Saturday, 22 December 2007

Fettucini with Sweet Tomato Sauce & Baked Ricotta

IM BACK!! I have not posted for 2 months! And it has been very frustrating! Over the last two months I've had a lot of changes in my life. I lost my job as my employer developed terminal cancer and closed down the practice. When I finished up there in late October I took two weeks off and went to Queensland to visit my brother and his wife who are expecting their first baby in April. Then I started a new job which has much much longer hours than my previous job! And on top of that Andy started a new job as a truck driver, travelling all over Australia - so I'm home alone a lot more - thus no one to cook for! :-( But I'm on Xmas holidays now, and so is Andy - so I finally finally was able to cook last night. And so this was the choice. Andy requested pasta, and I'd had my eye on this Jamie Oliver recipe for some time...

It was really really simple. I feared it would be a bit bland once I actually started putting the ingredients together. But it was delicious. Really filling, yet very light. Andy described it as refreshing. Didn't take long. Incredibly simple. And really yum served with hot crusty garlic bread..

450 gram piece of ricotta cheese
extra virgin olive oil
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 flat teaspoon of dried oregano
1 flat teaspoon of chilli flakes
1 onion, peeled and finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and finely chopped
a knob of butter
2 x 400g tins of good quality plum tomatoes
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1/2 teaspoon sugar
455g fettucini
a handful of fresh basil leaves, torn
2 handfuls of freshly grated parmesan cheese

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees celcius. Rub the ricotta all over with the olive oil, salt, pepper, chilli and oregano. Place on a baking tray and cook in the oven for 20 minutes until golden and firm. In a pan, slowly fry the onion and garlic in the butter and a good drizzle of olive oil. Cook for four minutes until sweet and softened. Add the tomatoes, simmer gently for about 15 minutes, then break the tomatoes up with a spoon. Add the balsamic vinegar and the sugar and stir until you have a fine tomato sauce.

Meanwhie, bring a large pan of salted water to teh boil and cook teh fetuccini according to the packet instructions. When cooked, drain and reserve some of the cooking water. Toss the pasta with teh tomato sauce and add a little of the reserved water to loosen if necessary. Correct the seasoning carefully to taste, and then, working quickly, add most of the basil and parmesan cheese. Place into a warmed bowl, rip over some extra basil and grate over a little extra parmesan. Either crumble the baked ricotta over the pasta, or serve it at the table with a spoon in it and let everyone crumble some over their plates...


December Daring Baker's Challenge - Yule Log

And so, it was time for my fifth Daring Bakers Challenge! I can’t believe it! I never believed I was worthy, let alone capable of successfully completing 5 challenges! (I had to skip November as our oven door exploded into hundred’s of pieces).

This month Lis and Ivonne, the creators of the Daring Bakers group I am a part of, took control and set the challenge - the Yule Log. I didn’t know anything about them. When I Googled it and saw a pic, I recognised it.

I waited till the last possible opportunity to make and give it as a Christmas gift to the gorgeous Madden sisters. I have to say, I went in pretty confident, didn’t really pay close attention. Somehow that worked for me, as I had no problems with the making side of things. I’ve been checking in on our Daring Bakers website, and quite a few people had problems with the buttercream, for example. I had made the genoise style cake previously and I have to tell you it was so much easier with my new sexy red KitchenAid!

Unfortunately, I got too big for my boots and forgot to put the cake smeared with the buttercream in the fridge before I rolled it up. Once the cake had cooled down I applied the buttercream and rolled it and the bloody thing cracked on each turn! Urgh. I was devastated! I powered on and smeared the whole thing with the best tasting frosting I have ever, ever made or tasted and tried to make it pass for a log. As you can see it didn’t have too much luck.

You need a piping bag for the meringue mushrooms. I don’t have one, but will be buying myself one soon! I tried to make my own from bakingpaper. Therefore, my mushrooms didn’t really work. Good trick though, I’d like to try them again.

I’m pleased with the cooking and tasting side of this fun December challenge.

