Tag Archives: cooking with kids

Masterchef: Julie Goodwin’s, Essential Cookbook.

As I’ve mentioned often enough, Julie Goodwin, Australia’s 1st Masterchef, made a surprise visit to our home on Monday to drop off a meal and a copy of her latest cookbook, Julie Goodwin’s Essential Cookbook.

So, I thought you might like to join me as I flick through the cookbook and choose something to cook. After all, she didn’t just give it to me  to be nice. Or, to be framed and sent “straight to the pool room”. It was to be used.

Used and even abused.

Indeed, Julie gave me carte blanche to all but destroy the book during the cooking process. Apparently, she loves to see a well-used book,which could well have sampled a few meals itself. For better or worse, my personal cooking style was inspired by the Swedish chef from the Muppet Show back in the 80s. So, this poor book could well be in for a smorgasbord of splattered delight…

Although Julie needs little introduction here in Australia, I thought I’d better introduce her to those further afield.

Julie Goodwin is many things.Every morning when I listen to Julie on the radio, I’m struck by her infectious laugh which jolts me out of the morning’s challenges. Julie has a real depth and sincerity, and I know I’ve only glimpsed the edges of that. Right from her first appearances on Masterchef, she’s worn her heart on her sleeve. Her love of her family and being their Mum, radiate from her heart. You can tell how much she loves and cares for people, and that cooking and food is all part of that. There is no divide. So many of us who cook for our families, feel the same. That there’s nothing like a home-cooked meal. It’s infused with love.

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So when Julie gave me her cookbook, she was also sharing the joy of cooking and sitting around a table laden with scrumptious offerings laughing and chatting with family and friends. Cooking and eating great meals, are joys to be shared, and not to be kept to yourself…top secret.

In her introduction, Julie explains why she put this cookbook together:

“The point I find myself at at the moment is as the parent of three boys who are new adults. They are all still at home right now but I guess the clock is ticking, and although I have taught them what cooking knowledge I could over the years I feel an almost desperate need to get all the important recipes, information and tips together so that when they go, they’re set.

That’s what this book is for. It’s a collection of everything I think is important to know in order to be able to nourish yourself and the people you love; it’s the recipes that bring back childhood memories for myself and my kids;it’s the little bits of kitchen wisdom that have been handed down through generations, or passed on from friends, or discovered by accident or through trial and error. It’s the book I want my books to have when they have families of their own.”

My Mother-in-law did the same thing for Geoff when he moved out of home and we still have a much treasured cookbook she put together for him in an exercise book. I also have detailed recipes my grandmother sent my Mum. One even included a snippet about the birth of a friend’s baby. I have cooked with my own kids both as a bonding experience and to teach them practical life skills. It actually takes quite a lot of smarts to put together a great meal.

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So, after enjoying  Julie’s Butter Chicken on Monday night (thank you Julie!!), I decided to cook something from her cookbook on Tuesday night.

Something…

With 300 pages of recipes to choose from and possibly two recipes per page, I was bamboozled by choice.

Where to start?

Of course, my sweet tooth went straight to Baking and Desserts. I’m already making plans to bake her Flourless Chocolate Cake on page 250. Actually, I just spotted a recipe for Chocolate Fondant on page 287. I’ve been wanting to try making one of those for years, along with tiramisu, but have never had the guts. Not because I can’t cook. Rather, it’s the paralyzing perfectionist in me. That stupid fear of making a mistake, which stops me from lifting my wooden spoon. Indeed, I use it to beat myself up instead.

Well, it doesn’t stop me entirely. I obviously have to feed the family and every year when Masterchef starts up, my home cooking goes up a zillion notches. The other day, for example, I made pan fried perch with lemon and raspberry, a dash of honey and sprinkled with macadamia nuts…just something I threw together.

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Hasselback Potato.

So, rather than being ambitious, I started with something simple…Hasselback Potatoes on page 192. Actually, with my fine motor challenges, these potatoes, which have horizontal slices 2 mm apart, could’ve been more challenging than the fondant. However, aside from chopping off a few pieces, all went well. I poured the mix of melted butter and oil over the potatoes and threw them in the oven. They emerged with a scrumptious crunchy crust, but soft in the middle.

Wow! Those potatoes were so good. We ate them as finger food like a row of scalloped, potato chips.

Indeed, we loved them so much, I swapped them for our usual roast potatoes. I’m doing a roast lamb tonight. Sorry, Julie, I went AWOL on the roast and did my own thing.

