Double Chocolate Oatmeal Cookies

Hello my lovelies, I come bearing more temptation.

Because that’s how I roll.

Today’s offering is a nice, simple cookie (that is, soft on the inside) that also doubles as a nice hit of fibre. You can do your digestion some good while making your taste buds do the happy dance.

The Double Chocolate referred to is a charming combination of Cocoa (antioxidants!) and Choc chips – the oatmeal (for my Aussie readers) is rolled oats. Really, it’s practically a health food and should be considered suitable for breakfast…

Let us begin.

Get your butter out of the fridge to soften and preheat your oven to 180°C/ 350°F. If you have a stand mixer, fit the paddle attachment and make yourself a cuppa until the butter is softened. You may also wish to pummel a block of dark cooking chocolate should you not wish to use choc chips – like I did.

Cream together the butter and sugars for about 4 minutes. I must confess that, when making this batch, I left out the brown sugar completely as I became distracted by something.

They still turned out beautifully, just not as sweet. Health food, dontchaknow?

After you’ve reached the soft and fluffy consistency, add a dash of vanilla extract and two whole eggs. Beat until thoroughly combined.

20161004_163321

Flour and cocoa for sifting.

At this point most of the dry ingredients can be combined and sifted into a bowl.

Flour and cocoa sifted.

Flour and cocoa sifted.

Add this to the mixing bowl and stir until just combined. Then add the rolled oats and repeat.

Oats are healthy.

Oats are healthy.

Stir those in and add the chocolate pieces. I prefer to use bits from a smashed up block of cooking chocolate, because it gives a different texture to the finished product. You’ll end up with pools of chocolate that blend nicely into the mix. Choc chips are designed to retain their structural integrity and remain recognisable after baking.

You can use whichever method you like. They’re your cookies.

Dark chocolate contains antioxidants. Health food.

Dark chocolate contains antioxidants. Health food.

Then, drop rounded spoonfuls onto a lined baking sheet and bake for 8-10 mins.

Use an ice cream scoop to save on arguments

Use an ice cream scoop to save on arguments.

Leave them to cool on the tray for about 5 minutes before you attempt to move them to a cooling rack. It will save on tears.

Double Chocolate Oatmeal Cookies

  • Servings: 48
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Ingredients

70 g softened, unsalted butter

½ cup white sugar

1½ cups brown sugar, firmly packed

2 eggs

1 tsp vanilla extract

1½ cups plain flour

1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1 tsp baking powder

¼ tsp baking soda

¼ tsp salt

2 cups rolled oats (not quick or minute oats)

1 cup dark chocolate chips.

Method

Heat the oven to 180°C/375°F.

Using an electric mixer and a paddle attachment if possible, cream butter and both sugars together until light and fluffy. This will take about 4 minutes.

Add the eggs and vanilla extract and beat until thoroughly combined.

In another bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda and salt.

Sieve into your butter mixture and blend until just combined.

Stir in the oats.

Stir in the choc chips.

Drop in rounded tablespoons onto a lined baking sheet. Do not flatten.

Bake for 8-10 minutes until set. Cooked cookies will be soft to the touch.

Allow to cool on the baking sheet for 5 minutes before removing to a cooling rack.

Store in an airtight container.

 

 

 

Tuna Rice Bake (simple)

Simple tuna and rice bake.

This is a very simple meal from The Boy’s childhood. I begged the recipe from his mother about a year ago (he kept on about it), but have only just got round to making it.

Because fish.

I’m not a big fish eater, I’m afraid. My mother had a deadly allergy to shellfish and an uncanny talent to turn fish fillets into cardboard. It all rather put me off.

I didn’t make this exactly according to the recipe either – which kind of spoiled the nostalgia surprise effect I was aiming for. Meh. I didn’t have any celery (IKR!) so I used red capsicum and I added Old Bay Seasoning to the white sauce, because I thought it would taste good.

And it did.

So there.

Anyway, here goes. This is actually a really good, simple, casserole for those nights when stocks are low and inspiration lower. Most of the ingredients will be found in a well-stocked pantry, especially if said pantry includes long-life milk… It’s even better if you have some plain rice already cooked and languishing in your refrigerator.

It starts off with a large tin of tuna in brine or spring water. The tuna is drained, but the liquid is reserved and made up to 1½ cups by adding milk to it. Now, I actually ended up using about a cup or so more of milk when I made it, as my sauce was exceedingly thick. But more on that later.

Drain the tuna and reserve liquid.

Drain the tuna and reserve liquid.

Some butter is melted and and used to saute an onion until translucent. Now I did this bit differently to the original recipe, as I didn’t want to risk a raw flour taste in the sauce. A few tablespoons of plain flour were then added and stirred to make a roux before the milk mix was whisked in and stirred until it boiled and thickened. Basically a fish-flavoured white sauce with onions in.

Make a roux.

Make a roux.

After you have your thickened liquid, add salt and pepper. If you are me, however, add something more interesting (like Old Bay Seasoning).

Add some yum.

Add some yum.

If you don’t have any – which is understandable in Oz – something similar could be conjured up with a touch of dry mustard and smoked paprika, with a little salt.

