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Author Archives: The quirk and the cool

Bacon, Cheese and Chilli Scrolls

Sweet or savoury, scrolls are one of my favourite yeast based products to make. These scrolls are packed with streaky beacon, cheddar cheese and chilli/tomato/barbecue sauce. A perfect snack or quick breakfast on the go.

Make a basic enriched dough and fill it with the above ingredients, and bake into luscious scrolls.

Ingredients

Dough

500g strong flour

7g yeast

250g milk

10g salt

2 free-range eggs

50g butter

Filling

150g streaky bacon

75g good cheddar cheese

2 tablespoons tomato chutney

1 tablespoon sweet chilli sauce

1 tablespoon barbecue sauce

Glaze

1 free-range egg, beaten

1 teaspoon sweet chilli sauce

Method

Put the strong flour into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a dough hook or into a large mixing bowl if kneading by hand. Add the instant yeast and salt, making sure the yeast and salt are on opposite sides of the bowl. Add the milk which you have warmed to tepid (microwaving is easy) and the beaten eggs. Mix by hand into a rough dough, even if you’re going to use the dough hook in the next stage.

Cover the bowl with a tea towel or my favourite, a plastic shower cap, and rest for 20 minutes. Then move the bowl to the mixer and knead with the dough hook until the mixture is smooth and starting to develop some elasticity, about 5 minutes. Add the butter in small pieces, then knead again for about 5 minutes, using the mixer until the butter is thoroughly incorporated, the dough is smooth and you can achieve the “windowpane” effect. That is, you can pull some of the dough off the dough hook, between two fingers, stretching it so that it’s translucent.

If you are kneading by hand, you will knead to work the dough really well, in both stages, to get it to the desired silky, elastic stage.

Cover the bowl again and leave in a warm place to prove for about an hour, until the dough is doubled in size. You ideally need a temperature of about 25 degrees C.

You can prepare the filling while the dough is proving. Put the bacon rashers in a cold frying pan and heat up on medium, cooking the bacon rashers slowly, until they are nicely crisp. Remove from the pan and cool to room temperature. Finely chop the bacon rashers.

Grate the cheese and put aside. Combine the chilli, tomato and barbecue sauces in a small bowl.

Once the dough is risen, take the dough out of the bowl onto the bench top or ideally a large wooden board. Flour the bench top or board liberally with flour. Flour a rolling pin and roll the dough into a large rectangle, as large as you can go, with the dough ending up about 1/2 cm thick. My dough rectangle is usually about 30cm in width by 40-50cm in length.

Liberally spread the sauce mixture over the dough rectangle. Scatter the chopped bacon and grated cheese on top of the sauce.

Now carefully roll up the dough along the long side. Using a sharp knife, slice the dough into 18 pieces. These are mini scrolls – if you wanted bigger ones, slice into 12 pieces.

Line a large baking tin or tray with baking paper. Carefully place each slice, cut side up, into the tin or tray, fitting them snugly together.

Place the tin or tray into a large plastic bag. Put the tin or tray into the fridge, and leave for 8-12 hours overnight.

When ready to bake, preheat your oven to 180 degrees C fan forced, or 200 degrees C non fan forced.

Remove the plastic bag from the tin/tray. With a pastry brush, glaze the scrolls with the egg chilli mixture. Place into the preheated oven and bake for 20 minutes or until the scrolls are risen and and nice and brown.

Pull apart and eat while still warm!

Lamb Shoulder Tagine

Winter has arrived fairly dramatically in Sydney in this first week of June. Time to get some slow cooking on the go! Lamb is always great in a casserole and lamb shoulder makes a great tagine with lots of Middle Eastern flavours. The shoulder needs to be boned and diced – try to get your butcher to do that for you. Less labour intensive than doing it yourself.

The tagine itself is the star – just serve it with couscous or rice or homemade flatbread to soak up the juice.

I make my tagine in a heavy based casserole. You could do this and serve in a tagine if you like.

Ingredients

2 teaspoons paprika – sweet or smoked

2 teaspoons ground coriander

2 teaspoons ground cumin

1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger

1 teaspoon chilli powder

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon pepper

2 teaspoons salt

2 tablespoons olive oil

Juice and rind of a mandarin or orange

1 kg diced lamb shoulder

2 eshallots

1 clove of garlic

1  x 425g tin of chopped tomatoes

1 1/2 x tins of water (use the chopped tomatoes tin for this)

1 tablespoon pomegranate molasses

125g dried apricots

125g pitted prunes

Method

Combine spices and pepper and salt in a large bowl.  Add the oil, rind and juice of the mandarin/orange and stir to form a paste. Add lamb and stir until well coated in the paste. Cover and refrigerate for 2 hours or longer.

