Monday, 20 October 2014

Onion Rings (Indian style)


Who doesn't love a good ol' Onion Ring?

These delicious morsels , sometimes called Onion Bahji,  were initially made to sit atop other dishes as a garnish but have since become a lovely little snack in their own right.

They make the most wonderful accompaniment to any curry.

The Spring has me in a haze of hayfever that has kind of turned to a headcold.
There is a theory that a cut onion is the cure-all for a cough.
I was going for the 'ingest an onion' cure here!
In any case these made me feel better.

Such a tasty treat and with ingredients I always have readily at hand.

ONION RINGS (Indian Style):
I shallow fry these in a mix of Rice bran oil and Ghee to get the loveliest buttery flavour.
I served mine with a fave dipping sauce- Mint & Yoghurt Chutney.
These would make a great pre dinner nibble & are best served piping hot.
WHAT YOU WILL NEED:

  • 2 onions sliced into 1 1/2 cm rings
  • 1 cup Chickpea (besan or gram ) flour
  • 1 teaspoon mustard seeds
  • 1 teaspoon garam masala
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh coriander
  • water
  • 2 tablspoons rice bran oil & 2 tblspoons ghee
METHOD:

In a medium size bowl mix the flour and spices and salt.
Add chopped coriander and now water, little by little until you have what resembles a thick pancake batter.

It is ideal to let the batter rest (as you would to Pancake batter) but sometimes we just need to eat this stuff right?!

Add onion rings directly to this batter and mix through gently to coat.

Heat Oil & Ghee in a heavy pan to medium high heat.

Drop a little batter into the pan and if it sizzles you are ready to go!

Add a few onion rings at a time to the heated oil/ghee mix and fry till brown, turn and do same to other side.

Place onto paper towel and serve immediately.

I serve mine with Minted Yoghurt chutney which is made by blitzing 1/2 bunch mint, a knob of ginger, a teaspoon of sugar together and then adding 1/4 cup plain yoghurt together.





Wednesday, 15 October 2014

The Most Amazing Fruit and Nut cake


You may remember the Date, Carrot & Walnut cake that I baked recently.

A super easy tasty cake.

Well I have been experimenting a little with it ( I can't leave well enough alone!).

The last time I baked it I added LOTS more nuts and added Pistachios & it was really delicious.

Today I turned it into THE MOST AMAZING FRUIT AND NUT CAKE- no word of a lie!

I have this enduring memory of an amazing fruit and nut cake that my mother made for Christmas one year that was seemingly just nuts and fruit and was barely held together with cake batter.  I'm not sure where that recipe was from- maybe an old Vogue entertaining cook book? In any case it is a lovely food memory from our childhood kitchen that was always teeming with people and cooking activity at that time of year.  Music playing and mess all around. Happiness.

When I was last at the Organic grocer I picked up some gorgeous dried Turkish figs and some Cacao nibs. I had in mind adding them to my Date & Carrot cake to oomph things up a notch.

Today was the day.

It seems this cake can take all manner of things thrown at it or in it.

In the bowl it looked as if there was no batter at all but just a conglomeration of carrots, nuts and dried fruit.

And then after an hour this appeared........



We were *forced* to eat it hot straight out of the oven.

I know you understand........

THE MOST AMAZING FRUIT AND NUT CAKE:
As I said before this is a variation of my earlier published Date, Carrot and Walnut cake with the Fruit and nut part of the ingredient list amped up to eleven.
AMAZING, easy & totally delicious.
Hop to it people! It is outrageously delicious. The textures and flavours are complex, interesting and I am sure TOTALLY good for you!

WHAT YOU WILL NEED:

1 cup chopped dates
3 grated carrots
1 cup shredded coconut
1 cup whole walnuts
1 cup roughly chopped Brazil nuts
1 cup roughly chopped Turkish figs
1/4 cup Cacao nibs
2 eggs
3/4 cup oil
1 cup SR flour
3/4 cup raw sugar
1 tsp Bi carb
1/2 tsp cinnamon powder
1/2 tsp ginger powder

150g cream cheese
130g icing sugar
50g butter
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
Zest & juice of a lemon

METHOD:
Preheat oven to 175C.

Place all ingredients in bowl & mix through.

Place into greased and lined 23cm springform tin. (I used a rectangular glass lasagne dish lined with baking paper this time as my tin was in the dishwasher- worked a treat) 

You may need to flatten ingredients down with a spatula.

