Gumbo and rainy day comfort food

bowlThe weather has not been kind to Sydney this week. Earlier in the week it was so uncomfortably humid that leaving the haven of my air-conditioned house made me immediately hot – the air was syrupy with humidity. I made my watermelon and feta salad to cool down on Saturday and had planned to eat the leftovers today.

That was an optimistic plan, because today we had rain; persistent, cold and accompanied by wind.

On the plus side, it was good weather for baking! I baked a lemon and coconut cake similar to these little beauties, and one of my new favourite recipes, gumbo.

Pretzels and new things

tearI have a confession to make. I don’t like pretzels. Those little salt-laden little knots that always make their way onto dip platters. I just can’t stand them. They’re too salty and brittle – they dry out my mouth with such speed that it creeps me out.

I know, I’m sorry. But in the interest of full disclosure, I needed to let you know!

So when I set out to make my own, I knew that they weren’t going to be spindly and hard, they were going to be plush, pillowy little tangles of dough. And without too much salt!

These little knots do not disappoint. (I refrained from writing “do knot disappoint,” just fyi.)

Roast eggplant soup and Snoods

aboveI have almost worn out my favourite snood in this chilly weather. If I could somehow permanently attach the snood to my neck, I would. It’s glorious.

When it’s not festooned around my neck, it drapes itself over my knees at work. It makes me look like a nanna, but my knees are so damn warm that I don’t even mind. The days that I leave the snood at home, I feel like a part of me is missing. My décolletage, exposed, catches the frosty weather and longs for the snood.

I really love my snood.

Birthday recap and jam ramblings

frameI spoke about preparing for the Boy’s birthday last post. The melting moments were sent off to his work (and Instagrammed by me, obviously) and thoroughly enjoyed by his work mates. I was informed that the vanilla melting moments were better than the chocolate – the chocolate ones are too cakey, you need a glass of milk to accompany them. Duly noted!

saladThis post is just a catch up of his birthday – which means no recipe, sorry friends! The boy requested salad and a sponge cake for his birthday meal and I’m fine with doing salads, it’s the sponge that irritates me. I can whip up multi-layered cakes without too much fuss, but sponges leave me stumped for some reason.

Barbecued sweet potato salad and Summer

My family barbecue all year round. I once told the Boy that you could barbecue anything…he didn’t believe me. My original claim may have been slightly hyperbolic, I don’t think it was completely off the mark! You can barbecue starters, mains and desserts, you just have to know how!
plateBarbecuing the vegetables in this recipe gives them a subtle charred, smokey flavour and contrasts the freshness of the lime beautifully. As the Australian weather warms up, this is a great way to treat yourself to a little taste of Summer.

Arancini bites and procrastibaking

The job applying is about to start. I’ve updated my Linkedin, my CV and I’ve had my hair done. I am interview ready…I just need to apply for jobs now! It is with great trepidation that I throw myself (yet again) into the world of job seeking. I would happily stay unemployed in order to bake all day and blog all night, but one needs to have some form of income! I want a job, I am excited about the prospect of a new job…I just don’t like this initial part where I have to put myself out there to be rejected or worse, ignored.

Enter: procrastibaking!

Pesto mushrooms and rainy days

birdieThe rain in Sydney at the moment is ridiculous. It’s perseverant, constant, irritating. Patches of blue sky are hard to come by and you can’t help but be a little more sedentary than usual.

Yesterday, out of the blue came a little visitor. He was wet and most perturbed by the rain and sought shelter on our balcony. He was a shock of colour in great contrast to the dreary, rainy weather and had such character that it made me smile. Mother darling and I cooed and found some grain bread for him to munch on, so he stuck around for an hour before flying off.

nom

Lo and behold, today he has returned! I hope this little Rosella continues to visit during this rainy weather, it does you good to be reminded of the brighter things in life when the weather seems hell-bent on making you mopey. Obviously the promise of good food has brought him back (what a clever little birdie), which is quite human of him!

In honour of the little birdie friend, here is a simple but stunning dish. There’s lots of colour, lashings of flavour and a great deal of character. Chase away those rainy blues with some pesto-stuffed mushrooms.

Pesto stuffed mushroomsclose cooked

  • 180g sourdough bread
  • 6 large mushrooms
  • 2/3 cup basil pesto
  • Sprig of basil (optional)
  • 250g cherry truss tomatoes
  • 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar

Preheat oven to 180°C and spray a large baking tray with oil.

tomatoesCut your truss tomatoes into three or four sections, place on the tray and spray with some oil. Pop them in the oven for 10 minutes while you start on the mushrooms.

mushrooms

Give your mushrooms a quick wash to remove excess dirt and remove their stalks. Set them aside to make the pesto filling.

Cut the crusts off your sourdough and discard them. Chop the crust-less pieces into thirds and blitz them in a food processor for about four minutes (or until they resemble bread crumbs.) Season breadcrumbs with salt and pepper, then add in thepesto and mix to combine. If you’re using jarred pesto (like I did), try to get good quality, as this is one of the main flavours! Throw in some chopped basil and give it one final mix before putting it into your mushrooms.

stuffed mushroomsYour mushrooms should be mostly dry now – stuff a generous amount of pesto filling into the mushroom’s hollow and season with salt and pepper. Arrange them in the tray amongst the tomatoes and bake for another 15 minutes.

