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.

Like this? Follow us on Facebook or subscribe to receive updates by email.

Yum.

Yum.

 

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.

Like this? Follow us on Facebook or subscribe to receive updates by email.

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.

Asian Spiced Meatballs

These little darlings are something you can mix up in bulk and freeze in advance.

They take a tiny bit of time, and can be a little icky to prepare (especially if you don’t like handling raw meat), but are totally worth it.

These meatballs can be made as large or as small as you like and you may use any ground meat you happen to have,.

I developed this with chicken mince – mostly because I am not a fan of chicken.

Sue me.

This recipe can be doubled, tripled, or even quadrupled if you want. You might even want to enslave, exploit, encourage your children to help roll them once they’re mixed.

So, here we go. Pay attention and don’t blink or you’ll miss something…

Dump your minced/ground meat into a suitable bowl. Then add a good spoonful each of minced garlic and crushed ginger. I always have little jars of those two things in my refrigerator.

However, you can use fresh if you prefer.

Add some aromatics to your meat.

Add some aromatics to your meat.

Mix through thoroughly. You may want to use a fork for this to help you break up the meat properly and distribute the flavourings more evenly.

Then add a good shaking of whatever spices you think you’d like. My standards are ground cumin, ground coriander and a few chilli flakes – you may like to use a garam masala, or add ground ginger as well; finely chopped parsley or coriander/cilantro also make good additions.

Go for it. Use what you know you like.

Spice it up.

Spice it up.

Mix that through. You don’t need to be gentle, in fact being a little on the rough side will help to develop the proteins in the meat and make it all stick together better.

You can skip this next step if you wish, but you might like to add a generous glug of an Asian-style sauce.

Get saucy.

Get saucy.

As you can see, I used hoi sin for this batch. You could use teriyaki, soy sauce, kecap manis, oyster sauce or even sweet chilli sauce if you want. Or none at all – it’s not necessary but it does show what can be done.

Mix through with the fork again, and then give it a good stir with a spoon or spatula. You’ll notice it all start coming together nicely.

Now, with wet hands, create mandarin-sized balls of meat – wet your hands between meat balls and it will go easier. The wetness helps stop the meat from sticking.

Have a ball.

Have a ball.

You may wish to wear disposable gloves. You may even find it easier to use a large ice cream scoop to measure them out onto a plate all at once and to just finish them off in your hands.

Do what you feel comfortable with.

You can freeze them at this point, if you wish.

If you want to eat them now, then gently heat a pan or griddle that has been lightly brushed or sprayed with oil.

Oil up.

Oil up.

Then add your meat balls, pressing down lightly to flatten them slightly. Set a timer for 4 mins and then LEAVE THEM ALONE. Just let them cook while you do other things, like set the table or something.

At the four minute mark, turn them over. They should lift easily. If they stick, let them sit a minute or so more and try again. Set your timer for another 4 minutes.

Flip.

Flip.

When the timer goes off for the second time they’re ready to serve.

I like to serve with steamed rice and veggies. In this instance, I’ve tinted the rice with a touch of turmeric in the water.

Make a meal out of it.

Make a meal out of it.

They are also quite nice served as a burger.

Enjoy.

Asian-spiced meatballs

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

Ingredients

250 g ground meat (minced beef, pork or chicken)

1 tsp minced garlic (from a jar)

1 tsp crushed ginger (from a jar)

½ tsp ground coriander

½ tsp ground cumin

¼ tsp chilli flakes

(or any other spices you’d like to add)

1-2 tbsps thick Asian flavoured sauce, optional.(kecap manis, sweet chilli sauce, Hoi Sin sauce, Teriyaki sauce, etc)

Method

Place meat into a medium bowl. Add garlic and ginger and mix in well with a fork.

Add spices, and mix well.

Add sauce if wished and mix well.

Mix until the meat starts to stick together and form a large ball.

With wet hands, form into four meatballs (for this amount of meat.) If you prefer, use a large ice cream scoop to measure out and finish forming them in hands using disposable gloves.

(you can’t get around touching the meat in some way. Sorry.)

Heat a frying pan or griddle over medium heat and oil lightly. An oil spray would be ideal.

When the pan is hot, add the meatballs – pressing lightly to flatten slightly. Do not crowd the pan.

Leave to cook for 4 mins.

Turn and cook the other side for a further 4 mins.

Serve with rice and vegetables.

To flash freeze:

Cover a dinner plate with grease proof paper, such as baking parchment, and place meatballs on it so that they are not touching.

