should be able to fit 12 discs of dough onto each baking sheet.

get yourself a jar of your favourite pasta sauce (or make your own) and spread a little on each disc. top with slices of mushroom, pitted olives, whatever you like. sprinkle with a little grated mozzarella cheese. cover and leave in a warm place to prove for at least an hour.

heat the oven to 200 degrees celcius and once the oven is hot and to temperature, bake the pizzette for 10 minutes or until golden.

the last time i made this, wiggy and sly polished off the lot when i wasn't looking. then, they went on to eat a huge dinner. it was after dinner, when i started to stack the dishwasher, that i realised i had made a tray of pizzettes. i asked misses c and k as to the fate of the pizzettes - sly and wiggy ate them before dinner. if the boys are such good eaters now, i'd like to know what blutsie is going to do when all four of her boys reach puberty. wiggy and sly are her good eaters now; i can't wait to see when engine and blackbumboy start polishing off their food. it's only a matter of time.

Monday, October 20, 2008

my favourite tomato sauce for pasta

this is a really basic tomato sauce, but it's very good because of its simplicity. i learnt how to make this watching mary, julia's mum, make this whenever i was lucky enough to be invited over their house. i remember cooking this for julia when we were in paris; i was thrilled when she said it was just like her mother's!
i think the main difference between this tomato sauce and the other italian tomato sauces i've tried is that there is no onion in this sauce. i'm not sure whether it is because julia's mother is from northern italy with a yugoslavic background that there isn't any onion, but whatever the reason, this sauce is simply perfect - to me. there is also the addition of chilli. this is added for warmth, not burning spiciness, unless burning spiciness is what you are looking for.

1/4 to 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 chilli, fresh or dried, seeded if only warmth is desired
1 can italian peeled tomatoes, crushed

gently heat the olive oil in a heavy saucepan. add the garlic and chilli. allow the garlic and chilli to bathe in the warm oil and impart their essence. on no account allow the garlic to burn.

add the canned tomatoes carefully so as not to let the slash into the hot oil. allow to simmer until thickened. taste with a clean spoon and salt to taste. remember that this is a sauce and the saltiness will be diluted when the pasta is added, so ensure the sauce is salted adequately.

just before serving, tear basil leaves into the sauce and pour over the pasta.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

rosemary bread

another variation for the bread dough is to form the rolls and put a sprig of rosemary into the dough with a light sprinkle of salt flakes before letting it rise. bake as usual at 200 degrees celcius for 20 minutes.

a very simple variation, isn't it? very fragrant, too.

Saturday, October 18, 2008


miss k went to a fancy dress birthday party where the theme was come as your favourite disney princess. with very good intentions, miss k wanted to make her own costume and go as a mermaid. i had made both miss c and miss k mermaid costumes when they were much younger and it was on this that miss k thought she would base her creation. we scheduled a day to go fabric shopping and recruited kd and wenty to accompany us on our expedition. miss k chose a mid pink and gold shot organza (and a few other pieces of fabric which may or may not be discussed another time) which looked very glamourous.

a couple of days after the fabric was procured, miss k decided to embark on this first time sewing adventure. it was decided that since the childhood mermaid costumes worked well, the same procedure would be employed to create a similar miss k had to shir rows and rows of elastic on the fabric to create the body. this was no mean feat. after the first few rows, she confessed that it wasn't as easy as what she thought it would be. then she started to express that she couldn't believe that i went to so much trouble to make the mermaid tail she wore. i reminded her that i made not one, but two tails.

to cut to the chase, miss k spent a couple of hours each day working on her project but at the eleventh hour decided to chuck in the towel. she went to the party dressed very casually in a pair of shorts and a peasant top. and to top it off? mussed up hair.

result? she turns up this party and comes home telling me that her friends told her she looked like a super model. now, i have an unfinished mermaid tail and a supermodel.

