Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Christmas Pudding: Take Two


Just before Christmas last year, I wrote a lovey-dovey post about how much I love my twinnies and thanking you all for reading my blog for a whole year. After reading over it again (yep I use my own blog as my source of recipes now  - I promise I'm not a narcissist) I realised, "HEY, this means it's now been TWO whole years since I started this blog!" And indeed it has been. So happy two year anniversary to me and to celebrate, I thought I'd share how to make a Christmas pudding pretty rather than the ugly mess I published last year!!




This year I have made this pudding four times. Yes, four. And if you count the double batch I made yesterday as two, the final count would be five. If I am to tell the truth, yes I am sick and tired of eating this pudding. However, my father, for whom this/these was/were a birthday cake/s, it seems that not even being buried alive by pudding will suffice. Anyway. When I made this pudding for the second time this year, I discovered both secrets number one and two (and a bonus third):
  1. Take the pudding out of the cloth THE VERY SECOND it has finished boiling. 
  2. Turn it the right way up (i.e. don't serve it upside down as I did last year).
  3. Buy super cheap yet delicious brandy custard from Aldi for serving. 
And it's as simple as that. Merry Christmas!

- Matilda

Monday, December 23, 2013

International Cricket Love & Cake


Just over 12 months ago, I started a cricket blog on Tumblr. At first it was a bit of a laugh and a way to file the hundreds (ahem, thousands) of cricket photos that had been piling up on my computer hard drive over the years. It's still a bit of a laugh but somehow it's become not only a filing system, but a way to 'meet' like-minded people  and go crazy over the amazing game that is Test cricket. Other forms of the game are also celebrated but the passion with which everyone discusses the proper stuff gives me hope for my generation and the future of the game. People who say Test cricket is dead should come on Tumblr and just have a look. They may however have to avert their eyes from the excessive fangirling that also occurs ;)

Being an international game, there is a fan base in virtually every country in the world. Indians, Sri Lankans, Pakistanis, West Indians, Brits, Aussies - it's just heartwarming to see how people of different nationalities and cultures can bond over something like cricket and celebrate the success of others, even if their own team doesn't do quite as well. Of all the girls I have met through Tumblr, the one to whom I am  probably closest is Sri Lankan and when I saw the recipe for "Sri Lankan Love Cake" in a page I had ripped out from an old Gourmet Traveler magazine, I had to ask her about it straight away. Zinara said she had never heard of such a thing as love cake in Sri Lanka and that it's simply called semolina cake over there. Well thanks, Gourmet Traveler, it's great to know I can rely on you for authentically named recipes. 

Despite my disappointment  upon knowing that love cake is not a thing, I ended up making this cake after Zinara assured me that semolina cake is a thing and that it is in fact delicious. And delicious it is. Or should I saw was, until it disappeared into my family's stomachs along with coffee over  a couple of mornings. The crunch of the cashews and the richness provided by the egg yolks makes for an extremely satisfying morning tea or a sweet finish to breakfast. 

Oh hey ugly little guy up the back, didn't see you there when I was taking the photo. 
Love Cake aka Semolina Cake (recipe from Gourmet Traveler) 
Makes approximately 36 squares

Ingredients: 

125g coarse semolina
125g butter
185g raw cashews 
6 egg yolks
200g caster sugar 
½ tsp ground cardamon
1 tsp grated nutmeg 
2 tsp rosewater 
2 tsp vanilla essence 
1 tsp almond essence 
2 egg whites  

Directions: 

1. Toast the semolina in a dry pan until just golden and turn into a bowl. When almost cool, stir in the butter.
2. Chop the cashews very finely in a food processor but do not allow them to become a powder.
3. Beat the egg yolks and sugar with an electric mixer until thick and white. 
4. Add the cardamon, nutmeg, rosewater, vanilla, almond essence, semolina, and cashews. 
5. In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites until stiff.
6. On a low speed, mix the egg whites into the cake mixture. 
7. Pour the mixture into a lined 20cm square baking tin and bake into a very low oven (130°C) for 70 minutes. When a skewer is inserted, it should still come out sticky.
8. Let the cake cool in the tin and wait for a couple days (if you can!) before cutting [into squares] and devouring.

- Matilda

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Cooked Cappuccino Cake

For as long as I can remember, my grandma has walked to the corner store to buy The Australian and its corresponding magazine each Saturday morning. She then reads it over breakfast and her morning tea, completes the crossword and browses through the magazine. It then comes to our house, where it is generally used for wrapping up rubbish. However, the magazine's 'food' section is always read in full (apart from maybe the wine list which is of no use to someone like me who can't handle more than a glass per night). Apart from the reviews of amazing restaurants I will never visit, the highlight of this part of the magazine is easily David Herbert's themed weekly recipes. 

Most well-known in Australia as former PM Paul Keating's personal chef, David Herbert publishes what are undeniably the most reliable recipes in terms of taste and ease. Without a fail, every dish my mother or I have made from his weekly column in the Weekend Australian Magazine has been a roaring success. They might not look like the styled creations that are published, but the taste  more than makes up for the lack of aesthetic appeal.

There has been, however, one exception to the general rule of Herbert's recipes being flawless. I must preface this by saying that I am absolutely certain that the mistake was completely my own fault. What happened was this: I carefully measured and weighed out all ingredients, followed all instructions to a tee, made the icing in anticipation of the cake cooling on the rack, went to carry the rack over to the other bench so I could ice the cake, and....... the middle of the cake fell through the wire rack and onto the floor. 