Put the dinner plate into the freezer for 30 mins. There is no need to cover the plate.

After 30 mins, remove the meatballs to a ziploc bag.

Seal and return to freezer.

By partially freezing the balls you will ensure that they won’t stick together in the bag. This means you can remove just the number you need.

Ensure they are fully defrosted before cooking.

Like this? Follow us on Facebook or subscribe to receive updates by email.

 

Chocolate ‘Ice Cream’ (with bananas)

Chocolate soft serve ice-cream.

You know when you buy a hand of bananas and suddenly they’re all too ripe and no-one wants to eat them and you get annoyed because you’ve spent the money and now it’s being wasted and it doesn’t matter what you do it seems like you can never get it right and why is life so unfair?

Take a breath. Calm down.

Firstly, freeze your bananas. If they’re getting past the eating-as-a-fresh-banana stage, then peel them and pop them into a ziploc bag and put them in the freezer. They can be defrosted and used in cakes and muffins and what-not at a later stage.

If you don’t want them to stick together, so you can take out one or two at a time, then freeze them separately before you place them in the bag. They will live in there quite happily for many months.

And don't they look attractive?

And don’t they look attractive?

Then you can make ice cream out of them.

Yes. I said ice cream. Frozen bananas can be used to make a soft serve ice cream which is wonderful for those with a lactose intolerance. Cold affects the performance of your taste buds, so the banana flavour fades right away and you are left with a cold, creamy substance that you can add other flavours to. Like chocolate.

This requires a food processor with a metal blade. I’m sorry, there’s really not an alternative to the use of an appliance for this.

The metal blade of a food processor is the secret ingredient here.

The metal blade of a food processor is the secret ingredient here.

Also, I had quite a few bananas I wanted to use as I wanted the freezer space. So the pictures you see here will be of about three times the quantity that will be made from the recipe provided.

Making the actual dessert is super simple. Get the kids involved (just don’t let them lick the blade…)

Cut your bananas into chunks and put them into the processor bowl.

Chunky bananas.

Chunky bananas.

Now sift in a couple of tablespoons of cocoa powder. I used Dutch process cocoa because that’s what I had. If you’re an Aussie and you have some to spare, then try using Milo instead.

Add cocoa.

Add cocoa.

Now add some vanilla extract and a touch of salt. The salt will help to accent the sweetness of the bananas.

I used sea salt flakes - you don't have to.

I used sea salt flakes – you don’t have to.

Then add a dollop of sweetener if you really want to. I added a touch of honey, but it’s really not necessary. Bananas are full of natural sugars – don’t for a moment start thinking of this as a low calorie alternative to regular dairy ice-creams.

*Diabetics be warned, this will make your sugars spike.*

I added some totally unnecessary honey.

I added some totally unnecessary honey.

You may like to add a few tablespoons of a nut butter here. Peanut butter works fine, or you can try almond or sunflower butter instead. The oils in the butter give the final dessert a smoother texture and “mouth feel.” I didn’t have any, so I didn’t.

I did find that it wasn’t blending as smoothly as I would have liked, so I drizzled in some buttermilk that I had in the refrigerator. Adding yoghurt would also work – and this can be dairy, soy or coconut – or you could just add a little vegetable oil.

None of these things is absolutely vital.

Put the lid on your processor and pulse a few times to get it going.

It will form a thick paste.

It will form a thick paste.

Keep blending until you reach the desired texture. I wanted a smoother blend and added a drizzle of buttermilk to loosen it up a little. I stopped blending when it looked like this.

Chocolate soft serve Icecream

Chocolate soft serve Icecream

You may serve it immediately. If you are making it with kids, you’ll probably have to serve it immediately.

Otherwise, place it in a sealed container and re-freeze.

Put in a container and freeze. Temporarily.

Put in a container and freeze. Temporarily.

When the time comes to serve it up, remove it from the freezer at least 15 minutes beforehand to soften.  You may end up with a sprained wrist otherwise.

Enjoy.

Chocolate 'Ice-cream' (banana)

  • Servings: 2-3
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Ingredients

3 medium bananas, peeled, cut in chunks and frozen

½ tsp vanilla extract

pinch salt

3 Tbsp cocoa powder

optional:

  • sweetener such as honey or maple syrup
  • 3-5 tbsps peanut butter or similar
  • 2-3 tbsps Greek yoghurt or buttermilk

Method

Place the metal ‘S’ blade in a food processor.

Combine the first four ingredients in the bowl and blend until smooth. Add the optional ingredients if you wish.