By the way, if you haven’t seen the footage of Julie and Rabbit’s visit to our place, you can see it here: Rabbit & Julie Goodwin Visit Rowena

If you would like to try some of Julie’s recipes or purchase her cookbook, please visit her web site: Julie Goodwin

Meanwhile, I’m looking forward to MY big day tomorrow and arrival of the fairies during the night.

xx Rowena

PS I thought you all might also want to check out Rabbit’s new cookbook as well in these very entertaining clips. As much as I love Rabbit and did pass on one of my own recipes, I am concerned he’s trying a bit too hard: Rabbit Tells Julie about his cookbook on air and Rabbit & Julie:The Battle of the Cookbook Signings

Easy Peasy Chocolate Party Cupcakes

Chocolate, lollies, cake, balloons, pass the parcel, loads of presents, friends and party hats and swirling twirling party skirts and singing: “Happy Birthday”!

Our family has hit birthday season with a haze-filled thump. With our kids having birthdays 10 days apart and what with baking cakes for school, Scouts and not to mention having something with candles stuck on top to blow out at home, I usually get lost in a baking whirl and this recipe has saved my skin year after year.Becoming something of a birthday cake-making factory, I think I’ve even tripled or quadrupled this mixture in the past.

You just throw all the ingredients in the mix master bowl and press the button. That’s it. The Ganache Icing is also deceptively simple and again, virtually instant and lusciously chocolicious!!

Happy Birthday Chocolate Cupcakes for Scouts.

Happy Birthday Chocolate Cupcakes for Scouts.

This recipe has been written in very easy to follow steps, bearing kids and inexperienced bakers in mind. So, you no longer have to resort to packet mixes and bought cakes. You, too, can bake from scratch, be a Masterchef and smile for the camera…I made it myself!

That’s right. You can do it!!

Who can argue with Snoopy?

Who can argue with Snoopy?

I’ve cooked with my kids all their lives. However, last year I decided it was time to ramp things up so they could cook a meal and become more independent. During this time, I realised that cooking teaches us so much more than simply producing a meal or a cake we can eat. It also teaches sequencing, time-management, multi-tasking, planning, health and nutrition as well as being environmentally-minded. It is also an ideal time to chat and bond with our kids, although things can get a bit fraught when creative minds don’t follow instructions and get ahead of the proceedings.

However, at these times as you’re counting to ten doing your deep breathing exercises, it could be a timely reminder that life isn’t just about the destination. We also need to make the most of the journey and be a bit flexible…especially when it comes to adapting our adult ideas of cake perfection to the realities of living with kids.

As John Lennon said and I have quoted many times on my blog:

My Favourite John Lennon Quote: Quote Diaries.

My Favourite John Lennon Quote: Quote Diaries.

So without further sub-plots and asides, let the baking begin and don’t forget to lick but not double-dip the spoon!

Easy Peasy Chocolate Party Cupcakes

Makes 24 cupcakes.

Ingredients

185g softened butter, diced

2 teas vanilla essence

1 3/4 cups castor sugar

3 eggs

2 cups Self-Raising Flour, sifted

2/3 cup cocoa powder

1 cup water

(I have also mixed in about 250g blueberries and sprinkled macadamia nuts over the top but I keep them fairly plain for the kids)

Directions

1) Turn oven onto 180 degrees Celsius.

2) Line a 12 cup muffin or cupcake tin with patty papers. I usually give the tray a coat of pray oil beforehand for ease of cleaning afterwards.

3) Sift four and cocoa into a large mixing bowl.

4) Add diced butter, vanilla essence, castor sugar, eggs and water.

Dicing the butter.

Dicing the butter.

5) Beat on low speed of an electric mixer master until the ingredients have combined. Then increase the speed to medium and beat for about 3 minutes or until the mixture is smooth and have gone lighter in colour.

6) Spoon a heaped dessertspoon of mix into each patty paper.

7) Bake for around 10-15 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean.

8) Stand for 5 minutes and then turn upside down on a wire rack to cool.

9)When the cake has cooled, ice with Chocolate Ganache.

 

Chocolate Ganache

250g good quality Milk or Dark Chocolate (Kids prefer milk and adults prefer dark here)

1/3 cup cream

Fancy decorations like sprinkles, hundreds & thousands,stars etc optional.

Directions

1) Melt the chocolate in the microwave for about 1 minute. Remove.

2) Add cream.

3) Stir well.