You can possibly imagine my panic as I rushed to put what was left of the cake back on the bench, before gathering the bits of raw cake batter off the floor before Pond could finish it all off (in the end Pond did end up eating it, but I wasn't to know that there was no chance of salvation at that point). Obviously I hadn't left the cake in the oven long enough (but the skewer came out of the middle cleanly?!) and so only the outside of the cake had cooked. To see whether or not this had been a problem for other readers, I did a quick search to discover that other bloggers who have made this cake seem to have had a 100% success rate. I still can't work out what it was that I did wrong, but hopefully whatever it was doesn't happen again...  It would have been an awful waste if all of the cake had been ruined but thankfully the edges - forming a nice circular ring of a cake in place of a solid cylinder - had cooked perfectly. And yes, they tasted amazing. So here is the recipe for what it's worth. I highly recommend you try it - and hopefully you will have better luck than I did!

Photo by Guy Bailey

Cappuccino cake (recipe from David Herbert, The Weekend Australian Magazine October 19-20, 2013)


Ingredients:

Cake batter

220g unsalted butter, softened
220g caster sugar
220g self-raising flour, sifted
1 tsp baking powder
1 Tbsp coffee granules dissolved in 2 Tbsp boiling water
4 free-range eggs, lightly beaten

Pinch salt 


Icing
1 Tbsp coffee granules
200g unsalted butter, softened
400g icing sugar, sifted
1 Tbsp cocoa, sifted, to decorate


Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 180°C. Grease and line bases of two 20cm sandwich tins. 

2. Put all cake ingredients in a large bowl and beat with a wooden spoon or hand-held electric beaters until just combined. 
3. Divide batter between tins and bake for 20-25 minutes or until risen and golden. 
4. Turn out onto a wire rack to cool. 
5. To make icing, dissolve coffee in 2 tablespoons boiling water then beat butter, coffee and icing sugar with electric beaters until smooth and pale. Use half the icing to sandwich the cakes together; spread the remainder on top. Dust with cocoa.

- Matilda

Monday, December 9, 2013

Christmas Gift: Rum, Raisins & Apple Cake


 Each year our next door neighbour makes us some sort of Christmas dessert as a Christmas present and usually we return in kind with a box of chocolates, fresh veg or some honey. This year though, chocolates seem boring, fresh organic veg is inaccessible to us, and honey is old news. And most of all, I felt like BAKING SOMETHING. 

There is a lot to be said for baking as a method of stress relief. As someone who has struggled with their relationship with food over the years, baking has, paradoxically, helped me overcome some of the issues I face. For starters, it makes me feel relaxed. I may freak out every couple of minutes because I've put an egg in where I wasn't supposed to or have spilled half the batter on the bench in the process of pouring it into the cake tin, but overall it is a calming experience. The measuring, the stirring, the churning, the pouring, the poking. I never liked lab work at school but that's what it reminds me of - high school science labs. Science has a basis and it makes sense, it's the same for cooking. I also enjoy the feeling you get when you have finished cooking: the cake is out of the oven so it's time to put your feet up ad relax. It is yet another paradox that standing is more tiring than walking, and an hour or two in the kitchen most certainly reminds you of that. 

Anyway, that was a long-winded way of saying that I like baking. Which indeed I do! I relish the chance to try something new in the cake or biscuit department (despite my habit of going back to old favourites time and time again). Originally I was planning on giving our neighbours a cappuccino cake but due to unforseen events (see next post) had to initiate plan B. Due to this recipe being one that Dad found, I wasn't going to just give it to someone without having tried it myself first. If any of you know my father, you'll know that he isn't the greatest in the kitchen and doesn't quite understand the detail of how the food preparation process works. Thankfully though, this recipe seemed decent in theory and put into practice... my oh my, wasn't it just brilliant. 

Not only will this now be my go-to apple cake recipe, it is most certainly fit for giving to neighbours as a Christmas present. :-) 




Wholemeal Apple and Rum Cake (adapted from Kate's Apple Cake)
Serves 12

Ingredients: 
60ml dark rum
120g mixed raisin, sultana and currants

2 cups wholemeal flour
1 ½ tsp bicarbonate soda
½ tsp salt
2 tsp mixed spice


1 brown sugar
½ cup raw sugar
1 cup light olive oil or rice bran oil
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 eggs

3 large Granny smith apples, peeled, cored and diced 1.5cm
100g toasted walnuts, coarsely chopped

Directions:

1. Place raisins, sultanas and currants in a bowl with the rum and leave to soak for at least 3 hours at room temperature. 
2. Preheat oven to 160°C and line a 26cm round spring form tin with baking paper.
3. Place flour, bicarb, salt and mixed spice into a large bowl and mix together with a whisk.
4. Using electric beaters, beat the oil, sugars and vanilla essence together until thick and creamy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each one is added.
5. Use a spoon to stir the flour mixture into the oil and sugar mixture until combined (the batter will be very thick) 
6. Stir in the fruits and walnuts and pour the batter into the prepared tin and flatten the surface.
7. Bake for 75-85 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean.
8. Allow to cool in the tin for 5 minutes then remove from the tin and serve warm.

- Matilda