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.

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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.

 

 

 

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How to reconstitute dried sourdough

This post might seem to be a bit “out of the blue” – and it is. I’ve just started learning and experimenting with Sourdough and I’m not quite ready to post about it all just yet.

However, I have two gorgeous cousins who are also interested in it and I thought I’d dry some of my starter, Bullwinkle, and send him to them.

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I did that quite successfully, as you can see. I started out with flakes and then remembered I owned a coffee grinder I could powder them in. So I did.

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Then I realised that they’d have to reconstitute him. I needed to learn how to do that. I also needed to check that these little bags of magic powder would actually work before I sent them off into the vast reaches of Oz.

Or I might be disowned or something.

This blog post is for Marina and Laurina. (Yes their names rhyme, but I promise they have different mothers.)

Moving on.

Start with a small, clean bowl. To it, add a teaspoon of starter powder followed by a tablespoon of unchlorinated water. (Boil your kettle, use that when it’s cooled.)

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Pre-grinding flakey starter was used for this pic. Don’t panic.

Mix to a slurry and set aside for a few hours. To be safe, do this at breakfast and the next step in the evening.

Now add a tablespoon of flour and the same weight of your unchlorinated water.  So, if your flour comes to 20 g – for the sake of argument – then add 20 g of water. It is important to use the same type of flour the starter was originally made with. You can wean it onto another type after it is out of ICU.

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Mix well, cover loosely and put aside.

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It will look particularly unimpressive.

The next day you may see a bubble or two, or you may not. Don’t despair. Repeat the feeding process above and put it aside. You will know it has revived when bubbles appear. If more than 4 days pass and no bubbles surface – ahem – discard and start again.

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Like this.

Transfer it to a larger bowl or jar and add 100 g each of flour and water. Mix well and place aside. Your mixture will double in size and rise.

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There’s life in them thar bubbles!

Feed it again, place it in the jar you want to store it in permanently, cover loosely and transfer to your fridge.

Look how happy the one I revived is!

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All bubbled up and ready to bake!

Yes, the process is slow. It’s not an instant ‘add water and bake’ thing. But, you know, that’s actually a really good introduction to the slowness of the sourdough baking process.

Enjoy it.

Meanwhile, The Boy has decided I should go into business selling little bags of sourdough starter. What do you all think?

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.

 

Mediterranean Morsels

Yum.

This post could quite easily be titled “Yummy things made from bits and pieces in the fridge” but it doesn’t have quite the same ring to it.

It’s true, however.

I came up with this recipe to use a heap of bits that were cluttering up my refrigerator. I had some tri-colour quinoa that was left over from something else, a bit of feta cheese that needed using, a handful (literally) of shredded mozzarella and half a red capsicum that also needed to be used.

It’s also turned stinking hot here again, after a week of almost chilly weather, and I consider finger food to be the way to go at times like these. Finger food in this house means something more-ish, but not junky.

Quinoa can really be quite pretty.

Quinoa can really be quite pretty.

Anyway, I came up with these here yummies to combine all the bits into something that The Boy declared he could, “literally devour by the handful.”

You heard it here first, Folks!

So, I started off with the leftover quinoa. The amount turned out to be two cups worth (which is going to look a whole lot more professional in a recipe), so that’s what I used. If you’ve not cooked quinoa before, you’ll find instructions here. If you don’t have quinoa then cooked rice of any colour or description would also work.

I popped it into a medium sized bowl and stirred in a couple of tablespoons of plain flour to help bind it together (it also gave me time to think about what to do next). If you have a celiac in your family then gluten-free flour will work too.

I’d decided that I wanted to make it a Mediterranean flavoured …whatever… so I added a tablespoonful of an Italian Mixed Herb blend that I had and a teaspoon of minced garlic. From a jar. Sue me.

Still pretty.

Still pretty.

That was all mixed through quite thoroughly, then the red capsicum was diced and added. I was glad it was in there when I saw the finished products as it gave a pop of colour to something that might have been too beige.

Moving on. I also had one spring (green) onion so I sliced it up and added it too. Why not?

Confetti-like capsicum and scallions

Confetti-like capsicum and scallions

Next the Mozzarella went in and I contemplated the feta. I’m not a fan of feta, but The Boy loves it. However, I adore black olives, so I pitted and minced three of those and stirred them through.

