28 Dec 2011

Gingerbread Houses

My girls and two of their friends spent a morning at our place decorating gingerbread houses last week. The Gingerbread was bought as a kit from Ikea. The icing was royal icing which we made ourselves. The recipe with plenty of icing for four houses is given below.

Royal Icing
8 egg whites
2 tspns lemon juice
2kg Icing Sugar

Work in Progress

Place egg whites and juice in mix master on low speed and gradually add icing sugar until all combined and glossy.

We piped using zip lock bags with the corners snipped and some plastic piping squeeze bottles from a biscuit kit.
The girls shopped for their own lollies and chose boiled lollies, red liquorice, chocolate freckles, smarties, mint leaves and jubes. We also had little shiny balls (cachous).

These are the finished products!



Cheese is my new cooking thing!

For my birthday I was given a soft cheese making kit and course. The course was fabulous. It was run by Suzanne at "The Cheesemaking workshop" in Northbridge, Sydney. I helped to make feta, camembert, haloumi, ricotta, cream cheese, marscapone and yoghurt in one day. I have just started to make my own.
My first effort was ricotta which was delicious and sweet and we have enjoyed as a snack at home.
Next I tried feta and it has turned out beautifully.

"Wobbling " the curds to help release the whey whilst making the Feta.

I have since cubed it and marinated it in oil, rosemary, garlic, chilli flakes and peppercorns in pretty ikea jars as christmas gifts. 

The Oil blend for the Marinated Feta - 50/50 Extra Virgin Olive Oil for flavour and Sunflower Oil so it doesn't set in the fridge and a dash of lemon juice.
The ingredients in the marinade

The Feta in it's Brine bath.

The finished Christmas Gifts!

I have also made mascapone which was served with christmas dinner - half flavoured with lemon and parsley under salmon canapes and the other half with vanilla paste and icing sugar with dessert.

My next plan is camembert. I am nursing a little one that I made during the course. It is now covered in fluffy white mould and just today has come out of the cheese cave temperature 12 degrees and is now wrapped in foil in the fridge for 4-6 weeks. On friday I hope to make a batch of camemberts (4-5 of them) which should be ready by the end of february.

Must go now as I need to put my Greek Yoghurt on for the morning.

I hope to keep posting how the Cheesemaking progresses.


17 Dec 2011

Peach, Pear and Tomato Relish

For a few weeks I'd been planning on making a chutney or jam to use up all the stonefruit we keep getting in our fruit co-op. I stumbled across THIS recipe in my search, which struck me as sounding incredibly delicious (as well as being a great gift idea). It was however, slightly unrealistic sounding in terms of school term- which is why on my very first day of holidays I set about making it. 

All ready for giving away!
(sadly,  half of it had already been given away
when I though to take this photo) 
It was a downright scary recipe- especially the reccomendation to allow a whole day for it, so I had some niggling doubts about either not finishing it or it turning out disgusting after so much work! Still, I needn't have fear- it was delicious! The blanching and cutting was labour intensive and took a long while, but once it was on the stove it just needed occasionally stirring and a little bit of adjustment in terms of vinegar, so there was plenty of opportunity for going about whatever else needed doing. 

I chose not to use the chilli- I'm sure it would have been delicious, but some of the people I gave it to aren't big on heat- and used 1 1/2 cups of vinegar, which worked fine I thought. I chose to use only 2 pots, because they were very large. The bigger one (which was also on a larger burner) took about an hour and a half less, but this allowed time for bottling it while the other finished off.

Peach, Pear and Tomato Relish (AKA Gramma Miller's Tomato Relish)
Time: allow a whole day, about 2 hours for prep work, then several hours stove-time with frequent attention

Makes about 10 pints (4.7L)

6 peaches
30 medium ripe tomatoes
6 medium yellow onions
3 green peppers
2 jalapeno peppers (this isn't traditional, I'm adding it this year for the first time)
6 pears, peeled and diced (because pears aren't yet in season, I use 3 15-ounces cans of pears in light syrup, including the syrup, the fruit diced small)
4 cups sugar
1 - 2 cups (or more) white vinegar
2 tablespoons table salt
2 tablespoons pickling spices

Fill a large pot with water and bring to a boil for blanching the peaches and tomatoes. While the water comes to a boil, in batches chop the onion, green pepper and jalapeno in a food processor. Transfer to a large bowl Add the pears, sugar, vinegar (see notes below about vinegar quantity) and salt.

Four or five at a time, drop the peaches into the water and blanch for 1 minute til skin splits, transfer to colander to drain and cool. Let water return to a boil before adding more.

Cut an X in the skin of the blossom end of each tomato, then four or five at at time, drop into boiling water. Cover and blanch for 1 - 2 minutes til skin splits, transfer to a colander to drain and cool.

One by one, peel and then chop the peaches and tomatoes, discarding the peels and adding the pieces (juice and seeds and all) to the bowl and stir to combine. If there is more tomato than the bowl can hold, keep it separate until the relish is on the stove, making sure you allow it space in the pots.

Fill two-three large pots (depending on the pot size) about 2/3 full. Wrap the pickling spices in two or three squares of cheesecloth. (You'll need as many as you have pots for cooking. You can also staple the spices into coffee filters).

Bring the pots to a boil and let simmer until liquid cooks off, adding any leftover tomato as soon as you can. Especially at the beginning and near the end, stir ever 15 minutes to monitor the temperature. 

