Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Pantry purge

I’ve no time for complicated handshakes, elaborate flower arrangements, or any other non essential knick knackery. I’ve teenagers, full time job and very high maintenance hairstyle, so I’m for anything that makes life easier.
A couple of years ago we had great good fortune to install new kitchen. Was Dream come true as Old kitchen  v. Bad. Just had no idea that before ascending to glories of new kitchen status, one must first endure purgatory of “between kitchen”.
6 Long ghastly weeks –no  running water, no oven and no storage. Gaah!
I cook a lot, no I mean A LOT and subsequentl hunting for equipment and ingredients I knew positively were SOMEWHERE nearly drove me to brink of madness. (bad words may have been uttered but can’t confirm that).
Eventually cabinet maker condescended to install kitchen (turned out he had brain injury and wasn't a well man- hence long difficult delays). Imagine the bliss, I had lovely time turfing out things that were dated, damaged or just plain useless. (gourmet gift hampers – who eats that stuff?).
Having biffed out all old stuff and re arranged remainder on pristine new shelves, was a moment of epiphany. Since am not only one to loathe foraging in the pantry and rummaging for things; instituting annual pantry purge would make everyones life easier.
To put it bluntly if it’s been in pantry for more than a year and you didn’t eat it, you are never going to eat it. Either you don’t know how to use it or just don’t fancy it, so chuck it out and move on. Alcohol is exception here!
Throw out any spices more than a year old – make a note to replace only if you plan to use- spices are best purchased in small quantities and replaced regularly or they go stale. Whole spices stay fresh much longer than ground. A spice mill or mortar and pestle is a useful investment for grinding cloves, cardamom, cinnamon, peppercorns, coriander and cumin seeds, allspice and nutmeg, star anise and dried chillies...

Oils and foods with higher oil content such as nuts and brown rice will go rancid in the presence of oxygen. Heat and light accelerate this process.

Do they smell fresh? If not throw them out, not only do they taste bad, they may be bad for you. Good quality oils should be sold in dark bottles to protect them from light. If you buy oil in bulk go for a can and decant into dark bottles for everyday use.

Store nuts in the freezer to protect them from infestations of pantry moth and to keep them fresh – no need to defrost, just use straight from the freezer.

White rice, white flour and most dried beans can be safely stored for up to a year. Legumes will keep longer but will require longer cooking time the older they are. Store in airtight containers to prevent infestations.

Most pantry invaders are not harmful if consumed, but are very off putting. Prevention is better than cure.

Canned foods will last for years, check for rust and discard if dented but why have you still got it after years?

Take a long hard look at the old stuff, why hasn’t it been used yet? Did you buy it for a particular recipe then never get around to it? Do you know how to use it?

Did your husband buy it!

There is a general similarity operating around old ingredients – the things that routinely end up in the too hard basket. The following can be found languishing in the back of many of our pantries, forlorn and neglected, begging to be used.

Couscous and mixed bean salad

I love recipes that can be adapted to whatever ingredients are to hand. This couscous salad is a real store cupboard standby, add other ingredients such as red capsicum, olives or tuna if you have them otherwise enjoy it as is.

1 cup instant couscous
1 cup boiling water
1 tsp instant stock powder
1 can mixed bean salad
1 celery stalk finely chopped
1 glove garlic crushed
1 tsp ground cumin
1 handful fresh coriander finely chopped (parsley is an acceptable alternative)
A squeeze of lime juice

Place the couscous into a bowl, add the stock powder and cumin to the boiling water, pour the liquid over the couscous and cover with a tea towel. Set aside for a few minutes to absorb the liquid.

While the couscous is soaking finely chop the celery, coriander and garlic and drain the beans (do not rinse). When the couscous has absorbed all the liquid fluff it with a fork and mix in all the other ingredients. Squeeze in the lime juice and serve.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

happy endings

Haven't written for a while as had to have big op and bed rest on doctors orders. Sounds bad but actually 6 weeks rest highly recommended, particularly if accompanied by powerful pain relieving medication and plenty of good books.After lolling on couch for weeks though, legs became v. achey so Rich booked us both a massage at spa place.
Never had massage before as v.expensive and just a bit creepy, but was treat, and we were to have massage together thereby substantially reducing potential creepiness.
Spa place was darkened room filled with candles and lots of flowery thing or others, statues and pan pipey whale song music. All much as expected.We were led to side by side massage beds, and instructed to strip to knickers and lie face down. Beds were equipped with face hole for face down lying without asphyxsiation, and bowl of water containing floating flowers and candles positioned underneath for entertainment while face is in hole. We arranged selves and waited for massaging to start.

