Thursday, January 31, 2008

Stardust - Raspberry Marshmallow Cake

When you wish upon a star, your dreams come true ...
("When You Wish Upon a Star" from the Disney film "Pinocchio")

Tomorrow, we have yet another sad farewell in my workplace, as Marian leaves us after more than half a year to go back to Uni. Marian is a bright, bubbly influence around our office, so she will be sorely missed. However, I am sure that she will go on to great things.

To mark Marian's farewell, I have made a very cute cake that I found in Ruth Pretty's Cooking at Springfield. Ruth runs a successful catering business in New Zealand, and is very well known there, but I originally learned of Ruth from one of the Kiwi food blogs that I regularly visit. While I was in New Zealand on vacation, I took the opportunity to buy one of Ruth's cookbooks, which don't seem to be stocked in Australian bookstores.

The cake that I made for Marian is the one which determined the cookbook that I would buy. Ruth calls it "Perfect-in-Pink Cake", but the yellow cake with raspberry jam, pink marshmallow and pink icing reminded me of an Iced VoVo biscuit (apparently a favourite with our new prime minister, Kevin Rudd). I decorated this very sweet concoction with a star in honour of Marian, one of our own stars!

To make this cake, you need the following ingredients:


3 eggs
a pinch of salt
175g sugar
50g butter, cubed
2 tablespoons boiling water
125g plain flour
1 teaspoon baking powder

Marshmallow filling

1 1/2 teaspoons cornflour
1 1/2 teaspoons icing sugar
1 tablespoon powdered gelatine
1/4 cup cold water
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup cold water
1 teaspoon vanilla essence

raspberry jam


1 cup sifted icing sugar
1 teaspoon butter
5 teaspoons hot water
cake lollies to decorate (eg cachous; non-pariels)

Make the marshmallow first. I recommend doing this the night before, as it needs time to set. Start by greasing an 18cm cake pan very well, then sift together the cornflour and icing sugar and use this mixture to coat the interior of the pan. Shake out any excess powder.

Put the gelatine in a small heatproof bowl and add the 1/4 cup of water. Stir until combined and set aside for the gelatine to soak up all the water.

Heat the sugar and the 1/2 cup of water in a small saucepan while stirring to avoid the sugar burning onto the pan. Once the sugar has completely dissolved, remove from the heat.

Heat the gelatine slurry over a bain marie until the gelatine liquifies, then pour into the sugar syrup and return the mixture to the heat and bring to the boil. You should then turn down the heat and boil the mixture for 15 minutes, stirring all the while so that the sugar doesn't burn onto the pan. Remove from the heat.

Allow the mixture to cool for about 5 minutes before pouring into the bowl of an electric mixer, combining with the vanilla essence and sufficient cochineal to colour the mixture a hue of pink to your liking. Beat the mixture until very thick (but do not overbeat) and pour into the prepared pan to set on the benchtop.

Once the marshmallow has set, make the cakes. Preheat your oven to 180 degrees Celsius, and grease 2 x 18cm cakepans well with butter, and line the base of each pan with baking paper.

Beat the eggs, salt and sugar together until thick and pale. Melt the butter in a bowl by combining with the boiling water and set aside. Sift the dry ingredients together, then fold into the batter alternately with the melted butter. Distribute the batter equally between the two prepared cake pans, and bake in the oven for approximately 15 minutes.

Cool the cakes in their tins for 10 minutes before turning onto a wire rack to cool completely.

Once the cakes are cool, spread one side of each with raspberry jam. Turn the marshmallow round out of its tin and place on top of the jammy side of one cake, then place the other cake on top of the marshmallow, jammy side down.

Make the icing by adding the butter to the icing sugar in a bowl, then adding the hot water to the mixture slowly until there is sufficient to melt the butter and make the icing the desired consistency for spreading on the cake. Colour the icing pink by adding cochineal until the desired hue is reached.

Spread the icing over the top of the cake. Place a cookie cutter of your choice of shape (I used a star) in the centre of the cake and pour in non-pariels or other cake lollies to fill in the shape of the cookie cutter, and press the lollies lightly into the icing while the cutter is still in place. Once you have secured the lollies in the icing, carefully and slowly remove the cookie cutter.

What issues did I have in making this creation? I found that despite generous greasing, my cakes stuck slightly to the sides of the cake pans, and I had to run a knife around the edge of each before turning out. Removing the marshmallow in one piece from the cake pan was a battle, as can be seen from the rough edges in my photos! Should I have used a springform pan? Maybe I should have lined the tin with baking paper, or used a silicone pan. Or maybe if I had not overbeaten the marshmallow, it would have come out more readily because it would have been more flexible. In the end, I was grateful just to remove the marshmallow from the pan in one piece, so I won't ponder these mysteries further until I make this cake again.