Black kalamata olives rock.

Black kalamata olives rock.

Then the feta cheese. I didn’t weigh it, sorry, but I’d say I had about 3/4 of a cup when it was chopped up. That was mixed through too.

The Feta Cheese was next to be deployed.

The Feta Cheese was next to be deployed.

I thought that looked like a rather tasty little mix and stopped adding stuff. If you are a hard-core carnivore, some diced ham or bacon would be a tasty addition too. You’re welcome.

Now, in between all the dicing and mixing I had decided to make something to bake, so at this point I turned the oven on and started gazing soulfully at my baking trays.

I have one for tiny little cupcakes/muffins that I rarely use and which seemed perfect for this, so I retrieved it and then went on the hunt for the paper cases that I knew were in the pantry somewhere

They were found but I didn’t have quite enough, so I just sprayed the empty cups with oil.

The quinoa still needed something to bind it a little more, so I whisked up 2 eggs and mixed them through. Then I filled each cup with about 2 teaspoons full of the quinoa mixture, making sure that a piece of the capsicum could be seen on the top of each cup – because pretty.

Mix in a couple of eggs.

Mix in a couple of eggs.

Then the tray was placed in the oven for 20 mins, until the morsels smelled amazing and the cheese was starting to brown.

All done.

All done.

The Boy followed his nose into the kitchen as they were being retrieved from the oven and I had to stand guard until they were cool enough to eat.

These little mouthfuls of flavour will find their place in lunch boxes during the week, but they would be just as at home at a party or BBQ. They’ll keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 2-3 days, but try to bring them up to room temperature again before eating to allow the flavours to develop.

Hint: Get the kids to help you make them and they’ll be more likely to eat them.

Enjoy.

Mediterranean Morsels

Mediterranean Morsels

Mediterranean Morsels

  • Servings: 24 pieces
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Ingredients

2 cups cooked quinoa or rice

2 tbsps plain flour

1 tsp crushed garlic

1 tbsp mixed herbs (add a few chilli flakes for a mild bite if you wish)

½ medium red capsicum (bell pepper), diced.

1 spring (green) onion, sliced finely

3 black olives, pips removed and minced finely

½ cup shredded mozzarella

¾ cup diced feta cheese

1 lean rasher of bacon, finely diced (optional)

2 eggs, lightly beaten

Method

Heat oven to 180ºC/350ºF.

Line a mini cupcake tray with paper cases or oil well.

Place quinoa or rice in a medium-sized bowl and add the rest of the ingredients one at a time, stirring well between each.

Fill paper cases with quinoa mix – about 2 rounded teaspoons per case.

Bake for 20 mins.

Allow to cool in the tray before removing to a cooling rack.

Serve at room temperature.

Will keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 3-4 days.

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Yum.

Yum.

 

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.

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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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Cheesy Spinach Parcels

I simply adore toasted pine nuts.

I think I mentioned a little while ago that the Budget Bounty household now has a plot at the local Community Garden.

This has been an adventure over the last few months as we have managed to grow things quite well, without actually growing anything to harvest, viz our Brussels Sprouts were overwhelmingly Brussels with nary a sprout in sight. *sigh*

We have, however, cracked the Silverbeet growing thing. You might call it Chard, or Spinach or some such, but I grew up calling this particular leaf Silverbeet. It’s thick, it’s squeaky (!) and we have oodles of it – although I think it may be about to go to seed.

I also don’t like it very much. Don’t tell The Boy, please.

He does like it. Very much. So, having returned from our last visit to our patch with several armfuls of the stuff, I had to find something to do with it all! There was no way it was all going to fit into the refrigerator and the weather we are currently experiencing would see it wilt to inedible in no time. So I cooked it.

I washed it, shook it dry, tore the leaves off the stems and crammed them all into my largest pot, with the lid on and over the lowest heat – and just let it all wilt. I ended up with this.

Cooked Spinach

Cooked Spinach

Looks attractive, dunnit?

I now had a large glass container full of spinach to contend with, but there was no rush to do it. A breather had been orchestrated. Yay.