I am deeply self concious person who would opt for Edwardian Bathing tent at beach if one was available, so by now am rigid with tension. Massaging started with feet, but head was proving too small for head hole in bed, raising alarming possibility of face slipping into watery flower bowl. With massaging  fully underway, was difficult to move as masseur progressively working far up legs and any sudden move might at very least give wrong idea or worst result in result in injury!

Tried prop head on side but kept slipping, and resting head on arms swiftly vetoed by masseur. Eventually executed a kind of dolphin flip which got head further up rim of hole only to be firmly dragged by ankles back down bed by masseur, who promptly moved on to bum massaging bit which is really rather good, but would have enjoyed so much more if not in screaming agony from supporting weight of head. Also about to slip into coma from blood pooling in face. With black spots forming in front of eyes, finally managed to wedge head sideways in hole which allowed blood flow to return to extremities and restore normal cognitive function.

Tried hard to relax but masseurs were carrying on lengthy whispered conversation in foreign language throughout, which I knew instinctively related to our candidacy in their ugliest bodies of week poll. When I did manage to relax was only to be tapped on shoulder and informed our time was up.
Had actually gone super fast as was really v. good, and once I got my head stabilised felt wonderfully refreshed and invigorated and a bit silly. There was no creepy "flip you over and start on the top" nor offerings of the "happy ending" that I'd heard about from others, just a really lovely relaxing treat which, given the chance, I would do again in a heart beat.

Only thing left to do after such wonderful indulgence - relax in patch of sunshine with a long cool drink in hand. Here's one you can make up in advance and leave in the fridge.

Sangria is a Spanish wine and fruit punch. Made from whatever fruit is in season and a bottle of plonk, Sangria makes a cheap drop go a long way .
Vary the ingredients to suit your taste and budget, you can add ¼ cup brandy or white rum or complimentary fruit liqueur such as Grand Marnier, or Cointreau if you want more alcoholic kick or try different fruit juices such as cranberry or apple, you can use fizzy wine or fizzy soft drink if you like a bit of fizz in your drink. The only rules are to let the fruit macerate in the wine overnight and serve the sangria icy cold from a big jug.

Makes 1.5 litres

750 ml bottle of cheap but full bodied red wine
Selection of fresh fruit – a nectarine, an orange, a lime, a few strawberries …whatevers in season
2 cups orange juice
¼ cup caster sugar
1 cup lemonade - optional

The night before slice the fruit and add to the wine. Refrigerate over night to allow the fruit flavours to infuse in the wine – 6 – 8 hours.  
Add the orange juice and sugar and the lemonade if using and taste. The sweetness can be corrected by adding a little more sugar if required.
Sangria can be fizzy or flat, red or white, basic or flash but always ice cold and fruity!

Monday, June 13, 2011

Putting the brakes on

Have aching leg today - is from pressing against floor of car while conducting teenage driving lesson. Hadn't realised how much driving is instinctive, particularly braking. Find self slamming foot to car floor whenever we approach - well anything pretty much.

Am trying hard to conceal my terror, keeping clenched fists tucked out of sight, and offering carefully worded directions, if sometimes sounding a little shrill.

My own parents went from cavalier to crazed after only two horrifying lessons (one from each parent) leaving me to mercies of driving instructor with dual control, lucky lucky man. And my ever patient brother in law, enlisted provide the "mileage". Hadn't appreciated until now, what they were going through.

My girl is doing fine but I am wreck. No going back though as have to have surgery soon and wont be able to drive myself for a while. Will need her to drive me around- God help us all.

Great result with 3 point turns the other night, but we're currently avoiding main thoroughfares due to alarming incident involving fellow food writer and ardent walker Annabelle White, a pedestrian crossing, a panic attack and van load of hot young men. Suffice to say Annabelle lucky to be alive and we are sticking to back roads for foreseeable future.