Friday, October 17, 2008

cheese and bacon rolls

you make these rolls with the basic bread roll dough.

find yourself a muffin tin with loaf shaped holes. if you can't, it doesn't matter, you can still use the one with round holes and it will still work fine. either spray or grease the tin with oil or butter.

cut your bacon into strips and slice your cheese. i like using "light" or low fat cheddar cheese when baking because i find it less greasy (otherwise, i always use full fat everything). you can also use grated cheese, but i like using a slice of cheese so i can "insert" the cheese into the dough.

snip off 3 walnut size pieces of dough and pop them into the prepared tin(s) and press the cheese and bacon onto the dough. you can actually be quite firm when pressing the cheese and bacon on because when the dough rises, it will more or less push the cheese and bacon out.

cover the dough with a clean cloth and leave it to rise for at least an hour in a warm spot (read previous posts for what i suggest is a suitable warm spot).

heat your oven to 200 degrees celcius when the rolls are ready to bake and pop them in when the oven comes to the right temperature for about 20 minutes or until they are beautiful and golden. the cheese should bubble and the bacon, sizzle.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

miss k's middle school music concert

miss k has just been in a concert for her school's middle school. she was in four items, but the item which meant the most to us was the one where she performed BOTH the piano and chimes. miss c and i couldn't contain our excitement whenever miss k tinkled the ivories and did her thing with the chimes. in fact, our inability to contain ourselves was noted by many. we were sitting in the third last row; little did we know that we were being observed by those sitting in the two last rows. miss c's colleagues sat in the row behind us, so we should have known better, but we were overcome by miss k's effortless technique. miss k's just lucky HER colleagues were nowhere near us; poor thing to have an embarrassing family.

cinnamon rolls by whisks

remember the basic bread roll recipe? you use the dough from that recipe to make these. to start with, i think it would be good to make one pan of cinnamon rolls, rather than use all the dough to make cinnamon rolls .

for one pan of cinnamon rolls, cut out about one fifth or a quarter of the dough. that looks like about a third of the depth of a 28 centimetre round cake tin that is about 5 centimetres high. just an appoximation will do.

sprinkle some flour on your work surface and roll this dough into a long rectangle shape. spread some very soft butter over it.

get a small bowl and put in about 2/3 cup of brown sugar in it with 1 teaspoon of cinnamon. mix this together and sprinkle this over the butter.

roll up the dough, swiss roll style, starting from the long side.

cut this roll into 8-10 pieces and place them in a 28 centimetre round cake tin lined with baking paper with the spiral facing upwards.

place a cloth over the tin and leave the rolls to rise in a warm place for at least an hour.

when you think the rolls have nearly risen sufficiently, heat the oven to 180 degrees celcius.

once the oven has reached 180 degrees celcius, pop the rolls in the oven to bake for 45-60 minutes or until golden brown.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

basic bread rolls by whisks

this is my recipe for making simple bread rolls. they don't need to be kneaded and don't need alot of time to mix up, although they do need time to sit around and rise (prove, if you want to be technical).

this recipe also makes what seems to be a ton of rolls....about 50, depending on how big you make your rolls. i know 50 sounds like alot of bread rolls, but don't forget you don't have to bake and eat them all in one day because the dough can be refrigerated. this means you can have these beautiful rolls baked fresh over a couple of days. this can be quite useful when we run out of bread and i don't want to drive out just to buy a loaf of bread.

also, don't think you have to eat them just as rolls either. the dough is versatile and can be used to make a variety of yeasted baked goods. i'll tackle that over the next couple of posts.

4 cups milk
1 cup sugar
250 grams butter
7 cups plain flour
2 cups self raising flour
2 packets (4 1/2 tablespoons) yeast
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
2 tablespoons salt

place milk, sugar and butter in a large stockpot and bring to the boil.

remove the stockpot from the stove and leave it for and hour of so to cool until comfortably warm (about 25 degrees celcius or if you hold your hand against the pot, it feels just warm, not hot - remember, you've just left the pot for an hour, so the pot shouldn't be burning hot).

once the milk mixture is comfortably warm, add 4 cups of plain flour and use a handheld electric mixer to beat the flour into the liquid. the mixer just makes it easy and helps to get rid of most of the lumps. if you don't have one, that's fine - just stir it around until everything is mixed in nicely.

add the yeast and give that a stir as well.

