Saturday, November 24, 2007

SHF #37 - The Beta Carotene Harvest - Pumpkin Sultana Loaf

Sugar High Friday is here once again, and this month, it is hosted by Leslie of Definitely Not Martha. She has chosen a theme of Beta Carotene Harvest - that is, desserts made with harvest roots and gourds, such as carrots, sweet potato and pumpkin.

This was a fortuitous choice, because Dav from work had asked me to make a pumpkin cake - which means that I could kill two birds with one stone. (The cake is photographed on two different plates because one photo was taken at work and the other at home. Thanks to Simon for the styling on the work photograph ;).)

My entry for this SHF is a pumpkin sultana loaf. I have previously made this cake in the form of a pumpkin cranberry loaf. However, this time, not only did I substitute the cranberries for sultanas, I substituted the maple syrup for golden syrup (because I realised at the last minute that I was right out of maple syrup!)

The recipe is as follows:

2 cups plain flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon mixed spice
2 cups mashed pumpkin
1/2 cup golden syrup
1/4 cup apple puree
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup sultanas

Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius and grease a loaf tin.

Combine sifted flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and spices in a bowl. In a separate bowl, mix together the pumpkin, syrup, apple puree, vegetable oil and vanilla. Stir in the flour mixture and mix until just combined. Stir in the sultanas and pour into the greased tin.

Bake for 50 minutes or until cooked through. Cool the cake in the tin for 15 minutes before turning onto a wire rack to cool completely.

This version of the cake is slightly sweeter than the original, but is still good. The great thing about it is that, for a cake, it is low in fat.

Thanks to Leslie for hosting this month's SHF, and I look forward to yet another amazing roundup!

Postscript: You can view all the inspirational post-harvest recipes on Definitely Not Martha here and here.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Beef, broccoli and orange stir fry

This week, I tried yet another recipe from the National Heart Foundation's
The New Classic Cookbook - a beef, broccoli and orange stir fry. As the name suggests, this is a basic beef stir fry flavoured with zesty orange.

The sauce is 3/4 cup orange juice, 2 tablespoons of soy sauce, 3 tablespoons dry sherry, 3 teaspoons of cornflour and 1/2 teaspoon of sugar.

Brown 500g beef strips in a wok, and set aside. In the same wok, stir fry 4 cloves of garlic, 1 tablespoon fresh grated ginger and 2 chopped chillies. Add 800g broccoli florets and i/3 cup of water, cover the wok and cook for about 3 minutes. Add one capsicum cut into strips and stir fry for another minute. Add the sauce (described above) and the zest of one orange, and bring to the boil while stirring. Continue cooking until the sauce thickens then stir in six sliced green onions and the browned beef. Ensure that all ingredients are coated thoroughly.

Serve with boiled or steamed rice.

While this is a pleasant dish, it did not excite me greatly. Taking into account the amount of preparation work involved for the rather lack-lustre end result, I don't think that I will make this dish often.

Waiter there's something in my ... topless tart - strawberry chiffon tart

This month's Waiter there's something in my ... is hosted by Jeanne of Cooksister, with the theme of topless tarts. To borrow Jeanne's explanation, she wants participants to make "a pastry dish, similar to a pie, but different in that the top is open and not covered with pastry". However, the tart can be sweet or savoury.

While the theme itself is rather racy, my entry is a prudish, pretty pink strawberry chiffon tart. This is a rather old fashioned dessert, with my recipe coming from The Schauer Australian Cookery Book. The author of this book, Amy Schauer, was a Queensland-based home economist of some repute, and is sometimes credited with having invented the lamington. Her number one fan is Miss Eagle, and you can check out more of Amy Schauer's recipes on Miss Eagle's blog, Oz Tucker.

To make this sweet, light as a feather dessert, resplendent with strawberries, here is the recipe:


1 baked tart shell (buy one or make one - I used this recipe)
1 tablespoon gelatine
2 tablespoons cold water
1/2 cup boiling water
1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 cup crushed strawberries
1/2 cup whipped cream
2 stiffly beaten egg whites

Soak the gelatine in the cold water for 10 minutes, then add the boiling water and stir until the gelatine dissolves. Add the strawberries, sugar and lemon juice. Stir through the whipped cream and then the egg whites.

Pour the mixture into the tart shell, and refrigerate for about 30 minutes. Chop 4 strawberries in half and decorate the top of tart (optional). Return to the refrigerator until fully set.

Strawberry chiffon tart is a wonderful summer dessert, packed with vitamin C. It may be an oldie, but it is definitely a goodie!

