Tag Archives: recipes

Recipe: Aussie Pumpkin Soup.

It’s Winter here in Sydney and warm Pumpkin Soup is almost as Australian as Vegemite, Pavlova and Hugh Jackman. According to Australian Masterchef host, Matt Preston, Pumpkin is the most common type of soup Googled online. Preston has also found that our love affair with Pumpkin Soup, is uniquely Australian:

“As a nation we are rather unique in our love of pumpkin soup. The French cook it but it doesn’t feature as prominently in their kitchens as a bouillabaisse or a bisque. Americans do it too, but the soup is a poor cousin to the far more popular pumpkin pie. And the Korean hobakjuk is as much pumpkin porridge as soup.”

Before we proceed to the recipe, I have found it necessary to clarify what I’m actually calling “pumpkin”. Apparently, pumpkin by any other name does taste the same, but I’ve also found out that what is referred to as “pumpkin” in different parts of the world, isn’t what we Australians know as “pumpkin”.

Indeed, the butternut pumpkin I’ve used, is known as “squash” or “butternut squash” in other parts of the world.

However, to be sure to be sure to be sure, if whatever you call it comes in a tin, forget it. It’s not going to kill you to make this from scratch and some supermarkets do sell pumpkin pre-peeled and sliced so you can cheat without spoiling the soup.

This recipe is based on on a recipe by Margaret Fulton, who helped launch my cooking journey as a child. In 1968, she launched her first cookbook: Margaret Fulton’s Cookbook,  and it revolutionized Australian cooking. Along with the Australian Women’s Weekly Cookbook, these were cooking Bibles in Australian homes and still are in many today.

Pumpkin soup after school

Our whole family loves this Pumpkin Soup and it literally evaporated off the plates . Indeed, it’s spoon licking good!

Pumpkin Soup

Thanks to the butternut pumpkin/squash, this soup has a deliciously sweet flavour and creamy smooth texture. Yum!

Ingredients

90g butter

4.5 cups butternut pumpkin/squash…peeled and diced

A sprinkling of salt.

½ chopped onion (one smallish onion)

2 cups water

3 tablespoons plain flour

1 cup milk

1 egg yolk

Optional Serving Ingredients:

Sour cream

Chives

Bread.

Cracked pepper

Directions

  • In a large, heavy frying pan, melt half of the butter (45g) on high heat.
  • Add diced pumpkin and onion, turning constantly.
  • Fry for about 10 minutes, or until the pumpkin has started to caramelise.
  • Add water.
  • Reduce to medium heat and simmer until pumpkin is very tender and falling apart.
  • Remove from heat and cool for 15 minutes. This produces a finer texture.
  • You need to puree this pumpkin mix. I usually do it in the blender, but this is quite messy and my ancient blender struggles a bit. A friend recommended using a stick blender, which would cut out a lot of mess and encourage me to make it more often. However you blend it, the texture needs to be very fine and creamy.
  • Melt butter in frying pan. If you have pureed the pumpkin mix in the frying pan, you will need to do this a separate, small frying pan.
  • Add flour to the melted butter and stir together.
  • Add a small amount of pumpkin soup to flour and melted butter and mix well, gradually adding the rest. Stir rigorously to prevent lumps from forming. Blend again if lumps develop.
  • Simmer on low heat for 20 minutes.
  • Just before serving, combine egg yolk with a little of the pumpkin soup and then mix that in with the rest of the soup.
  • Serves four.
Floured Lady

The dogs are my ever-faithful companions whenever I cook. Sometimes, however, they can get caught in the cross-flour. 

Serving Recommendations

Pumpkin Soup is usually served with a dollop of sour cream and a sprinkling of chopped chives. I usually chop the chives with a pair of scissors over the top of the soup.

Bread is a natural accompaniment to Pumpkin Soup. It is often served with a crusty bread roll and butter. However, yesterday I diced up a day old baguette, and fried the pieces in a mix of melted butter and olive oil in the frying pan. These were scrumptiously delicious, even if they were a little naughty. Watch the bread closely as it can burn easily.

A word of encouragement. In my experience, it is hard to get this wrong.

That is, as long as you don’t heed the cardinal rule of cooking. Never turn your back on a hot stove.

Bon Appetit!

xx Rowena

5th June, 2017.

