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Raspberry and Rosewater Cake

If you follow this blog at all, you may realise I’m pretty keen on rosewater as an ingredient. I love its floral, heady flavour, with mysterious overtones of the exotic Middle East.

A great pairing with rosewater is raspberries. This recipe is something quite simple that anyone can make.

I got the idea for the recipe by adapting a great recipe from the “Queen of Baking” Mary Berry. Mary has a recipe for a Victoria Sponge that is ultra simple. Mary uses baking spread, not butter in her sponge. As a butter aficionado, I would have said “Oh no!” But I trust Mary, and I made the cake with baking spread. And it works! As Mary says it makes a really light sponge.

So I have been adapting and tweaking the recipe for different cakes in different sizes. This version uses three quarters of the original quantity.

But if you don’t like baking spread, by all means use butter. Just make sure it’s soft, or it won’t cream properly.

Ingredients

170g baking spread (I use Nuttelex, an Australian brand)

170g caster sugar

3 free-range eggs

170g self raising flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 tablespoon rosewater

125g frozen raspberries

2 teaspoons plain flour, for the raspberries

Icing

Juice of half a lemon, or enough to make a soft icing

150g icing sugar

A few drops of pink food colouring, enough to make a rose pink icing

Method

Pre-heat the oven to 170 degrees C fan forced. Butter a 22cm spring form tin and line the base with baking paper.

Cream the baking spread and caster sugar in an electric mixer. Add the eggs and 1 tablespoon of the flour, and mix well. (This is to stop the egg, sugar and butter curdling).

Add the rest of the flour and baking powder, and mix until incorporated. Don’t overmix, or the cake will be tough.

Stir in the rosewater. Sprinkle the raspberries with the flour and gently fold through.

Spoon the mixture into the cake tin and smooth the top.

Place in the pre-heated oven and bake for 30 minutes or until a skewer inserted in the cake comes out clean.

Remove from the oven and leave to cool for 10 minutes before carefully turning out onto a cake rack.

For the icing, add the lemon juice to the icing sugar in a small bowl and mix well. You may need less or more lemon juice. You want a soft icing that will stay on the cake and not drip off. Add the food colouring carefully, you don’t want a lurid cake!

Serve in its own, or decorate with whatever you have to hand, in my case some dried rosebuds and rose pink glitter powder. Probably fresh raspberries would be just as nice!

Keto Pork Pies

I have a friend who is on a strict keto diet. I often make recipes that are naturally keto friendly or adapting ingredients to make the recipe fit the requirements.

Hearty beef or lamb stews are easy, provided you leave out the root vegetables. Chilli beef is always a winner!

My friend is very partial to pork pies. So they are definitely on the “to bake” list! Now pork pies are notoriously tricky to make with hot water pastry. And if you hand raise the pastry, that’s really challenging!

You need to adapt the pastry with keto friendly ingredients. And it’s still a hot water crust pastry which is more difficult to handle than ordinary pastry. However this recipe doesn’t require hand raising. Simply bake in large muffin molds, or small pie molds as I did.

The keto pastry is not that difficult to handle and the resulting crust is quite delicious!

Ingredients

Filling

2 rashers bacon

300g pork shoulder

4 spring onions or 1 medium onion

A small handful each of thyme and sage

1/2 teaspoon chilli paste or chilli powder

Salt and pepper

Hot water crust pastry

200 grams almond flour

200 grams oat bran

1 ½ teaspoon guar or xanthan gum

1 teaspoon salt

Ground black pepper

60 grams butter

60 grams lard

200 grams water

1 free range egg

Jelly

1 gelatine platinum leaf

125 mls chicken or vegetable stock

1 free range egg, beaten, for glazing.

Method

Butter the pork pie molds well. Large muffin molds work well.

Chop the bacon rashers and the pork shoulder roughly, and put in a food processor. Add the spring onion or onion also roughy chopped, and the thyme, sage, chilli and salt and pepper.

Blitz in the food processor, until the ingredients are combined. Don’t over process. You want a pork mince, not a paste.

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C fan forced.

