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Author Archives: The quirk and the cool

Chilli Beef





This beef dish has to be one of the easiest things you can make and full of flavour! I made it last week for Pancake Tuesday celebrations, as a savoury filling for pancakes. Pancakes stuffed with this beef mix were filling and very tasty. Of course it goes well with rice, pasta, polenta or just on its own! Kidney beans add both bulk and flavour to the dish too. Serve it with extra fresh chilli on the side, sour cream or some grated cheese if you’re going Mexican.

You can throw this dish together provided you have some minced beef, as pretty much everything else would be pantry staples.

Ingredients

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 large onion

500g good quality beef mince

1 teaspoon chilli paste or chilli powder 

1 x 400g tin of chopped tomatoes

1 tablespoon tomato purée 

1 x 400g tin of kidney beans

Freshly ground salt and black pepper

Fresh chillies, sour cream, cherry tomatoes, grated cheese, parsley or coriander to serve

Method

Heat the oil in a large frying pan. Chop the onion finely, and fry over a medium heat until slightly softened, about 1-2 minutes. Add the beef mince in small spoonfuls, breaking it up so that it cooks evenly. Fry until all the mince is brown, about 5 minutes. Stir in the chilli paste or powder. 

Add the chopped tomatoes, half a tin of water using the chopped tomato tin as a measure and the tomato purée. Drain the kidney beans and add to the frying pan. Season with salt and black pepper. Bring the mixture back to the boil, then turn the heat to low and simmer for about 30 minutes until the sauce has reduced and has thickened. If the mixture looks too dry, add a splash or two of water. 

Once cooked, serve straight away with some of the above accompaniments, or keep in the fridge for a day or so to serve later. It also freezes well.

You could easily double or triple the quantities to serve a crowd or batch freeze for later consumption.

 

 

 

Lemon Meringue Cupcakes

 
These little lemon meringue cakes are great – all the flavours of a lemon meringue pie in more manageable cupcake size. I made these cakes a while back, calling them poke cakes, as the lemon curd is “poked” inside the cakes. But that name seemed a bit silly, so I’m leaving that off today.

The cake part is my go-to little cake recipe. I made my own lemon curd – but using store bought is totally fine and makes the cakes easier to prepare. 

And if you don’t have a blow torch, then leave this final step out, the cakes will still be delicious without it!

Ingredients 

Little cakes
125g self-raising flour
125g caster sugar
125g butter
2 large free-range eggs
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Zest of half a lemon
2 tblsp milk

Lemon Curd
Juice of 2 lemons
4 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons butter
2 free-range egg yolks, beaten lightly

Meringue 
2 free-range egg whites
120g caster sugar

Method

For the cakes, preheat the oven to 180 degrees C.

This mixture makes 12 cupcakes, but you are looking for a larger than cupcake size in this recipe. You should get 6 good size cakes from the mixture. Liberally grease a 6 mold pan. A Texas muffin works well. In the photos I used a popover pan, as I love the deepness of each mold.

Put all the ingredients except the milk in a food processor and blitz till smooth. Add the milk while pulsing to make a soft, dropping consistency.

Spoon the mixture into the molds, filling the molds equally.

Place the pan into the oven and bake for 15 minutes or until the cakes are cooked and golden on top.

Pop the cakes out of the molds and leave to cool on a wire rack.

For the lemon curd, place all the ingredients in a double boiler or bain marie. Cook over a medium heat, stirring with a wooden spoon, until the mixture thickens. Remove from heat and set aside to cool. When cool, refrigerate until ready to use.

For the meringue, place egg whites in the clean, dry bowl of an electric mixer and whisk on high speed for 3-4 minutes to soft peaks.

Add caster sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, allowing each to be incorporated before adding the next, whisking until mixture is glossy. The meringue will be shiny and will hold stiff peaks when the whisk is lifted from the bowl.

To assemble, take each cake and “poke” 3 holes in the top of each cake, using the end of a wooden spoon. Be careful as you do this, as the cake might break. The idea is to get holes big enough to pipe the lemon curd into, but the end of the wooden spoon is just a little too large for the “poking”. If you have something a little smaller, by all means use that instead.