This one's for you Marian, you star - good luck!

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Low fat beef stroganoff

About 4 years ago, I lost 20kg, and for the first 12 months I was so terrified that I would pile all the weight back on that I made the same stir fry every night, had a home-made ham, tomato and cheese toastie for lunch every day, and always took the same home-made low fat muffin in for morning tea. At that stage, I only owned one cookbook, and I rarely opened it. Dining wise, you can gather that this was a pretty boring year, and if I had lived with anyone at the time, they would never have tolerated it.

Thankfully, I have moved on from those dark days, and I have realised that you can still enjoy "normal" food in moderation without your weight blowing out. However, I still like to keep my calories down in my main meals so that I can indulge my sweet tooth a little more freely.

Tonight was one of those nights when rather than cooking, I felt like sitting down with a family block of Cadbury Dairy Milk and going for it. Luckily, common sense prevailed, and I cooked.

In line with my low calorie, low fat objective for main meals, I decided to make beef stroganoff from Michelle Trute's Cooking with Conscience. While this is nothing like the traditional favourite known by this name, resplendent with red wine and cream, it is still a tasty dish, primarily because of the tang from the mustard and the kick from the onion and garlic. I served it with boiled rice and cooked frozen veges (the lazy cook's standby!), and it made a satisfying meal.

Don't be fooled by the rather unlovely picture - it has a heart of gold! If you would like to try it, you can do so as follows:

1 chopped onion
2 crushed cloves of garlic
500g beef, cut into strips (or in my case, cubes!)
1 tablespoon plain flour
200g sliced mushrooms
1 teaspoon mustard
2/3 cup low fat natural yoghurt

Brown the onion and the garlic in a frypan sprayed with cooking oil. Toss the beef in the flour, then brown in the pan with the onion. Stir in the mushrooms, mustard and yoghurt and season with salt and pepper. After simmering for 1 minute, remove from the heat and serve on a bed of rice with vegetables of your choice. Serves 4-5. (I only use 100g of meat per serving because my dietician from weight loss days told me to use that as a guide for me personally, but I realise that this is not enough for everyone.)

Daring Bakers - Lemon Meringue Pie

He, he, he - I am rather excited because I decided to take the plunge and join that merry band, the Daring Bakers, who were kind enough to let me join. Jen from The Canadian Baker is hosting the January challenge, and I was pleased to learn that it was lemon meringue pie, one of my favourite desserts.

The recipe selected by Jen is quite different to the lemon meringue pies that I have made previously. I have made proper lemon curd before, but never using cornflour as a thickening agent, and not using quite as much lemon juice. However, I loved the decidedly lemony tang that the quantity of lemon juice in this recipe added to the curd, giving it a definite "kick" and balancing the sweetness of the wonderful marshmallowy sky-high meringue top - which was my favourite part of this dish!

Having made lemon meringue pie before, I was not concerned about my ability to pull off this challenge. However, it was not all smooth sailing. The first minor hitch was that my tart shell, which rolled out beautifully, decided to bake with a strange high bit on one side:

This didn't concern me too much - once the tart shell was filled, no-one would notice, and it added to the rustic home-made look of it.

The lemon curd filling went beautifully - it thickened up nicely and without a lump in sight, and tasted devinely tangy:

As mentioned above, I was dubious at first about the cornflour and the large quantity of lemon juice (3/4 of a cup), but needn't have worried.

My meringue also fluffed up a dream, and made a wonderful golden high top piled on the lemon curd filling:

Once the pie cooled, the meringue retracted ever so slightly from the edges of the pie, despite my being very careful to make sure that it extended all the way to the edges before baking. I also found when I cut the pie that there was a small amount of liquid between the meringue and the filling. It didn't really make the crust soggy, but it did leave a little damp ring. However, I feel lucky in that my lemon filling stayed set, as a number of other Daring Bakers found that their lemon filling turned out runny.

The taste of this pie was just devine. I first cut it on the evening it was made to share with a couple of friends after the movies, and they liked it. However, when I took the remainder to work the next day, I received delighted approbation from a number of my colleagues. They loved it! In my books, this gives it a big tick, and I would definitely make it again.

Do check out the other wonderful lemon meringue pies from the other Daring Bakers here.

