Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Still not dead; I made muffins

A few people on Facebook asked me for this recipe so I though I'd type it up here for ease of linking. These are very good; I think they will become a new staple. And I'm now wondering if sweet potato can substitute for banana in banana bread recipes (I am weird and hate banana.)

While I'm here I will note that I still aten't dead, but I have been dealing with a chronic illness for over 2 years now. I'm not cooking anything tricky but I have recovered enough to do light prep. If you're interested, I have some recipe boards on pinterest under the nym of kuiperbelter - sweet, savoury, WTF?, and "without spoons".

Sweet Potato Muffins

Ingredients
250g peeled cooked sweet potato, mashed
75g dark brown sugar
1 egg
200ml milk
1 tablespoon sunflower oil
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
220g self raising flour
1.5 tsp cinnamon
1.5 tsp ginger
1/4 tsp cardamom

Method
Mix sweet potato, sugar, egg, milk, oil and vanilla until pretty smoothish.
Fold in flour and spices.
Divide into muffin tray.
Bake for 20 minutes at 200C or until done (skewer comes out dry).

Notes
This is based on a pumpkin muffin recipe from Aussie Farmers Direct, though theirs had more sugar and a different spice blend (1/2 tsp each of ground cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon, ginger), and a different oil. I made 8 medium-small muffins; they suggested 12 but that would be quite small ones.

I used paper cases to line the tins; the muffin stuck when hot but the paper peeled off beautifully when it was cold. The muffins are nice and moist despite being low fat. And delicious! Fine to eat plain, or add a smear of Bonne Maman chestnut cream for extra deliciousness.




Saturday, 21 January 2012

I'm not dead yet (and Clafouti)

I'm just resting.

Anyway, I was just chatting with a friend about clafouti, and I said that I would blog it if I were still blogging. So hey, why not? Hello strangers! Happy new year 2012, I aten't dead.

Clafouti is basically a light batter pudding. It's a really really easy thing to do for a fruit dessert, and for boring reasons, really really easy is all I do these days. And if you go and research clafouti, you will find a zillion recipes with wildly variable ratios of ingredients. Anything from 1 teaspoon of flour to 1/4 cup of flour per egg. Liquids may be creme fraiche, yoghurt, sour cream, cream, milk. I've tried a few variants recently and this is one I like - a more custardy texture than some, not too solid.

Generic Clafouti, Apricot Almond variety
400g fruit (chopped fresh apricots)
1/4 cup plain flour, sifted
1/4 cup caster sugar
2 eggs
1 cup plain yoghurt
1/4 cup milk
dash vanilla essence
2 tablespoons liqueur (amaretto)
flaked almonds to decorate


Preheat the oven to 180C
Lightly butter a small casserole dish.
Toss in the fruit, cut in bite sized pieces.
Mix together the flour and sugar, and beat in the eggs.
Add vanilla, liqueur, yoghurt, and milk, and whisk gently just to free from any lumps.
Pour the batter over the fruit.
Sprinkle with flaked almonds (optional).
Bake for 35-45 minutes, until done - a test skewer comes out clean.

Serve hot or warm, with a dollop of cream or icecream.

I use a 24cm round pyrex casserole dish. If you have a larger flan plate, which is more traditional, it will be shallower and so cook a bit more quickly. So this is very easy, and you can swap in frozen berries or other fruits to taste. Cherries are classic French. I've made this so far with frozen blackberries, and fresh boysenberries and tonight with the apricots.

Saturday, 14 May 2011

Where am I?

I'm not currently blogging about Canberra or cooking, because I'm not actually in Canberra at the moment. My friends and family know where I am, but for anyone else, here's a little guessing game. Based on the breakfast menu, where am I?

Breakfasts at various hotels have included:
* bread with fetta cheese, tomato, cucumber and olives
* olive stuffed pastries, and bread with butter and sour cherry jam
* bread with a boiled egg and olives, and yoghurt with peach preserves
* yoghurt with tahini and raisin syrup, and cheese pastries
* bread with butter and pine honey, and an orange
* bread with rose petal jam, and dried mulberries

They serve tea or nescafe, mostly. Although you can get very good coffee here, it's not usually served at breakfast. The bread is all lovely crusty white loaves, but by now I'm starting to crave a good chewy multigrain. Probably toasted, with vegemite. The bloke is very taken with the idea of olives for breakfast, so this may go onto the menu at home.

By the way, I'm reading a book published in 1950. It's an autobiographical memoir from this region, in which the author describes what this strange thing called "yogurt" is to his anglo readers. "A kind of sour junket", he says. These days, I'd bet that people are more familiar with yoghurt than junket.

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

One new thing...

