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Flowerpot Soda Bread

Irish soda bread – the quick and easy bread you can make and eat in a matter of an hour. Which is exactly what I do on weekend mornings when I want freshly baked bread to go with my morning coffee!

My version has a spoonful of treacle to give it a malty flavour, alhtough it’s still quite a plain bread. You can zhush it up into a sweeter, more fancy bread by adding dried fruit – I like adding cranberries or sour cherries.

And baking soda bread in individual flowerpots is fantastic for making great little individual loaves. I love serving winter warming stews and casseroles with baby flowerpot loaves. Very rustic!

Of course, if you don’t have (clean) flowerpots on hand, you could just as easily make these loaves in muffins molds or even as free form loaves.

Here is the recipe for treacle flowerpot loaves and the fruity flowerpot variation.

Ingredients
340g plain flour
½ tsp salt
½ -1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tbls black treacle
290mls buttermilk

For fruity flowerpots, add a couple of good handfuls or to taste, of dried fruit. For my bake, I made half  plain loaves, half fruity.

Method
Preheat the oven to 200 degrees C. Lightly spray terracotta flower pots with cooking spray. Put a little flour into each pot, shaking the pot to make sure the flour coats the inside of the pot. Shake out any excess. You don’t need to be too precise – the main thing is to roughly coat the flower pot to allow easy removal of the loaf once baked.

Place flour, salt and bicarbonate of soda into a large mixing bowl and stir. Add the treacle to the buttermilk, stirring it well.

Make a well in the centre of the mixture, and pour in the buttermilk/treacle mixture, mixing quickly to form a soft dough. (Depending upon the absorbency of the flour, you may need to add a little milk if the dough seems too stiff but it should not be too wet or sticky.) Add the dried fruit if using.

Mix well, then turn onto a lightly floured surface and knead very briefly. You can even skip the kneading and pile the mix straight into the pots.

Put handfuls of the dough into the pots, filing to about 3/4 full, to allow for the bread to rise. Place the pots on a baking sheet.

Bake for about 20 minutes or until the loaves are risen and deep brown. Leave to cool for 10 minutes before removing from the flowerpots. The way to do this is to gently run a knife round the edge of the bread in the pot to loosen it, then turn out.

Serve with lashings of butter and nice jam. Here’s the link to my cumquat jam and other preserves, that I love with soda bread.

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Brown Sugar Waffles with Golden Syrup and Cinnamon Sugar

Waffles! I always thought they were hard to make until I started using a waffle maker, a present from years ago, that I found at the back of a kitchen cupboard. Et voila! From batter to plate in 15 minutes. So yummy, and they look pretty groovy too!

I made these last weekend and served them with a drizzle of golden syrup, a sprinkling of cinnamon sugar and good dollop of sour cream to undercut the sweetness. Magic breakfast!

Ingredients

110g plain flour
20g cornflour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp sea salt
1 tbls dark brown sugar or muscavado sugar
190ml buttermilk
30ml vegetable oil
1 free-range egg separated

To serve
Golden syrup, cinnamon sugar, sour cream or creme fraiche

Method

Heat an electric waffle maker for a few minutes.  Put the flour, cornflour, baking powder and salt in a bowl and mix by hand to combine. Add the buttermilk, oil and egg yolk and whisk until smooth.

Put the egg white into another bowl and whisk until stiff peaks form. Gently fold the whisked egg white into the flour mixture. Carefully ladle 2 tablespoons of batter (or enough to cover the waffle plate) into the waffle maker. Cook until the waffle is a nice dark golden brown – my waffle maker lets me check the state of doneness simply by opening up and having a look. Carefully remove the cooked waffle to a warm plate and continue making.

Serve with golden syrup, cinnamon sugar and sour cream or creme fraiche. Makes about 6 waffles.

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Fig and Frangipane Muffins

 

 

Here’s another muffin recipe – I’m always experimenting with ingredients and tweaking recipes to create new taste and texture sensations.

Figs are plentiful in early autumn in Sydney, and a colleague brought me some beautiful bounty from the Southern Highlands from her very own fig tree. Lucky Ms L to have a tree bearing such luscious treats!

This recipe is based on one from Mike McKenearney’s “Kitchen by Mike” see here for details – with a bit of method thrown in from Matt Stone’s Greenhouse Muffins and my own flavour combo of fresh figs, stem ginger and frangipane.

