Friday, September 30, 2011

Baking for Nightshift- Chocolate Chip and Walnut Cookies

The other week my new Bill Granger book arrived from the UK Amazon called 'Bill's Basics'. While it sounds like a simple, straightforward book containing all the boring basics, it really isn't. The recipes are pretty easy but still innovative and new. If you are an experienced cook you will still be happy with this book. I can't resist Bill's books and every time her releases one I always say I don't need it....then promptly buy it. I'm waiting for his latest book on Asian cooking to arrive as I type!

This recipe struck me as being the kind of thing you could whip up in a hurry when you need to take something or have friends over. It's even great for after school treats or for the lunchbox (both the kids and yours). The recipe actually uses pecans which I love, but as I only had walnuts I used those instead, although he does say you can use walnuts instead of pecans in the book.

So some of these will make a trip across the road for our wonderful neighbour who always keeps an eye on our house when we aren't there, and the rest will come to work with me tonight for the girls. I have also made something else to take but these will be a nice little extra to take. Although the photos don't look very exciting they taste really good so give them a go.

Chocolate Chip and Walnut (or Pecan) Cookies (Bill Granger 'Bill's Basics)

125g butter, softened
110g brown sugar
55g white sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
150g plain flour
1/2 tsp salt (I leave this out as I use salted butter)
1/2 tsp baking powder
100g dark or milk chocolate, chopped
70g pecans or walnuts, chopped

Cream the butter and sugars together until fluffy and smooth.Add the egg and vanilla and beat well. Sift in the flour, salt and baking powder and mix lightly. Stir in the chocolate and nuts.

Spoon dessertspoons onto a baking paper lined tray leaving space for spreading. Bakes at 180 C for 10-12 mins. Leave for a few minutes on the tray before cooling on a wire rack.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Chocolate Coconut Ice Slice

As I was checking out my most favourite cook and cookbook writer Annabel Langbein's website I came across a taster/teaser of 6 recipes from her new book due out at the end of October. The best thing is that you can post photos of these recipes which you have made, onto the site and hopefully people will vote for you. If you win you could end up with a fabulous Kenwood Chef. Those of you who know me well, would know that I cook a lot...and I mean A LOT from Annabel Langbein's books. I have all of them other than the 'You Can Cook/Bake' ones and I know that as soon as I see this one out on the shelves it, too, will join my cookbook collection. 

As I am in the middle of night shift I know the girls would appreciate this slice. It was very easy to whip up and actually involved no actual baking at all. The topping is a delicious coconut ice style topping made with real chocolate (I used Whittaker's 50%). If you want this recipe or would like to check out the other five recipes from her as yet unreleased book go here. As well as that if you are feeling generous please vote for my contributions so I can keep on making fabulous things for my fantastic work colleagues. You can do that here. Just look for my name....

Friday, September 23, 2011

Lamb, Rosemary and Apple Sausage Rolls

Last night some of the girls from work descended upon our friend Caroline armed with food and of course the obligatory wine for a night of laughs and fun. The food was fabulous and I still feel bloated from it all today! We had a ton of laughs and the volume was definitely LOUD! Luckily we are all girls because that meant we could follow at least 4 different conversations at once... we are so talented when it comes to multi-tasking! Those who know me would say that no doubt a lot of the volume came from me however I think I can say that last night we were all just as guilty last night (yes girls you know who you are...). When I was a child my mother always said to me that I had a voice like a foghorn...and I have to say she wasn't exaggerating. I really only have 2 volumes...nothing at all or loud. Over the years I have learned to embrace this fabulous ability to be heard (so to speak) and really the only thing that can shut me up is some good food. These sausie rolls will not let you down and they certainly stopped me from talking for a good couple of minutes. These are an Annabel Langbein recipe from her cookbook 'The Free Range Cook'. George made these last weekend for Helen's birthday when we got back to their place for bubbles and cake. They were delicious then and they were delicious last night. For something so easy to make they give maximum impact for flavour. Last night they were a total hit to the point where Adelle has been texting me this morning to hurry up and get the recipe on my blog so here it is... Remember you can make these as fat or as small as you like.

Lamb, Rosemary and Apple Sausage Rolls

400g lamb mince (buy it fresh as it can get a bit watery when defrosted)
250g sausage meat (I split my favourite pork sausages and squeezed out the meat)
1 apple, unpeeled and grated
1 whole egg and 1 egg white
1 small onion, peeled and grated
1 clove garlic, crushed
2 Tbsp chopped parsley
1/2tsp finely chopped rosemary
3 finely chopped sage leaves (but I just used some dried sage)
1 tsp fruit chutney or tomato sauce
1 tsp salt
Sheets flaky pastry

Preheat the oven to 200C and line baking trays with baking paper.

