Sunday, 22 May 2016

The Quintessential Raspberry Jam from Not Just Jam.

I've been meaning to write this post for a little while now. I made jam. And I feel totally accomplished.

I wish I had a romantic story and photos of me skipping through a berry farm swinging a woven basket full of hand picked berries but unfortunately I don't. In reality fresh berries in Sydney are stupid expense so unless you have the garden of my dreams, frozen berries are what you're left with. As long as their 'Australian grown' I think you're doing pretty alright. So instead of a romantic montage of photos, I have a really great jam recipe from a book that makes you wish for a pantry the size of a walk in wardrobe.

The last time I made jam was for my year 9 Food-Tech assignment where I successfully turned sugar and berries into toffee and the only way to get it out of the jar was to microwave it. To say I haven't been super confident to jump back in is an understatement. But then over the last long-weekend I read Michelle Crawford's book, 'A Table in the Orchard' and fell in love with her story, her garden, her kitchen and it was like jam called to me from it's pages. I wanted that homey feeling of warm toast, salty butter and sweet homemade jam with a steaming cup of tea. I wanted to stand over a stove and stir jam, pour it into jars and label them as my own. Recently on her blog, 'Hugo & Elsa' she wrote about a book she co-wrote with Matthew Evans, an ex-food critic turned farmer called 'Not Just Jam'. It had me at the name and when I found it in my local library I instantly put a hold on it and picked it up that Saturday morning. I never want to give it back. It's full of recipes that you wish you could grab a spoon and dig in straight from the jar. I was still a little hesitant to jump two feet first so instead of going for one of the more complex sounding recipes, lets me honest jam making still scared the pants off me, I went with 'The Quintessential Raspberry Jam'.

Having stirred about 1000 pots of bubbling sugar, it's second nature to be precaution but I still felt out of practice, it's been nearly 2 years. Was it going to bubble over? was my pot too small? do I need to roll my sleeves down? will it spit at me or splutter and cover the cooktop and me with sugary jam goop? Every type of bubbling sugar acts differently and I don't think you can classify my year 9 attempt as a successful jam making venture.

I don't know what I was nervous about!?

With my plate in the freezer and my jars sterilised, I stood in front of my pot of raspberries, sugar and lemon juice armed with a candy thermometer and spatular, I felt a buzz, this was exciting. I was making my own jam. I precariously watched the temperature climb, ready to ditch my stirrer any second and run to the freezer in a panic but it all happened so smoothly. I gave it the wrinkle test as well as making sure it came to the correct temperature and turned off the heat. Filled my jars with hot jam, screwed on the lids and I was done. A couple of hours later the lids had inverted and they were sealed, waiting to be labelled and stored. Ok one jar didn't get stored, it was instantly opened with a satisfying pop and toast happened. I had to make sure it has set right before I could give the rest as gifts right??

We've gone through one jar already and on to the second. I had grand plans to gift this first batch of jam but I don't know how much will make it out of our apartment, more likely to end up on our morning toast. Might just have to make another from this delicious book before I return it to the library.

The Quintessential Raspberry Jam 

Makes about 1.8kg
very very slightly adapted from 'Not Just Jam' by Matthew Evans and Michelle Crawford
(there are 2 different methods for making this jam, I have only put the one I used below)

1kg raspberries (if using frozen, thaw completely)
900g sugar, warmed gently in the oven
juice of 1 lemon, strained

- Wash and sterilise six 300ml jars (or equivalent capacity). **see notes below

- Place a small plate in the freezer to chill and warm your sugar in a moderate oven, in a heatproof dish until warm to the touch.

- Heat the raspberries with the warm sugar and lemon juice in a wide-based pan over high heat. Stir every minute or so using a flat-edge heatproof spatular.

- After about 9 minutes start to test for a set. Dribble a little jam onto the saucer which has been chilling in the freezer and leave for 30 seconds. Run your finger across the drop of jam, if it wrinkles it has reached the setting point. Alternatively if you have a candy thermometer handy, it needs to reach 105C (220F).

- Once at setting point, remove the jam from the heat immediately, pour into warmed jars. If jars are not warm when filling them they can crack. Wipe down any messy edges with a clean cloth and seal the lid immediately.

