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!

Melting moments and surprises

I always thought that melting moments would be super tricky to make. It wasn’t until late last year that I came to realise just how easy they are. And I was pleasantly surprised! This recipe produces beautiful, soft little biscuits which (as the name suggests) melt away in your mouth.

Mid-way through making these alabaster beauties the front door-bell was rung quite fiercely. I broke away from rolling the dough IMG_4799and answered the door, doughy-handed. I’ll cut out the boring bits (like polite chatter with the mailman and the unwrapping) and tell you that in the big box that arrived with the mailman came my very own KitchenAid mixer. For whatever reason, the Boy took it upon himself to surprise me with it! I’m amazingly grateful… and super keen to use it!!

Norman partook in the celebrations by attempting to eat the little packaging puffs. Then he spat them out, then tried to eat them
again. He ended up in the box full of them and made himself quite comfy!

I won’t gush any further, but it will hopefully feature in upcoming blogs. It’s so beautiful I could die!

I’m hoping it will also improve the quality of my baking (especially meringues, which are the bane of my life!)

Biscuits:

plate

  • 250g butter, softened
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence
  • ½ cup icing sugar
  • 2 cups plain flour
  • 1/3 cup cornflour

Filling:

  • 60g butter, softened
  • 1 passionfruit
  • 1 – 1 ½ cups icing sugar

MixPreheat oven to 160°C and line a large tray with baking paper. If your baking paper is disobedient, dab a few spots of butter in the corners of the tray and use that to keep the baking paper down.

Cream butter, vanilla and icing sugar together until smooth and creamy – it should change in colour
slightly. Sift the flours into the butter mixture and mix until you get a soft dough. When you scoop a spoonful out of the mixture it should look like ice cream – solid, but soft at the same time.

Measure out heaped teaspoonfuls of mixture and roll them into small balls, lining them up on the baking paper as you go. Don’t worry if the balls aren’t perfect, they’ll smooth out even further when they’re in the oven. icecream

press 1When you have a tray full of soft doughy spheres, grab a fork and use it to lightly flatten them, pressing a pattern into them as you go. To avoid messing up the pattern or the smooth dough, pull the fork out towards you after you’ve pressed them down.
icingBake for 15 minutes and make the passionfruit filling while they’re in the oven. Beat the butter and icing sugar together, then mix in the passionfruit pulp. Take the biscuits out of the oven and transfer the biscuits to a wire rack to cool. Even if they don’t look done after 15 minutes, they are – you don’t want them to brown like you generally would a biscuit, these biccies are beautiful and pale. Once the biscuits are cool spread a teaspoon of passionfruit filling onto one biscuit and sandwich it with a second.

You can substitute the passionfruit for any other fruit of your choosing. Experiment – let me know what filling you use!

You should get about 28 individual biscuits, which will make 14 melting moments. You might want to double this recipe though, they don’t last long! passionfruit

Chocolate custard tart and winter weather

It is heater weather at the moment, which is a perfect excuse for me to bake; I love filling the house with warm, delicious smells! This custard tart is delicious served warm or cold, and tastes just as delicious one or two days later…if it lasts that long.

The cinnamon in the chocolate custard gives it a little kick of warmth, which is delightful as the need for electric blankets and heaters increases. Norman is relishing the new heater in our house – he stands so close to it that I worry about him singeing his fur! If Norman was allowed chocolate I’m sure he would demolish this custard tart!

eyesyawn

Chocolate custard tart:

  • 2 sheets ready-made shortcrust pastry (even though I used puff)slice
  • ½ cup caster sugar
  • 3 free-range egg yolks
  • 1 tbsp cornflour
  • 250ml/9fl oz whole milk
  • 100g/3½oz dark chocolate
  • 1 tbsp cocoa
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 250g strawberries

Preheat your oven to 200°C and grease a shallow 26 cm pie dish.

pastryDrape your sheets of pastry over your pie dish so that they cover as much of it as possible. This recipe is probably more suited to shortcrust pastry, but I was craving puff pastry! Trim the edges so and use the excess to fill in any gaps that may remain. Press together the pastry at any point where there is a join. Cover the pie with baking paper and pop it into the oven with either baking weights or rice to weight it down for 15 minutes.

I love my baking weights, I think they’re beautiful!baking weights

While the pastry is baking, whisk the sugar, eggs and cornflour together in a bowl and set them to one side.

