Malta: Puddina

I was flicking through my Food Safari cookbook the other day looking for inspiration.  I’ve mentioned before I get itchy to bake, and this day was no exception.  I turned to the pages on Maltese food.  My son’s best mate is Maltese, so I thought it only fitting I try my hand at Maltese cooking (doesn’t everyone do this?)  I found a great recipe for using up stale bread.  Puddina!

 

The recipe calls for day old bread or bread rolls etc.  Also mixed fruit, sugar, eggs etc.  My husband and I are not at all keen on candied peel.  In fact, I think it should be banned.  It ruins perfectly good food.  Yuk!  So instead of buying chopped mixed fruit I bought various dried fruits and chopped them up myself to ensure no candied peel crept into my Puddina.  I also added sultana’s into the mix.

 

This pudding is not really what you would define as a pudding.  Although, I imagine heating it and eating it with a bowl of warmed custard would be divine (note to self: do this tonight).  It’s a really moist cake that can be eaten anytime.  Morning tea, afternoon tea, midnight snack … anytime.  With all that dried fruit and almonds I like to think it’s a healthy option for a snack…maybe.

 

 

Because you use a whole loaf of bread it yields a massive cake.  But I don’t think you will find this is a problem.

 

 

 

 

You might be able to see from the above picture a little bit of bread.  I think it should probably be all mixed in and the actual bread should be unidentifiable.  But this was my first attempt and it didn’t make any difference to the overall taste in my opinion.

 

So I bravely decided to give a large portion to my Maltese friends.  Of course I doubt it was like Grandma used to make but I handed it over anyway.  Thankfully they were really pleased to receive it and they loved it!  Success!

 

Delly

 

Donna Hay: Flourless Chocolate Truffle Cake – A Review

Those of you who have been reading this blog since the beginning would know that I have a little aversion to packet cake mixes.  I don’t “hate” them.  In fact, I made one the other day with my 3year old niece who has the attention of a goldfish (I figured she didn’t have the patience to sit through all the sifting, adding etc.).  So I am not so much “anti” cake mixes.  But given the choice, I would bake from scratch for sure.

 

Having said all that, Donna Hay’s PR department sent Bells and I a packet of us a Chocolate Truffle cake each to bake and review.  It’s nice that our little blog was one of the many (I imagine) to be chosen to review this product.

 

I’m not a huge rich chocolate fan.  I had a bad experience with a Max Brennar restaurant once, which I won’t bore you with the details.  Suffice to say, I ate too much chocolate one evening and was reminded of the fact throughout the rest of the (very long) night.

 

So when I baked this cake I made sure I had friends and family to share it with.

 

 

The packet mix was dead simple.  You did need to melt some chocolate and some butter together, but that is about as tricky as it got.  The instructions were clear and easy to understand.  The strange bit just before popping the mixture in the oven was covering the uncooked cake mixture with a foil dome.  You had to fold the foil over in one corner so you ended up with a small pleat which enabled the foil to cover the tin and also point upwards. (There is a picture on the back of the box – so no need to freak out).

 

The cake comes out a little wobbly in the middle. I know this goes against all we know about cake baking, but trust me, this is normal.  You need to pop it in the fridge straight away and allow it to completely cool – 4 hours at least.  I did it overnight as I was cooking ahead.

 

And the final result??  Really, really good.  You need to think of it differently from your average fluffy cake.  It’s made with almond meal, which straight away will give you a completely different texture to your cake made with flour.  I actually liked the texture.  It was a little gritty (probably not the best word to use for cake).  The cake was firm and very, very chocolately.  Too much chocolate for me.  But that’s just personal taste.  If you are a chocolate lover, then this is the chocolate treat for you.

 

I served it up with whipped cream and raspberries.  The cake had such a special feel about it, it is definitely the kind of cake you want to bring out when you hope to impress someone.  Restaurant quality, I believe.

 

So would I make it again?  If I was pushed for time and I had someone coming for dinner who adored chocolate on a scary scale then… yes I would.  It doesn’t have that “packet cake’ flavour which is a big bonus for me.

 

Back to delicious home-made goodies next time.