The jam should keep well for up to 2 years in the pantry.
Once opened, store in the refrigerator.

** Sterilising jars.
If you have a dishwasher, this is the easiest way. Place jars and lids in a dishwasher on a hot cycle, remove them once done without touching the inside of the jars or inside of the lids. Make sure jars are still warm (but not wet) when filling them with hot jam.

Otherwise if you don't have dishwasher like me, wash jars in hot soapy water and rinse well. Place rinsed jars on a tray in a preheated, low (120C) oven for about 30 minutes. Place the lids in a pot, cover with water and bring to a boil and simmer for 10 minutes. I take the jars out of the oven just before I am about to fill them so they are still warm.

Or you can go to any home-brew shop and they sell sterilising chemicals which you can also use.

Tuesday, 10 May 2016

Rhubarb and Apple Galette with an all butter spelt pie crust.

Yossy Arefi from the blog 'Apt 2b Baking Co' recently released her first cookbook 'Sweeter off the Vine' but I am yet to get my hands on a copy (come on payday!). This hasn't stopped me drooling over the recipes and photos from it, you see I've turned into bit of a stalker. I've been reading all the reviews from other bloggers who have a copy and I have serious FOMO. So to try and fix my serious case of FOMO I decided to make a recipe from her blog instead to feel included in this online bake-a-long. Just to make you also have FOMO, you can see a trailer for the cookbook here and if you don't crave pie or blueberry cobbler after watching it, something is wrong with you.

Rhubarb and Apple Galette with an all butter spelt pie crust.

It was the perfect opportunity last weekend when I found a semi dodgy looking bunch of rhubarb (I think it was the last of the season) hiding in the bottom of our veg box. It was just asking to be turned into pie and when I saw the apple and rhubarb galette on Yossy's blog I was sold. A galette is a free formed tart where you pile the fruit in the centre of the rolled out pie crust and fold the edges over so a tart tin is not needed. It's rustic and in my opinion so much better than a traditional tart, you get more of the flaky pastry edges but not quite as much if you had made a pie so I think of galettes somehow in between a pie and a tart... kind of. Anyway, it definitely doesn't skimp on indulgence.

Rhubarb and Apple Galette with an all butter spelt pie crust.

The recipe starts with your favourite variety of all butter pie crust. I don't have a specific favourite so had a little search around for a recipe and found a rye pie crust from Food52 but couldn't find rye flour (I didn't try very hard) so decided to use spelt instead. Totally different flavours I know but I just went with it and I think I've found my favourite pie crust because boy oh boy was it good!

Rhubarb and Apple Galette with an all butter spelt pie crust.

You smoosh the cubed butter into fat discs so you end up with chunks of butter spotted throughout the dough, which when baked go all flaky and buttery and with the raw sugar sprinkled on top you get that sweet crunch. You can never go wrong with the combination of rhubarb and apple, it's always a perfect match. The tartness of the rhubarb works so well with the sweetness of the cooked apple and then the flaky buttery pastry... oh my! It is seriously good pie crust. Add a scoop of vanilla ice cream on top of the warm galette and you've lost me to this dessert forever.

The pie crust recipe makes enough for two galettes (or one pie) so I have a disk in my freezer just waiting for me to roll it out, fill it with fruit and bake it. I know what I'll be baking and eating this weekend - and I highly suggest you make this too. As in, now.

Rhubarb and Apple Galette with an all butter spelt pie crust.

Rhubarb & Apple galette

makes 1x 9-inch tart/galette
adapted from Apt 2b Baking Co by Yossy Arefi

1/2 recipe of all butter spelt pie crust (see recipe below)
225g rhubarb
1 large baking apple or 2 small apples
1/2 lemon
4 tablespoons caster sugar
1 tablespoon plain flour
1 vanilla bean
pinch salt
1 egg
1 tablespoon raw sugar

- Line a baking tray with baking paper and preheat your oven to 200C/400F.

- Cut the rhubarb into 1/4-inch by 3-inch batons and the apple into thin slices, no need to peel.