I wanted to make a Spanakopita that I had made before from www.Food.com (way back when it was still Recipezaar) but I just don’t have the energy right now to give it the attention it deserves. So I searched the Interwebz and my recipe books for things-that-look-like-a-thing-but-aren’t-quite and got overwhelmed by it all.

I bought Feta cheese, I bought Ricotta cheese, I thought about buying Filo/Phyllo pastry and then mentally backhanded myself for even considering it, so I bought puff pastry instead… and I still didn’t know what I was going to do.

This is Not. Like. Me.

So I took bits from everywhere and basically made something up. The something I made up was a hit with The Boy, who took one mouthful and exclaimed, “You have to post this!”

This is me, doing as I was told.

Let me start by saying you could use Filo pastry for this if you wished. I just don’t have the co-ordination to deal with it at the moment. I used a 1 kg packet of puff pastry sheets that I had thawed in the refrigerator, and they did the trick beautifully. If you want to make your own, then all power to you.

Store bought Puff Pastry. Sue me.

Store bought Puff Pastry. Sue me.

Then I got out my food processor, because knives and I are not a good combination right now.

Into the processor bowl went various things, starting with 100 g of the cooked spinach – weighed after I had squeezed most of the water out of it.

Cooked, squeezed spinach in a bowl I later managed to break.

Cooked, squeezed spinach in a bowl I later managed to break.

Then I added a drained can of chickpeas. These were some I had canned myself with the addition of a touch of Cashew Za’atar, but a normal store-bought tin will do just fine. I put these in because I wanted to add a depth of flavour and texture. I was worried that, if I just made it with cheese, spinach and puff pastry, it would be a little insipid and watery. This would make it more filling and ground it a little (I hoped).

Add some chickpeas

Add some chickpeas

Then I added 100 g each of Feta and drained Ricotta.

Prepare to be blended.

Prepare to be blended.

And whizzed it all up to a nice puree.

Gotta love technology.

Gotta love technology.

Then I decided that I didn’t want it to be all bland mushiness inside and toasted up a spoonful or so of pine nuts to stir through.

Stir them through, don't whaz them!

Stir them through, don’t whaz them!

About this time, I turned the oven on and retrieved the pastry from the fridge. Which is when I had to figure out how to attack this. The pastry sheets look kind of uninspiring. But I got one out, keeping it on the dividing sheet of plastic – which later came in quite handy.

Blank canvas.

Blank canvas.

I figured that one sheet would make two good sized pastries or hand pies. So I got out a sharp knife and scored it down the centre.

Let’s just skip over the fact that I then dropped the knife and it plunged, tip-first, a good centimetre into the hardwood floor right beside my foot…  Ahem.

The pastry and said knife.

The pastry and said knife.

I meditated for a bit, then filled a coffee mug with some cold tap water. I dipped two fingers into this and ran them around the outermost edges of the pastry sheet and on either side of the score line, rewetting as necessary.

Then I very precisely dolloped some of the puree into the middle of the top of the pastry strips. Like so.

Behold! The dollop!

Behold! The dollop!

For those who want to know the precise volume of the dollops – I dunno. Try about ¼ – ½ a cup’s worth.

You’re welcome.

Then I folded it in half, bottom to top, still leaving the plastic attached. Once the corners were matched, I pressed down quite firmly with my fingertips, going all around the outside and down both sides of the middle score line. Then I peeled the plastic back.

Look what I did!

Look what I did!

I wanted them to brown up a bit while they cooked, so I broke an egg into a small jug and beat it a little with a fork for an egg wash. First though, I grabbed another fork and pressed quite firmly around all the edges with it. Then I lined a baking sheet with parchment paper and transferred the parcels onto it.

I don’t have photos of this, but I slid an egg flip under them and turned them bare-side down onto my other palm. This let me remove the rest of the plastic. Then I placed them with that side down onto the baking sheet.

Ready to go.

Ready to go.

I could only fit two on to the sheet as I didn’t wish to crowd them. Using a pastry brush, I glazed them with the egg wash and popped them in the oven for 15 minutes.

It worked.

I'm quite pleased with that, really...

I’m quite pleased with that, really…

Then I immediately plated one up and served it to The Boy. History was made.

This is a bread and butter plate, so they are quite large.