 

Delly

Flavours Of The Valley – Cooking School

So last year a very new thing happened to me – I actually won a competition.  I don’t think I have ever won anything of significance (seeing that I can’t actually remember being that lucky).  When I registered for the Good Food and Wine Show last year I also entered a competition to win 2 tickets to a cooking school.  I had forgotten all about it (as you do when you never win anything) and then a phone call came along saying that I was the lucky winner.  WooHoo!  I didn’t really believe it until the tickets arrived.  Yay me!

 

The cooking school is in the Kangaroo Valley, which is just 2 hours south of Sydney.  Flavours of the Valley is run by Toni and Rob Moran and is set in bushland just outside the small town.  I was fortunate enough to have two tickets so I decided my husband should join me and we would celebrate 18yrs of marriage and learn a few new skills at the same time.

 

So we started off making pasta.  The flour was already measured out and the tools of the trade (a fork, a pasta machine and a pasta scraper) were all we needed.  I must admit, I have never made my own pasta before but figured it couldn’t be that hard.

 

 

I found the kneading a little tricky (not the action itself) but just getting it to a workable state.  But both Paul and I got there in the end.  We then had to let the pasta rest for a while whilst we moved onto the business of cooking the rest of our three course meal.

 

Because there were ten students in total, each couple had particular tasks to perform which would, in the end, bring a whole meal together.  Paul and I worked on the warm Caponata Salad which formed part of the Antipasti.

Caponata Warm  Salad

Figs with Blue cheese and Procuitto

Cannellini Brushetta with rocket and mozzarella

Stuffed Zucchini Flowers

 

 

 

 

In terms of skills level, both Paul and I found the salad quite easy and so we happily checked out what other people were doing and asked questions of not only our instructors but also other students.  Everybody seemed willing to learn and willing to share what they were doing with those watching on.

 

We eventually returned to our resting pasta and started rolling out the pasta sheets (with the aid of a pasta machine).  This took a lot of coordination, although I am sure we would get better at turning the wheel, feeding the pasta sheet and catching the thinning pasta as it is feeds through the machine.   It was certainly a two person job – thankfully Paul and I were learning together and should make for many a fun afternoon when we make our pasta machine purchase for the home.

 

Making the ravioli was a  little tricky as we learnt the “traditional” way and the “cheats” way.  Both ways are valid and worth practising both.  The results were spectacular.

 

 

And now the Cannoli – oh my!!

 

 

Also we didn’t get to make too much of this, although both Paul and I had a chance to deep fry the cannoli.  I was pleased to have a go at this as I normally have an aversion to any deep-frying (too much hot oil).  But I am happy to say that it wasn’t such a big deal and I am slowly getting over my misgivings.

 

Paul and I really enjoyed our time at Flavours of the Valley.  Having never attended a cooking school before it was certainly something I really found helpful.  Probably the best part was having a try at the pasta (it was also the most frustrating…but I will get better).

 

It was also lovely going with my wonderful husband of 18yrs.  It was a different way of celebrating and something we could bring home and do together.  I can see pasta creation afternoons happening…

 

So thanks Toni and Rob!!  It was fun and I hope we’ll be back!

 

Delly

Breakfast Cinnamon Rolls

It was my birthday a few days ago and I decided this year I was not going to bake my own birthday cake.  I’ve done this before and enjoyed the experience, but this year it was not going to happen.

However, there has been a recipe that has been teasing me for quite a while and it’s been wooing me to make it.  So I thought what better time than my birthday to bake something purely for me.  So I hit the kitchen to make my Birthday Cinnamon Rolls – to be enjoyed at breakfast with my husband and son.

The recipe suggests using a mixer with a dough hook or a large mixing bowl to do by hand.  I decided it was a good opportunity to use my bread maker and use the “dough” setting.  This required me to throw all the ingredients, set it to “dough” and walk away.  However, the recipe below will instruct you with the slightly longer way to do it.