Serve immediately.

May be stored in a sealed container in the freezer, but remove at least 15 minutes before serving if you do so. The warmer the ice-cream the more it will resemble soft serve.

Variations:

  • Mix through chopped nuts or choc chips.
  • Use another frozen fruit e.g. strawberries, blueberries, frozen mango etc., instead of the cocoa powder for a fruit flavoured dessert.

 

Apple and Oat Bars

Stay calm and eat Apple and Oat Bars...

Last night, The Boy declared – out of the blue – that I should do a muesli (granola) bar recipe. Because school goes back next week or something and this could be useful to people.

I think he just wanted muesli bars.

I also think he could have told me before I did the fortnight’s shopping and could stock up on the expensive stuff that goes into these snacks.

So, I compromised. I’m good at that.

I made these little Apple and Oat Bars from stuff I already had and which – most likely – you already have too. Because that is how we roll in the Budget Bounty kitchen.

Simple AND good-for-you-ish.

Simple AND good-for-you-ish.

The recipe for these came from one of the first cookbooks I ever bought for my now massive collection. It’s called Good Cooking by the people at Good Housekeeping and was published way back in 1988. Which is why I have changed one of the ingredients from margarine to butter…

It’s a recipe that literally takes only minutes to put together and which you could quite easily do with smaller versions of yourself HELPING.  Ahem.

You will need some butter, some honey, some brown sugar, some rolled oats and an apple or two. Also a bowl, a baking tin and a microwave proof jug and spatula.  Sound complicated?

After setting your oven to 190°C get out a set of scales and your microwave proof jug. Into your jug measure your butter, brown sugar and honey, like so:

Melt these things together.

Melt these things together.

Heat them for 1 minute at a time at 80% power until the butter is melted. You can do this in a saucepan on the stove, if you wish.

While it is melting, measure the oats into a medium sized mixing bowl and line a baking tin with parchment. The original recipe called for an 18 cm/7 inch square cake tin.

Pour your now liquid ingredients into the oats and mix well.

Add the wet to the dry. Stir.

Add the wet to the dry. Stir.

Press half this mixture into the base of your tin. Do NOT do what I did and use a silicon tray. You want the oats to crisp up and they just get soggy if you follow my example. Honestly.

Press half your oats into something that isn't silicon and is preferably metal...

Press half your oats into something that isn’t silicon and is preferably metal…

Now get a large cooking apple (around 250 g worth), peel it and slice it thinly.  Arrange the apple slices in overlapping rows to cover the oat base.

Cover your base with overlapping slices of apple.

Cover your base with overlapping slices of apple.

Sprinkle your slices with cinnamon. I was cooking for an adult who likes it, so I also used ground ginger on mine.

Sprinkle with your choice of spice.

Sprinkle with your choice of spice.

Top with the rest of the oats, press down firmly and bake for 30 to 40 minutes or until golden brown and crisp.

Cut it into portions while still hot and in the pan. Leave in the tin to cool. You want your butter and honey to set before you try to move anything, or it will all fall apart.

Elevenses, Anyone?

Elevenses, Anyone?

Store in an airtight container somewhere cool. Wrap in cling film and send as part of a school lunch, serve as an after school snack or use to accompany a much deserved cuppa.

Easy. Affordable. Tasty.

Apple and Oat Bars

  • Servings: 12 -15
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Ingredients

100 g/4 oz butter

60 g/2½ oz brown sugar

2 tbsp honey

225 g/8 oz rolled oats

1 large cooking apple (250 g/9 oz) peeled, cored and thinly sliced

ground cinnamon.

Method

Heat oven to 190°C/ 375°F.

Lightly grease or line an 18 cm/ 7 inch square shallow baking tin.

In a microwave proof jug or bowl, combine the first three ingredients and heat at 80% power for 1 minute intervals until melted. Stir together. This may be done in a small saucepan on the stove top if wished.

Measure the oats into a medium-sized bowl. Pour liquid ingredients over the oats and mix well.

Divide the mixture in two and press half into the base of your prepared tin.

Arrange the sliced apple over the top of the oats in overlapping rows.

Sprinkle with cinnamon.

Top with the remaining oats and press down gently.

Bake for 30-40 minutes until golden brown and crisp.

Cut into slices while still hot and then leave in the tin until cool.

Variations:

  • For a gluten-free version, substitute a gluten free muesli or granola mix for the rolled oats.
  • Try using different spices for variety. A Pumpkin Pie spice mix might be just the thing for you.
  • Sprinkle a handful of sultanas over with the cinnamon.
  • Add a scattering of choc chips over the apple for a special treat.