Fill a piping bag without a nozzle with the lemon curd, and gently pipe some curd into each hole in the cakes. The aim is to fill the holes. Once each cake is filled, pipe or spoon the rest of the curd over the tops of the cakes.

Fill another piping bag also without a nozzle with the meringue. You will only need half the mixture, so you can make a few spare meringues with the remainder of the mixture. Pipe a swirl of meringue on the top of each cake. Now using a blow torch, scorch the meringue topping as little or as much as you like.

The lemon meringue cakes look good and when you cut them open or bite into them, they should ooze with lemon curd. Very delicious and quite mooreish!

Ricotta Fritters with Tomato Sauce and Zucchini Salad – Jamie Oliver 15 Minute Meals



Fritters, savoury pancakes, dumplings and gnocchi. All good vegetarian options involving egg and cheese and/or flour and a hero ingredient or sauce.

This recipe is for ricotta fritters, with a lovely tomato sauce and a tangy zucchini salad. It’s from Jamie’s 15 Minute Meals, and it’s light and flavourful and healthy! Super easy too!

The lemon zest and the nutmeg in the fritters give them a slightly exotic flavour.

Ingredients

For the sauce

25g dried porcini mushrooms*

4 anchovy fillets

1 dried red chilli 

2 cloves of garlic

700g tomato passata

8 black olives

Half a bunch of fresh basil

For the fritters

1 large free-range egg

400g ricotta cheese

1/4 whole nutmeg, for grating

Zest of a lemon

40g Parmesan cheese

1 heaped tablespoon plain flour

Olive oil 

Balsamic vinegar

For the salad

400g zucchini (courgettes)

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

1 fresh red chilli

Half a bunch of fresh mint

Juice of a lemon

Method

Put the porcini into a mug and cover with boiling water. Crack the egg into a mixing bowl, add the ricotta, finely grate in the nutmeg, the lemon zest and Parmesan, add the flour, then beat together. Put 1 tablespoon of olive oil into a frying pan, then use a tablespoon to spoon in 8 large dollops of the mixture, turning carefully when nice and golden.

Put the anchovies and 1 tablespoon of olive oil into a heavy based casserole, crumble in the dried chilli, and squash in the unpeeled garlic through a garlic crusher. Finely chop and add the porcini with half their soaking water and the passata, season with salt and pepper and bring to the boil. Squash and add the olives. Pick and reserve a few basil leaves, then chop the rest and add to the sauce.

Grate the zucchini in a food processor and tip into a bowl with a pinch of salt and pepper, the juice of the zested lemon and the extra virgin olive oil.  Finely chop and add the chilli and the top leafy half of the mint, then toss together. Place the fritters on top of the sauce, then scatter over the reserved basil leaves, drizzle with balsamic and serve with lemon wedges.

* I omitted the porcini mushrooms as I don’t particularly like them. I thought the sauce was fine without them!

 

 

Raspberry and Peach Meringue Roulade


My last post was a chocolate meringue roulade – so you may be wondering why another roulade post so soon! Well, when I’m on a roll (pun definitely intended), I like to crystallise my ideas for a new recipe while they are still fresh. And besides, a friend requested this recipe when she saw the photos on Facebook.

So here’s the recipe with the ingredients and instructions for the “Peach Melba” flavours.

Ingredients 

4 egg whites 

250g caster sugar

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract 

1/2 teaspoon almond essence

Icing sugar, for dusting

For the filling:

150ml cream (any whipping cream, however I used thickened cream as it whips better) see note*

150ml good quality Greek yoghurt

2 yellow peaches, cut into quarters or eighths, depending on the size

125g fresh raspberries 

To decorate:

2 tablespoons raspberry compote** or good quality raspberry jam 

A handful of toasted almond flakes or hazelnut pieces 

Method

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C or 160 degrees C fan forced. Line the base of a Swiss roll tin (23 x 33 cm / 9 x 13 in) with a sheet of baking paper.

Whisk the egg whites until stiff peaks form. Add the sugar one tablespoon at a time, whisking well after each addition, until all the sugar has been incorporated and the mixture is stiff and glossy. The mixture should pass the “thumb and finger” test: roll a little meringue between thumb and first finger, and if it’s smooth and not grainy, all the sugar has been well incorporated! 

Fold in the vanilla extract and almond essence.

