Day 252, August 16 2016

Crockpot Dinners

Another word on crockpots after my last post. I received some feedback regarding that post, that you can in fact cook a roast in a crockpot without adding water or liquid to the crock. I had never heard of doing this, so I am more than happy to stand corrected on that point, and I might even give it a crack myself, as it would be a lower electricity way to cook a roast. Given that my last electricity bill turned my hair grey(er), it seems like a good option.

I have also been checking out some slow cooker websites. As mentioned in my last post, there are tons of recipes for slow cookers online, but there are also blogs and Facebook pages just devoted to slow cooking, including one called Get Crocked, which I am linking to entirely because I enjoy the name. What amazes me is all the slow cooker desserts. I honestly have never considered making a dessert in a slow cooker, although I do stew apples in mine frequently. I discovered a slow cooker version of a Mexican Flan, which is one of my favourite desserts of all time. I just may have to try this.

My crockie will never be the main tool I use to cook. Personally, I prefer the sizzle and crackle of a stove top and the warm aroma of the oven. However, I do appreciate the convenience of the crockie for days when I am busy, will be late home, am working on a major project, or it is hot outside and I want to minimise the heat levels in the kitchen. I appreciate its usefulness for making soup stocks and cooking dried beans and stewing fruit, and its general ‘workaday’ characteristics, which mean I will always replace mine if it breaks down. Fortunately, they seem to go on virtually forever, with minimal breakable parts – although my mother always seemed to have a crockie that lacked a knob and she was forever turning it on with the tines of a fork. Even when her brown 1970s crockie eventually died and she replaced it, she ended up with another sans knob – I think she was incapable of turning a crockpot on without a fork. Thank goodness it wasn’t a toaster…

Pork and Black Bean Tacos

1 cup sliced roast pork, roughly chopped – free*

1 can rinsed black beans – $1

1 sachet taco seasoning – free**

1 sachet taco sauce – free***

2 cups homemade stock (any kind) – free****

Combine all ingredients in the crock. Turn on low, and let it cook away until dinner time. Serve in burrito bowls or in tacos that you bought ridiculously cheap on a loss leader special from Woollies one day.

tacos

All things taste better stuffed in a taco

Total cost: $1

Per person (serves 4): 25 cents

*I cooked a pork roast in week 30. This was already paid for in that week. This pork was leftover (frozen) – restaurants and business call this ‘leveraging’ and is part of how professional chefs account for their food pricing. Hence it is a freebie. Cha-ching.

**Occasionally it is cheaper to buy a whole kit than a single pack of tacos or tortillas, when supermarkets are running a huge loss leader special. As such, I count these as ‘free’ even though I paid for them, because I didn’t pay any more for them than I would have for a standalone packet of tacos. Usually I don’t buy taco seasoning mixes as they are essentially a mix of the spices I already own plus some thickeners and salt, marked up at an outrageous price (about $1.40 for two teaspoons or so of seasoning). You can replace that with 1/2 teaspoon each of ground cumin, coriander, garlic powder or fresh garlic, and cayenne pepper, which is what I would have used if this wasn’t waiting around to be used up.

***See above – you could use half a cup of chopped canned or fresh tomatoes.

****And of course, homemade stock is the ultimate in leveraging – using something that would be thrown away to create food that is healthy and useful. That is why it is always free, and why I always have it in my freezer. Double cha-ching.

Week 32: The Week of the Crockpot

I am not sure how many people still use slow cookers, or what we used to call ‘crockpots’ when we were kids (and tbh, I still call mine that – force of habit).

The one my mum had looked similar to this:

vintage-crockpot

Old school

The best thing about it was that in winter, she used to cook porridge (oatmeal, for American readers) in the crockie (tbh, this is what I actually call it. I was just being posh, like, before) overnight. In the morning we would wake up to perfectly cooked porridge and it was awesome.

Don’t bother trying it with the new fangled crockies/crockpots/slow cookers. They cook at a higher temperature for our modern times for which even slow cookers have to be faster. The old crockies were an elegant cooker, for a more civilised age.

The new crockies burn the crud out of it and it is inedible. While it is possible to buy vintage crockies on eBay, I figure it is probably best not to risk the fuses of my 1970s wood-panelled palace with one, so I just don’t eat porridge.