To your newly-flavourful white sauce, add the contents of the tuna tin, some celery and some nuts. The recipe called for cashews, but I had slivered almonds so I used those and of course I substituted the celery with capsicum.

Add tuna, celery and nuts.

Add tuna, celery and nuts.

Now a smallish (1.5 l) oven dish was sprayed with oil and half a cup of grated cheese (I had mozzarella)was spread on the base before a cup of rice was also added.

Cheese and rice start the layering process.

Cheese and rice start the layering process.

The tuna mixture followed.

Tuna mix next.

Tuna mix next.

Then a layer of sliced tomatoes. Related: we grew these tomatoes. In our garden. Oh yeah.

Home-grown lusciousness ensued.

Home-grown lusciousness ensued.

I sprinkled the top with another half cup of cheese and it went into the oven for 30 mins.

After which it was eaten.

Dinner.

Dinner.

And everyone was happy.

I am particularly happy now. The fact that this is on my website will mean that I can find it and read it much more easily than this photo of the recipe that was emailed to me…

I couldn't change the rotation to read it when cooking...

I couldn’t change the rotation to read it when cooking…

Tuna Rice Bake

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Difficulty: moderate
  • Print

Ingredients

1 x 425g tin tuna in brine or springwater

1¼ cups of milk (approx.)

2 tbsps butter

1 small onion, diced

2 tbsps flour

Salt and pepper

¾ cup chopped celery

½ cup whole cashews or almonds

1 cup grated cheese

1 cup cooked rice

1 large tomato, sliced.

Method.

Set oven to 180°C/350°F.

Drain tin of tuna, reserving liquid. To the liquid add enough milk to make 1¼ cups.

Flake the tuna into a small bowl, removing skin and bones.

Melt butter in a medium saucepan over gentle heat.

Add onion and sauté gently until soft and translucent (not browned).

Add flour and stir into butter, creating a roux. Fry gently for one minute.

Remove from heat and whisk in milk, dissolving any lumps. Return to heat and cook gently until liquid boils and thickens.

(If you think your sauce is too thick, add more milk a ¼ cup at a time until it reaches a consistency you prefer. You don’t want anything too runny.)

Add tuna, celery, nuts and seasoning.

Grease a medium-sized casserole and sprinkle half the cheese on the base.

Add the cooked rice.

Spread the tuna and white sauce mix onto the rice layer.

Arrange slices of tomato on top of the tuna layer.

Spread with remainder of cheese.

For ease of handling, place your casserole dish onto a larger oven tray. 😉

Bake for 30 minutes – until heated through and the cheese is browned.

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Irish Soda Bread

Irish Soda Bread

We make our own bread in the Budget Bounty household. It started out as a budgetary mechanism, but now we’ve got ourselves into a groove and it’s become a thing.

We just use a purchased bread mix and add bits to it, like ground flaxseeds or buckwheat. We buy a 5 kg bag, decant most of it into a food grade sealed bucket and put a kilogram or so into a smaller container in the pantry. When this smaller container is empty, it is refilled from the bucket by The Boy.

So, you can imagine my surprise when my request for the smaller container to be refilled from the bucket was answered with the words, “It’s empty.”

Ahem.

I’m still at a loss as to how the empty bucket wasn’t noted at the time it was emptied, so that it could be refilled before we ran out.

Anyway, moving on.

We needed bread. About this time, I remembered making Irish Soda Bread several lifetimes ago and that it had been well received – so I thought I’d give it a shot on The Boy.

It’s a very scone-like bread (half way to a damper) that toasts well and lets one consider one’s farm-dwelling ancestry a generation or two back. It’s also a great introduction to bread-making for those who are afraid of using yeast.

Ahem.

Unfortunately, its density means that it isn’t something that diabetics will be wanting to consume on a regular basis, but it is very yummy.

It’s a very simple recipe using basically plain flour, baking soda and buttermilk. We had all of these things.

So, into a largish bowl 800g of plain flour was poured. I had a bit of wholemeal plain flour in a jar, so I added it first and then made up the weight with some regular stuff.

It was all sifted on the way through, along with some salt and some baking soda. The bran from the wholemeal was added after.

The flours were sifted.

The flours were sifted.

I also added a tablespoon or so of golden flax seeds. Because I like them.

Flax seeds rock

Flax seeds rock

It was all stirred together thoroughly, a well was made in the middle, and a pint of buttermilk was added. Then it was mixed together with a heavy spatula (or I could have used a wooden spoon) until it came together as a firm dough. My bread needed more liquid, so I just added splashes of milk until I got that result. It’s important not to be too heavy-handed with this. It is a lot like scones, in that light handling will result in a lighter bread.

Then it was tipped out onto a lightly floured surface.

Turn it out onto a floured surface.

Turn it out onto a floured surface.

Then, with a light touch, I shaped it into a big ball – kneading it gently until it was only just smooth.

Remember it's rustic. Alton says people pay extra for that...

Remember it’s rustic. Alton says people pay extra for that…

A tray was sprayed with cooking oil, the loaf was placed smack dab in the centre of it and brushed with a little milk. Then, following tradition, a cross was cut in the centre. This enables the bread to rise in such a way that the loaf maintains its shape on the way.