Belle does appreciate the lessons and regularly reciprocates by offering to make dinner. One of her standby's and our family faves is Peanut Chicken and rice - a one pan comfort food dish that teenagers can not only make, but will actually like.

Peanut Chicken and Rice

This one pan dish has the comfort food qualities of risotto but a bit more zing. Serve it with salad or a green veg. Left-over’s can be made into patties like risotto cakes.

1 tbsp oil
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts thinly sliced
1 onion chopped
3 cloves garlic crushed
1 400 can of chopped tomatoes
¼ cup crunchy peanut butter
1 tbsp curry powder
3 cups chicken stock
1½ cups basmati or jasmine rice
Large pinch of thyme
½ tsp salt

Heat the oil in a large saucepan. Cook the chicken slices until sealed then set aside. Add the onion and garlic to the pan and cook till soft. Return the chicken to the pan and mix in the tomatoes, peanut butter and curry powder and thyme and mix well to disperse the peanut butter through the mixture.

Add the chicken stock and bring to the boil. When the mixture is boiling stir in the salt and rice. Return the mixture to the boil then cover and reduce the heat. Cook for 20 minutes on low then check to see if all the liquid is absorbed and the rice cooked. Serve with a salad or green vegetables.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

you call it a smoke alarm I call it a dinner bell

Feb through to May its celebration Central at ours. Kicking off with Valentines day, the 15th is my sisters birthday, then my Dads, mine,my daughters, Easter, Rich's birthday, my nieces birthday Mothers day, ANZAC day and my Father in Laws b'day - all within 6 weeks. Whew! its a lot of Cake, also a lot of fun.

Is a challenge to make each special and memorable. Belles 2nd birthday and most recently her 18th are beyond memorable and likely to become stuff of family legend.

The 2nd birthday descended into complete chaos as soon as little friends arrived. I'd set up low trestle for kids to use as party table, resting old door on couple of empty crates, covered with cloth and plates of party food kids couldn't tell wasn't very stable - 2 -3 yr olds only barely human anyway.
Birthday girl, known to her family as "Cyclone Bella" for her tendency to leave trail of destruction in her wake, lent on it, sending entire table top and contents onto floor, in avalanche of party food, at which point kids thought it was like lolly scramble and dove for flying sausage rolls and cupcakes. Grown ups reinstated table and restored order only for it to happen again, twice.
All attempts at civility completely abandoned when someones kid kicked football across room. Ball landed squarely in middle of cake, impact sent table top slipping inexorably to carpet once again - At that point decided to just let them go for it. Was like lord of the flies as they scrabbled up the party food from the floor, the table, the ball...haven't laughed so hard in ages.

That two year old just turned 18, which must make me about 200 now. Anyway, Family Tradition dictates birthday person chooses menu for your big family dinner. Belle chose Ham a la Christmas eve, Pomme Dauphinoise - layers of potato sprinkled with a little garlic and salt and cream, slow cooked until tender and crispy on top. Arteries contracting at thought, but it is sooo good (trust the French to Kill you with Kindness).
We decorated and covered every surface with candles, accented with pink decorations and flowers, complete with floating candles in bowls of flowers on table - so pretty.
All went swimmingly, ham was Triumph, pototatoes eye rollingly good. Baked Alaska filled with Ginger nut ice cream was whipped out of freezer and slipped into hot oven to lightly brown, seconds later, spiked with sparklers, baptised with brandy, placed on a cake stand and set alight with a flourish. The flaming, sparkling, show stopping dessert was placed in front of the birthday girl, or at least cake stand was. Baked Alaska had taken leave of stand and was moving at alarming rate. Heat separated it from its base and it rocketed in flaming glory off the cake stand, only coming to rest when it collided with the table decorations in a retina searingly bright solar flare.

Was like watching a Viking funeral barge, as pudding blindly flamed its way down the the length of the table, flanked by awe struck family members some of whom likely thought this all part of the show. Rich was frozen in horror but I, never one to waste a good dessert, scrambled in between the relations and slipped my hand under the incandescent mound and lobbed it back onto the plate but not before we had burned a substantial impression into the dining table.

