Budget decadence.

I’m sorry.

I didn’t do what I said I would. I got a lot done today, but unfortunately none of it had to do with this blog.

I wanted to though!  I promise. Really truly.

I was waylaid by completing my tax return. This should be relatively straight forward. It never is though. I invested my lump sum from when I was invalided into a managed trust. The tax statements/reports from there never arrive until September and contain all sorts of eldritch entries that require me to search through and experiment with various entry points on etax until they match the place they are supposed to go. The fact that they now list the places they go is massive improvement from a few years ago, when they did not.

This confusion and frustration was compounded by the Accidental Cat appearing at 15 minute intervals and yowling at me (at volume) to open a door…

I ended up locking her behind another one entirely.

This is new...

This is new…

However, t’is done. Also, since I cashed out the trust to put toward the house deposit, I won’t have these issues again. Happy dance, my place, now.

I did, however, get the celebration breakfast done.

I took these frozen croissants,2015-09-06 11.48.04

cut them in half and filled them with pieces of this small wheel of brie.2015-09-06 11.53.35

then heated them until the croissants were warmed through and smelled beautifully buttery and the cheese was all melty and runny.

Budget decadence.

Budget decadence.

We have a home loan and soon will start to build. Another happy dance.

On the blog front, I’m guessing I should do a post on how to do these croissants for Mothers’ and Fathers’ Day, or any special occasion, breakfasts …coming soon.

Also planned – a few posts on easy home-made cleaning solutions.

Tonight I’m abdicating catering responsibilities and waiting to see what The Boy serves me.

Because I can.

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Hello my lovelies.

I’m sorry I wasn’t on yesterday.

I went off to our plot at the Ballarat Community Garden and didn’t get back for 3 and a bit hours.

Before

Before

After all that weeding and mulching I was ever so tired and typing and internetting wasn’t really something I felt up to.

After.

After.

Thankfully, I had put a corned beef on to cook in the slow cooker before I left, so there really was nothing left to do for dinner.

That is, beyond mashing some spuds and cooking the Pak Choi I had just plucked from the aforementioned plot.

I had been followed home by a massive rainstorm, so it was doubly nice to tuck in to my meal knowing that (a) I had missed a drenching and (b) I didn’t have to do anything else that evening.

Dinner.

Sunday Dinner.

Today, I finally finished the shopping and hit the green grocery – so I’ll be publishing lists tomorrow. I also managed to make some Lemon Butter with my friend Althea’s eggs, and my friend Stephen’s lemons.

Little jars of sunshine to start the spring

Little jars of sunshine to start the spring

Then I started an experiment. There is a recipe for ginger beer in my mother’s collection and I have been meaning to try it for some time. This is that time. I’ll tell you in a few days if I was successful, but this is how it looks right now.

Ginger beer?

Ginger beer?

Tonight we shopped the fridge and I had vegetarian bean curry and the boy had honey teriyaki chicken; both over rice.

Tomorrow we will be starting the day with a celebratory breakfast. I have some brie in the refrigerator and some croissants in the freezer. These two shall be combined.

🙂

We have finance, Peeps. Life is good.

 

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Condensed milk chocolate chip cookies (no eggs).

A full biscuit barrel is a good thing to have.

This is my go-to recipe when I want to make cookies that don’t require thinking.

It comes from a wonderful little book that I bought from Aldi a few years ago, called “Cookies, Slices and Squares.”  I’ve not made a great many of the recipes it contains, but all those I have tried have been amazing.

I like to have some home-made biscuits in the house for The Boy. I’ll make a batch once a fortnight or so, keep most of them in the fridge and put four or five into a tin on the counter for him to nibble with his hot beverage of choice.

The beauty of butter-based cookies like these, is that they are far too hard to eat straight out of the refrigerator. Also, the flavour is much better developed at room temperature…do you see my strategy here? Basically, I’m ensuring that he doesn’t scoff the whole lot at one sitting.

This is a cookie recipe. It’s much softer when finished than Aussie biscuits are – cookies have a ‘cakey’ centre where biscuits are the same hardness all the way through.

condensed milk - ready to go.

condensed milk – ready to go.

This recipe uses sweetened condensed milk instead of eggs. One tin of condensed milk will get me three batches of these cookies. I pour the leftover milk into little jelly jars and keep it in the fridge until I need it. One jelly jar is the exact amount I need for the recipe, so it works out well.