Place in oven for an hour or until skewer comes out clean.

Let completely cool before spreading cream cheese frosting.(made by mixing icing sugar, cream cheese, butter, vanilla, lemon zest & juice together).

Or.......slice and eat immediately while still hot.


I watched a really great tv show about Mental Illness on iView last night presented by comedian Felicity Ward- Felicity's Mental Mission.
You can watch it here.
There was the most amazing heartfelt piece by Missy Higgins in it & she palyed a track she had written at 18years ofa ge to her friend who was suffering from Depression.
It reminded me of how much I loved her music and her voice.

Monday, 13 October 2014

Wartime Chocolate Cake (Vegan Wacky Cake)


I LOVE this recipe.

I first found out about it from my dear friend & very fine baker to boot- Michelle. If she says something is good it is worth listening!

I must say I was sceptical as to a cake with no eggs. How could that possibly work?
It is an amazing example of the science of baking. It is the exacting requirements of baking that give a spontaneous cook like me trouble.
I do a lot of baking but it will never be my bestie. Far too many rules!

But it is these rules of science that allowed wartime cooks to make substitutes in times of rationing & still ensure great results.
Eggs & dairy were scarce during the depression and war years and this recipe omits both of these- making it a Vegan cake also!

It's final fluffy tasty result belies the ingredients- or lack of. It is a SUPERSTAR recipe worthy of becoming a regular in your kitchen.
The vinegar reacts with the baking powder allowing the rise that would normally require eggs. Magic really!

I baked a double batch today, one large cake and a batch of mini-cupcakes for lunchboxes.

It is incredibly easy, many people make it in the dish they will bake in. A one dish cake- AMAZING!

I urge you to give it a go- if for nothing else to appreciate the science and wonder of baking.


WARTIME CHOCOLATE CAKE:
There are a lot of versions of this cake on the interweb.
I use this version with great success.

WHAT YOU WILL NEED:

  • 1 1/2 cups plain flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup cocoa
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 tablespoon vinegar
  • 1/3 cup rice bran oil
  • 1 cup water
METHOD:
Preheat oven to 170C.

Mix all dry ingredients and stir through to combine.
Add wet ingredients and stir through well.
Pour batter into a greased & lined 30cm square baking tin (or into muffin cases).
Bake for 30 minutes or until skewer comes out clean.

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Torta Pasqualina (Italian Vegetable Pie)


My Veggie beds are filled with the onset of Spring.

So is my head. It's not as happy as my Veggie patch.....

Melbourne is notorious for dishing up hayfever at levels beyond tolerable.

Despite the way I feel it gives me complete and utter joy to head out to the veggie patch and come back inside with arms laden.

I have spoken before here of how although me and my family are meat eaters we probably only eat meat 3-4 times a week.  For reasons of personal and environmental health.  When we are so lucky in Australia to be able to obtain such beautiful vegetable produce it makes total and utter sense to grab the opportunity to celebrate the Veg!

Yesterday as I looked out to the backyard and saw the Veggie patch literally overflowing my mind wandered to this Traditional Italian Easter pie.  I have seen it & read about it but have never made one before.  Yesterday seemed like the perfect excuse.

The few days previous had been pretty tough going,  back to school and changing to Daylight savings time meant I had five VERY tired children on my hands.  It wasn't pretty.
Pastry making was in order.
It provides a meditative calm.  Hands in, mind empty. Perfect.

I - as usual - have messed things up from the Traditional method (and am bracing for the  usual backlash).

But as a cook, I encourage everyone to mix things up a little. I'm not sure really that we do anyone any favours in the kitchen by being so adamant about how 'things should be just so'. Sometimes it fails but I say- go for it! See what happens- if it fails well so be it and move ahead to something else next time.
Having an open mind in life and in the kitchen is a good thing I think.  Being open to new ways, new methods, differing flavours- this is how we discover new loveliness after all!

And loveliness is a thing to aim for right?!


TORTA PASQUALINA (ITALIAN VEGETABLE PIE):
As I mentioned above this is Traditionally served at Easter time- but in Italy Easter is at Spring so I figured I may be forgiven.
The idea remains the same- a celebration of new beginnings and bounty.

Often it uses Ricotta  but I didn't have any, instead substituting Fetta.
Really I think you could use almost any manner of fillings.
The idea remains the same- fill a gorgeous pastry lining with yumminess = WIN!