 

Apple Cinnamon Scrolls

Apple Cinnamon Scrolls

This is another dish that builds on one covered previously – good old Scones! It’s moreish and quite delicious.

It’s also very easy. Actually, it’s almost criminally easy.

Criminal in that there is very little incentive not to just make a batch each and every day.

I created this dish in an attempt to recreate the apple scrolls I’m quite fond of getting from a local bakery. However, during our current budgetary regime, I simply can’t justify paying $4 for one of them. I can make a whole batch of these (8) for less than $2. Honestly.

It also takes about 30 mins from start to finish. Make it with the kids and then get them to make it for you. Often.

Herewith: start with a batch of scone dough. You’ll find the recipe here. Go make that up right now. We’re happy to wait for you. Once you get to the bit where you flatten it out, stop and head back here.

Shape and flatten your dough, using only your hands.

You are here.

Preheat your oven to 230ºC/475ºF. Now is the time to grab a small bowl and place ¼ cup of brown sugar into it.

Start the madness with some brown sugar.

Start the madness with some brown sugar.

Then add 1 tsp of ground cinnamon and mix well.

Add spice.

Add spice.

Peel a cooking apple and dice finely.

Take one Granny Smith.

Take one Granny Smith.

Mix into the sugar and spice.

This is your filling. Easy, wasn't it?

This is your filling. Easy, wasn’t it?

Now spread this over your scone dough as evenly as you can.

Add to your scone dough.

Add to your scone dough.

Roll it up from the long side and gently cut into evenly sized pieces.

Divide into evenly sized pieces.

Divide into evenly sized pieces.

Line a baking sheet with paper. Don’t miss this bit or you will have a big clean up job to do! Then place your slices on the paper cut side down. Squeeze them gently to round out any flattened edges. If you wish, you can brush with a little milk to aid in browning.

Place your scrolls on a tray.

Place your scrolls on a tray.

Bake for 10-15 mins, until a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean.

This is what you want.

This is what you want.

Can you see that shiny brown stuff on the paper? That’s caramel. Aren’t you glad you lined the pan?

Thought so.

Transfer the cooked scrolls to a rack wrapped in a clean cloth to keep them soft. Serve when you can resist no longer.

Apple Cinnamon Scrolls

  • Servings: 8
  • Difficulty: moderate
  • Print

Ingredients

1 x quantity Basic Scone Dough

¼ cup brown sugar

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1 cooking apple e.g. Granny Smith

Method

Heat the oven to 230ºC/ 475ºF.

Prepare the scone dough and then pat out into a rough rectangle.

Mix the brown sugar and cinnamon together.

Peel the apple and dice finely.

Mix the apple thoroughly into the sugar mixture.

Spread the apple as evenly as possible over the scone dough.

Roll the dough from the long side, making a sausage shape.

Cut into 8 even pieces. Start by cutting in half, then cutting each half in two and so on.

Line a baking tray with paper and place the slices of the roll onto it cut side down. Squeeze gently into a rounder shape.

If you wish, brush the tops of the scrolls with milk to make them brown nicely.

Bake 10-15 mins until a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean.

Cool in a clean cloth to keep soft – or serve immediately.

Variations:  scatter a handful of chopped walnuts or pecans over the apple mixture before rolling up.

Hummus

Hummus.

Hummus

Hummus

It’s one of those things. There are as many variations of hummus nowadays as there are ways to spell it. Humus, humous, etc…

There are also any number of people who will get upset with you for not making it their way.

Ignore them.

Hummus is a great little dish that takes next to no time to make, is incredibly nutritious, costs very little and tastes fabulous – all while filling you up admirably.

What’s not to love?

The purists will tell you that the best hummus is made with freshly cooked chickpeas or garbanzo beans. It very well may be, but that doesn’t mean that the stuff made from tinned chickpeas doesn’t taste pretty spiffy too.

The purists will also tell you to peel your cooked chickpeas. This is very easy to do by simply squeezing the pea between your thumb and forefinger. The skins will just slip off and you’ll end up with a bowl of peas and a bowl of skins, like this.

Peeled Chickpeas

Peeled Chickpeas

It makes the texture a little smoother, but my MS meant that they were popping all over the place by the time I’d finished. If you find the thought of peeling your peas too onerous, then simply embrace the extra dietary fibre and move on.