This is a bread and butter plate, so they are quite large.

I baked another four to have as lunches throughout the week. The rest I flash froze after glazing. Then, when they were chilled sufficiently, transferred to a large bag for longer term storage. I’m not quite sure how long they would take to cook from the freezer, but I’m going with 30 minutes until proven wrong.

Cheesy Spinach Parcels

Cheesy Spinach Parcels

Enjoy.

Cheesy Spinach Parcels

  • Servings: 12
  • Difficulty: moderate
  • Print

Ingredients

1 kg packet puff pastry sheets (you want 6), defrosted.

100 g of cooked spinach, squeezed as dry as you can (you can use frozen spinach from the supermarket, defrosted)

400 g tin chickpeas, drained

100 g feta cheese

100 g ricotta cheese, drained a little

1 tsp dried dill (optional)

¼ cup pine nuts (optional)

Cup of luke warm water for sealing

1 egg, beaten slightly

Method

Note: Keep the packet of puff pastry in the fridge. Remove one sheet at a time and replace the rest of the packet in the fridge while you are working with that one. This will keep the pastry relatively firm and make it easier to work with.

Preheat the oven to 220ºC/450°F.

Line one or two baking sheets with baking paper.

In a food processor bowl, combine spinach, chickpeas, feta and ricotta cheeses.

Add dried dill, if liked. Other spices or herbs may be used according to your preference.

Process until the chickpeas are fully incorporated.

Remove to a small bowl.

In a small frying pan, toast the pine nuts over a low heat until lightly browned and fragrant. Approx. 3-4 minutes. Watch them carefully to avoid scorching.

Add pine nuts to contents of bowl and stir through.

Take one sheet of puff pastry. Using a sharp knife score down the middle, dividing it into two rectangular strips of equal size.

Using the cupful of warm water, dampen your index and middle fingertips and run them around the outer edges of the pastry surface as well as down both sides of the centre score line. This will help the pastry joins to seal and avoid the filling leaking out during baking.

In the middle of the top half of each strip place several large spoonfuls of spinach and cheese mixture. The exact amount will depend on the size of the pastry sheet you are using.  It should be around ¼ – ½ a cup of the mixture.

Then fold the bottom of the pastry sheet (including the plastic lining) over the filling, matching the corners and pressing firmly. Using your fingertips, press each edge together including the one with the fold. You should have two nicely sealed pockets of pastry.

Peel back the plastic.

If you wish, you can now use a fork to crimp the edges you just pressed together with your fingertips. This is optional, but may give you a much better seal.

(And it looks pretty 😉 )

Transfer the pastry packets to a lined oven tray with the crimped edge upwards. You may only be able to fit two to a tray.

Take a pastry brush and paint the top of each parcel with the beaten egg. It doesn’t need to be done thickly.

This will help to get a golden finish on the pastry as it bakes.

Bake in oven for 15 minutes and eat immediately or remove to a rack to cool.

Prepare the next lot of parcels as the previous batch bakes.

To store: cool thoroughly on a rack before placing in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Eat within 3-4 days.

To freeze: prepare up to the egg wash stage. Place on a flat surface in the freezer and leave for 30 minutes. Once frozen, transfer to a sealed container or freezer bag.

To reheat from frozen: place in a 220°C/450°F oven for 30 minutes until puffed and golden brown.

To serve: May be eaten on its own as a light meal or lunch or served with a salad for a main course.

Jam drops (Thumb-print biscuits)

Jam drops

Jam drops are an old-fashioned biscuit that remind me of my childhood any time I see them. They were a standard addition to my lunch boxes throughout our primary school years, and I’m pretty sure they still are for a number of lucky kids today.

I remember that, when I was little, I used to have a ritual of nibbling very slowly around the edge of these biscuits until only the jam-filled centre was left –  leaving the best till last.

These are some of the easiest biscuits you will ever make. They aren’t a cookie. They should be crisp – not soft and cakey like a cookie is. This relative hardness is what makes them such a good lunch box treat as they won’t turn to crumbs during the journey to school.

You can fill them with whatever jam you have and like; strawberry jam is traditional. However, you could also use your own home-made lemon butter and I have used dulce de leche quite successfully. It’s up to you.

