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Monthly Archives: April 2021

ANZAC Biscuits 2021

I love seasonal baking, and 25 April is ANZAC Day. ANZAC biscuits are traditionally baked and eaten around this date.

This day commemorates the contribution of Australian and New Zealand soldiers to World War One.

I’m quite pleased with this year’s biscuits. I have tweaked my normal recipe, which is based on the “original” ANZAC recipe from The Cook and the Curator, the cooking blog of Sydney Living Museums. I picked up a few good tips from Cloudy Kitchen’s ANZAC biscuit recipe.

The first of these tips was to brown the butter, to give more depth of flavour. To make the brown butter, you need to start of with a slightly bigger quantity of butter, to make up for the loss of volume when browning. I therefore adjusted the butter up in the ingredients section.

The second tip was to cook the biscuits at a lower temperature than I would normally use – this stops the biscuits spreading too much. The result is a plump biscuit, crisp around the edges and squidgy in the middle!

The third tip was to cook both trays at the same time in the oven, as the mixture changes consistency when left for a while before cooking.

So here are my “revised” 2021 ANZAC biscuits!

Ingredients

165g salted butter
2 tablespoons golden syrup
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
2 tablespoons boiling water
2 cups rolled oats
1 cup plain flour
1 cup brown sugar

Method

Preheat oven to 150 degrees C. Line 2 oven trays with baking paper.

Place the butter in a small saucepan and heat until melted. Once the butter is melted, cook for about 3-4 minutes, swirling the pan often. The butter will foam and turn a golden brown. Remove from the heat and put into a bowl to cool slightly.

Combine the melted butter and golden syrup in the same saucepan. Add the bicarbonate of soda and boiling water and whisk to combine. Remove from heat.

Mix the rolled oats, flour and sugar in a large bowl. Add the butter/golden syrup mixture and stir until well combined.

Take tablespoons of mixture and make into balls. Place the balls onto the baking trays, allowing space for spreading. Don’t flatten the balls!

Bake for 15 minutes or until biscuits are dark golden brown. Remove the biscuits from the oven and cool on the trays. The biscuits will firm up as they cool. Now remove to a wire rack to cool completely.

Store in an airtight tin. They keep well for a few days.

Beef and Tomato Handpies + Sundried Tomato and Feta Handpies

I made these originally as pasties, but really, they are little pastries that you fit in your hand. So handpies they have become!

They’re pretty easy to make, using bought puff pastry. But you really need to get the all butter pastry.

Beef and Tomato Handpies

The beef version uses a beef casserole I cook a lot. It’s easy too, but does require a long slow cooking time. The sundried tomato and feta version is simple as the filling doesn’t need cooking.

The filling was some slow cooked beef cheeks, cooked in Pedro Ximinez sherry. I added in a chopped fresh tomato and and handful of chopped sundried tomatoes. I reduced the tomatoes with the cooked beef until the mixture was thick enough to be used a pastie filling.

Recipe for the beef cheeks follows.

For a dozen pies, you would need about 1/3 of the recipe quantity. The rest is great served with mashed potato or pasta, root vegetables or green salad.

Ingredients 

1.5 kg  beef cheeks
125 ml  olive oil
3 carrots, roughly chopped
1 garlicky bulb, halved
1 brown onion, sliced
500 ml  Pedro Ximenez sherry or any other sweet sherry
500 ml  red wine
3 bay leaves
3 tablespoons thyme leaves
1 teaspoon fine sea salt

Method

Preheat the oven to 140 degrees C or even lower if your oven is hot (like mine).

Trim the beef cheeks to neaten them up and remove any sinew and silver skin. Season well.

Heat half the olive oil in a large heavy-based baking dish over high heat. Brown the beef cheeks for 2 minutes on each side, or until golden, then remove from the pan.

Add the remaining olive oil, then add the carrot, garlic and onion and sauté over high heat for 12-15 minutes, or until well browned. Stir in the sherry, wine, bay leaves, thyme, sea salt and 500 ml water.

Reduce the heat and add the beef cheeks.  Cover and place in the oven to cook for 3-4 hours, or until the cheeks are beginning to fall apart.

The sauce from the beef cheeks should by now be reduced and glaze-like. If it needs further reducing, remove the cheeks from the baking dish, cover with foil to keep them warm and simmer the sauce over high heat on the stove top until nicely reduced.

Increase the oven to 190 degrees C. Take 3 puff pastry sheets, and using a plate as a template, cut out 12  20cm circles; you may have to gather up the trimmings and re-roll them to get all your circles. Don’t worry if you don’t get 12; just get as many as you can from the pastry sheets.