If you would like to try your hand at this pie, the recipe is as follows:

Lemon Meringue Pie

(from "Wanda's Pie in the Sky" by Wanda Beaver)

Makes one 25cm pie


3/4 cup (180 mL) cold butter; cut into 1.2 cm pieces
2 cups (475 mL) all-purpose flour
1/4 cup (60 mL) granulated sugar
1/4 tsp (1.2 mL) salt
1/3 cup (80 mL) ice water


2 cups (475 mL) water
1 cup (240 mL) granulated sugar
1/2 cup (120 mL) cornflour
5 egg yolks, beaten
1/4 cup (60 mL) butter
3/4 cup (180 mL) fresh lemon juice
1 tbsp (15 mL) lemon zest
1 tsp (5 mL) vanilla extract


5 egg whites, room temperature
1/2 tsp (2.5 mL) cream of tartar
1/4 tsp (1.2 mL) salt
1/2 tsp (2.5 mL) vanilla extract
3/4 cup (180 mL) granulated sugar

To Make the Crust

Make sure all ingredients are as cold as possible. Using a food processor or pastry cutter and a large bowl, combine the butter, flour, sugar and salt. Process or cut in until the mixture resembles coarse meal and begins to clump together. Sprinkle with water, let rest 30 seconds and then either process very briefly or cut in with about 15 strokes of the pastry cutter, just until the dough begins to stick together and come away from the sides of the bowl. Turn onto a lightly floured work surface and press together to form a disk. Wrap in plastic and chill for at least 20 minutes.

Allow the dough to warm slightly to room temperature if it is too hard to roll. On a lightly floured board (or countertop) roll the disk to a thickness of 0.3 cm. Cut a circle about 5 cm larger than the pie plate and transfer the pastry into the plate by folding it in half or by rolling it onto the rolling pin. Turn the pastry under, leaving an edge that hangs over the plate about 1.2 cm. Flute decoratively. Chill for 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 180ºC. Line the crust with foil and fill with metal pie weights or dried beans. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes. Carefully remove the foil and continue baking for 10 to 15 minutes, until golden. Cool completely before filling.

To Make the Filling

Bring the water to a boil in a large, heavy saucepan. Remove from the heat and let rest 5 minutes. Whisk the sugar and cornstarch together. Add the mixture gradually to the hot water, whisking until completely incorporated. Return to the heat and cook over medium heat, whisking constantly until the mixture comes to a boil. The mixture will be very thick. Add about 1 cup (240 mL) of the hot mixture to the beaten egg yolks, whisking until smooth. Whisking vigorously, add the warmed yolks to the pot and continue cooking, stirring constantly, until mixture comes to a boil. Remove from the heat and stir in butter until incorporated. Add the lemon juice, zest and vanilla, stirring until combined. Pour into the prepared crust. Cover with plastic wrap to prevent a skin from forming on the surface, and cool to room temperature.

To Make the Meringue

Preheat the oven to 190ºC. Using an electric mixer beat the egg whites with the cream of tartar, salt and vanilla extract until soft peaks form. Add the sugar gradually, beating until it forms stiff, glossy peaks. Pile onto the cooled pie, bringing the meringue all the way over to the edge of the crust to seal it completely. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until golden.

Cool on a rack. Serve within 6 hours to avoid a soggy crust.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Tasty lunchtime pasta

This week's pasta dish is from Jamie's Dinners, and has the unattractive title of "working girl's pasta". I am a solicitor, but not of that variety, so I have renamed it "Tasty lunchtime pasta". This describes it perfectly - I made it for lunch, and it's tasty!

There is a fair bit of scratching around to do as preparation for this dish, as you have to peel and crush garlic, chop tomatoes finely, deseed and chop a chilli, pit and chop olives, and zest and juice a lemon. For an impatient person like me who is trying to do a thousand things at once in the evenings, this blocks my flow a little. However, if you can overlook that, the end result is really delicious.

In a nutshell, you put 400g of dried penne on to cook. While that is bubbling away, you put some oil in a frypan, add 8 anchovies, let them melt, then throw in some capers, finely chopped olives (around 10), the chopped chilli, 5 small tomatoes (finely chopped), 2 crushed garlic cloves, the juice and zest of a lemon and 300g drained tinned tuna, and allow it to bubble away until everything is heated through. Once the pasta has cooked, drain it, reserving some of the cooking water, toss the hot pasta through the sauce, add a bit of the reserved cooking water if necessary to keep the pasta and sauce loose, and serve.

I divided this into 5 servings to take to work, and froze those which I didn't need immediately.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

SHF #39 - Baking with Candy - Jaffa Cake

It's Sugar High Friday again this week, and this month, it is being hosted by CandyRecapper, who has chosen the theme of Baking with Candy. CandyRecapper's requirements are simple:

"You can do anything you want, as long as you use some kind of store-bought candy in it. "

I normally don't bake with candy, primarily because I eat it all before it gets a chance to go into baked goods ;)

I have combined this Sugar High Friday with another event - a birthday. One of my work colleagues, Dawn, had quite some time ago mentioned that her boyfriend, Craig, loves baked goods, and that he wanted me to remember that his birthday was 26 January - the same day as Australia Day. I'm sure he said this in jest, but I thought it would be great to surprise Dawn and Craig by making him a birthday cake.

