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Archive for the ‘cooking food’ Category

Choc chip cookies

In the 1970s and 1980s, Nabisco made a choc chip cookie that I thought was the Ants Pants, the Bees Knees, Scoffs for Toffs.  The voiceover on the television ad crowed in a cod-American accent — ‘Chips Ahoy with more chocolate chips from Nabisco’.

It was a consistently crunchy biscuit that was the right width (not too thin, not too thick) and contained the perfect amount of choc chip bits along with minimal nuts.  I thought these biscuits disappeared in the mid- to late- 90s but according to kraft.com.au, these biscuits are still being sold.  Perhaps it was my youth that vanished, along with my eyesight.

Anyway … recent cravings of mine for choc chip biscuits have seen me heading to the kitchen to make my own rather than scouring the supermarket aisles for a product that I’m clearly blind to.

My first attempt was a couple of months ago, based on a recipe from the Woman’s Weekly book, Sweet Old-Fashioned Favourites.  I don’t have a picture of my attempt but they didn’t cut the mustard, measure up, meet their key performance indicators.  They were too hard, too thick and they didn’t have enough choc chips.

My next, most recent and more successful attempt was based on a Nestle recipe that I cut out of a weekly magazine.  I didn’t hold that much hope for it because my experience of cooking from a magazine or tin labels comes via my grandmother and the 1970s where essential ingredients were chicken noodle soup or milk arrowroot biscuits.  Neither were particularly palatable, either in the mix or out of it (although I wouldn’t say no to a plate of beef mince chow mein right now, which contained the chicken noodle soup).

But this Nestle recipe had a lot going for it – namely, a whole tin of condensed milk and 250g of choc bits.  I wasn’t too worried if my biscuits didn’t work.  The mixture would have to be edible in some way.  I’d eat it raw if I had too.  (And this is in fact what happened only because it tasted so damn good.  I am now rather pudgy.)

To cut to the chase, here they are: golden, crunchy on the outside, slightly chewy in the middle, with chocolate buds bursting throughout.

Afternoon perfection!

And here’s the recipe itself.  I can recommend it for the ease in which the mixture comes together and its flexibility in being able to cope with substitute ingredients such as margarine made from canola oil (less greasy than butter) and normal choc chips instead of white ones.

I made 45 bics in total which were scoffed by mainly one person in a week.

Bon biscuit!

Choc Chip Cookies by Nestle

150g butter (or margarine made of canola oil)
1/3 cup caster sugar
395g can nestle sweetened condensed milk
2 cups of SR flour
125g Nestle Dark Choc Bits
125g Nestle White Choc Bits (or Nestle Normal Choc Bits)

Preheat oven to 180C.  Line 2 oven trays with baking paper.  Beat butter and sugar until creamy.  Beat in Nestle Sweetened Condensed Milk.  Stir in flour, then Nestle Dark and White Choc Bits, mix well.  Roll heaped tablespoonfuls of mixture into balls.  Place on prepared oven trays and press gently with a fork.  Bake 15 minutes until golden.

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Stuffed Cabbage

 
и вуаля!

During one of the most humid spells I can remember in recent times, I decided to make Stuffed Cabbage  from the Sassy Radish blog. I am not sure why I did this, other than to make something new and a bit different- read Russian.

The recipe I followed was a little vague, so I steamed the cabbage leaves from the cabbage one by one – effective method. But then I realised the leaves were still not pliable enough to wrap the stuffing, so I had to do a little last-minute blanching.

Stacked leaves ready for blanching

The rolling of the stuffing in the leaves was pretty easy, then I just jammed them in the leaf lined pot and covered the lot with the tomato and cabbage water mix. Onto the stove for at least an hour.

Stuffed in the pot

There is no time given in the recipe as to how long it will take to pull together, I think it took me at least an hour(and a half!). And after 30mins on the stove, cumin4ya decided the oven was a better option at 130 celsius. The jury is still out on stove versus oven, as we cooked them 40mins past the original hour in the oven! 

I think this was more to do with the blanching – the cabbages leaves need a bloody good blanch and did not get enough.

Meat mix

All in all  a hearty outcome, albeit a little bland. But, that is to be expected when the stuffing comprises of mince, rice, onion, garlic, celery and dill – as above.

Would I make it again? Yes. In winter, when I reckon I would насмехаться!

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Insalata Caprese

Warm summer nights means SALADS!