add in the remaining plain flour, the self raising flour, bicarbonate of soda and salt and mix that in well. you'll have to do this part manually as the dough might be too elastic at this stage to do it with a mixer. i like to use a silicon spatula to help mix and scrape the dough off the sides of the stockpot. this is a really sticky dough and if you use your hands, you'll probably have to use too much flour to keep from sticking.

once everything is combined, just cover the stockpot with a lid or cloth and leave it until required. if you don't need any rolls for that day, put the covered stockpot in the refrigerator. if you decide to refrigerate it, just make sure to check the dough every now and then and punch it down whenever necessary (the dough will continue to rise in the refrigerator, and as such, you have to punch it down so it doesn't overflow). this dough will stay quite happy in the refrigerator for up to 3 days (it could stay longer i guess, but i've never had an opportunity to find out).

an hour or two before you need the rolls, grease one or two muffin tins.

dip your fingers in some flour so the dough doesn't stick to you and snip off walnut sized pieces of dough (i like using scissors to snip off the dough, but if you like to pinch it off or pull it off, feel free to do as you wish), and pop three pieces in each muffin hole.

once all the muffin holes are filled, the dough can be sprayed with water and sprinkled with poppy seeds, sesame seeds or sunflower seeds, or brushed with butter or whatever you want to do.

cover the rolls and leave them them in a warm spot (i like to put them on a table outside in the sun) to rise for an hour or so. if it isn't sunny, or if it's cold, pop the tray on top of a pot of hot water. the top of a warm old television is fine, too. be patient at this stage. you want the rolls to rise completely so they are nice and light, not heavy and dense. if you want heavy, dense rolls, you'll need different flour and a different recipe.

once the rolls have done their part and risen to the occasion, bake them in an oven preheated to 200 degrees celcius for about 20 minutes or until they are nice and golden

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

how i like to keep track of recipes on little scraps of paper

i usually like to photocopy whatever recipe i like (in colour, if possible) on A4 paper because it's more sturdy and put it in a plastic sleeve to go into an A4 lever arch binder or display book with the plastic sleeves. this can be time consuming, but once it's done, it's wonderful because the recipes and pictures are well protected. i think it's worth doing the photocopying especially for recipes which have been cut out because they are often on little scraps of paper which are easily lost, which can be heartbreaking if it is a favourite recipe.

i've also found that an added advantage of photocopying the little scraps is that i can enlarge them to fit the A4 sheet and this makes them look really good too.

i often tuck the original recipe behind the photocopy so it also stays well protected and doesn't get tatty and faded. you're less likely to lose it too.

i did try handwriting the recipes out, but i really think that takes alot of dedication. i still try to do this though because it lends the recipe a nice personal touch. do it for your own versions of recipes and it makes them really your own.

i also tried the scrapbook thing, but i found that the cut outs were getting messy and worse still, damaged. i don't bother with this method anymore.

with recipes which become tried and true favourites, i put them on an online file so i can access them when i'm away from home - this worked beautifully when i was in london a few years ago.

this is what works for me; i hope you find something that works for you.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

multi-coloured dermatitis

i look like i've contracted some horrible multi-coloured dermatitis on my hands. but i haven't. i was filling the ink cartridge...the colour cartrtidge, to be specific...of my printer. i usually try to underfill because there is no reason to overfill, unless you want to have the (expensive) ink leak out and stain everything that gets in its way, such as hands, for instance. a messy, very messy affair. and such a waste. and i don't like wasting anything if i can help it. but i thought that the cartridge was low in blue ink...well, i thought wrong. well, there were lines going across my printing, so it meant i was low on something....the yellow looked still nice and fresh, and because what i was printing was purple, i assumed it was blue. i assumed wrong. there was still tons of blue (or cyan, if you want to be picky). i found that out the hard way. so once i got the excess blue/cyan blotted up, i topped the cartridge up with red...ensuring that i didn't put too much ink in, of course. naturally, the printer's doing a great job now, and all the printing's nice and even.