You read that right. I actually do not even eat porridge because I cannot cook it in the crockie. Even though microwave porridge is about the most convenient breakfast food invented, I hate it. It does not taste like the slow-cooked oats of my childhood, and as such it tastes like ashes in my mouth.

Bit of an overstatement, but I’m going with it.

Anyways, slow cookers. If you were to Google ‘slow cooker recipes’ you would find about a bazillion recipes. Filter out all the recipes containing a can of mushroom soup, and you would still have quite a few. I am personally a disliker of almost any recipe containing a can of condensed ‘soup’ so I filter out all of those (although I do keep a can or two of tomato soup on hand for occasional addition to a stew, but this is rare).

Week 32 was a crockie week. I was working from home on a project for much of that week, so in the morning before I started I would come up with a meal based on what we had in the fridge and freezer. We had a freezer full of leftover bits and pieces (roast pork, leftover from a family dinner, to name one), and a few odds and sods to use up. The crockie is very forgiving of the odd and the sod. The results were pretty good, I have to say.

A  couple of tricks to remember when using a crockie/crockpot/slow cooker:

  • You can cook a roast in there, for example, a chicken, but you will need a liquid in there to help it cook – which will be more of a pot roast. I don’t do this often, but if you do there are many recipes online. If you are doing a red meat roast like a beef roast, seal the meat on all sides beforehand in a hot pan, otherwise you will have a boiled beef, which is not the same as a pot roast.
  • If you are using onion and garlic it is generally best to saute them first. An exception is if you are making Boston Baked Beans, which is fabulous done in the crockie and which does not taste like a can of Heinz (not that there’s anything wrong with a can of Heinz). You can use a whole onion in Boston Baked Beans with no need to saute it first.
  • You can use the crockie to make stock (this is our most common use for it). Just toss everything in there, add cold water, and turn it on. Leave it for at least 24 hours, or longer if you prefer. It makes a lovely, clear vegetable stock, even when carrot peels and other peelings are added.
  • You need a liquid when using the crockie. For example, you can do baked potatoes in it, by wrapping them in foil and also placing some foil on the base of the crock, but you will need to add about 2cm of water to the base of the crock to ensure that they cook properly.

The next couple of posts will be recipes cooked during Week 32 using the crockie. We use it a lot in winter, but it is also a great tool to use in summer because it does not heat up the kitchen the way the oven does. It also uses far less power.

Day 245, August 9 2016

Mac n’ boc n’ cheese

I enjoy a Macaroni Cheese occasionally, but only if it is made from scratch. I have only tried the ‘box kind’ once, and never again. That stuff is poison wrapped in cardboard. I don’t know exactly how they get it to turn that colour, but I am pretty sure the human body should not really ingest something that colour. No judgement if you like it (she says, after just calling it poison). My husband adores two-minute noodles (even the smell of those make me want to hurl), and I love Magnum Ice Creams (300 delicious chocolate covered calories apiece). We all have a thing we should be able to eat without the snobby stares of family or the snippy comments of know-it-ally food bloggers with about ten readers, at least one of whom is her Mum.

Real Mac ‘n Cheese is actually not hard to make, although it is not the most healthy of dishes, which is why I tend to make it for my kids as a special treat: a simple white sauce, some cheese, some pasta and more cheddar cheese, and that is it, really. I tart mine up with some additions: this version has sliced tomatoes and bocconcini cheese (mini mozzarella cherries), but you could also add steamed broccoli or cauliflower, some tuna, some peas and corn, or some chopped artichokes and olives. If the tuna is added I have to admit that I will eat something else: I have an aversion to heated tuna that I cannot escape, but I know that other people, including my eldest daughter, love it. This is particular to me: a colleague recently told me that she will eat tuna hot but not cold, while I am just the opposite. Luckily we are all different, or the world would be a damned boring place.