4) Perhaps, I was just lazy but I simply dropped a teaspoon of Chocolate Ganache on top of each cupcake for a rich,decadent look. However, the kids couldn’t resist adding that splash of colour (and goodness knows how many artificial colours and flavours). Each to their own.

Happy Baking & even Happier Birthdays!

xx Rowena

PS Just to prove that I’ve been making this cake for awhile, here’s this variation of a theme: Chocolate Hazelnut Indulgence Cake. It even has hazelnut praline. Yummy!

https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/wp-admin/post.php?post=5837&action=edit&message=6&postpost=v2

 

Two-Faced Chocolate Caramel Slice

Indulgent and decadent, entire kingdoms have been sacrificed for that very last piece of Chocolate Caramel Slice. It’s that good!

To the uninitiated, Chocolate Caramel Slice is a three-tiered wonder with a coconut biscuit base, a rich caramel filling based on condensed milk and golden syrup and melted chocolate on top. When compared to the more traditional sponge cake or scone, Chocolate Caramel Slice is a relative newcomer. I remember Mum arriving home from bridge with the recipe back in the early 80’s like she’d won the proverbial lottery. That recipe must have spread like wild fire and it seems to be a mandatory inclusion for any fundraising cookbook.

These days, although you can buy Chocolate Caramel Slice just about anywhere, in my experience, the bought varieties are usually a serious disappointment. While it’s hard to go wrong with chocolate, they usually leave the coconut out of the base. For me, that coconut is a must which adds to the overall richness and beauty of this decadent slice. Moreover, the caramel filling is often undercooked, pale and insipid… not rich and golden in colour. To my thinking, the caramel layer should also be about double the thickness of the base and more than just a miserly “scrape”. When this slice is made properly and I dare say that requires a good dose of love from the cook, it has a generous slathering of rich, oozy, melt in your mouth and all over your fingers caramel, a luscious chocolate topping and a rich, chewy base infused with coconut. That, as I’ve said, is pure indulgence and something only the strictest of dieters can somehow resist. After all, isn’t there a diet exemption clause for just a little taste of pure indulgence? We can’t be good all of the time!!

You might recall that the focus of our cooking efforts at home is teaching the kids how to cook. I try to make the recipes first myself to work out whether they are suitable to cook with the kids and how to go about it.

To be honest, I don’t really recommend baking Chocolate Caramel Slice with kids and it’s certainly not something they can bake themselves with minimal adult supervision. It involves boiling fats, hot caramel and hot melted chocolate and copha. Children could easily sustain nasty burns. That said, children could do the stirring in the bowl and sifting. However, while there are much more appropriate recipes to bake with kids, our kids love to eat this slice and it’s good to make for them. My kids are very picky about their food, even the sweet treats they’ll eat and this has been a real hit!!

Being so rich, I’ve found that I only need a small piece to satisfy my rather chronically demanding sweet tooth so it’s much better for me than my usual night time treat…hazelnut chocolate. Somehow the block just seems to disappear…

Yet, as much as I love Chocolate Caramel Slice, I would have to classify it as a special, indulgent treat or what children know as a “sometimes food”. It’s full of fat and sugar and given the amount of chocolate and condensed milk involved, it’s more expensive than many alternatives which you’d bake for the kid’s lunchboxes. It is a definite treat but given how little we entertain, a treat can be for the family just as much as for guests. It doesn’t always require a special occasion although you could perhaps make up your own…International Caramel Slice Day, for example. It sounds good to me!

I have called our version of this favourite: “Two-Faced Chocolate Caramel Slice” because our version is half dark chocolate and half milk chocolate. It was quite tricky to execute but it worked and that meant we didn’t need to compromise. Everybody gets what they want but it might make fighting for the last piece, a little bit tricky. Something tells me that the kids’ milk chocolate stash is going to be the first to run out.

Be careful to allow plenty of time to bake the slice. It needs to be chilled in the fridge for at least an hour in between steps 2 and 3 and again for around an hour at the end to set the chocolate. This isn’t something you can rustle up quickly right as your guests are turning up.

The Recipe: Two-Faced Chocolate Caramel Slice

Ingredients

 

Base

  • 2 cups plain flour, sifted
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup desiccated coconut
  • 250g butter, melted

Filling

  • 2 x 400g can sweetened condensed milk
  • 4 tablespoons golden syrup
  • 120g butter, melted

Topping

  • 60g copha, chopped
  • 125g cooking chocolate, chopped
  • 60g copha
  • 125g milk chocolate, chopped.