The recipients of the Yule Log, loved it and said the taste was divine, so all was well in the end.
I’ll definitely be making this again and will endeavour to make it appear more like a log. I‘ll know when to pay attention!

If you’d like to see how the other Daring Bakers went please visit our blogroll.

Plain Genoise:
3 large eggs
3 large egg yolks
pinch of salt
¾ cup of sugar
½ cup plain flour
¼ cup cornflour

Coffee Buttercream:
4 large egg whites
1 cup sugar
340g unsalted butter, softened
2 tablespoons instant espresso powder
2 tablespoons brandy

one 10 x 15 inch jelly-roll pan that has been buttered and lined with parchment paper and then buttered again.

Set a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 200C.

Half-fill a medium saucepan with water and bring it to a boil over high heat. Lower the heat so
the water is simmering.

Whisk the eggs, egg yolks, salt and sugar together in the bowl of a heavy-duty mixer. Place over the pan of simmering water and whisk gently until the mixture is just lukewarm, about 100 degrees if you have a thermometer (or test with your finger - it should be warm to the touch).

Attach the bowl to the mixer and, with the whisk attachment, whip on medium-high speed until the egg mixture is cooled (touch the outside of the bowl to tell) and tripled in volume.

The egg foam will be thick and will form a slowly dissolving ribbon falling back onto the bowl of whipped eggs when the whisk is lifted.

While the eggs are whipping, stir together the flour and cornflour.

Sift one-third of the flour mixture over the beaten eggs. Use a rubber spatula to fold in the flour mixture, making sure to scrape all the way to the bottom of the bowl on every pass through the batter to prevent the flour mixture from accumulating there and making lumps. Repeat with another third of the flour mixture and finally with the remainder.

Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top.

Bake the genoise for about 10 to 12 minutes. Make sure the cake doesn’t overbake and become too dry or it will not roll properly. (Mine only need 5 minutes).

While the cake is baking, begin making the buttercream.

Once the cake is done (a tester will come out clean and if you press the cake lightly it will spring back), remove it from the oven and let it cool on a rack.

Whisk the egg whites and sugar together in the bowl of an electric mixer. Set the bowl over simmering water and whisk gently until the sugar is dissolved and the egg whites are hot.

Attach the bowl to the mixer and whip with the whisk on medium speed until cooled. Switch to the paddle and beat in the softened butter and continue beating until the buttercream is smooth. Dissolve the instant coffee in the liquor and beat into the buttercream.

Filling and frosting the log:
Run a sharp knife around the edges of the genoise to loosen it from the pan.

Turn the genoise layer over (unmolding it from the sheet pan onto a flat surface) and peel away the paper.

Carefully invert your genoise onto a fresh piece of parchment paper.

Spread with half the coffee buttercream (or whatever filling you’re using).

Use the parchment paper to help you roll the cake into a tight cylinder.

Transfer back to the baking sheet and refrigerate for several hours.

Unwrap the cake. Trim the ends on the diagonal, starting the cuts about 2 inches away from each end.

Position the larger cut piece on each log about 2/3 across the top.

Cover the log with the reserved buttercream, making sure to curve around the protruding stump.

Streak the buttercream with a fork or decorating comb to resemble bark.

Transfer the log to a platter and decorate with your mushrooms and whatever other decorations you’ve chosen.

Meringue Mushrooms:
3 large egg whites, at room temperature
¼ teaspoon cream of tartar
½ cup sugar
1/3 cup icing sugar
Unsweetened cocoa powder for dusting

Preheat the oven to 110C.

Line 2 baking sheets with parchment. Have ready a pastry bag fitted with a small (no. 6) plain tip. In a bowl, using a mixer on medium-low speed, beat together the egg whites and cream of tartar until very foamy. Slowly add the granulated sugar while beating. Increase the speed to high and beat until soft peaks form when the beaters are lifted. Continue until the whites hold stiff, shiny peaks. Sift the icing sugar over the whites and, using a rubber spatula, fold in until well blended.