- Use a sharp knife to split the vanilla bean and scrape out the seeds. Combine them with the 4 tablespoons of sugar and using your finger tips rub the sugar and vanilla seeds together to evenly disperse them.

- Roll out the pie crust till it's about 12-inches in diameter then transfer onto the lined baking tray. Sprinkle the flour and 1 tablespoon of the vanilla sugar over the top, leaving a 2-inch boarder around the edge. Arrange your rhubarb batons and apple slices in the centre, overlapping each other and keeping the 2-inch boarder. Sprinkle the remaining vanilla sugar along with a pinch of salt and a squeeze of lemon juice over the top of the fruit.

- Fold your boarder of excess dough over the fruit and press gently to seal the fold. Put the whole thing in the freezer until the dough is firm, about 15 minutes. While the galette is in the freezer, whisk your egg up in a small bowl.

- After the galette has chilled, brush the edges of the dough with the beaten egg and sprinkle with the raw sugar. Bake until deep golden brown, about 35-45 minutes.

all butter spelt pie crust

makes 1 pie or 2 tarts/galettes
adapted from Food52 article by Yossy Arefi

170g plain flour
170g spelt flour *
250g unsalted butter, chilled and cubed
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
120ml ice water

- Combine flours and salt in a bowl. Using your fingers smoosh the cubed butter into smaller pieces, some the size of squashed peas and others the size of podded broad beans. Some of the butter will end up completely worked into the flour, thats ok but you want some chunks as this makes the pastry flaky - don't be afraid of the chunky butter bits, this is not shortcrust pastry remember.

- Combine the water and apple cider vinegar into a jug. Make a well in the centre of your flour and butter mixture and slowly pour about 6 tablespoonfuls of the water-vinegar into the dough while gently mixing. If the dough seems dry add a teaspoon more at a time (I added ended up adding all the liquid but this will depend on your flour). You have added enough water when you can pick up a handful of dough and squeeze it together easily without falling apart. Press the dough together then split into two discs and wrap in plastic wrap. Chill the dough for at least an hour (or overnight) in the fridge.

You can freeze the dough for up to one month wrapped in a double layer of plastic wrap and a layer of foil. You will need to thaw it in the fridge until completely defrosted before use.

*I found spelt flour in the health food section of my local supermarket. You can also use all plain flour in this recipe if you don't have spelt flour on hand.

Wednesday, 4 May 2016

Carbonara from 'It's all Easy' by Gwyneth Paltrow.

Raw egg. Some people have a huge aversion to it. Whether it's scrambled eggs which aren't cooked enough and still have the wobbly bits, a whole raw egg in a protein shake, stirring it through hot pasta or the eggs in desserts that haven't being heat treated. Everyone has their limits, mine being the egg in the protein shake. Younger me was very different, I'd cook scrambled eggs until they were dry and rubbery. Now I like them silky and soft and taken off the heat just before they are all the way done so the residual heat continues to cook them ever so slightly. I would never have made them like this when I was younger, I would have cooked the buggery out of them each and every time. Same goes for spaghetti carbonara, it was more like spaghetti with a side of scrambled eggs- it was awful!

Being older and wise now my egg murdering days are gone but not forgotten and that might be because I've steered clear of carbonara and mastered the scrambled eggs. But when I received Gwyneth Paltrow's new cookbook 'It's All Easy' last weekend I was instantly drawn to the pasta and noodle recipes, more specifically the carbonara recipe. It's in a chapter called 'in a pinch'. Ha! I thought, carbonara in a pinch!? She's got to be joking. Then I read the recipe and it dawned on me that I could probably make this 'in a pinch' but would I end up with scrambled eggs again? She said it's easy, I mean she even says in the notes that 'it's shockingly easy to make' and I had all the ingredients so why not? I was kind of scared. Yes thats right. Scared of carbonara.

I could have gone for any of the other recipes that also caught my eye such as the chicken and zucchini noodle pho, ramen 4 ways- miso, spring veggie, spicy prawn, roasted pork, or the poached asian chicken salad or even the grilled cheese and easy tomato soup. All of which look amazing and mind you, don't look like your average midweek dinner but until you get reading, they are actually quite simple dishes to put together. But I'd set myself a challenge at this point and I wasn't backing down. I was going to make carbonara, no side of scrambled eggs tonight. I mean we could always have cheese on toast for dinner if I botched it up real bad.