all said and done, i'm very happy with my printer. it must be something about me - i love printing. i remember when i was younger, i asked my father for a photocopy machine. i know, other people ask for other things. this is just me. and because he's my dad, and because i'm me, he got that printed A3. i was in heaven printing things. printing things so they would look like the originals, such as sheet music. sheet music? yes, sheet music. another affliction of mine - i like keeping things in mint condition. so if i bought sheet music, i'd run off copies of it to use so i could keep the original...well.....original looking. as far as i know, if one has a copy of the original and makes copies for one's own use (and not to sell, redistribute etc) it's legal.

these days, printers are so cheap...and light...and in colour. what more could a girl ask for? an A3 (or bigger) printer! that's something i'd really like, and once one of those are readily on the market, i might just get myself one. i know they're available in the the UK, but i want to see one in real life and touch it and see it in action, before i'll get one. i think it's important to have to wait for certain things in life - sometimes it's just too easy just to get whatever it is one wants.

when i think of the photocopier that dad got me nearly 30 years ago (i's scary that i can talk in decades now) and how much it cost (thousands, back then), how heavy it was (we finally had to tip it, and man was it heavy - we had to pull the thing apart and even so, the components needed at least 2 people to lift it into the skip bin) and that it only printed black, i am amazed at what the printers these days can do. it's a pity my dad isn't around to see it all - he'd love it. he'd love the printers, and i'm positive he'd love the internet - reading online news, trading shares online, ebay....he'd love it.

Friday, October 10, 2008

baking powder

baking powder is essentially the combination of an alkali and an acid - if you mix the two, they give off carbon dioxide which when added to a cake batter makes them rise.

in the case of baking powder, the acid takes the form of cream of tartar and the alkali is bicarbonate of soda. both are dry, so when they are combined, remain inert (don't do anything) until a liquid is added, then fizzing and all hell breaks loose....not really about hell breaking loose. if you're on the ball, you'll realise that because cream of tartar is an acid, you'll be able to replace it with vinegar, another acid which should be fairly easy to find around the house, if not in the pantry.

so how to make baking powder? so simple. two parts cream of tartar to one part bicarbonate of soda. mix it together and there you have it. this is more potent than the store bought variety, so you only need half as much. if you don't think you can remember to use just half, just add one part cornflour to the bicarbonate of soda and cream of tartar mixture, mix well, and use it as you would regular baking powder.

if you want to perform amazing feats with children, this is a good volcano ingredient - use vinegar with the bicarbonate of soda with food colouring. this is especially good with younger children who are easier to impress. with teenagers, one might have to resort to making fireworks, something else i've made in another life, but that's another story for another time.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

lemonade, like at the easter show, but probably healthier

do you ever buy those big lemonade drinks they sell at the easter show? you know, the ones which are in a big tank with the lemon rinds floating in them and lots of ice? we do, and we buy the really big one because we like to share it (between the three of us, and no one else). it's always so refreshing and the acidity's just right to cut the greasiness of all the junk we eat when we're at the show. doesn't this sound bad? so much junky food...and drink.... i reason that it comes once a year, and the show's the only place where we get this kinda stuff. i'm sure it's available all year round at markets and the like, but for us, that's the only time we see it.
this lemonade is my imitation of the one at the show, but i'm sure it's better because it's home made, and as such, we would take extra love and care when we make it. like washing the lemons before we use them and not adding any preservatives or anything unnatural.....and since this is so wholesome sounding and all, one of these days, i'm going to post something to "balance" it, like the recipe for corn dogs (yum) and cheese on a stick (yum yum).
we didn't make it to the easter show this year, so i think miss k might be entitled to her annual quota of junky easter show food, albeit my version of it.

