Wednesday, 29 April 2009

Experimental Baked Beans

I've been wanting to make some baked beans since my old friend Ozquilter (rediscovered through facebook!) posted her recipe. And it was so cold and wet on Sunday; it seemed perfect. She has done pretty much what I did: checked what was in the pantry and used that.

In my case, I had no haricot or navy beans, but I did have black eyed beans. And I had ham to use up, so I didn't do the veggie version. It worked very nicely. We had them for a dinner with egg & oven chips, and I had some for lunch on toasted 10-grain sourdough from Suzanne's of Mogo. With a sliced up pork sausage, nom nom. The black-eyed beans have a flavour of their own that strikes me as slightly smoky. It's not just the ham: I tried a couple of beans before adding that. Recipe follows.

Recipe: Baked Black-Eyed Beans, the experiment
1 1/2 cups black-eyed beans
1 tin chopped tomatoes, or 450g cooked tomatoes
375ml cider
1 medium onion, chopped finely
150g ham, chopped coarsely
1 tablespoon molasses
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 tablespoon worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 teaspoon hot English mustard

* Soak the beans in cold water overnight.
* Drain and discard the water, and cook them on a low simmer in fresh water for 1 hour
* Drain and tip beans into slow cooker.
* Add onion, tomato, cider, ham
* Cook on high for 4 hours
* Add remaining ingredients, mix well, and let cook for another half hour

I have a perfectly good baked bean recipe here already. It's quite similar in flavours, though I have chosen to use tomato paste and add cider this time. The cider idea comes from Elisabeth Ayrton's The Cookery of England, an old favourite book. She also suggests dotting them with 30g of butter before actual slow-baking in the oven. Real baked beans!

The biggest difference is that in my other recipe, the haricot beans went straight into the slow cooker after their soaking. This works fine with very fresh beans from a high turnover Indian grocer, but if they are older, you should probably also pre-cook them. Most of my recipe books say 10-15 minutes pre-cooking for the haricots, and these same books give an hour for the black-eyes. So I went for that long pre-cook. Also these beans are at least a year old, so better safe than sorry.

Monday, 27 April 2009

Another Anzac Day, Another Batch of Biscuits

Saturday was of course the correct day, but today is the public holiday so I figure that if I make biscuits today it still counts. I'm using the same Anzac biscuit recipe as last year: an authentic one from the war memorial. The recipe makes about 3 dozen, assuming you use well-rounded teaspoons. I compress the mix into the bowl of the spoon with my hands. It's pretty dry and crumbly, but don't worry, it bakes up fine. And of course clean hands are a cook's most essential tool.

I rarely use dessicated coconut, so I was a bit worried that my stock might have gone rancid, but it smelled and tasted fine. It's safe to do a tiny taste test of potentially rancid nuts and oils - just nasty if it is actually off. And while it's not safe to consume a lot of them, it's more likely to give you cancer later in life than to kill you right off.

I didn't take a picture of these - it looks exactly the same as last year. Bickies: check, bag of oranges: check; funky but nasty blue tile benchtop: check. (Waiting for a quote to fix that last point.)

On a more serious note, the Bloke reminded me of Kemal Ataturk's words on the ANZACS. Another good thing about ANZAC day is that the enemy our troops fought is no longer our enemy. The tragic events have, oddly, forged bonds of friendship between the nations.

"Those heroes that shed their blood and lost their lives... You are now lying in the soil of a friendly country. Therefore rest in peace. There is no difference between the Johnnies and the Mehmets to us where they lie side by side now here in this country of ours... you, the mothers, who sent their sons from faraway countries wipe away your tears; your sons are now lying in our bosom and are in peace. After having lost their lives on this land. They have become our sons as well."

Saturday, 25 April 2009

The Coastal Donna Hay Marathon

Last weekend, and some days surrounding it, I went to the coast with B1 & B2. We had a great chillout time - while we had planned to do some walks, it rained a bit too much so we spent most of the time indoors, reading and cooking. This is no hardship when the view from the couch looks like this picture.

We did do some shopping - food in Bateman's Bay, hippie clothes and pottery in Mogo - and we went to The River Moruya to celebrate B2's birthday in style. And we had a sandwich lunch in Mogo at Suzanne's bakery - they were out of the fabulous sourdough for retail, but not for the cafe, so we got to eat some anyway. Ha!