Challenged By My Mini Chef.

Our kids are currently on school holidays and yesterday, my 10 year old daughter issued me with a “Mystery Box Challenge”.

A what?

If you haven’t been watching Masterchef, a Mystery Box Challenge involves mixing what can seem a very erroneous combination of ingredients, into more than a “concoction” or worse still, a “mixture”. Speaking of mixtures, my kids have been very good at wasting swags of ingredients making mixtures over the years so I’m not so keen on mixtures!

Yet, there was that excitement in her voice and before I knew it, she’d lured me in. I have to admit I was more than a little curious about whether we could take any four ingredients and make something worth eating…or not?

Amelia & Lady

Our daughter with our dog, Lady  who is a keen consumer of just about any food-like substance.

At the same time, all that really mattered was her smile, spending time together and knitting memories together into some kind of never-ending spangled scarf.

With all of that at stake, who cares whether ingredients get wasted, frying pans and saucepans BURN or even if the kitchen goes up in flames…just as long as nobody gets hurt?!!

Getting back to the challenge, it appears Miss has the whole thing sorted and I’m told that we each get a mystery box containing four ingredients, an open pantry and we decided to leave our staples in the fridge. By the way, if you’re thinking that “staples” are those  metal things you push through paper, you’d be wrong. These are your cooking staples such as eggs, milk, flour and butter.

So, the adventure begins with selecting the four ingredients for my daughter’s Mystery Box. When it came to choosing these ingredients, I decided to be kind. She is an incredibly picky eater and is the incarnation of the Princess and The Pea. So, I gave her a Granny Smith apple, toasted muesli and honey. I half expected her to mix it with Greek yogurt to make what she calls a parfait, which she’d made a few times before.

However, she had other plans…

She sliced the apple and fried it up in melted butter and brown sugar. This turned out really well and was a real success. She served it up with some fresh basil, which went surprisingly well with it.  From there, however, she went a little overboard and used way too many ingredients and couldn’t seem to decide whether her dish was savory or sweet. She fried up some corn and peas with the muesli, which wasn’t too bad but while she was plating up, she added a few spears of tinned asparagus. These really clashed with the rest of the dish.

While this plate is already sounding rather overloaded, wait! There’s more!

She also served her dish up with a cup with a pouring sauce, which, just let me say wasn’t the best element of her dish. I can’t quite remember what was in it but there was chocolate topping, Mixed Spice and Golden Syrup and I did actually try it on the food. I might not earn full marks as a Mum, but I do try!

DSC_1867

My Daughter’s Dish…loved her presentation with that sprinkling of shredded coconut and her use of colour! I remember hearing something about “rainbow colours”.

Besides, I know just how sensitive cooks can get about their creations and that it’s best not to be too blunt when things don’t work out.

Overall, she did really well although she’s gone away to my parents’ for the weekend leaving me with a stack of dirty pots and pans…some of which, are looking rather caramelised!

I might also mention that as Madam was plating up, she burned her fried cheese. Moreover, in her haste as those last seconds were running out, she threw it out of the pan and straight onto the blazing hot plate. Immediately, the cheese started smoking and nearly caught fire. Master Mum to the rescue once again!

Meanwhile, Miss had given me my Mystery Box. She wasn’t so kind with her selection of ingredients. She gave me a tin of sardines, a tin of tuna, a packet of Grain Waves (chips) and salt.

I decided to make a Tuna Mornay and this was going to be dinner. However, my husband can’t stand “cat food” and so rather than trying to make the tuna the “hero of the dish”, I needed to hide it. That’s the opposite of what they do in the Masterchef Kitchen. I guess this could, therefore, mean casting the tuna as “the villain”. I immediately fry an onion and once it’s browned, add the tuna. Added some left over chick peas from the fridge, cream and grated cheese. I’m trying to think of ways of transforming tuna mornay into something inventive, tasty. In other words, how to turn it into something else. I add about a handful of sliced macadamia nuts for some crunch (Masterchef is huge on crunch!!) and would’ve liked to add some lemon juice and thyme but we were out. Added dried Rosemary instead, longing for that very well-stocked Masterchef pantry!! After adding an egg and more cheese somewhere along the way, I coated the patty in the crushed grain waves and grated cheese and turned up the heat. I wanted to turn it crunchy. Broke it up into smaller patty sizes and thinking of sang choy bow, decided to serve in up in lettuce leaves.