Carbonara from Its all Easy by Gwyneth Paltrow | salt sugar and i

I followed Gwyneth's instructions as if they were sacred. While the pasta cooked and my bacon pieces fried I cracked my eggs yolks and whole egg into a large mixing bowl and added grated one and a half cups of parmesan (I even measured it) and one teaspoon of freshly cracked pepper. After a slight moment of yelling at the book when the cracked pepper ended up everywhere other than on my teaspoon, I gave it a mix. I clung to every step and reread them about five times when it came time to assemble and tossed my hot pasta in the egg mixture and bacon pieces adding a tablespoon at a time of the 'hot' pasta water (mixing constantly) until I got the silky consistency a carbonara should have. I served it straight away with a simple green salad with a punchy lemon dressing.

And... it's one of the best carbonara's I've ever eaten. Yep, I said it. It was creamy and cheesy and not gluggy at all, the amount of black pepper was so delicious and bitey. I thought it was going to be too much and over powering but it matched the richness of the sauce and the saltiness of the bacon perfectly. In saying that though, if you don't like pepper I wouldn't put so much in but I loved it. And you know what? There wasn't one bit of scrambled egg in there at all. A perfect carbonara if you ask me... in a pinch and shockingly easy. YUM.

Carbonara from 'It's all Easy' by Gwyneth Paltrow.


ever-so slightly adapted from 'It's All Easy' by Gwyneth Paltrow
Serves 4 (or three greedy people)

120g of bacon or pancetta, cut into small dice
2 egg yolks (or 3 to make it extra creamy)
1 large egg
1 1/2 cups finely grated parmesan cheese, plus more to serve
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
340g bucatini (tubular spaghetti)

- Bring a large pot of heavily salted water to boil over high heat for the pasta.

- Fry the bacon in a pan over medium heat until crispy, 5-7 minutes.

- Combine egg yolks, egg, parmesan and pepper to a large bowl and mix well.

- Cook the pasta according to the packet instructions until al dente reserving 1 cup of hot pasta water (the temperature is important because you are going to use this water to help cook the egg).

- Drain the pasta and add it immediately to the bowl with the cheese and eggs, tossing immediately to mix everything together.

- Add the bacon and any rendered fat from the pan to the bowl, toss to coat, and add the hot pasta water 1 tablespoons at a time until the sauce reaches a creamy consistency (this usually take about 1/4 cup)

- Taste and adjust with more cheese, pepper or salt.

Tuesday, 26 April 2016

Tikka Chicken with Mint Chutney and Naan from A Kitchen in the Valley

After my sighting of the weevils a few weeks back I was only too pleased to be rid of them, until I realised...that when there is one... there are many or should I say thousands of the little critters, everywhere... I mean EVERYWHERE. Everything that was open, in a plastic container (yes they penetrated my containers) or in a paper bag was crawling with them which meant it all went in the bin, no discussion. Everything else that was sealed properly got a wipe down with hot soapy water and vinegar and sat on the kitchen counters for two days while I aired my newly washed and vinegar-ed cupboards out. After putting what was left after my cull back inside the cupboards I was only too happy to never go back in there again in fear of seeing another critter but then Sally Wise's new cookbook 'A Kitchen in the Valley' turned up on my doorstep and I took the dive and bought flour. I am still not game enough to put it in my cupboard and have stored it in my freezer just as google instructed me to. Supposedly it's to kill any un-hatched eggs and I'm keen to give anything a go.

But enough on my cupboard dramas and more on this cookbook you say? I agree. This new book of Sally Wise's is full of recipes using local produce found in the Derwent Valley, Tasmania where Sally lives. The recipes make you want to fill a long table full of food and invite everyone you know over just to feed them. Sally's home sounds picturesque with raspberry patches in the summer and a bed of giant rhubarb under the window and how can I forget Truffles the kitten?! The photography sets the feel for the book and although not every recipe has a photo, the titles of the recipes are tempting enough. There are some great sounding bread recipes in this book such as Tasty Breakfast Twirl which is a sort-of decadent stuffed breakfast bread, Raisin Bread and Turkish Breads with Spinach and Feta Stuffing or a Tomato and Bacon filling. Can you tell I have missed baking??