The above was my take on the Italian dish, Insalata Caprese: cherry tomatoes, baby bocconcini, fresh basil, olive oil and balsamic glaze.  The basil adds so much flavour.

And then, from the book Fresh by Michele Cranston, there was hot-smoked salmon on potatoes roasted in lemon zest, with spinach and a dill dressing.  The smokiness of the salmon offset by the gooeyness of the potatoes, cut through by the freshness of the spinach and the tang of the dressing – too good.

Everything was bought from a fruit and veg shop or the supermarket, which made me very happy.

And my god, did we scoff the lot.

Hot-smoked salmon with potatoes and spinach. Yum!

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"Beauty is only the promise of happiness." - Stendahl

It’s possible that I have a gluten intolerance — possible because nothing’s been proven yet and because I’m hopeful that it’s just a phase I’m going through (you know, like adolescence or the ‘flu, which you either grow out of in a few weeks or help pass with the assistance of a lot of codeine).

Because after cooking gluten-free blueberry muffins last night, it’s becoming clear to me that, quite frankly, gluten-free baking sux.

It all looked so promising: self-raising gluten-free flour that ‘bakes like regular flour’, eggs, oil, milk, sugar, blueberries and an endorsement by the Country Women’s Association of NSW.  What could go wrong?

The flour.

The flour.

The flour.

Did I mention the flour?

Gluten-free flour has a very different texture to normal wheat flour.  It’s very fine and light and has a slightly slimy chalky feel to it.  It flies everywhere as you tip it out of the packet and best not to lick your fingers to be rid of it because it tastes like a chemical.  It doesn’t mix particularly well with liquid and licking the bowl after the mixture has been poured into muffin tins is not an option because you will probably vomit.

Looking good enough to eat - if only that were true.

All of this would be forgiveable if the muffins had tasted any good.  They looked fantastic as they rose in the oven, as they were placed on a cooling tray and as we broke them open for viewing.  But put one in your mouth and begin to chew and hooley dooley, what a weird taste.

My first response was that they needed more sugar.  My second response was to wonder whether blueberries are chosen for their colour rather than flavour and are they a gelatinous fruit?  My third response was to do what adventurebiscuit was doing which was to slather them in butter and lashings of apricot jam and exclaim how awful the muffins were and how fantastic the jam was.

This solved the problem for a while but it left me with the longer term problem of how to cook decent cakes with gluten-free flour.

Who wants it?

In retrospect, the flour’s promise of baking like regular flour was in fact true — the muffins rose well and looked good.  What it didn’t account for was the myriad manifestations of hope that I attached to this claim — that the muffins would taste good, that they would taste the same as those cooked with wheat flour, and that my search for a decent gluten-free flour would have ended.

So the quest continues.  I’ll bake these muffins again but vary the recipe to include triple the amount of sugar and frozen raspberries instead of blueberries.  We’ll see how they go.

As of right now, though, I’m off to find the codeine!

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For no other reason except that I thought I should contribute to Christmas lunch at adventurebiscuit’s mum’s house, I decided to make a terrine the day before.  My original plan was to go with a pork and bacon terrine of Rick Stein’s but it called for pork liver which I could not be bothered tracking down.

And then I remembered a recipe in an edition of delicious. magazine (Dec 2008/Jan 2009 – sensational double issue!).

After finding it and checking that all the ingredients could be bought at the supermarket – pork and chicken mince, proscuitto, dried cranberries, brandy, pistachios, thyme, parsley, garlic, eggs – I turned the kitchen heat up to max. — complementing the sultry heat outside and ensuring that I would be wearing a glossy coat of sweat for the duration of my terrine making.

(1) The black bits are dried cranberries. No insects in my cooking, nosirree.

As instructed by the recipe, I greased my loaf pan and lined it with proscuitto (I was supposed to use pancetta or bacon but I substituted proscuitto instead).

The rest of the ingredients were combined together by hand and placed on top of the pancetta in the loaf pan. (See picture 1.)

It cooked in a moderate oven while standing in a roasting pan full of water.

Overnight, it sat in the fridge with a brick on top of it to squash it flat.

(2.) A brick of meat.

It was tricky getting it on to a plate as it didn’t want to come out of the pan but eventually, success!

And some superb decorations. (Picture 2.)

Too easy.

The terrine had a very subtle meaty flavour, which I gather from fauxfoiegras’ mum is a characteristic of terrines.  It tasted best with a cranberry and onion marmalade that we found in the fridge, but it also worked well with pickle.

Meat cake, anyone?