Directions:

Turn oven on to 180°C and line a deep 32cm x 23cm lamington tin with baking paper, ensuring that the baking paper comes up the sides of the tin. I always spray a bit of spray oil underneath the baking sheet to hold it in place.

Step 1- Making the Base.

  1. You can simply make the base in a large mixing bowl using a large stirring spoon. You don’t need to use a food processor at all.
  2. Sift flour into the mixing bowl.
  3. Add brown sugar. When measuring the brown sugar, it should be firmly packed. This means you press it down with the spoon. This can make quite a difference to the amount of sugar used.
  4. Stir with a large wooden spoon or equivalent.
  5. To melt the butter, place butter inside a small bowl with steep sides (prevents splattering) and put in the microwave on high for 1 minute or until butter has melted. This may be a job for the supervising adult. Add to the dry ingredients in the mixing bowl.
  6. Stir until ingredients are well combined.
  7. Press base into prepared tin and bake for 10-12 minutes or until light golden in colour. Be careful not to overcook the base. It will be baked again with the caramel sauce on top and you don’t want it getting too hard or burned.
  8. Put the base aside to cool down for 15 minutes. This is about the length of time it takes to make the caramel filling.

Step 2- Caramel Filling

  1. Combine all ingredients in a medium-large saucepan on moderate heat. Stir for about 8 minutes or until golden in colour and butter has melted.
  2. Pour over prepared base and spread evenly with a butter knife.
  3. Bake in a moderate oven for about 8-12 minutes or until firm.
  4. Refrigerate for about 1-2 hours to set the caramel before adding the chocolate topping.
  5. The caramel can be made successfully in the microwave but I haven’t tried it.

Step 3-Chocolate Topping.

Perhaps, your family is easy to please and shares the same preference for either milk or dark chocolate.

In that case, place 250g chopped chocolate and 120g chopped copha into a largish heat-proof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water. Stir until melted. Pour over the caramel. Refrigerate to set. Skip forward to serving instructions.

However…

If your family is like our family where my husband and I both like dark chocolate and the kids refuse to eat dark chocolate and only eat milk, read on. Our kids are so fussy that our son won’t even eat Cocoa Pops!

This means that I often have to choose between using milk or dark chocolate when I bake and that means someone is always a bit disappointed. This usually means going with the milk chocolate because I need something for the kids’ lunchboxes and they need the calories more than Geoff and myself. I hate throwing any food out but throwing away my lovingly prepared home baking, is too much to bear. Quite often, I end up eating it myself but I certainly don’t need an entire, double-strength Chocolate Caramel Slice all to myself. That will undo at least a year’s worth of walking the dog!

Anyway, because this is a double mixture, I decided to make a half n half topping- half dark and half milk chocolate.

Good idea, but getting the chocolate to stay put proved rather tricky.

Two-Faced Caramel Chocolate Slice with Milk and Dark Chocolate.

Two-Faced Caramel Chocolate Slice with Milk and Dark Chocolate.

Directions for Half ‘n Half Chocolate Topping.

  1. Place the caramel slice onto the bench and find a butter knife and stick that halfway along to act as a barrier or retainer for the chocolate.
  2. Melt the milk chocolate and Copha first in a heat-proof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water. Stir until melted. Let it sit for about 10 minutes to cool down so it is not so runny. Pour over caramel. Refrigerate for about 30 minutes to contain the spread.
  3. Now melt the dark chocolate and Copha in the same heat-proof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water. There is no need to wash the bowl in between as the dark chocolate in stronger in flavour.
  4. Rest the dark chocolate for about 10 minutes again so it is not so runny and is easier to contain. Carefully pour the melted dark chocolate onto the other side of the butter knife and spread to the edges of the tin.
  5. Refrigerate until chocolate has set.

To serve

  1. Lift the slice out of the tin onto a large chopping board.
  2. If the slice is too hard, then leave it on the bench for about 30 minutes so it’s easier to cut. Run a large, heavy knife under boiling water. Wipe it dry and press down into the slice and cut into squares, trying not to crack the chocolate.

Indulge!

Xx Rowena

Absolutely scrumptious!

Absolutely scrumptious!

Confession Time…How it really went!

If you have read any of my previous baking posts, you will know that I am a bit of a “je ne sais quoi” in the kitchen. That’s not to say that I’m a bad cook. I’m actually quite a good cook but things happen. I could excuse myself by saying that I still have chemo brain but there’s always been an element of chaos in me. These organisational “challenges” begin with my “organised enough” pantry and end with me sending Geoff on an urgent sprint mid-cook to hunt down and slay the missing essential ingredient, the modern equivalent of the traditional animal hunt.