In a future post I will cover how to cook with dried beans, a skill that has the potential to save you a whole load of cash, but for the sake of this post we’re going to be using these. Which cost about 80c.

A tin of chickpeas.

A tin of chickpeas.

Deal with it.

This is one of those dishes that is more of a method than a recipe, but I’ll attempt to give you something to print at the end of the post…

You will see hummus used to describe pastes made with every kind of beans – usually white ones – that you could name. You will see it with tomatoes, roasted peppers/capsicums and myriad other things. The genuine thing is usually chickpeas, tahini, olive oil and lemon juice.

Mine has a few other things, but we’ll get to those. Relax, they’re not scary.

Chickpeas

Chickpeas

Tahini is basically a nut butter made from hulled sesame seeds and is widely used in middle eastern/Mediterranean cuisine. It can be found in supermarkets or you could make your own – you’ll find instructions on The Kitchn right about here. Tahini will add a certain earthiness in flavour and smoothness of texture to your chickpea dip.

Be warned: It can be expensive, especially if you aren’t going to be using a lot of it. You’ll only need about a ½ cup for this recipe, which will leave quite a lot still in the jar. Refrigerate it, or it will go off, but this will not extend its life indefinitely.

You don’t need it. (Cue purists falling off their respective perches.) Your hummus will taste absolutely fine without it and, if you really want, I’ve seen Jamie Oliver use smooth peanut butter instead.

You’ll also need a blender of some kind – or you could do it the traditional way and smash it in a mortar and pestle. Hummus has been around several thousand years longer than food processors…

I start my hummus with a small onion, chopped as finely as I can get it. In a frying pan, I heat a tablespoon or so of olive oil, add my onion and a clove of minced garlic, which I then gently fry off with a couple of teaspoons of ground coriander and cumin.

Start with some aromats. (Do I sound cheffy? Do I?)

Start with some aromats. (Do I sound cheffy? Do I?)

You could add some chilli powder or cayenne pepper if you wanted to. It’s up to you.

You don’t want your onions to brown, just to soften, and for the heat to release the fragrance of the spices.

At this point I add my chickpeas and give it all a good stir.

Introduce your chickpeas to the other flavours.

Introduce your chickpeas to the other flavours.

I’ve used an attachment on an immersion blender for the rest of this, but you could use a blender, a food processor an immersion blender in a bigger bowl… If you’re feeling particularly energetic then use a potato masher. You can even go traditional and grind things up in a stone mortar and pestle – it will all work.

In your bowl, place the chickpea mixture from the pan, tahini (or not), some olive oil, some cloves of crushed garlic (I use stuff from a jar) and some squeezed lemon juice.

Place everything into your blender.

Place everything into your blender.

Process until smooth.

Nearly there

Nearly there.

Taste and season if necessary. Feel free to add more oil or lemon juice if you wish to loosen the mixture but, if you are happy with the flavour and it is just a little too thick, simply add water (or reserved cooking liquid if you started from scratch) a spoonful at a time until it reaches the desired consistency.

Serve. This goes beautifully with Turkish bread and equally well with prepared raw vegetables, like carrots and celery and red peppers.

Serve with a few slices of Turkish bread or pide.

Serve with a few slices of Turkish bread or pide.

For a group, serve it in a bowl sprinkled with a touch of Sumac (if you have some) and a drizzle of olive oil.

This makes a great lunch option, it’s also a wonderful after school snack that you could supervise the kids making for themselves. Try it with just the chickpeas, lemon and oil and then experiment to your heart’s content.

Also, try using it as a spread on sandwiches and in wraps.

Then sit back and wonder why you’ve been paying around $4 for something this simple to make…

Hummus

  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Ingredients

1 x 200 g tin Chickpeas (drained) or 126 g dried chickpeas, soaked and cooked.

olive oil

1 small onion, chopped finely

4 cloves crushed garlic or 4 teaspoons minced garlic in a jar

1 tsp ground cumin

1 tsp ground coriander

½ cup tahini (optional)

Juice of 1 lemon

Method

In a small frying pan, gently heat 1 tbsp olive oil.

Add the onion and cumin and coriander with 1 clove of garlic. Fry until onion is softened and spices are aromatic. You do not want the onion to colour.

Add the chickpeas to the pan and stir well so that the peas become lightly coated with the spice mixture.

Transfer to the bowl of a food processor and add the tahini, olive oil, 3 cloves of garlic and 2 tablespoons of lemon juice.

Process until smooth.  This may be done using a heavy mortar and pestle.