Preheat oven to 150 degrees C.

Heat a heavy based casserole on the stovetop, and add half the olive oil. Tip in the lamb and cook over a fairly high heat until evenly browned, then tip onto a plate.

Add the remaining olive oil to the casserole and stir in the the eshallots, and then cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in the garlic and continue to cook for a further couple of minutes or until the garlic is softened but not browned.

Return the browned meat to the casserole. Add the chopped tomatoes, tins of water and stir well. Add the pomegranate molasses. Bring to the boil, then put the lid on and transfer to the oven.

Cook for 1 hour. Remove from the oven and stir in the dried apricots and prunes, roughly chopped. Cook, covered for a further 40 minutes or until lamb is tender.

If you’re not completely satisfied with the tenderness of the lamb you can cook for a further 15 minutes.

Serve with the aforementioned couscous, rice or flatbread. A spoonful of yoghurt is nice too, and some chopped coriander.

Pear and Almond Buttermilk Cake

Pears are lovely at the moment, a great winter fruit perfect for cakes or pies or puddings.

This simple cake makes the most of pears and is great for morning tea, afternoon tea or even as a dessert. You could substitute apples too.

I added a plum to the fruit for colour because I had one on hand but that’s entirely optional.

Ingredients

2 pears

1 large plum (optional)

150g almonds flakes

125g butter

150g sugar

2 large free-range eggs

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 teaspoon almond essence

125mls buttermilk

50g plain flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

2 teaspoons Demerara sugar

Method

Preheat the oven to 170 degrees C.

Peel the pears and cut vertically into thin slices, avoiding the core. Cut the plum into slices if using.

Butter a 20 or 22cm cake tin. The smaller tin will give you a deeper cake, the larger tin will give you a flatter cake.

Line the base with baking paper.

Put the almond flakes into a food processor and blitz for a minute until you have small pieces. Remove from the processor.

Put the butter in the food processor and blitz until it is soft. Add the sugar and cream well. Add the eggs and mix until amalgamated. Add the essences and the buttermilk. Add the flour, baking powder and chopped almonds and blitz briefly.

Spoon the mixture into the prepare tin. Arrange the pear slices and plum slices (if using) in a circle around the mixture, any leftover can be put into the centre. Sprinkle with the Demerara sugar.

Bake in the preheated oven for 30-35 minutes or until a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean.

Remove from the oven and leave to cool.

Serve as is or drizzle with lemon icing. Make this by combining a couple of tablespoons of lemon juice with enough icing sugar to make a drizzle icing.

You could also great a little lemon or lime zest over the cake too.

Cheesy Pumpkin and Leek Filo Bake

A great winter warmer. Layers of pumpkin, leek and optional bacon with a mixture of cheeses, encased in filo pastry.

Bake, traybake or pie this is delicious for lunch or supper.

And if you’re pumpkin averse, butternut squash works just as well!

Ingredients 

2 tablespoons oil

500g pumpkin or butternut squash

5 rashers of streaky bacon

3 large leeks

1 clove of garlic

100g goat’s cheese

100g feta

2 large tablespoons Greek yoghurt

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

10 filo sheets

Butter for brushing the filo sheets + extra for greasing the baking dish

Method

Heat a medium sized frying pan on the stove top over a  medium heat. If using, fry the bacon rashers. Once cooked, set aside.

Preheat oven to 180 degrees C. Chop the pumpkin into small chunks, skin on. Lay the pumpkin pieces onto a baking tray lined with baking paper. Pour one tablespoon of the oil over the pumpkin pieces. Bake for 20-30 minutes until the pumpkin is soft. Set aside until ready to assemble the pie.

Wash the leeks and cut into small lengths, about 2 cms. Finely chop the garlic. Add the remaining tablespoon of oil to the pan – if you cooked the bacon, you can use the same frying pan and the bacon juices. Gently cook the leeks and garlic over a low heat until the leeks are softened. This should take about 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside.

Put the goat’s cheese and feta into a bowl with the Greek yoghurt and salt and ground black pepper. Mix to incorporate the cheeses and yoghurt.

Have 10 sheets of filo pastry ready for layering in a medium sized square or rectangular baking dish.  Cover the sheets with a damp tea towel to prevent them from drying out.