The cooking was an adventure. The stove looks like this: note the kettle on side giving scale. The oven is large enough for 2 small muffin trays or one cake, there are two hotplates on top, but you can't use them at the same time. There is also a microwave and an electric frying pan.

We did pretty well with it. We made hotcakes and risotto in the frying pan, and stuffed capsicums, roast cauliflower, and two lots of cake in the oven. The hotplate on top I used only twice. Once, to heat up some pumpkin soup, and the second time, for a cake topping. Dinner on day one was mugs of pumpkin & chestnut soup from my freezer, augmented with leftover pumpkin from the Easter pie-baking. A good post-driving snack dinner, with added cheese, biscuits, cured salmon remnants, avocado, olives and fruit.

All of our recipe cooking came from the latest Donna Hay magazine (Autumn 2009). B1 had brought it along with an eye to the bundt cake feature, and as we browsed it, more and more good ideas came to mind.

The hotcakes, as pictured on the magazine cover, were fabulous, and quite simple. I'm not sure why I don't regularly make these. It does require planned shopping, I suppose, though fresh ricotta and buttermilk are the only ingredients I don't keep in stock all the time. We used fresh blueberries, but of course frozen would do. I'll pop in the recipe at the end of this post.

The Donna Hay web people have posted the recipe to the Cinnamon-sugar Maple Bundt Cakes, so you can go look at it there. They are worth trying: thick textured, moist and fruity, with a fun cinnamon-sugar coating like a doughnut. They are also quite easy to make, though grating the apples is a bit of a pain. And they keep well.

These were less successful than the hotcakes, probably for a number of reasons. Not being in possession of any mini-bundt tins, I used B1's pair of rose-shaped mini cake silicon forms. These ended up being a bit overfull of the mix, and the cooking time was way wrong. The first batch out of the oven were underdone on the bottom and stuck to the pans - despite being apparently done by skewer test. The second batch I left a lot longer, and they came out fine. It could well be the oven: perhaps two batches prevents the heat circulating properly. Or the heat is too easily let out.

The other bundt cake that B1 made was a fig and date one. This worked better - the single tin may have helped. I made the toffee coating for it, and I think there was too much. If you have bought this mag and want to make this cake, try using half the amount of toffee. It's amazing when first made - shades of sticky date pudding, with crisp toffee like a brulee coating. The toffee topping softens after a day, though, as you'd expect. It's still good, just not so much of a showpiece.

And just so you don't think we ate nothing but sweets, we also made the roast cauliflower and almond risotto from that issue. This is actually misnamed: it's a simple risotto flavoured with fresh sage. The cauliflower served alongside. The risotto is just butter, onion, sage, rice, sherry, veggie stock and parmesan. Then you add a side of the cauli, and some slivers of washed rind cheese - Taleggio if you can get it. The result is totally wonderful, and I want to do it again. With one caveat: use good stock. The standard Campbells brand veggie stock is a bit salty and rather unsubtle. I'd prefer a good chicken stock, and maybe some white wine.

Recipe 1: Ricotta Hotcakes

1 1/2 cups self-raising flour
1/2 cup caster sugar
4 egg yolks
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 egg whites, whisked stiff
200g ricotta
butter, to fry
1 cup blueberries (optional)

Mix the egg yolks, buttermilk and vanilla well.
Combine this with the flour and sugar.
Fold through the whisked egg whites and the blueberries.
Fry up in batches, using about 2-3 tablespoons of batter per hotcake.
Allow 3-4 minutes per side, or until puffed and golden.

Notes: You'll need a slightly lower heat than with regular pancakes as these are thick, and the middle needs to cook before the outsides burn. Serve with maple syrup. Or lemon and sugar. Or maple butter if you can be bothered making it. We couldn't.

Recipe 2: Roast Cauliflower with Sage & Almonds
500g cauliflower florets
2 tablespoons olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 bunch sage
1/4 cup chopped almonds

Preheat oven to 220C.
Toss the cauliflower into a baking tray with the salt, pepper and oil.
Roast for 15 minutes.
Strip whole leaves off the sage, discarding stalks, and chop the almonds.
Add to the pan and roast a further 5-10 minutes until cauliflower is golden and sage is crisp.