It begins with creaming softened butter and caster sugar.

Cream butter and sugar.

Cream butter and sugar.

Then you whip in the condensed milk until combined.

Condensed milk joins the mix.

Condensed milk joins the mix.

To this plain flour sifted with baking powder is added and stirred in well. The recipe then calls for MASSES of chocolate chips – 300 g of them. This is what a batter with that amount of chips looks like … just for reference purposes.

Lashings and lashings of chocolate chips.

Lashings and lashings of chocolate chips.

Now I am of the belief that no everyday snacking cookie requires this much chocolate in it. I have (obviously) made them with it in the past, but only for special occasions or for gifts. On some occasions I have made up the 300 g with a combination of different types of chips – dark, milk, white and caramel – and it has worked beautifully.

I usually make these with 100 g worth.

Less chocolate works quite well too.

Less chocolate works quite well too.

It still works and no-one feels deprived of chocolate. Really, truly.

I then use a metal ice cream scoop with a 1 inch diameter to measure out the cookies onto a paper lined baking sheet.

A one inch ice cream scoop will save you trouble later...

A one inch ice cream scoop will save you trouble later…

This method means that they are all around the same size which helps with both portion control and arbitrating amongst judicially minded offspring – you know how it goes, “Muuuuum, it’s not fair! Her biscuit is bigger than mine!”

We’ve all been there.

It also helps if the kidlings are assisting you with your baking…

Aren't they cute?

Aren’t they cute?

Press down gently on the top to flatten slightly and pop into a moderately hot oven for around 15 minutes, or until slightly golden.

Yum.

Yum.

Leave them to cool for 5 minutes on the tray before removing to a cake rack to cool completely. They will still be soft when you take them out of the oven.

Also, DO NOT eat a hot cookie. Melted chocolate will burn. You have been warned.

Adequate choc chips for all...

Adequate choc chips for all…

As you can see, the smaller amount of chocolate chips is hardly inadequate.

Transfer to whatever receptacle works for you and enjoy.

The biscuit barrel is full.

The biscuit barrel is full.

Condensed milk chocolate chip cookies

  • Servings: makes 28
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Ingredients

200 g (7 oz) butter, softened

75 g (2¾ oz) caster sugar

125 ml (4 fl oz) sweetened condensed milk

250 g (9 oz) plain or all purpose flour)

1 tsp baking powder

300 g (10 ½ oz) chocolate chips or chunks (or less, if you prefer)

Method

Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F.

Line one or two baking sheets with baking paper.

Beat the butter and sugar together in a large bowl until pale and creamy.

Pour in the condensed milk and beat to combine.

In a separate bowl, sift together flour and baking powder.

Add to the butter mixture with the chocolate pieces and mix to combine.

Roll into tablespoon sized balls (or use an ice cream scoop) and place on the prepared baking sheets, leaving room to spread. Press down gently with your fingertips or a fork to flatten slightly,

Bake 15-18 minutes or until golden.

Remove from oven and allow to sit for 5 minutes before transferring to a cake rake to cool completely.

Cookies will harden on standing.

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Today, bread was baked.  It was enriched with home-ground flaxseed and some steel cut oat groats that I want to use up.

Then the smallest slow cooker was filled with the makings of a lentil and barley hotpot with a slight variation. The Boy isn’t keen on the texture of the dried shiitake mushrooms that I like to add to it, so this time I thought I’d do something different.

Dried Mushrooms.

Dried Mushrooms.

I piled the dried mushrooms into the little electric coffee grinder- that I use for grinding everything except coffee – and pulverised them.

Dried mushroom powder.

Dried mushroom powder.

Then I added the mushroom powder to the chicken stock and continued as per normal. This way I got the mushroomy aroma that I adore and he didn’t have to deal with sensory issues. This is what is known as a win/win.

Some of yesterday’s Tuscan Kale bonanza was also added to the pot. We had it for dinner served over steamed basmati rice.

Lentil and Barley Hotpot

Lentil and Barley Hotpot

But before that we reduced a heaping pile of killer rose debris to a much smaller, smouldering pile of ash and charcoal. It was very satisfying.