Ingredients

150g plain flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

Pinch of sea salt

80g butter, softened

65ml vegetable oil

150g caster sugar

2 free-range eggs

75ml buttermilk (or ordinary milk with a good squeeze of lemon juice added)

6 fresh figs

6 pieces stem ginger, finely chopped

1/2 quantity of frangipane

A couple of teaspoonfuls of a good jam – apricot works well

Handful of flaked almonds, toasted

Frangipane

100g unsalted butter

100g caster sugar

1 free-range egg

Method

These quantities make 6 big muffins. You could probably get 8 or so daintier muffins from the mixture.

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C. Line a six-hole muffin tin with baking paper or paper cases.

In an electric mixer, whisk the butter, oil and sugar until smooth, and the sugar has dissolved. The mixture should look creamy.

Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Slowly add the buttermilk or lemon-soured milk.

Sift the flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and salt into another bowl and then add  1/2 cup of the flour mixture and whisk on a low speeed until smooth. Be careful not to overmix and this will toughen the muffins.

Fold in the remaining flour mixture, again being careful not to overmix.

Chop 4 of the figs into quarters and then half each quarter. Carefully fold the chopped figs and the chopped stem ginger into the muffin mixture and then spoon evenly into the baking papers or muffin cases.

To make the frangipane, cream the butter and caster sugar in a food processor, add the egg and ground almonds and process until smooth. (You will only need 1/2 this quantity, if that).

Mix a good teaspoonful of the frangipane into each muffin. It doesn’t matter if it’s not mixed in too well – it’s nice to have an almond surprise in the centre of the muffin!

Bake for 20 minutes or until a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean. Cool in the muffin tin for 10 minutes, then transfer the muffins to a wire rack and leave to cool completely.

When the muffins are cool, brush the top of each muffin with jam, then sprinkle on some toasted flaked almonds.

I decorated with slices of the remaining 2 figs. It would be nice too, to bake some fig slices on the top of the muffins. My track record of having baked fruit pieces stay on top of muffins and cakes is not good! They always sink. So I content myself with decorating the baked goods with fresh fruit.

Serve on their own or maybe with a spoonful of Greek yoghurt.

 

Eating out in Adelaide – From Freakshakes to Fine Dining

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Recently I had the good fortune to spend a few days in Adelaide, South Australia. I was attending a conference over three days, a perfect amount of time to sample some of the delights of Adelaide food. The trip fulfilled its promise: a really good conference with some great papers presented, and the opportunity to indulge in some lovely food experiences.

So what is the significance of the title of this post? Well there was fine dining, and then there was THE FREAKSHAKE. As a lover of all things sweet and creamy, this writer, having discovered this truly weird drink/food, has been keen to try one. Freakshakes, sadly most probably an ephemeral food trend, are milkshakes with all sorts of edible goodies piled on top and lots of syrup and sauce flowing over the top of the glass jar.

Somehow they are quite hard to find in Sydney, so when researching dining in Adelaide, I googled freakshakes and discovered St Louis House of Fine Ice Cream and Dessert http://st-louis.com.au/. As you can see from the photo I was not disappointed!

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I had the Peanut Butter Brownie Shake Peanut Butter Nutella milkshake, topped with a warm chocolate brownie and chocolate coated wafer balls. Drizzled with pure melted milk chocolate. My partner in culinary crime and academic adventure, the quirky Ms R, had the Salted Caramel Waffle Shake Salted Caramel milkshake, topped with warm Belgian Waffle, dulce de leche and sweet ’n salty popcorn.

But the highlights of the stay were discovering some really good restaurants, from chic to adventurous, all within a walk or an Uber drive from our city hotel. And there were a couple of great breakfast cafes, one – Stumps Bar and Kitchen, that looked like its name, ie a bar  – but which produced an amazingly beautiful plate of ricotta hotcakes with blueberries, lemon curd and cream with edible flowers… the photo at the top of the post says it all!  Here is the link: http://stumpsbar.com.au/

Press* food and wine, where we had our first dinner, is aptly named as the restaurant is situated in the old printing works of the newspaper The Adelaide Advertiser. A huge industrial space which suits the down to earth yet inventive cooking style. The restaurant specializes in offal. That option was not for us – we stuck with some great vegetarian options. A salad of ricotta balls and radicchio was fresh and pungent and a truffled mushroom & taleggio pithivier with cauliflower purée was unusual and delicious. However the Bombe Alaska with a peanut brittle and banana ice cream frozen centre was amazing…and it came to the table alight! Here is the link to the restaurant: http://pressfoodandwine.com.au/