Taste. Add salt if necessary and adjust lemon and oil flavours.

If the paste is too thick, simply add a spoonful of water to loosen processing well with each addition.

Serve sprinkled with sumac and drizzled with olive oil alongside Turkish or Pide bread and sliced vegetables for dipping e.g. carrots, celery, red peppers, etc.

This can be made up to 5 days ahead and stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

Ring the changes by adding a tablespoon of pine nuts to your frying pan, try using peanut butter instead of tahini, or add some roasted red peppers/capsicum to the processor bowl before blending.

For more inspiration, take a wander through the chilled section of your local supermarket and see what sorts of combinations are on offer there!

Pizza Pull Apart (Scrolls)

Pizza pull-aparts or scrolls

Okay. This is one of those recipes that builds on one you’ve seen here previously.

It’s not difficult, but can be fiddly. It’s certainly tasty and it can be as inexpensive as you want it to be.

Pizza pull-aparts or scrolls

Pizza pull-aparts or scrolls

It starts with a basic scone dough (biscuits for Americans) and gets creative soon after. It’s perfect for those days when you want something more substantial for lunch. It’s great for getting the kids involved if they’re underfoot too.

Also, if you have bits and bobs in the refrigerator that you want to use up, but which don’t really add up to a meal on their own…you know what I’m talking about.

Don’t you?

Moving on…

In other words this is more of a process than a recipe.

Start out by lining a cake tin with baking paper. It can be a square or round tin – it really doesn’t matter. If you find paper lining difficult, then grease it well instead. I find that paper makes it easier to remove the finished product when baked. 😉

Line a cake tin with parchment paper

Line a cake tin with parchment paper

Make yourself some scone dough but, instead of making it into scones, simply flatten it out into a vague rectangle shape. Use your hands and fingertips for this, there’s no need for a rolling pin. Try doing this on a little more silicon/baking/parchment paper sprinkled with flour. It will make rolling it up a little easier.

Press your dough out lightly into a rectangle.

Press your dough out lightly into a rectangle.

The size of your rectangle will be determined by the thickness of your dough. Try to make it an even thickness all over – about 1 cm or ¼ inch. Try also not to make it too narrow a rectangle. You will be rolling it up and you want to fit a few turns into it!

Turn your oven on and set it to 220°C/450°F.

Spread your dough with a base flavouring. Tomato paste will work, as will pizza sauce. I find tomato-based spreads far too sweet for me and instead use a roasted capsicum spread called Ajvar that I was introduced to by some Macedonian friends (and now I’m hooked!) It’s something that is big among the former Yugoslavian nations, although I understand the Italians produce something similar – although I don’t know what it’s called.

Spread your base with something tasty.

Spread your base with something tasty.

You may use whatever you like.

Basically you are simply adding a moist base for the rest of your fillings and ensuring that there will be no dry stretches of dough in the finished product. Try using barbecue sauce, basil pesto, olive tapenade or a chutney instead.

You’ll find it much easier to spread if you use a spoon rather than a knife to spread it. Scoop it out onto the dough and then use the back of the spoon’s bowl to spread it.

Now scatter with some grated/shredded cheese.

Add some shredded cheese.

Add some shredded cheese.

Then get creative. This is where you can use the waifs and strays in your refrigerator. You won’t want to put too much on, or it will make the rolling process more difficult.

Add whatever you might add to a pizza: deli meats like salami or shredded ham, chop up a bacon rasher or two and scatter over, if you have some BBQ/rotisserie chicken in the fridge, dice it up and scatter it over. If you are vegetarian, try adding some chick peas/garbanzos or even some kidney beans.  You won’t need much.

Add whatever fillings tickle your fancy.

Add whatever fillings tickle your fancy.

Then add some diced vegetables, I’ve added capsicum/bell pepper in the photo above. Slice a mushroom or two, confetti it with sliced black olives or – and this is yummy – slowly fry some sliced onions or leeks in butter until soft and starting to caramelise, drain on paper towel and add generously.

It’s completely up to you.

If you want to, at this stage you could just place it on a tray and bake it like a standard pizza. It will take 20 minutes at least.

Or you can go on to roll it up like a Swiss Roll, lifting the long edge nearest to you and rolling away. Make it as tight as you can, but try not to put holes in the dough. If you have used a piece of paper beneath it, then use that to help you with the rolling. Some of your filling will inevitably escape from the long end or pop out the short ends. Don’t panic. Push them back in if you can, or consider them a Cook’s treat for while it all bakes.

Roll it as tightly as you can, while still being gentle with the dough.