You can also make these quite easily with children as your apprentices. If you are in the grips of an ‘OMG it’s the school holidays and they are looking bored, help me!’ panic attack, then here you go. I’ve even included instructions for cleaning up along the way.

You’re welcome.

The first thing to do is to decide which jam you are going to use.

Home made jams

Home made jams

This recipe is ideal for using up the last few teaspoons of a jar that has been lurking unloved in the refrigerator for a while – because no one ever  wants to use that last little bit, do they?

I didn’t have anything that was opened and so I decided to use one of the jars I had put up earlier this year.

The Boy prefers things that aren’t marmalade, so that narrowed it down to the crabapple jam. Easy.

Begin by creaming together the room-temperature butter and the sugar.

Cream butter and sugar.

Cream butter and sugar.

Then add a pinch of salt, a splash of vanilla extract and two eggs. Beat again.

Add eggs and flavourings.

Add eggs and flavourings.

In a medium size bowl, sift together some plain flour and baking powder.

Sift together the flour and baking powder.

Sift together the flour and baking powder.

Add the flour to the butter mixture and stir well to combine.

To help keep your kitchen under control, fill the bowl you sifted the flour into with warm water and washing-up liquid/dish soap. Now is the time to put any electric mixer away. Wipe it down (if necessary) and place the beaters in the bowl of water along with any measuring cups and spoons you have used.

Turn your oven on to 180°C/350°F and line a baking tray with paper.

Take small spoonfuls of batter and roll into small balls the size of walnuts…or use a 1″ ice cream scoop, like I do.  Don’t overcrowd the tray as the batter contains butter and will spread as the butter melts…

Using a (well-washed) thumb of a nearby child or the end of a wooden spoon handle, make an indentation in the top of each ball. Don’t go all the way through to the tray.

Make little cups for your jam.

Make little cups for your jam.

Now, carefully spoon a little bit of jam into each dent.  If you are the adult, you may wish to do this or risk having most of the jam licked off fingertips instead of going into your biscuit!

Fill your cups.

Fill your cups.

Bake for 15 to 20 mins until golden brown – check after 10 minutes.

While your first tray is in the oven, prepare your second batch of biscuits and then do the washing up that has been soaking in the bowl of warm sudsy water. You’ll have plenty of time.

Baked jam drops.

Baked jam drops.

Allow to cool on a rack. Remember hot jam can BURN. Do not eat the biscuits until they are properly cool.

If you are the responsible adult, the best answer to the question, “When can we try them can I have one?” is after the last batch is baked. You’ll get at least three trays of eight from this mixture.

The jam when I started...

The jam when I started…

As you put the last batch into the oven, add the bowl and jam spoon to the sink and wash them up. All the washing up is now done. Wipe down the benches while the last tray of biscuits is in the oven.

You probably won’t need to wash the trays if you have been using baking paper. Just let them cool and put them away later. Unless, of course, you are an Outstandingly Conscientious Domestic engineer – in which case, go ahead. Ahem.

Serve with milk or a nice cuppa. Store in an airtight container for as long as you have any left.

This is my mother’s recipe.

Jam Drop Biscuits

  • Servings: makes 24
  • Difficulty: moderate
  • Print

Ingredients

125 g butter, room temperature

¾ cup (165 g) sugar

2 eggs

1 tsp vanilla extract

pinch salt

1 cups (300 g) plain flour

2 tsps baking powder

1/3 cup (100 g) jam or jelly of your choice

Method

Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F. Line two baking trays with paper.

In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar together.

Add the salt, vanilla extract and eggs and beat well.

Into a medium-sized bowl sift together the flour and baking powder.

Add the sifted flour to the butter mixture and stir until well combined.

Roll tablespoons of the mixture between your palms to make small balls about the size of a walnut.

Place balls onto prepared baking trays, leaving room for them to spread as they bake.

Use your thumb, or the end of a wooden spoon handle, to make small indentations in the top of each ball.

With a teaspoon, spoon a little jam into each dent – Don’t overfill.

Bake for 15 – 20 minutes, checking after the first 10 mins. They are done when golden brown.

Allow to cool thoroughly before eating.

Store in an airtight container.

...and the jam left when I was finished.

…and the jam left when I was finished.

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