Cinnamon Rolls

Dough

1 cup lukewarm milk

2 large eggs, room temp

1/3 cup butter, cut into cubes (I made sure it was slighty softened)

4 1/2 cups plain flour

1 tsp salt

1/2 cup sugar

7g packet rapid rise yeast

Filling

1/3cup butter, softened

1 cup brown sugar

3 tablespoons ground cinnamon

Icing

1 1/2 cups icing sugar

1 tablespoon maple syrup or flavouring

1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted

2 Tablespoons (or more) milk

1 tsp vanilla extract

For the dough: mix all the ingredients in a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer until mixture comes together.

Either knead the dough by hand for 5-8 minutes or until smooth; or using the dough hook in a stand mixer knead for 4-7 minutes at medium speed.

Put the dough in a lightly oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap and place somewhere warm for about 60 minutes or until it has doubled in size.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl, mix the filling ingredients together.  (I found popping the mixture in the microwave for 30 seconds helped the mixture be a more spreadable consistency).

Take the dough out of the bowl and punch it down.  Roll the dough out on a lightly floured surface into a 40cm x 50cm rectangle.  Leaving a 2.5cm border at one end of the short ends, spread the dough evenly with the filling.

Starting at the opposite end from the border with no filling, roll the dough into a log shape and pinch the seam to seal.  Cut into 12 equal size rolls and place cut side up ina rectangluar greased baking pan.

Cover and refridgerate overnight.

The next morning, remove the cinnamon rolls from the fridge and let sit on the counter for about 60 minutes.  Preheat the oven to 190c.  Bake for 20 minutes, or until browned.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl, whisk together with icing.  If it’s too stiff add more milk until runnier.

When rolls are golden, remove form oven, allow to cool for 10-15minutes.  Pour glaze over the cinnamon rolls.  Serve warm.

 

 

These rolls were not too sweet to be enjoyed in the morning.  It was fabulous knowing they were sitting in my fridige overnight all ready to go when I arose.  Most of the work had already been done.  All I needed to do was pop out to the kitchen an hour or so before I wanted to put them in the oven and it would be not be too long before they were ready to enjoy.

 

We all enjoyed them the next day as well.  Thirty seconds in the microwave on high and they were soft and warm again – ready to eat.

 

These rolls were a lovely way to celebrate my birthday with my boys.

Delly

 

Pastry: Brunch Turnovers

Everytime I start to write a blog post I feel I need to apologize for my absence.  But I post when I can and you can be assured that I am continuing in on my baking/eating/thinking about baking/thinking about eating etc… You get the idea.

So I have been thinking about pastry lately and borrowed a book from our local library (yay libraries!!  How good are they??)  The book was a very basic pies and pastries cookbook with quite a lot of instruction on making your own pastry.

My husband, son and I were thinking of going to the Rugby last Saturday night, and rather than buying over-priced garbage from the stadium, I thought I would make some pastries which could be easily eaten without cutlery and also be eaten cool.

So I made these little treasures:

 

 

To make the pastry in a fast and efficient way – you can do the following:

Place a steel blade into your food processor work bowl.  Add 155g plain flour, 1/4 tsp salt, 90g of cold cubed butter.  Process briefly with short bursts of power until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs (a few larger pieces may remain).  With machine running, quickly add 3 T cold water.  Stop the processor very soon after the water is added and the dough comes together.  Remove form the machine and wrap the ball of dough in plastic wrap.  Pop it in the fridge for 1 hour minimum – or overnight.

 

To make the filling, do the following:

Ingredients:

2 T finely chopped spring onion

1 T marg or butter

1 beaten egg

125g shredded cheese

155g finely chopped ham

2 tsp chopped fresh dill

1 tsp minced garlic

Milk

 

Method

Prepare pastry as directed.  When you are ready, remove the dough from the fridge and roll the dough into 37.5 x 25cm rectangle.  Cut into 13cm squares.  Cover dough with plastic wrap and set aside while preparing filling.

In a small bowl combine all ingredients.  Divide evenly between each square being careful to put the filling on only one half of the square (you will need to fold the top over and pinch the pastry).

Moisten the edges of the pastry with a little water.  Fold each square of pastry in half, sealing edges well by pressing with a fork.  Place on a baking tray with baking paper.  Prick the tops and lightly brush with milk.