Serve this as a veggie side to anything you like, but it's especially good with a cheesy sage risotto! But Donna, darls, what on earth do you mean by "a bunch" of sage? Who knows? In general supermarket sales, sage seems to come in smaller packs than parsley or coriander, so maybe it's about 1/4 cup of leaves, loose-packed? Whatever.

Friday, 24 April 2009

The last of Easter

Isn't this pretty? That was my entree plate for our annual Easter dinner - cured salmon, pumpernickel, herbed cream cheese, cornichons and assorted crudites. With pink salt for dipping the radishes.

I was going to post a hot cross bun picture, but I only took one and it was crap. Sorry about that, but here's the recipe anyway. I modified it from a very good book: Baker, by Dean Brettschneider and Lauraine Jacobs. It's a collection of recipes from famous bakeries all over Australia and New Zealand - though there are none from Canberra. They missed Silo and Cornucopia, and Knead and Flute didn't exist when the book was published.

There's a long essay chapter on the principles of baking, which is really helpful for general background knowledge and troubleshooting. It covers pastry and cakes as well as bread baking and other yeast doughs. Though I own neither a dough thermometer nor a means of keeping dough at a very specific temperature. Never mind, yeast is quite tolerant: just watch for the size and texture rather than the time, and use the indent test for the final proofing.

Recipe: Hot Cross Buns

120g raisins
80g currants
60g mixed peel
560g wholemeal bread mix
1 egg
60g butter, melted
250ml warm milk
1/2 teaspoon each of ground ginger, cardamom, cloves and nutmeg
2 teaspoons cinnamon
A bit over 1 cup plain flour, extra

* Soak the raisins and currants in warm water for 15 minutes. Drain and add mixed peel, and leave to absorb remaining moisture for an hour in a bowl, or overnight in a sieve.

* Make up the bread mix with quantities of yeast, salt and sugar as on your packet directions.

* Mix the milk, butter and egg well, and check the liquid measurement with your bread mix. Add more milk to top up to the required level if necessary. Make sure it is lukewarm, not hot. About 30C.

* Mix milk into flour, and start kneading. Work the dough for about 8 minutes, until moderately elastic. Rest for 10 minutes.

* Add the spices, and knead the dough for another 7 minutes until fully developed - dough is silky, elastic, and stretches smoothly.

* Knead through the fruit gently until well mixed.

* Turn dough into an oiled bowl, cover with cling wrap with plenty of overhang - not tucked around the dough ball but going up the inside of the bowl.

* Leave in a warm spot for one hour, or until doubled in bulk.

* Punch down dough, turn out onto a lightly floured board, and split into twelve parts. Round each one into a ball by cupping it in your hand and rolling a bit. Put balls of dough onto a lined baking tray in a 3x4 array.

* Cover in clingfilm and leave to rise again for 45min, or until doubled again. An indentation with your finger will spring back slowly but not quite completely when this is ready. (If quickly, it's not done yet; if not at all, it's overproofed.)

* Add flour and water paste crosses: 1 cup flour, mixed with water to paste, piped out from a cut corner on a sandwich bag. (Or don't bother with this and just do fruit buns, since Easter is well over now.)

* Bake buns at 200C for 15-20 minutes, until golden brown, turning tray about halfway though for evenness.

* Eat hot with plenty of good quality butter!

Notes: This recipe comes from the New Norcia bakery. The original has a sticky lemon glaze, which I don't bother with. It also has sultanas instead of raisins, coriander rather than cardamom, and all white flour. The flour change was a random factor based on what was actually in the pantry, but I like it so I will keep it. I bought the bread mix on special, it's got some citric acid and salt in it already. If I don't have a bread mix on hand next time, I'll use a half and half mix of wholemeal and white flour. I also fancy soaking the fruit in tea or brandy rather than plain water, and swapping some chopped dried apricot for some of the raisins.

If you do not have a packet of bread mix, then use:
500g strong flour
2 tablespoons raw sugar
2 level teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon citric acid ("bread improver")
1 tablespoon dried yeast

Next post: Donna Hay marathon at the coast!