Roll it as tightly as you can, while still being gentle with the dough.

Then slice into even pieces. I cut it in the middle, then divide each half in half, and so on. Aim for 8 to 9 pieces. Be careful to slice and not chop your roll, you don’t want to squash it beyond recognition. (If you do squash it, don’t worry too much. The taste won’t be affected.)

Divide into even-ish slices.

Divide into even-ish slices.

Now transfer the pieces into your cake tin. Start in the middle and work your way outward in a daisy formation. Be sure to grip the open edge closed as you lift it. It will end up looking a bit like this.

Ready for the oven.

Ready for the oven.

Place it in the top third of the oven and bake for 20 mins before rotating the tin and baking for another 20 mins. It will be done when a toothpick or skewer inserted in a doughy part in the centre comes out clean.

You could sprinkle more cheese over the top at the half way mark if you wish.

The finished result.

The finished result.

Lift it out and serve immediately for best results. Alternatively, wrap in a clean tea towel to cool, and it will be excellent cold for school lunches or a picnic. The cloth covering keeps the steam in and the quickbread soft.

For a slightly crunchy variation, sprinkle some polenta or cornmeal on your surface before you start to press out your scone dough.

Experiment and enjoy!

Basics – Scones (Biscuits)

Devonshire Tea.

Okay. I give in. Just for the Americans among you, I’m going to refer to these as biscuits.

Scones!

Scones!

That’s only going to happen up here, mind!  For the rest of the post they will be known as scones (a word that rhymes with ‘on’, by the way). However, this mere mention at the outset will mean that some of you will find a recipe you are looking for and the rest of the readers will learn that Americans call scones, biscuits.

I don’t know why.

Anyway, these are one of the first things many of us learn to bake – or should. Try making these with your kids, they don’t take a lot of time and are a great way to fill a rainy afternoon.

Scones are also one of those wonderful recipes that lend themselves to variations, both sweet and savoury.

Learn how to make a good scone and you can whip up a batch and serve them within 30 mins of unexpected guests calling, or you can augment the recipe to create a sweet breakfast scroll or a lunch dish along the line of pizza. You could even fill your freezer with quick-bake lunch box fillers and finger food.

Once you’ve made plain scones a few times, then extend your repertoire and give these a go too:

But first, let’s start from the beginning.

Scones are a form of quick bread and may even be considered a type of pastry. They need the bare minimum of ingredients: flour, butter, milk.

They also work best if you handle them as little as possible. Do not use a rolling pin. Ever. I don’t care what you may have seen elsewhere. Just don’t.

Okay?!?!

Ahem.

Let’s just deem them delicious and get stuck in.

Preheat your oven to 230°C or 475°F.

Sift your flour, and a pinch of salt into a largish bowl.

I add a spoonful or two of sugar to my scones following a tip I was given many years ago. It helps to avoid a “floury” taste to the scones when eaten cold in the days after baking. (If any are left.) It really does seem to work, so I keep doing it.

You may, of course, use wholemeal flour if you prefer.

Sift your dry ingredients together

Sift your dry ingredients together.

Cut your butter into small pieces and then rub it into your flour.

add your shortening

Add your butter to your flour.

This stage may be done with something called a pastry blender. I’ve never been in actual physical contact with a pastry blender at any stage in my life, so I can’t tell you how to use one.

You can also use a food processor…apparently. However, this is a very simple, ancient recipe and fingertips are something one usually finds whenever one happens to be in one’s own kitchen – why create more washing up, people? Why??

Rubbing is a technique that is a little hard to describe, and I suspect I may have to make my first foray into YouTube to demonstrate it, however here goes…

Have your butter a little on the soft side, but not too close to melting. Plunge both your hands into the flour and, holding your four fingers together, rub your thumb across them as you lift them out of the flour. Aim to get pieces of butter between your thumb and fingers as you grab the flour. Repeat.

Continue rubbing the flour into the butter until there are no clearly visible pieces of butter left and the contents of your bowl resemble fine breadcrumbs.

Actually a quick questioning of Mr Google has revealed this YouTube clip. It’s not how I would demonstrate it, but it may help 😉

So, now we add our liquid. Milk works well, you may also use buttermilk, a mix of half yoghurt and half milk or all yoghurt.

In the pictures below I have done the latter.

Be aware that the measurement in the recipe is for milk. A greater quantity will be required for the buttermilk/yoghurt options.

Make a well in your dry ingredients and add 3/4 of the liquid all at once.

add your liquid

Add most of your liquid to the flour.