Melt a couple of tablespoons of butter. Using the melted butter, lightly grease the baking dish. Lay one sheet of filo in the dish, and brush with melted butter. Lay a second sheet of filo cross wise in the dish, across the first sheet. Brush with melted butter. Continue layering with the remaining  three sheets, putting each sheet on top of the last, crossing the sheets over each other, brushing each sheet with melted butter.

Now it’s time to layer the filling. You will need to remove the skin from the now cooled baked pumpkin. Put a layer of pumpkin into the dish. Then layer some of the leek mixture. Top with some of the cheese mixture. Repeat the layers again, ending with the cheese. If using, place the bacon rashers on top of the filling.

Layer the remaining 5 sheets of filo over the top of the pie, crossing the sheets over each other as in the base of the pie, and brushing with melted butter in between the layers. Once the layers are done, you can tuck the overhanging filo into the sides of the pie. Or you could trim the overhang, but tucking in the filo gives a rustic edge to the pie, as you can see from the photos.

Brush the top with melted butter and place into the 180 degrees C oven for 20 minutes until the pie is golden brown on top and crispy.

Serve with green salad and crusty bread for lunch or as a simple supper. It freezes well too!

Movida’s Slow Cooked Beef Cheeks

An oldie but a goodie! This recipe hails from MoVida Bar de Tapas restaurants in Melbourne and Sydney, from the cookbook MoVida: Spanish Culinary Adventures.

It’s a rainy autumn morning, current temperature in Sydney is 11.9 degrees C. I know by northern hemisphere standards that’s positively balmy – but for Sydney it’s distinctly chilly!

So hence the need to revisit this utterly delicious slow cooked beef recipe, made even more delicious by the addition of Pedro Ximinez sherry, that beautiful sweet and caramel tasting liquor. A casserole perfect for a chilly night.

I cooked the beef cheeks in the oven rather than on the stove top as the original recipe suggests. The temperature needs to be low and the cooking time long.  This is slow cooking at its best!

Ingredients 

1.5 kg beef cheeks
125 mls olive oil
3 carrots, roughly chopped
1 whole garlic bulb, halved
1 brown onion, sliced
500 mls Pedro Ximenez sherry
500 mls red wine
3 bay leaves
3 tablespoons thyme leaves
1 teaspoon fine sea salt

Method

Preheat the oven to 140 degrees C. 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 mls 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. You really need to check the cheeks after 3 hours and continue to check until you’re sure they are really cooked.

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. Gently reheat the cheeks in the sauce if necessary.

Serve the beef cheeks with pasta, rice, polenta or mash. Anything to soak up that delicious sauce.

Pear and Sour Cherry Loaf

What to do with a couple of over ripe pears? Put them in a loaf of course and add sour cherries for a tangy flavour. And almond extract goes really well with both these ingredients!

A couple of things to say about this loaf. First, it’s an all-in-one loaf, and made in the food processor too. So it’s super simple. Believe me, the all-in-one method produces great results!

Secondly, I have been very interested in the Queen of Baking Mary Berry’s advocacy of baking spread, rather than butter, in cakes. I’ve used baking spread in Mary’s Victoria Sponge recipe and it produced a lovely textured sponge. So I have used baking spread in this recipe. But by all means, use butter if you prefer, but make sure it’s super soft.

Ingredients

125g caster sugar

125g baking spread (I use Nuttelex here in Australia)

2 free range eggs at room temperature

125g self raising flour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon almond extract

2 very ripe pears, peeled, cored and cut into chunks

100g sour cherries

Method

Preheat oven to 170 degrees C. Butter a 21cm x 10cm loaf tin, or similar size.

Put everything except the cherries into the bowl of a food processor. Whizz until everything is combined. Don’t overdo it or the mixture will be tough.

Stir in the sour cherries.

Spoon the mixture into the loaf tin and place in the preheated oven. Bake for 20-25 minutes until a skewer inserted into the loaf comes out clean.

Cool completely in the tin before turning out as the loaf is quite fragile while warm.

Serve sprinkled with a little caster sugar. A dollop of cream or yoghurt would be nice – I had some passionfruit curd on hand so I smothered the loaf with a few spoonfuls!

Hearty Beef Pie

I’m on my way back to Sydney from sunny Cairns in far North Queensland. From temperatures of 30 degrees C to a lot less than that in autumnal Sydney!

So here’s a pie recipe that suits colder climes. A hearty pie that is not that difficult to make, with beef and tomato and puff pastry.