The dessert was a hit, and the daughter delighted but think next year we might just go to a restaurant.

Baked Alaska with Ginger nut ice cream

I used to think my mum was so clever when she made baked Alaska. Putting ice cream in the oven then setting it alight was culinary alchemy. Now my kids gasp with amazement as the golden tipped meringue covered “Bombe” emerges from the oven. This one is filled with Ginger nut ice cream. It’s dead easy, quick to make and can be made and frozen a day ahead.

Time to make:25 minutes plus freezing
Serves: 8-10

1 litre reduced vanilla ice-cream
½ packet of ginger nut biscuits – we use Griffins
1 thick trifle sponge
3 egg whites
¾ cup caster sugar
40 ml brandy- optional

A 1 litre - 1.2 litre capacity bowl
Cling film

Remove the ice cream from the freezer and allow it to soften but not melt.
Tear off a long piece of cling film and lay it inside the bowl covering the base of the bowl with the excess length hanging over the sides. Spread it to line the sides of the bowl as best you can.
Slice the sponge in half horizontally to make two sponge sheets. Cut one of the sheets into triangles and arrange the triangles in the base of the bowl, cutting and trimming (and squashing if needed) to completely cover the base of the bowl. Cut the remaining sheet of sponge into strips to cover the sides of the bowl, again trimming and packing so there are no gaps. It’s easy and quick to do.
Place the biscuits into a bag and smash them with a rolling pin until crumbs. Using a large spoon, fold the crumbs into the softened ice cream.
Pack the ice cream into the sponge lined bowl and fold the excess cling film over the top. Place into the freezer to re freeze.
When the ice cream is frozen again prepare the meringue. Place the egg whites in a clean bowl completely free from any grease. Beat with an electric beater until it forms firm peaks, then beat in the caster sugar a spoonful at a time. When all the sugar is incorporated and the ice cream has frozen solid, remove the bowl from the freezer and invert the bowl over a heat proof plate or platter. Using the cling film to gently pull, easing the “bombe” out of the bowl.
Using a spatula, pile the meringue onto the Bombe, working from the top down, quickly cover it in a thick layer of meringue. Take a bread and butter knife and use the tip to make swirls of meringue all over the bombe- this all only takes a few minutes.
The bombe can now be re frozen for use the following day or it can be baked.
To bake the Bombe pre heat the oven to 220°. When the oven is hot take the bombe from the freezer and place directly into the oven. Bake for 5-10 minutes until golden. To flame the bomb, heat the brandy in a small saucepan then set it alight and pour over the cooked meringue bombe.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Greedy girl abroad

Haven't blogged for a few weeks as was flat out gearing up for long awaited week away. Very long awaited. Rich wanted to go to Grand Prix in Melbourne for 40th b'day but was around time dg was born, and were so poor trip to library rated as big splash out.
Back then, while not exactly huddled round candle flame for warmth, we'd have laughed like drains at the suggestion of overseas trip, as could barely scrape up $20 for Kindy trip!

10 years, 8 books and Rich now working for "the man", we finally fulfilled our Melbourne Grand Prix dream. When we told sister and brother in law our plans, response was along lines of goody, when do we leave? - Fab, they knew Melbourne well - also meant Rich had bloke to take to race day leaving Fran and I to mercies of Melbourne shops. Bliss.

Is very foody city, entire first day was spent lurching from Macarons to Cup cakes, Boreks to brioche...had slowed down a little by the end of the week, as belt very tight and feet agony. Utter highlight was tapas at MoVida - recommended by several FB fans - Also amazing brioche filled with custard and bitter choc from patisserie at Victoria market. Am now constantly craving spicy lamb borek and will need to learn to make some, and melt in the mouth Gnocchi with a slow cooked lamb ragout. Pretty much all peasant influenced cuisine.

Breakfasts were also highlight -Fran made bircher muesli soaked in orange juice each night and topped it off with passion fruit yoghurt to serve - tastes of paradise, tropical islands and drinks with little umbrellas in like might be served on The Love Boat.

Most amazing thing was didn't cook a meal for 7 whole days - first time in over 20 years! do like cooking, but really liked not cooking for a change.