Scoop the mixture into the bag. On one baking sheet, pipe 48 stems, each ½ inch (12 mm.) wide at the base and tapering off to a point at the top, ¾ inch (2 cm.) tall, and spaced about ½ inch (12 mm.) apart. On the other sheet, pipe 48 mounds for the tops, each about 1-1/4 inches (3 cm.) wide and ¾ inch (2 cm.) high, also spaced ½ inch (12 mm.) apart. With a damp fingertip, gently smooth any pointy tips. Dust with cocoa. Reserve the remaining meringue.
Bake until dry and firm enough to lift off the paper, 50-55 minutes. Set the pans on the counter and turn the mounds flat side up. With the tip of a knife, carefully make a small hole in the flat side of each mound. Pipe small dabs of the remaining meringue into the holes and insert the stems tip first. Return to the oven until completely dry, about 15 minutes longer. Let cool completely on the sheets.

Garnish your Yule Log with the mushrooms.

Wednesday, 19 December 2007

Beef Curry (No fat if you wish)


We're on this ridiculous diet. One of the 7 days we're allowed only beef and tomatoes. Last week I struggled with this particular day, so this week I decided to try a curry without any fat. For all you slim people, follow the recipe below. Anyone like me, struggling to lose a few pounds - I toasted the whole spices (no oil) in the pan and then dumped everything else and allowed it to simmer for 3 hours. It was fantastic. It was incredibly difficult for me to restrain myself and not fry off all the spices and onion etc like the usual ceremony for curries so I was surprised it still tasted great!

2 tins of tomatoes
3 bay leaves
3 cardamom pods, crushed
2 cinnamon sticks
1/2 cup of water
1 onion, sliced
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 tsp ginger, freshly grated
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp chilli flakes
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp cumin powder
400 gm diced beef
2-3 tbsp of oil
2 potatoes, diced
2 carrots, chopped
fresh coriander leaves, chopped

Heat the oil in a pan and when hot add the cumin seeds, cinnamon, cardamon, chill and bay leaves.

When the seeds start to pop, add the onion, ginger and garlic and stir till it a nice golden brown and earthy smell.

Add the tins of tomato, beef, water, salt, turmeric and ground cumin.

Cover and simmer on a low heat for 1 to 3 hours. The longer the better. You want the tomatoes to become nice and thick. Depending on how long you are going to leave it on the heat, add the potatoes and carrots for the last 30-40 minutes.

Remove from heat, garnish with the chopped coriander.


Monday, 17 December 2007

Christmas Cake

I’m on and off with giving everyone goods from my kitchen. It’s been a few years I think. Last time was litres and litres a sweet chilli sauce from scratch. That was a never ending task, I swear, I was sticky for weeks.

This year I couldn’t decide what to make. I tossed around many ideas. In the end, I picked up all my baking courage and attempted the Christmas Cake.

I had to make quite a few so there were bowls and bowls of soaking fruit. I made them in 2 at a time, which my largest bowl was only just able to take. This morning, my fussy boss (who will be a recipient) moaned of the Christmas Cake he got on the weekend and how it resembled the Sahara Dessert and he threw I away! Oh dear, I hope mine is better! When we taste tested we were impressed, it’s moreish to say the least!

500g sultanas
300g currants
175g seedless raisins
150g dried apricots
1 large tablespoon bitter marmalade
150g mixed peel
Grated zest of 2 oranges
120ml brandy
300g plain flour
1 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp mixed spice
1 tsp salt
220g softened unsalted butter
200g light-brown sugar
4 large free-range eggs
100g blanched almonds
Glace cherries

Put all the dried fruit, marmalade and the orange zest into a large non-reactive bowl mix thoroughly, and pour in the brandy and mix again. Leave for 24 hours at room temperature, turning the mixture once or twice to distribute the brandy evenly.

Preheat the oven to 140C and grease a 24cm round cake tin. Flatten out a cardboard box and cut a round to fit the base of the cake tin and line with baking-paper.

Sift the flour, spices and salt into a large bowl.

Cream the butter and brown sugar until pale and thick and the sugar has dissolved. In a separate bowl, beat the eggs and add slowly a tablespoon at a time into the butter and sugar mix. If you hurry this process it can curdle, so take your time. When all the egg is in, gently fold in the spiced flour and then fold in the soaked fruits.