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Next, tucked in a laneway reminiscent of Melbourne’s well known city lanes, was Peel St. The dining space is casual, with an open kitchen and bar side dining. That’s where we sat, watching the kitchen action and the prep of the beautiful dishes. The food was great, some of the best dishes we ate in Adelaide. There were two standouts.  Banana blossom chicken, chilli jam and coconut salad with peanuts and crispy shallot was an Asian inspired dish of deliciousness, with contrasting textures and intricate flavours. My photo, unfortunately, is not included as the low lighting didn’t do the dish justice. Dessert, which I did photograph, was a peanut parfait with chocolate mousse, brulee toffee banana and meringue cigars. It tasted as good as it looks! This is the Peel St link: http://www.peelst.com.au/.

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On the last night we visited Africola, a very cool eaterie with the focus on African food. As their website says “compact, simple restaurant with a western soundtrack, for African-inspired vegetables, grilled and smoked meats, flatbreads, pickles and natural wine.” We sat at the bar here too, literally a metre or so from the cooking and prep stations. We watched them cooking our flatbreads on the flame grill, which came to us with some smoky dips. A half cauliflower – cooked on the grill – came seasoned and dressed. A nice way to eat a sometimes predictable vegetable. This is the link: http://www.africola.com.au/

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Another tasty breakfast was Cafe Troppo, where sustainability, community and environment are key themes. Ms R had a traditional breakfast of seasoned scrambled eggs and gourmet bacon on local, hand-made sourdough. I was keen to try the stone-milled whole grain flour waffles, pressed to order, with Paris Creek whipped cream, bacon and thyme honey. Delicious waffles, but I’m not convinced about sweetened whipped cream with bacon… Link here: http://cafetroppoadelaide.com/

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Another nice foodie experience to mention in passing – the fabulous Adelaide Central Market – where one particular patesserie counter caught my eye with their salted caramel doughnuts. Ms R and I had to share one, of course!

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And on the third and last day of our conference, our hosts took us on a cultural tour to the Adelaide Hills, where we had lunch at Deviation Road Winery, which specializes in paellas cooked in enormous paella pans shown in the photo. Here is the link: http://www.deviationroad.com/

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My short sojurn in Adelaide was rewarded with some memorable dining experiences. It’s clearly a city with an exciting and varied food scene, relaxed vibe, and very friendly and knowledgeable service. Go visit!

 

 

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Strawberry Jam Crostata

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Quirky Niece No 1 gave me a really easy recipe for Crostata, or Italian jam tart. She acquired the recipe on a recent trip to Italy. She tells a lovely story, below in this post, of her time in Italy with Companion to Quirky Niece.

“So, as part of our spontaneous European holiday, we decided to hire a car and drive around Tuscany for 5 days. After a hairy hour or so battling peak-hour Florence traffic due to a GPS mayhap, we finally found ourselves out in the countryside and at our first airbnb accommodation, a sprawling country house on an agriturismo near Montepulciano. In the warm summer evenings we sat on the balcony, looking out at the glittering lights of the ancient city, and every morning, we ate a sumptuous breakfast prepared by our beautiful hosts, which included fresh cheeses, sliced meats and a wonderful jam tart. We could never finish it, so we took it with us on our adventures, only to find another one freshly baked the next day! On our final day, I asked our friendly host which baker she bought it from. Highly amused, she responded that she was a terrible cook, but this was her special foolproof recipe. In an instant, she quickly set her baby down and wrote up the ingredients on a post-it. And now, it has become my go-to entertaining recipe as well!  I use all kinds of jam, so long as they have delicious chunks of fruit, and I remember our host’s exhortations to prick the base thoroughly with a fork before spooning in the jam.”
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I made the crostata recently using this recipe. I made a quick strawberry jam for the filling, but any good quality store bought jam would do. In hindsight, my pastry was too thick – I would use a larger baking mold next time, for a more manageable pastry base.
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Ingredients

300g plain flour
½ sachet of baking powder (1 sachet = 11g)
150g sugar
100g butter
1 whole egg
2 egg yolks

Quantity of any good jam for the filling ( I used strawberry here)

Method

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C.  Line a tart mold with baking paper or you could simply grease a baking tray if you want a true rustic crostata.