Meanwhile, make the pastry. Mix the almond flour, oat bran, guar or xanthan gum, salt and pepper in a large bowl.

Lightly whisk the egg, make a well in the centre, put in the egg and mix in. Don’t worry if you can’t mix in properly – you will get clumps.

Put the butter, lard and water in a saucepan over a low heat and cook until the butter and lard are fully melted.

Turn the heat up and bring the liquid to the boil, and as soon as it starts boiling, carefully pour all the liquid into the flour mixture. You will need to stir everything together quite quickly while the mixture is still warm. Make sure everything is combined.

This mixture will make 6 pies, so divide the mixture into 6 large balls for the pie bottoms and 6 smaller balls for the pie lids.

Press each of the larger balls of dough into the molds, pushing the dough down into the molds and up the sides. Make sure there are no holes.

Divide the pork mix into 6 portions and put each portion inside the pastry bottoms. Leave a space at the top, for the jelly.

Using your fingers, stretch the small balls of dough into circles to fit the top of the pies for the lids.

Brush some beaten egg around the edges of the pies. Place the dough lids on top of the pies, and gently press all around the edges to stick the lids and bottoms together.

Brush the pork pie tops with more beaten egg, and make a hole in the centre of the pies.

Put the pies in the oven and bake for 45 minutes. Remove from the oven, and egg wash the tops again. Put back in the oven for a further 10 minutes.

Take the pork pies from the oven and allow them to cool inside the molds.

Meanwhile, dissolve the gelatine leaf in the hot stock. Pour the stock slowly inside the pork pies through the hole in the lids until they are full. Let the stock soak in for a moment, then pour in a little more stock.

Put the pies in the fridge for a few hours for the jelly to set.

Serve at room temperature with plenty of your favourite chutney or relish, and maybe a few pickles on the side.

Moroccan Winter Soup

This is a hearty warming winter soup that is redolent with fragrant Moroccan spices. The base is root vegetables, and their robust flavours work well with the spice mix.

It’s pretty easy – bake the veggies with the spices, then transfer to a saucepan to cook a little more, then blend to soup consistency.

The root vegetables can be varied, but you definitely need some “orange” vegetables like pumpkin or carrots.

A note on the spices. As well as that beautiful spice sumac, I included ras al hanout or baharat. These are Middle Eastern spice mixes. Either mix is good – use whatever you can get your hands on.

Ingredients

500g pumpkin

500g carrots

250g sweet potatoes

250g swede

2 onions cut into chunks

4 -5 garlic cloves

2 teaspoon of ras al hanout or baharat

1 teaspoon sumac

Sea salt and ground black pepper

30mls olive oil

1.5 litres chicken or vegetable stock

Method

Preheat oven to 190 degrees C fan forced.

Peel the vegetables and chop into rough chunks.

Put all the vegetables into a large baking tray, sprinkle over the spices and salt and pepper. Pour over the olive oil. Mix well, making sure everything is coated with oil.

Bake for 30 minutes or until the vegetables are soft.

Remove from the oven and transfer to a large stock pot or saucepan. Place on the stovetop. Add the stock, and bring to a medium boil.

Cook for 5 minutes to amalgamate the veggies and stock. Using a stick blender, blitz in the saucepan until you have a good soup consistency, still a bit chunky. Or you could put the soup in a blender and process.

Serve with crusty bread, preferably sourdough. You could add a dash of yoghurt and a sprinkle of thyme or coriander for added zhush!

The soup freezes and reheats well.

Swedish Cardamom Buns

A very exciting time in the Quirk and the Cool kitchen! I have recently acquired an Akarsrum mixer from the incredible people at Blackwood Lane in Melbourne in Victoria. It’s Swedish, and an incredibly efficient and powerful machine, particularly for producing dough.

So it seemed appropriate to make something Swedish for the first use of the machine!

I love sweet rolls, scrolls and buns, but I haven’t yet made kanelbullar (cinnamon buns) or kardemummabullar (cardamom buns).