Carefully spoon the meringue into the tin, flattening with a palette knife to level the surface. Place the tin into the preheated oven, and bake for about 20 – 25 minutes, or until the meringue is firm to the touch. The meringue may take a little longer to cook, you want it to be firm enough to roll, but not so hard that it won’t roll but just breaks up. 

Remove the meringue from the oven and, very carefully, turn out onto a sheet of baking paper. Peel the baking paper from the bottom of the meringue. Let the meringue cool for 10 minutes, but don’t let it get completely cool as it won’t roll.

Make a cut a couple of centimetres along the long side of the meringue. Make sure you don’t cut through the meringue completely.  This cut will help you to start the roll.

Meanwhile, whip the cream to firm peaks. Fold the Greek yoghurt into the whipped cream. Spread the cream/yoghurt mixture over the surface of the meringue.

Place the peach slices  and raspberries on top of the cream along the length of the roulade. 

Now roll up the meringue from the long side, using the baking paper to help you. It will be difficult to get it to roll, and it might crack, but the cracks are inevitable and quite acceptable. You may only get  a loose roll, as I did. I think this is fine, as a more rustic roulade will still look good and taste great!

Place the rolled meringue, now a roulade, into the fridge to chill for at least an hour. The roulade can be left overnight, too. Unlike a pavlova, a roulade will benefit from getting a bit soft, as it will cut better.

To serve, dust liberally with icing sugar, spoon over the raspberry compote or jam, and scatter the almonds or hazelnuts over the whole roulade. 

Cut into thick slices and serve. Nothing more needed!

*Thickened cream is available in Australia. It has a milk fat content of 35% and it contains additives – gelatine and vegetable gums, and this helps hold its shape when it’s whipped.

** Raspberry compote is easy to make if you want to use it in this recipe. Take 125g or so of fresh raspberries, or frozen, and put into a saucepan with 2 tablespoons of caster sugar and  1 tablespoon of water. Bring to a gentle boil, stirring, then cook without stirring until the raspberries have reduced and the mixture has thickened. This isn’t jam, so no need to cook to a jam consistency. Leave to cool to room temperature.

 

Chocolate Meringue Roulade

I have a confession – I had never made a roulade, meringue or sponge, until last week! I guess it was just one of those things I thought might be too tricky to do.

So I decided to give it a go, doing a meringue roulade as I have a heap of egg whites currently frozen, left over from using many egg yolks used in panettone making. Well that’s another story…

I had the idea of what to do, having watched the Queen of Cakes Mary Berry make meringue roulade on a Great British Bakeoff special. So I felt well equipped to give it a go!

And while the result was a little informal – Mary’s favourite epithet to describe messy bakes in the GBBO – I quite liked the rustic finished product! 

Ingredients 

4 egg whites 

250g caster sugar

100g dark chocolate

1 tablespoon cocoa powder

Icing sugar, for dusting

Filling 

150ml cream (any whipping cream, however I used thickened cream as it whips better) see note*

150ml good quality Greek yoghurt

125g fresh raspberries 

Method

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C or 160 degrees C fan forced. Line the base of a Swiss roll tin (23 x 33 cm / 9 x 13 in) with a sheet of baking paper.

Whisk the egg whites until stiff peaks form. Add the sugar one tablespoon at a time, whisking well after each addition, until all the sugar has been incorporated and the mixture is stiff and glossy. The mixture should pass the “thumb and finger” test: roll a little meringue between thumb and first finger, and if it’s smooth and not grainy, all the sugar has been well incorporated! 

Melt the chocolate in a double boiler, or very carefully in the microwave. I use this latter method, but you must do it slowly, in intervals, on a low setting, to make sure the chocolate doesn’t seize. Gently fold into the meringue. Fold the cocoa powder into the meringue equally gently.

Carefully spoon the meringue into the tin, flattening with a palette knife to level the surface. Place the tin into the preheated oven, and bake for about 20 – 25 minutes, or until the meringue is firm to the touch. The meringue may take a little longer to cook, you want it to be firm enough to roll, but not so hard that it won’t roll but just breaks up. 

Remove the meringue from the oven and, very carefully, turn out onto a sheet of baking paper. Peel the baking paper from the bottom of the meringue. Let the meringue cool for 10 minutes, but don’t let it get completely cool as it won’t roll.