Presentation isn’t my strength but I felt compelled to go to some effort to get into the spirit of things, especially as my daughter was making a few comments about it not looking “very Masterchef”. After crunchifying my patties, I served them up on lettuce leaves with a splattering of diced Granny Smith apple for tartness and a few slices of tomato and a drizzling of French dressing.

DSC_1866

Not your average Tuna Mornay…My Dish.

After adding all of that camouflage, I successfully managed to de-heroify the tuna to my husband’s liking and I was pleased with my dish…what ever it was in the end.

Getting back to the sardines…as much as I was tempted to drape a few sardines over the top of my dish and forcing my daughter to eat them, I decided not to buy into her trickery. Instead, I fed them to the dogs. After all, I’d bought them for Bilbo after his coat was moth-eaten and mauled from a severe flea allergy. As much as my daughter might have wanted to disgust me with this addition to the mystery box, eating sardines was just taking things too far!

Of course, no home Mini Chef Challenge is complete without photographic coverage. With my camera out in the boot, dashed out to the car towards the end of the cook, which my daughter decreed “wasn’t very Masterchef”! I don’t think she was very impressed. However, my dish was finished well before the hour was up and I couldn’t possibly have a Minichef Mystery Box Challenge and NOT photograph it! This is one of those Kodak unforgettable moments!

I have always found such meaning in cooking/baking for those I love but there’s also something truly beautiful in cooking with them as well…mixing a good dose of love into whatever your making, which has to be the ultimate secret ingredient!

Have you done any family cooking or baking lately? How did it go? Any mini of Master Chefs?

Hope you’ve had a great week!

xx Rowena

 

The Brexit… Britain’s Latest Biscuit!

New from UK Biscuit manufacturer McDunk’s comes :”The Brexit”. The Brexit is a plain biscuit designed for biscuit lovers with a less sophisticated palate, who are sick of  Nice and having their biscuits sugar-coated.

Designed to be dunked in either tea or coffee, the Brexit can also be pulverized to make that most English of desserts, Apple Crumble and is versatile enough to use for crumbing meat and makes a flavoursome stuffing for roast chicken.

DSC_1406

The Brexit is perfect for dunking in tea.

Since leaving the EU, the British Government has banned all foreign biscuit imports and Britons have been asked to do their bit to salvage the national economy by buying Brexits. Indeed, they’ve been implored to eat Brexits for breakfast, lunch and dinner and the Prime Minister has engaged Master Chef Heston Blumenthal from the famed Fat Duck Restaurant to produce a cookbook to teach the British public creative ways of cooking with Brexits.

DSC_1410

So popular….the Brexit is gone in a flash!

In recent polls, the majority of Britons voted for the Brexit as Britain’s favourite biscuit, although the Scottish voted overwhelmingly against. They like their oats.

So Britain, enjoy your Brexit but be careful while your dunking it, to ensure that it doesn’t fall in! You wouldn’t want it to drown, would you?!!

Do you have any views on Britain’s exit from the EU? I haven’t been following the debate but I’m certainly interested in the aftermath and am looking to buy a few things from the UK while the exchange rate is good. I’d be interested to hear your thoughts and get a bit of discussion going. 

xx Rowena

 

Desperately Seeking “Curley”…Our Tasmanian Cornish Pasty.

Pasty rolled out like a plate,
Piled with “turmut, tates and mate.”
Doubled up, and baked like fate,
That’s a “Cornish Pasty.”
(An old rhyme originating around Breage, Cornwell)

What with all the discussion on Masterchef about recreating your childhood memories on the plate, my thoughts crossed Bass Strait venturing into the Apple Isle where my husband grew up eating Cornish Pasties. Geoff used to buy Cornish Pasties at the school canteen where they were affectionately known as “Curlies”. He loves Cornish Pasties and as much as he loves the taste, they also evoke memories of lush green, rolling hills and being back home on the farm with Mum and Dad.

Mulberry Cottage cropped

Geoff’s Childhood Home.

 

Whenever we’ve gone back to Tasmania, we’ve had to stop off at Poole’s Milk bar in his home town of Scottsdale to buy Cornish Pasties, including a stash to take home. As much as we’ve tried to find a local equivalent, nothing has ever matched up. They weren’t “the same”.