Ready for the oven.

Ready for the oven.

Then it was all baked in a moderate oven for just on an hour.

The same bread, now baked.

The same bread, now baked.

It really is that simple. Measure your flour, add your wet stuff and bake.

Let it cool on a rack and then treat as you would any other bread. Ours kept in the bread box in the pantry for 5 days after baking.

Yum!

Yum!

Once life is a little more settled (probably after we move) I’m intending to try experimenting with different flours and additives. I think this would be awesome with some rolled oats added in, just as a f’r’instance.

If you’ve never made bread from scratch before, then please give this a try and then let me know how you go. 🙂

Irish Soda Bread

  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Ingredients

800g plain (All Purpose) flour. You may use a combination of different flours if you wish.

1 tsp salt

1 tsp bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)

600 ml  buttermilk

milk to glaze

Method

Heat the oven to 180ºC/350ºF.

Sift the flour, salt and baking soda together into a large bowl, adding back any bran left in the sieve. Mix well.

Make a well in the centre and add the buttermilk. Stir lightly and quickly until a firm dough forms. If loose flour is still evident, simply add milk a tablespoon or two at a time until it is all incorporated.

Turn onto a lightly floured surface and lightly knead and shape into a smooth round about 20 cm across.

Place onto a lightly greased tray.

Cut a cross about 1 cm (½ inch) deep into the top of the loaf.

Brush the surface of the bread with a little milk. This will remove excess flour and help the bread to get a lovely golden colour.

Bake for an hour, testing after 50 minutes. Bread is done when a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean.

Lift onto a wire rack to cool.

 

Chocolate “Paddle Pops”

Chocolate "Paddle Pops"

Yes. I know it’s been a while, but there’s been stuff and it’s been hot and things have been going on and, and…

Never mind.

Some of the stuff that’s been happening.

2016-02-10 18.05.21

Some of the stuff that’s been happening.

Ahem.

Today’s post is in honour of all those mums out there with overheated youngsters and very little disposable income. School is back and the heat seems unrelenting right now with some parts of Australia having 4-5 consecutive days of 40º C plus heat. Which sucks.

So, it’d be quite nice to be able to give the kidlings an icy-cold, almost-good-for-you treat when they flood in the door.

This is one such treat.

Paddle Pops are a part of summer in this neck of the world, but they can get pricey quite quickly. Make your own and save some money while also controlling portion sizes and the amount of sugar that goes into your little ones (or your big ones in this household!)

They use very few ingredients and take about 5 mins to make and 2 hours or so to freeze solid. The kids can even help with making them.

Icy pole moulds

Icy pole moulds

I use icy pole moulds that I bought from Tupperware some time ago – mostly because my mother had the exact same ones when I was a kid, so I had to have them – you understand, don’t you? However, you don’t have to get the same ones. Kmart and other discount stores have icy pole moulds for sale at very low prices, failing that (small) disposable cups will work just as well. Use what you have.

The recipe calls for FOUR (4) ingredients: milk, sugar, cornflour and cocoa.

Start with 500 ml of milk. Any kind of milk: full cream, skim, reconstituted powdered milk, half and half, soy, almond, goat, whatever. Place it in a medium sized saucepan and bring to a boil over a medium heat. You want to give yourself time to get the other ingredients ready…

Heat the milk

Heat the milk

Then, into a smallish bowl, sift together the sugar, cocoa and cornflour.

Sift the dry ingredients together.

Sift the dry ingredients together.

I confess to not using cocoa in these pictures. We have a largish tin of a dark hot chocolate mix that was given to me and has been kicking around our pantry for some time now. It doesn’t contain milk powder, so I’ve started using it as a cocoa substitute where possible. Take my lead here, you can substitute the cocoa with Milo, Ovaltine, or Nesquick if that is what you have.

Now, get yourself a whisk. I have a little sauce whisk that I bought for a few dollars at Ikea the last time I was there, and I prefer to use it for this task as it works well to stop things from sticking to the bottom of the pot. A regular balloon whisk will do the job though, so don’t fret.

Sauce whisk

Sauce whisk

So, bring your milk to a low boil and remove from heat. Add your dry ingredients to the wet and whisk well. I actually prefer to add some of the milk to the bowl they are in and blend them there before adding back to the rest of the milk. It’s much the same as the method I use for thickening sauces.

Add some hot milk to dry ingredients...

Add some hot milk to dry ingredients…

...and whisk to dissolve.

…and whisk to dissolve.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you do this too, then return the chocolate mix to the milk in the saucepan and return the liquid to the heat.

Yes. Yes, it does look like chocolate milk.

Yes. Yes, it does look like chocolate milk.

This bit will require your attention. Heat the milk, stirring constantly until the mixture begins to thicken to a custard-like consistency. Use your whisk to scrape the bottom of the saucepan which is where the heavier cornflour and cocoa will sink to and – if you are unlucky – catch and burn. Don’t stop stirring!

The thickened mixture through a steam soft focus.

The thickened mixture through a steam soft focus.

Remove it from the heat and, if you are as much of a klutz as I am, transfer it to a jug with a good pouring lip. Work quickly or a skin will form on your liquid.

