Sunday, July 31, 2011

Chocolate Delice with Salted Caramel

Does anyone remember when I said I liked things that you could throw together relatively simply? Did the "easy" and "quick" tags give it away? Well. Gracious me. Nicola and I spent five and a half hours making these. I would say I don't understand how they managed to do this on Masterchef in 90 minutes (or whatever absurd time they were given) but I do:
1. Blast chillers,
2. Making 2 large ones in 2 large moulds, not 18 small ones in batches of 3 because you only have 3 moulds, and
3. Blast chillers.

Picture from Nicola's shiny new iPad, what what

I think last time I cooked something with Nicola it was the Epic Cake which we SkypeBaked while she was in Italy, which took us three hours, so we've definitely reached new highs (lows?) with this.

The only criticism I've had so far (from Chris/Gordo, obviously. I can't refer to him as Gordo since he shaved his head. It was six months ago but I'm still harbouring a grudge), which I agreed with, was that the biscuit base was too hard. Also, our "creme brulee" layer just tasted like baked custard, but I like custard so it wasn't a big deal.

If you have a free day, or a lot of cake rings, I would recommend making this. Get the recipe here!

Pineapple Upside-Down Cake

So pineapples were $2 each a few weeks ago, and in my "Grocery shopping is FUN!" haze (that's not even sarcastic, I really do enjoy it. I recommend having a grocery shopping date as your weekly get-together with a friend, I don't think I'd be able to function without it) I bought one with some vague hopes of making a juice in my smoothie maker.

About a week later, Meryl came over and asked why I had a pineapple ("I dunno") and what I was going to do with it ("I dunno"), then decided we would make a pineapple upside down cake, and that was that. Meryl is my friend's girlfriend who lives in America but came over for visiting and we got to spend a crazy amount of time on my couch watching trashy TV while her boyfriend was at work. It was as awesome as it sounds, trust me.

Apparently this is more dense than they normally are, but I didn't have any complaints! Anything that can be thrown together reasonably simply with ingredients I already have is fine by me.

Non-inverted Second Cake and inverted First Cake (we doubled the recipe to use up all of the pineapple)

Serves 8
Total time commitment: 40 minutes - 1 hour, most of which is baking
Recipe from

1/2 a pineapple, cut into rings; or 440g can pineapple rings
1/3 cup brown sugar
90g butter, softened
1/2 cup caster sugar
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 1/4 cups self-raising flour

1. Preheat oven to 180C. Grease a round cake pan with butter and sprinkle brown sugar over the base of the pan.

2. Arrange pineapple over the brown sugar. If you need to cut the rings in half to get them to fit, please do, it is better to have halved pineapple on your slice than no pineapple! You could even halve all of the pieces if you are concerned about the aesthetic value.

3. In a mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar with an electric mixer. Add eggs, one at a time, and mix until combined. Add flour and stir to combine.

4. Spread cake mixture over the pineapple and bake 30 - 40 minutes, or until a skewer/chopstick/knife/other implement you have on hand inserted into the centre comes out clean. Cool, invert onto a plate, and serve.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011


Grandma is back from France! Hoorah! (my excitement is not just because of the macarons)

And then I went to see Elbow with my best friend and it was the best day ever. This is during 'Starlings', if you are interested. In the BWAAAAAAMP. I apologise for the awful phone-quality.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Steamed Pork Buns

I really have not been posting as much as I expected to over the uni break. During exams I was thinking about all the nice things I would cook with all of my free time and that lark, but I ended up being rather busy with seeing friends and hanging out with my friend's girlfriend who was visiting from America (and left yesterday D:) and playing Tetris. I also discovered Parks and Recreation, so that ate up a lot of my time.

Something else that ate up a lot of my time was these steamed pork buns! I've been craving them for about six months, since I left Sydney last (at the end of January) and had them at the airport. I saw a steamer in the supermarket, thought that it would be a great idea to make them, and promptly bought it.

Of course, since I took almost an entire day to make them, I've found them at food courts everywhere over here. Don't get me wrong, these were delicious, but not really worth the effort. Making my own bread? Fine. Roasting entire pumpkins, then using the skin for stock and roasting the seeds for snacks? Great. Taking a whole day to make four steamed pork buns (and four steamed char-siu vegetable buns for Levi)? Not so much fun. These are definitely being relegated to "buy".