Place the ingredients in a bowl and mix well with your hands. I actually squeezed out the juice from the grated onion and apple as well as they seemed pretty sodden with juice.

Roll in the pastry to get the sizes you want. Place on the trays seam side down. Put a hole or a slash in the top of each to allow the steam to escape. Brush the tops with the egg yolk mixed with a tablespoon of water.

Bake 20 mins then check if any liquid has come out of the rolls and soak it up with paper towels if there is any. Bake another 10 mins. Adjust the cooking time for the size of the rolls.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Baked Vanilla Cheesecake

Decimated cheesecake  but you can see how creamy it looks...can you?
Reuben's favourite dessert and cake is a plain cheesecake. When I asked him what he wanted for his birthday cake this was his choice. No flavours, just a plain cheesecake with some strawberries on the side. So this was what he got. It doesn't look particularly glamorous in the photos but if you ever want a fantastic baked cheesecake look no further. The recipe is from Dorie Greenspan's book (and one of my bibles) 'Baking: From My Home to Yours'. This is AMAZiNG!!! Yes it uses a hell of a lot of cream cheese BUT this is cheesecake and therefore it is meant to be a treat and special occasion dessert. It fed 14 of us easily with some going back for seconds and then left 3 more slices for Reuben to have the next day (but yes I did just have the last little piece...well I made it!!!). This cheesecake is creamy but light and does not have that heavy denseness that some cheesecakes have. I found that it did colour quite a bit on the top but I just covered it with some foil to stop it from browning even more. In fact now that I am looking at the recipe it might have helped if I had dropped the temperature of the oven like the recipe said...must have had my boy-eyes on! You can make this into whatever you want by changing the biscuit base or adding some different flavours to the filling. Dorie offers lots of different options at the end of the recipe. So here it is...make it if you dare.

Tall and Creamy Cheesecake: A Basic

Prepare the 23cm springform tin by buttering it well and wrapping the bottom of the tin with 2 layers of tin foil.

1 3/4c superwine biscuit crumbs
3 Tbsp sugar (I forgot this)
50-75g melted butter

Mix all together and press into a buttered 23cm springform tin so they come halfway up the sides. Preheat the oven to 170C and bake 10 mins. Reduce the oven to 160C.

900g cream cheese
1 1/3 c sugar
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp vanilla extract (I used half this and half vanilla paste)
4 eggs
1 1/3 c sour cream or cream (I used half and half)

Boil a full jug.

Put the cream cheese into a stand mixer and beat until soft and creamy (about 4 mins).
With the mixer running add the sugar and salt and continue to beat for another 4 mins or so until the cream cheese is light. Beat in the vanilla. Add the eggs one by one beating for a full min after each. This aeration makes it light. Reduce to low speed and add the sour cream and/or the cream, Scrape down well throughout to get avoid having lumps in the mixture. 

Pour into the tin (the mix should come almost to the top). Put the tin into a roasting dish and pour in enough of the boiling water to come halfway up the sides of the tin. Bake 1 1/2 hours, then turn the oven off, prop it open with a wooden spoon and leave in it's water bath for another hour. Remove the tin from the water bath and take the foil off. Leave to go cold on a rack in the tin then put it in the fridge for at least 4 hours (overnight is better). 

Te Whau Vineyard on Waiheke

As I put in my previous post Helen, for her birthday, took us over to Waiheke for lunch at Te Whau Vineyard restaurant. I had only heard and read amazing things about this place about it being the best place to eat on Waiheke and that it has won numerous awards for it's New Zealand/Pacific Rim food. It is based above their winery, seats 60 people (so it isn't too big), and has amazing views of Waiheke Island, Rangitoto and the Auckland Isthmus (as you can see in the photos above). It was such a lovely place to have lunch. We were lucky that the day we went the weather (while not brilliant sunshine), was lovely enough to enjoy the ferry ride over and to appreciate the incredible views from the restaurant. Apparently the winery is very good and they also offer wine tours encompassing the vineyard, winemaking facility and underground barrel cellar. 