Put the milk in a small pan along with the chocolate, cocoa and cinnamon over a medium heat. Once the ingredients have combined turn the heat up and bring chocolate mix to boil. Allow to boil for about two minutes, stirring it regularly so it doesn’t burn, then remove from heat.

Take your pastry out the oven and set it to one side to cool.

Allow the chocolate mixture to cool for five minutes before adding the egg mixture to the pan and returning it to the heat. Whisk the chocolate mixture to remove any lumps and allow it to thicken. Remove the custard from the heat and allow it to cool slightly.

chocolatePour the warm custard into your base, (spreading it out as evenly as possible) and return it to the oven for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, chop the tops off the strawberries and slice them thinly in preparation for when the tart comes out of the oven. When you do remove the tart from the oven, work quickly, fanning the strawberries out around the tart, making sure each slice overlaps the last one slightly.

strawbs

As you’re doing this, press them into the custard lightly so that they stay in place.

overlaptart

To serve you can glaze with a syrup made from 1 tbsp strawberry jam and ¼ cup water heated over the stove and brushed onto the strawberries, or simply sprinkle with icing sugar.

wholeflowers

Rewards and caramel slice

SpoutAs a little reward for starting this blog I treated myself to a tea set that I did not need. Technically I bought it before I even started posting words on this blog, but I had resolved to finally start it, and I figured that was good enough to deserve a reward. In my defence, I have never owned a full tea set!

And this was a thing of such beauty that after knowing of its existence,  I don’t think I could have survived a single day longer without it.

Aren’t humans funny creatures? I got to wondering whether other species reward themselves like we do. Does a dog ever give itself five more minutes in front of the heater after it feels it has barked sufficiently at a potentially threatening bird? Do birds commend themselves on especially sing-song chirps by finding a new leaf to furnish the nest with?

I don’t think they do. We are unique. And my tea set is a masterpiece.Teacup

How many people can say they drink tea with Monet ladies?

I have no desire to promote the make of the set (because I’m not being paid to do this!), but I will show it off in all of its fabulousness by including it in photos to accompany this week’s recipe.

tea setThis is a food blog, so I should talk about the caramel slice now! I find few things more rewarding than sweetened condensed milk, which is why I consider this recipe a little treat. The Boy’s family call caramel slice Millionaire’s Short Bread, which I just love – it makes it sound like even more of an indulgence!

I like the proportions of this recipe, it’s got similar amounts of base and caramel and just a thin covering of chocolate– this doesn’t mean that yours has to be as well. The Boy likes his caramel slice big on base, some people like lots of chocolate on top. Bake it once and play around with the proportions the next time!

Twice-baked caramel slice

sliceBase:

  • 1 ½ cups plain flour
  • 125g butter, melted
  • ½  cup sugar

Caramel filling

  • 70g butter
  • 400g can sweetened condensed milk
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp golden syrup

Topping

  • 200g dark cooking chocolate
  • 1 teaspoons vegetable oil

Preheat oven to 180°C  and line a 20cm x 20cm tin with baking paper.

Place the flour and sugar in a bowl and mix to combine. Melt your butter in the microwave and mix it into your dry ingredients.

Butter

Melted butter

Press the mixture into your lined tin with your fingers, then roll it out flat with a floured glass.

biscuit base

Pop it in the oven to bake for 20 minutes. It’s a pale biscuit, so it won’t brown overly – don’t worry, after 20 minutes it is definitely ready. Remove base from the oven and take it out so that it cools.

As it’s cooling, make a start on the caramel filling.dripPut your butter and sweetened condensed milk in a small pan over a medium flame and allow the butter to melt, stirring regularly. Add in the golden syrup and brown sugar. Once the sugar has dissolved turn up the heat so that the caramel comes to a slow boil. Stir consistently for 6-8 minutes as it bubbles away – mind it doesn’t burn. Take it off the heat and allow it to cool before pouring it over the cooled base.

Ensure that your base has cooled sufficiently before pouring the caramel over, otherwise it will seep into the base and ruin the layered effect that you want!

Spread the caramel evenly over the base and return it the oven for 15 minutes so that the caramel will set properly. When you remove it from the oven the caramel should have formed a skin – it’s ready to go into the fridge now.