This pie has my go-to beef filling, a lovely casserole of slow cooked beef and tomato. And to make it easy, a simple crust of shop bought puff pastry – all butter if you can get it.

It’s rustic – no need to be too fiddly in the presentation!

Ingredients
Beef Filling

500g shin (gravy) beef or chuck steak or blade steak if you can’t get shin
1 dessertspoon plain flour
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 medium brown onions, chopped
2 – 4 shallots (more or less depending on the size of the shallots), chopped
2 x 400g tins whole peeled tomatoes
I large tomato, roughly chopped
200 mls red wine
1 tinful of water
1 tablespoon molasses
1 dessertspoon Worcestershire sauce
Sea salt, black pepper
A bay leaf
A few springs thyme
Few sprigs rosemary

For the pastry – 2 sheets of all butter puff pastry + free-range egg, beaten, for brushing the pastry

Method
Filling

Preheat oven to 140 degrees C.

Place the beef into a ziplock bag with the flour, close and shake the bag to coat the beef pieces in the flour. Heat a heavy based cast iron casserole on the stovetop. Add two tablespoons of oil to the casserole.

Add half of the beef pieces and cook for a minute or two to brown the meat, turning to make sure all sides get the heat. This is just to caramelise the meat. Remove the pieces from the casserole and set aside. Add the other half of the beef and caramelise in the same way, removing from the casserole once browned.

Add the other tablespoon of oil, and add the the chopped onions and shallots. Fry over a medium heat until the onions and shallots are softened, about 3-5 minutes. Return the meat to the casserole.

Add the tinned tomatoes, roughly breaking up into the casserole. Add the chopped fresh tomato. Stir in the red wine, and using one of the tomato tins, add a tinful  of water. Stir in the molasses and Worcestershire sauce. Season with a sea salt and black pepper. Tie up the bay leaf, thyme and rosemary with an elastic band or a piece of string, to make a bouquet garnis, and put into the casserole mixture.

Making sure the mixture is simmering, carefully remove the casserole to the preheated oven. Cook for 3 hours, or until the beef is tender and almost falling apart. You should check after 2 hours, just in case the casserole has cooked a bit dry. If so, you can add some more water. As a general rule, it’s pretty hard to overcook this cut of beef, so 2 1/2 – 3 hours is usually about the right time.

Remove the casserole from the oven, remove the bouquet garnis,  and cool to room temperature.

Making the Pie

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C.

Remove bought puff pastry from the fridge. You will need a pie dish, tin or mould, 18cms or 20cms in diameter. Cut the pastry from each sheet, into two pieces, one slightly bigger than the other. The bigger round should be at least big enough to fit into the pie dish, covering the base and sides. The other round will need to cover the top of the pie.

Ease the bottom pastry round into the dish. You can trim off any excess from around the edge.

Now it’s time to fill the pie. You won’t need all the filling – fill with enough of the meat mixture to fit comfortably into the pastry. Brush the edge of the pastry with the beaten egg.

Take the second, smaller round of pastry, cutting or stretching to the size of the top of the pie, making sure you have enough pastry to overlap the top of the pie. You can always trim the excess. Place over the filling, making sure the top pastry meets the bottom pastry all around the pie. Seal the the top and bottom of the pastry by pushing down around the edge with the prongs of a fork.

Brush the top of the pie all over with beaten egg, before putting the pie into the hot oven. Cook for 30 minutes, or until golden brown on top. Remove from the oven.

Serve in big slices with a green salad, your sauce of choice and some crusty bread.

Apple Tart Easy as Pie

Here’s a recipe for a really easy apple tart. True, you do make the sweet shortcrust base. But if you’re pushed for a time just use a good store bought version – here in Australia Careme brand is excellent!

If you do make your own, my recipe is based on the wonderful Michael James’ recipe from “The Tivoli Road Baker”. There’s not much about pastry that Michael doesn’t know.

Apart from the pastry the only work is chopping up apples, so you can put this recipe together in no time at all.

Ingredients

Sweet Pastry

100g unsalted butter, diced and softened

100g caster sugar

1 free-range egg

250g plain flour

1/4 tsp salt

Filling

2 large apples

Juice of 1/2 lemon

2 tablespoons caster sugar

Demerara sugar for sprinkling

Method

To make the pastry, in an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar together really well. Add the egg then add the flour and salt in two additions. Mix just until the pastry comes together.

Put the pastry onto a floured board and gently knead until it just comes together. It will still be quite soft and even a bit sticky.