However, it caused me to reflect on how skills are being lost – especially after three abortive attempts to get the pyre lit. My mother used to woman the incinerator at our house (before the advent of recycling bins) and I regaled The Boy with tales of yesteryear when everyone’s Sunday afternoon usually included one or another neighbour’s smoke from ‘burning off’ household waste of some kind.  Usually blowing directly onto someone’s freshly laundered sheets.

I now smell of wood smoke. The cats are viewing me with suspicion.

We followed this caveman-like feat with some very civilised Loaded Hot Potato Chips and collapsed in front of the telly.

Loaded hot potato chips

Loaded hot potato chips

I decided (in my deranged exhaustion) that I wanted to try something I’d never done before for dessert. I decided this about 10 minutes before I was going to serve dinner. I’m an idiot.

Anyway, I spent about 20 minutes searching for a recipe in my book collection and then asked Mr Google. For dessert I made some Baked Stuffed Apples.

Stuffed Baked Apple

Stuffed Baked Apple

I was too tired to eat them.

There were leftovers.

A mañana todos.

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.

 

 

 

Sweet Quesadillas

I’m pretty sure I saw this on a now defunct kid’s television show, not long after I was retired. Rollercoaster was one of my favourite parts of the day at the time, especially The Secret Show which I still consider to be one of the best shows ever made. Fluffy, fluffy bunnies….

Ahem.

Fresh stuff

Fresh stuff

Anyway, Rollercoaster stopped airing quite a long time ago and I still hadn’t made this recipe.
I bought some bananas this week thinking I might try it sometime, but then this morning this happened.

This is bad.

This is bad.

What better reason to eat something quick, easy and sweet? (Gotta get those blood sugars up…)

On a more serious note, this is a great snack to make with the kids, after school or during the holidays. It takes mere seconds, is relatively healthy – especially if you use wholegrain wraps -but needs adult supervision.

I used a sandwich press (panini), but this could easily be done with a frying pan.

Sandwich press.

Sandwich press.

Basically, grab a flour tortilla or a wrap.  I had this packet already open in my fridge.

That's a wrap.

That’s a wrap.

Zap the closed packet for 30 seconds in the microwave to heat them and make them a little more pliable. Then take one out and fold it in half, like so.

Looks tricky, doesn't it?

Looks tricky, doesn’t it?

Then, peel a banana and slice it thinly. You don’t want it too thick or it may not stick together later.

Slice a banana thinly.

Slice a banana thinly.

I used a Cavendish banana, but I’m willing to bet that a sugar or Lady Finger banana would be even better (if more expensive).

The slices of bananas are then scattered on one half of the inside of the folded wrap, like so:

Start filling your quesadilla.

Start filling your quesadilla.

Use the fold line as a guide as to where to stop.

Then choc chips are added in between the slices. Yum!

You don’t need a great many choc chips, and try to place at least a few on the edge of the wrap to hold it together.

Add choc chips.

Add choc chips.

Using an oil spray, lightly coat the upper and lower plates of the sandwich press once it is heated.

Fold the wrap in half and place it on the press, close, and toast to the level you prefer. When you sneak a peak (you know you will) you’ll see that the chips have melted.

A melting moment...

A melting moment…

Using an egg slice or spatula, remove to a piece of paper towel to cool.

DO NOT eat the quesadilla immediately!

The chocolate is hot and will burn.

Distract children with making further servings. We found three wraps was a perfect snack size for two adults.

When you have finished. Wipe the sandwich press with a piece of paper towel, turn it off and put it out of reach and THEN cut your snacks into wedges and serve.

If you don’t own a sandwich press, then a non-stick frying pan on a medium heat will work too. Just remember to press on the top of the folded wrap to encourage the two sides to stick together. Turn once.

Hungry?

Hungry?

You may not use all of a banana, depending on its size. Anyone wanting seconds should be given the banana to eat IMHO.

Enjoy!

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Chocolate Fudge Pudding

Hot fudge pudding and ice cream.

I have two self-saucing chocolate pudding recipes in my collection. One is my Mother’s and one is my Grandmother’s. The thing I find fascinating about them is the difference in the flavour profile that a mere few decades can make.

My Grandmother’s recipe is rich – very rich. It is made with butter and cocoa and really does meet the label of fudge. My Mother’s recipe is sweet. Tooth-achingly sweet. But still good. I’ll feature both recipes on this site, but my Grandmother’s recipe is my favourite.