Bake in preheated oven (190degrees) for about 30 minutes or until golden.  Let stand for 10 minutes before serving.

 

 

 

I have to say my new favourite herb is Dill.  The subtle flavour mix with the cheese and ham is just amazing.  My family and I just loved these.  The pastry was tasty and flaky, the mixture inside the turnover was moist and flavoursome.

 

Alas, I did forget to add the milk wash on top of the pastry before baking, so I felt this made the pastry a little dry.  So I would try not to forget that step next time.  But otherwise, these little flavour-packed pillows are worth a try.  The pastry was not at all daunting to make.  I had it whipped up in the food processor in about 8 minutes.  I also made the pastry ahead of time, which made me feel terribly organised and sucessfully domestic!

I hope you will give them a try.

Delly

Nigella Lawson: Chocolate Mint Cookies

Image

I think I went on a bit of a baking frenzy recently.  You know those moments (or perhaps you don’t), when you start looking at cookbooks and next thing you know you have highlighted several recipes that you absolutely MUST create!  This happens to me from time to time and forces me to glue myself to the kitchen until the moment passes.

 

Usually when this happens I have to look at the calendar to see what events are coming up so that I can share some of my baked goods (this helps me justify excess baking).  Thankfully, my family and I head off to church every Sunday, so I always have somehwere to take my treats – morning tea often features something I have baked.  This is satisfying for all concerned.

 

Recently I baked Nigella’s Chocolate Mint Cookies. These are funny little rock cake like cookies that seem to check all the boxes for a great biscuit.

 

The thing I liked about these biscuits (apart form the fact that they disappeared in seconds) are that they are so easy to make.  They are a no fuss biscuit, packed with chocolatey flavour and a hint of mint.  They come together so quickly and they sit on the biscuit tray in little piles of dough.  They are so unassuming in their yumminess.  The texture also works as there are little choc chips throughout the dough which adds to the little surprise when you take the first bite.

 

Another lovely aspect of these biscuits is the peppermint glaze drizzled over the top of the cooling biscuit.  It’s unexpected.  I loved watching people’s faces as they took the first bite.  The hint of mint is a surprise and very welcome.

 

If you are looking to whip up some biscuits for friends or just needing options for kid’s recess boxes, then these biscuits really work.  I imagine they would freeze well too (although mine never made it that far).  I love baking ahead and having biscuits ready in the freezer for my son.  It makes me feel like such an accomplished parent (I take whatever I can to achieve that).

 

Delly

 

Bakefest 2011: Monkey Bread

Hi everyone.  It’s been a while hasn’t it.  The blog may have been quiet but my kitchen hasn’t, hence the title.

Recently, my husband and son went away on a “Boys weekend” (actually it was a weekday but it doesn’t sound as catchy).  So, before they left I decided I needed to send them on their way with a hearty breakfast.  I found a recipe for something I had never heard of before. Monkey Bread.  It checked all the boxes – doughy, sugary, buttery, warm with cinnamon.  Yum!  It rang my bell and it was immediately put on my menu.

Bells and I have discussed a lot about preparing bread overnight so that it can be popped into the oven in the morning.  She has proven it is possible, but I needed to try it myself.

Thankfully Ken (my Kenwood Chef) took a lot of the kneading responsibilities for the bread.  He’s such a compliant little appliance.  All I had to do what stand and marvel and then give my dough a warm place to rise.  After the first rise, the dough is cut into many pieces (recipe says 64 pieces) but I didn’t count.  You roll each piece of dough between your hands and then (this is the best part), dip them in melted butter and THEN brown sugar and cinnamon!!!  How about that!

And then they rose overnight in the cold fridge!

All crispy and golden from the oven and then iced with a simple mix of icing sugar and milk.

 

The fun thing with this bread was slowly piling up all the delicious little balls in my bundt pan.  It was so relaxing and gave me a great sense of achievement as I kept peaking in the fridge at the little morsels growing by the hour.  I loved serving it up to the boys (and myself).  Obviously, it was way too much for the three of us to devour at once.  We found ourselves nibbling on it during the morning.  I have frozen the remainder for another day…soon…maybe tomorrow…

You may wonder why I have titled this blog post “Bakefest 2011″.  Well, as my boys were going away for a few days I decided to have a few girlfriends over to feast on some sweets and chat the night away.  So I went a little crazy and baked a few things for their arrival.

