Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Cranberry Trifle and Lemon Tart

Lemon Tart

Inside the tart
So to follow my previous post here is the recipe for the Trifle I made. The Lemon Tart is my standard go-to lemon tart recipe and you can find it here. I saw the trifle recipe in the Australian Good Food magazine and have been wanting to try it for ages. I love how it looks with the layer of jelly on the bottom. Of course it totally justified the purchase of a trifle bowl which was on sale at Stevens. The trifle is so easy to make. I made the jelly and the custard the day before and assembled it on the day letting it sit in the fridge for 5 hours. It tastes delicious and you can put whatever you want on the top. The recipe has white chocolate dipped cherries but I used blueberries.

Cranberry Trifle

3 c cranberry juice
1/3 c boiling water
3 Tbsp gelatine
packet of savoiardi biscuits (sponge fingers)
Fruit for the top
300ml cream
1/2 c icing sugar

2 1/3 c cream
1 1/4 c milk
5 egg yolks
3/4 c caster sugar
2 tsp cornflour
1 tsp vanilla paste

Place the cranberry juice and 1/2 c water in a large jug. Place the boiling water into a small bowl and sprinkle the gelatine over the top. Whisk until dissolved (I needed to put mine in the microwave for a little bit to dissolve the gelatine properly) then stir into the juice and mix well. Pour into the bottom of a trifle bowl and put into the fridge to set. 

To make the custard heat the cream and milk on low until just about to come to the boil. Whisk the egg yolks, sugar, cornflour and vanilla in a separate bowl until pale and creamy. Gradually whisk in the hot milk and cream until combined. Strain into a clean and heavy based pot and cook stirring constantly until it coats the back of a wooden spoon. Pour into a bowl and cover the surface with cling film. Refrigerate until completely cold.

Arrange the sponge fingers cut side down around the bowl on the top of the jelly. You will need to cut about 1/4 to 1/3 of them off. Coarsely chop the remaining biscuits and place in the centre. Pour the custard over the biscuits, smooth the surface and refrigerate about an hour or so. 

Beat the cream with the icing sugar (I didn't use all of it as I think the custard was pretty sweet so only a bit was needed). Spoon over the custard and top with the fruit. Dust with icing sugar if you want to.

A Night With The Girls

It started out pretty civilised...even with the frat-boy cups filled with Pimms

Katie and Stef

Group shot

Starting to descend after a few wines

Stef and Amy

Caroline (aka Blondie) and Shirley (aka Peachy)

Desserts....recipe to follow

The 'band'



Really jamming it now

So the other night some of the girls from work got together at Caroline's house for a pot luck dinner. It would have been Caroline's daughter Emily's, 18th birthday on Wednesday so we wanted to acknowledge that, show support to Blondie and have a birthday dinner in Emily's honour. Everyone had some animal print on as it was Emily's favourite and we all brought something yummy to share. It was a fantastic night filled with laughter and good times. It all started out very civilised in the courtyard but after a few Pimms and wines (only a couple of us didn't overindulge as we were the drivers), it quickly descended into hilarity and uncouthness. Amy actually skinned all her fingers pretending to play the ukulele and from what I hear most felt a little under the weather the next day. Poor old Tracey is in a moonboot after breaking her foot in a jandal-on-the-steps mishap so I think she was a bit sore the next day. Funny how wine can just take the pain away!
Anyway the recipe for the trifle will follow. Thanks for a fantastic night girls!

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Prawn Biryani

I love Indian food. I really, really, really wish I could make it as well as Hera and Vanita at work who make the most delicious Indian food ever. Hera is well known for her Roti and Potato Curry, and Vanita for her incredible Pakora which are always in top demand when we all bring food to work for a shared meal. So aside from these two women, my favourite Indian cook and recipe writer would have to be Madhur Jaffrey. What a lovely and delightful woman she seems to be. In fact, (and here's a shameless name-dropping statement), my amazing Aunt who lives in London and who has produced and directed cooking shows, (and amongst other things), discovered Madhur Jaffrey (actually it was either that and/or made her earlier cooking shows but I'm sure it's both)), has also said she is a truly lovely person. I'm pretty lucky to be able to skite about my incredible Aunt especially as I love cooking myself!

Anyway after all that digression this recipe is from Madhur's latest book called 'Curry Easy'. If you only ever want one Indian cooking book this would be it. Easy to follow, easy to understand and almost criminal in it's simplicity of both ingredients and method. I know it looks pretty simple, (and it is!), but this really is very full of delicious flavour and was very easy to whip up for Dons and I when the boys weren't here one night. In fact Dosn loved it and has already put in her request for a repeat of the meal.