It's all PZ's fault

I've been busy with guests and renovations, and then away down the coast for a bit, but I'm back now. I'm writing up the coast trip in a separate post, but here's a little to be going on with. My purchases: this is a really cool bowl, from the Mogo Pottery. It's pretty big - it would suit a bouillabaisse, should I ever get round to making one. Or a large salad for a BBQ party, which is much more likely. The potter says it's oven and dishwasher safe, too.

And what's that in the background? It's hard to see, but here's a detail. That's my new T-shirt from the folk festival. It's from the Stringybark people, who do all sorts of cool animal themed prints. The actual colour is closer to the dark one in the bowl image; I was too slack to fiddle the colour balance properly.

Octopus and squid. It's all PZ's fault, I tell you!

Tuesday, 14 April 2009

Easter is over

I just dropped off the houseguests at the airport, and popped into Woollies on the way home for a couple of important items: catfood, washing up liquid and such. The place was totally packed. I've never seen the carpark so full. Everyone must have been busy doing other things than shopping over Easter, even though the shops were mostly open. I know I was: I was at the folk festival listening to some of the many non-trad-folk acts (gypsy, klezmer, honkytonk), shopping for hippy clothes, and drinking Guinness with friends.

As my friends and I like to cook, my fridge is utterly, chronically jam-packed right now. We have leftovers of:
* my raisin polenta cake
* my pumpkin pie
* my cured salmon and its herbed cream cheese partner
* my hot cross buns
* my cinnamon icecream
* HH's marvellous casseroled chicken: reduced to stock, a few scrappy chook & bacon bits, and the chicken-simmered spuds
* A's terrific Moroccan beef & lentil casserole, made with her own custom spice blend
* A's chocolate sauce

And as I was strolling through the crowd at Woollies I spied some marked down to clear turkey drumsticks, and free range chicken drumsticks & breast. I think they'll have to go in the freezer, with the two beef roasts I bought last week. Or perhaps I could poach up some of the new chook in the stock. I'm feeling a little spoiled for choice on the dinner options right now, and am determined not to waste any of these goodies. One salmon sandwich coming up for lunch, I think.

I can only count myself lucky that B1 took the remnant chocolate pudding home to feed to our guests-in-exile, and that my tricksy oven made a bit of a hash of A's gingerbread cake, otherwise I'd be hip deep in desserts. The icecream will keep for a few weeks, of course. It's a Delia Smith recipe, from her Christmas book, and I make it regularly (about once per year). I'll copy it out below as I've modified it slightly for metrics and Australian packet sizes - the small shifts do not cause any problems. It's a great accompaniment to any spicy or appley or chocolatey dessert, and makes a nice change from vanilla. Also, the recipe includes a nifty cheat which may be applicable to other icecreams.

Recipe: Delia's Cinnamon Icecream
6 medium egg yolks
100g caster sugar
600ml rich milk
300ml whipping cream
2 teaspoons custard powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 stick cinnamon

Whisk egg yolks, custard powder and sugar until pale and thickened.
Heat milk, cinnamon stick and cinnamon until just simmering.
Pour milk over the eggs, whisking continually as you pour.
Return mix to heat, and continue whisking until mixture has thickened to custard.
Pour into a bowl, cover with glad wrap directly on the custard surface, and chill overnight.
Whip the cream to soft peaks.
Stir the cream and custard together gently, discarding the cinnamon stick.
Churn in an icecream maker for 20 minutes, then freeze.
Remove from freezer 10-20 minutes before serving to soften. (Or nuke on defrost setting for 1 minute)

Notes: the nifty cheat is the custard powder. Using this means that even if you accidentally let the custard boil, it will still smooth out with a bit more whisking. Excellent!

If you have used cassia rather than true cinnamon, the stick can be rinsed well, and reused. I like to pop one of those in my chilli. Cassia does come in sticks, too, as I discovered when I accidentally bought some once. The bark is noticeably thicker and coarser than true cinnamon, which is paper thin. But now that cassia is the rage for its supposed health benefits, you're much less likely to find it sailing under false colours as cinnamon. If you're not entirely sure: cassia is the one that's got the more hot flavour. US cinnamon is nearly always cassia - all those "red hot" cinnamon candies are actually cassia.