Tikka Chicken with Mint Chutney and Naan from A Kitchen in the Valley | salt sugar and i

There are also some classic afternoon-tea treats that would make a great home-made high tea like Neenish Tarts which I remember from the local bakery as a kid and the Raspberry and Cream Cheesecake Slice...yum. But what caught my eye for dinner was the recipe for Tikka Chicken with Mint Chutney and Naan. There was no fancy curry pastes to make in advance and no ingredients which you need a whole day to find and a trip to every supermarket in your area, everything was in my pantry (expect the flour which is still in my freezer).

I started my making the naan bread so it had time to rise before starting the curry which surprised me as I have this idea that a curry is a long slow cooking process and this relatively quick. I made one slight change in the naan bread and used full cream milk instead of coconut milk as I have a thing about opening a can and not using the whole thing and I was already using a whole can of coconut milk in the curry so happily used regular milk instead and it worked just fine. However I will say this, these naan breads are not your traditional restaurant naans which have the gnarly black bits with bubbles of dense dough, these are light and almost fluffy. I'm not sure if this was just me or if they were meant to do this (there is no photo for this recipe) but mine turned into a kind of pocket when I baked them which was great to fill with the curry and chutney and although sometimes you want those naan breads with the black gnarly bits, these were just as delicious and much lighter which meant you could eat more of them. Always a positive.

Spices | salt sugar and i

And for the chicken tikka and chutney. Wow. Tristan said, quote and quote 'this is one of the best curries I've ever eaten'. He didn't say it was the best but I'll take that compliment anyway and I had to agree with him. It is a much lighter curry then anything I've had from the local Indian restaurant and although I say it was light, it was packed full of flavour and didn't have that layer of oil which you sometimes get from using the store-bought curry pastes. I was a little worried about the sauce being quite liquid but the recipe says you can thicken it by making a cornflour slurry but I let it simmer away for a little longer instead as I have a slight aversion with cornflour and curries together...just reduce it I say. With lighter naan breads, the fresh mint chutney, I served it with some steamed rice and roasted cauliflower (how good is cauliflower in curry?!) and just so you know, it got even better the next day.

Overall it was a pretty damn delicious dinner which we gorged ourselves on a huge bowl each while watching the new StarWars movie on the couch. A perfect date night in if you ask me.

Tikka Chicken with Mint Chutney and Naan from A Kitchen in the Valley | salt sugar and i

Tikka Chicken with Mint Chutney and Naan

Adapted from 'A Kitchen in the Valley' by Sally Wise.

For the naan.
2 cups plain flour
2 teaspoons instant dried yeast
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
125ml warm coconut milk (regular milk also works)
125ml plain yoghurt
1 egg
2 teaspoons olive oil
2 teaspoons lemon juice

For the chicken.
2 tablespoons coconut oil
1kg chicken breast fillets, sliced (or half the chicken and add extra veggies)
2 onions, finely sliced
3 garlic cloves, crushed
2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger (jarred works great too)
2 long red chilli's, finely sliced
1 tablespoon ground coriander
1 tablespoons sweet paprika
2 teaspoons garam masala
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
400ml can coconut milk
250ml chicken stock (stock cube is fine)

For the chutney.
60g fresh mint leaves (roughly half bunch)
3 tablespoons desiccated coconut
1 1/2 tablespoons sesame seeds
1/2 teaspoon brown sugar (regular sugar works too)
1 tablespoon vinegar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 clove garlic, crushed
180ml plain yoghurt

For the naan.
- Starting with the naan breads, place flour, yeast, sugar, baking powder and one teaspoon salt in a medium bowl and mix well. Whisk together the coconut milk (or regular milk), yoghurt, egg, olive oil and lemon juice. Pour into the dry mixture and mix using a wooden spoon until well combined. This is a wet mixture so don't be alarmed that this looks more like a mess than a dough. Cover with a tea towel and leave in a warm place to rise until doubled in size, about 1 hour and 15 minutes.