Thanks to Jeanne of Cooksister for hosting this month's WTSIM ..., and I look forward to a fun roundup! (Postscript: The roundup is published here - 53 topless tarts!)

Friday, November 16, 2007

Chocolate stripe cake - redux

It has been quite some time since my friends and I did the dizzy round of 21st birthday parties, and I hadn't expected to attend one again. However, life is often surprising, and one of the guys that I work with, Andrew, has kindly invited our entire team at work to attend his 21st birthday party in a couple of weeks time.

Although his party is not for a couple of weeks (after his exams for this year are a distant nightmare), it was Andrew's actual birthday on Thursday. What now seems like a lifetime ago, I made Zinnur's chocolate stripe cake for the king of striped shirts and chocolate, Tim. Andrew loved this cake and requested it for his birthday cake. How could I refuse? So I whipped out a sinful 400g of chocolate and an ocean of cream to dress up the surprisingly low fat base cakes (none of which contain an ounce of butter).

This time, I cooked the sponge rolls for a little too long, and consequently lost the edges to crispness. They also were not as easy to roll up as they should have been. The resulting cake was therefore a little smaller than last time, but we still had plenty of cake to go around.

I coloured some ready made fondant for the decorations. I could not find a ready made plastic key or a key-shaped cutter anywhere (have these gone out of vogue as tokens of turning 21??), so I washed up an ordinary house key and used it as a template to cut out the key. Finally, I pressed grated chocolate around the sides of the cake. It took almost as long to make the decorations as to make the whole cake (did I mention that I hate grating anything, including chocolate!?!).

I also finally took a picture of the inside of this cake (after 3 attempts) which is clear enough to show the chocolate stripe cake in all its glory. (Thanks to Simon for his assistance with the photography - I have learnt quite a lot about my camera that I didn't know before!) Now you know why this cake has the "wow" factor when people cut into it, not expecting to see the beautiful stripey pattern made in such a simple manner.

Happy 21st Andrew - I look forward to your party!

Spaghetti bolognese

In my never ending quest for hearty yet low fat lunches, I found a great recipe in the Australian Heart Foundation's The New Classic Cookbook (by Loukie Werle) for spaghetti bolognese, with the finished result shown in the photograph above.

To make the sauce, cook a chopped onion, a crushed garlic clove and a finely sliced stick of celery in a frypan with a little oil until soft. Add two tablespoons of tomato paste or tomato sauce (ketchup) and about 300g of mince, and cook until the mince browns. Next, add 2 x 400g tins of diced tomatoes, a cubed eggplant and basil and pepper to taste. Simmer the sauce on low heat for 15 minutes, then spoon over cooked dried spaghetti (roughly 400g).

This was really great for work lunches, doesn't take long to make, and only has about 6g of fat per serve.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Apples & Thyme - Rice pudding

African Vanielje and The Passionate Palate are hosting a blogging event called "Apples & Thyme". This event requires you to blog about time spent with your mother, grandmother or some other special person in the kitchen that influenced how you cook and eat. I thought this was a charming idea, and is a good way to honour the person who introduced me to a love of food and cooking - my mother.

Mum did all of the cooking when I lived at home, and in fact she would never let us cook. However, we were permitted to help her out, and as the only girl, it was considered my duty to do so when required.

Mum grew up on a farm, and due to some adverse events in her life, she learned to cook from a very early age. She relates being 8 years old and standing on a stool so that she could reach the stovetop. Mum rarely uses recipes (a skill which I envy!), hence our family usually ate one of the dishes in her repertoire.

The fare cooked by my Mum was usually simple but sustaining. Corned beef and mash, shepherds pie, rissoles, roasts, apple crumble, blancmange, soda pudding, jam drops, custard, russian caramels, rolled oat (Anzac) biscuits and "pusher" biscuits made regular appearances in our house.

One of the happiest times in my life was when I was a somewhat chubby but self-assured and confident 10 year old (where did that confidence go?). Every Sunday, my brother and I would go to Sunday school in the morning, and would come home at lunch time to a roast meal followed by dessert. (I asked to go to Sunday school so that I could see my best friend and act and sing!) The smells of cooking which filled the house were heavenly, and I eagerly awaited the time when lunch would be served.

My favourite Sunday dessert for many years was rice pudding. This might seem a bland and unappealing choice to some, but I absolutely adored its milky sweetness, and could easily eat the whole dish myself if I had been allowed. Even better, my brother did not like rice pudding - so leaving all the more for me!