Knowing how much Geoff loves Cornish Pasties, I thought I should try making them. Looking for inspiration,  I Googled Poole’s Milk Bar last night. It wasn’t good news. Unfortunately, it has closed down and the building is up for sale. So, it seems that the great, inimitable Curley has joined the ranks of the  Tasmanian Tiger in reported extinction. Perhaps, like reported sightings of the tiger, it’s still out there somewhere but it’s going to be hard to track down, particularly from “the mainland”.

This now leaves me trying to recreate what my husband knows as the Cornish Pasty without really knowing what it was like. Hedging my debts, I’ve opted to make the traditional Cornish Pasty. Scottsdale was a very traditional, country farming area settled in part by Cornish immigrants. Indeed, Geoff’s grandmother was descended from Francis French from Pelynt, Cornwall who arrived in Hobart Town  on the 23 August 1831.

Also, when we’re talking about my husband’s childhood, we’re winding back the clock 40 years and food was very different then.

geoff-6 and terry-22 feb 73

Geoff left with his BIG Brother.

So, after checking out a few recipes, I found a recipe put out by the Cornish Pasty Association, which you can check out here: Traditional Cornish Pasty Recipe

Trying to replicate a traditional recipe poses its own challenges.  While I’m creative and inventive, the skill here lies in replicating the original in the same way a concert pianist reproduces Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata and doesn’t fuse it with chop sticks, their own composition or even Fur Elise. This means easing yourself inside Beethoven’s skin and reproducing his work with as much heart, empathy and sensitivity as you can muster. Otherwise, you can go write your own piece of music and call it what you like.It’s the same with the Cornish Pasty. You replicate the original in all its glory, or you call it something else.

However, replicating a traditional dish, is not without its challenges. Just like I can feel baffled by unknown “modern” or exotic ingredients, with the traditional Cornish Pasty, I am feeling equally bamboozled by the old. The pasty calls for dripping, which I haven’t seen since I was a kid. It also uses a Swede. I have used Swedes once before but they’re what I’d call “cow food” or at best “old school”, which I guess is part and parcel of recreating a traditional dish.

Making the pasty seems straight forward enough and the recipe comes with good, detailed instructions suited to the uninitiated or “virgin” Cornish Pasty maker. I appreciate this because too many recipes assume too much, preempting your inevitable “disaster”.

Yet, there’s one part that has me quietly shaking in my boots and that’s making the curly top.  Apparently, “a good hand crimp is usually a sign of a good handmade pasty.”

Note that it says “good hand crimp”, not slap-dash, sloppy or completely messed up. Knowing my luck, my “curley” will end up with straight hair looking in need of a perm!

However, what am I thinking expecting perfection on my first attempt? It takes practice to make perfect and indeed, it’s almost arrogant to think I could produce a professional quality Cornish Pasty on my first attempt… especially as a novice! I need to stop expecting too much of myself.

It’s okay to make mistakes and certainly not the end of the world.

Oh dear! While I’ve been writing about making my Cornish Pasties, time’s completely runaway from me. The pastry needs to rest for 3 hours and the pasties take around 50 minutes to cook and then dashing off for school pick-up before I can even think of getting started. . This means I need to run or these pasties will be a midnight snack and we’ll have no dinner.
head scarf ro

Heading out incognito to buy dripping, swedes and skirt steak.

This leaves me heading out to the shops looking for dripping, skirt steak and swedes. I might need to find myself a huge pair of sunglasses. After all, there’s retro and there’s retro… Soon, I’ll be wearing a scarf!

Have you even made Cornish Pasties or have any memories of them? Have you been to Cornwell and tried the real deal? I’d love to hear your tales.
xx Rowena
PS I’ll be back to report on the results.

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 Laur…

Source: Anzac Biscuits- An ANZAC Day Tradition

Shark-Eaten Sponge Cake.

What have you done to my sponge cake?

Fortunately, Mum’s still alive and well and she’s well and truly used to people hacking into her not-so-precious sponge cake with whatever knife they can get their thieving hands on and sawing off a chunk before it’s even had a chance to cool down.

Baking with Mister back in 2007, aged 3.

Baking with Mister back in 2007, aged 3.