Because Craig's birthday is on Australia Day, I wanted to use typically Aussie lollies in his cake. While Caramello Koalas are my favourite, I couldn't think of any way to incorporate them into a cake without mooshing them up. Also, Dawn hates chocolate cake, which would most naturally complement Caramello Koalas. Accordingly, my stroke of inspiration was to use Jaffas in an orange cake. Australian kids for generations have bought Jaffas at the movies and rolled them down the aisles to annoy the grown-ups in the cinema as they clattered across the floor during the film. I therefore thought it was fitting, in honour of Craig's birthday and Australia Day, to use Jaffas in my Sugar High Friday creation.

The recipe for the orange cake that I used as a base can be found here on Exclusively Food. I chose this recipe because most of the comments from those who made it were favourable, and mentioned that the cake was moist. (I hate dry cake!) I used all orange juice in making the cake, and to fit in with the SHF theme, I added 3/4 cup of Jaffas to the batter. (I almost forgot and had to stir in the Jaffas after I had put the batter in the tins!) Instead of one layer, I made two and sandwiched them together with extra icing.

I tried to break up the Jaffas before putting them in the cake, because they are quite heavy sweets and I knew that they would sink to the bottom of the cakes. Alas, my efforts were in vain, and the Jaffas did sink to the bottom (as you can see from the top picture). However, when I iced the cakes, I turned the layers so that the Jaffa-laden bottoms were in the middle of the cake, ensuring that it will hold together when sliced.

This cake tastes pleasantly buttery and orangy (I made a small test cake for myself in a muffin pan for tasting purposes). It also wafts a lovely citrus smell around the kitchen while baking. Because of the presence of the sweets, it is crucial to line the cake tins, because just like fruit, they had a tendency to stick (as I found out the hard way when I turned out my mini cake from the unlined muffin pan).

I simply decorated the cake with orange icing, extra Jaffas and letters cut from flat strawberry fruit bars. (I am off piping after several disasters trying to pipe on Racquel's birthday cake, including the fact that I couldn't seem to spell at the time!)

If you like using candy in your baking, make sure to check CandyRecapper's site for the SHF Baking with Candy roundup.

(Postscript: The roundup can be found here. Thanks to Candy Recapper for hosting this event and for the roundup.)

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Groggy roast chicken

Sometimes, a simple twist on an old favourite can make all the difference. I have noticed since I started this blog that I make an awful lot of chicken dishes, and of those, that most of them are baked. I have always loved my Mum's home-made roast chicken, so I have had fun over the last year discovering new ways with roast chicken.

Recently, I acquired Nigella Express. I am a huge fan of Nigella's television shows, because she makes cooking look fun and sexy, and doesn't give a hoot about whether or not what she makes is low fat, low GI or otherwise sickeningly healthy. Nigella makes cooking and eating what you cook a pleasure - which is how it should be.

One of Nigella's dishes in Nigella Express is a brandied, bacony chicken. In a nutshell, it's just a roast chicken with fried bacon stuck in the cavity to flavour the chicken and with heated brandy poured over the top before roasting. I didn't have any bacon, but I liked the brandy idea because Nigella promised that it would give the chicken a crispy skin - and so it did.

Pictured above is my version of brandied chicken with roast vegetables. I simply heated a tot of brandy in a frypan to burn off the alcohol (not too much or it will evaporate completely!) and poured it over the chicken in the roasting dish. I tossed the veges in salt and pepper (and sumac for the pumpkin), sprayed them with oil to ensure they baked up with crispy skins, and baked the lot at 220 degrees Celsius for about an hour. This was really simple and hands off, and tasted delicious. It was also quick enough for me to make for dinner after work, when I am in serious couch potato mode.

Ginger cake

Another week, another Nigel Slater cake from The Kitchen Diaries. This time, I made his double ginger cake; well, sort of. I actually made a single ginger cake because I didn't have any stem ginger, which I didn't realise that I needed until after I had started making the cake. This is because I am such an organised person who always reads the recipe before starting - NOT!

I also found half way through that I didn't have enough golden syrup. When I made the pumpkin sultana loaf and I didn't have any maple syrup, I used golden syrup instead, so I thought I would try the reverse on this occasion, and make up the shortfall in golden syrup with maple syrup. Luckily for me, this worked a treat.