Frans Breakfast Paradiso

per person: a small serve of good quality un toasted muesli with tropical dried fruits

orange juice - enough to soak muesli

Greek yogurt with passion fruit pulp either ready made or mix your own

A fresh peach, nectarine or some melon - optional

The night before mix the orange juice into the muesli and leave in the fridge overnight to soften.

To serve, stir through a big dollop of passion fruit yoghurt, add some chopped fresh fruit such as a peach, nectarine or some melon if in season.

Eat while lolling about reading paper and follow with excellent coffee and if poss shopping for shoes, handbags or trying on expensive perfume.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

out of the frying pan

Has been a horror week in NZ- tradgedy on epic scale as a loved historic city crumbles under the forces of nature, indicriminately robbing us forever of treasured people and places. For those who are left the losses this week are incalculable,mind numbing and energy sapping. When grief is at its most acute even mundane tasks seem monumental. Hunger is no respecter of grief though, nor will go away simply because you have no kitchen or water. So how do you feed the family or the neighbours or even just yourself with no running water, no power and little or no equipment? One pan on the barbecue if neccesary will do - in fact if you have no frying pan available a foil roasting pan from the supermarket will suffice.

Tin Pan Tucker- Chicken with Couscous

Couscous is light, filling and trebles in volume when cooked which takes only a few minutes so its ideal camping tucker.
This dish is easy to do in an Aluminium roasting pan on the barbecue or campfire, you can also of course do it in the oven at home in a roasting pan.

Serves 4 – 6
1 disposable foil roasting pan – available in supermarkets
1 sheet of aluminium foil to cover the pan
8-10 chicken drumsticks with the skin removed or skinless thighs
2 cloves garlic crushed
2 rashers of bacon with the fat removed chopped
4 carrots peeled and sliced
1 head broccoli or other green vegetable chopped
1 tsp thyme
2 cups sterilised hot water
4 teaspoons chicken stock
2 cups couscous
Cooking spray

Pre heat the barbecue grill to a medium flame Spray the pan with cooking spray or rub lightly with oil and add all the ingredients except the couscous.
Cover the pan with the foil crimping it tightly around the edges and place on the prepared grill. Cook for 40 minutes giving it a gentle shake half way through the cooking time.
Remove the pan from the heat and take off the foil cover. Stir in the cous cous and cover with the foil for 3-4 minutes until the liquid is absorbed and the couscous fluffy. Serve immediately.

Cooks Tip: Aluminium foil pans weigh next to nothing and are reasonably inexpensive however if you want you can re use the pan and the foil covering over and over. Just wash them carefully as you don’t want punctures.
Frozen meat will stay frozen in a well packed chilly bin for two days, gradually defrosting during day two.

Tin pan tucker - Hoi sin Chicken and rice

This cooking method is so easy, just throw the ingredients in the pan and cover with foil. Sling onto the Barbie then no pans to wash as you can crush the pan up and put it in the rubbish.
I allow two drumsticks per adult or 1 for littlies, adjust the amounts according to what you need.

Serves 4 or more
1 disposable aluminium Foil roasting pan, – available from supermarkets
a sheet of foil large enough to cover the pan.
8 Chicken drumsticks with the skin removed or skinless thighs
4 carrots peeled and sliced
2 cloves garlic crushed
1 head or broccoli broken into pieces or other veg
¾ cup long grain rice per person – I use basmati (45 g per person)
1 1/3 cups sterilised water allow 1/3 cup per person, hot if possible
2 tsp chicken stock powder
3 tbsp Hoi sin sauce
1 heaped teaspoon grated ginger
Big pinch of Chinese 5 spice
Cooking spray

Heat the barbecue grill or set a grill. Spray the pan with cooking spray or rub with oil. Place the chicken and vegetables and the rice into the greased pan.
Add the ginger, Hoi sin sauce and stock powder to the water to help distribute them and pour into the pan. Sprinkle in the 5 spice and give it all a little mix.
Cover the pan with the sheet of foil, crimping it tightly around the edges to ensure the heat doesn’t escape.
Place over a medium heat on the barbecue grill.
Cook for 40 minutes. The pan will need a gentle shake after 20 minutes to mix it a little. Serve piping hot.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

boy food

Was talking to Pete about his boy who is doing Farming Internship. Up at 4.30 am, solid day of hard physical stuff, sports all evening, and fed large mountains of good plain food throughout day. Boy, not surprisingly, completely knackered but also content.