Spoon the stew on to one half of each circle. Brush the pastry edges with water, fold the other half of the pastry over the filling to form a half-moon shape and crimp well to seal.

Place the pies on a lightly oiled baking sheet and brush the tops with beaten egg. Bake in the pre-heated oven for about 20-25 minutes, until the pastry is golden brown. Eat the pies warm or cold.

Sundried Tomato and Feta Handpies

Simply chopped sundried tomatoes and crumble some soft feta. Add a sprinkling of fresh herbs like coriander or thyme to taste.

The quantities are up to you – I used 6 sundried tomatoes and 3 small pieces of feta to make 2 large pasties from 1 pastry sheet.

Spoon the filling on to one half of each circle. Brush the pastry edges with water, fold the other half of the pastry over the filling to form a half-moon shape and crimp to seal. These pies may open during cooking, but as the filling isn’t liquid, they stay intact.

Place the handpies on a lightly oiled baking sheet and brush the tops with beaten egg. Bake in the pre-heated oven for about 20-25 minutes, until the pastry is golden brown. These ones are best eaten cold.

Stuffed Chokos

In Australia, we have a love/hate relationship with the humble choko. To be more precise, there’s probably more of a “hate” thing going on!

The choko, or chayote, a native of South America, is a plant belonging to the gourd family. Chayote was one of several foods introduced to Europe by the Spanish explorers.

It’s the subject of many jokes here, some based on its “bland” flavour and others because last century it grew riotously in backyards over septic tanks and outdoor dunnies!

One of the wonderful exercise physiologists at my gym has a problem: what to do with a huge crop of chokos growing over his fence. I decided to take up the challenge and devise a tasty recipe for his chokos.

This is a versatile and easy way to cook chokos and can be made into your own dish depending on your choice of fillings.

The basic idea is to fry some ingredients and stuff these into choko halves which have been boiled in salted water to an (almost) cooked state. The stuffed chokos with some grated Parmesan are baked in the oven till the chokos are soft and the filling bubbling.

The recipe is for one choko – double, triple or quadruple the recipe depending on the number of chokos you are stuffing.

Ingredients

1 choko, halved

2 teaspoons salt

1 tablespoon olive oil + a glug

2 garlic cloves finely chopped

1/2 onion, finely chopped

1/2 teaspoon chilli powder or paste, or to taste

1/2 cup ham or 2 rashers of bacon, chopped into small pieces

1/2 cup sweet corn kernels

1 slice of sourdough bread or similar

1 tablespoon grated Parmesan cheese

Method

Place the choko halves in a big saucepan in the stovetop and cover with water. Add the salt and bring to the boil. Cook on a medium to high heat till the chokos are softened but not completely cooked, about 15 minutes.

Remove from the heat and strain. Pat the choko halves dry with paper towel.

While the chokos are cooking, make the filling. Heat a frying pan over medium heat on the stovetop and add the olive oil. Fry the garlic and onion pieces till brown, making sure they don’t burn.

Add the chilli powder or paste and cook, stirring, for another minute.

Add the ham or bacon pieces, stir, and fry till they are just crisp. Add the corn kernels and stir into the mixture. Cook for a couple of minutes.

Add a smell glug of olive oil and add a slice of sourdough bread torn into little pieces. Cook until the bread pieces are just crisp.

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees C or 180 degrees C fan.

To stuff the choko, place each half in a baking dish and sprinkle the inside of both halves liberally with sea salt and black pepper. Spoon the filling into both halves. Top each half with the grated Parmesan cheese.

Place the baking dish in the oven and cook for 20 minutes to half an hour until the choko halves are soft to the touch, the filling is bubbling and the cheese topping is brown.

Serve on their own or with a salad.

You could use almost any filling you like – leave out the ham/ bacon for a vegetarian dish and add beans or lentils, or add other vegetables apart from corn like tomatoes, celery or zucchini. You probably need the onion or garlic for flavour. And add a whole lot more of any kind of cheese for “ cheesy” chokos!

Persian Love Cake – Lemon and Rose

I’ve always been fascinated with Middle Eastern cooking, and over the years I’ve built up a repertoire of favourite recipes. At first I was guided by cooking luminaries such as Claudia Rosen – her orange almond cake is cafe legend the world over – and the highly knowledgeable Elizabeth David.

And latterly, like so many people with a passion for good food, I have lapped up everything the wonderful Yotam Ottlenghi has said and written about Middle Eastern cooking, particularly the cooking of Israel and Palestine, where he developed his unique take on flavour.