Remove from the oven and drizzle the tomatoes with balsamic vinegar. To serve, top the mushrooms with parmesan shavings or pine nuts and top the tomatoes with the excess liquid left in the pan.cooked

As well as using up leftover bread from Saturday morning, these mushies are vegan as well…as long as you don’t serve them with parmesan shavings like I did!

Orange and Kidney Bean Salad

At the moment I am completely obsessed with kidney beans. It really wasn’t until this year that I saw their beauty – they’re delightful additions to an amazing range of foods, and they’re good for you!

They can pad out taco meat, make up your pattie or be eaten by themselves. Kidney beans are cannily adaptable, but often overlooked. As the blog progresses I’ll try and showcase some more bean-driven recipes. There are other types of bean, I’m not just restricting this to kidney beans – get excited!!

In last night’s post there was a salad accompanying the lasagne – this salad is easy to throw together and looks amazing!

Orange and kidney bean saladIMG_4213

  • 60ml olive oil
  • 3 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 2 oranges
  • 100g baby spinach leaves
  • ½ red onion
  • 120g feta
  • 420g can red kidney beans

Combine oil and red wine vinegar and season with salt and pepper. I like my dressing tangy, so I put a generous 3 tablespoons in – you may wish to put in two tablespoons and test it before adding the third.

IMG_4228

Carefully slice off the rind of your orange, then slice the orange thinly.* Finely slice the red onion, cube the feta and rinse the beans.

Place all ingredients on a plate and toss to combine. Drizzle with dressing and serve!salad

rind

* The rind from the orange is really pretty, but it’s also useful! If you’ve got time, cut some of it up really finely to make into orange icing (recipe soon!), add coarse sugar to it and make a facial scrub or soak it in vinegar to make a natural cleaning product.

Almost-Vegetarian Lasagne and savoury ventures

Tonight is Baking With Gab’s first ever savoury dish! While I find sweet things much easier to make photograph, I can’t continue to bake only sweet things. I come from a family of five and we have an open door policy – which means we often have seven or more for dinner. So really, I should help out with dinner instead of just cooking cupcakes all the time.

But where’s the fun in that??

I will try to post a few savoury dishes in amongst my sweet-tooth-driven adventures – I’ll start with a deliciously simple eggplant lasagne.

It’s almost-vegetarian because I had intended to use no meat in this recipe. Intentions are all very well, but in a male-dominated household, non-meat-intentions don’t win you any friends. I compromised and put leftover bolognaise mince in. This can be substituted for tomato sauce and it will be wholly vegetarian!

Almost-vegetarian lasagneplate

  • 2 eggplant
  • 1 cup plain flour
  • 4 eggs
  • 3 cups dried breadcrumbs
  • Leftover bolognaise mince (I had about six cups worth)
  • 6-8 lasagne sheets
  • 1/2 cup grated tasty cheese

Béchamel sauce

  • 80g butter
  • 4 tablespoons plain flour
  • 2 cups milk
  • 3/4 cup grated tasty cheese

slicesSlice your eggplant as thinly as you can. My dexterity with a knife meant that my eggplant slices ranged from 2-5mm. It honestly doesn’t matter how uniform they are.
flouring

Get out three plates and a bowl. Put the flour on one plate, breadcrumbs on another and crack the eggs into a bowl, then whisk them. Organise your bowls so that the flour is followed by the egg, then the breadcrumbs, then the empty plate. This is your crumbing station.

I have great memories of my brothers, mum and I crumbing chicken for schnitzel. It takes a bit of extra time, but it’s actually really fun. You have to be prepared to get messy – if you can rope others into helping you it’s good entertainment! Coat your eggplant slice in flour, then egg, then breadcrumbs and place them on the empty plate. If you’re doing this alone, try to flour all your eggplant in one go, then do the egg and crumbs once they’re all floured. This saves slightly on the mess.

floured eggplantmessy fingers

Only slightly though! I ended up with very crumby fingers, despite my best attempts to stay clean…

Pour about 1cm of oil into a pan over a medium heat and allow it to warm up briefly before you put the eggplant in. Toss in as many of your eggplants will fit and shallow fry them for two minutes on both sides. You’ll have to do this in about five batches. Remove them when they’re golden and transfer them to a plate lined with kitchen paper to soak up excess oil.

Meanwhile, make the béchamel sauce by melting the butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the flour and stir constantly for two minutes until the mixture is smooth. Add your milk, one cup at a time and your cheese. Keep mixing as it bubbles away for about five minutes. Remove the sauce from the heat just when it starts to bubble. Leave to one side.layer 1pasta sheets

Preheat the oven to 220°C and grease a lasagne dish. Mine is 30cm x 22cm x 4cm and this recipe fits perfectly in it. Line the base of the dish with half of the eggplant slices, overlapping slightly and top with half of the lasagne sheets. Spoon over half of your leftover bolognaise mince, then repeat once more. Top with béchamel sauce and a sprinkling of cheese.

Bake for 30-40 minutes, then serve to the hungry masses. This recipe will easily serve 12.
lasagne