23 February 2011

Cake, or death?! Part deux

I love carrot cake.  It's as simple as that.  It is the only cake which I will almost never pass on, no matter how much I've already eaten.  Doesn't matter, 'cause it's the best damned cake this side of the sun (don't really know what that means, but it fitted my general ramblingness).  I've made a couple of carrot cakes over the years, one quite nice, but don't recall the recipe, the other super-healthy, with weird grains and reduced-fat icing which, to be honest, was disgusting.  Bugger that - if you're going to make a cake just deal with the cream cheese, or the chocolate, or whatever - it's CAKE!!  It's not supposed to be guilt-free.  Just enjoy it, don't eat half in one sitting, and you're good to go.
This recipe came to be via a friend who lives in Moscow (thanks Lee!), acting as private chef for a vodka magnate.  Well, if there's going to be someone who would likely be quite discerning over the quality and tastiness of his morning cake, it'd be a russian billionaire, right?  Definitely - right on the money - this carrot cake is the proverbial bomb.  Delicious, as confirmed by the peeps who tasted it.  This is the carrot cake recipe to burn all others.  You need only one, and I'm going to put it out there that this is it.  Okay, now that I sound like I'm trying to sell you something, I'll get onto the recipe.  It's really good though, I'll be making it again soon.  Oh - the original recipe had double the amounts listed below for the icing, as it called for icing the sides too.  I just went for top and centre, so didn't need as much.  Up to you.     

2 cups finely-grated carrot
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups oil (I used rice bran)
4 large eggs
225 g tin crushed pineapple, drained
1 cup desiccated coconut
1/2 cup chopped walnuts (optional)
2/3 cup sultanas (optional)

For icing:

225 g tub cream cheese, softened
4 tbsp butter, softened
1 tbsp lemon juice
zest from 1 lemon - reserve a little to sprinkle on top
1 1/4 cups icing sugar
  1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees celcius.  Grease two 22cm cake tins (I used springform ones and lined the removable base with baking paper).
  2. Sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon into a large bowl. Stir in sugar, oil, eggs, carrots, pineapple, coconut, walnuts and raisins (if using).
  3. Divide batter between cake pans and bake until a skewer comes out clean, roughly 35 - 45 minutes.
  4. Allow layers to cool in pans for 5 minutes, then run a thin knife around edge of each and turn onto rack to cool completely.
  5. For the icing, beat together the cream cheese, butter, lemon zest and juice in a large bowl with an electric mixer at medium-high speed until fluffy (about 2 minutes). Add icing sugar and beat until icing is smooth.
  6. Place one cake on serving plate and cover with half of icing.  Add second layer and ice - make sure the cakes are completely cool, otherwise you'll end with icing running off the cake.  Sprinkle with some lemon zest, seeds and the like. 

21 February 2011

green peppercorn sauce

I never used to eat a lot of steak, for no reason other than I had it in my head that it was difficult to cook.  Well, once a steak-loving flatmate blew that piece of crapola out the window (thanks Kate!) I discovered a whole new food-love.  But steak on its lonesome can be a bit plain (unless it's eye fillet, or venison - these require nothing but slight cooking) and a couple of sauces can be the difference between an amazing, but easy, at-home meal, and the kind of steak and chips you might get at the local tavern.  Mushroom sauce (slowly break down shrooms in butter) is a winner, but so is a green peppercorn.  It's an age-old combo, and once you taste it you'll see why. 

1 tbsp green peppercorns (crushed a little with a tiny bit of oil)
1 tbsp wholegrain mustard
2 tsp HP sauce (or BBQ)
1 tbsp cream
1.5 tbsp water
  1. Mix all ingredients together, serve with steak and salad (or chips, for the classic french steak and frites!). 

16 February 2011

up chocolate creek without a popsicle stick

Seeing as this entry is a recipe for cookies, it seemed appropriate to entitle it with a quote from the gingerbread man in Shrek 2.  I've made numerous varieties of chocolate chip biscuits over the years, from the hideously (but VERY good) indulgent tollhouse cookies from midwest USA, to more shortbready types designed for nibbling.  I'm a bit ambivilant to CCCs in general, so when I get to feel like making a batch, I want it to be a good one.  Edmonds, as always, to the rescue.  Their CCC recipe is great.  It's easy and it always tastes good, getting the vote of children and adults alike (not always an easy feat).  Harry and I made a batch last night, for school lunches, but to be honest I think he'll be lucky if they last the week, going the way they are.  Well done, Edmonds, batch two might be in order.  Oh, and if wondering about the cat - just continuing the Shrek theme, Antonio Bandares did that character well.  

125 g butter, softened
1/4 cup sugar
3 tbsp sweetened condensed milk
few drops vanilla essence
1 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup chocolate chips (be generous)
  1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees celcius.
  2. Cream butter, sugar, condensed milk and vanilla until light and fluffy.
  3. Mix flour and baking powder into creamed mixture.  Stir in chocolate chips.   
  4. Place teaspoonfuls onto greased (or lined) trays and flatten with a fork - or flatten with your hands and use cutters to make shapes, as we did. 
  5. Bake for 20 minutes, or until lightly browned.  Makes about 25. 

time to tart yourself up, sugar

We've had so many tomatoes this summer it's bordering somewhere between the sublime and the ridiculous.  Don't get me wrong - I love tomatoes and, when they're finished, you can guarantee I'll be complaining that I can't wait for next summer's crop.  But right now keeping up with them is a mission.  We give some away, we've made more than a dozen jars of relish, and still the bowls of beautifully glossy red toms are taking over the kitchen.  Drastic times, drastic measures - time to consult alternative tomato uses. 