Oh, and I also have 6 egg whites in the freezer. Hmmm...

Friday, 10 April 2009

Internet Salmagundi XIII

It's been a while since I did one of these. I've been posting funny and peculiar links to facebook, mostly. I'll go back for a trawl.

Food related:
* Beer Meringue Pie. I have to do this one day.

* Undead themed wedding cakes: the good and the bad, as collected by cakewrecks.

* And look at this: Mexican gelatine art. This is just amazing - is it a bunch of flowers?

And moving away from the food theme:

* This collection of 1920s cartoon LOLcats has grown to over 1000. Someone has far too much time on their hands.

* I don't think I know anyone who would knit me a jumper, and I can't knit, but I love this one. Owls! So cute!

* Sita Sings the Blues is an entire animated movie, available for free under creative commons. It's a fascinating construction - multiple animation styles, interweaving the ancient story of Rama and Sita with a modern story, and modern commentary (by shadow puppets) on the old story. All this, and a track of 1920s blues/jazz songs by Annette Hanshaw.

* We saw Meow Meow recently. She's an amazing artist: see her if you ever get the chance. Some blurbs: "vamped-up kamikaze cabaret and exotica performance art", "From the psychotic to cool to kitsch cabaret, multimedia performance art and virtuosic contemporary opera". "Stranded somewhere between the Middle Ages, 1930’s Shanghai show tunes, 60’s French pop, witty wicked Weimar and post-punk thrash..."

Wednesday, 8 April 2009

Sydney trip, and Easter plans

I was in Sydney last weekend, to see Tim Minchin at the Enmore. We stayed at Arncliffe, with the very nice R & P, who took us off to their local Lebanese for an amazing feast. Naji's Cedars Palace is the name; there's a takeaway kebab and chook shop next door run by the same people. We had the basic set menu, and the food just kept on coming. Fabulous hummous, baba ganouje and labneh, plus tabbouli and fattoush and felafel and kibbeh and shish kebab and more. Nothing unusual, except for the gratuitous bowl of hot chips, but it was all very good. The regular menu had many more tempting delicacies; I hope to try a few more of them sometime.

We also had a great breakfast at the Fairtrade cafe in Glebe - I forget the name, it's on the same block as Badde Manors, closer to Broadway. Very good coffee, huge breakfasts served until late. I had some lovely buckwheat pancakes with thinly sliced granny smith apple and strawberries.

We stayed over until Monday. In the morning, we did the usual city shop: Galaxy, Abbey's and Mecca for coffee. Then it was off home with our loot. I bought thirteen books, a Tim Minchin T-shirt, a funky tin box with "Devil Girl" on it, and a pair of shiny black shoes with a black-on-black stealth cat design. Only one of the books was food-related - a collection of essays by AA Gill, the English food reviewer. He is hilariously snarky, in a way that I only wish I could emulate.

This weekend we have, as usual, houseguests for the folk festival. Since our main bathroom is devoid of any plumbing, the bloke and I are moving in to the bar to allow better access to the ensuite. And we've sent our Sydney hosts off to stay with B1 & M, who nobly volunteered. Or at least B1 did. M seemed a little surprised when I mentioned it the other day...

Anyway, we will have our traditional dinner party, and I still haven't quite decided what to make. I have got some hot cross buns rising now, and a hunk of cured salmon on to marinade, and a cinnamon icecream base underway. I've got some pumpkin puree ready to make a pumpkin pie. Maybe I'll use this recipe instead. And it's Okonomiyaki for tonight.

Friday, 3 April 2009

Wheatless, Eggless, Butterless, Milkless, Sugarless... Cake?

I stumbled on this recipe in a post by The Old Foodie, who is actually a not-so-old person interested in Old Food. This is a cake from the 1918 wartime, and it sounds completely impossible that such a thing could be edible. And yet - cinnamon, raisins and cornmeal... that could be pretty good.

It might perhaps be a decent breakfast type of cake? Not too rich, not too sweet, perhaps it could work? I like sweet food in the morning, but not too sweet. I go for things like toast and marmalade, a peanut butter and honey sandwich, fruit yoghurt, porridge with golden syrup, or hot cross buns... Definitely not a dessert level of sweetness.