This recipe is loosely a Persian Love Cake – I got a lot of inspiration from Turkish cooking too, in particular the recipes of Sevtap Yuce. My cake features lemon, rosewater and almonds as the principal flavours.

This cake is quite big – it’s essentially a sharing, celebration cake. You could scale it down if you wanted, or make 2 smaller cakes from the mixture.

Ingredients

150g butter

330g caster sugar

zest of 1 1/2 lemon

6 large free-range eggs

300g plain flour

165g ground almonds *

2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

pinch of sea salt

1/2 teaspoons bicarbonate of soda

300g Greek yoghurt

3 tablespoons rosewater

*If you like your almonds to be a little crunchy, instead of using ground almonds, try pulsing flaked or slivered almonds in a food processor until they are ground but still have a bit of texture.

Syrup

125g caster sugar

125g water

Juice of a lemon

1-2 tablespoons rosewater

To serve – any of these are great!

1-2 tablespoons whole pistachios

Cardamom pistachio sugar**

Edible dried rose petals

Crystallised rose petals

Glacé fruit as decoration

** Here in Australia I use Cardamom Pistachio Sugar made by Gewürzhaus. Hopefully there will be other brands available where you live.

Method

Preheat the oven to 160°C, non fan forced. Carefully butter a 24cm springform cake tin.

Using an electric mixer, cream the butter, sugar and lemon zest until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing carefully after each addition to make sure the mixture doesn’t curdle. Add a dessertspoon of flour 3 times each time you’ve added 2 eggs. This will help stabilise the mixture and stop it curdling.

Sift the rest of the dry ingredients – it’s important to do this to give this rather dense cake some aeration.

Fold the sifted dry ingredients into the mixture.

Stir in the yoghurt and rosewater. Pour the mixture into the prepared cake tin and bake for 45 – 60 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean. If you’re worried about the cake browning too much, after half an hour or so, you can place a piece of foil over the top of the cake.

Once cooked, remove the cake from the oven and cool for 5 minutes in the tin.

Remove the ring of springform tin, then remove the cake from its base.

Place on a serving plate.

For the syrup, combine the sugar and water in a small saucepan over a medium heat, stirring until the sugar has dissolved. Add the lemon juice, and bring to the boil, and cook for 5 minutes or until slightly thickened. Add the rosewater. Cool the syrup to room temperature.

Pierce the cake all over with a skewer, and spoon the cool syrup over the hot cake. Leave at room temperature so that the syrup can soak into the cake.

Scatter any of the following over the syrupy cake – whole pistachios, cardamom pistachio sugar, edible dried rose petals, crystallised rose petals or glacé fruit.

Serve the cake at room temperature, with a dollop of thick cream or Greek yoghurt.

Teriyaki Eggplant – 5 Ingredients Jamie Oliver

Here’s a recipe from Jamie Oliver’s 5 Ingredients that I posted when the book first came out. People seem to like the recipe as it’s pretty simple, with just a few ingredients.

It’s a good lunch or supper dish and great if you’re looking for “lighter” options in your diet!

The original recipe is called “Sticky Teriyaki Aubergine” in Jamie’s 5 Ingredients.

I made one tiny addition to the ingredients – the sticky sauce was quite strong , so I added a little brown sugar. This worked a treat and I think gave the sauce more of an Asian sweet/salty taste.

Ingredients

1 large eggplant (aubergine)
4 spring onions
1 fresh red chilli
20g unsalted peanuts + a few extra for scattering
1 tbls olive oil
2 tbls teriyaki sauce
1 tsp brown sugar (optional – my addition)

Method

Put a 26cm non-stick frying pan on a high heat and pour in 250mls of water.

Halve the eggplant lengthways, quickly slash the skin of each half a few times and place skin side up in the pan, then season with sea salt and black pepper.

Cover and cook for l0 minutes, or until it boils dry and begins to sizzle (listen for the change in sound).

Meanwhile, trim the spring onions. Cut the whites into 3cm lengths at an angle and put aside.

Deseed the chilli and finely slice Iengthways with the green part of the spring onions. Place both in a bowl of ice-cold water and put aside to crisp up.

When the eggplant starts to sizzle, add l tablespoon of olive oil, the white spring onions and the peanuts to the pan, stirring regularly.

After 2 minutes, add a splash of water, drizzle in the teriyaki, stir in the brown sugar and reduce to a medium heat.

Turn the eggplant, jiggle the pan and let it get sticky for a few minutes, then serve sprinkled with the drained green spring onions and chilli and a few peanuts scattered over the dish.

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