I used Maggie Beer's famous (and failsafe) Sour Cream Pastry for the casing. Oh my.
If you are scared of pastry making this recipe will become your new best friend.
This pie is big enough to serve 8 people for dinner with salad.


WHAT YOU WILL NEED:

for the pastry:

  • 200g butter, diced
  • 250g plain flour
  • 150g sour cream
for the pie filling:
  • 8 whole peeled hard boiled eggs
  • 1 large bunch silverbeet, chopped (stalks as well!)
  • a large bunch Broad bean pods, blanched and outer husks removed.
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely diced
  • 200g fetta, crumbled
  • 5 potatoes, sliced and pan fried till golden
  • nutmeg
  • butter
  • S & P

Method:
 for the pastry~
Place diced butter and flour in a food processor and blitz till like breadcrumbs.
Add sour cream and blitz till combined.
Remove onto a floured surface and work till combined.
Roll into a large ball and cover with cling film. Let rest in the fridge for 20 minutes before rolling out on a floured bench.


For the pie~
Preheat the oven to 180C.

Heat a tablespoon of butter in a non- stick pan (medium heat).
Add the onion and fry till translucent.  Add garlic. Fry till fragrant - a minute or so.

Add silverbeet stems & fry till soft.
Now add the leaves and fry till soft. Add broad beans & stir through.
Season with S & P and grate a generous amount of Nutmeg.
Remove from heat and set aside.


Grease and line a 23cm Springform cake tin.

Cut 1/3 of the pastry ball off (this will be the lid of your pie!)

Roll out the other 2/3rds pastry to about 3mm and then carefully roll the entire circle back around the rolling pin very gently (so the rolling pin is covered in the pastry).

Now lift the rolling pin - with pastry on it- over the cake tin and carefully roll out the pastry making sure to leave enough pastry to use as the walls leaving a bit to hang over the edges too.


Gently add some silverbeet mix and then the boiled eggs, then the spuds and then the fetta cheese and finally some more silverbeet- or use whatever fillings you fancy!

Now roll out that saved 1/3 pastry to 3mm thickness and use the base of the tin to press the outline gently to get your sizing right.
Cut around this mark and place on top of your pie.
Cut a small air hole- or prick a few holes with a fork.


Press edges together to seal and place into preheated oven for 30 mins or until pastry is golden brown.
Remove from oven and remove outer wall of cake tin.
Slice and enjoy hot. (although this is equally delicious refrigerated and served cold)



Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Orange & Rosemary Marmalade

This week I am.......
  • cooking marmalade
  • sending the kids back to school
  • attempting to catch up with my jobs that got put on hold
  • hoping people are enjoying their Goodie Bags
  • dreaming of a Marimekko wall in my Studio space
image via Pinterest
Have your kids gone back to school?
What are you up to this week?

ORANGE & ROSEMARY MARMALADE:
In my attempt to trap the splendour of Winter citrus I popped on a pot of Orange Marmalade yesterday.
Partly as I missed my children who had returned to school leaving the house a little too silent for my liking.
Partly as being at my stove gives me a meditative calm.  A chance to find silence and calm in my busy brain.
I have published a Spiced Marmalade recipe here before but this one is a little different.
I am looking forward to churning some in some Ice-cream to see how it tastes!
I like my Marmalade with lots of 'bits' so I slice and use the oranges as they are.
This made two jars- one large and one medium size jar.
WHAT YOU WILL NEED:

  • 3 large oranges (together they weighed 500g)
  • 2 grapefruit (juice only)
  • 500g sugar
  • 1 1/2 litres water
  • 5 cardamom pods
  • 5 cloves
  • 3 slices fresh ginger
  • 1 large sprig Rosemary
METHOD:
Sterilise 2 large jars.

Slice the oranges as finely as possible. I chop mine into halves and place the flat side on the bench to give an even cutting surface. Then slice and then chop into smaller pieces.

Place into a large pot.  Add the juice of 2 grapefruit, the whole spices and Rosemary, the sugar and the water.

You may like to tie your spices and rosemary into a muslin bag to remove easily at the end. I wanted the lovely green through my marmalade so left the sprig loose but removed the whole spices at the end.

Bring to a boil and simmer gently for about an hour and a half or until the pith of the orange is soft. You can tell when the marmalade is set if you remove a wooden spoon and run your finger down the spoon and it leaves an empty space where your finger was.

Place marmalade into hot jars and tip on end to help seal.

Let cool and spread generously on good crunchy toast.