Monday, June 27, 2011

Making Ravioli From Scratch

Have the tides turned? Why can't I pull myself away from blogging savories? Well...I'm blaming it on winter and trying to stay away from the sweet things a bit more now that bubs is well on the way. Besides, I found an amazing recipe and I'm super proud of the result. Okay, first I have a few confessions to make. Two whole years ago my darling brother gave me a pasta maker for an engagement gift--and its been sitting unused in the cupboard. I really did have the best intentions, it just never happened. Secondly, I'm a sucker for pasta/ anything Italian. I just cant help myself.
So the other day I was cutting recipes out of magazines and came across this one in a 2007 Better Homes and Gardens Mag. It was a basic recipe for making ravioli and I knew then and there, I just had to do it! I made my own filling and pasta sauce because the recipe one sounded boring. IT WAS SCRUMPTIOUS!
Its probably not something you'd do every day, pasta making. Its so cheap to buy that most people probably would never ever even think of making it from scratch. It was special though and well worth the time to create. It would be the perfect meal to make with your husband or better half--I believe cooking together is a great bonding activity and gives so much pleasure. It would also make the pasta making process go a lot quicker, as two hands make light work! So go on, get your hubby in an apron...I swear you'll both enjoy it!

RAVIOLI SUPREME

2 1/2 cups plain four
1/2 tsp. salt
4 eggs, room temperature
1/4 cup virgin olive oil

Sift flour and salt into a large glass bowl. Make a well in the centre with the dry ingredients, and break each egg into the well. Add oil. Using your fingertips, gradually blend the dry mixture into the wet mixture. Continue to blend little by little until a thick dough forms. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 3-4 minutes until smooth and elastic. Leave dough on surface, cover with the mixing bowl and leave for 30-40 minutes.

Meanwhile, make the filling of your choice. (I used 200g cooked chicken, 2 cups of baby spinach, 150g pumpkin and cashew chunky dip and a little salt, garlic and lemon juice for mine. Process until fine in a blender)

Cut the dough into six even portions. Knead each into a ball, then pull the balls into long ovals. Using a lightly dusted rolling pin or you pasta maker, roll out each until thin and even (about 50 cm long and 10-12 cm wide.)

Cover strips with a clean  tea towel to prevent drying out. Don't layer the strips as they will stick. Cut circles out of the rolled pasta dough. mound a teaspoon of filling into the centre of each and brush the edges with a little water. Fold in half to create a crescent shape. press the edges together with the end of a fork. Place on a clean tea towel.


When all pasta has been used, prepare a large saucepan of salted water on the stove top. Bring to a slow boil and add pasta, 6-8 at a time for 3-4 minutes until tender. Remove with a slotted spoon and place on a clean tea towel. Continue to cook the others in such batches.
Prepare a sauce. (I used about 1 cup of cream, 1/2 cup sliced mushrooms, 1/4 cup diced bacon and some salt, boiled over a low heat) Add all the ravioli parcels to the sauce and cook for a further 2-3 minutes. Serve.
Serves 4.


NOTES: a rolling pin is a good substitute if you don't have a pasta roller. You can also freeze the ravioli for up to a month, uncooked. Add to boiling water frozen, and cook for an extra 3-4 minutes.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Butterscotch Self-Saucing pudding

If someone came into your house unannounced, what would they see? If they came into my house they would undoubtedly see food...firstly, a trail of foody little hand-prints over some of the furniture, thanks to the small man of the house. Then Mummy's mess in the kitchen. Yes, it always looks like a bomb has gone off in there. Its not that it doesn't get cleaned, its just as soon as it's clean I'm cooking again and there's another pile of dishes to be done and benches to be re-wiped...floors to be re-swept and that highchair...seems to be a food factory! I once heard someone quote "a clean kitchen is a sign of a wasted life." I wonder...anyway, here's something that recently came to live on my refrigerator. Did it create itself from the kitchen mess? We will never know.


I'm sure my husband comes home sometimes and wonders what the dickens happened all day because the house looks worse than when he left in the morning. Have I been sitting on my little derriere all day eating bonbons and ice-cream and watching chick flicks while the cat and baby run riot? He still smiles, kisses me and asks how my day was and how the babies are. What a lucky woman I am! He never complains. Besides, more often than not, there's something scrumptious waiting for him in the kitchen.
Butterscotch pudding anyone?
This recipe is a family favourite. My mum used to make it in a large casserole tray and we would all go crazy for it when we knew it was coming up as dessert. The best thing is, its super simple and super delicious--just my type of recipe!