Make a cut a couple of centimetres along the long side of the meringue. Make sure you don’t cut through the meringue completely.  This cut will help you to start the roll.

Meanwhile, whip the cream to firm peaks. Fold the Greek yoghurt into the whipped cream. Spread the cream/yoghurt mixture over the surface of the meringue. Place the raspberries evenly over the cream. 

Now roll up the meringue from the long side, using the baking paper to help you. It will be difficult to get it to roll, and it will crack, but the cracks are inevitable and quite acceptable! You may only get  a loose roll, as I did. I think this is fine, as a more rustic roulade will still look good and taste great!

Place the rolled meringue, now a roulade, into the fridge to chill for at least an hour. The roulade can be left overnight, too. Unlike a pavlova, a roulade will benefit from getting a bit soft, as it will cut better.

To serve, dust liberally with icing sugar, and serve in thick slices.

*Thickened cream is available in Australia. It has a milk fat content of 35% and it contains additives – gelatine and vegetable gums, and this helps hold its shape when it’s whipped. 

Shin Beef Casserole

 


I love slow cooking and I’m a huge fan of casseroles, stews and tagines, where beef, lamb or chicken is cooked long and slow with plenty of veggies and herbs and/or spices.

My go-to beef cut for slow cooking has to be shin beef, called gravy beef in Australia. I cook with it a lot, loving the tenderness and flavour of the meat.

This is a Jamie Oliver recipe from the vault. I have cooked variations many times over, but I thought I would put Jamie’s original version on the blog again for those wanting a great comfort food stew that could easily be served as a ragu with pappardelle pasta.

The original recipe comes from “Cook With Jamie”, and here is the link to the website recipe:

http://www.jamieoliver.com/recipes/beef-recipes/melt-in-your-mouth-shin-stew

Here is my “tweaked” recipe. The most significant change I made is to lower the oven temperature to 150 degrees C. I think long, slow cooking is the way to go with this recipe. (When I blogged this in 2014 I suggested 160 degrees, but 150 degrees is better).

Ingredients

Lug of olive oil

6 eschallots, peeled and roughly chopped

6 baby carrots, trimmed and used whole

2 cloves garlic chopped

A few sprigs of fresh rosemary

1 bay leaf

750g quality shin of beef, trimmed and cut into 5cm pieces

Sea salt

Freshly ground black pepper

1 tbs flour

1 x 400g tinned tomatoes

1/2 bottle red wine

Method

Preheat your oven to 160 degrees C.  In a heavy-bottomed casserole, heat a lug of olive oil and gently fry the eschallots, carrots, garlic and herbs for 5 minutes until softened slightly. Meanwhile, toss the pieces of beef in a little seasoned flour, shaking off any excess. Add the meat to the casserole  and stir everything together, then add the tomatoes, wine and a pinch of salt and pepper. Gently bring to the boil, cover with a double-thickness piece of aluminum foil and a lid and place in your preheated oven for 3 hours or until the beef is meltingly tender and can be broken up with a spoon. Taste and check the seasoning, remove the rosemary sprigs and bay leaf.

Serve with pappardelle, polenta, mash or rice.

 

Mrs Beeton’s Christmas Plum Pudding

 



Now I know posting a recipe for Christmas pudding on the day after Christmas is a bit.. well.. late! I made this pudding a few weeks ago and just got too busy with Christmas preparations and baking to post. But I wanted to show this excellent pudding so I am posting while we are still in that Christmas food and festivities zone.

And I’ll blog again next year in time to make the pudding for the big day!

Earlier in December I was lucky enough to attend an online event hosted by the wonderful Sydney Living Museums.

This organisation looks after significant buildings integral to Sydney’s colonial history. Visiting historic houses and public buildings is always a fascinating trip into Sydney’s past.

The demonstration was presented by Jacqui Newling, Assistant Curator and Sydney Living Museums resident expert in food heritage and colonial gastronomy.

I loved watching as Jacqui made the Christmas  pudding and really appreciated her step by step tips and tricks to making the pudding. She has a wealth of knowledge and importantly a really practical common sense approach to cooking.

I had to make the pudding! I made it the next day, and in order to be able to try it before Christmas Day, I made a baby one which I could eat on the same day.