1 cup fresh-squeezed lemon juice (about 6 washed lemons, and retain the rinds for the garnish)
7 cups water
1 cup granulated sugar

combine the lemon juice with the water and sugar in an 2 litre jug and stir to disslove the sugar. if you like, you can stir, go away and do something and come back to it and give it another stir, and before you know, it would have dissloved.
place the jug in the fridge until ready to serve.
to serve, fill a large glass with ice and fill the glass with the lemon concoction. to give it the full easter show effect, put half a lemon rind in the glass, as they do. me? i like to slice the rind into slivers before adding it to the drink, so they release lots of lemon flavour.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

family traits

ever since i gave birth to my firstborn, miss c, i couldn't believe how much our children inherit from us, their parents. in fact, i'd be more inclined to say their grandparents. miss c has definitely inherited alot of characteristics from my side of the family, especially my father. my father always used to say that he liked his food hot, when it was supposed to be hot, and cold when it was supposed to be cold. nothing in between. me? i don't mind having leftovers cold, but miss c will always reheat leftovers. miss k? she is very much a clone of her paternal grandmother. they like things salty if it's savoury or sweet if it's sweet and they just lurve deep fried food. and both of them have fine bones, so they look nice and slender. naturally, miss c, taking after her maternal grandfather (and me) has a heavier bone structure.
which brings me to why i started rambling. miss k and i went over to the wigs and miss k was enjoying a friendly game of monopoly with her cousins wiggy and sly. engine, being only two, wasn't able to comprehend the full complexity of the game and naturally didn't want to be left out. so what did he do but grab hold of some of the money from the game and ran around the room teasingly with miss k in hot pursuit. once she caught up with him, he hurriedly scrunched up the notes. i know where he got that naughtiness from - his mum, my little sister. blutsie, being nine years younger than me, would often run off with my homework as an attention getting strategy. and as if it were a cue, the minute i uttered the word "mum", she would scrunch up my homework. sound familiar?

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

my pumpkins

we've been in this house for just over a year now and i know with some people, they would have made 36932 changes to the house and have the whole place liveable and have alot to show for it. me? sigh....

so what, you ask, has this to do with my pumpkins? well, in this year just gone, i grew eight pumpkins in my garden. i'd say in this year past, i have eight pumpkins to show for the year....sort of...i had eight pumpkins, and now have only two left to show you. i wish i had taken photos when i had all eight, but i didn't even think about it. now i have just two, i thought i had better get my act together. so i have a photo of the two remaining ...with an egg so you can see it in perspective....

Monday, October 6, 2008

honey and oat pancakes by whisks

i first made these scrummy pancakes on a beautiful spring day on my backyard verandah. i bought an induction hotplate a while ago, and it has been wonderful to use. i really love it because i had to do most of my cooking outside, since the kitchen we had didn't have an exhaust fan. now that it does, i still continue to cook outside because it works so well.
cooking these pancakes outside allowed me to sit down at the little table and read the magazine section of my sunday paper and enjoy my coffee - it was bliss. i was multitasking - cooking pancakes, reading my magazine and sipping a coffee.

now for what you'll need:

the ingredients:
2 cups self raising flour
1 cup rolled oats
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
2 cups buttermilk (don't worry if you don't have any - just add 2 tablespoons of vinegar to regular milk
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1/4 cup honey
1 tablespoon melted butter
extra butter to coat griddle
1/2 cup toasted sunflower seeds

the utensils:
a griddle
mixing bowl
measuring cups and spoons
pancake turner

here's everything mixed and ready to go on the table i've set out outside. because this is a real life home demonstration, i have to let you know that the griddle i had set up on the hotplate decided to crack when it was heated. hence the pancakes were cooked on the frypan:

here at not just cake, we know how to improvise. and here is what the pancake looked like when it has been flipped:

and here's a whole pile of the pancakes:

as you can see, these look rustic, and i like that.

honey and oat pancakes

2 cups self raising flour
1 cup rolled oats
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
2 cups buttermilk
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1/4 cup honey
1 tablespoon melted butter
extra butter to coat griddle
1/2 cup toasted sunflower seeds

combine the flour, oats, salt and bicarbonate of soda. add the buttermilk, eggs, honey and melted butter. use the mixer to give it a mix. don't worry if the batter is slightly lumpy. you can either use the pancake batter straight away, or you can leave it the the fridge for a couple of hours until you are ready to make the pancakes.
when you're ready, melt some butter on the hot griddle, then use the ladle to pour 1/4 cup batter (more for larger pancakes) onto the griddle. immediately sprinkle each pancake with 1 tablespoon sunflower seeds. if you don't like the sunflower seeds, you can use something else, or not use anything else - the pancakes are nice however you like them. Cook one side of the pancake until bubbles begin to break on surface and underside is brown.
flip pancakes and brown other side.
makes about 10 servings...or one or two really big ones.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