The first time I made this, the richness overwhelmed me. I use Dutch process cocoa in my cooking and the chocolate flavour was almost too much. The Dutch process removes the acidity that may lurk in cocoa powder and gives the cocoa a rich dark colour as well, however it is not necessary to make this recipe work.

Also, the original recipe calls for shortening as one of the ingredients. My American readers will be surprised to learn that this is not something widely available on Australian supermarket shelves. I used butter.

I had decided that, the next time I made it, I wanted to add something to cut the richness. It occurred to me that adding some orange zest might just do the trick – I was right. If you are inclined toward the alcoholic, try adding a spoonful of orange liqueur to the batter as well/instead – something like Grand Marnier or Cointreau would work well.

Preheat your oven to 180°C/350°F. Start with the pudding ingredients and sift together the flour, sugar and cocoa into a basin.

Sift the dry pudding ingredients.

Sift the dry pudding ingredients.

At this point, zest a largish orange and add to the dry ingredients.

Add orange zest.

Add orange zest.

Add the sultanas at this point too.

Melt the shortening (or butter, if you wish) and mix together with the milk. Add the egg to this liquid and mix lightly.  Pour this mixture over the sifted ingredients. This is when you would add liqueur if you wished. Beat until well combined.

Yes, it's blurry. We can blame the liqueurs if you like...

Yes, it’s blurry. We can blame the liqueurs if you like…

Dig out a nice deep ovenware dish and place your batter in the middle of it. The dish doesn’t need to be greased or prepared in any way. Don’t panic.

Also, save yourself some trouble and place the baking dish on a metal tray. This will make putting the pudding into, and then taking it out of, the oven infinitely easier. Really.

Put the batter in an ovenproof dish.

Put the batter in an oven-proof dish.

Moving to the sauce ingredients now: melt the butter. I use a glass jug in the microwave.

Mix the butter, the cocoa and hot water all together until smooth.

It will look kind of mesmerizingly amazing...

It will look kind of mesmerizingly amazing…

Pour this liquid over the batter in the baking dish. If it looks awful, it’s okay. Really. You haven’t ruined it, I promise.

It will look appalling. You're doing it right.

It will look appalling. Don’t worry, you’re doing it right.

Now bake it for 30-35 mins. Remember to use the metal baking tray as well.

I like to serve this after a slap up roast dinner. I get the washing up for the pudding out of the way while the roast is still cooking, and then put the pudding in to bake when I serve the meal. That way it cooks while we are eating and is ready when we have finished our mains.

Welcome to decadence. (Note the oven tray.)

Welcome to decadence. (Note the oven tray.)

Cut into small pieces and serve, spooning the sauce below the solid pudding into the bowls as well.

Grandmother Sayers's Chocolate Fudge Pudding.

Grandmother Sayers’s Chocolate Fudge Pudding.

A reminder that this is VERY RICH. You only want small servings. Garnish with a small scoop of plain vanilla ice cream or a spoonful of dolloping cream.

You’re welcome.

You've gotta try this. Now.

You’ve gotta try this. Now.

Chocolate Fudge Pudding

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

Ingredients

Pudding:

125 g sugar

1 egg

1 cup self-raising flour

2 tbsps cocoa powder

zest of 1 orange

60 g shortening (or unsalted butter)

¼ cup milk

¼ cup sultanas

Sauce:

90 g unsalted butter

2 tbsps cocoa powder

1 cup hot water

Method

Heat oven to 180°C/350°F.

Starting with the pudding ingredients, sift together flour, sugar and cocoa and place in a mixing basin.

Add the orange zest and sultanas.

Melt the shortening/butter and add milk. Mix in the egg.

Pour onto the dry ingredients in the basin and mix well. (My Grandmother’s recipe says to beat by hand for 2 minutes, if that helps!)

Place in a clean, deep oven-ware dish that you have placed on a larger metal tray for ease of handling.

Using the sauce ingredients, melt the butter and then mix with the water and cocoa.

Pour over the pudding batter in the oven ware dish.

Bake for 30-35 mins.

Serve with plain vanilla ice cream.

Variations:

Soak the sultanas in 1 or 2 tablespoons of orange flavoured liqueur before adding to the pudding mixture.