The saving grace of these, though, is that the roast pork with char-siu sauce was AMAZING, and I will make it again. Without the dough-making and bun-forming and steaming, the pork seems worth making at home. Also I have some leftover pork which needs to be used up. Just saying.

I only made a couple of substitutions/omissions from the recipe - no shallot in the marinade, oyster sauce for soy sauce, and rice wine for gin. I can't think of anything else you could use as a steamer, but the steamer wasn't expensive (about $12 I think).

Makes 8 buns
Total time commitment: 2 - 3 hours
Recipe from
Cost: $2.47 per bun, assuming they're all pork buns and not vegetable

For the buns:
2 cups Plain Flour
2 ½ tsp Baking Powder
2 Tbsp Caster Sugar
1 tsp Salt
½ cup Warm Water
2 Tbsp Vegetable Oil

For The Char-Siu Pork:
3 Tbsp Char Siu Sauce
½ tsp Five Spice Powder
1 ½ tsp Oil
250 g Pork Fillets, trimmed
1 ½ tsp Honey

For The Sauce:
4 Tbsp Reduced-Salt Soy Sauce
2 Tbsp Shao Hsing Rice Wine (I substituted gin)
2 tsp Cornflour
1 tsp Sesame Oil
½ cup minus 2 Tbsp Caster Sugar

1. Preheat oven to 200C. Combine char-siu sauce, oil and five-spice powder from the pork section, and marinate pork in the mixture for 30 minutes - 2 hours.

2. While the pork is marinating, combine dry ingredients from the bun section, then gradually add water and oil to form a soft dough. Turn onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth. Wrap in cling wrap and refrigerate for one hour while you cook the pork.

3. Remove pork from marinade, place in a baking dish, and cook for 40 minutes, basting occasionally (I did every ten minutes) and turning the pork over halfway through. When cooked, remove from oven, brush with honey, and wrap in alfoil for five minutes before slicing.

4. While the pork is cooking, combine sauce ingredients (minus the oil) in a jug and whisk to combine. When the pork has been sliced, heat oil in a frypan and add pork and sauce. Cook, stirring constantly, until mixture comes to the boil. Set aside to cool.

5. While pork is cooling, remove dough from refrigerator and divide into 8 portions. Roll each portion into a round of dough. Place a spoonful of pork into the centre of each round and pinch the tops together (as you can see, I didn't do such a good job of this).

6. Pour water into a wok, saucepan or frying pan to about 1/3 full - whatever your steamer will fit on top of so that it doesn't touch the water. Bring water to the boil over a high heat. Line your bamboo steamer with baking paper and add buns (I could fit four at a time). Cover with steamer lid and cook for 10 - 15 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the bun comes out clean. Repeat to cook remaining buns and serve.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Secret Recipe Club: Sweet Applets

Its time for another Secret Recipe Club recipe! After the success of last month's white chocolate cheesecakes, I was planning to do something savoury, but I was sold on these Sweet Applets from Megan's Cookin'. There are so many recipes that look delicious on Megan's blog! This one is from the Pillsbury's 100 New Bake-Off Recipes cookbook (which sounds so delightfully twee). The only thing I didn't do was dip the cooked applets in melted butter, sugar and cinnamon, because they were breakfast and I thought that was a little too decadent. The recipe didn't give any measurements for these so if you want to do that, go right ahead and top to your hearts content!

Also, please note that I remembered to buy paper cases this month :D

Makes 12 large muffin-y type things
Total time commitment: 35 minutes
Recipe from Megan's Cookin'
Cost: $4.36 per batch - $0.36 per applet

1 1/2 cups self-raising flour
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup butter
1 egg
1/3 cup milk
1 1/2 cups apple (I used two Granny Smith apples), cubed

1. Preheat oven to 200C. Combine flour and nutmeg and set aside.

2. Cream butter and sugar. Add egg, combine, and alternately add milk and flour mixture. When combined, stir in apple.

3. Spoon into muffin tray and bake for 20 - 25 minutes until golden.

Check out other members' contributions here:

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Sunday night side-dishes

On Sunday, I really couldn't be bothered to cook, and occasionally I leave Sundays off my meal planner because I lose steam when I'm planning or assume I'll have leftovers. This week was one of those weeks, and there was really nothing in the house except the better part of a 3kg bag of potatoes and some assorted vegetables. This started out as an attempt to make a variation on jacket potatoes that Mum used to cook us, where you scoop out the inside of the potato but leave a kind of potato-bowl-perimeter, mash it with some vegetables and cheese, and put it back into the potato. It didn't work out that way, so it ended up being a combination mashed potato. The honey carrots were there as a request from Levi, who had them at a friend's place last week and is obsessed with them now. Let's be honest, though, they're a favourite of mine as well. I haven't included the recipe because I'm still perfecting it!