While researching for this cooking project, I came across this wonderful French professional cheffing term, or should I say method: “mise en place”. Literally translated, it means “put in place” and refers to having all your ingredients measured and ready to use as the recipe directs. This means transforming my “cook as I go” cooking chaos into something like a TV cooking demonstration. You know what they’re like. They always magically have something “prepared earlier” and all the ingredients are precisely and clinically measured and ready to go. Unfortunately, we don’t have one of those kitchen fairies. Instead, we have the pantry monster who devours ingredients which were clearly left where they belonged in their specific place on the shelf. Of course, we have a place for everything and everything in its place but then the greedy, devouring pantry monster comes along and gobbles it all up when my back’s turned…or it takes great delight in hiding things and shuffling everything around behind my back.

That’s what happened to the coconut while I was baking the Chocolate Caramel Slice. I was sure there was coconut in the pantry somewhere. It’s an ingredient we use quite a lot and I can usually direct my hand through the rubble and locate it immediately. Not so yesterday and rather than pulling everything out performing a serious search and rescue operation, I sent Geoff to the shop on his way home from work. I was spared!

The slice has been a big success. However, not everyone shares my philosophy about the biscuit base (coconut and all) being an essential part of the overall taste experience. Our ten year old son, in typical kid fashion, ate the caramel and chocolate off the top and then called out: “Can I give this to the dog?

No respect! Absolutely no respect!

Anzac Biscuits- An ANZAC Day Tradition

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old;
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.

For the fallen by Laurence Binyon (1869–1943)

ANZAC Day commemorates not only the first landing of Australian and New Zealand troops or ANZACS at ANZAC Cove, Gallipoli on the 25th April 1914 but also honours service people who have served in all of our wars.

I didn’t really grow up with this sense that my family had served in the war even though my Great Uncle Jack had served in New Guinea in World War II and my grandfather had served as an Army Captain within Australia. Geoff, on the other hand, grew up with two uncles who had served in New Guinea and another who had served in Darwin and his Nanna who had lost a brother in France during World War I. Last year, we also found out that his father’s uncle had served at Gallipoli and went on to be part of the charge at Beersheba. So when it comes to ANZAC Day, our family has something personal and close to home to honour and respect. We have also seen the longer term impact of war on wives and children who experienced alcoholism, violence and depression. Not because they were bad men but because they had seen and experienced horrors that no one should experience and then they were simply sent home.

Watching the Canberra March on TV

Watching the Canberra March on TV

Geoff and I have been into the ANZAC Day march in the city only once but every year since I can remember, I have always watched the march on TV. In some respects, it is a solemn occasion where we remember and honour the dead but there is also so much to look at and I have always felt such a love and a fondness for the old men marching with their medals pinned to their hearts. I remember when these old men had been to WWI and slowly and surely they became the faces of World War II veterans and now even the Vietnam Veterans are looking well…old…and the WWI diggers have gone and WWII ones are thinning out.

Along with watching the march on TV, I have another time honoured tradition…making ANZAC Biscuits. Mothers, wives, girlfriends and anyone who cared, baked ANZAC Biscuits at home and sent them overseas to the men at the front. Such packages and letters from home were treasured, providing a much needed connection with their loved ones at home as well as breaking the monotony of military food.

Not unsurprisingly, making ANZAC Biscuits on ANZAC Day is as tradtional as the official Dawn Service and the march.

ANZAC Biscuits are really just an oatmeal biscuit and by modern standards are pretty plain. You can jazz them up with chopped nuts, ginger or even choc chips but for ANZAC Day, I always keep them plain and authentic. Their simplicity also serves to remind us of simpler times when austerity measures had been implemented, rationing had been in place and there wasn’t our modern over-abundance of just about everything. Things were scarce…even the basics like eggs.

Despite their simplicity, ANZAC Biscuits with their dose of thick, sticky, sugary golden syrup are scrumptious.

If you are a connoisseur of ANZAC Biscuits and as strange as it may seem, these people do exist, you need to specify whether you like your ANZACS soft or hard, very much the same way people get quite picky about having their fried egg: “sunny side up”.