BUTTERSCOTCH SELF SAUCING PUDDING

1 cup self raising flour
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
2oz melted butter
2 tbsp. golden syrup
1 1/2 cups hot water
1 oz butter, extra

Mix together flour, sugar, salt and melted butter in the pudding dish until smooth.
In a separate bowl, combine water, extra butter and syrup and stir until well combined and the butter has melted. Pour over the top of the pudding mixture. Cook at 180C for 30-25 minutes until golden. Serve with cream or ice-cream.
Serves 4

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The Decadence Of Mille-feuille

I have a fear of flying to new heights. Well, its a subconscious fear I suppose. I know there's nothing grand about making a vanilla custard slice but in the back of my mind I'm scared of that amazingly delicious gooey goo, and creating it and failing at it. Blow it, I'm going to make it anyway.
But I'm not going to cut it and if it fails...I'm going to devour all the evidence before my husband comes home. He'll look at me strangely from head to toe and say "Gee, that baby sure grew quickly in one day!"
"Water retention." I will reply. "By the way, I didn't get the time to make anything to take to your parents house for dessert tonight".
Okay, that didn't seem such a good idea. I didn't fancy going for a jog to work off some of that custard and pastry, or explaining why I said I would make something and didn't..
So I made it--eyes closed just in case I saw it flop into a failure of liquid custard and soggy pastry. I wasn't going to cut it, because I predicted that would be the disaster moment. So I made individual round ones and made one extra for a taste test.
HEAVEN IN MY MOUTH!
Why didn't I make more of these babies?



MILLE-FEUILLE

2 sheets puff pastry, thawed
2 cups milk
4 large egg yolks
6 tbsp. sugar
3 tbsp. cornflour
40g butter, at room temperature
50g dark chocolate, melted
1 cup icing sugar
Vanilla essence, extra

Cut the pastry into 20 equal sized rounds. Place on lined baking trays and cook for 12-15 minutes at 210C until the bottoms are golden. Remove from heat and turn the puff pastry circles over and press gently to flatten. Leave to cool.
Place milk in a small saucepan and bring to the boil.
Meanwhile, in a separate saucepan, combine yolks, sugar and cornflour and whisk over a low heat. When the milk has boiled, add a few tablespoons into the yolk mixture and whisk. Gradually add the remaining milk and whisk vigorously on a medium heat. Custard will thicken. Continue to whisk until boils, and remove from heat. Scrape into a small bowl and sit in a tray of ice, to cease the cooking process. When cooler, add the butter in 3-4 installments, stirring until combined. Add essence, mix and refrigerate.


Meanwhile, combine icing sugar with some water and vanilla essence to make a thin paste. Lather half the pastry circles with icing and place them on a rack. Melt the chocolate gently and place in a piping bag with a thin pencil nozzle. Pipe several horizontal lines on each over the icing. Run a toothpick through the lines to create a leaf effect. Leave to dry.
When the custard has settled, add to piping bag with a large star nozzle on the end. Pipe a swirl of custard onto each of the remaining pastries. Top with the iced pastries and serve.

Makes 10






Monday, June 20, 2011

Quick, Tasty Tomato Soup

You probably know as well as I do that I'm mainly a sweets blogger. Savory is good too, and especially in Winter, but I find its often harder to get inspired when it comes to savories. But--I get the craving for those hearty soups and breads and such, when its chilly like this.
I cant help but share the recipes, and I know there are lots of mums and busy people out there that are ever looking for quick successful recipes for their beloveds. So occasionally you will stumble upon a few goodies you can use on a day to day basis like this one. Yes, ones that actually wont make your thighs expand!
When I think of dinner, I think economical, satisfying and quick. Of course it has to be appetizing, but those three things don't have to mean boring. I recently wrote a piece for another blog group about saving money on your grocery bills, as my friend and I used to spend $30 a week on our groceries, and I know some people would be interested in knowing how they can do the same. Mortgages, bills, fees, who doesn't have them these days? Anyway, its all about getting creative and thinking your meals through! I will post the guest entry when it is published for those who are interested. Meanwhile, here's a nice budget meal that's a belly warmer on nights like these. I paired it with some Mediterranean bread knots (featured in the last blog entry) and its was lovely!



QUICK, TASTY TOMATO SOUP

1 medium onion, finely chopped
800g diced tomatoes
1 litre chicken stock
cornflour to thicken
pinch of basil
salt to taste

Soften the onion in a large saucepan. Add the chicken stock. Bring to the boil and reduce heat. Meanwhile place tomatoes in a food processes and blend until soup-like in consistency. Add the stock and onion mix and blend again until well combine. Return the soup to the saucepan, add basil. Season with salt as desired. To thicken the soup, add a few tablespoons of cornflour to some of the soup in a small bowl and stir until there is a smooth paste. Add to the soup and return to heat and stir.
Serve with a swirl of cream and some fresh basil or parsley if desired. Serves 4.