Pop it in the fridge while you melt the chocolate in the microwave. Put it in for 20-30 second intervals and give it a stir after each time so that it doesn’t burn. Once its completely cooled add the oil and give it a good stir. The oil gives it an extra glossy finish and also makes it a little easier to cut.
fridge

Spread the chocolate over the caramel and return it to the fridge for about an hour. 

This rich little slice should give you about 16 serves, depending on how generous your slices are! Beware, it’s sickeningly good!

Chocolate orange cupcakes and resourcefulness

In the last post I mentioned that I’d hold onto the orange rind that was leftover after the Orange and Kidney Bean Salad – here is the reason why you shouldn’t throw those delicious peelings out! After making the salad I was left with the rind of two oranges – I used about one orange’s worth of rind in this recipe, but it only yields about  eight cupcakes, so I highly recommend doubling this recipe and using up two orange’s worth. I love finding ways to make the most out of fruit and vegetables because it means you waste less, but you also make more of an effort to get creative.

IMG_4336The Boy is a big Terry’s Chocolate Orange fan. He introduced them to me (not sure whether I should love or loathe him for this) and I couldn’t believe how amazing the flavour combination was. If I could get all my nutritional needs out of Chocolate Oranges, I would… sadly, that is not possible. At least in this recipe you’re getting some fruity goodness. One might even venture so far as to say that it was healthy.

Might.

Regardless of how healthy this is, it’s delicious AND it doesn’t use any butter. I used sour cream in place of butter for this recipe because it gives it a denser, more decadent texture.

Chocolate Orangecupcake

  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp bicarb
  • 1/4 cup sour cream*
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 60g dark chocolate
  • 1 egg

Icing:

  • 1 cup icing sugar
  • 50g butter
  • 4 tbsp orange juice
  • zest of half an orange

*If you’ve not got any sour cream in you can always use the same amount of butter, but I think these treats deserve better than that – it’s just a smidgen of sour cream!

Preheat the oven to 100°C and grease up your cupcake tin. If you’re lazy like me, use silicone bakeware and you won’t have to grease anything. Stir in the egg and sour cream and combine it as well as you can. The mixture will be a bit dry at this point, so it’s okay if it’s looking crumbly.

Put a small pan filled with water onto the stove and start to boil the water. Set a heatproof bowl over the pan and put your chocolate and milk into it, stirring them to combine. When you have what is essentially chocolate milk, resist the urge to drink it and take it off the heat for five minutes so that it cools.

Add the chocolate milk mixture to the dry ingredients and stir to combine. pans

Pour into your cupcake tin and pop them in the often for 15-20 minutes. As they’re cooking make a start on your icing. Beat the icing sugar and butter together. Add in the orange juice and all of your zest – usually I would juice an orange myself, but for such a small amount I cheated and got this juice out of the carton. If the mixture is too runny or dry, fix this by adding more icing sugar or more orange juice, respectively.

zestRemove the cupcakes from the oven when a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean. Let them cool properly before you start to ice them. I was slightly impatient, which meant my icing oozed deliciously off the sides – no complaints here, just an observation!

Top your cupcakes with a little more of the zest so they pack a nice orangey punch and serve up with a big cuppa.

Gatsby-inspired sponge

I saw Gatsby last weekend. And I was inspired.

Brace yourself for part one of my Gatsby posts.

It was beautiful and opulent and slightly magical. The dresses were all over-the-top and the settings were too fabulous to be real. And I loved them for that.

Nick Carraway is idealistic, Jordan Baker is marvelous and Gatsby is a dreamer. The film is full of people who would make fabulous dinner guests – they’re flawed and impulsive, but imagine the stories they could share! Daisy appears to have no opinion on anything, but at least she added to the beautiful scenery. As long as she’d agree to just sit there and bat her eyelashes, I’d let her partake in our dinner soiree.

I’d never read the book (I know, judge me as you see fit), but I think that doing things in excess is a good mantra to live by!

I’m all for simple recipes usually, but for two posts you’re going to have to allow me a bit of opulence. This sponge is easy AND it looks fabulous – what more could you want? It’s my nanna’s recipe, so it’s tried and tested. Unfortunately the sponge didn’t turn out as big as it should have because of my impatience – I like to think that it was slightly to do with the humidity in the air today though.
Cake

Don’t be disheartened by its flatness, when you do the recipe right, this cake IS old-school glamour.