eating cookie dough

ohno heard i made chocolate chip cookies with wiggy yesterday and asked if he could have some....that was yesterday...this is today. told him i'd whip up a batch for him - his own batch.....if he could drive over (he hasn't got a driver's licence, yet), and if miss c and miss k were home (which they weren't). so i did the next best thing and offered him the recipe so he could make his own. this lead onto the discussion about cookie dough and the finished product.
ohno had posed this question, "do you ever find when you're baking that the dough tastes better than the finished product?"
now, for all my love of cooking, baking and food in general, i don't ever taste my cake batter or my cookie dough. never. ever. i always wait until the product has reached its final destination and is in all its glory, ready to be consumed because it is complete. part of this is because i don't like the taste of raw flour. then there is the hygeine aspect. if ever i have to taste, say, a soup or casserole for seasoning (which is rare), i use a separate spoon for each taste - i'm not one of those people who can taste with the spoon they are cooking with, then stick it back in the pot. each to their own, but there are tons of enzymes in saliva, and once it hits the food, it starts to decompose - the process of digestion commences the split second your food enters your mouth. i prefer to start the digestion process of my food when i put it in my mouth. but i think the reason why i don't taste as i go is because very often, i can look at a recipe and know whether it's going to work out. i know that about one teaspoon of salt is about enough for one kilo of meat, and unless i really go to town with really pungent spices, seasonings are about right. with baked good, everything needed should already be in the recipe, so there isn't a need to taste test. and i always scrape my bowls and spoons and beaters really clean, so there isn't anything much to lick off.
that's my story, and i'm sticking to it and it has nothing to do with me having phobias about raw food (i eat sashimi, for heaven's sake) and it hasn't got anything with me being scared about finding out how delicious raw cookie dough is and eating it all before i even get it on the baking tray.... like i said, that's my story, and i'm sticking to it.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

pound cake by whisks

does this title sound boring? i guess it does, but a good pound cake has been one of those elusive things in my life. it's a simple cake, but it isn't....a good one that is. then, there's always this thing called "personal preference" - for me, i want a pound cake to be fragrant, comforting and have a mouth feel that's...that's...velvety, smooth....i don't know, it's hard to explain exactly....i must lack the eloquence, especially in between mouthfuls.
i've tried making this cake in lots of different ways - i've tried it where i don't beat until the sugar's dissolved, i've tried it where i beat it until the sugar's dissolved....i've even tried baking it with half plain flour and half self raising flour (no, i didn't run short of either - i just wanted to experiment) and permutations of these and other methods. all methods were delicious, but perhaps the one where i used half self raising flour and half plain flour and dissolved the sugar was my favourite. that said, this is a favourite cake in all its permutations.....maybe because it's so deliciously buttery and fragrant....something old fashioned and comforting....bliss.... go ahead and try making it - it's almost foolproof, and wonderful to eat.

125g butter
3/4 cup sugar
3 eggs
1 cup self raising flour
2 tablespoon powdered milk
1 tablespoon corn syrup
juice of half a small lemon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

cream sugar and butter together until light and fluffy.
add eggs one at a time and mix well.
add in flour, powdered milk, and corn syrup.
beat each in well.
add the lemon juice, salt, vanilla, nutmeg, and mace.
make sure everything is well combined, and pour into a greased loaf pan.
bake 180 degrees celcius for 45 minutes, checking for doneness by inserting a toothpick and seeing if it comes out clean. try not to over bake this - it's much nicer when its just done.