NOTES: You can use fresh tomatoes instead of canned if preferred. Heat with the onion until they break down and then place in the blender--heat the stock on its own. Some of the tinned tomato varieties has added herbs and garlic--this is also a nice addition to the flavour of your soup. You can add these ingredients on your own as desired if your canned tomatoes lack them.

Mediterranean Bread Knots

One of my readers once asked me "who eats all this stuff you bake? I mean look at you!" Okay first of all, I WAS slim, now I'm fat by choice. Baby belly that is. I still feel fat, even though I know its all baby and the fact my guts have been pushed up into my ribcage. Secondly, the reason I can eat rubbish incredibly delicious food all the time is because I am what they call a thyroid build, so my metabolism is great--for the moment. Then I will look like that old woman who swallowed the dog to catch the cat to catch the bird to catch the fly that wriggled and jiggled and tickled inside her. It will catch up with me in the next ten years, I predict, when my thyroid has had enough of my junk addiction and is all tired out from over-working. Thirdly, most of the time when I bake its due to having guests over or for a special occasion, which is practically always. So now that you understand I don't own a cake shop, and I don't just sit at home gorging myself--I just want to put it out there that, if any locals don't like cooking themselves, but want a box of goodies for a party or do, I'm free and willing to cater. Cooking to me is one of life's greatest pleasures. I do it because I love it and I am totally addicted to it. People ask me where I find the time and I have no answer for that one--I just find it. Its like when you HAVE to get something done on a certain day, you just move your work around and re-prioritise. I guess its a bit like that!
Now, on to talking of food! Bread has long been one of those things I put into the unknown basket...but recently its become a fascination of mine. Occasionally I find an amazing recipe and make it, and love it and drool over the idea of making it again and again for weeks. Well, I found a real winner, and its perfect for beginners too, because I am just that. I found it on another blog, Swapna's Cuisine. I dont think it was her recipe but I want to recognise it all the same. She inspired me. She called them "Soft Garlic Knots" but I've adapted the recipe and well...hers looked much nicer, because I was changing a nappy when I was meant to be retrieving them from the oven. So the tops were a little browner than I expected, but they were super delicious! So soft and buttery inside, not at all what I expected! They stayed soft and fresh for the next day too, and certainly didn't last long in the house...they were rapidly devoured. Apologies about the poor quality photos...they were snapped hastily with a dying camera battery.



MEDITERRANEAN BREAD KNOTS (adapted from http://swapnascuisine.blogspot.com/)

DOUGH:

3 cups bread flour
1 tbsp. sugar
2 tsp. dry yeast
1 1/4 salt
2 tbsp. seasoned oil*
1/4 cup milk
1 cup lukewarm water

GLAZE:

3 tbsp. Mediterranean seasoning
1 tsp. crushed garlic
2 tbsp. seasoned olive oil


Place flour, sugar, yeast and salt in a large bowl. Stir to combine, and then add the oil, milk and water. Mix the ingredients with your hand until a dough forms. Kneed the dough for 8-10 minutes with your hands in the bowl until the dough is soft and pliable, and forms a ball. Brush a little oil over the surface of the dough and place in bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and sit for 1 hour until it has doubled in mass.
Take the dough and make into ten even portions. Roll each piece into a ten inch long rope and tie a knot in the middle. Take the end laying above the knot and fold it underneath and back into the centre. Take the end underneath the knot and fold it over the top and into the knot centre. Place on lined baking trays and cover with a clean tea towel for a further 45 minutes until puffy.


Preheat the oven to 175C. Combine the ingredients for the glaze. Brush over the tops of each roll with a pastry brush. Bake until lightly browned, approximately 15-18 minutes. Served warm with butter.