- Line two baking trays with baking paper and preheat your oven to 200C.

-Turn the risen dough onto a lightly floured bench and knead for 2-3 minutes or until smooth. Cut into 4-6 pieces and dust each lightly with flour. Roll each piece into an oval about 12-15cm long and 8-10cm wide. Place on lined trays, covered with a tea towel to rise for 15 minutes.

- Bake the naan for 15 minutes or until cooked through and golden on top.

For the chicken.
- Meanwhile start on your chicken. To make the tikka chicken, heat the coconut oil in a saucepan over medium-high heat and sauté the chicken until it changes colour. Add the onion, garlic and ginger and cook for about 2 minutes or until fragrant. Add the spices along with 1 teaspoon of salt and stir to coat everything in the pan. Lastly, stir in the coconut milk and chicken stock and bring to a boil.

- Reduce to a simmer and cook for about 10-15 minutes until the chicken is tender. If your sauce needs thickening, simmer for 10 minutes longer or thicken with a cornflour slurry (3 teaspoon cornflour mixed with 2 tablespoons water).

For the chutney.
- Place all the ingredients except the yoghurt into a small food processor and process until smooth. Stir the yoghurt into the paste. Taste and season with pepper and a little salt if necessary.

Serve the curry with the naan, steamed rice and mint chutney.

Wednesday, 6 April 2016

Torta di Mele (apple cake) from 'Florentine' by Emiko Davies.

Over the weekend I escaped my apartment and went to my mums to mess her kitchen up instead, plus she has a dishwasher which makes the clean up sooo much more pleasant. I gave dad the option of Bomboloncini (donut holes) or Torta di Mele (apple cake), both recipes from Emiko Davies new cookbook Florentine. Although I gave him the choice I knew before I even asked that he'd choose the apple cake, I was secretly hoping he would pick the donut holes but since I'm a good daughter I made the apple cake for him and will have to save donut holes for another day.

Torta di Mele apple cake | Florentine | Emiko Davies | salt sugar and i

Florentine, wow. It is such a beautiful book. The cover is stunning and the photos inside transport you to the streets of Florence, Italy. Emiko has some snaps of the inside of the book on her site, so beautiful. It made me want to max out my credit card and buy a plane ticket but instead I am just going to have to bring Florence to my little corner of the world with her beautiful recipes. There are a few I cannot wait to try, of course the Bomboloncini (donut holes) I keep going on about but also the Polpettone alla Fiorentina (Florentine meatloaf) and the Pane Toscano (tuscan bread). I have a soft spot for meatloaf so can't wait to try it and tuscan bread... who doesn't love freshly baked bread?? The smell of it straight out of the oven is mouth watering but then again so was this apple cake.

Torta di Mele apple cake | Florentine | Emiko Davies | salt sugar and i

About 20 minutes after I put it in the oven we could start to smell the buttery goodness and sweet apples and it instantly made us hungry and eager for it to be finished. Still warm we had a piece with a cuppa and it was the perfect combination. The sweet apple on top and inside the cake was so delicious. I think the cake recipe would also work folding through mixed berries, its a lovely and buttery cake that isn't too sweet so works perfectly with the added fruit. It reminded me of a cake my Aunty made but poured sweetened mixed berries, heated up like a runny jam over the top when I went to visit years ago. Between four of us we managed to polish off the whole cake while drinking tea and playing rummicub late into the night.

Torta di Mele apple cake | Florentine | Emiko Davies | salt sugar and i

A little tip to keep in mind, the recipe says '2 large apples' and I used 2 small to medium sized apples thinking it'd be ok but I recommend using large apples, mine could have done with more apple on the inside in some slices. And don't be too alarmed when the mix starts curdling, it did this to me when I added the eggs to the butter but I turned the speed up and it seemed to come together until I added the milk which then made it curdle even more. My eggs and milk were cold though so I don't think it would have curdled if I had warmed the milk slightly to take the chill off, same for the eggs. But as soon as I folded the flour through it all came together perfectly, no dramas.

