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Food, general thoughts, food…


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A truck load of ricotta

So, after making cannelloni the other day I had a truck load of ricotta cheese (larger than needed quantity purchased on special) and a keen interest in finding something to use it up before it went bad. Side note: you can freeze ricotta as long as you intend to cook it in/with something, the texture isn’t great for eating alone once frozen and defrosted (people do that?).

I did a search through my database and came up with this little gem. I knew there was a bottle of maple syrup somewhere in the back of the cupboard and luckily for me it contained just the right amount for this recipe. This dessert is very much like a crème caramel but has (due to the ricotta) a grainier, more rustic, appearance and texture. It was very tasty though and certainly worth a try if you are a ricotta fan or you just have a truck load lying about going begging for something to do.

Maple Ricotta Flans

1/4 cup plus 1 tsp pure maple syrup
4 beaten eggs
425g container ricotta cheese
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
Ground nutmeg or cinnamon (optional)

Preheat oven to 160C. Divide the 1/4 cup maple syrup among six 180ml custard cups; tilt custard cups to coat bottoms evenly.
In a bowl combine eggs, cheese, sugar, vanilla, and remaining teaspoon maple syrup.
Mix until well combined but not foamy. Place the custard cups in a 3L rectangular baking dish.
Divide egg mixture among custard cups. Sprinkle with nutmeg.
Place the baking dish on an oven rack.
Pour boiling water into the baking dish around custard cups to a depth of 2.5cm.
Bake for 40 to 45 minutes or until a knife inserted near the centres comes out clean.
Remove cups from water. Cool completely in custard cups. Cover and chill until serving time.
To unmold flans, loosen edges with a knife, slipping point of knife down sides to let air in.
Invert a dessert plate over each flan; turn custard cup and plate over together.

Makes 6 servings.

 

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Zucchini Timbale

I case you can’t tell from the photo, the recipe of the day was the little zucchini do-dad sitting pretty there with its little garnish of quick tomato coulis, not the deeply marinated steak with Jimmy’s sauce that sits in front. To digress, I have spoken of Jimmy’s sauce before and you should really give it a try. Anyway, back to the zucchini.

This little Timbale (learned something new! Thought a timbale was just a drum, turns out it’s a drum shaped food also) was easy and delicious (my daughter and I ate 2 each!) and done in the microwave to make it a speedy dish also. It’s a great way to use zucchini and I will certainly do it again. The coulis I made with a tin of crushed tomatoes as I abhor peeling tomatoes.

 

Zucchini Timbales with Tomato Coulis

8 small (500g) zucchini (I used 2 bigger ones, about 600g in all)
300g carton sour cream (used up that carton I bought for the brownies)
2 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
4 eggs

Tomato Coulis
2 tomatoes, peeled, chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
2 teaspoons’ tomato paste

Puree zucchini in blender or processor, place in bowl, cook on HIGH 5 minutes, drain well, pressing out as much liquid as possible, place in bowl.
Stir in sour cream, parmesan cheese, basil and lightly beaten eggs.
Divide mixture between 6 individual dishes (1/2 cup capacity), cover each dish;
cook on MEDIUM-LOW 5 minutes. (Mine made 8 of these and took about 8 mins to cook properly)
Turn onto serving plates, spoon Tomato Coulis around each one.
Garnish with slice of zucchini and tomato if desired.

Tomato Coulis: Combine tomatoes, garlic and tomato paste in bowl, cook on HIGH 5 minutes and puree in blender or processor, strain.
(I didn’t process or strain my coulis; I like the chunkier rustic feel)


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Buttery Lemon Bars

I bought a bag of lemons recently and considering I had to almost re-mortgage my home to get them, I thought it prudent to actually use them for something as opposed to watching them disintegrate in my refrigerator. I have used a few of them in various dishes lately, mainly the peel as a flavouring.

I fancied making some biscuits today and after deciding what to make I realised that using up the lemons was probably more important right now than using up a bag of choc chips. So I revisited my recipes and this is what I came up with.