What is amazing about this pudding is that it has no flour and no sugar! Bread replaces flour and the sweetness comes from the dried fruit. I have to admit I was a little dubious about the absence of flour and sugar, but I must say the resulting pudding was sensational! Deep, rich flavours with a strong caramel taste.

We ate the delicious pudding on Christmas Day. I served it with brandy butter, custard and cream – I think it deserved all three accompaniments.

Here is the recipe as presented by Jacqui Newling with her notations and this is the link to the original.

Classic Christmas Pudding

Adapted from Mrs Beeton’s Book of household management, 1861

Note

‘On Christmas-day a sprig of holly is usually placed in the middle of the pudding, and about a wine-glassful of brandy poured round it, which, at the moment of serving, is lighted, and the pudding thus brought to table encircled in flame.’

So says Isabella Beeton in 1861, in her best-selling Beeton’s book of household management (1861). I’ve adapted her ‘Christmas plum pudding (very good)’ for modern measurements, replaced suet with butter, and added some extra spice now synonymous with Christmas.

Serves 12

Ingredients 

750g mixed dried fruit

1 tbsp mixed spice

1 tsp nutmeg or cinnamon

1⁄2 cup fragrant tea or sherry

200g butter, placed in freezer for 1-2 hours

250g freshly made white breadcrumbs (made from a day-old 375g loaf, crusts removed)

6 eggs, well beaten

1⁄2 cup brandy

Equipment

1.5L pudding basin or equivalent smaller bowls
Baking paper cut to diameter of the pudding basin/bowls
Good quality aluminum foil Kitchen string
Grater, chilled in fridge Trivet

Method

1. If the fruit looks a bit dry, soak it with the spices in the tea or sherry overnight or for at least a few hours.
2. Grate the butter into the breadcrumbs in a large mixing bowl and mix through with a knife.
3. Add the soaked fruit and spices.
4. Add the beaten eggs and brandy, and encourage everyone in the family to stir the mixture (an old tradition).
5. Grease the pudding bowl with butter and spoon in the mixture, just short of the rim, as the mixture may swell during cooking.
6. Cover the pudding surface with baking paper cut to size, then cover the bowl with two pieces of foil pleated together in the centre – the foil should reach halfway down the bowl – and tie securely with string. The pleat is to allow for any expansion during cooking.
7. Place the pudding bowl on a trivet in a deep saucepan and add enough boiling water to reach halfway up the sides to create a water bath.
8. Cover and simmer for several hours, topping up with boiling water as needed (19th-century recipes invariably state
6 hours simmering to ensure a rich colour).
9. Cool to room temperature then refrigerate until required.
Serve with Mrs Beeton’s Plum pudding sauce. You can find the recipe for the sauce here.

 

Christmas Summer Fruits Meringue Trifle

 


Trifle is one of those desserts that are a favourite on the big day. Trifle or pavlova are good alternatives to Christmas pud, or can be served  alongside the hot pudding as something sweet, creamy and delightfully cold!

I try to devise a different trifle each Christmas. I made this one a couple of years ago and it was delicious – peaches, blackberry and passionfruit are combined with passionfruit curd, meringue and cream and the obligatory cake and custard layers into a light and fruity trifle.

An important note: this recipe may look time consuming because you make the custard, curd and meringue. If you don’t want to do all that work, you can absolutely use bought elements! Christmas is stressful enough without adding extra work!

Layers are important in any trifle, you can really layer this one any way you like.

Here is the order in which I layered my version:

Cake
Peaches/ passionfruit
Passionfruit curd
Meringue
Cake
Blackberry compote
Custard
Cream
Meringue shards/peaches/passionfruit/individual meringues

Ingredients 

Meringue
3 egg free range whites
1/8 tsp cream of tartar
1 cup caster sugar
A few drops of yellow food colouring

Passionfruit curd
4 tbls sugar
Juice of 2 lemons
Pulp of 3 passionfruit
2 free-range egg yolks
2 tbls butter

Custard
3 large free-range egg yolks
35g cornflour
50g caster sugar
600ml milk
300ml cream

Blackberry compote
500g frozen blackberries
3 tbls sugar
2 tbls water

2 bought sponge cakes (you can make your own but it’s much less time consuming to buy them)