A gorgeous Lemon Meringe Pie from another blogger’s site (mine tasted great but was not as pretty – so you can see her creation instead). Nigella’s Crunchy Peanut Nut bars and some gorgeous little mini-cupcakes.

 

Of course, I over catered.  I couldn’t help myself.  Never mind… my workplace benefited the next day.  However, I am now temporarily “baked-out” after Bakefest2011.  But I think it’s safe to say that I will be back in the kitchen any moment now…

 

Delly

Donna Hay: Molten Chocolate Chunk Brownie

Bells and I were recently asked to review Donna Hay’s “Molten Chocolate Chunk Brownie” packet mix.  We were very surprised to be asked as well as a little bit pleased.  I’ve never received a little media pack before with the product in question plus some information.

We had both often talked about whether we would every review a product on our blog and we always came to the decision that we wouldn’t.  However, this box was sent to us with no strings attached, and we thought it might be fun to give an honest review.

Many of our friends would know that Bells and I are pretty scathing when it comes to packet mixes of any kind.  I’ve had some friend apologize for using a cake mix when I’m around.  It’s so silly really.  My moratorium on cake mixes is really for myself only – not for my friends.  I am always just glad someone has baked and been in the kitchen.  One should not force their food snobbery on others (all the time…).

We had friends over last Sunday afternoon and I thought it was the perfect opportunity to bake these brownies and have them assessed by my guests.

 

 

They were really easy to make (as most packet mixes are).  There were only a few steps between opening the packet, throwing it into a bowl and mixing it all together.  Donna suggests we serve these warm.  I managed to serve them up cool and they were still well-received (in fact my 7yo was still eating them 2 days later – he loved them).

My guests enjoyed the brownies very much.  They were crisp on the outside and squishy on the inside with bursts of chunky chocolate squares scattered through the cakey goodness.  I am happy to report that they were genuinely surprised when I mentioned that they were packet brownies.  They thought they were made from scratch.  A compliment to Donna, I believe.

 

 

I didn’t really try them myself.  I’m not really into chocolate on chocolate.  It’s a bit too much for me (yes, there is such a thing as too much chocolate).  However, my family and guinea pigs, I mean – friends, assure me that they were delicious and everything a good brownie should be.

Would I make them again?  No.

Why?  Because I can make brownies myself without the help of a packet mix.

However!!!  As a backup in your cupboard, an emergency treat for guests or perhaps you just love packet mixes – then YES!  These brownies would be great for your pantry.  They don’t seem to have that typical “packet mix” flavour which I feel is usually easily detectable.

So all in all – they get the thumbs up from me.  Word on the street is that they are available in supermarkets – I’m yet to see them though.  I believe they retail at $7.99.

Happy Weekend Baking!

Delly

 

 

Slow Cooker: Roast Chicken

I’m not sure when it happened, but it seems that a lovely Roast Chicken has become our Sunday night staple.  Partly because it’s easy and I can make stock form the bones and partly because my son loves it (especially the crispy skin) and the polenta crusted roast potatoes I make on the side.

A few years ago someone ( I think it was Bells, but I’m not sure) told me about cooking a whole chicken in the slow cooker.  Since then, I have adapted it slightly and made it my own.  The joy of  a chicken in the slow cooker is that it is hard to screw up (and it stops your oven getting all filthy).  So I thought I would share the process with you and perhaps, in time, it will become your Sunday night staple as well.

When preparing the chicken I usually cut off a little of the excess skin around the bottom area.  I then wash the chicken and pat dry.  Season the inside with salt and pop in a quartered lemon and some herbs (your choice).  I usually tie the legs together with some cooking string just to keep it all neat and tidy.

Chickens release quite a lot of juice.  To ensure that the chicken doesn’t drown in its own juices in the slow cooker, I place on the base of the bowl, enough halved onions (or washed potatoes) to cover the base and allow the chicken to sit on top.  This ensures the chicken is raised and the juices remain underneath the chicken (you can make a great sauce from this as well).