Ingredients
300 grams pasta shapes – 60 cents
4 tablespoons butter – 44 cents
3 tablespoons plain flour – 4 cents
2 cups milk – 50 cents
3/4 cups grated tasty cheese – 90 cents
1/4 teaspoon salt – 1 cent
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg, or a good scraping of whole nutmeg – 2.5 cents
2 tomatoes, sliced – 50 cents
1/2 tub fresh bocconcini balls (mini mozzarella balls – $1.92) OR 1/2 cup grated tasty cheese – 60 cents

Cook the pasta in boiling water, drain and set aside. Heat the oven to 180 degrees C.
In a large saucepan, melt the butter. Add the plain flour, and whisk, cooking the flour and butter together until it is bubbling.
Slowly add the milk, a little at a time, to prevent lumps forming.
Cook over a low heat until the sauce thickens.
Add the nutmeg, salt, and 3/4 cup grated cheese.
Mix the cooked pasta and sauce together. Place in a greased baking dish.
Layer the sliced tomatoes on top of the pasta and sauce. Cut the bocconcini balls in half, and arrange on top of the pasta, or sprinkle with the 1/2 cup grated cheese.Bake at 180 degrees until the cheese has melted and is bubbly and golden.

recipe-september

Mac n’ boc’ n cheese – ultimate comfort food

Serves Six
Total Cost: $3.61 ($5.53 if using bocconcini)
Per person: 60 cents (92 cents if using bocconcini)

 

Meal plans, Weeks 31-32 2016

We had a few family events and eating out events over these two weeks, according to my notes (yep, I keep actual notes). We also had family to visit, and I cooked a Roast Pork dish for them in Week 32 that caused my youngest daughter to finally crack after eight months of strict vegetarianism and go back to eating meat (she’s only eleven, which I think is a good effort for her age). I fully expect her to go back to a vegetarian diet, as every time she looks at raw meat she shudders involuntarily. I expect we will still eat vegetarian meals, as my husband and I still enjoy them, but The Resolute Omnivore is pleased.

Week 31, August 6-9

Saturday: Eating out

Sunday: Linner (late lunch, early dinner) at my Parents’ (bless ’em)

Monday: Macaroni cheese (vegetarian)

Tuesday: Spaghetti and meatballs, mac and cheese (vegetarian), bread and butter pudding

Wednesday Worst Day: BLTs/ELTs

Thursday: Quesadillas

Friday: Chicken cacciatore and rice, Faux chicken burger (vegetarian)*, rice, salad

Week 32, August 12-19

Saturday: Roast beef and veg

Sunday: Family dinner: Roast pork, potatoes, vegetables

Monday: Dinner @ my parents’ (bless ’em)

Tuesday: Chicken drumsticks and rice

Wednesday Worst Day: Pork and black bean tacos

Thursday: Crockpot beef casserole, baked potatoes and broccoli

Friday: BLT muffins

 

*We refer to this as a ‘Fugget’ because it smells like a fake chicken nugget. They are supposed to be made of quinoa and soy but lord knows they smell like Maccas nuggets.

Days 239-242, Aug 2-5 2016 – Weekend cooking ahead saves trips to the takeaway, Part 4

For the last dish I cooked on my BDOC, I made classic meatballs in tomato sauce, to freeze ahead for pasta.

This is one of those unmessuppable dishes that almost everyone likes.

Classic meatballs in tomato sauce

500g beef mince – $6*

1 onion, finely chopped – 10 cents

1 clove garlic, minced – 5 cents

1 tablespoon fresh thyme and oregano, chopped – free

1 teaspoon salt – one cent

1 cup rolled oats – 29 cents**

1 egg – 33 cents

1 tablespoon rice bran oil – 6 cents

1 bunch parsley, finely chopped – free

1 cup (25o ml) dry white wine – $2***

1 500ml jar pasta sauce – $1.50

In a large mixing bowl, combine the mince, rolled oats, egg, garlic, onion, herbs, and salt. Using your hands, shape into meatballs about the size of a walnut. You should have 18-20 meatballs.

Heat the rice bran oil in a large, deep frying pan. Pan fry the meatballs for five to ten minutes, until the meatballs are browned on all sides.

Sprinkle with the parsley:

meatballs-start

Sprinkle the meatballs with the parsley

Shake pan occasionally to ensure they do not stick. Try not to use a spoon or tongs – this can cause them to break apart.

Pour over the white wine and allow to evaporate (partially).

Pour over the pasta sauce. Simmer the meatballs in the sauce until they are cooked (about 15 minutes):

meatballs-sauce

Freeze the meatballs with the sauce in two batches, for dinner later in the week.