6 yellow peaches, cut into slices
Pulp of 3 passionfruit

1/2 cup or to taste of an orange flavoured liqueur. (I used Cointreau and Orange Curaçao)

300ml whipped cream

Method

Meringue
Preheat the oven to very slow – 135 degrees C. Line 2 baking trays with baking paper.
Beat egg whites at low speed with an electric mixer until frothy, add cream of tartar and beat on highest speed until peaks hold their shape. Gradually beat in 2 tablespoons of the measured sugar and continue beating for 2-3 minutes. Add all the remaining sugar at once, fold in quickly and lightly with a metal spoon.
Using 3/4 of the mixture, spoon or pipe two discs, each about the size of the diameter of your trifle bowl, onto the prepared trays. With the remaining meringue, colour one half yellow, and put both meringue mixtures  into two piping bags. Pipe yellow and plain meringues, as many as the mixtures will make, around the edges of the baking trays where you have placed the discs.
Bake the discs and meringues for 1 1/2 hours. Leave in oven for a further 1/2 hour or until dry.

Passionfruit Curd
Place all the ingredients into a saucepan over a medium heat. Stir with a wooden spoon, making sure all the ingredients are amalgamated and the sugar is completely dissolved. Continue to stir until the mixture thickens and coats the back of a spoon. Put aside to cool.

Custard
Put the egg yolks, cornflour and sugar into a large bowl and stir together with a whisk. Heat the milk and cream together in a pan until hot but not boiling. Gradually whisk into the yolks, then return the mixture to the pan. Stir over a high heat until the mixture just comes to the boil and the custard thickens. Take off the heat, cover and allow to cool.

Blackberry compote
Put the frozen blackberries, sugar and water into a saucepan and gently stir to dissolve the sugar. Bring to boiling point, turn the heat to low and simmer for about 10 minutes or until the fruit is softened and the liquid is reduced. Transfer to a bowl to cool.

Assembling the trifle
Line the base of your glass trifle bowl with half the cake, making sure there are no gaps. Liberally sprinkle over half the orange liqueur.
Scatter half the piece slices and half the passionfruit pulp over the cake. Spoon the cooled passionfruit curd over the fruit.
Now carefully place one of the meringue discs on top of the curd, trimming the edges if it’s too big. Place the rest of the cake pieces on top. If you think there is too much cake, leave some of it out. Sprinkle the cake with the remaining liqueur. Spoon the blackberry compote on top of the cake.
Carefully spoon or pour the cooled custard over the trifle, then add the whipped cream. Again, if you think there’s too much custard or too much whipped cream, add a little less.
To decorate the trifle, carefully break up the remaining meringue disc into shards big and small (so lots of broken bits don’t matter!). Place the rest of the peach slices and passionfruit pulp around the edge of the trifle and artfully place the meringue shards wherever you like.
Then finish by topping the trifle with the individual meringues.
This is how I made my trifle – I’m sure there are endless variations to the layering and presentation, so be creative!

Christmas Beef Tagine


Christmas festivities are upon us! While there is a lot of traditional baking to be done, I have decided to go down a slightly different path for a dinner tonight that celebrates Christmas from around the world.

As a big fan of tagines, I decided to create a special Christmas Tagine.  Bright with the colours of Christmas, red and green, and deliciously fragrant with Middle Eastern flavours that remind us of the original Christmas story, this beef tagine is full of beautiful veggies too.

Of course, the beef tagine can be eaten at any time of the year! But it can be an alternative to the usual suspects eaten on the day, and would make a great Boxing Day or even New Year’s dish!

I have recently been researching the Keto Diet – not, I hasten to add, on my own behalf – but to better understand what a particular disciple of this low carb program can eat. So I had a go at creating something that might be at least keto friendly,  if not actually following all its tenets. I have certainly got to grips with the idea “above ground vegetables good, below ground vegetables bad”!

Here it is. You could substitute some non keto approved below ground veggies like potatoes or carrots, if you like, but they would need to be added in at the start of the recipe, as they take longer to cook. As prunes aren’t probably that great for the Keto Diet, but do add that traditional sweetness to the tagine, you could halve the amount to get the flavour without too much of the sugar. Or leave them out altogether!