The beauty of this mashed potato is that aside from the standard one-potato-per-person, the quantities and varieties of vegetable or cheese are entirely up to you and what's left in the pantry.

Serves 2
Total time commitment: Varies depending on potato size, but roughly 30 minutes
Recipe adapted from Mama's jacket potatoes

2 medium-to-large potatoes
Frozen peas and beans
1 carrot, diced
A couple of florets of broccoli, chopped
Tomato, diced

1. Steam the potatoes and vegetables (excluding tomato) in whatever way you prefer - microwave or stove top. If you have an hour spare, you can roast the potatoes, but for this I don't bother. Grate some cheese while you wait.

2. When they are done, cut the potatoes into small cubes (don't burn yourself, please) and put into a bowl with some butter. Mash until they are suitably mashed to your taste. Add the steamed vegetables, diced tomatoes, and grated cheese, and combine. The cheese should melt into the potato and be all delicious. Best eaten while sitting on the couch watching some trashy television. 

Monday, July 11, 2011

Pumpkin and Lentil Curry

It has been darn near freezing here lately (disclaimer: hyperbole. But it has been colder than usual). I've been eating things other than curries, despite what my blog might suggest, but I've been in one of those wintery ruts where I only cook staples like risotto and soup. I think it has something to do with the fact that all of my beloved food blogs are celebrating summer and fresh berries and salads and I just can't relate to that right now! Which is probably why I jumped at this recipe for pumpkin and lentil curry. Something warm and hearty to cook? Why, sure!

That, and I'd also bought another whole pumpkin for 99c/kilo about three days prior to discovering this recipe, so finding ingredients wasn't exactly an issue.

Much like the risotto, this curry is difficult to photograph well, but don't let that put you off! It tastes great, although I'd probably add some other vegetables to it next time for variety and colour. From memory, I used about 500g of pumpkin to make 400ml of pumpkin puree, but I could be incredibly mistaken. I've tried googling to verify if thats a plausible ratio but everyone just says to roast a whole pumpkin and then puree it with no measurements whatsoever.

I also added sultanas and shredded coconut to the top of my curry, something I learnt from Levi's family. I think it added some needed texture to the curry, without it, it probably would have been too bland.

Serves 4
Total time commitment: 1 hour (20 minutes prep, 40 minutes cooking)
Adapted from Eat Me, Delicious
Cost: 0.98 per serve (0.80 per serve with 99c/kilo pumpkin)

185g red lentils
1 1/2 cups water
1 onion, diced
Ground ginger
270ml coconut milk
500g pumpkin, pureed
Curry powder
Cayenne pepper
Olive oil

1. Heat olive oil in a pan and fry onion until translucent. Add a couple of shakes of ginger (to taste) and fry a further 30 seconds.

2. Add lentils, water, coconut milk and pumpkin, and curry powder and cayenne pepper to taste. Cook over a medium-low heat until the lentils are cooked through (about 40 minutes). If the curry starts to dry out while cooking, add a little water or coconut milk and continue cooking.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Naan Bread

Obviously, it would be remiss of me to post a gazillion curry recipes without a recipe for naan bread. Like bagels, I didn't make these for a while because of the time commitment, but when I was making the pumpkin and lentil curry and was going to be working for four hours beforehand, I thought it was the right time to make it. I'm very impatient, so being out of the house while dough is rising is really the safest option.

I got this recipe from Nicola's blog, go visit her and bug her to post more stuff.