Pour into your icy pole moulds, add sticks and freeze.

Fill 'em up.

Fill ’em up.

When frozen solid, munch away.

Ready to go.

Ready to go.

Chocolate 'Paddle Pops'

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Ingredients

500 mls milk

2 tbsps sugar

1 tbsp cocoa (or other milk flavouring)

1 tbsp cornflour

Method

Place milk into a 1 litre saucepan.

Sift together sugar, cocoa and cornflour.

Heat milk until just boiling and remove from heat.

Add half the milk to the dry ingredients and whisk well to remove all lumps.

Add contents of bowl back into saucepan and return to medium heat.

Whisk liquid constantly, making sure to scrape the bottom of the saucepan regularly, until it thickens and becomes custard-like.

Pour the custard into icy pole moulds, add sticks and freeze until set. The time this takes will depend on how wide your moulds are – the thinner they are, the faster they will freeze through.

Variation: Use chocolate milk flavouring powder like Milo, or strawberry milk Nesquik for a change of flavour.

A cool treat for kids of all ages.

A cool treat for kids of all ages.

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Simple lemon air freshener (and an update)

This is a lemon.

Hello All,

I have had another brush with bad health and that is why I deserted you momentarily. One part of this latest episode involved an abscess, a Golden Staph infection and an associated inability to use my dominant arm, the other part involved having the office of a Rheumatologist calling me to make an appointment before I even knew my pathology results were back…

Oh dear.

I have made some yummy things in the interim and one post is coming soon. However, I thought I should share something quick and easy with you for now. A lemon air freshener.

I can’t tell you where this came from. It appeared as a meme in my Facebook feed a few months ago but wasn’t attributed to anyone.

We now have THREE cats. The Accidental Cat, Sara, seems to have issues with entering the litter tray properly. This means that her rear end is often not occupying the designated air space.

Ahem.

When shall we three meet again?

Cats. Sara is the grey one.

Consequently, there is a fair bit of unaccustomed cleaning activity being carried out in the Budget Bounty household. This is often accompanied by much giving of thanks that there will be no carpets anywhere in the New House – once it is built. Also a certain ‘pungency’ of the atmosphere tends to occur alongside such events.

This little air freshener is coming in handy. It’s also doing the job without setting off any allergies, exacerbating hayfever or triggering asthma like a lot of commercial air fresheners can do. Just saying.

This is a lemon.

This is a lemon.

Firstly, get thou a spray bottle of some kind. It will need a capacity of at least 500 ml, which is 2 cups or half a litre. If you are American, a pint will do.

Then find a nice, juicy lemon. If you want it even juicier, then roll it on a hard surface to break up some of the internal structure and release more juice.

Squeeze it into a small jug.

This citrus squeezer is one of my favourite gadgets.

This citrus squeezer is one of my favourite gadgets.

Add 2 level tablespoons of bicarbonate of soda (baking soda) and wait for the fizz!  Stir well.

Chemistry in action.

Chemistry in action.

Once it has settled and you can be sure there are no undissolved lumps, add 2 cups of tepid water. Stir well.

All mixed up.

All mixed up.

Now, even the best juicers can let seeds and bits of pulp through into the resulting liquid. You don’t want those in your spray bottle or the works will get clogged up. Strain it. I placed a teeny tea strainer in the mouth of my funnel and strained it as I filled my bottle.

I am a multi-tasker. (Hear me moan as I finally get to sit down…)

Bits get strained out - which is good.

Bits get strained out – which is good.

Place the nozzle on your spray bottle and give it a small shake before each spray.

The finished article.

The finished article.

You’re welcome.

Simple

  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Ingredients

1 lemon

2 tbsp bicarb or baking soda

2 cups water

Method

Juice the lemon into a bowl or jug.

Add the bicarb. The mixture will fizz up a little, this is not something to worry about. Stir well.

Add 2 cups or 500 ml of tap water. Mix well.

Strain to remove any stray lemon seeds or fruit pulp.

Use to fill a small spray bottle or atomiser.

Shake before using.

This mixture will impart a slight lemon fragrance to the air and the bicarbonate of soda will help to absorb any bad smells that may already be there.

The Accidental Cat explores a favourite bird hide of her clowder mates.

The Accidental Cat.

How to line the base of a springform tin.

I often feel that the hardest parts of making a cheesecake are:

  1. lining the tin, and
  2. getting the cake out of the base.

Strangely these two things are intimately linked. Whodathunkit?

This used to frustrate me terribly until a chef friend casually mentioned the workaround.

(Hi Kath! *waves frantically*) I intend to share it with you here.

This is a springform tin.

A springform tin

A springform tin

If you have a look at the base of a spring form tin it will look something like this.

See the lip?

See the lip?

That there raised edge is the reason you have such trouble getting the cake off the base and onto your serving platter.

Try turning it over.

See the difference?

See the difference?

See how it’s all opposite to the other side? (She asked, stating the bleeding obvious…)

This is the side you want to be putting your cake onto to bake, that way it can just slide right off without getting caught on the lip.

To make this even easier, it helps to cover the base with baking paper.