Although all of my sultanas decided to sink to the bottom of the cake, I was pleased with the result. It is a really nice, solid cake in a traditional gingerbread style. It is not overwhelmingly gingery (although it might have been more gingery if I had actually used the stem ginger!!), but is very pleasant tasting and moist, and has a beautiful golden colour:

To make it my way (as opposed to how you are supposed to make it), you need the following:

250g self raising flour
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
pinch of salt
100g golden syrup
100g maple syrup
125g cubed butter
2 tablespoons sultanas
125g brown sugar
2 eggs
240ml milk (skim is fine)

Grease and line a 20cm square cake tin, and preheat your oven to 180 degrees Celsius.

Sift the dry ingredients together into a large bowl and set aside. Warm the syrups and the butter over a low heat on the stovetop. Once the butter has melted, add the sugar and the sultanas, and bring just to the boil, stirring all the while, then remove from the heat.

Beat the eggs and milk together in a jug. Pour the syrup mixture into the dry ingredients and stir to combine, then stir in the milk mixture. Pour the liquid batter into the prepared cake tin and bake in the oven for roughly 40 minutes. Remove the cake from the oven and allow it to cool in its tin on a wire rack. Nigel recommends wrapping the cake in alfoil and allowing it mature for a couple of days before eating, but I thought it was great straight away.

This cake is good by itself, but in winter it would make a smashing dessert warmed up with hot custard poured over it.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Lovely lemons from a lovely lady

These lovely lemons were given to me by a wonderful friend and colleague, Patsy, from her backyard lemon tree so that I could make a lemon and honey drink to soothe my sore throat. Thank you Patsy - they are very much appreciated!

Chicken and tomato bake

Last weekend, while still carrying a heavy cold, I stupidly booked myself into the dentist in the early morning, spent half a day travelling around on a bus to see the fairy penguin parade at Phillip Island, went to brunch with friends the morning after arriving back from the penguins in the wee small hours, followed by a mini spa treatment I'd booked in ages ago to use up a Christmas gift voucher, then went to the movies with other friends. I must be crazy to book all of this in one weekend - I should have re-arranged all engagements except the treasured time with my friends until I feel fighting fit again. I look forward to catching up on some sleep this week!

This leads me on to the featured dish in this post. Over a week ago, for dinner with my friend Veronica, I made the above-pictured chicken and tomato bake. However, until now, I have been (a) too sick; and then (b) too busy to post about it, and time slipped away. It deserves to be posted though, because it is simple yet flavoursome. The recipe is based on a dish from Jamie's Dinners and you can make it as follows:

4 chicken legs and 4 chicken thighs with skin on
a handful of fresh basil leaves
6 small tomatoes cut into eighths
1 whole garlic bulb, split into cloves (you can leave the skin on)
1 chopped red chilli
6 small potatoes, quartered
salt and pepper
cooking oil (I used canola)

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius. Rub salt and pepper into the chicken skin to taste, then place on the bottom of a lightly oiled roasting pan. Scatter the basil over the chicken, then place the tomatoes, potatoes, garlic and chilli in the pan. Spray the whole lot lightly with cooking oil, and bake in the oven for 1 1/2 hours or until the chicken and potatoes are cooked. Before eating the garlic cloves, squeeze them out of the fibrous skins - they pop out easily once baked. Serves 4-6.

This is really simple but rather delicious for a quick dinner. To vary it, you could add whatever other veges take your fancy, or perhaps toss in some olives. Perfect!

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Blueberry and pear cake

Each working week, I make something for my morning tea at work, and either refrigerate or freeze it so that I can keep it fresh for the week. Now that I have a blog of my very own, I try to make something different each week so that I can share what I have made with you.

After discovering Nigel Slater's The Kitchen Diaries just before Christmas, it was a no-brainer that I would start the year making cakes from this book. They are drool-worthy creations that are simple to make and don't have weird and wonderful, hard to source or expensive ingredients. Weird and wonderful is great when you are trying to impress someone else, but I don't have to impress myself - I just want something yummy and filling to have with a piece of fruit to tide me over until lunchtime.

As berry season is currently in full swing in Oz and berries are plentiful and cheap (as opposed to the remaining 10 months of the year when they are scarce and very expensive!), I selected Nigel's blueberry and pear cake for my lunchbox treat this week.

This cake is really easy to make, and has lots of fruit on top so tastes delish - there's nothing more to add.

To make it, you will need:

130g softened butter
130g sugar
4 tinned pear halves cut into small chunks
2 eggs, lightly beaten
130g sifted plain flour
1 teaspoon sifted baking powder
1 punnet blueberries

Preheat your oven to 180 degrees Celsius. Grease and line a 20cm square cake tin. Cream the butter and sugar. Gradually beat the eggs into the creamed mixture. Stir in the flour and baking powder, and pour the batter into the prepared cake tin. Top the cake with the blueberries and pears, and bake for 55 minutes or until cooked through. (My cake took about 70 minutes.) Cool the cake for 10 minutes or so in the tin before taking it out of the tin and placing it on a wire rack to cool completely.