Accordingly, in honour of my Mum and in memory of those happy Sundays so long ago, I have made rice pudding for this blog event. The recipe is as follows:

3/4 cup cooked medium grain (calrose) rice
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
enough milk to just cover the rice (skim milk is fine)

Place all ingredients into a medium sized saucepan, and stir over medium heat until it boils. Turn down the heat and simmer the rice until it thickens. Pour rice into a serving dish and sprinkle with nutmeg or cinnamon.

This is a warm, comforting treat which I have never made myself until this blogging event. I asked Mum for the recipe some time ago, so this seemed like the perfect opportunity to try it. Thanks Mum for making me feel so secure and happy during my childhood - I now remember those times with fondness each time that I make your recipes.

Also, thanks to African Vanielje and The Passionate Palate for creating and hosting the Apples & Thyme blogging event.

Postscript: The roundups for this event are
here and here. Go read them - they are truly heartfelt and make beautiful reading.

"I See Red" chocolate beet cake

Chocolate beet cake
Originally uploaded by
It is my boss Dave's birthday this Saturday, so I brought his birthday cake into work on Friday. I made it on Wednesday night because I had the pleasure of attending the Crowded House concert on Thursday night, which meant no time for baking then.

Dave is always singing part of the chorus from the Split Enz song,
I See Red. Accordingly, I thought that it would be kind of funky to make Dave a cake that incorporated the "I See Red" theme.

Obviously, the first thing that came to mind was a red velvet cake. However, the thought of pouring so much hyperactive red colouring into a cake did not appeal to me, so I looked for an alternative means of keeping with the red theme. My ultimate choice was a "sort of" lower fat chocolate beet cake, the recipe for which I found
here. It promised to be like the Waldorf Astoria red velvet cake, only lower in fat.

Because of the mention of "red velvet" in the recipe title, I naturally expected the end result to be red. Wrong! It turned out a pretty normal looking chocolate cake. The evidence of the beets came out later in all the wrong places, as the reddish purple juice from the beets stained my cream cheese frosting with purplish red flecks. The photo of this cake was taken just after icing and before the beets had a chance to soak through. However, I guess it fitted in with the "I See Red" theme, even though it was not meant to happen.

Instead of the frosting called for by the recipe (what on earth is Cool Whip!?!), I made cream cheese frosting using 200g light cream cheese beaten with 80g of icing sugar and two teaspoons of lemon juice. It was very tasty!

The piece de resistance for this cake was, of course, the decoration. I made eyes out of fondant, with licorice eyebrows and red sugar for the "red" that the "eyes" could "see". The inspiration for the eyes was the Split Enz video clip for
I Got You, which features close-ups of the eyes and eyebrows of the band members freaking out Neil Finn, but it looked pretty much like my boss's bushy black brows as well.

This cake did not taste that great to me, although it was perfectly OK. The real fun with this cake was the decorating, as the idea was my own creation. I don't count myself as very creative (I studied Science/Law - that's enough to beat the creativity out of anyone!), but I loved making this cake.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Pumpkin cranberry loaf

Pumpkin cranberry loaf II
Originally uploaded by
I had some cranberries left over from my white chocolate and cranberry cookies, so thought it was the perfect opportunity to make a recipe that I have had stashed away for a while - Nic's Pumpkin and Cranberry Loaf, the recipe for which is here.

I love anything sweet, so a cake which includes both pumpkin and cranberries really took my fancy - and of course, the fact that it is low fat is a bonus!

This cake is just gorgeous. Forget it if you don't like pumpkin or cranberries, because these flavours are both prominent in the finished cake. You don't need to spread this cake with anything before eating it - just slice off a generous piece and go for it. It really is devine, and the greedy devil in me could easily scoff the lot. Thanks for introducing me to this recipe Nic!

Baked chicken with olives and tomatoes

I was looking for something simple and low fat to make for dinner when I came across a recipe for tomato and olive baked chicken in a little book called Racy Recipes, Memorable Meals published by the Hawthorn community to raise funds for the Railako Medical Clinic, East Timor.

This recipe is by a lady called Helen Slattery, and is as follows:

Preheat oven to 190 degrees Celsius. Place 2 chicken breasts and 3 diced potatoes in a baking dish which has been spayed lightly with oil. In a medium sized bowl, combine 1 clove of crushed garlic, 250g of halved cherry tomatoes, 2 tablespoons of olive oil, a teaspoon of dried oregano, a shake of black pepper and half a cup of olives. Pour this mixture over the chicken and potatoes, and bake for about 40 minutes or until the chicken and potatoes are cooked through.

Although this is really simple, it tastes very good, and is also perfect for me because it is designed to serve 2. Buon appetite!