Tear off a piece that’s a fair bit larger than the base. This will give you room for tearing bits off in the ensuing struggle…

Take a piece of baking paper

Take a piece of baking paper.

Now place your base on it with the raised surface downwards. Fold the edges of the paper over.

Wrap your base up.

Wrap your base up.

It doesn’t have to be perfect. Now turn it over and place it into the ring of the cake tin. It’s tempting to simply place the ring over the base and tighten it – but this will not work.

Trust me on this.  Save yourself the heart-wrenching sobs and just lower it into the tin, okay?

Lower the base into the tin.

It’s okay. Just take deep breaths.

Push it down as far as it will go and tighten the ring. You will think you have failed miserably because it will look a bit like this.

Turn the whole thing over.

It will look something like this.

It will look something like this.

Now tug on the edges of the paper to pull the sheet as flat as you can. Take it slowly, but don’t be afraid to tug firmly. The base will begin to straighten out. It doesn’t have to be perfect, but you don’t want lots of loose paper and folds across the base either.

See the difference?

See the difference?

Push the base firmly down in the ring to ensure it is locked in place. Leave the paper folded under the tin, this will make it easier to remove once cooked. Remember your tin is now raised slightly because the lip of the base is pointing downwards, this will give you a space for the paper to gather without affecting how level the tin sits in the oven.

Now start baking your cake.

If you are using a bain marie (dish of water) to make your cake, then simply create a shell out of one piece of aluminium foil to protect the paper and guard against leaks.

If you are not using a bain marie, then place the cake tin on another baking tray to make it easier to handle.

Most recipes call for the cake to be chilled for a period of time. Leave the cake in the tin while it is first chilling in the refrigerator.

When it is time to remove it from the tin fold out the paper from under it until it is as flat as possible. Now release the spring on the ring and lift it away.

The paper that extends from around the cake will give you the means to simply slide it off the base with complete ease.

Tug on the paper to remove from the base.

Tug on the paper to remove from the base.

Then place it close to the edge of a cooling rack. Pull the paper straight down at a right angle until the side of the cake is over the edge of the rack and the paper is clear.

You should be able to insert a long spatula between the paper and the cake and lift it free. Place on platter, decorate if you wish and serve.

Now you can take it to someone else’s place and know that you will have the base of your springform tin the next time you use it…

You’re welcome.

Serve and enjoy.

Serve and enjoy.

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When life gives you lemons…

Future cleaning products.

I would naturally suggest that you make lemon butter or lemon curd if you were handed large amounts of lemons.

Lemon Butter.

Lemon Butter.

Although, there’s any number of other things you could make with them, like Caraway and Lemon Biscotti or some of the other recipes I have planned to post for you.

But, what can you do with all the leftover lemon shells? They look like sunshine and smell heavenly and it always feels like such a waste to simply toss them into the compost…

Make a cleaning spray with them.

I kiddest thou not.

All you need is your lemon ‘husks’, some plain old household vinegar and a largish jar with a lid.

If you are an instant coffee drinker with a fairly decent habit, you probably find yourself with largish glass jars all the time. Use one of those.

The vinegar you need is not the high-brow, ultra-gourmet, aged in oak barrels, caressed lovingly by mountain maidens type vinegar. No. You want this stuff.

This is vinegar.

This is vinegar.

Plain old household vinegar. You can get a 2 litre bottle at Aldi for around $1.20. You can now buy ‘household cleaning vinegar’ in the detergents section of many supermarkets, but you don’t need that. This stuff will do.

You’ll find it on the bottom shelf in the pickles and condiments sections of your supermarket aisles. I tend to buy 6 litres at a time.

Vinegar is acetic acid. Acid cleans stuff. Better yet, vinegar doesn’t contain nasty fragrances that will set off hayfever sufferers until the perfume finally disappears. It doesn’t need you to suit up in coveralls and goggles to use it and doesn’t come with a Poisons warning.

Zest and juice your lemons

It cuts through grease, it’s antibacterial, and it’s biodegradable, it’s also highly unlikely to trigger eczema and other skin reactions like harsher (more expensive) chemical cleaners. It also kills moulds and mildew, unlike bleach which simply “bleaches” them and makes things smell clean.

It can be used in all sorts of things. But sometimes you don’t want stuff to smell like vinegar for even a short time. (However, the scent does dissipate really quite quickly.)

So try doing this:

lemons in white vinegar

lemons in white vinegar

  1. Thoroughly clean your jar.
  2. Pack it with your used lemons.
  3. Fill with vinegar until the lemons are covered.
  4. Tightly cap the jar.
  5. Place in a dark cupboard for a minimum of 3-4 weeks.
  6. Strain the liquid from the lemons and reserve.
  7. Discard lemons.

The vinegar will draw the essential oils out of the lemons and take on their colour and fragrance.

It can then be diluted 50:50 with water and used to clean floors, glass, shower recesses and counter tops. Use  a microfibre cloth and it will be even more effective.

It may require a little more elbow grease than a stronger store-bought chemical, but you also won’t require breathing apparatus to be in the same room immediately after you’ve used it.

Sturdy, inexpensive spray bottles are available in most supermarkets or hardware stores. I use this kind.