Total cost: $10.34

Per serve (serves 6): $1.72

Breakdown of the Big Day of Cooking:

To recap the BDOC, I made:

The total cost of all of these meals was: $58.67

Total servings: 44

Cost per serving: $1.33

We are still actually eating these meals – we ate one on Wednesday night (lamb chilli on September the 14th). So, it was definitely worth spending one weekend afternoon to prepare 44 serves and most importantly, to avoid last minute, unhealthy, and expensive takeaways. When you consider that a takeaway generally costs us $35 for four people ($8.75 per serve), our average per person cost of $1.33 stacks up pretty well. Plus we avoided the salt, fat and general crapola (technical term) that usually comes along with takeaway food. I must be getting old – last time I had a takeaway pizza I swear I was sweating bullets all night from all the salt.

 

*I use premium beef mince, which increases the price. You can use regular beef mince, which will reduce the price by $2. I prefer a lower fat beef mince for health and flavour reasons.

**If you want to make this gluten-free, you could use a cup of gluten-free breadcrumbs, or a cup of crushed gluten-free cereal. Sometimes I have whizzed up some corn thins or rice thins and used these as gluten-free ‘breadcrumbs’ when I am cooking for someone with a gluten allergy.

*** You can omit this if you want to – it will save you two bucks.

Days 239-242, Aug 2-5 2016 – Weekend cooking ahead saves trips to the takeaway, Part 3

Lamb Chilli and ‘Cheater’s’ Chicken Cacciatore

Just how much chilli is it possible for a family of four to eat? For this family, really, the answer is ‘indefinable.’ If you can stuff it in a taco and slather it in hot sauce, we will eat it. So on this BDOC, I actually did make chilli three ways, with the goal of filling my freezer. Five weeks later, there is none left. So, I know that if I plan to make a ton of it, it won’t go to waste.

Lamb chilli

1 kg lamb chump chops – $7

500g lamb mince – $6

1 small onion, finely diced – 10 cents

2 cloves garlic, crushed – 10 cents

2 cans crushed tomatoes – $2

1 can red kidney beans, drained and rinsed – $1

2 stalks celery, peeled and sliced – 20 cents

2 carrots, peeled and sliced – 20 cents

2 teaspoons ground cumin – 10 cents

1 teaspoon ground coriander – 5 cents

1 teaspoon chilli flakes – 5 cents

1/2 bunch fresh coriander (including stalks and roots), well washed to remove grit, chopped – free

2 sprigs fresh thyme – free

2 sprigs fresh oregano – free

2 tablespoons rice bran oil – 12 cents

1 cup water or stock – free

Salt and pepper to tase

Heat rice bran oil in a heavy based pot. Brown the chops in the oil until sealed on both sides, and then set aside.

In the fat from the oil, saute the onions, celery, and carrots until soft. Add the garlic and the lamb mince. Cook, breaking up the mince, until the lamb is browned and well crumbled. Add the spices and cook a further two minutes. Add the fresh herbs and beans. Stir well and cook for another two minutes.

Pour in the tomatoes and stock, and stir. Place the chops carefully back into the chilli. Cook on a low heat for 1.5 hours, until the lamb is falling off the bone. Remove the chops and pull the meat from the bones. Place back in the chilli (discarding bones).

Skim any visible fat from the surface. As this is lamb, it will be fattier than a beef chilli – and more expensive.

Season to taste and reheat chilli to serve.

Total cost: $16.92

Per person (serves 10): $1.69

Cheater’s chicken cacciatore

This is a quick chicken cacciatore that is nowhere near the original and ‘correct’ version, but is good to have in the freezer for a weeknight dinner, served with rice or pasta.

1 kg chicken breast, diced: $9

1 onion, finely chopped: 10 cents

1 bunch fresh parsley, finely minced (including stalks): free

1 cup (250 ml) dry white wine: $2

1 clove garlic, crushed: 5 cents

1 jar pasta sauce: $1.50

1 tablespoon rice bran oil: 6 cents

In a wide, deep frying pan, heat the rice bran oil and saute the onion and garlic. Add the chicken and stir fry until sealed.

Sprinkle with the parsley and cook for another minute:

chicken-cacciatore

Pour over the wine and let boil away:

chicken-cacciatore-with-wine

Chicken with wine

Pour in the jar of pasta sauce and stir. Simmer for about half an hour on low heat, until the chicken is cooked.