Most of us had a starter and a main and dessert was later on at George and Russell's house (as I have already posted about). My two boys were content to share a starter of homemade bread, pesto and olives (with an extra bowl of olives) for their munch. Although they didn't have a kids menu as such, they did offer a child's meal of either fish or beef with some potatoes and salad. Reuben and harry LOVE pesto and they LOVE olives so they were more than happy with their choice. Renee had a starter of the salmon and then had the child's size fish which looked really lovely and not at all like a 'kids meal'. For the starters two of us had the smoked salmon, two had the scallops and one had the goat cheese tart. All were gorgeous. The salmon was served with some bread and a mustard aioli and made the perfect entree. The scallops I tasted were lovely and were done in a vanilla and tomato sauce. I'm not keen on goats cheese but it was proclaimed to be delicious too.

House- smoked salmon smoked over Manuka and Oak barrel Shavings (I had had a bite of it before I remembered to take the photo)

The Scallops special with Tomato and Vanilla Jus

Baked Goat Cheese and Mushroom Tart with Spiced Beetroot Jam, Vincotto, Salad Greens and Hazelnuts (again it had a bite taken out of it before I remembered to photograph it)

Olives and Homemade Pesto with Artisan Breads (the Pesto was delicious and the boys asked for another bowl of olives)
For the mains most people seemed to get the beef. They all pronounced it to be delicious and very tasty. I am one of those irritating people who always head for the same thing on the menu which is always beef. However this time I headed out of my comfort zone and went for the duck. I was not disappointed. The duck was amazing. It was tender and tasty and the accompanying elements on the dish complimented it perfectly. The dumplings were like crisp wontons and added a really lovely and different textural element to the dish. Jimmy said the fish was also really good. I think the photos say it all really.

John Dory with Prawn and Fennel Risotto, Herbs, Vermouth and Crustacean Essence 

Twice Cooked Duck with Spicy Dumplings, Bok Choy, Cashews, Duck and Orange Jus

And another shot of this delicious dish

Grilled Beef Tenderloin with Smoked Potato Tarte, Port Wine and Onion Jam, Watercress, Te Whau Canernet Jus 

Skillet Roasted lamb Loin, Lamb Beignet, White Bean Puree, Mojo Rojo (have no idea what that is), Olive and Pistachios, Jus 

Vegetables of Potatoes, Green Beans with Almond and Honey Roasted Kumara
So thank Helen for a lovely lunch experience. We had a fantastic time.

Happy Birthday to you too Reubs

Big Birthday Weekend

Daisy cake for Helen

Gumpaste daisies with royal icing centres and edible glitter

Helen's pecan tarts...her favourite

Dons and Harry

Harry and I

Me with my boys

Helen and Reubs

Waiting for the ferry

Helen with her 'babies'- Geroge and Sharon

Cheers from Harry

At Te Whau Winery

Geroge, Shaz and Harry

Russell, Reubs and George

Helen with her grandbabies- Reubs, Harry and Renee

The cake cut---it was really delicious!
This weekend has been very very busy with us celebrating Reuben and Harry's Nana Helen's 70th birthday and Reuben's 14th birthday. 14 years ago we gave Helen a wonderful present of a grandson for her birthday but ever since then, she has really had to pay second fiddle to Reubs on her birthday. Saturday was all about Helen as she turned 70. She doesn't look it at all so for an old girl she is looking pretty friggin fantastic! 

I made the cake which was a yummy lemon syrup cake which you can find here. Although it is meant to be a bundt cake, it translate well to a normal cake tin. This is my 'go-to' lemon cake. Not only is it easy to make but it tastes really good and keeps well. Instead of pouring the syrup all over it I brush each of the cut surfaces with the syrup before icing it with a lemon butter cream. The boys chose (from about 3 ideas), this design as Helen loves flowers, she is very feminine and is also a spring baby, so daisies seemed like the perfect choice. I also made her some of her favourite pecan tarts to take home and indulge in as she sees fit and you can find the recipe here.

The flowers took ages to make as there were so many of them. I made them out of Satin Ice gum paste, put yellow royal icing centres and brushed over some lovely edible yellow glitter to make them sparkle. I coloured the fondant green for the grass and put the flowers onto that with royal icing. The design was a Zoe Clark one. I think it would have been even better if I had made the cake even taller but it was what it was. It tasted wonderful though.

For the day Helen shouted us all (the family), to Waiheke to a place called Te Wahu Vineyard for lunch. We went back to George and Russell's for cake and bubbly afterwards so it was a long and fantastic family day. I'll be posting about the restaurant soon too so won't say too much about it here. Anyway thanks a lot Helen for a lovely day with lots of laughs and good family times. 

Reuben wanted a cheesecake but I'll post this and the recipe soon. As he wanted to make the day all about his Nana we went to Lonestar on the Sunday night to mark the occasion for him with a couple of his friends. So it has been a big eating and celebrating weekend and we are all feeling a little tired today.