NOTES: you can use any mix of herbs for the glaze seasoning. Self raising flour seemed to work just as well as a bread flour. Seasoned oil is something I keep in my fridge. I don't know if you can buy it, but mine is the herbed oil remaining in a jar of sun-dried tomatoes when they have been used up. This oil has a beautiful flavour and is flecked with different herbs, but olive oil is an okay substitute.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Boston Banoffee Pie To Die For

I don't know about you, but I've always been rather suspicious of "old wives tales". Don't tell me my baby is a girl because you put a gold ring on a string and twirled it around, I don't go for that sort of thing. But, some of these funny little stories I'm willing to try. If there could be some truth in it, something scientific. When my husband brought home green bananas for his birthday banoffee pie I knew I had to do everything I could to ripen them before the next day. If you live in Australia, you will know that we're having banana price issues, and just to buy one almost breaks the bank. Green ones were the only available, so I found myself a brown paper bag, a tomato and crossed my fingers. The bananas and the tomato went into the bag and I sealed it.
Dare I open the bag and be seriously disappointed?
Yellow bananas!
Gladly I found out the scientific reasoning for their ripening. Fruit produces a gas called ethylene which is a ripening hormone. When an unripe fruit is left with ripened fruit, the hormone also affects the unripe fruit and speeds up the yellowing process. So the banoffee pie went ahead and the bananas were lovely! (24 hours is recommended for ripening in the bag, and a paper bag is essential as the gasses escape plastic bags apparently.)
This pie is absolutely decadent. Shortbread pastry crust topped with bananas, thick caramel toffee and whipped cream, sprinkled with chocolate shavings and more sliced banana. A real feast for the senses!


BOSTON BANOFFEE PIE (adapted from "500 Budget Recipes")

PASTRY:
1 1/4 cups plain flour
115g (1/2 cup) diced butter
1/4 cup caster sugar

FILLING:
115g (1/2 cup) diced butter
200g sweetened condensed milk
1/2 cup muscovado (brown) sugar
2 tbsp. golden syrup

TO DECORATE:
3 ripe bananas
250ml cream, whipped
50g chocolate to decorate
1/4 cup lemon juice

Preheat the oven to 160C. To make the pastry, place flour and butter together in a bowl and process with hands until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Mix through the caster sugar to form a soft, pliable dough. Press the dough into a 20cm flan tin and bake for 30 minutes or until golden. Remove from heat and sit to cool.
To make the filling, place the butter in a saucepan with the condensed milk, brown sugar and syrup. Heat gently, stirring, until the butter has melted and the sugar has dissolved.



Bring to a gentle boil and cook for 7-10 minutes, stirring continuously, until the filling thickens and turns a light caramel colour. Cut up two of the bananas into thin slices and arrange as desired over the base of the pastry case. Pour the hot caramel over the top of the bananas and leave until completely cold and set.
To decorate, cut up the last banana into slices and sprinkle with lemon juice to prevent discolouration. Arrange them as desired in the centre of the pie and cover in piped whipped cream and curled or grated chocolate. Bon Appitit!







Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Deceitful Slice

Like I previously said, I'm a big fan of wow-factor foods. But I'm doubly impressed when something looks completely ordinary and turns out to have lots of  wow and pow in the mouth. Of course then you can always jazz up the look of these plain-janes, but sometimes, its better to leave them as they are so as not to spoil the flavour or the simplicity of an edible. Its like those rare people you stumble across...the ones who look super ordinary and once you get to know them, their personalities just glow and they become beautiful. If you dolled them up, they wouldn't seem to be the same person, its as if they are somehow changed, not themselves.
Such is life for the family favourite that I am going to share with you. It was the president's favourite slice too...don't ask me what president. This is an older recipe that I dug out of one of Mum's cookbooks during my stay in Melbourne, so it was probably a president from a fair way back. This slice is always quick to disappear at our house, because everyone knows of its yumminess. Mum says she cant take it to parties though, because it looks too ordinary, but for the person who tries it, they will love this fact...the plate will be theirs! You could jazz it up with a drizzle of chocolate if you do want to fancy it up and take it out...if you can bear sharing it. I cant. Greedy me knows that this  moist, deceiving little slice is too good to pass up.  It even covers the fact that I dislike sultanas immensely. Now a recipe that can have a hated ingredient in it and still be totally irresistible is something!



PRESIDENT'S FAVOURITE SLICE

8 oz butter, melted
1 cup sugar
2 tbsp. golden syrup
2 cups self-raising flour
2 cups dried mixed fruit
2 eggs, beaten

Melt butter and golden syrup in a large saucepan. Add dry ingredients. Add beaten eggs and mix well to combine. Press with a fork into a lined lamington tin and bake in oven at 180C for 20-30 minutes until the top is golden.