Ingredients

2 teaspoons paprika – sweet

2 teaspoons ground coriander

2 teaspoons ground cumin

1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger

1 teaspoon chilli powder

1 teaspoon sumac

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon pepper corns – cracked in a mortar and pestle

2 teaspoons salt

2 tablespoons olive oil

500g diced shin beef/chuck steak

4 eshallots  and 4 spring onions, finely chopped

(Or replace both with 2 large onions)

1-2 garlic cloves, to taste, finely chopped

1  x 400g tin of chopped tomatoes

175g prunes

1.5 tins water (use the tomato tin as a measure)

1 tablespoon pomegranate molasses

1 small eggplant (aubergine), sliced

2 zucchini (courgettes), sliced

100g green olives

Chopped coriander, to decorate

Method

Combine the spices and pepper and salt in a large bowl. Add beef and stir until well coated in the spices. Cover and refrigerate for 2 hours or longer.

Preheat oven to 140 degrees C.

Heat a heavy based casserole on the stovetop, and add half the olive oil. Add the chopped shallots and spring onions or ordinary onions and cook them for 5 minutes until soft. Stir in the garlic and continue to cook for a further couple of minutes or until the garlic is softened but not browned. Remove all to a plate.

Add the rest of the olive oil to the pan. Tip in the beef and cook over a fairly high heat until evenly browned and caramelised.

Return the shallots/onion/garlic to the casserole. Add the chopped tomatoes, tins of water and stir well. Add the pomegranate molasses. Stir in a third of the prunes. Lay several slices of the eggplant (about a third of the eggplant) on the top of the mixture.  Bring to the boil, then put the lid on and transfer to the oven.

Cook for an hour and a half. Remove from the oven and lay the rest of the eggplant slices and the zucchini slices into the casserole, as well as the rest of the prunes and most of the olives, reserving a few for serving. Cook, covered for a further hour or until the beef is really tender.

If you’re not completely satisfied with the tenderness of the beef pieces, you can cook for a further 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and scatter the remaining olives over the tagine, and some coriander leaves.

The tagine should be looking pretty festive with its tomato red and coriander green, but you could add some sliced cherry tomatoes for a little more red or even, if so inclined, a few slices of red chilli!

Chocolate Chip Sandwich Stack Cookies


I have always been a fan of chocolate chip cookies, and bake quite a few different recipes. This is my go-to chic chip cookie recipe, and the cookies are chewy and chocolate-y, very more-ish.

However, they often end up a bit flat, which is fine by me – who’s going to tell a cookie that it’s too thin?  But way back in 2016 when I blogged this recipe, I came up with a great way to eat these cookies  – make them into cookie and ice cream sandwiches! Or make a cookie stack with lots of layers!

Ingredients

125g butter

1/2 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup caster sugar

1 free-range egg

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 cup flour

1 tsp baking powder

50g chocolate chips (milk or dark)

50g good quality dark chocolate chopped into little and bigger shards

Method

Note: This is a food processor cookie. It would definitely be great to make it with an electric mixer – and for the purists, you will get really nicely creamed butter and sugar. But the food processor method is super quick – and your cookies are ready in no time.

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C. Line 2 large baking trays with baking paper.

Cream the butter and sugar in the food processor until light and well, creamy! Add the vanilla extract and egg and process well. Add the flour and baking powder. You can sift them first, I never do. Gently pulse until the mixture is smooth. Stir in the chocolate chips and the chopped chocolate.

Drop in dessert spoonfuls for large cookies or teaspoonfuls for smaller cookies on to the baking paper. You need to leave a gap of at least the size of 2 cookies between each (about 3 or 4 cms). Bake until the cookies are lovey and golden brown. This is usually between 12 and 15 minutes. I have found that watching the cookies is a better guide to when they are cooked than simply cooking for a certain number of minutes.

Cool for a few minutes on the baking trays, then finish on a wire rack. Store in an airtight container.

T o make an icecream sandwich, put two cookies together with your favourite icecream! I used choc-peanut-salted caramel swirl. Good old vanilla would be fab. Drizzle with chocolate.

To make a cookie stack, pile up cookies with any filling you like – cream, chocolate, or buttercream icing. I made a passionfruit buttercream for this stack.

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