Total cost: $12.71

Per person (serves 6): $2.11

Both of these dishes are gluten-free, but check the pasta sauce you are using for the cacciatore – there may be hidden ingredients in it. I once found a pasta sauce that was filled with ground cashew nuts for some reason. I wouldn’t have picked it from the look of the sauce or its name – so I always check the ingredients in case one of us dies from a perfectly friendly looking jar of jam or sauce.

Days 239-242, Aug 2-5 2016 – Weekend cooking ahead saves trips to the takeaway, Part 2

In my last post I published the first in a series of recipes I made on a single day for the week ahead.

The next in this series of recipes is a Vegetarian Chilli, made to satisfy my youngest daughter when we have Mexican-style dishes, which we eat at least once per week.

I invent most of the vegetarian dishes I cook, because my mother was a good vegetarian cook and because we were all vegetarian for the four or so years between the birth of our first daughter and the start of my pregnancy with my second. That went out the window when all I wanted to eat while pregnant was bacon (epic vegetarian fail). We didn’t return to vegetarianism, although we still enjoy vegetarian food, except for The Resolute Omnivore, who ‘don’ like vegetarian food.’ This of course is not strictly true: she often eats vegetarian meals, but is unaware of it, and ate vegetarian meals for the first three years of her life.

Anyway, point of the story: like almost everything we eat, I made this up on the fly. It is vegan, until you dump a pile of cheese and sour cream or yoghurt on top, which is what we do when we serve it in burrito bowls. But vegans could eat it with a non-dairy substitute, or just with salad and it would still be fine. Beans are also really lovely dressed with a tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil instead of cheese.

By ‘vegan’ I mean there is no animal product, no honey, no white sugar, no dairy, no eggs. Some vegans avoid wine so you might want to avoid the white wine in this recipe if you are cooking it for a vegan, but it should be no problem for a vegetarian. It is also gluten-free.

Black-eyed bean and Sweet Potato Chilli

2 tablespoons rice bran oil – 12 cents

1 onion, finely chopped – 10 cents

1 red capsicum, diced – 50 cents

2 sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped – 60 cents

1 large clove garlic, minced – 5 cents

1 can crushed tomatoes – 99 cents

3 cups cooked black-eyed beans, or two cans, drained and rinsed (I used beans I had pre-cooked and frozen – this was two bags) – $1.72

3 ‘pucks’ frozen spinach, thawed (about 1/3 cup) – 39 cents*

2 cups vegetable stock – free

2 teaspoons ground cumin – 10 cents

1 teaspoon ground coriander – 5 cents

1 fresh red chilli, minced** – free

170 ml dry white wine – $1.36

2 sprigs fresh thyme

Salt and pepper to taste

Heat the rice bran oil in a large, heavy pot. Cook the onions, capsicum, sweet potato, and garlic gently until soft. Add the beans and stir well to coat in the onions and other vegetables. Sprinkle with the spices, and cook for a further two minutes until the spices are cooked.

Pour in the wine and let boil away for a minute or so.

Pour in the tomatoes and stock, add the spinach and fresh thyme. Stir well and allow to come to the boil.

Vegetarian chilli

Vegetarian chilli just after stock and tomatoes have been added. Bring to boil and then reduce heat and allow to simmer.

Reduce heat and simmer for 40 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until the vegetables are cooked and the sauce has reduced.

Season well to taste.

Serve with any Mexican-style food.

We packed this up in smaller portions so we could heat and serve with burrito bowls alongside non-vegetarian dishes.

Total cost: $5.98

Per person (serves 10): 59 cents

 

 

*It is hard to buy frozen Australian-grown spinach. I buy the frozen organic spinach from Woollies that is grown in Europe, but if anyone knows of an Aussie-grown brand, please let me know. I’m growing my own kale but it is still small, so frozen it is.

**If you want less heat in your dish, remove the seeds and membranes from the chilli. We like it hot, so we just chop it up and whack it in – it does depend on the chilli variety though. My husband has a passion for hot chillies that surpasses even mine, and he wants us to grow habaneros (also known as ‘Scotch Bonnets’) this year – I will be using less of the seeds when I cook with those! I’ve learned that the hard way, believe me.

Days 239-242, Aug 2-5 2016 – Weekend cooking ahead saves trips to the takeaway

In a recent post I mentioned that we had a week where we dropped the dinner ball because I had not kept up with cooking ahead for the nights where we had unexpected late nights or school activities.