I served thick slices of this cake with thick, honey-flavoured Greek yoghurt for dessert at my friend Veronica's place, and it was good. It is also great all by itself as a morning tea treat ;)

BBD #6 - Filled rolled bread

There's a thrill you'll never know if you never try
Why don't you give it a, give it a, give it a whirl ...

(From "Give It a Whirl" by Split Enz)

Life is always full of surprises, and this week, I have already had two pleasant ones. First - I found out that I can successfully make bread. Second - I found out that other people liked my bread!

Eva at Sweet Sins is hosting Bread Baking Day #6, and the theme is shaped breads. Not generally being a bread baker, I was a little hesitant at taking up the challenge (I have plenty of stories from friends about the rock hard loaves produced from their bread machines!). However, I decided to "give it a whirl", and was really surprised at the result.

I searched through my cookbooks, and the only shaped bread that I hit upon was a large doughnut shaped construction in Happy Days with the Naked Chef by Jamie Oliver. This recipe was for a rolled bread filled with ham, cheese, basil, olives, tomatoes and eggs. This sounded like a seriously delicious combination, so I set to work on it.

Jamie's instructions start with making his basic, all purpose bread dough. Now, I should have known that I was going to end up with a Frankenstein's monster sized loaf when I read that this recipe contained a whole kilo of flour - but being a lawyer, numbers are not my strong point, and I forged ahead. If that didn't tip me off, the serious quantities of cheese (400g) and boiled eggs (8) should have - but the numeric sector of my brain was clearly not working, because I simply halved the number of eggs, clicking my tongue at what I saw as a huge waste of good eggs, and kept going. (I blame my lack of brain function at the time on the horrendous cold that I subsequently developed, and which has now blossomed into a full blown lurgy.)

The resulting bread is enormous!!!! I didn't have a baking sheet large enough to hold it comfortably, and it almost bumped the roof of the oven as it baked. Once the bread was finished, I looked at it, then looked at me, tasted a slice, marvelled at how filling it was, and only then wondered what on earth I was going to do with it all! Luckily, I had made it to take to dinner at my friend Veronica's place, so Veronica became the recipient of half of it. I optimistically placed the other half in the fridge for later, then the next morning, reality dawned - this lovely tasting bread with buckets of ingredients would be "dead" (in the way that only fresh food can die) before I could plough through the remaining half by myself. Somewhere in my addled mind, I realised that the obvious solution was to take it to work to share - and they loved it! There wasn't enough to go round everyone who wanted some, and all the comments I received were favourable (hope they just weren't being nice!).

A cross section of the bread showing all of the ingredients is as follows:

If you would like to make your very own "doughnut bread", here is how to do it:


1kg plain flour
625ml cold water
21g dried yeast
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons salt
more plain flour to dust work surfaces and the dough

Place the flour into a large mixing bowl and make a well in the centre. Into the well, tip half the water, the yeast, sugar and salt, and mix the ingredients in the well with the handle of a spoon until combined. Slowly combine the flour from outside the well with the water, trying not to break the walls of the well, until all of the water has been soaked up by the flour. Next, add the remaining water to the centre of the mixture, and combine with flour until it forms a thick paste, then combine all of the remaining flour with the gooey centre, using your hands, until a dough ball forms. (If this sounds confusing for any non-bread bakers out there, it is! I had no idea what I was doing.) If your dough is too sticky to knead, add more flour; if it's too dry, add more water.

Once you have a dough that is of a consistency that you can knead, proceed to fold it, squish it, push it and roll it around on a floured surface until your dough is smooth and soft. This will take a few minutes, but have faith - it magically comes together eventually! Once the dough is smooth, place it in a clean large mixing bowl, cover it with cling wrap, and put it in a light, warm place for about half an hour to rise. (I placed it under the touch lamp in my bedroom.) When the dough has doubled in size, you are ready to shape and fill it.


8 thin slices of ham
4 hard boiled eggs, shelled and sliced thinly
3 small tomatoes, sliced thinly
a large handful of fresh basil
10 black olives, pitted and halved
400g grated cheese
oil (I used canola)
salt and pepper

Preheat your oven to 180 degrees Celsius.

Roll out the bread dough until it forms a long thin rectangle about 1cm thick. (Mine was 20cm wide and 70cm long). Spread the filling ingredients out along the centre of the entire length of the bread, leaving an even border of dough on each long end. Drizzle the filling with oil and season with salt and pepper to taste. Wrap the dough on each side over the filling to form a filled tube of bread, then join up the two ends by squeezing them together to form a large doughnut shape (ie a ring with a hole in the middle). Place the bread on a large oiled baking sheet, allow to rise for 15 minutes, dust the bread lightly with flour and place it in the oven to bake for about 35 minutes or until golden. (Mine took about 45 minutes.)