NOTES: Honey is a good substitute for golden syrup. You could also substitute mixed fruit for chocolate chips.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Time for Dutch Apple Pie

You know me, I like quick and effective recipes...the ones that just look and taste fabulous without any effort. But I like art, and I think especially with dessert, its worth putting in the extra mile to have it looking fancy shmancy. I thrive on that part of cooking. Often its the small details that make all the difference, and turn it from looking everyday to a specialty. Gourmet. Who would eat regular looking stuff over gourmet? Not me. Food snob here.
But I must add, very often something that looks like a bowl of mush often tastes amazing and so on. But...I'm a visual person, I thrive on looks. How very fickle of me.
Anyway, back to my initial point. I had a dessert to make for 18 people for a dinner party. I found a great sounding recipe for Dutch Apple Pie and it looked too irresistable not to make. Okay, part of the attraction was that it was labled Dutch, I admit. What the heck is a Dutch apple pie? Here we go on another tangent.
Dutch apple pie, unlike others such as the American, English and French versions, is often flavoured with lemon juice and lots of cinnamon, and sultanas (which I omitted because I loath the things) They are often decorated with lattice pastry on top or crumble topping and occasionally icing.
What I've been meaning to say all along is...you get to the end of the recipe and you wonder if it was worth while. The time, the effort, the waiting, in exchange for the appearance, taste, the delight and satisfaction. Some things you know will take forever to create and you know in the end it will be worth it. Others--you look at, taste and wonder.
Anyway, this apple pie took ages to make. Probably because I made two, and also because I made the recipe back to front, starting with the apples, filling, and then the pastry--which was ridiculous of me. It was the pastry that took its time. Apparently it was worth it. Those pies went down a treat after dinner and most people went back for seconds. It got a thumbs up all around. And even though the pastry frustrates me, I'm posting the recipe because it was worth it. I wouldn't post it if it was like any other apple pie recipe. This one was different. The apples maintained some firmness, some crunch. The pastry was good! The topping was delicious. The filling...yummy. All the textures and flavours married so well. So, it's a worthwhile recipe! You may use store bought pastry if you're low on time, I assure you it will still be worth it. This recipe makes one large pie. I added and subtracted several ingredients to personalise it, I hope you enjoy it!

Dutch Apple Pie

DUTCH APPLE PIE

Pastry
1¼ cups plain flour
pinch of salt
1 tablespoon sugar
85g butter, chilled, cubed
5-8 tablespoons ice water

Filling
4 large Granny Smith apples
½ cup brown sugar
½ tsp ground cinnamon
Pinch of salt
1/4 cup lemon juice
2 tablespoons butter
½ cup heavy cream

Crumble
1¼ cups plain flour
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup granulated sugar
85g butter, melted

Icing
1 cup icing sugar
2 tbsp water

 In a large bowl, mix together the flour, sugar and salt. Scatter the butter over the dry ingredients and using  your fingers, work the butter into the flour mixture until it resembles breadcrumbs. Then sprinkle the water over the mixture and use a fork to incorporate until it is evenly moistened and the dough will hold together when pinched between your fingers.
Flatten the dough into a disk, wrap in plastic and refrigerate for at least 1 hour, or up to 2 days. After refrigeration, roll it out on a floured surface to a 12 inch round. Transfer the round to a pie dish and press to the base and into the edges. Trim the edges to extend 1/2 an inch over the lip of the dish. Place the dish into the freezer for 30 minutes until very firm and cold. Place the oven rack on the lower middle position and heat the oven to 190C.
Cut a piece of foil big enough to cover the pastry, and sit it inside the pie dish over the pastry. Using pastry weights or rice, cover the surface of the foil. Bake with the weights and foil for 25 minutes or until light golden brown and dry to touch. Remove the foil and weights and return to the oven for a further 10 minutes. Remove the pie dish from the oven and set aside to cool. Increase the oven temperature to 220C.

Peel the apples and core them. Cut each apple into four and each quarter into four or five pieces each. Combine the listed cinnamon, lemon juice, sugar and salt in a bowl with the apples. Heat the butter in a large saucepan until bubbling. Add the apples and cook at medium high for 10-15 minutes until they begin to soften (yet still hold some shape). Using a colander over a bowl, transfer the apples and shake to strain the excess juices into the bowl.

Transfer the juices into the empty saucepan and add cream. Cook this mixture, stirring occasionally until it thickens and a wooden spoon leaves a trail at the bottom of the saucepan. Transfer the apples into the pie shell, top with the hot syrup. Combine the flours and sugars reserved for the crumble mixture in a bowl. Drizzle with melted butter and toss with a  fork until well combined and the mixture forms chunks. Sprinkle this crumble over the apple mixture. Return to the oven until the crumble is nicely browned.
Remove from the oven and cool.
Combine icing sugar and water together to make a paste. Place in a piping bag and drizzle over the crumble on top of the pie. Serve warm with ice cream or cream.