Prawn Biryani ('Curry Easy' Madhur Jaffrey)

450ml basmati rice
450g prawns, peeled and deveined
3 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground turmeric
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
freshly ground black pepper
3 Tbsp grapeseed oil
4 tsp lemon juice
4 Tbsp chopped fresh coriander
4 cardamom pods
600ml chicken stock

Put the rice into a bowl, cover with cold water and stir gently. Pour out the dirty water. Do this 4-5 times then cover with fresh water and leave to soak for 1/2 hour. Drain and leave in a sieve to drain further.

Sprinkle the garlic, cumin, turmeric, cayenne pepper, black pepper and 1/3 tsp salt over the prawns rubbing them in. Cover and set aside.

Pour the oil into a pan over a medium to high heat. When hot put the prawns in and stir until only just cooked. Remove with a slotted spoon and put them into a bowl. Add the lemon juice and fresh coriander. Stir and taste for the balance of seasonings.

Put the cardamom and stock into the same pan and bring to the boil scraping any bits off the bottom. Add the drained rice, 1/2 tsp salt if the stock is salted and 1 tsp if it isn't and bring to the boil. Cover tightly, reduce the heat to very low, and cook for 25 minutes.

Put the prawns and their juices over the top of the rice, cover quickly and keep cooking for another minute. Turn off the heat, stir gently and keep covered until needed.

Dianne Turns 50!

Looking out over Ascension Vineyard in Matakana....looks like something off a postcard


Dons and Dianne

Claire, Dons and Dianne

Some of the girls...and one boy Dianne's son Keria

She thought of everything...even a bus to take us there and back so wine could be indulged in

Dianne in the bus. Auckland turned on a beautiful evening for the occasion

Dons and I

Gina who loves tractors

Waiting in the courtyard

Dons doing her speech

The very lovely Paula

Cake time

Dons and Paula

Turning back the clock to the band days

Paula and Pam
A couple of weeks ago we were lucky enough to be invited to Dons' very good friend Dianne's 50th birthday celebration. Even though we have had a terrible summer, Auckland turned on a beautiful sunny day. The plan was to all meet at Dianne's amazing family homestead (it has been in the family for 6 generations) in the countryside then continue on to the Ascension Winery which is amazing vineyard and restaurant in Matakana. Dianne really turned it on with a lovely menu, fantastic wine and great company. Afterwards we all headed back to her place for some music playing (well those who can do that sort of thing) and dancing before heading home....well actually most people stayed but we decided to make the trek back. It was a fantastic evening....thanks Dianne!

Saturday, February 25, 2012

ChocoMint Cupcakes with Peppermint Cream Cheese Frosting

With the other cupcakes packed up and ready to go to work
I made these a couple of weeks ago but am so behind on my blog posts have only got around to posting these now. I saw this on one of the blogs I follow and knew I had to make them straight away. I LOVE those candy canes you get at Xmas time but only to use in my baking. Luckily for me I had the fore site to buy an extra pack in December so I was able to make these a couple of months after Xmas. It's hard to see here but the icing was coloured a lovely minty green as well. This was the first time I had made Peppermint Cream Cheese icing and I have to say that the extra calories are probably not really worth it as buttercream seems to do just as well flavoured with peppermint essence. I loved the look of the pink and white candy canes on top of the minty green frosting though and the cupcakes were lovely and tender. I didn't swirl my icing as it was so hot and humid here that night I knew it would melt and lose it va-va-voom.

Chocomint Cupcakes with Peppermint Cream Cheese Frosting (from Baking=Love)

2 c flour
1 3/4 c caster sugar
3/4 c cocoa
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 1/4 tsp salt
4 Tbsp vegetable shortening (I had some Kremelta leftover from Harry's party)
1/2 c vegetable oil
1/2 c water 
3 eggs
1 c sour cream
2 tsp peppermint extract

Line two 12 cup muffin tins and preheat oven to 180C. (I got about 30 cupcakes from this mix and even then I overfilled the liners a bit)

Place flour, caster sugar, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a large bowl.  Rub in shortening until it resembles bread crumbs.

Make a well in the centre and add eggs, oil, water, peppermint extract and sour cream.

Beat on high for 1 minute to incorporate.

Fill the baking cups about 2/3 - 3/4 full.

6. Bake for 20 - 25 minutes or when a toothpick comes out clean.  Transfer immediately to a wire rack and allow to cool completely before frosting.