A couple of hours in, TASTE the mixture. It needs to have a strong vinegar component, if it doesn't, add vinegar. (My Mom and I made a very unsuccessful batch one year, we realized too late it was because we didn't use enough vinegar.) It's done with the liquid is cooked off and the whole mixture has turned a beautiful shade of brown. (Although the recipe says it takes 2-5 hours, my smaller pot took almost seven. I think the amount of liquid and the size of the pot/burner were to blame). It could be refrigerated at this point ... say if it's time for bed and you don't have the energy to fill and process the jars right then! If so, return to a boil but be careful, once it's fully cooked, it's easy to accidentally burn the bottom.

Fill the jars and process for 10 minutes.

The pickling spices were based on a google result-recipe.
Given the sizes of the pieces, I mostly ignored the quantity
for the relish.

Aren't the colours beautiful??

Almost done!

All in all, a big success, that I'll certainly make again (though it may have to wait until next holidays)!


13 Oct 2011

Savoury Muffins

(This is a post I wrote months ago but for some reason forgot to post. Oops!)

This morning I made some not particularly impressive, but scrumptious savoury muffins. I made them for lunch, because I was in the mood for cooking, yet feeling remarkably uinspired, this morning, so once again turned to Taste.com.au for ideas. Given the time of day, I browsed their lunch recipe collection and found a fairly plain, yet very inspiring savoury muffin recipe. More internet searching led me to base the muffins on recipes I found HERE, because I loved the flexibility it presented. So, based on what we had in the crisper, I made the courgette and pine nut muffins- but with no courgette or pine nut (or basil or sultanas). Instead I added diced yellow capsicum, grated carrot and sliced olives. I also substituted plain flour for wholemeal and parmesan for tasty cheese. (I think that you could probably substitute whatever you liked, so long as it didn't change the ratios).

Through the course of making the muffins I became more and more convinced that they were going to fail, because all the vegetable quantities (as well as that of the cheese) were completely made up! However the muffins worked better than I expected, and were actually pretty yummy. A little heavy, but better than last time I made savoury muffins (with a completely different recipe), although that time I really made little savoury rocks, because I left out the eggs! They made a great lunch, and the leftovers are stored away in the freezer for their calling- which I'm guessing will be school lunches next week! I only took one photo- still not used to this whole recording as you cook thing- but promise to take more next time.


12 Oct 2011

Quick, Vegetarian Finger Food!

On Sunday afternoon we had a tight time frame to make nibbles for a last minute "welcome home" party for  friends who've had a tough time lately. We came up with ideas in the car, popped in for a few extra ingredients at the local shops, though mostly used the contents of our vegie co-op bag. Then Mia, Eva and I spent about an hour preparing.

This is what we came up with:-

Beetroot and Cumin Dip with Greek Pitta and Carrot Sticks.

  • Place a large Fresh Beetroot into a pot of cold water full enough to cover it and bring to boil, cook , covered, until tender (approx 45min - depending on size) 
  • Peel Beetroot while still warm (skin should slip off easily - gloves may help with heat.)
  • Puree beetroot in a food processor.
  • Add Greek Yoghurt (about 1/2 cup), Ground cumin (about 2 tspn) and some salt and pepper and puree further.
  • Taste to see if more yoghurt or salt needed.
  • Serve beautiful coloured dip with bright accompaniments.

Asparagus Spears Wrapped in Smoked Salmon and Nori and a Lemon Mayonnaise
This one we googled while looking for asparagus ideas (and have included the link). Rolling Stiff Nori was harder than I thought so they look a bit rough - but the taste was great. We added a lemon mayonnaise (Good Mayo with fresh lemon juice and pepper stirred through it which went very well)

Goats cheese, roasted cherry tomato and parsley mini-toasts.

  • Halve and roast cherry tomatoes (tossed in Extra Virgin Olive Oil, A little Balsamic Vinegar and some salt and pepper) until soft (about 20 min)
  • Spread toasts with some goats cheese, a parsley leaf and a roasted cherry tomato and serve soon afterwards.
  • I meant to use pesto but didn't have basil - it would have been tastier, but these were good and quick. 

It was all eaten and enjoyed!


8 Oct 2011


Well, here goes nothing! First Post!

Today I made Croissants (Well, actually I started them yesterday morning, but I cooked them today so I think that's what counts)! They were a little more of an undertaking than I expected- I spent about 6 hours working on them and this was spaced across more than 30 hours! But the end product was remarkably croissant-like and delicious, so I am still making my mind up as to whether it was worth it.

The recipe I used was in 'Bourke Street Bakery; The Ultimate Baking Companion' A cookbook Dad got for his birthday, predominantly for use in sourdough making. It's a fantastic book with all sorts of yummy bakery-like things in it, although the methods do all seem to be at least a page long! The recipe was divided into 2 parts- Croissant Dough (Which can be used in all sorts of other things, like snails for example) and Croissants (to be precise, the recipe was spread across 148-9 and 168-9). I would have put the recipe, except it's literally 4 pages of very small font and I don't want to bore you.

They were meant to be for breakfast, but in a slightly more extreme example of my complete inability to predict how long I will take to cook something ( partly connected to my inability to read the full recipe before I begin them) they were ready just after 4:30 PM. Oh well, I guess I'll know next time! We served them with hot chocolate in bowls- when we were little we got croissants from a local bakery all the time and this was our way of making them just a little more French (No idea where the idea came from, or if it's French at all, but it's fun) and strawberry jam which I made last Friday. They were delicious!! They were pretty much like shop bought croissants, except perhaps a little less buttery on the inside. Enough writing now, here are some more photos.