Gatsby-inspired sponge

  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup flour
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 1tsp baking powder
  • 3tbsp water
  • 3 tbsp of lemon juice

 

Preheat oven to 180°C.Table view

Grease cake tin and sprinkle with sifted icing sugar.Eggs

Separate egg whites and put the yolks to one side. Beat the egg whites in an electric mixer until they’re stiff. Don’t get impatient like I did, this leads to flat sponges! It should take about 8 minutes at a high speed on your mixer. Persevere!

Add the yolks to the stiff whites mixture and continue beating until the mixture thickens.

Add your sugar and allow it to just combine then sift in the flour and baking powder. Squeeze in the lemon juice and mix it in gently – try to let as little air out of the mixture as possible.

Cream shadows

Pour the mixture into your prepared tin and bake for 45 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. What I would normally do with a sponge is cut it in half and then fill the middle with copious amounts of jam and cream. Being unable to cut my pancake of a sponge in half, I whipped up the cream, added 1/2 a cup of icing sugar to it and then folded some watered down jam into it to make icing.

 

So put your flapper dresses on, buy some fake diamonds and drink everything out of a champagne flute – Gatsby makes his own reality more fantastic through his imaginings, and so should we!

Host an afternoon tea and add a little sparkle to it.

partyIMG_3986

 

Madeleines and perfection

Wednesday was one of those days where everything just seemed to work.

Friends and I went op-shopping for plates and utensils to pretty up the blog, I was given home-made croissant dough to have a play with (because I’ve never made my own before), I found lots of new recipes and I ate some delicious food. (I Instagrammed it all, it must be true)

And to finish the perfect day off, I went to see Maeve O’Meara host a chat with Lorraine Elliot (better known as Not Quite Nigella!!) – it was so lovely! Lorraine was humble and completely adorable. She was generous with her tips for bakers and bloggers and the audience chatted to her freely. Most of the people in the audience knew intimate details of Lorraine’s life, which I suppose comes with choosing to be a blogger, so she spoke candidly about almost everything!

I also came home to delivery of new measuring spoons in the mail – Wednesday was perfection!

To celebrate my Wednesday (and share the celebrating with you all), here is my madeleine recipe.

This recipe, like my Wednesday, just works. The flavours are beautiful, soft and worth savouring. If you’ve never tried orange blossom water before, let this be the recipe that you amend this – it’s like bathing in gardenias, like swimming in blossoms.

Neither of those descriptions do it justice. This smell makes me long for the orange tree that used to grow in my backyard. Orange blossom water smells and tastes like my childhood.

I just Googled madeleines and it turns out that ‘madeleine’ is used in Proust’s In Search of Lost Time, to refer to something that evokes a memory or is a source of nostalgia. How neatly Proust just rounded off this evening’s recipe musings.

Orange blossom water may be a little bit hard to procure, but I promise every drop of this delightfully intoxicating little liquid is worth it.

Orange Blossom Madeleines:Madeleines (2)

  • 3 eggs
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup plain flour
  • 45g melted butter
  • 3 tsp orange blossom water

Preheat your oven to 180°C. Whisk together the eggs and sugar with a mixer until foamy, this should take about 2-3 minutes. Melt your butter in the microwave while the mixture foams up.

Butter stack

Take out the whisk element and slowly sift in the flour, then mix in gently using a wooden spoon.

Add the melted butter and orange blossom water to the mixture. If you’re unsure about the orange blossom water – despite my best attempts to entice you – try cutting back two one or two teaspoons and just to test it out. Or, if you’d prefer to be completely unadventurous, replace the orange blossom water with some lemon zest, coconut essence or rum.

Spoons

Before you grease anything, marvel at how beautiful the madeleine tins are for a second. Aren’t they just gorgeous?!

batter and tinsLiberally grease your madeleine tin with butter and fill them about 3/4 of the way up. When I say liberally, I mean lather your tin up, because these little ladies like to stay in their tins. Refrigerate your filled madeleine tins for about an hour if you’ve got the time (I got impatient and took them out after half an hour with no adverse affects.)

Place them in the oven and cook them for about 12 minutes, when the edges turn golden.

Allow to cool and sprinkle with a little bit of icing sugar.

Enjoy with tea and friends.