Tip the batter into the prepared tin. Smooth the top and decorate with the blanched almonds and glace cherries. Stand a baking dish of water in the oven, on the shelf below the cake, which will help the cake stay moist. Bake for 2 and a half to 3 hours.

Remove the cake from the oven and allow the cake to cool in the tin for 30 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Wrap the cake in a doubled layer of baking-paper and then in a doubled layer of foil and store in an airtight tin.


Friday, 14 December 2007

Apologies for the lack of posts


How good does all that look? Mmm. We returned home to Adelaide for my Dad’s 60th birthday. This is the wonderful Indian meal we had at Jasmin (where I worked once upon a time). Thanks for making it all so special Amrik and his team.

My oven exploded (ye, its great for all that Christmas baking I had planned!) and I’ve been detoxing for 10 days, so you truly don’t even want to hear what has been passing my lips, let alone see it! I love this blogging business, but my hips really don’t, so I had to take desperate measures. Sorry to be a bore, but I have a few things planned for the weekend, so come check it out next week :)


Thursday, 6 December 2007

My Mums Dutch Apple Pie


My gorgeous Mum made this apple pie for my Dads birthday the other day. My Mum is amazing in the kitchen. Many of my friends hold on to memories of her cooking years later. The thing is, she is not so good at baking. Her magic is with savouries and dinners. However there is one thing she can bake - an apple pie, and wow, is it perfect every time!

On your birthday in Holland, the tradition is that everyone comes over. Its a visiting day as such. Its a great tradition as you get to see everyone. I don't think it would work in our Aussie culture though, as its announced and everyone expects cake and coffee. 'Gebakje' its called, usually served with lots of cream.

So this is what Mum made for all the visitors who came over for Dads 60th birthday this year. They were pretty lucky if you ask me!

300 grams plain flour
200 grams butter
150 grams caster sugar
2 eggs

1 kg granny smith apples, peeled and sliced
100 grams sugar
100 grams sultanas, rinsed under cold water
Ground cinnamon
lemon rind
2 tbs flour
apricot jam

Preheat the oven to 170C.

Mix the flour, butter (cut the butter into fine pieces), egg and caster sugar in a bowl and knead into the dough with your hands till smooth.

Mix the apples slices, with the sultanas, sugar, cinnamon, lemon rind and 2 tbs of flour.

Roll out the dough [in between sheets of clingwrap] with a rolling pin. Fit this into an buttered tin and cut off the overhanging edges.

Add the apple mixture into the tin.

Roll out the left-over dough and cut long and shorter strips and place these in lattice style over the top of the apple pie. Cut the overhanging edges.

Bake for 1 hour.

Remove from the oven and brush the top with apricot jam.

Serve with sweetened cream.

Happy birthday Daddo xx


Tuesday, 4 December 2007

Melanie's Chocolate Cake

We moved around a lot when I was a kid. To be fair, as an adult I haven't really stopped. This has its up and down sides as you can probably imagine.

A huge positive is the number of wonderful people who have influenced my life and my character along the way, some of which I didn't realise until years later. Recently I have been back in touch with one such individual, Melanie. We were dear friends in the first few years I was in highschool, I moved away and we lost touch. I've really enjoyed the reading what shes now doing with her life and where its taken her, its comforting to read someone's familiar style with a new twist.

I have 2 clear memories of hanging out at her house, one was her gorgeous cat and the other was Melanie's Chocolate Cake. I hadn't made it for years and attempted it on the weekend and it was just as easy and as tasty as I remember.

Ah ye, BTW, ignore my decorating skills, it was my first real attempt. I have some practicing to do!

1 1/3 cup self raising flour
1 cup sugar
1/2 tsp bi-carb soda
1/2 cup cocoa
1/4 oz butter
3 eggs
1 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla essence

Grease tin and pre-heat oven 180C.

All dry ingredients together in a bowl and add milk, vanilla and butter and beat for 2 minutes.

Add all the eggs and beat for a further 2 minutes.

Bake for 25-40 minutes.