Is strong similarity between farming college and military training. Strategy appears simple - keep em busy and exhausted, so no energy for fighting, shagging or arguing. Is excellent plan to my mind, as by some miraculous feat, boys also suddenly able to make own beds and fold clothes instead of sleeping in squalor and dumping on "floordrobe".

Strategy succeeds or fails on food. Hungry tired boys are dangerous species, capable of great evil. So food is stuff my mum refered to as "Boy Food", meat and spuds, meat and pastry, meat and gravy...As was only my sister and myself , boy food was reserved for boyfriends, builders and brothers in law. But we also loved simple filling Old School type meals.
Meat and eggs are great muscle building protien, with high satiety factor - protein makes us feel full. Starchy carbs are all about energy, also comforting and cheap!Unless you are v. active boy, keep serving to size of fist.

As we are not on farm and don't have military budget, but have high energy boys to feed, is necessary to choose carefully, or teenager taming comes at great financial cost. One of cheapest and leanest meat cuts is brisket or Corned Beef. Is great boy food, wonderful with mashed spuds. Also good in sandwiches with relish or chutney it is underrated "old school" food, easy inexpensive and simple.

Slow cooker corned beef

The slow cooker is invaluable when you are out all day, corned beef is tasty however you cook it so is less likely to be bland than many other slow cooked meat meals.

1 piece of corned silverside- whatever size best suits your household, adjust cooking time according to the weight
1 onion, sliced
2 carrots, sliced lengthways- can include other veg if you wish but may get a bit soft
1 bay leaf
1 cup ginger ale
zest and juice of an orange
6 whole cloves
1 teaspoon black peppercorns

Place the meat into the crock pot, add the spices and vegetables, juice and ginger ale. Cover and cook on low 7-9 hours or according to the manufacturer’s recommendations for meat by weight.
Remove the meat from the liquid and allow to rest for 10 minutes before slicing.
Serve with mashed spuds, green veg and a good chutney or relish.

Classic Corned beef

Corned beef, silverside or corned brisket – whatever you call it this is a lean cut of meat with a salty flavour. Serve hot with veg or cold in slices. Make sure you allow plenty of time as it needs to simmer for an hour or more.
I piece of corned beef – whatever size best suits your household, adjust cooking time according to the weight
1 onion peeled but left whole
a few 3-4 whole cloves
6 peppercorns
1 tbsp brown sugar or golden syrup
1 tbsp malt vinegar
Cold water to cover
Place the meat into a large saucepan, add the spices and cover with water. Stir in the sugar or syrup and the vinegar and bring to the boil. Simmer the meat allowing 25 minutes per 500g.
Remove the meat from the water and allow to rest for 10 minutes before slicing.
Serve with mashed spuds, green veg and a good chutney or relish.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

our daily bread

My nephew El once ate his toast into shape of lion, roared at himself with it, then was too frightened to eat it. He is funny boy, but I am thinking is not bad idea to give toast a miss for a while as is getting scarily expensive to have bread from shops.

Have watched price of basic wholegrain sliced loaf increase from $1.99 to over $3.00 over last couple of years and set to rise higher after disastrous year in Queensland.

Bought some extra flour before price goes up, but as loaded cupboard with 5 kg bags felt like crazy US apocalypse fanatic from mountain compound. Type who hoard food, have eleven wives, most of them cousins, big beards (even the wives) and large cache of semi automatic weapons! Had to apply copious lip gloss and mascara to counteract effect of hoarding as felt self slipping into serious checked shirt territory.

When kids were little I made all our bread by hand as were too poor to buy nice bread and am bread snob - cant abide pappy bread even if very cheap. As never owned bread making thingy have done this always by hand. Bread repertoire now increased to include many treat type breads and scrolls, loaves and buns, but standout breakfast fave these days is toasted homemade English muffins.
Was camping a week or so back at annual Parachute music festival, no cooking facilities except camping burner and 4-5 teenagers to feed. Toasted English muffins were ideal brekkie for all of us. 2 batches made roughly 26+ muffins for less than $5 bucks.