Peppermint Cream Cheese Frosting

250g cream cheese, room temperature
120g unsalted butter, room temperature
big pinch of salt
2 tsp peppermint extract
4-5 icing sugar or an much as you need to get the right consistency
optional: green food colouring

Candy canes to decorate

Beat butter until fluffy.  Add cream cheese and beat just enough to incorporate. 

Add icing sugar 1/2 cup at a time, beating only to just incorporate.  Add peppermint extract and a drop or two of food colouring and beat to only just mixed through.

Pipe onto or ice the cooled cupcakes.

Cupcakes will keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 3-4 days. 

Just before serving, crush the candy canes in a ziplock bag using a rolling pin and sprinkle on top of the cupcakes. The candy canes will melt into the icing if they are left for too long before eating them.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Banana Bread

The other day I looked at the pile of too-ripe bananas sitting on my bench and wondered what to do with them. I am well sick of Banana Cake and as it isn't my favourite cake anyway, quickly put that out of mind as an option. However I remembered this recipe found in a NZWW by Annabelle White (my least favourite cooking personality). It seemed simple to make and a good way to use up those bananas. As an aside isn't it annoying how fast they go off in this heat? I can't bear bananas that are too yellow so as soon as they go on the 'turn' they are off my list of fruit to eat and quickly assigned to the freezer...which is why I have so many of the things sitting in there. 

Anyway this recipe is fantastic. The 'bread' is lovely with a smear (or maybe a bit more) of butter and would also be nice with maybe some mascarpone and fruit. I would think it could be lightly toasted too. To be honest it is a bit like a banana cake but I think the texture is a bit different AND the best thing is that it is really quite low in fat with only 75g butter in it. Great for when I restart good old WW!

Banana Bread

4 very ripe bananas so you get about 1 1/4 c bananas (I only used 3)
1/3c melted butter (that's about 75g)
1 c sugar
1 egg, beaten
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp baking soda
pinch salt
1 1/2 c flour

Preheat the oven to 180 C and grease and line a loaf tin (about 25x15x8cm).

In a large bowl mash the bananas with a fork then add in the melted butter.

Mix in the sugar, egg and vanilla. Sprinkle the baking soda over the mix then sift over the flour.

Bake about 50mins.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Mini Orange and Almond Cakes

I found this recipe on a blog I follow called Baking=Love  (she got it from the taste site), and have had it earmarked (or starred) to make. Dons is gluten free which means that on occasion I have to find something I think she may like to bake. Luckily for her and for me, she doesn't have an overly sweet tooth but I do like to whip something up every now and then that she can have with a cup of tea. I have seen quite a lot of recipes like this over the years and have wanted to try them but they are very pricey to make. First of all you need decent oranges, not the ones with the thick skins which could make the cakes bitter because of all the pith that goes with that thick skin. Then you need to take out a small mortgage to buy the ground almonds which are not cheap here by any stretch of the imagination. This recipe calls for 250g of them which at around $5 per 100g makes that part $12.50. Then there's the eggs. I only use free range so 5 of these babies..... Anyway I had some ground almonds lying around so I thought I would give these a go, give Dons something she could eat and take the rest to work with me tonight. 

On her blog Nessie says that these get better with time. I have no doubt she is right. When you look at them once they have baked, you do wonder if they will be any good. But even an hour after baking and cooling, they are yummy and you can tell that time will be kind to them. Not only that but they would be lovely with yoghurt, some cream or even mascarpone cheese for a dessert or a nice morning or afternoon tea with the girls.
I got 28 small cakes from this recipe but you could make one big cake if you wanted. They aren't totally guilt free with all those almonds in them, but they are dairy free and they have no oil in them either. Try won't be disappointed!

Mini Orange and Almond Cakes

2 large sweet navel oranges, washed 
1/4 cup white sugar
250g ground almonds
250g caster sugar
1 tsp baking powder
5 eggs
flaked/sliced almonds to decorate

In a medium saucepan, cover the oranges in water, add the 1/4 cup sugar and bring to the boil.  Simmer for 1 hour making sure the oranges stay covered.  Drain and allow to cool.  

Cut the oranges into quarters and remove any seeds.  Blend the orange into a puree (I did this in my food processor).

Preheat the oven to 170C. Spray two 12-cup muffin tins with baking spray or line with baking papers (much easier than worrying if they will come out. In a large bowl, beat the eggs and sugar until pale and fluffy and tripled in volume.  

Combine the ground almonds and baking powder making sure you get rid of any big lumps.

Add a third of the ground almond mixture to the eggs and fold in gently.  Add half the orange puree and fold.  Add the second third of ground almonds, fold in, then fold in the rest of the orange puree, followed by the last of the ground almonds. 