Personally, I have had great difficulty mastering the perfect ANZAC. Most of the time, I find the mixture doesn’t come together well and I’ve needed to add extra butter to bind it together. Moreover, as I only really make ANZACS once maybe twice a year, I haven’t managed to perfect the process and work out quite what makes them crunchy or chewy. We just get what we get and usually because I’m baking them with the kids, I’m just thankful for that.

If you have read my blog before, you will know that most of my cooking efforts with the kids have their dramas and I must admit that I’ve had a good think about why we have the kitchen of chaos instead of something approaching the scientific wonder of the Australian Women’s Weekly Test Kitchen. I mean, you can be sure that most of our antics could never be replicated by anybody anywhere no matter how hard they tried.

As usual, baking ANZAC Biscuits failed to disappoint and we had our usual range of hiccups.

The kids play games on the ipad waiting for the tin of oats to magically refill.

The kids play games on the ipad waiting for the tin of oats to magically refill.

The first thing that you have to keep in mind when baking ANZAC Biscuits, especially if you like me want to bake them while watching the march, is that you need to check that you have all your ingredients the day before because the shops are shut on ANZAC Day until after lunch. This is a very important word of warning and despite my best efforts, I keep getting caught. This year, we are staying at my parents’ house at the beach and it is not very well stocked so I brought everything with me including the metal biscuit tray. However, I’d brought everything except the main ingredient…the oats…because I’d bought this wonderful metal tin put out by Uncle Toby’s specifically to house your big box of oats and to keep the nasties out. Thinking I had about a 12 month supply, much to my horror, I didn’t check my supplies. The tin was completely empty without so much as a single oat left inside. Some horrific porridge-guzzling Goldilocks and her three bears had been guzzling my oats.  I scoured the cupboards optimistically.  Dad has his very healthy whole grain oat porridge “stuff” which looks like oats on the outside but also has other grains mixed in and as tempted as I was to use this instead, Geoff and I both agreed it was a bit of a gamble. We were all looking forward to our annual ANZAC Day indulgence and we didn’t want a “fail”. We had to wait.

 

So we watched the march and while waiting for the shops to open, we took the dog off for a walk along the mud flats and the kids and I squirted Neptune’s Beads at each other and at ourselves and had a bit of fun. It had rained heavily overnight and it was still overcast so not terribly pretty but it was fun sloshing through the mud even if we didn’t see any crabs. Miss, I must say was thrilled about that. She doesn’t like crabs. She doesn’t like them at all and the mud flats down here start crawling as thousands of them emerge out of their holes at certain times of day which as yet I haven’t managed to pin down.

By the time Geoff returned from the shops and I’d had a bit of a nap, it was late afternoon by the time we were making the ANZACS and beforehand we quickly whizzed up our pizza dough for dinner and set it aside to rise.

It is always gets tricking making anything with the kids after making the pizza dough. The kids love getting their hands into the dough, squishing it through their fingers and really giving it a good workout. They can’t resist! However, dough is dough and I wasn’t happy seeing Miss with her hands in the bowl mixing the oats with the other dry ingredients. “Get your fingers out of there! That’s what spoons are for!!”

When it came to mixing the dry ingredients, which I’d thought was relatively simple, even this proved challenging to the kids and I could feel my patience getting very thin, very thin indeed. When you are pouring a cup full of flour as an adult, or at least an adult who has been cooking all of your life, you just know where that magic, unwritten line is on a cup that measures a cup full of something. It’s not ¾ of a cup and it’s not a cup full with some kind of mountain peak stuck on top of it either. It’s a full cup with something like a finger space left empty at the top so your supposedly full cup of whatever, doesn’t spill. I’m sure it is actually possible to pour a cup full of something without spilling it on the bench too but I’m not sure if I’ve even pulled this one off. We’re all a bit careless around here.

Besides getting pedantic about measurements which may or not matter in the overall scheme of things, kitchen safety became a serious issue when the kids were mucking around in the kitchen today. Consequently, we gave them more than a serious talking to especially about burns but also about knives. We told them that the kitchen is a workshop with dangerous tools and it needs to be respected. It is not a playground. The message wasn’t really sinking in so I opted for a bit of tough love and we looked up kids burns in Google went to images and showed them what some of these burns can look like. We also watched an educational presentation which you can link through to here: http://www.chw.edu.au/prof/services/burns_unit/burns_prevention/

I think that sank in although with kids you never know. I’d swear they have what my grandfather used to call “good forgettery” before his Alzheimer’s set in.

So after that very lengthy preamble, here is the recipe for ANZAC Biscuits. When we made it today, it produced a chewy, rather than crunchy biscuit and it was truly delicious!