Place the flour, baking powder and sugar in a food processor and pulse till the mixture just comes together.

Make a well  in the centre  and add the butter and egg and egg yolks and mix in gently until combined but not overworked.

Roll out the dough roughly  – remember this is not a precise tart – and line the tart mold. Or gently shape the dough into a round with a pastry rim on the baking tray. And prick the base – something I forgot to do this time!

Fill the tart with the jam and bake for 30-40 minutes until the pastry is golden and the jam bubbling.

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Berry, Apple, Golden Syrup and Oat Flapjacks

IMG_2186I found a recipe for flapjacks while surfing the internet for “tray bakes”. As a food etymologist I was intrigued by the name, not overly used in Australia. We tend to talk more of “slices”.

The following recipe is very loosely based on one of my finds, Blackberry and apple oaty flapjacks: http://www.goodtoknow.co.uk/recipes/511747/blackberry-and-apple-oaty-flapjacks.

My traybake turned out more of a tart as it was quite soft. I think the apple makes it soft, so you could try less apple to firm it up or cook it for longer.

My next incarnation of the flapjack will be apple-free and I’ll make the berries into jam before cooking. Watch this space!

Ingredients

1 large or 2 small apples, peeled and chopped

200g  rolled  oats

2 tsp cinnamon

2 tbs store bought caramel

200g fresh or frozen mixed berries

2 tbs golden syrup

Crumble topping:

60g rolled oats

1 tbs butter cut into small pieces

1 tbs golden syrup

Handful of flaked almonds

Method

Preheat the oven to 180°C. Grease a medium sized baking tin. I used a flan mold for something different.

Place the chopped apple in a saucepan with enough water to cover.  Put on the lid and cook until soft.  Drain the water and puree or mash the apple.

Mix the oats and the cinnamon in a large bowl, add the apple and caramel and combine well.

Spread the oat mixture Into the base of the tin or flan and spread out into an even layer.

Scatter the mixed berries on top of the oat mixture, having cut in half any larger berries such as strawberries.  Drizzle the golden syrup over the berries.

To make the crumble topping, combine oats, butter and extra golden syrup.

Spoon the crumble mixture over the berries, lastly scattering the flaked almonds.

Press down slightly to stick the layers together. Bake for 20-30 minutes or until the flapjack is golden brown and the berry juices are bubbling.

Remove from the oven and leave to cool completely before cutting into pieces.

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Shakshouka: The 5-2 Diet

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This is a great recipe from the Fast Diet Recipe Book by Mimi Spencer.
The 5-2 Fast Diet Intermittent Fasting really works, and is great for people like me who love their food and don’t want to deprive themselves every day! It’s based on the idea of 2 days of very low calorie intake – 500 calories for women, 600 for men – and 5 days of normal eating.
Worth checking out if you haven’t already done so. Dr Michael Mosley is the brains behind the concept.
http://thefastdiet.co.uk/
“Shakshouka is a dish of eggs poached in a sauce of tomatoes, chili peppers and onions often spiced  with cumin. It is believed to have a Tunisian  origin”.
I love the dish as it’s so tasty and moreish and is great for breakfast or lunch or dinner!
I omitted the red pepper in the original recipe as I don’t like them. Feel free to put it back in for the authentic recipe.
The recipe serves 2, although even eating the whole dish yourself doesn’t break the calorie bank.
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Ingredients

1 1/2 tsp olive oil
1/2 medium onion, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, peeled and crushed
400g tin of chopped tomatoes
1 tbsp tomato paste
1/2 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp chilli powder
1/2 tsp ground cumin
Pinch of cayenne pepper
Salt and pepper
2 free range eggs
1 tbsp parsley and coriander, chopped

Method

Heat a medium sized frying pan and add the olive oil. Add the chopped onion and sauté for a few minutes until it begins to soften. Add garlic and cook for 5-7 minutes.

Stir in the tomatoes and tomato paste, with the spices, and simmer for a further 5-7 minutes until the sauce starts to reduce.
Season, and crack the eggs directly over the tomato mixture. Cover with a lid or a large plate and cook until the egg whites are firm but the yolks still runny.

Scatter the chopped parsley and coriander over the top of the dish and serve, rustic style, in the frying pan.IMG_1821

 

 

 

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