Friday, October 3, 2008

chocolate chip cookies by whisks

these cookies are both crispy and chewy - crisp on the edges and chewy towards the middle. to keep them chewy in the centre, it's important not to over bake them; you want them to be sufficiently cooked so they hold together, and still be chewy.
if small mounds of dough are placed on the baking tray to make small cookies, the resulting cookies are not unlike the ones from famous amos. i remember to first time i had a famous amos cookie and thought that they were so buttery, crisp and crunchy - i didn't know that my cookies were a no effort clone of famous amos. the actual intention of these cookies was to copy those of mrs field - these aren't a mrs field's clone, but i'm very happy with them, as are miss c and miss k and all those who have had them.
because these cookies are so quick and easy to make, i often like to whip up a batch before we go somewhere, and there's nothing as homey and comforting as fresh cookies. they also make the house smell welcoming. if you know you are going to see some friends soon, why not surprise them with a batch of these?
feel free to mix and match with the chocolate - if you do end up using chopped up block chocolate, the ones with nuts are very good - and i just love the irregularity of the chopped chocolate - it adds a certain charm to the cookies, don't you think?

1 cup softened butter
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
2 eggs
2 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups self raising flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
600 grams chocolate chips (or chopped up block chocolate, which is my preference)

preheat oven to 190 degrees celcius.
in a large mixing bowl, cream together the butter, sugars, eggs, and vanilla.
add the flour & salt.
mix together.
stir in the chocolate chips.
place walnut-sized dough portions a baking tray lined with baking paper. i find that six lumps of dough fit on the baking tray comfortably. i like to use a small ice cream scoop to scoop out the cookie dough so my hands don't get messy and so the cookies are fairly even in size.
bake for 10-13 minutes or just until edges are light brown. the time the cookies are in the oven really depend your preferences and your oven.
makes 30 cookies.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

bonsai, foot binding for plants

a year and a half ago, i accompanied miss c and miss k to the easter show with a few of their friends. one of the group, ohno, had a thing for bonsai plants. i also have a thing for bonsai plants - i equate bonsai with the human torture of foot binding, a practice popular in china in the 18th century, or thereabouts. naturally, women's feet were bound for the pleasure of men ....
today, ohno tells me that he might be going to the bonsai nursery with tall j and also threw in that pokey boy was also partial to bonsai. what is it with guys, i asked - did it have something to do with control? his reply? "hmmmmm....yes....possibly....but that's not why i do it...." yer....right... that's what ohno says, but i know that pokey boy has told both miss c and miss k, individually, that he wanted to tie them his bed....if that isn't wanting to control someone, then what is?
i know they can do very clever things with bonsai, but i still think it's the plant equivalent of foot binding.... and the plants are starved of nutrients so their growth is stunted....and sometimes bleached to achieve a weathered, aged effect....if you have one, treat it well, if you don't, don't encourage the practice.....

strawberry mousse

for one reason or another, i have always avoided making mousse. i don't know whether it was the gelatine aspect, the cream whipping aspect, having to use the blender then having to wash it up, or in this case, the use of fresh, luscious berries in a dessert, when i often wonder why people don't just eat the berries just as they are, rather than fiddle with something so perfect. however, now i know why one would make a strawberry mousse - because it is soooo delicious, and oh so easy, especially the way i do it. and what made me take the plunge? it's strawberry season now and perhaps i couldn't justify not making a mousse anymore.

1 punnet (250 grams) strawberries, washed and hulled
1/2 cup sugar
300 mls cream
2 teaspoons gelatine
1/3 cup boiling water

place the gelatine in a small bowl and pour the boiling water over and stir until the gelatine has completely dissolved. set aside while the straberry mixture is being prepared.

place the strawberries, cream and sugar in the beaker of a 1 litre capacity coffee plunger and use a bamix (or other kitchen wand) to blend the contents together. once smooth, pour in the gelatine liquid and blend again.

pour the resulting mousse mixture into 150ml capacity serving glasses or ramekins. the size of your glasses will determine the number of servings you get; i usually get about 5-6 servings and find that this is ideal - any bigger, and one could experience mousse overload, and any less may not be quite satisfying enough.

refrigerate for a couple of hours, or overnight, if time permits. we tend to go through these mousses very quickly (read they are eaten as soon as they set, if not before), however, i did find one behind some other containers in the fridge which was a couple of days old and still very delicious, so i can say they do keep a couple of days quite happily.