Wrap in cling wrap and rest in the fridge for an hour.

Meanwhile prepare your filling by chopping the apples into thin slices. Put them into a bowl and cover with the lemon juice.

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees C. Butter a 23cm 9 inch fluted loose based tart tin.

Remove the pastry from the fridge and place on the floured board. Roll the pastry to a circle that’s bigger than the tin so the pastry will hang over the sides. Gently press the pastry into the base and sides.

Mix the caster sugar through the apple slices. Place the apple slices in circles around the pastry, doubling up the layers to use all the apple.

Turn the oven down to 180 degrees C. Place the tart in the oven and bake for 30 minutes until the apples are soft and the pastry is golden brown.

Remove from the oven, and if desired, sprinkle with Demerara sugar for extra sweetness.

Serve with cream, sour cream or ice cream or just eat on its own. Simple and delicious.

2022 ANZAC Biscuits

Yesterday, Saturday, I made my annual batch of ANZAC biscuits, that delicious treat associated with Australian and New Zealand soldiers of the First World War, in preparation for ANZAC Day 2022 on 25 April.

The wonderful blog “The Cook and the Curator”, from the team at Sydney Living Museums, has done some research into the origin of ANZAC biscuits.

“There has been much debate as to the origins of the iconic Anzac biscuit, and whether they were sent in care packages to soldiers at war, or if they were made by soldiers at ‘the front’. They were certainly enjoyed by Australians long before the First World War, but under different names.”

Here is the link the the article:https://blogs.sydneylivingmuseums.com.au/cook/anzac-cookery/ if you would like to know more.

The Cook and the Curator also note that coconut is an optional ingredient and it wasn’t added till the 1930s. By all means add some to to your biscuits, but personally I’m not a fan.

My recipe is based on this authentic recipe, with a small tweak or two.

I add golden syrup, as I love the toffee flavour it imparts. Most recipes do include golden syrup.

Somewhere I read in a recipe that browning the butter after melting it gives a greater depth of flavour. It really does! To compensate for the fact that you lose a little bit of the butter by browning it, I have added another 15g of butter to the recipe.

It really is a straightforward ANZAC biscuit recipe – very easy to put together and quick to bake.

Eat the biscuits on the day they are baked but they will keep well too, if there are any left!

Ingredients

165g salted butter

180g rolled oats

120g plain flour

125g brown sugar

2 tablespoons golden syrup

bicarbonate of soda

2 tablespoons boiling water

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.

Mix the rolled oats, flour and sugar in a large bowl.

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.

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.

Mary Berry’s Caponata

I recently acquired Mary Berry’s Love to Cook – a beautiful book, with delicious and no nonsense recipes written with Mary’s trademark common sense.

I also recommend from this book Mary’s Victoria Sponge Sandwich – it is gorgeous and a doddle to make!

But this post is all about Caponata, a Sicilian vegetable dish based on eggplant – well that’s what we call them in Australia – Mary of course refers to them as aubergines.

A simple dish that takes about half an hour to make on the stove top.

I wouldn’t presume to alter Mary’s recipe, so here it is. However I did make a half size version in the photos, as I was cooking for one – me! But this size would do two easily.

I also used green olives rather than black, as I prefer them.

Quantities below are for the full size recipe.

Ingredients

8 tablespoons olive oil

2 aubergines (eggplants) cut into 2cm cubes,

2 onions, finely chopped

2 celery sticks, finely chopped

1 red pepper, deseeded and cut into 1 cm cubes

3 large garlic cloves, crushed

500g passata

100g pitted black (or green) olives

2 tablespoons white wine vinegar

3 tablespoons capers

3 tablespoons chopped parsley

1½ tablespoons caster sugar

Method

Heat 3 tablespoons of the oil in a large frying pan over a high heat. Add half of the aubergine cubes and fry until browned. Remove the aubergine from the pan and set aside. Heat another 3 tablespoons of the oil and fry the remaining aubergine. Set aside with the rest.

Heat the remaining oil in the pan. Add the onions, celery and pepper and fry over a high heat for 3–4 minutes. Add the garlic and fry for a few seconds. Return the aubergine to the pan, add the passata, olives, vinegar, capers and sugar. Season with salt and black pepper, cover with a lid and bring up to the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer gently for 20–25 minutes. Remove the lid and simmer for another 5 minutes, until the sauce has reduced and the vegetables are soft but not mushy.

Sprinkle with parsley and serve with crusty bread, couscous or as a vegetable side dish.

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