Buttery Lemon Bars

1 cup butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons powdered sugar
2 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups granulated sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons grated lemon peel
6 tablespoons lemon juice
4 large eggs

In a bowl, with an electric mixer at medium speed, beat butter and 1/2 cup powdered sugar until smooth. Beat in 2 cups flour until dough is no longer crumbly. Pat into a ball.
Press dough evenly into a buttered and floured 22x33cm baking pan.
Bake in a 180C oven until golden, about 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, in a food processor, or in a bowl with an electric mixer on medium speed, whirl or beat granulated sugar, remaining 1/3 cup flour, baking powder, grated lemon peel, lemon juice, and eggs to blend. Pour onto hot crust.
Bake until lemon mixture is no longer runny in the centre (cut to test), 35 to 40 minutes. Remove from the oven and dust with remaining 2 tablespoons powdered sugar.
Let cool completely in pan, then cut into 24 bars. Serves 24.


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Sunday Breakfast

I Love pancakes, however, I do not make pancakes, that is the domain of my husband. He, however, does not like to make pancakes. As he is an absolute pancake wizard, this is somewhat of a shame not to mention a disappointment. This is also what makes me avoid making pancakes at all costs, they will just never measure up.

I do however make pikelets. Pikelets are a small, puffy batter cake fried in the frying pan, just a smear of butter in the pan for taste and to stop them sticking. The batter is thick so that they don’t spread far and contains baking powder so that they rise as they cook. They are sweet and good and my favourite way to have them is smeared in yet more butter whilst they are still hot.

Lots of people like jam, peanut butter, syrup or any number of other spreads on top but I am a plain butter girl. Lots of people also like to add additions such as sultanas or choc chips, I find this a travesty and a crime against all that is good and pure in the world. Not that I have strong opinions about it.

These were a staple in our home growing up and often featured as both an after soup dessert for Sunday lunch and a quick tasty offering for unexpected guests (back in the days when people just dropped by unannounced). They are one of those things that I grew up being able to cook and I can whip up a batch at short notice at any time.

I Love pikelets only slightly less than pancakes, they taste quite similar and they are super simple to make. They are my answer to not being able to persuade my husband to make me pancakes, as such they often feature as a Sunday breakfast.

 

Pikelets

2 cups flour
4 tsps baking powder
2 eggs
1/2 cup sugar
Milk, enough to form a thick batter

Mix flour, baking powder and sugar in a bowl.
Add eggs and add milk gradually stirring vigorously until a thick batter is formed.
Melt a little butter in a hot pan.
Drop spoonfuls of batter in pan.
Allow to bubble and dry slightly on the top side.
Flip and cook until browned on both sides.
Monitor pan heat carefully.
Serve hot with butter or desired spreads.


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Another Brownie

Another brownie recipe, subtly different to the last one, tasty in its own right. I am sure in this folder that I will come up with several more as the days go by. It interests me that a chocolate cake/slice can have so many variations and all of them are called the same thing. How to ever choose one special one out of all the contenders, one ‘go to’ recipe that you decide is best? I don’t know, I’ll leave that to the experts who will be walking in the door shortly and will vacuum up all evidence of my baking in no time flat. I ate one already, my only hope of trying one before they disappear. Slightly chewy, chocolaty with a hint of the vanilla coming through….not bad.

Again they were quick to make and as I used a rectangular tin they took less time than the recipe suggested, about 25 mins.

Brownies
Serves: 6

170 g butter, melted
1½ cups white sugar
1½ teaspoons vanilla
2 eggs
¾ cup flour
¾ cup cocoa powder
½ teaspoon salt

In a large mixing bowl, mix melted butter, sugar and vanilla.
Beat in eggs, one at a time.
Combine flour, cocoa powder and salt.
Gradually, blend the dry ingredients into the egg mixture.
Spread batter onto greased square pan.
Bake in preheated oven at 175°C for 40 minutes.(25mins in a rectangular tin)


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Reminiscing…

Once upon a time there was a chook palace.