My mum has a dream oven and it baked so much better than if I'd baked it at home, it was evenly golden on top and didn't have a half burnt side. Such a great afternoon/morning tea recipe with a cuppa or two.

Torta di Mele apple cake | Florentine | Emiko Davies | salt sugar and i

Torta di Mele (apple cake)

recipe from Florentine by Emiko Davies.

2 large apples, peeled, cored and sliced into approx. 1cm slices
1 lemon, juice and zest
125g unsalted butter, softened
180g caster sugar
3 eggs (at room temp)
150ml milk (at room temp/lukewarm)
300g plain flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
a pinch of fine sea salt

- Preheat oven to 180C/360F and line a 23cm/9inch cake tin.

- Place the apple slices in a bowl with the lemon juice and 2 tablespoons of the sugar.

- Beat remaining sugar with the butter until pale and creamy, add the eggs and beat very well until you have a thick, pale mixture. Add the milk and lemon zest, then fold through the flour, baking powder and salt then half the apples slices along with all the lemon juice to combine.

- Pour into prepared tin and place the remaining apple slices all over the top of the surface, Bake for 1 hour, or until the top is golden and springy to the touch.

Note: As this cake isn't overly sweet, Emiko suggests brushing the top with some apricot jam for a little shine and that extra bit of sweetness as an option for those of us who love things on the sweeter side.

Thursday, 31 March 2016

eggplant, mint & yoghurt dip from Feast by Nigella Lawson.

Over the long weekend I had grand cooking plans. I was going to make donut holes from Emiko Davies new book Florentine and also banana bread from The Violets Bakery Cookbook but those plans fell through when I pull out my full container of flour and I had friends show up. Unwanted friends. Weevils. They gave me the heebie-geebies. I didn't inspect the moving critters for long. I ran the plastic container to the garbage bin as fast as I could and closed my cookbooks with a heavy sign and a shiver. Isn't baking what your meant to do on a long weekend? Fill your tummies full of delicious baked goods?? Scared with what else might be lurking in the other flours I decided that with the creepy-crawly feeling on my skin, I'd leave the baking for next weekend and make dip instead. We were going to a welcome home drinks so nibbles were appropriate, although I am sure they would have welcomed donut holes just as much.

I decided to make the eggplant, mint and yoghurt dip from Nigella Lawson's Feast, I've made this a few times now over the years and it's always a winner. Feast was also one of the first cookbooks I ever bought myself and is full of splattered pages and bookmarked recipes, as a good cookbook should be.

I roasted the eggplants until tender but blackened on the outside and picked some 'mint gone wild' from our little balcony then slowly fried an onion and lots of garlic in olive oil until soft. It's a perfect recipe to potter around the kitchen and whip together something like say banana bread while you wait for everything to cool...

The dip is comforting yet fresh and best served with some crostini or toasted pita bread but I didn't have either so served it with crackers (which Tristan ended up leaving on the kitchen counter) and carrot sticks to counteract the chocolates we've all eaten.

Can't say my craving to bake has been satisfied or my craving to eat home-made sweet treats but my jeans are certainly happier not having to fit in a donut or two after everything else I consumed over the weekend.

Fingers crossed my baking ideas this weekend go to plan.

eggplant, mint & yoghurt dip

recipe adapted from Feast by Nigella Lawson

2 medium to small eggplants
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
1 small onion, finely diced
3 cloves garlic, crushed
pinch saffron threads
2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
3/4 cup thick greek yoghurt
2 tablespoons pinenuts, toasted
salt and pepper

- Preheat your oven to 220C/400F and prick the eggplants with a fork all over.

- Place on a tray and roast for about 45 minutes to an hour, or until the insides have a soft squishy texture and the skin slightly darkened. Let them cool enough to handle, the scoop the insides out into a sieve to drain.

- While the eggplant flesh is draining, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil over low heat and fry the onion and garlic until soft and almost golden, about 10 minutes. Add the eggplant flesh to the onions and cook for about 4 minutes, breaking up any bits that need it. Take off the heat and season with salt and pepper and allow to cool completely.