Since developing recipe, price of milk also soared, so if wanting to make without using pricey fresh milk either substitute with milk from powder, or I used 1/4 cup condensed milk. Made up balance with water, didn't need to add sugar as condensed milk V. sweet.
Left me with 3/4 can condensed milk - perfect amount for chocolate caramellow brownie which also went down well with young-uns. Saving on basics means treats still possible too.

English muffins

My family all like English muffins as a quick breakfast or snack, but boy they’re expensive to buy for such a simple thing! These homemade ones are lovely and easy enough for a novice baker.

4 ¼ cups plain flour
1 sachet instant yeast
½ tsp sugar
1 tsp salt
2 cups warm milk or milk from powder or 1/4 condensed milk + 1 1/4 cups water-omit sugar
1 egg beaten
50 g butter

Dust 2 oven trays with flour
In a large bowl combine the instant yeast, sugar, flour and salt.
In a small pan, melt the butter then add the milk and heat gently. The liquid should be warm but not hot. If you are not sure, hold your little finger in it and count to 10. If it’s uncomfortably hot by the time you get to 10 allow it to cool a little, if it doesn’t feel warm at all, heat it up.
Make a well in the centre of the flour and pour in the egg and the butter and milk mixture. Use a large metal spoon to mix to a soft dough.
Knead lightly for 2 minutes then place into a large greased bowl and allow to rise. Either by z9i setting aside in a warm place until doubled or by using the microwave method.
Pre heat the oven to 190°
When the dough has doubled in size knead it lightly and roll on a floured bench to 1 cm thickness. Cut into circles using a large cutter (I use my favourite “tuna tin” cutter to make 10cm circles). Re roll the trimmings and you should end up with 15 muffins. Place on floured trays and rest for 10 minutes.
Bake them for 7 minutes then turn them over and bake a further 7 minutes, until lightly golden.
To serve split muffins in half and toast lightly, top with jam, honey, ham or whatever else you fancy.

Cook’s Tip: If you are planning on freezing the muffins, split them first, they’ll defrost quicker.

For spicy fruit muffins

Add to the dry ingredients
2 tsp allspice
2 tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp ground cloves
½ tsp mixed spice
½ cup sultanas soaked in boiling water for a few minutes to plump them up

Or develop your own spicy fruit blend

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Am in the horrors as seem to have haemorrhaged money for the last 5 or so weeks. If result was lovely tan from lying beside infinity edge pool in 5 star resort and sipping expensive cocktails with little umbrellas out of a coconut, wouldn't be so bad. But reality was modest family Christmas then 7 days camping in tent by beach!

Camp kitchen well equipped with fridges, freezers and great big stoves. Most campers are longtime regulars, A result is certain routines evolve in kitchen as campers begin to prepare evening repast. cheeses are opened and sampled, one day blue cheeses, another goat cheeses, another creamy rind cheeses... wine is uncorked, serious cooking takes place.
Young people armed with dried noodles and canned stew have new foods and flavours thrust upon them and hush falls as "the engineers" 3 regulars, prepare for camp kitchen annual Master chef challenge - this year is curry competition.
Big mike is going for South African Vibe (big Mike also brought block of fresh yeast - kindly shared with me, a deep fat fryer - yup took it camping, he is BIG for a reason, and blender- for making cocktails naturally) other guys are doing Thai and North Indian curries. Smells are amazing - no premixes here - fresh ginger, chilli's, coriander and cumin seeds...Self makes fresh berry tart (went berry picking), my pudding looks so show stoppingly gorgeous cannot avoid being drawn into discussions, tastings etc. Berry tart was a hit with our lot, all curries were a sensation and budget took a hammering. We ate in one week 3 times normal grocery budget.
This type of free form tart is easy to assemble and works with all manner of sweet fruit fillings.

1 quantity of sweet shortcrust pastry, same one as I use for mince pies etc - a pile of berries and a few good handfuls of sugar. Roll out the dough on greased baking sheet, pile berries on - thin layer for big tart or in a heap for smallish one like mine. Sprinkle liberally with sugar (to sweeten and form a syrup with juices while cooking) press sides up around tart, brush crust with egg white and sprinkle on some more sugar. Bake @180 till golden. Mmmmm