As you might suspect from this hack-sawed photo, our family eats this sponge cake in sawn off chunks straight out of the tin, although for more formal occasions, it gets smothered in passion fruit icing and filling with whipped cream. Another options is topping the sponge with strawberries and cream.

Yum! A sawn-off slab of sponge.

Yum! A sawn-off slab of sponge.

However, don’t let its hack-sawed, shark-eaten appearance deter you from trying this sponge cake, which take it from me, is the very best sponge cake you will ever find and it’s like no other sponge I’ve ever found.

That’s because like most family recipes, there’s those secret ingredients. That special way of putting those same old ingredients together which produces something incredible. The “thing” which the family talks about for generations, lamenting how no one else can get it right.

Too good to waste.

Too good to waste.

This sponge cake has very auspicious origins. It is based on the recipe which used to appear on the box of Fielder’s Cornflour.I’m sure this recipe was originally referred to as Val’s Sponge Cake on the box and we had a family friend Val who used to make sponge cakes for the Royal Brisbane Show. They had a dairy out at Marburg West of Brisbane and I remember visiting their place as a kid. The table also sank under the weight of the cakes! I thought I’d died and gone to heaven.

Judging Sponge Cakes 1948.

Judging Sponge Cakes 1948.

Somewhere along the way, however, I think Mum adapted Val’s sponge cake and added a little bit of warmed milk and melted butter and this little addition makes a huge difference to the cake. It is incredible and really don’t need any toppings at all.

So, without any further ado, here’s Mum’s Sponge Cake Recipe:

6 eggs
8 oz Castor Sugar (1 cup + 2 tablespoons)
2 Tblsp Plain Flour
1 cup cornflour + 1 tablespoon
2 Teas Aunty Mary’s Baking Powder
4 Tablespoons Milk
3 Teas Butter

Method

1. Heat oven to 380 degrees Fahrenheit or 170 degrees Celsius fan-forced oven and grease lamington cake tin or two standard 20cm round cake tins.

2. Separate eggs and beat egg whites until thick and then add castor sugar.

3. When sugar is dissolved, beat in egg yolks. Continue beating until thick and frothy.

4. Add triple sifted flour, cornflour and baking powder. Fold into mixture with a large spoon.

5. Heat milk and butter in the microwave for 1 minute. Gently add to mix. Do not add all at once as mixture must not be too “runny”.

6. Pour into greased lamington cake tin and cook for approximately 20 minutes and carefully remove from cake tin immediately.

Serve with passionfruit icing or strawberries and whipped cream. Add a tablespoon of sifted icing sugar and a teaspoon of vanilla for an authentic “country” cream.

Tastes Great Mate (That’s Australian for Bon Appetit!)

xx Rowena

PS: I should point out that when I tipped the sponge out of the tin, it stuck to the wire rack. It might have needed just that extra minute longer but the cake was beautifully moist and tasted superb!

PPS: If you read back to my post about making Mum’s Creme Caramel, you can understand why I was concerned about things getting stuck! Here’s The Queen Caramel Queen: https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/2015/09/21/the-creme-caramel-queen/

Lemon Meringue Mountain

You don’t climb mountains without a team, you don’t climb mountains without being fit, you don’t climb mountains without being prepared and you don’t climb mountains without balancing the risks and rewards. And you never climb a mountain on accident – it has to be intentional.
-Mark Udall (US Politician)

You could say, that attempting to make Lemon Meringue Pie with two kids was overly ambitious and verging on insanity.It’s the sort of project, like climbing Everest, where you call for professional reinforcements and are very well prepared. You could well also consult the Great Google Guru for a few “chef’s tips” to create that perfect lemon meringue mountain. It’s not the sort of project where you bring in the rookies..despite their oozing enthusiasm and willingness to help!

There is a sacred horror about everything grand. It is easy to admire mediocrity and hills; but whatever is too lofty, a genius as well as a mountain, an assembly as well as a masterpiece, seen too near, is appalling.
-Victor Hugo

However, as a parent, if you always waited until conditions were just right and absolutely perfect, you’d never even get out the front door. I know some parents actually manage to pull off the whole perfect life routine (Pewk!) but most of us are simply bumbling along and patching up the mess as we go.

Thieving fingers!

Thieving fingers!