Makes 6 naan
Total time commitment: 20 minutes prep, 3-4 hours sitting time, 20 minutes cooking.
Recipe from This Is Not An Orange Blog

1 tsp yeast
¾ cup lukewarm water
2 cups flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
Pinch of baking soda
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 ½ Tbsp natural yoghurt

1. Dissolve yeast in water. Set aside for 10 minutes or until it starts to foam up.

2. Mix flour, sugar, salt and baking soda in a medium-sized bowl.

3. Add oil and yogurt, and mix to a crumbly dough. When you do it, you'll realise why crumbly is the right word.

4. Add yeast and water mixture and mix to a soft dough. Knead for a while.

5. Return to the bowl, cover with a tea towel, and sit the dough in a warm place for 3-4 hours.

6. Good to see you back! Cover your work space with flour and bring out the dough. Divide into 6 evenly-sized lumps.

7. Roll each lump into an oval.

8. If you are using a frypan, here are Nicola's directions: Heat some oil to very hot in a heavy pan. Chuck in one of the doughvals (hah). It’ll probably stretch out a bit as you pick it up and place it in but that is fine! As it cooks, air bubbles should puff up. Flip over when underside is getting golden brown. Take it out when it looks like naan. Rub with some garlic. Yeaaahhhhh. Repeat with remaining doughvals.

I used a pizza oven instead, so rather than using oil, I floured each side of the bread and cooked it in the pizza oven. It was less puffy and oily (obviously), but still delicious.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Flatbread with Curry

To follow on from the potato and spinach curry the other day, this was how most of the curry was utilised. I love me some (mild) curry, and I also love bread, so this was a pretty natural fit!

I've added a new section just under the recipe title for 'cost'. Because I'm a frugal student, I've started figuring out how much recipes cost per serve. I'm also adding the tags "under $1" and "under $2" for recipes under $1 or $2 per serve. Obviously things will cost different amounts depending on where you live and what's in season, but this is how I've calculated things and its good as a rough guide.

Serves 8
Total time commitment: 2 and a half hours
Recipe from the Kitchn
Cost: $1.37 per serve

1 quantity curry (the curry can be made up to three days ahead)
2 cups warm water
2 tsp yeast
4 1/2 cups flour
2 tsp salt

1. In a medium sized bowl, dissolve the yeast in the warm water. Add the flour and salt and form a dough.

2. Turn the dough onto a work surface and knead until it forms a tacky ball of dough. If the dough is sticky rather than tacky, add some extra flour.

3. Grease a bowl (I used the same one, just cleaned out, because I am lazy and hate dishes) with a little olive oil to prevent the dough from sticking, put the dough in the bowl, cover, and sit for 2 hours to rise. You can also leave it two days in the fridge if your schedule makes that easier.

4. Divide the dough into 8 pieces and roll each into a circle about 20cm in diameter. Place some spoonfuls of curry onto half of the dough and flatten the curry, leaving a diameter. Fold the top of the flatbread over the top and pinch the edges together (like a Cornish pastie).

5. Preheat the oven or grill to about 180C. Leave the flatbread out while the oven/grill is preheating. Cook flatbread until it looks done, essentially. Mine burnt a little on the edges but I feel like that's the equivalent of getting grill marks on it.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Potato and Spinach Curry

Here is what I like about this curry: All of it.
Here is what I dislike about this curry: Nothing, because I'm not crazy.
If you like curry, and you also like bread, do I have a treat for you this week.

But first - curry! This is delightful, and it makes me happy, particularly now that it is cold and I have lost motivation to cook. That's not entirely true, I've been cooking, but nothing especially interesting, and nothing I haven't blogged before. The last few weeks have been RAH! EXAMS! and then, in my excitement about finishing exams, I had a super-busy first week of holidays. But today, I have nothing planned until 6pm, and that makes me delightfully happy.

Actually, in my busy week, I did have a fun afternoon with Nicola watching Heston's Feasts. That was really fun, and kind of disgusting (boar's head? Dormouse? Ugh).

So back to the curry!

Serves 8 
Total time commitment: 1 hour
Recipe from The Kitchn

1 onion, diced
450 g potatoes, cubed
3-4 cloves minced garlic
1/2 tsp ginger
2 tsp cumin
2 tsp garam masala
¼ tsp cayenne pepper
2 tsp salt
800g can diced tomatoes
400g can chickpeas
100g baby spinach

1. Heat some oil in a fry pan over a medium-high heat. Cook the onions until browned. Add potatoes and a pinch of salt, and cook until potatoes are almost cooked through but still hard in the centre.

2. Clear a space in the centre of the pan and add the spices with 1 tsp salt. Cook until fragrant and then stir spices into potatoes.

3. Add tomatoes and juices, and simmer the curry, stirring occasionally, until potatoes are completely soft and the sauce has reduced and thickened. Stir in the chickpeas, and then stir in the spinach. If the sauce is still watery, simmer a little longer until thickened.