Now, a tomato tart isn't really all that alternative, but it's a blog so I reckon I have poetic licence to be a little melodramatic from time to time.  However, something that a tomato tart IS is tasty.  Especcially this little beast, from mindfood.com.  The tomatoes, which are naturally sweet anyway, caramalise in their own sugars, and the vinegar counterbalances with a touch of tang.  That combined with the fact it takes half an hour = perfect, in my book.  We've had two this week, for dinner and for lunch.  Whack a salad alongside for a more substantial meal, cut into squares for a portable lunch. 

1 frypan which can go in the oven
tomatoes, cut into thick slices, enough to cover pan
40 g butter
1 tbsp caster sugar
2 tbsp white vinegar
1 sheet puff pastry
handful fresh herbs and cracked pepper
  1. Preheat oven to 200 degrees celcius.
  2. Heat butter, sugar and vinegar in pan until butter melted, sugar dissolved and mixture burbling a little.
  3. Remove from heat and place slices of tomato all over pan.
  4. Lay sheet of pastry on top, folding excess corners toward the middle.
  5. Cook in oven for 25-35 minutes (until pastry puffed and golden).
  6. Remove from oven, allow to cool for a few minutes and flip (carefully) onto serving platter.  Sprinkle with fresh herbs and a good grind of pepper. 
Nb: I used cherry toms, but any will be good.

15 February 2011

when arguing with a stone, the egg is always wrong

But at all other times, the egg is ALWAYS right.  There's something about a bacon and egg pie that, for me, screams weekend picnic.  Mum used to make them whenever we were going out at weekends - forestry AGMs, Aaron's rowing, whatever.  I've never made one though, funnily enough, it's a food I'd largely forgotten about over the years.  So when KB decided to throw one together to take to the lake on Sunday, my ears pricked up as my tastebuds started to reminisce down memory lane.  This time we used frozen veges, but fresh obviously are the go, we just happened to have a bag that suited our purpose.  I say 'our', but if I'm honest it should be 'his', as I was just loitering and watching.  Bacon and egg pie, wicked - and if you feel like adding something, or substituting, or taking away, do it.  Flexible foods, the best kind for weekends. 

6 slices bacon
10 eggs
1 tbsp capers
1 cup chopped vegetables
1 onion, diced
1 sheet pastry (KB used flaky puff this time)
  1. Rub a little oil into the dish you're going to cook the pie in (KB used a roasting tray) and preheat oven to 150 degrees celcius.
  2. Chop up bacon and onion (and veges, if needs be), mix together in a large bowl with about 10 eggs.  Stir through some salt and plenty of pepper. 
  3. Line your dish with a sheet of pastry (more or less, depending on size of dish) and pour pie filling in. 
  4. Bake until cooked through and golden on top. 

02 February 2011

what're you using for bait - releesh?!

I love a tasty relish.  On crackers, as part of a salad sandwich, on pizza, with sausages.  I'm sure the list is as endless as Bubba's uses for shrimps.  Anyhoo, having made a few onion relishes before, it felt like time for a change.  Also, the fact we have tomato plants which appear to be on some kind of producing-steroid played a part.  So, tomato relish!  Jan (KB's mum) makes a really tasty one, which I have it on authority from the lady herself, is based on the good ol' recipe from Edmonds.  With a few additions and tweaks, of course (extra chillies, don't bother with skinning the toms).  So we've given it a go.  We did skin the tomatoes but for the next batch won't bother.  Tedious and unnecessary.  Here you go - tasty tasty tomato relish, tweaked and then a little more! 

1.5 kg tomatoes
4 red or brown onions, quartered (and probably even a little smaller)
2 tbsp salt
2 cups brown sugar
2 1/4 cups malt vinegar
4 chillies (we used 2 jalapeno and 2 long long skinnys)
lemongrass stalks (we used 3)
1 tbsp dry mustard
1 tbsp curry powder
2 tbsp flour
1/4 cup malt vinegar
  1. If you are going to skin the tomatoes either blanche them briefly in boiling water, to lift the skins away a bit or, as we did, grill them until the skins begin to split, then remove.
  2. Quarter tomatoes and place in a non-metallic bowl with the onions.  Sprinkle with salt and leave for 12 hours (the salt will draw the liquids out of the veges). 
  3. Drain off liquid formed and put vegetables into large pot with first measure of vinegar, sugar lemongrass and chillies.  Boil gently for 1.5 hours, stirring frequently.  You may want to blitz it a little with a blender wand, if it's too chunky (we did). 
  4. Mix mustard, curry, flour and second lot of vinegar into smooth paste. 
  5. Remove lemongrass stalks (discard) and stir paste into the relish.  Boil for 5 minutes.
  6. Pack into well-cleaned and dried jars.  Put lids on straight away, wipe away any drips and pop into the pantry for a month or so (or eat straight away, but it's good if they can be rested for a bit). 
NB: Just made another batch, with skins on - we didn't leave them for the full 12 hours and, because skins were on, they didn't release as much liquid, making for a runnier relish.  Still good, but not as sticky as first lot.  Probably needed to leave them a good 12 + hours.