Spray bottle filled with lemony vinegar.

Spray bottle filled with lemony vinegar.

This is filled with undiluted vinegar. I had a greasy grill I wanted to get clean, so I didn’t add any water this time. As you can see, the liquid has taken on the colour of the lemons.

The house I am currently living in has hardwood floors throughout. It was costing me a fortune to clean them with commercially available liquids – then I discovered this. It cleans beautifully with a microfibre cloth on a swiffer-type mop, with no streaking at all and a fresh scent.

My subscribers may have noticed that I make large amounts of lemon curd when the fruit is in season as The Boy seems to inhale it. This leaves me with 6 half lemon shells for each batch. Into a jar they go, and I will keep topping up that jar until it is full. I have about 6 jars steeping in the back of my pantry at any given time.

It doesn’t go off.

Future cleaning products.

Future cleaning products.

You can also use orange peels in exactly the same way. So, if you are a maven for freshly squeezed OJ, here’s a way to generate less waste.

A word of warning though: do not use this spray on a marble surface, or you will get etching. That would be bad.

Laminates are fine, as is solid granite and other stones.

However, check with the manufacturer as I accept no responsibility for any damage that might be caused…

 

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Swiss Roll

The first time I made a Swiss Roll I do believe it was in my Home Economics class and I was around 14 years old. That was over 30 years ago.

It was also the last time I made a Swiss Roll.

In case you haven’t picked up on this yet, Swiss Roll making isn’t a high frequency activity in my kitchen.

Got it?

Anyhoo…I needed to make something for my Thursday lunch group.  It needed to be something simple and non energy-sapping. I’d just made a double batch of Lemon Butter and thought maybe some of that could be used in …  something?

Lemon Butter.

Lemon Butter.

Then I remembered that one of the ladies at the group is doing a cookery course and one of her assignments was a sponge cake filled with lemon curd.

‘What about a Swiss Roll?’ something whispered in the back of my head.

So I went with it.

I found this very simple recipe here on one of Jamie Oliver’s sites. I can honestly say it’s one of the easiest things I have ever made.

The hardest part was working out whether I had a Swiss Roll tin! I knew they were big and flattish but…so I asked Mr Google and found the answer resided here, with the ever delectable Nigella Lawson.

A Swiss roll tin is a specific tin that is designed to bake a thin, rectangular sponge cake that is then rolled up to make a Swiss roll (jelly roll or roulade). It has slightly raised edges (about 2 to 3cm/3/4 to 1 inch) deep and has dimensions of roughly 23 x 33cm (9 x 13 inches).

I had one of those. It was all good.

I also had all three (3!) of the necessary ingredients.

I used a stand mixer because I can’t hold things very well right now and I could just turn this on and block my ears. If you have a hand-held electric beater or whisk then go for it. If you have none of these things but are possessed of a balloon whisk and well-developed biceps, then feel free to join in the fun.

Heat your oven to 200°C/400°F.

Start with sifting a teeny amount of caster sugar into a bowl and add three eggs.

Start with eggs and sugar. Now beat.

Start with eggs and sugar. Now beat.

Whisk the two together until the mixture becomes thick and creamy.  This could take quite some time. I stopped at one point and decided to add some lemon zest to the batter just to tie it to the lemon butter a bit better. Not sure it made a measurable contribution in the end.

You can see it's getting a little thicker here.

You can see it’s getting a little thicker here.

It still wasn’t thick enough though. You are looking for a thick, creamy looking batter. You’ll know you’ve reached the right point when the beaters start to leave a trail in the mixture, like this…

Can you see the ripples? That.

Can you see the ripples? That.

Put your electric beaters away; from this point on being gentle is your game plan.

Sift the Self Raising flour into a bowl and then sift it again into the mixture. Fold it through the egg mixture using a metal fork.

Gently fold in the flour.

Gently fold in the flour.

I might be the only person you know who uses a fork for this, but it works. Folding is basically the same as stirring, but in slow motion. You are trying not to beat out all the air that you have just beat into the egg mixture. Think of the flour as just being there to stabilise that structure.

Once all the flour is incorporated, stop.

2015-08-26 17.17.03

Line your Swiss roll tin. Pour the mixture into the tin and spread out with a spatula. Again, be gentle.

Trim the paper after you've filled the tin.

Trim the paper after you’ve filled the tin.

Bake for 7-8 minutes, until lightly brown and fully set.

In retrospect, I think mine could have used a few minutes more...

In retrospect, I think mine could have used a few minutes more…

Now, this here is the secret bit so listen up!  I remembered this from Home Ec. all those years ago.

Mrs Wood would be proud.

You’ve got to roll it up while it’s still warm and let it cool that way. That prevents cracks (and tears ) caused by rolling up a cold cake.

So, using the paper lining, pull the cake up out of the tin and onto a cake rack. Decide if you want to roll from the long side or the short and orient your cake accordingly. Mine was to serve a lot of people after a lot of food – small slices would do. I went for the long side roll.

Pull the paper away from the other edges, so it doesn’t get rolled into the cake.

Pull your lining paper away from the other edges.