This recipe is adapted from the Ankarsrum cook book, and is technically a cinnamon bun recipe. But I think the cardamom flavour is outstanding, so I’m calling these cardamom buns.

The Ankarsrum performed well with making the enriched dough. And making and shaping the knots was pretty easy.

Well done to my Ankarsrum mixer!

Here is my tweaked recipe for the rolls. I halved the quantities and added in a whole egg. You might like to bake at a slightly lower temperature. I baked the rolls pictured at 220 degrees C which was a little too hot.

It goes without saying that you could follow this recipe in a KitchenAid or similar.

Dough

Ingredients

75g softened butter

50g sugar

1 free-range egg, beaten

250mls milk

420g strong flour

1 teaspoon ground cardamom seeds

7g instant yeast

7g salt

Filling

100g very soft butter

100g sugar

1/2 beaten free-range egg, for brushing

2 teaspoons Demerara or raw sugar

1 tablespoon cinnamon

Method

Mix the soft butter, sugar and egg together in your mixer, to just incorporate. Add the milk, and mix to combine.

Put the flour into a bowl, and stir in the ground cardamom seeds. Put the yeast on top of the flour, and the salt on the opposite side.

With the mixer on low speed, add the flour mixture a little at a time to the mixer bowl. Continue to knead until the dough is soft and elastic and passes the window pane test.

Cover the dough with a plastic bag, towel or my favourite, a plastic shower cap. Leave to prove in a warm place for 1 hour.

Meanwhile make the filling by mixing the butter, sugar and cinnamon together with a palette knife until it’s a smooth paste.

The dough should now have doubled in size. Remove the dough and place on a floured board or bench. Gently roll the dough to a large rectangle about 45 x 30 cm.

Spread the filling over the whole rectangle. Halve the rectangle, putting the long sides together, to make a smaller rectangle 45 x15 cm. Cut into 12 strips. You will have enough dough to trim the uneven ends. You can bake these as scraps!

Pull each strip lengthwise, twist several times, and form into a knot. There are videos on YouTube that can help you if you’re not sure – that’s what I used.

Place on a baking tray lined with baking paper, cover with a large plastic bag or tea towel, and leave to prove for an hour.

15 minutes before baking, preheat your oven to 220 degrees C, or 210 degrees C if you want your buns less “well done”.

Brush the proved buns with beaten egg and sprinkle with sugar. Place the baking tray into the oven and bake for 10 minutes.

Remove from the oven. Serve them warm as is or spread with a little salted butter.

Best eaten on the day, but they microwave beautifully a day or so later!

Raspberry Blondies

Brownies? Blondies? Both excellent sweet treats in a fudgy, gooey kind of way. This one is a sweet version of a brownie, made with white chocolate, so technically definitely a blondie!

I got the inspiration a few years back from a post on the internet, no longer around. The general idea is that raspberries and white chocolate are a match made in heaven, so I ran with that idea!

The blondies are made with plain flour only, no baking powder, but they seem to rise all the same.

Ingredients

115g unsalted butter

180g white chocolate chopped

115g caster sugar

2 free-range eggs

1 teaspoon of vanilla paste

125g plain flour +1tablespoon flour

1 cup frozen raspberries

Method

Preheat the oven to to 180 degrees C or 170 degrees fan forced.

Grease and line a square 20 cm x 20 cm baking tin with baking paper. You could use a 18cm x 27cm baking tin instead.

Melt the butter and 100g of the white chocolate in a small saucepan over low heat and stir until smooth.

Beat the sugar, free-range eggs and vanilla paste in a bowl until the mixture is thick and pale.

Gently combine the the butter and white chocolate mixture into the egg and sugar mixture.

Gently fold 1/3 of the flour into the batter and repeat twice until all the flour is all incorporated.

Put half the raspberries into the tablespoon of flour then gently fold the raspberries/flour into the mixture.

Pour the mixture into the tin and place the remaining white chocolate pieces and raspberries over the top of the mixture.

Bake for 30- 35 minutes. The blondies will have risen but will still be slightly soft in the middle.

Cool in the tin before cutting into squares.

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.

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