Determined to avoid this the following week, I planned a BDOC (Big Day of Cooking), to fill my freezer with dinners for nights that we would be home late (which seems to be many nights lately). My husband was working that day, so this had to be a well-executed operation. I do spend a lot of weekends cooking, but I wanted to do a lot this time to ensure that we had vegetarian and non-vegetarian meals on hand. I planned:

  • Quick Beef and black bean chilli;
  • Lamb chilli;
  • Meatballs for spaghetti;
  • Vegetarian chilli (we eat a lot of Mexican food);
  • ‘Cheater’s’ Chicken Cacciatore.

They were all cooked on Day 236, and frozen, and eaten later that week, from Days 239-242.

Quick Beef and Black Bean Chilli

I make a very slow-cooked beef and black bean chilli when I have time, using beef on the bone and dried black beans, that is the business. However some days, I don’t have the time, and this day was one of them, as I wanted to make five big pots of food in a single afternoon.

500 grams premium beef mince – $6

2 cans black beans, rinsed and drained – $2

1 onion, finely chopped – 10 cents

1 large clove garlic – 5 cents

1 can crushed tomatoes – 99 cents

1 sweet potato – 30 cents

1 red capsicum – 50 cents

2 teaspoons ground cumin – 10 cents

1 teaspoon ground coriander – 5 cents

1 fresh red chilli, minced – free

300 ml dry white wine (optional) – $2.40*

1/2 cup rolled oats  (optional)** – 11 cents

1.5 cups water

2 tablespoons rice bran oil – 12 cents

Salt and pepper to taste

Heat rice bran oil in a heavy based pot (I used my enamel cast-iron pot). Cook the onion, garlic, sweet potato and red capsicum on a low heat until all the vegetables are soft. Add the mince, and cook, breaking up the mince well until it is cooked. Add the black beans and all the spices, and stir well. Cook for another two minutes until the spices are cooked but not burned.

Pour in the wine. Allow to boil away, and then add the tomatoes, oats and water.

Cook on a low heat, stirring occasionally, until the chilli is nice and thick and the mince is cooked:

Beef and black bean chilli

How to trick my eldest into eating sweet potato and capsicum. She ‘don’ like capsicum.’

Season well with salt and pepper to taste.

This is great served on tacos, burrito bowls, quesadillas – anywhere you want to stuff or top something with a Mexican flavoured meat sauce. Serve it with salad and cheese on top and it is a healthy meal.

Total cost: $12.72

Per person (serves 12): $1.06

You could make this cheaper if you used a cheaper mince (3 star instead of 5) and skipped the wine. In that case the price would be cut down to $8.32 total, and to 69 cents per serve. I like the flavour of the higher quality beef and the wine but I have certainly made chilli plenty of times without the wine and it is still good.

The next recipe in my BDOC posted tomorrow.

 

*Some people say don’t use wine to cook with that you wouldn’t drink. Seeing as neither of us drink, we can use cheap wine to cook with. This was a bottle of six buck chuck.

**Rolled oats is a trick that can be used to add extra bulk and fibre to minced meat dishes. However it is not appropriate to use it if you are cooking for someone with a gluten intolerance or coeliac disease. Although it is possible to buy so-called ‘gluten free’ oats, oats are still defined as a food containing gluten. To make this dish gluten free, just omit the oats. They are not necessary.

Big Days of Baking: The Cake Edition

Strawberry Shortcakes, Genoa Cake Success, and Espresso Cake Madness

strawberry shortcake

Ye gods, not that Strawberry Shortcake!

Shortcake completed

This Strawberry Shortcake!

I found this Jamie Oliver recipe for Strawberry and Cream Shortbreads in a free magazine released by one of our supermarkets (when you click on the link you will discover which one). Of course, as you know Jamie Oliver is the king of my kitchen, and if he says that it will work, I believe him (unlike Jackie O).*

This recipe is easy and my family just about plotzed when they saw what I was making. More importantly, I assembled one in front of the kids, and then let each of them make their own. The shortbread itself was very quick to make (a simple shortbread), and then the assembly went like so:

shortcake base

Top the base of a cooled biscuit with a dollop of whipped cream.

shortcake base with cream and strawberries

Arrange four strawberry slices so that the pointy bits poke out the sides (it looks nicer when it is completed) and dollop another spoon of whipped cream.

shortcake topped

Place another biscuit on top. Dust with icing sugar. This is where my kids had the most fun.