Divide out evenly into the muffin tins, they don't rise that much so it's ok to fill the cups until they are pretty much full.  Sprinkle the sliced almonds on top of each mini cake.

Bake for 20-25 minutes until golden on top and a toothpick/skewer comes out clean when poked in the middle of the cake.  Leave to cool in the tins before turning out (I took mine out of the tins to cool on a wire rack after about 10 minutes or so)

These little cakes are best a day after they are made.  Store them in an air-tight container and serve just by themselves or with yoghurt, cream or mascarpone cheese.

Baking for Nightshift- Chocolate Buttermilk Cake

So tonight I start back on my night shift properly. I have been on annual leave for a couple of weeks for the last bits of the, (very long and wet), school holidays as well as getting the boys settled back into school. It's always a shock getting back to the work routine so I'm hoping a little bit of baking might make it that much more bearable....hmmm maybe not since it IS work! I saw this recipe in a NZ Women's Weekly magazine and thought it looked like it could make a pretty nice cake. The food editor is Annabelle White who I have to admit isn't one of my most favourite cooks. I find her totally irritating...a bit like an over exuberant cocker spaniel puppy. She talks to fast, is far too excitable and uses far too much creme fraiche in her cooking. And as for her little nickname of the 'Cuddly Cook'....well don't get me started on that! However, I will admit that some of her recipes are pretty good and in my stockpile of cookbooks there are a couple of hers in there (from her earlier days). 

Anyway this recipe, with a couple of little adjustments, is very nice. The buttermilk makes it tender and would make it a good keeper. I wasn't so keen on the icing which is butter and dark chocolate melted together. I only ever use salted butter so this could be why. But the recipe didn't state which one to use. Next time I would stick to the usual cream/chocolate ganache. I would make this cake recipe again though.

Chocolate Buttermilk Cake

115g butter
125g dark chocolate
1 c sugar

1 tsp vanilla
1 3/4 c buttermilk
3 eggs
1 3/4 c flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
2 Tbsp cocoa (not in the recipe but I added this to give it more flavour and colour)

100g butter
100g dark chocolate (I added an extra 50g)

Heat the oven to 180C. Grease and line a 23cm tin (she states a 22cm but I only have 20 or 23cm).

Heat the butter and chocolate carefully in a pot stirring on a medium temperature. Do not overheat. Take off the heat and add the sugar and vanilla while the mix is hot.

Whisk in the buttermilk and eggs. Add the dry ingredients (I whisked them together beforehand) and whisk until just smooth.

Bake about 40-45mins until a skewer comes out clean. Turn onto a wire rack to cool (I waited until it had cooled in the tin for about 20 mins.

To make the icing, heat the butter and chocolate together gently in the microwave. Ice once it sets a bit so you can spread it.

Add caption

Friday, February 3, 2012

Baking with Harry- Chocolate Chip, Apricot and Almond Biscuits

Armed and ready with his own recipe book to copy recipes into


Getting ready to roll

Photo opp with mummy

Pressing the dough down (excuse the messy pantry behind)

Copying the recipe down

Cooling biscuits

Today is Harry's last holiday day before school starts next Tuesday (I think his school is the last one to start back of all the schools in Auckland!). So with the drizzly (but now clearing) weather outside and seriously depleted bank account for all the holiday expense, we decided to do some baking. Harry will write something after me which was all part of the fun and baking experience for him. I found this recipe off a new blog I have found called After Taste for these yummy and relatively healthy biscuits. They really are yummy and would perfect for the school lunchbox AND you can feel a little virtuous while you are scoffing them down.

Here is Harry's contribution....

hi its the last day of my Holiday so we decided to do some cooking it was very fun i loved the biscuits!!!!! . 

Chocolate Chip, Apricot and Almond Biscuits

100 g margarine (I used the butter oil mix called Country Goodness)
1/2 c brown sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla 
1/3 c chocolate chips (I prefer dark)
1/4 c dried apricots, chopped
1/4 c chopped nuts (I used almonds)
1/2 c wholemeal flour
1/2 c white flour
1/2 c rolled oats
1 tsp baking powder

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees. 

Cream the margarine and sugar together in a bowl until thick, light and creamy. Add vanilla and mix through. Then add chocolate chips, dried apricots and nuts and mix well. Add sifted flours, rolled oats and baking powder and mix until well combined.

Line oven trays with baking powder. Roll the mixture into balls and arrange on a tray, allowing space for mixture to spread. Press down with a fork, holding onto the sides of the ball to prevent it crumbling.

Cook for around 10 minutes or until lightly browned on top but still soft in the middle. Allow to cool for a few minutes on the tray before removing to a wire rack.