OK, so I have done one thing new in the last month, and that's this lovely recipe for dark greens. These bitter vegetables are terribly good for you, and I love the complexity of the huge flavours you get with the bitter greens, acid lemon, hot chilli and fruity oil. The bitterness is much mitigated by a bit of acid - unless you're a super-taster, in which case there's no chance.

I started with this recipe from Serious Eats. Basically, you pan fry your greens with olive oil, onion, garlic and chilli until they are well done. This takes a couple of minutes for spinach, a bit longer for silverbeet, maybe 10 minutes for Tuscan kale (cavolo nero) and 15 minutes for regular kale. When it's cooked, add a little acid - a tablespoon or so of lemon juice or cider vinegar for a regular bunch of greens.

And then it's ready - a good side dish. Or you can follow the Serious Eats idea and make quesadillas with it. I've done this using multigrain wraps, and it worked fine. You do need to include both mozzarella and fetta, though, or they won't stick together.

Sunday, 17 April 2011

Tweaking recipes, Using Things Up

One reason for my fairly sparse blogging has been a dearth of new recipes. When I'm busy at work, and travelling, and eating out, home cooked food tends to resort to the staples.

Now that it's colder at night, a hearty soup is a fine thing. The most recent one I made was a variation on this chorizo and lentil soup. I had a tomato glut, and used B1's mouli to turn it into passata, so instead of a bit of tomato paste and a litre of chicken stock, I used half a litre of chicken stock and half a litre of passata. And I blended the soup before adding the chorizo; the bloke likes his soups smooth. (Except laksa. The rules are complicated.)

Another variation came because I was out of cumin. I decided to use a 1/2 teaspoon of ground wattleseed instead, having discovered quite some time ago that this goes surprisingly well with tomato. It adds a dark caramel roast savouriness - but do be careful not to overdo it. The half teaspoon was plenty.

So that was good.

I've also been cooking a lot of old standards. This week's muffin was apple and cinnamon, with some older apples from the fridge. We've been eating keema and spag bol with mince from the freezer. There's been a chicken noodle stirfry, and a lamb curry with paste from the market and the last of the beans from the garden. Homemade pizza is good for finishing the odds and ends of ham, salami, olive, artichokes, etc. I've been roasting tomatoes to use in soup and curry and pasta sauce, and roasting rhubarb from the garden - the latest time with some plums and rosewater.

I've also cooked and frozen a batch of figs, with the intent of making jam later in the year. We're off on a big holiday soon, and have our usual Easter houseguests before then, so I have no time to be fiddling with pectin and jars. I can't believe I never thought of doing this before. It's B1's idea.

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

OMG, online at last!

The Canberra Times is finally posting selected food and wine content on line, including reviews. Here it is. I tremble in anticipation.

Monday, 4 April 2011

Sydney feature, with New in Town in Newtown

As I mentioned earlier, we recently had a weekend in Sydney. We stayed a night with some friends in Dee Why, who took us off to a Korean BBQ place up behinds the main street. It's called Let's Meat - and if you know Lizotte's, a kind of newish dinner-theatre style music venue, it's directly behind that. Lizotte's looks fabulous - they get some great shows through and have a classy sounding menu.

I can't (yet) vouch for Lizotte's menu, though I intend to try it sometime. But I can say that Let's Meat stands out above the usual Korean BBQ for their meat selection. The chef puts a lot of work into the marinades, including traditional Chinese herbal spiced pork and the classic beef bulgogi, as well as inventing his own. The plum sauce sirloin was terrific. It's a buffet style, with all the kimchi, salads and pickles you could want, and fried dumplings and spring rolls to start off with.

On our second night we stayed in a hotel in town, so we could easily walk home from the Tim Minchin concert - the main reason for this visit. Next morning we slept in until half an hour before checkout time, and went off to Newtown for breakfast. It's been ten years since we moved from there now, and North Newtown seems to have gone a step too far upmarket to be interesting. Enmore road and South Newtown is where the off-beat stuff happens now. As a rough generalisation, Enmore road is more goth and kink, while south Newtown is more retro and hippy.

We had breakfast at a place called "New in Town", located where the old Chocolate Dog cafe is no more. They did a decent coffee, and we ate fluffy ricotta pancakes (me, $11), and a lovely BLT in a crusty long roll (bloke, $7). They do Polish at night, says their sign, and there's Polish sausage options for breakfast if that's your thing. Then we went for a short stroll as the shop owners were blearily setting up for their 11am and noon opening hours. We browsed around some Turkish and Afghan importers shops, and picked up some amusing jewelry from Mink Schmink. There's a nice range there, mostly in the cheap and quirky vein. So, that was fun, and then it was time to go home.

Saturday, 2 April 2011

Et tu, Flute?

