Monday, August 22, 2011

You can't got past gel colouring

I had to do some baking yesterday as I had some friends coming around for crochet, coffee, cake and chats. So I whipped up my three favourites. It's the bright orange one that I'm going to share today.

My kids love this because it's all about wheat biscuits and marshmallow.

Here's the recipe:

2 1/2 (or 45g) crushed weetbix (wheat biscuit cereal)
3/4 cup sugar
3 tablespoons cocoa
1 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
175g melted butter

1 cup boiling water
1 cup sugar
1 dessert spoon gelatin

Mix all the dry ingredients together and stir through the melted butter. Press into a greased slice pan and bake at 180 for 15 minutes.

Dissolve the gelatin in the boiling water and leave until it's cooled to room temperature (this is really important or your marshmallow won't work properly). Once the gelatine has cooled add the 1 cup of sugar and beat until light, fluffy and thick. Add food colouring, beat some more and pour over the cooled slice. It should set in about 15 minutes and be ready to eat.

Now, this is a huge tip . . . if you can get them use get gel food colourings. The colours are so vibrant and they don't seem to be affected by heat the way ordinary food colourings are, nor do they fade on cooling. They're great for colour fondants, cake batter, icing . . . you name it. You'll never use ordinary food colouring again.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Creamy Curry

I have to share this recipe because it's a firm favourite in our house. It's based on a Rendang recipe but I never have all the ingredients at one time so here's how I make it.

500gm beef (use the cheapest cuts because you can simmer for a long time to get it tender. In this recipe I used venison beef though as I have loads in the freezer).
3 shallots or one onion
3 cloves garlic (1 heaped teaspoon garlic paste)
1cm thick slice of ginger (1/2 teaspooon ginger paste)
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1/2 teaspoon tumeric
1 teaspoon chilli paste
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
3 candlenuts (you could also use macadamias)
3/4 teaspoon galangal powder
salt to taste
1/2 can of coconut milk (400ml)
1/2 cup of water
2 Kaffir lime leaves (I have a bag of dried leaves and they seem to work well but fresh is best)
1 tablespoon tamarind paste
2 tablespoons crushed almonds

Cut the beef into 3-4 cm pieces and set aside. If you're using tamarind paste add it to the 1/2 cup of warm water. Set these both aside.

Put the cumin seeds and coriander seeds into a hot wok (no oil) and fry until the scents are released then crush them with mortar and pestle.

Into a processor put shallots, garlic, ginger, cumin, galangal, chillies, coriander, tumeric and candlenuts. (I like to bash my candlenuts under a tea towel with a rolling pin first because they're quite tough.) Process the ingredients into a paste but be sure not to over process as you need to have some texture in it. My processor is hopeless so I use a bit of the tamarind liquid to help it along.

Heat the oil in a wok or deep pan and stir in the spice paste until the chilli oil separates from the paste. Add the beef and stir until the beef is browned. Add the tamarind water, coconut cream, crushed almonds and lime leaves. Bring to the boil and then simmer until the beef is tender. (Be patient, with a cheaper cut of meat this can take some time). Stir it frequently to prevent burning as the liquid reduces to a thick consistency. Here you be the judge. A rendang is supposed to be a dry curry but I love the flavour of the sauce so I only reduce until it's a thick sauce. If you feel that the tamarind has made the dish too sour feel free to add some brown sugar. I totally overpowered my dish last night and the sugar turned it gorgeous!

Serve with rice and fresh coriander on top. YUM!

You can always reduce the amount of chilli you add dependent on your love of hot food. I quite like it so it tingles on the tongue, heats the back of the mouth but doesn't burn your tastebuds off. Try it. You won't be disappointed.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Ahhh, Pastry

You will have to forgive my photography because it makes this bacon and egg pie look burnt and, trust me, it wasn't. But I'm being a bit cheeky posting this photograph after my declaration that I was making my own pastry the other day.