I made some muffins on Tuesday that I am just going to have to throw out. I found a White Wings "low fat" variety muffin packet mix up the back of the pantry, that I bought in a fit of unreason when I tried out Weight Watchers a few years back. I boldly challenged my prejudices about diet foods! And in consequence, had them confirmed in spades. These aren't even "diet" muffins, just low-fat. And ingredient number one on the list is not flour, but sugar. The orange-poppy ones are very nasty, and the chocolate ones are sorta kinda OKish, if you think of them as cake. I've eaten half a one, and not actually spat it out like I did with the orange.

Anyway, here is the original recipe, copied over for convenience.

Wheatless, Eggless, Butterless, Milkless, Sugarless Cake
1 cup corn syrup
2 cups water
2 cups raisins
2 tablespoons fat
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 ½ cups fine cornmeal, 2 cups rye flour; or, 3 ½ cups wholewheat flour
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder, or, ½ teaspoon soda

Cook corn syrup, water, raisins, fat, salt and spices slowly 15 minutes. When cool, add flour, soda or baking powder, thoroughly blended. Bake in slow oven 1 hour. The longer this cake is kept, the better the texture and flavor. This recipe is sufficient to fill one medium-sized bread pan.


So how would I go about that?

It's an American recipe, and the corn products they use are not common here. You can substitute a few things, though. This page from The Joy of Baking is quite useful to give you ideas. Also, as you see, the recipe uses an out-dated sense of "sugarless". It actually does contain sugars, just not the granulated white stuff that presumably was in short supply in 1918.

"Fat" - that is pretty vague. I'm personally inclined to toss the butterless aspect and go for real butter here. Obviously if you wanted that austerity/vegan version you could go for a vegetable shortening like margarine, or maybe an oil. I had a quarter pack of butter left after the seedcake, which is about double the amount you officially want. Since this is an austerity recipe, a little extra is unlikely to hurt, so I used it all. (Remembering that 1 US tbsp=15ml - and that's about 15g, since butter and water weigh much the same.)

Salt - I tend to reduce this. A small pinch, rather than a teaspoon works better for my taste.

"Corn syrup" - We can actually buy corn syrup here. The recipe doesn't say whether light (very mild) or dark (stronger flavoured). IGA & Woolies both stock the imported Karo brand: it's kept near the sugar and baking supplies. But I like the taste of golden syrup, so I'll stick with that. Honey is another obvious option. Or I suppose you could even use sugar.

"Cornmeal" - fine polenta will do here. But absolutely not cornflour/cornstarch. I don't quite understand why the different quantities of different flour options. I'm only baking one, though. If it works, I may try a different flour some other time.

"Raisins" - in the US, they call sultanas "golden raisins". I strongly prefer the dark raisins, but you could legitimately use sultanas. Or perhaps notice that this recipe is quite big on alternatives, and just use any dried fruit you fancied.

And a "slow" oven is 140-150C.


How did it work? Surprisingly well! I may well even make it again.

I was worried at a couple of points. The mix is very liquid, and it just poured into the loaf pan. It didn't rise at all, that I noticed, the top is totally flat. I think I took it out of the pan a little early: it almost cracked. I'd recommend that you let it cool in the pan for fifteen minutes or so, for safety.

The recipe claims that it's best as it gets older, but I cut a slice when it was still warm. It was nice - the crust was a bit chewy, the crumb quite soft and packed with juicy raisins. I've also tried it cold, yesterday morning, and it does indeed work for me as a breakfast item. It's got cereal, fruit and sugar and is not too cloying. Last night I tried heating up a chunk, to pretend it was a pudding, but this was less successful. It seemed drier when warm.

The raisin flavour in this cake is very strong. And I mean very strong indeed: I find that it overpowers the golden syrup, which is no mean feat. I rather like the idea of swapping in chopped dates for a different effect. And after my recent post on Hot Cross Buns, perhaps adding in some mixed peel and using orange juice instead of water might be a good idea.

So there you go: surprise! It's actually rather good.

Wednesday, 1 April 2009

The Spaghetti Harvest

One of the greatest April 1 stories ever.