Now cut the liquid into your dry ingredients using a butter knife. Because my mother said so.

Actually, using a knife to mix in the liquid works a lot better than using a spoon, as it does away with any little hollows for flour to get trapped in.

If there is flour left in the bowl when the liquid has all been incorporated, then add more a tablespoon at a time until you have a bowl of dough and no loose flour.

The mixed scone dough.

The mixed scone dough.

When your dough has all come together – if you are using milk it will be a lot smoother than the dough pictured – turn it out onto a floured surface.

Prepare a surface with flour.

Prepare a surface with flour.

Save yourself a lot of drudge work and cover your work surface first with either a silicon baking sheet -as I have done in the photos -or just with a strip of baking paper. Then, when clean up time comes, you can either shake all the leftover dusting flour into the bin or throw the whole piece of paper in.

No more gluey sponges.

Moving on.

Gently shape your dough into a ball, patting it with flour where it might be sticky, and then gently flatten it with your fingertips into a rough oblong shape about an inch or so thick.

Shape and flatten your dough, using only your hands.

Shape and flatten your dough, using only your hands.

Don’t use a rolling pin, or you will knock all the air out of your dough, making it denser and  tougher.

Place a sheet of baking paper or parchment over a baking tray.

Then, using either a scone cutter or a small drinking glass dipped in some of the flour on your surface, cut the dough into rounds. Re-dip the cutter between scones.

Be as economical as you can with your cutting. Start on the side of the dough nearest to you and cut each piece as close to the last as you can. This way you minimise the need to re-form and re-roll your dough.

Any scones made with dough that has been reshaped will be less smooth than the first cutting, as you can see in the picture below.

The result of reshaped dough.

The result of reshaped dough.

Place each scone on the tray as it is cut, starting in the centre and working your way around. Think in terms of making a daisy shape. Place your scones as close together as you can. This helps them to rise instead of spreading outward.

Any leftover piece of dough that is too small to cut into a scone should be given to any small child who may be “helping” and shaped into their own special creation for baking…

Place closely together on the baking tray.

Place closely together on the baking tray.

Using a pastry brush dipped in milk (or your finger) gently brush the tops of your scones. This will encourage a nice brown finish, but is not necessary.

Bake for 15 mins, until a toothpick inserted in the centre scone comes out clean. Again, yoghurt or buttermilk mixes may take longer to cook.

Now for one of those old-fashioned tricks: Scones wrapped in clean cloth as soon as they are removed from the oven will keep soft as they cool. I have this rather groovy cloth bread basket I bought on clearance at Ikea a few years ago, but two tea towels overlapping in a cross formation should do the trick equally well.

Wrap your hot scones in a cloth to cool.

Wrap your hot scones in a cloth to cool.

Serve your scones. Another tip, don’t cut them in half or they will become doughy. Instead use your fingers and gently break them apart.

And serve..

And serve..

Serve with strawberry jam and whipped cream and a nice pot of Earl Grey for your classic Devonshire Tea, or you can serve them up with butter and any spread you darn well want: marmalade, vegemite, peanut butter. Knock yourself out.

Scones also freeze well and travel quite nicely in packed lunches.

Devonshire Tea.

Devonshire Tea.

Basic Scones

  • Servings: 12 scones
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Ingredients

2 cups self raising flour (250g)

pinch salt

1 tbsp sugar

1 tbsp butter (30g)

¾ cup milk (187ml)

Method

Heat oven to 230°C or 475°F.

Sift dry ingredients into a large bowl.

Cut butter into small pieces and rub into flour until mix resembles fine breadcrumbs.

Add milk and cut in quickly and lightly with a butter knife until a moist dough is formed.

Turn onto a lightly floured board and shape into a smooth oblong about an inch thick using hands and fingertips.

Using a floured scone cutter or drinking glass, cut out scones and place close together on a prepared oven tray.

Glaze with milk.

Bake for 10-15 mins until a toothpick inserted in the centre scone comes out clean.

For soft scones, wrap in a cloth until cold.

 Variations to basic recipe:

Cheese Scones:

Add ¼ tsp mustard or a dash of Cayenne pepper to the flour before sifting. I like using a tablespoon of Old Bay Seasoning.

Add ½ a cup of grated tasty cheese before you add liquid.

Fruit Scones:

Add 2 tbsps of caster sugar to the flour before sifting.

Add 1/3 cup of dried fruit such as sultanas, currants, diced dried apricots or craisins before adding the liquid.