- Soak the saffron threads into 2 tablespoons of just boiled water and let sit so the water turns a vibrant yellow orange colour.

- Once the eggplant is cooled, mix in the greek yoghurt, saffron water, one tablespoon chopped fresh mint and another good pinch of salt and pepper.

- To serve, sprinkle over the remaining fresh mint, pine nuts and a drizzle of olive oil.

Friday, 25 March 2016

(The) Best Chicken: Baked Chicken in Creamy Tomato Sauce from Dinner: A Love Story.

Have you ever been so unorganised you've woken up and realised you have only one pair of clean undies in your drawer and the day was a near total disaster?? I've had that phew! feeling more than once over the past few weeks. I've been some what unorganised which has also lead to a lot of dodgy dinners like last Saturday night which consisted of cheese and crackers or the other week when I reheated pasta sauce from the freezer on toast at 9pm.

But everything changed last Monday night. I cooked dinner.

Baked Chicken in Creamy Tomato Sauce from Dinner: A Love Story | salt sugar and i

It made me realise that cooking is my zen. What yoga is to some, cooking is for me. Not the mad rush kind of cooking in a commercial kitchen, been there, done that and I didn't have thick enough skin. But cooking in my little kitchen and making a meal out of ingredients gives me a certain satisfaction and feeling of fulfillment. Cooking for one doesn't have quite the same feeling as when I'm cooking for two or more so maybe it's not the act of cooking itself but the act of sharing what I've made with the ones I love.

Or maybe that makes no sense at all and I was just so high on a home cooked meal I needed to share this with you all.

Baked Chicken in Creamy Tomato Sauce from Dinner: A Love Story | salt sugar and i

I made (The) Best Chicken: Baked Chicken in Creamy Tomato Sauce from Dinner: A Love Story by Jenny Rosenstrach. It was so delicious. There was one problem, I only made enough for two and not enough for seconds or leftovers. It was a comforting, home cooked dinner at it's finest. It was simple yet so full of flavour. The canned tomatoes turn delicious and rich in the oven, almost sticky and as the chicken cooks it soaks up the flavour from the sauce and hint of herbs. I adapted the recipe slightly since we didn't have any marscapone as it's not a staple at our kitchen, instead I stirred through a couple of spoonfuls of greek yogurt at the end and it worked just as well. I served it with brown rice cooked with a stock cube and blanched sugar snap peas coated in butter and a good pinch of salt.

Baked Chicken in Creamy Tomato Sauce from Dinner: A Love Story | salt sugar and i

It was rich and comforting and a dinner I will repeat again, especially since it's started getting a little cooler here. Store cupboard ingredients, chicken from the freezer and dinner is practically already made, a perfect weeknight meal. This would also work really well served with pasta or to make it a little fancy, serve it with a saffron risotto and a side salad.

I'm now off to do some washing so that it's at least another week before I have that phew! moment again.

Baked Chicken in Creamy Tomato Sauce from Dinner: A Love Story | salt sugar and i

(The) Best Chicken: Baked Chicken in Creamy Tomato Sauce 

recipe adapted from Dinner: A Love Story by Jenny Rosenstrach
(find original recipe here)
serves 2

2 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 onion, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
400g canned chopped tomatoes
5 basil leaves, roughly torn (or a pinch of dried oregano)
2 tablespoons marscapone or thick greek yoghurt
salt & pepper

- Preheat oven to 175C/350F.

- Sprinkle the chicken with salt and pepper. Heat the olive oil in an oven proof pan or skillet on high heat and brown the chicken on all sides (they do not need to cook through). Remove from the pan and turn heat down to medium-low. In the remaining oil left in the pan cook the onion and garlic for about 2 minutes.

- Add the can of chopped tomatoes and bring to a simmer, stir through basil (or oregano) and season with salt and pepper. If using marscapone, stir through now. Add the chicken back into the pan then place in the preheated oven.

- Bake for 40 minutes, turning half way through or until the chicken is cooked through.

- If you are using greek yogurt, remove the chicken from the pan and stir through the greek yoghurt now. Serve with rice, pasta or some nice crusty bread and some buttered greens.