Would I make it again? Depends how pressed for time I’d be.  I prefer the stronger, richer tastes of pate and that’s the kind of thing I’d be looking for next time.

However, at both Christmas and Boxing day lunches, everyone seemed to enjoy it and scoffed … virtually all of it!

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I had been waiting to find some figs in decent nick to make this recipe, as they are quite expensive and only available for such a short time. So, what better time to make this than for Christmas Day as a pre lunch snack- waiting for Cumin4ya to get his act together. 

Fresh Figs

Ooh yummy!

  

This recipe originated in the New York Times, however, I spied it on Sassy Radish and salivated as I read through the post and looked at the pictures. 

I struggled a little with the recipe as some of it was in Metric and some in Imperial, it really didn’t matter in the end as I disregarded most measurements and cheated by using a jar of bought caramelised onions. 

What a delicious combo!

  

Please note for the below recipe I skipped the honey completely and only lightly sautéed the bought onion with some rosemary in the hope of infusing some of the flavour into the onion- did not really notice a big rosemary presence apart from the fresh needles scattered on top after baking. As already mentioned, I did not follow this recipe, but the end result was a success! 

Adapted from Sassy Radish 

Ingredients:
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 large onions (1 1/2 pounds), halved lengthwise and thinly sliced
1 sprig rosemary, more for garnish
Pinch sugar
1 teaspoon sherry vinegar
1/4 cup milk
1 egg
Flour for dusting
3/4 pound prepared puff pastry
1 pint fresh figs ( 3/4 pound), stemmed and cut in half lengthwise
1 1/2 ounces Stilton cheese, crumbled (about 6 tablespoons)
2 tablespoons pine nuts
Good-quality honey for drizzling, optional. 

Preparation: 

1. In a large skillet over low heat, melt butter with oil. Add onions, rosemary and sugar. Cook, tossing occasionally, until onions are limp and golden brown, 30 to 40 minutes. Stir in the vinegar, scraping any browned bits from bottom of pan. 

2. In a small bowl, whisk together the milk and egg until smooth. Stir in the onions. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line an 11 by 17-inch baking sheet with parchment paper. On a lightly floured surface, roll out pastry to a 9 by 12-inch rectangle. Transfer to baking sheet. 

3. Use a fork to spread onion mixture evenly over pastry (let excess egg mixture drip back into bowl), leaving a 1-inch border. Arrange figs, cut-side up, in even rows on onion mixture. Scatter cheese and pine nuts over figs. Use a pastry brush to dab edges of tart with egg mixture. Gently fold over edges of tart to form a lip and brush with more egg mixture. 

4. Bake until pastry is puffed and golden, 25 to 30 minutes. Serve, sprinkled with rosemary needles and drizzled with honey, if desired, warm or at room temperature. 

Yield: 8 servings 

All done.

 

Things I would do differently; 

  1. Buy caramelised onions not done in balsamic vinegar I think the balsamic was a bit strong
  2. Perhaps not be so lazy and cook onions from scratch next time(?)
  3. Not add all of the egg/ milk mix to the onion as the centre part of the tart was a little soggy
  4. Best served immediately, but was still a hit on Boxing Day when Adventure Biscuit scoffed the lot!

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Friendly White Christmas

Last Tuesday night at Cubs, the pack made White Christmas. Our leader, Raksha, is a clever gal and knows The Black One is add/preserve free, so she called me and ran through the ingredients.

There were a few changes to be made, like Natural Confection Company snakes rather than just any old lolly snake, and white marshmallows only, not pink.

Apart from that, we were good to go, although technically white chocolate does not pass the add/preserve free test, but we do make exceptions…especially as the school year is ending and it is Christmas!

The White One pretending to help

White Choc Bits, Chopped Snakes and Chopped Marshies on a stained tea towel

 
 
Method
4 cups Rice Bubbles
300gm White Marshmallows chopped
15 Jelly Snakes, chopped
2 packs Nestle White Melts (375gm each pack)

Melt chocolate over a pot of simmering water.  Mix bubbles, marshmallows, snakes and chocolate in bowl. 
Put patty cases onto tray, fill with mix.  Place in fridge for 30 mins or until firm.

Mixed up mix

As I have made this for The Black One’s class party, I lazily spooned the mix into two flat rectangular Tupperware containers and squashed it down with the back of the spoon. This will be easy to keep in the fridge and I can chop it into squares before I head to school for the party on Tuesday.

I bet The Black One will scoff the lot!

Merry Christmas Scoffers!

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