Pull your lining paper away from the other edges. As you can see, a few minutes more in the oven might have been in order…

Roll up slowly with the lining paper still on. This will stop it from sticking to itself when you need to unroll it later.

Roll up your roll. (Sorry.)

Roll up your roll.

Then roll your roll up in a clean, dry tea towel. Leave it until it is completely cool.

Roll into a tea towel.

Roll into a tea towel.

Alternatively, you might wish to remove the backing paper and use a tea towel in its place so that the fabric is holding the cake apart. I didn’t have any tea towels without a pile to hand and that would have only ended badly.

When it is completely cool, unroll and fill with lemon butter if you wish.  You might also like to use jam, or thickly whipped cream. Just remember that you need to roll it up again, so don’t slather it on or you’ll have filling oozing out everywhere.

Spread with your filling of choice.

Spread with your filling of choice.

Re roll, this time leaving the paper (or tea towel) behind.

Re-roll.

Re-roll.

I wrapped mine up, sausage-like, in cling wrap and refrigerated it overnight.

Swiss Roll sausage

Swiss Roll sausage

To serve, place on a serving tray and sprinkle with icing (confectioner’s) sugar – I forgot to take a picture of this bit. Sorry.

This is what it looked like after we’d eaten most of it though…

Cross-section.

Cross-section.

It was very well received.

Swiss Roll

  • Servings: 4-8
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Print

Ingredients

3 eggs

75 g caster sugar

75 g self-raising flour

2-3 tablespoons jam/lemon curd

Method

Heat oven to 200°C/400°F.

Grease and line a Swiss Roll tin with greaseproof paper.

Sift the flour onto a plate.

Place the eggs and sift sugar into a mixing bowl.

Whisk using an electric beater until the mixture becomes thick and creamy and the beaters leave a visible trail. About 5 minutes.

Sift the flour (for a second time) into the mixing bowl and gently fold into the mixture using a fork.

Pour the mixture into the prepared tin and spread out gently with a spatula.

Bake for 7-8 minutes.

Turn out of the tin onto a cooling rack and gently remove the backing paper.

Roll up using a clean, woven tea-towel and leave until cool.

When cool, unroll and spread with your desired filling.

Re-roll. Place on serving dish with the edge of the roll on the bottom, and sprinkle with icing or confectioner’s sugar.

Slice to serve.

 

 

 

Microwaved Jacket Potato

I'm feeling peckish now.

There are times when you want something quick but hearty to eat, be it for dinner or lunch.

This is one of those dishes.

In fact, this is an ideal process to teach hollow-legged teenagers to follow for filling/healthy after school or school holiday snacks. Actually, it just makes an ideal Saturday/after sport/after-after-school-activity-and-I’m-too-tired-to-cook-anything-imaginative-dinner.

If you have a microwave, then you can have a baked jacket potato on your plate in mere minutes. In fact, many microwaves have a potato button…

Spot the 'Potato' button.

Spot the ‘Potato’ button.

But you can still do this even if your particular zapper doesn’t.

First, you need a potato.

This is a potato.

This is a potato.

I buy washed potatoes. I know they are cheaper unwashed, but I don’t enjoy scrubbing them and I refuse to peel potatoes on the grounds of good nutrition. So there.

When I choose my potatoes, I try to buy ones that fit nicely into the palm of my hand. That is a decent serving size for me. You might like your potatoes larger. Go for it.

Wash your potato and then prick it in several different places using the tines of a fork.

Pierce your potato's skin.

Pierce your potato’s skin.

Don’t skip this step. You need to do this or your potato will explode while you are cooking it. Now wrap it in a sheet of paper towel, like so.

Gift wrapped potato.

Gift wrapped potato.

Put it into your microwave and either use the potato program – my microwave requires me to press “potato” and then the number of items, followed by “cook” – or input cooking times yourself.

This can vary depending on the size of your spud. Try starting with 3 mins 30 sec at 80% power and work your way up from there. You’ll know your potato is cooked when the fork you used to puncture the skin will go into the flesh easily.

Warning: The potato will be HOT. Take proper precautions when handling it.

Check that it is done.

Check that it is done.

Then place it on a plate or into a bowl. You can eat it just like this, if you wish, but I like to top mine.

Cut a cross in the flattest side, opening up the potato like so:

That already looks good.

That already looks good.

We like to top ours with some home-made Baked Beans. I keep little jars of these in our freezer for meals like this, you can use store bought canned baked beans if you have them – any flavour you like.

Home-made cider baked beans.

Home-made cider baked beans.

Top your potato with the beans, cover and put it back into the microwave for a further minute at 100% power.

Ready to heat.

Ready to heat.

While it heats, get some grated cheese out of the fridge (or grate some). Top your potato and beans.

Top with a sprinkling of shredded tasty cheese or mozzarella.

Top with a sprinkling of shredded tasty cheese or mozzarella.

Return to the microwave, covered, for a further 30 seconds on 100%.

Melt your cheese.

Melt your cheese.

Eat.

Or, if you want to be really decadent, add a spoonful of sour cream and a sprinkling of mixed herbs or lemon pepper.

I'm feeling peckish now.

I’m feeling peckish now.