The home made pastry was not quite a disaster but it wasn't fabulous. So as today was shopping day and my oldest child, who doesn't like bacon and egg pie, is out for dinner I picked up some ready rolled puff pastry for our dinner.

I concede defeat for now. As this pastry cost me under $2 I'm figuring that it might just be easier to buy it for the time being.

The other exciting food thing happening in our home this week is strawberries. My lovely friend Carolyn planted four strawberries in her garden last summer and they've morfed into nearly two dozen plants so she sent 12 my way on the weekend. I had intended to plant them right away but we were hit by freak winter weather. I love in a sub-tropical climate and I've only seen snow on the nearby ranges twice before in my life. This week it was sleeting in my garden which is unprecedented and certainly not conditions worthy of strawberry planting.

But the weather has turned, if not warmed up, and I got out yesterday and planted ten in my garden and two in a pot on the patio. My children just love foraging for fresh veges so to stop them trampling over my garden I keep a couple of big pots on the patio with vegetables in that they can take as they please. It's usually child friendly things like tomatoes but I'm hoping the children eat the strawberries before the birds do. Fingers crossed.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Inspiring Children

I finally let Kayley and her friend make something all by themselves today. They had picked out a simple cupcake recipe and they did an amazing job. Because they're only just learning about fractions at school they found some of the instructions a bit difficult so I guided them trying hard not to get involved (except to remind them they hadn't put the butter in). 

I did the hot oven part and made the icing and put it in the piping bag and the decorations are all their own work (but I don't think you needed me to tell you that).

So, feeling inspired by their success I decided to try my hand at flaky pastry for dinner. I watch loads of cooking shows, as you can imagine, and I've always been put off making pastry because of the degree of difficulty it's supposed to carry. I love to make sweet short pastry so figured that I needed to feel the fear and do it anyway. I can't really show you a picture of the results yet because the pastry is in the fridge chilling. If it all goes well I'll photograph our dinner and post it tomorrow. This means, if I never mention it again it was a dismal failure (just so you're warned).

Friday, August 12, 2011

Food on a Budget?

I've spent that last week preparing the vegetable garden determined not to buy any vegetables during the summer months that I pray are not too far away. I've planted my first two rows of cabbages, cauliflower and broccoli in nice straight rows and now we sit back and wait while I figure out what else we want to grow this year.

This got me thinking about something my friends often refer to . . . the Destitute Gormet. So often one of them will say . . . "Oh, I got this recipe from the Destitute Gormet" and I finally decided to research this enigma. I think this started out as a book by a mum who was on a strict budget and found interesting, tasty and healthy ways to feed her family and turned them into a book.  I'm so glad I found this website because I know I'll come back to it frequently and definitely use some of the recipes on my kids. I think I might even have to do the bread and butter pudding pictured here.

I've also been searching through the supermarket isles for more healthy snacks for my children. My eldest is quite happy to come home from school and consume a banana or two, a couple of carrots and whatever else she can scrounge from the fruit bowl but the younger two are still more interested in salty or sugary snacks. So I've discovered something my supermarket sells as Corn Thins. They're a puffed corn cracker that probably has too much salt but very little in the way of fats. And one at a time seems to satisfy them. They're quite reasonably priced which also helps. I've stopped buying potato chips and we have a bag of corn chips in the cupboard. Again, one handful and they're feeling like they've had enough. The upside is, I'm not that keen on them so I'm less likely to help them eat a bag of chips now.

And my other discovery is that a child-free morning of baking is much more economical than packets of shop-bought biscuits. I can turn out a banana cake, some chocolate chip cookies and a slice in about an hour. I freeze about a quarter of all that I make, the children have a good dig in on the first day and the rest is for lunch boxes throughout the week. It seems strange, but a cookie and a piece of slice is much more satisfying to their little bellies than half a packet of biscuits that I've bought at the supermarket.