Pour over the chicken some extra virgin olive oil and sea salt flakes (table salt is fine – but I love sea salt flakes).  Pop on the lid and cook for 3hrs on HIGH OR 5-6hrs on LOW.  Contrary to popular belief, I do think you can ruin food in the slow cooker.  If cooked for too long, chicken can become dry and mushy.  So be careful and try to stick to the set time for cooking.

After the set time you end up with a succulent roast chicken (minus the crispy skin – which is a shame).  You do get a little colour on the skin, but nothing like you would if you were to do it in the oven.  If you can accept that – then you will enjoy this chicken.

As an absolute “must” for this dish I also make Polenta crusted roast Potatoes.  You’ll find lots of recipes online for these – but mine are as follows:

Peel your potatoes (I use whatever potatoes I have as well sweet potato) and chop them in half (or quarters if they are large).  I then par-boil them in salted water for 4 minutes (from boiling point).  Drain the potatoes and pop the lid back on, shake them around so that they get a little rough around the edges.  Coat them in polenta (by pouring over the polenta, popping on the lid and shaking them again).  Place the potatoes in the roasting dish and pour over olive oil and sea salt.  Shake them all around again so that most of the oil is covering each potato.  Cook in the oven for about 1 hour at 180C.

This meal is a real winner in our home and oh so easy.  I also cook the chicken in the oven with the potatoes often as well.  No doubt you all know how to do that – but if you want any pointers then let me know and I’ll post about that as well.

Happy long weekend and may it be filled with lots of roast meat and veges!!!  Of and perhaps a pudding too!

Delly

PS.  If you would like to use the chicken juices for a sauce then just pour the juice into a small saucepan.  Add some sea salt and a big glug of white whine.  Then boil it up and allow it to reduce and thicken slightly!!!  Fabulous!

Savoury Pumpkin Pie

Regular readers of our blog would know that I recently made a Chicken Pie.  I love a good pie, but alas, I have not ventured down the pie path very much in my cooking life.  This fact needs to change.

I have my fruit and vegetables delivered and often it’s like pot luck with what appears in my weekly box.  Last week I received a very large pumpkin.  Having made several pumpkin soups of late I was not keen to make another so soon.  So Bells and I started contemplating pumpkin recipes and we got thinking about Pumpkin Pie.  I am more familiar with this pie being a seasonal sweet dish.  I have tasted one once (made by an American friend) and it was delightful.  However, it was made with canned pumpkin, which seems so strange to me.  Why buy it in a can when you can easily cook it fresh?  Perhaps, one of our American readers could enlighten me on this one.

Anyway – I started searching for Pumpkin Pie recipes and came across an Italian recipe.  It had ricotta, fresh breadcrumbs, parmesan and eggs – all the good stuff.  So I gave it a try today.

 

 

In a previous post I mentioned actually reading a recipe properly BEFORE I start cooking.  I was reminded of this as I began thinking through this pie.  The recipe requires you to cook the cubed pumpkin and then allow it to drain for 3-4 hours (or even over night) before mashing the pumpkin (or pushing it through a seive – I didn’t do this – a good potato masher seemed to do the trick).  Draining the moisture from the pumpkin is very important when dealing with the pastry.  You want to keep the pastry crisp and dry – so be careful how you deal with the mixture.  Follow the steps to ensure good results.

I found this pie had lots of flavour.  The eggs kept it in place when cut and the golden breadcrumbs on top added a crunch to the creamy texture of the pumpkin mixture.

You’ll find the recipe here.

I loved also curling over some pastry prior to cooking.  It remined me of a little bowl.  It not only kept all the pumkin contained whilst cooking – but it looked pretty good too.

 

 

 

 

I think this Winter we will see a lot more pies in my kitchen.  Especially now that I am convinced that making your own pastry is not only easy (with the exception of puff pastry), but immensely satisfying to do.  The pastry I used for tonight’s pie was leftover from my chicken pie.  I just froze the leftover pastry and defrosted it this morning.

So do you have a favourite pie dish you would like to share? 

Delly

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