In Australia, chickens are called chooks, we even used to have a BBQ chicken restaurant of that name. I tell you this to alleviate confusion as I remember one letter that I sent to my English Grandparents, as a child, confused them for months until they got my follow up in response to their questions. So ‘chook palace’ literally translates as big fancy awesome chicken house in Australia. On with the story.

This chook palace, so called for its size and awesomeness, contained about 40 chooks, and happy chooks they were. Their chook palace was bordered by three (count them 1, 2, 3!) massive vegetable patches on 3 sides and a rambling passion fruit vine covered their home. The passion fruit vine was also happy, it had its roots in a never ending supply of chicken manure and had a wonderful life and produced copious amounts of fruit much to the delight of the local children.

The chooks had access at all times to at least one vegetable patch. Each season they would have access to scratch and peck at a new set of vegetable left overs while their last patch was transformed again from a chicken wasteland into a flourishing vegetable patch. There were always fresh greens from the gardens and vegetable scraps from the kitchen. Any creepy crawlies in the vegetable patch always ended up tossed over the fence for the happy chooks to squabble over.

The chooks laid wonderful delicious eggs with yolks like golden suns to show their pleasure at living in the chook palace. They got broody and hatched chicks that popped through the chicken wire and messed with the flourishing vegetable patches until they were too big to fit through the gaps. It was a good life for a chicken.

There were many successful crops of potatoes, broccoli, turnips, tomatoes and other fine things that both people and chooks enjoy and the chooks were proud of the service they provided to the gardener and she was proud of them. There were always far too many delicious eggs and crisp vegetables for the home and after preserving and freezing what she could the gardener had much to give away which she did with a glad heart.

Once upon a time there was a gardener with the perfect garden and happy chooks to gladden her heart.

This is my first time having to raise a vegetable patch on a suburban block in limited space. I still enjoy my garden but I truly, deeply miss my chooks.


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Caramel Walnut Slice and Sleep Deprivation

For whatever reason, I am not sleeping. Don’t get me wrong, I really, really want to but I am just not able to stay asleep at night. I wake up every two hours or so, spend some time awake, fall asleep again only to wake up 2 hours after I last woke. I generally don’t sleep fantastically but this is ridiculous. I have gone from a mainly caffeine free diet over the past 2 days to functioning only with the help of strong black coffee (which is probably not helping me sleep either although I do try to cut out the coffee after midday)it is a vicious cycle. I have done all the dietary things and the good sleep hygiene practises to no avail. I feel like a barely functioning zombie, if I don’t sleep tonight then it is off to the doc I go for some chemical help just to get some rest.

Just went to the loo (because black coffee will do that to you) and almost fell asleep reading my Twitter feed (as we all do in the toilet). Honestly? Is there a reason that sleep is not an option at 2 in the morning but at 9.30am with a system full of coffee it is all I can do to NOT fall asleep? *shakes fist at the universe*

Meanwhile I have made another slice, caramel of course. This slice was not my favourite out of the caramel collection but it is still a tasty slice that deserves to be shared, if you like walnuts then it will be right up your alley. It is sweet and nutty, a lot less ‘full on caramel’ than most of what I have made lately. It was a little tricky to get out of the pan as the base is thin but solid and the topping is delicate and soft but with perseverance I managed to get it out with a minimum of damage.

Caramel Walnut Slice

Base
1/2 cup self-raising flour
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup coconut
60g butter

Topping
2 eggs
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup coconut
90g walnut pieces
1 1/2 cups brown sugar, lightly packed
1/2 teaspoon baking powder

Base: Sift flour into bowl, add sugar and coconut, mix well.
Melt butter over low heat, add to dry ingredients, mix well.
Press mixture into greased 28cm x 18cm lamington tin, bake in moderate oven 15 minutes.
Topping: Lightly beat eggs and vanilla with fork, add coconut, chopped walnuts, brown sugar, baking powder, mix well.
Spread mixture over partly cooked base, return to moderate oven and bake further 25 to 30 minutes or until topping is cooked.
Cool in tin; cut into squares or slices.