I had to go out to Fyshwick to buy a new dishwasher hose, so of course I had to drop in at the Flute bakery. I got a lovely sourdough loaf, of course, and also picked up some of their Easter range - the hot cross brioche. This is cute, but I don't really recommend them. They're a nice enough little roll of rich dough, but sadly under-spiced to be a proper hot cross bun substitute. The fruit is just sultanas. No currants, and then there's the vexed issue of the mixed peel. Sadly, Flute have gone along with the recent trend to eliminate it. It's just not right having a hot cross bun without that little bitter citrus tang. For the first time, I am disappointed in Flute.

However, on a positive note, That Bagel Place is now making hot cross bagels! I queued up for them in the market this morning, and was not disappointed with them at all. Nicely spiced, and with the odd dot of peel. Yum! It was their "bagel of the week", so we can't count on a re-occurrence. But I do hope they continue baking these until Easter - that would make sense.

Thursday, 31 March 2011

Grandma's Little Bakery

"Grandma's Little Bakery" looks like a misnomer to me. It should probably be called Ia-ia's or Nonna's or Siti's. This cafe, function centre and shop is located in the Fedra olive grove, just off the Federal Highway in the Collector region. They specialise in olives, of course, and other Mediterranean products, and they serve meals as well as selling foods. They seem to be doing pretty well - we dropped in on our way back from Sydney last week and the place was packed.

The shop is quite the treasure trove. You can find freshly made hummus, pestos, olive and ricotta dip, tapenade, and more. There's a range of home made nougats - the pistachio and apricot is great - and other confectionery. There's ingredients such as syrups of rose, date, and pomegranate, dry goods such as lentils and couscous, and a big range of spices, whole and ground including exotics like za'atar and baharat. But the spice tub sizes are a bit too large for me; they'd be stale by the time I finished. You can buy their specialty boreks packed frozen to take home. There's also fresh baked bread, bagels and pastries, and they stock the well-known Lynwood farm preserves.

We didn't actually stop for lunch or arvo tea, since we'd just had a big brunch in Sydney. But having checked the place out and enjoyed their produce, I hope to make it a destination sometime.

Sunday, 27 March 2011

Slice

"Slice" is a very useful generic concept for clearing out the fridge. It's so generic that it doesn't have a name besides just "slice". It could be spinach slice, or zucchini slice, or mixed veggie slice, or many other things.

The idea is that you locate all the non-watery veggies that need using up. Clean them and grate them or chop them or whatever. Spinach, chard, silverbeet etc should be lightly steamed, then squeezed and chopped. I find that zucchini can be grated then squeezed out to remove excess water. Some mashed pumpkin is good, or precooked cauliflower or broccoli. Defrosted frozen spinach can be used, too. But no tomatoes in the mix, they are too wet!

Anyway, you pop them in a big bowl. Add any odds and ends of cheese that you have, grated if it's firm. Cheddar, ricotta, and cottage cheese are good basics, but there's nothing to stop you using fancy bits of brie or gruyere. Then add some cooked rice - one of those sachets of precooked rice from the supermarket is handy here, if you don't have leftovers and don't have time to cook it. I like to make this with brown rice.

Chuck in some flavouring agents. I like to use plenty of dill and lemony herbs like sumac and lemon myrtle, and some chopped spring onions. But perhaps some fresh basil and garlic might suit your fancy better. I usually like to make it fairly mild, and then add some chutney or sauce to taste at serving time. You can add other little bits and pieces of stuff for an accent - leftover antipasti, a handful of pitted and halved olives, some chopped sun-dried tomatoes or roast capsicum. If you're not cooking for a vegetarian, some chopped ham or cooked bacon pieces could well go in.

Now have a closer look at your bowlful of stuff. Will it fit into your shallow casserole dish or pie plate for baking? If it looks like too much, then scoop some into a storage container to freeze for next time. If it's not enough, add another grated zucchini, or some frozen spinach or frozen peas or something.

To finish off, take 4-8 eggs, depending on the size of the dish. Break them in, and mix well. If they're a bit old, because this is also good to use up excess eggs, then break them into a cup first to check that there are no bad smells. Put all in your oven dish and top with sliced tomatoes if you want, maybe some breadcrumbs for crunch, and definitely some grated cheese - more cheddar, or some parmesan. Bake at 160C until the egg is set - 30-60 minutes depending on the depth of the baking dish. Don't rush it with a high temperature, or it will tend to separate and get watery.

Serve it in big slices, like a lasagne. This is a complete meal in itself, with veggies, protein and carbs all together. But it's good to have something else alongside for variety. That could be a nice crisp salad, or any side vegetable, or even a sausage for the meat-eaters, or a slice of smoked salmon - that's especially good if you've gone for lemon and dill as your flavours.