That, my friends, is a decent lunch in under 5 minutes.

Variations:

  • Try topping with a mixture of diced ham, cheese and pineapple for an Hawaiian Pizza feel.
  • Try a tin of three or four bean mix instead of the baked beans, add some pesto and bacon bits.
  • Try topping the baked potato with cheese and serving topped with some mixed frozen vegetables that have been cooked separately.

Corned Beef (Silverside)

The final result.

Corned Beef is one of those dishes that seems to have become a regular on my family meal rota – which is strange.

When I was a child I hated the stuff with a vengeance. Although I could be persuaded to eat it if, and only if, my mother was calling it Cane Cutter’s Ham.

I don’t know why.

I then lived alone for several decades and only attempted to cook it twice during that period. Both times were for visits by my step-father and, while he said it was great, I thought it was less than ordinary on both occasions.

I’ve got better at it in this stage of my life. Firstly, I’ve stopped cooking the vegetables that accompany it in the same pot as the meat. This means that there is a different flavour for everything on the plate, instead of a meal-wide sameness that resembles the next step to gastronomic zombieville.

Roasted veg.

Roasted veg.

I’ve also started adding a few more flavourings to the pot, some of which elevate the dish to heavenly status.

I kiddest thou not.

The best part is that I inevitably have enough leftover to make several more meals from the same piece of meat: fritters and almost fried rice spring to mind, it’s also a nifty addition to pasta bakes or on lunch box sandwiches.

One and a half kilos of meal options.

One and a half kilos of meal options.

I inevitably cook mine in a slow cooker but it can, of course, be cooked on the stove for a much shorter time. I like being able to put it on to cook of a morning and then walking away for the rest of the day until I’m ready to serve it up.

Go with your muse on this one.

So, to cook a piece of corned beef, you first need to find a pot big enough to put it in. Make sure it’s one that will take the beef, any flavourings you may use and enough water to cover the lot of it. In the photograph, I’m using a 3 litre slow cooker that has a tall, narrow crock.

First find a roomy pot.

First find a roomy pot.

I know it looks kind of yucky. This one was vacuum packed and had a fair amount of jelly around it. Don’t wash it off, just put the whole lot into your pot.

Now, generally, I would put the flavourings in first and then add the meat, But I didn’t do that for the pictures. I’m sorry if it confuses anyone. Also, none of the vegetables I’m about to add to the pot are destined to be eaten. They’re simply there to add flavour to the meat.

Got it? Good.

To the pot I add a stick of celery, cut into largish bits.

Celery.

Celery.

A carrot treated similarly.

Carrot.

Carrot.

Then an onion. All of these may be kept whole if you have the room in your pot.

Onions.

Onions.

Now add 6 peppercorns or 6 whole cloves. If you’re keen, you can add both. My mother would stud the onion with the cloves, but I don’t have the dexterity for that.

I also add some fennel seeds and a star anise.

A touch of spice.

A touch of spice.

Then a tablespoon or so (a glug) of apple cider vinegar.

Apple cider vinegar.

Apple cider vinegar.

And then the piéce de resistance!  An orange.

Yes, really. A chef former neighbour gave me this tip a year or so ago and I kiss her feet for it. (Thanks Kath!)

An orange. OMG.

An orange. OMG.

This will add a certain something that will lift your corned beef into the stratosphere of flavour. Trust me on this.

Now pop in a Bay Leaf and cover with cold water.

This is why I usually put the oranges in before the beef...

This is why I usually put the oranges in before the beef…

Put the lid on and cook on LOW for 6-8 hours or HIGH for 4-6 hours. Your kitchen will start to smell amazing.  I promise.

The final result.

The final result.

When it is done, simply remove from the pot, slice and serve. As you can see, the vegetables don’t look like you’d really want them on your plate…

Slice and serve.

Slice and serve.

Traditionally, Corned Beef is served with a white or mustard sauce. However, the other person in this household doesn’t really like sauces…

The meat does tend to dry out a little once sliced, so I simply spoon a couple of tablespoons of the cooking liquid over the meat on the plate. Not enough to drown it, mind!

It keeps the meat moist and gives a further hit of flavour.

Sunday night feast?

Sunday night feast?

Store leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

Corned Beef

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Ingredients

1 kg silverside/corned beef (this recipe will also work for larger cuts)

1 large onion, chopped

1 large stick of celery, chopped

1 large carrot, chopped

1 medium to large orange, quartered

6 whole cloves (these may be inserted into the onion if you wish); or

6 peppercorns – or both

1 star anise

½ tsp fennel seeds

1 tbsp apple cider vinegar

1 bay leaf

Method

Add all the ingredients to a pot large enough to hold the meat and flavourings.

Cover with cold water.

Bring slowly to the boil and simmer with the lid on until the meat is tender. (Approx. 2 hours for a 1 kg cut on the stove top)

If using a slow cooker set on LOW for 6-8 hours or on HIGH for 4-6 hours.

When cooked to your preference, remove from water, slice and serve.

May be served with a mustard sauce or with some of the pot juices spooned over the meat.

Store any leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

Variations:

This recipe will work for any pickled or salted cut of meat.

 

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