Enjoy the bread warm or cold. My preference is for it to be warm, but other people said that they enjoyed it cold. It is just like a very well-stuffed sandwich, and hence is very filling. That said, it is delicious. You could play with the filling combination (eg those that dislike olives can leave them out; lovers of another ingredient, such as marinated artichokes or eggplant, could add them).

This experience with bread making has reminded me that I should confidently take on new experiences and "[face] the future with a smile on [my] face, win or lose" (another quote from Split Enz's "Give It a Whirl" - I am attending their Wellington concert in March, and I can't wait!).

I look forward to seeing all the marvellous shaped breads from around the world when Eva posts the roundup for Bread Baking Day #6.

Postscript: The wonderful roundup has been posted by Eva here and here.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Saucy pork

Cakelaw was, for a long time, on the heavier side, and only lost weight about 4 years ago on her GP's advice to help her temperamental back. The back is still temperamental, despite my substantial maintained weight loss, but it is great to be able to have a choice when you buy clothes (which are one of my passions!).

In my on-again/off-again quest to lose weight, I tried Weight Watchers (unsuccessfully). However, one great thing that I got out of attending Weight Watchers was discovering Michelle Trute, who was our group leader before branching out on her own. Michelle subsequently has written newspaper cooking columns, appeared in regular TV cooking slots and produced a series of cookbooks based on her own weight loss and experience as a qualified chef.

One of my favourite "every day" recipes is in Michelle's first cookbook entitled "Cooking with Conscience". This recipe is for a saucy pork and apricot pastry. However, as filo pastry and I have always had a rather stormy relationship, particularly where you use a hot filling, I have ditched the pastry and just make the saucy pork, which I serve with rice or noodles. The pork is flavoured with curry, mustard and apricots, and is absolutely delicious (provided that you don't object to meat and fruit combinations).

My version of Michelle's recipe is as follows:

1 diced onion
1 tablespoon curry powder
500g diced pork
2 tablespoons plain flour
1 1/2 cups chicken stock
500g packet frozen mixed vegetables
1/2 cup chopped dried apricots
1 tablespoon of your favourite mustard

Brown the onion and curry powder in a spray-oiled pan. Roll the pork in the flour until it is coated, then add to the onions in the pan and cook until brown. Add the stock and vegetables and heat until the liquid is bubbling. Toss in the apricots and mustard, reduce the heat, and simmer for 20 minutes until the sauce has thickened. Season with salt and pepper as desired, and serve with boiled rice or udon noodles.

This dish is a cinch to make, and has a mildly spicy flavour to tickle your tastebuds. If you object to meat and fruit in the same dish, you could leave out the apricots. However, I love the sweet tang that they bring to the dish. The added bonus is that this dish is (according to the cookbook) a low fat, low calorie, low GI dinner option.

Lemon curd cake for Racquel

Happy New Year! I am back from holidays, although because it was an action-packed vacation, I cannot truthfully say that I feel refreshed. I have posted about my foodie adventures in New Zealand's South Island here. I hope that you enjoy reading about them, and perhaps will be enticed to visit there yourself some day. I highly recommend it!

On Monday, another work colleague, Racquel, celebrated her birthday. As Racquel is bright and sunny, and she is English, I though that there would be no better way to celebrate her birthday than with a bright and sunny lemon curd cake by none other than the grand doyenne of English kitchens, Delia Smith.

The recipe for this lovely cake can be found here on Delia's website. I only made two layers because my cake tins are 20cm in diameter instead of 18cm, and instead of using Delia's lemon curd recipe, I used a delightful Martha Stewart recipe that I found here at the Cupcake Bakeshop site. (Be warned - you could eat the whole batch of curd with a spoon before it goes anywhere near the cake, as it is absolutely morish!) For the finishing touch, I decorated the cake with sugar pansies and leaves.

This cake is really easy to make because everything is mixed together in the one bowl. The only tricky bit is turning out the cakes, because they are a little fragile and tended to stick to the wire cooling rack. It is delightfully lemony in flavour - if you love a light, citrus-flavoured cake, you will love this.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

New Zealand - South Island culinary adventures

Cakelaw has just returned from travelling for a week in the South Island of New Zealand or, as the Maori people call it, Aotearoa (roughly pronounced Ay-oh-tay-ah-row-ah), meaning "Land of the Long White Cloud".

It was absolutely wonderful, and you can read about my non-food related experiences here.