Xx Ro

ANZAC Biscuits

Ingredients

2 cups rolled oats

1 cup plain flour

2/3 cup castor sugar

¾ cup coconut

1/3 cup Golden Syrup (5.5 metric tablespoons- easier to measure!!)

125g butter

1 teas bicarb soda

2 tablespoons hot water.

 

Directions

1)      Preheat oven to 160° C (325° F)

2)      Place the oats, flour, sugar and coconut in a medium-sized bowl and mix together with a large wooden or stirring spoon (ie not fingers!!!)

3)      Take a small to medium saucepan. Measure out golden syrup using either a cup of measuring spoons. I actually have a series of cup measures and that’s ideal for measuring out the golden syrup. Being so thick and sticky, it’s not the easiest to measure out. Add butter. We always buy the 250g packets of butter for cooking and I have noticed that even when the kids do a relatively simple thing like cutting the butter in half, they usually push the knife through at a not insignificant angle which can significantly alter the quantity of butter. Of course, you can take more of a laissez-faire approach with the kids and have fun and it doesn’t matter how it turns out but that’s not teaching your kids how to cook. I do quite a lot of ad hoc cooking myself and rarely follow a recipe to a T but I have enough experience and instinct to be able to cook by feel. I generally know what the mixture is supposed to look like despite what the recipe says and will jiggle ingredients around until it looks right. That sounds like I am contradicting myself but it does make sense.

4)      Place saucepan on the hotplate at a medium to high heat stirring occasionally. It doesn’t need to be watched closely but don’t walk away either. Depending on the age and capabilities of your kids, decide yourself whether to let them manage the hot aspects of the recipe.

5)      While the butter and golden syrup are melting, you need to prepare the bicarb soda and water mix, which is what enables the biscuits to rise and I’ve always felt the way the melted butter and golden syrup mix rushes up like a volcano provides great entertainment. I remember my Mum introducing me to this mystery as a kid and I was in awe. It was absolutely fabulous.

6)      Remove golden syrup and butter mix from the stove. Have the bowl of dry ingredients nearby and add the bi-carb soda and add water mix to the saucepan. This can really froth up and get quite excited so you might have to move quickly to avoid spills. This is a job for big hands or kids aged 12+ considering the hot, sugary fat involved.

7)      Mix well. You might need to add extra butter to get the ingredients to mix together well. You don’t want the biscuits to be too greasy but the mixture also needs to hold together well without crumbling. We ended up grabbing handfuls of mixture and squishing it together a few times to shape flattened balls which stayed together. I don’t think I’ve had to do that with recipes I’ve made in the past but they had been more of a crunchy consistency where these biscuits were more chewy.

8)      Cover a metal biscuit tray in non-stick baking paper. In the past I’ve placed spoonfuls of mixture onto the tray but with this recipe, I needed to squish the mixture together a bit for it to hold together. You need to leave a bit of space between each biscuit to allow for expansion.

9)      Bake for 8-10 mins or until golden. Remove from oven. Leave on tray to cool down for 5 minutes then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Simple and scrumptious and we can remember our fallen heroes as well!

Love & Blessings,

Ro xxoo

Mixing.

Mixing.

 

 

My two little mini chefs.

My two little mini chefs.

Irish Soda Bread

Just to recap, I made this bread for the first time last night as part of our Irish Night to celebrate the arrival of my Great Great Great something Grandfather John Curtin in Australia  160 years ago.

I’ve never tried authentic Irish Soda Bread so I have no idea what it’s supposed to be like. Unfortunately when I made this for our special Irish celebration last night, I was rushing to get the pavlova into the oven and as a result neither were cooked properly. When I sliced into the bread, it was still raw in the middle and because the pavlova was now cooking in a very slow oven, I had to use the microwave to finish the job off and nuked it for 5 minutes. No doubt, I would have been tried for murder in Ireland for committing such a crime but the bread seemed to recover and went well with our Irish stew. The family all enjoyed it whether it was authentic or not.

I should have been a bit more cautious about making this bread. The recipe came with all sorts of warnings and tricks and making it on the run while juggling the oven to get the pavlova baked before midnight, wasn’t a good idea. Moreover, when you are making something that is a tradition, you are stepping onto hallowed turf and you need to do it justice or at the very least show a little respect.

Obviously, I failed.

Moreover, I must confess that the loaf of bread featured in the photo above was actually my second attempt. You can see the original down below looking rather sorry for itself.