So, there's my rant on budget tips for a growing family. Basically, low fat and you can't beat something grown and made at home! Oh, and if it's got even a small amount of chocolate on it (dark of course) then they'll think it's a real treat and won't notice that it's not entirely junk food!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

At last my children are developing palettes

I have wanted to take photographs of the delicious treats I've been whipping up for my children but they've gone down so quickly I haven't had a chance to snap them. But I've been loving cooking more than usual this week because finally my children are developing taste buds that are more in tune with my own.

I've posted this picture of the desert we had last night. I've already mentioned how much I love Donna Hay and her recipes and most months I manage to walk past her magazine as it just doesn't fit in our budget but I can never resist the annual children's issue. There are lots of wonderful things to make but I decided on this caramel dumpling because it's easy and I had all the ingredients waiting to be used. The three munchkins devoured it within seconds.

That got me thinking about the "old fashioned" deserts that my mother used to make for us. Because it's winter down here in the Southern Hemisphere I delved into my memory banks and cooked up a steamed pudding for the first time ever. YUM doesn't even cover it. A large dollop of custard in the bottom of the bowl, a good wedge of steamed pud and finished off with a curl of ice-cream melting over the top. As you can imagine my children went to bed with full and warm tummies last night.

Tonight was my first attempt at making my own schnitzel . . . chicken. I had some drum sticks in the freezer so I thawed them out, de-boned them and pounded them flat. There was almost a huge disaster though. It's shopping day tomorrow so I was down to my last egg that I had saved specifically for the crumbing of the schnitzel. As I got it out of the carton it slipped from my fingers and smashed all over the floor. Arghhhhh! All is not lost though as I saw a cooking show the other night where a guy was making healthy fried chicken. He used a "glue" made from cornstarch and water. It works fabulously. I mixed two tablespoons of cornstarch with about a quarter of a cup of water. I dipped the chicken into this then into fresh breadcrumbs mixed with cracked pepper and salt. Then into the pan for a shallow fry. Kayley loved it so much she made me promise to keep a piece for her lunchbox tomorrow.

So, with all these successes I'm wondering what goodies I can get at the supermarket for the next week's great meals. Oh . . . the vege garden is dug, it's covered with lime, blood and bone and organic sheep poo. All we need now is a good downpour of rain to soak it all in, a quick rake over and it'll be time to plant all the delicious treats for summer. What kinds of things do you like to grow in your vege garden? I'm always looking for new ideas.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Red, Delicious, Beetroot

A few months ago my mum and I planted a bunch of beetroot seeds. I love growing veges from seed because I pop out each day waiting for their little heads to pop out of the ground. With the beetroot, however, I planted them and then forgot them. I guess with most everything else in the garden dying off for the winter I pretty much forgot about them.

Last week though I remembered them and plucked these very dirty but very gorgeous roots from the ground. My children are completely in love with pickled beetroot. Their favourite "easy" meal is sausages, sliced tomatoes, pickled beetroot and lashings of tomato sauce. Because my 2011 resolution as to make many of the foods I have always bought, beetroot was very high on my list of priorities.

I've never pickled beetroot before so when I was washing off these very dirty little suckers I was feeling a little overwhelmed. I'd heard that you had to be careful cutting off the tops and the roots so that you don't cut into the flesh letting all the colour bleed out during cooking. Thankfully I'd also heard a little tip of putting some vinegar into the water to help avoid bleed.

I boiled them up for about 35 minutes, allowed them to cool briefly and peeled them. You know when beets are cooked because the skin comes away easily. Once they were cooked and peeled I filled a pan with vinegar and sugar. I can't give you precise measurements because I needed to be sure I had enough liquid to cover the beets in the jars. It was a case of taste testing. I think I had about five cups of vinegar and about three quarters of a cup of sugar. Then it was a case of heating until the sugar disolved.

I put the sliced beets in my jars, covered them with the pickling liquid. Now they're sitting on the pantry shelf for a few weeks to allow the flavours to combine ready for eating. I'll endeavour to take some photographs and give you an honest assessment of how they turned out. I'm hoping it's a good result because I so enjoyed the process and hope to do it again next winter.