Beware eating this – it is messy. I tried using a spoon – give it up. Use your hands and enjoy. Making their own made my kids feel very Mastercheffy but it was really a very simple thing to do.

I just made these for a lark one Sunday night, and I may make them again for a special treat; for example for a birthday dessert, but given the fact that shortbread is essentially butter held together with a little bit of flour and sugar, I would not make them often. There is a reason that shortbread was traditionally saved for a Christmas treat – it is not a health food.

Genoa Cake Success

As mentioned in a previous post I have been trying to perfect an old-fashioned cake called the Genoa cake. I have had mixed success, but this time I tried to treat this cake like it was my newborn child. I babied that sucker like I was presenting it to its grandparents for the first time.

Success!

First, I wrapped it up in several thicknesses of brown paper, raided from my daughters’ craft supplies:

genoa cake wrapped

Top view:

genoa cake wrapped 2

Who’s a sweet little genoa cake, then?

Finally, I reduced the temperature in my oven by 20 degrees C, cooking it for 3.5 hours at 130 degrees instead of the recommended 150 degrees. I think my oven, which is electric and from the 1980s, runs hotter than most. (This baby metaphor just starts to wig out once I start talking baking and ovens so I am not sure where to go from here…)

The cake was not dry and had a tender texture:

genoa cake slice

Hello, my lovely

Why yes, I have cracked slightly, thank you for asking.

Espresso and cinnamon cake

Big fan of coffee right here. I don’t drink alcohol or smoke, so I have to have some pleasures in my life, right? The rule in our house is that as soon as my husband wakes up, he makes the flat whites. On Sundays, he makes two.

Point of the story is, if I love coffee so much, then what about coffee-flavoured things? Well, I do love coffee icecream, and those chocolate-coated coffee beans (once my daughter gave me a whole kilo of them for Easter. Best. Easter. Ever.), and my second favourite of all cakes, the coffee cake. Not those pretend coffee cakes that you sometimes see recipes for, which are cakes to have with coffee – those are usually a streusel-topped cake with apple or blueberries. They are fine. But they are not coffee cakes if you ask my opinion. I want a cake with coffee in it. To drink with coffee. With chocolate-coated coffee beans on the side.

So every couple of months I make a coffee cake, with coffee in it, which my kids don’t like much, but we do. And since I’m the baker around here, I get to choose.

They get other things, like these:

M&M cookies

M&M cookies – because coloured sugar filled sugar discs are what every growing kid needs. MOTY.

This espresso cinnamon cake is for grown ups:

125 grams unsalted butter, softened

3/4 cup caster sugar

2 eggs, beaten

Double shot espresso coffee, combined with milk to make 1/2 cup strong cafe au lait – OR 1 teaspoon instant coffee mixed with 1/4 cup boiling water and 1/4 cup milk

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 cups self-raising flour

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

2 teaspoons raw sugar

Pre-heat your oven to 180 degrees C.

Grease and line a 20 cm springform pan (or any size cake tin you have. A ring tin would also be nice).

Place the butter and caster sugar in a stand mixer or bowl and beat until the sugar and butter are light and fluffy.

Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition and then add the vanilla and beat again. At the very least at this stage the mix should look like this:

blood orange cake 1

One of the main reasons a cake does not turn out well is that the butter and sugar has not been beaten for long enough.

Add the flour alternately with the cafe au lait, beating after each addition and scraping down the sides. ‘Alternately’ means adding about half a cup of flour, beating it in, then a couple of tablespoons of milk and beating that in, and repeating this process. Try to end this process with the last of the milk rather than the flour, so that the cake is nice and moist. After a while making this kind of cake (which is a ‘tea’ or butter cake you will learn how to do this).

Pour the cake mix into the prepared tin and spread flat.

Sprinkle the top of the cake with cinnamon and raw sugar.

Bake at 180 degrees for about 25 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean.

Espresso cake 2

Cut a slice while it is still warm and serve with coffee – of course.

 

 

 

*See what I do Jackie, is I follow the recipe. It’s amazing what happens when you do that.