My quasi Irish Apprentice.

My quasi Irish Apprentice.

My other mistake was recruiting my 8 year old daughter to help make it. This recipe called for a very light touch and if you check my previous post about the kids making pizza, they love getting their hands into dough, coating their hands with the stuff and using it as play doh. I kept telling mix not to mangle it but she couldn’t resist.

I have to say that it is much easier just to buy a loaf of bread at the supermarket and with all those great advances in technology, it even comes sliced. If you really must bake your own bread, bread makers are wonderful machines. I just chuck everything in mine and it turns out a perfect loaf every time.

However, neither of these options are authentically Irish and I wanted to cook  the real deal. Have an authentic Irish meal albeit in Australia.

Although I haven’t tried the real thing, I did a Google search and found what looked like a fairly authentic recipe which had quite a preamble initiating the uninitiated into the fine art or is that complications of making the real deal. All these warnings and specifications did make me feel rather wary about taking on the great Irish Soda Bread challenge. There seemed to be so many things to go wrong and this dough really does seem very fussy and demanding compared to throwing everything into the breadmaker or simply buying a loaf of bread at the supermarket. But there’s nothing like making your own bread and wanting to have an authentic Irish night, I had to have a go.

There are a few things to watch out for:

1)      Irish flour is soft and low in gluten so the bread will have a different consistency when other flours are used.. If you can’t get Irish flour, use unbleached flour or Plain Flour. Do not use bread flour. It is very high in gluten and simply will not work in bread which do not use yeast.

2)      No kneading and only use a light touch to mix the dough ie use your fingers rather than your full hand to mix the dough.

3)      Work fast and get the dough into a hot oven the minute the dough is shaped. The reaction between the bi-carb and the buttermilk starts as soon as the two ingredients meet and you want that happening while the bread is cooking. Wait too long, and your bread won’t rise

 

DSC_9754

This was my first attempt at the Irish Soda Bread which you could describe as a very “rustic” attempt.

Irish Soda Bread

Ingredients

4 cups Irish white flour or plain flour

½ teas Bicarb soda

½ teas Salt

2 cups unhomogenised Buttermilk

Directions

  1. Pre-heat oven to 230 degrees C . Wait until the oven is hot before you add the bread.
  2. Grease oven tray and have it ready to go.
  3. Sift flour, bicarb soda and salt into a large bowl and mix.
  4. Make a well in the centre of the flour and add the milk. Quickly and with a light touch bring the flour in from the sides and mix with the milk, until all the ingredients come together into a dough. I initially used a knife to mix the milk into the dough and once it had formed some kind of ball, used my fingers. I didn’t really feel like getting my fingers wet.
  5. It is impossible to be exact about the amount of buttermilk needed, it will depend on the nature of the flour. The dough should not be sticky and should come together into one lump of of soft, slightly floppy dough. Keep adding flour until you get the consistency right.
  6. Once the dough had come together, do not knead it. Simply place it on a floured board and rub flour into your hands so they are perfectly dry and shape the dough into a flat round which is about 5 cm thick.
  7. Place on a baking tray. Dust the handle of a wooden spoon with flour and press into the dough to form a cross. This gives the bread its tradition cross-shape and also helps the bread to cook through more easily. I have also read that this lets the fairies out of the dough. This process should only take 5 minutes and you need to get the bread in the oven immediately. Quick. On your marks. Get set! Go!
  8. Set timer for 5 minutes. Turn the oven down to 200 degrees C.  The initial high temperature ensures a good crust. Set timer for a further 20 minutes and take the bread out and knock on the bottom. If it sounds hollow, it’s done. If not, pop it back in the oven for a further 5-10 minutes and check again. Mine sounded hollow but my sense of pitch must have been out and it was still raw in the middle. Worked better the second time round.
  9. This bread should be eaten on the day that it’s made. The next day it resembles something of a brick which could indeed inflict grievous bodily harm but did resuscitate to make good toast. I had a slice of it as toast with Vegemite on it this morning just to put my Australian stamp on the stuff. The leprechauns would be shaking in their boots.

I made the Irish Soda Bread again tonight and this time resisted calls for pavlova for dessert. I also made it myself without intervention from the kids. This time it was cooked right through and also looked more like the real thing with a proper cross through the middle. We all really enjoyed it and I can see it making regular appearances at our place all the way Down Under.

xx Rowena

 

Irish Soda Bread with Vegemite.

Irish Soda Bread with Vegemite.