However, as this is a food blog, this post will focus on my foodie experiences in the South Island. As I was travelling with my mother and brother, who are strictly non-gastronomes, I wasn't able to partake of any high falutin' food and wine experiences, although New Zealand as a whole has plenty to offer in this regard. However, within the limitations of my circumstances, I tried to experience as much on the local food front as I could.

For those who are not acquainted with New Zealand, it is a beautiful land, filled with:

mountains and lakes;

sheep (blurry and taken at high speed from a bus, but you get the idea);

cattle (also intensively farmed);

deer (forgive the bad photo taken through a bus window);

and, erm, sheep (in fact, there are 39 million of them in NZ!).

I did not get the opportunity to try many restaurants while on the South Island. However, one restaurant which I did try was Sticky Fingers, situated on the restaurant strip end of Oxford Terrace in Christchurch. I sampled a delightful Thai green fish curry there, complete with prawns and kumara (sweet potato). There is no photo of this dish, but it was devine (and sinus-clearing!). The only odd part about it was that I ordered "Fish of the Day" - I didn't expect to receive a curry when I ordered this! Fitting in with the theme of the restaurant, we sat at a table under this great carved lamp in the shape of a hand:

and we could have ordered a beer from the coppery "sticky fingers" beer taps:

My only other restaurant experience was at The Willow, the restaurant situated at our hotel, Holiday Inn on Avon, which is at the opposite end of Oxford Terrace from Sticky Fingers. With all of those sheep, New Zealand is famed for its lamb, so I ordered the lamb shanks:

This dish was delicious - the lamb melted off the bone, just as it should, and the sauce was wonderfully rich, but there was way too much food for me to finish. My brother managed to polish his off, but was stumped soon after being given some of my mother's pork to finish off.

In my travels from Christchurch to Queenstown, the Intercity Coach stopped off in a gorgeous little town in the province of Canterbury called Geraldine. There is a travellers stop there containing a brilliant cafe called The Berry Barn, which serves a fantastic range of cakes and slices. Below is a photo of some of those slices, including New Zealand favourites such as lolly cake, ginger crunch and Belgian slice.

On the way back from Queenstown, I took the opportunity to buy a couple of slices to take home. Here is a close up of the ginger crunch and the Belgian slice, a little the worse for wear after being stuffed into my day pack:

I loved the ginger crunch, which
I have made myself, but was none too keen on the Belgian slice, which is a dryish type of cinnamon cake sandwiched together with jam and topped with pink icing.

I am a huge lolly and chocolate guzzler, so I also took the opportunity to sample some NZ sweets.

In Queenstown, there is a terrific sweet shop called The Remarkable Sweet Shop. It is filled with all kinds of sweets, some of which are peculiarly Kiwi, such as Eskimos (pastel coloured, hard marshmallowy sweets in the shape of Eskimos), Volcanoes (vibrant blue pyramidal foam sweets with a red jelly top) and Deltas (large jellies in the shape of fighter jets). A sample of these sweets is shown below:

I purchased a packet of marshmallow sweets shaped like
tuataras. In Queenstown, I also purchased a Perky Nana, available all over New Zealand. A Perky Nana is simply a large, chocolate-coated banana sweet.

From a corner shop (known as a "dairy" in NZ!) in Christchurch, I purchased a chocolate fish, which is simply a chocolate-covered marshmallow in the shape of a fish. All of these sweets are good fun, and the chocolate fish tasted great!

One of the local New Zealand ice-cream brands is Tip Top. (Interestingly, Tip Top is a brand of bread in Australia.) Tip Top makes many different types of ice-creams, including the Trumpet (a cone like the Drumstick or Cornetto available in Australia), the FruJu (as the name suggests, a fruit ice) and the one which I purchased, the Jelly Tip (vanilla icecream with a frozen jelly "tip" and all coated in chocolate).

While the Jelly Tip claims to be uniquely Kiwi, I know that I bought a similar icecream in Australia as a child, which came in a blue wrapper with a picture of a pink wobbly jelly on it. I had to buy this icecream after seeing its great television ad, which queries the fine line between togs (in this case, men's racers - I love the fact that the Kiwis use the word "togs" for a bathing costume, just like Queenslanders!!) and undies (for the uninitiated, underpants). You can see the ad on YouTube, if interested.

On the beverage front, I did not get to try the beer (a local brew made in Christchurch is
Canterbury Draught) or the magnificent Marlborough region wines - these will have to wait for another trip.

However, as a self-confessed ginger addict, I tried a local ginger beer made by Phoenix:

and a very sugary (60g of sugar per 600ml bottle!) but refreshingly lemony ginger beer-like drink called Lemon & Paeroa:

The L&P drink cheekily claims to be world-famous - in New Zealand!

In all, I enjoyed my light-hearted foodie trip through the South Island landscape, and look forward to returning soon.