We even become accustomed to disasters.

Indeed, we expect it.

Yet, rather than being negative or self-defeatist, forewarned is fore-armed. Indeed, armed with all sorts of cleaning and patch-up products, we are prepared…at least, some of the time!!

More Thieving Little Fingers.

More Thieving Little Fingers.

Anyway, many years ago, I was renowned for my Lemon Meringue Pies but I’ve never made them for our family. No doubt for obvious reasons. There are many much less demanding recipes out there it is pretty challenging with plenty of pitfalls…especially trying to make it with kids either under foot or even just “trying” to help!

“Despite all I have seen and experienced, I still get the same simple thrill out of glimpsing a tiny patch of snow in a high mountain gully and feel the same urge to climb towards it.”
-Edmund Hillary

Lemon Meringue Pie not only looks like a snow-capped mountain peak, pulling this showy dessert off is indeed like climbing a mountain. There’s making the pastry and trying to get that perfect consistency but not only that being able to roll the stuff out and actually roll it out well and manage to tranfer it from the bench into the pie plate without it flopping off the rolling pin (no wonder the dogs were parked at my feet. They knew!!). Then, there was making the lemon filling on the stove.This could well get lumpy and the filling needs to have that lemon tang without being overly sour. I was a bit concerned that my lemons were smaller than average so added an extra one to hedge my bets. When it came to making the meringue, I had two kids assisting and a mixmaster under attack. Those little thieving fingers couldn’t keep out of all that sticky white goop…bees to a honeypot!

Why I ever considered making my Lemon Meringue Pie come back baking with the kids, I’ll never know. Actually, yes I do. It was because I wanted them to share in the memories. That  I wanted to share what felt like a very important part of me…one of my very special signature dish. I made my grandparents a Lemon Meringue Pie when my Aunty Lyn died suddenly aged 36 and for some reason, I felt that it would make a difference and somehow it did. For the rest of her life, my grandmother spoke about “that pie”. Sure, she loved the pie but in retrospect, it was the thought…the way it reflected my love for all my family who were grieving…which meant the world to her.

Only when you drink from the river
of silence shall you indeed sing.
And when you have reached the mountain top,
then you shall begin to climb.
And when the earth shall claim your limbs,
then shall you truly dance.
-Khalil Gibran

On Sunday, with my bag full of lemons still stuffed inside the over-crowded fridge, I bit the bullet. We were having Lemon Meringue Pie for dessert. The kids were both very excited. “Mummy’s making Lemon Meringue Pie”. (you can translate this “excitement” into little peoples running haphazardly around the kitchen getting underfoot and in the way!!) With it’s impressive mountain of meringue it is a striking dessert and they thought I was exceptionally clever for being able to make it. They had such faith!

However, I wasn’t quite so sure. It’s been a long time since I’d last made it and I couldn’t find my old recipe and wasn’t feel sure about anything.

A friend who is far away is sometimes much nearer than one who is at hand. Is not the mountain far more awe-inspiring and more clearly visible to one passing through the valley than to those who inhabit the mountain?
-Khalil Gibran

Of course, the fact that the TV Masterchef series has just launched off again, didn’t help. The show totally raised my unrealistic expectations to all sorts of lofty heights. I was no longer Rowena making humble pie with all the distractions, interruptions and chaos of a home kitchen. No, I was indeed, a French-trained Masterchef managing my ingredients and meticulously moving towards perfection: Bon Appetit.

Well, as they say practice makes perfect.

Practice and more practice.

Indeed, something like 10,000 hours of practice.

That’s a lot of Lemon Meringue Pies.

Miss added that extra special touch swirling around the lemon butter filling. Quite the professional in the making!

Miss added that extra special touch swirling around the lemon butter filling. Quite the professional in the making!

Anyway, after doing battle with the kids, the mixmaster and myself, I have expanded upon my “Kitchen Rules & Principles”

1) Check ingredients before getting started. This wasn’t such a problem this time but Geoff has had to go on mercy dashes to the supermarket for missing\, essentiasl igredients in the not-so-distant past.

2) Chefs have this great term “mise en place”, which basically means having everything set up before you get started.

3) Ingredients only in the mixmaster. Fingers, spoons, spatulas or any other kind of implement are banned from the bowl and mixture while the beaters are moving.

4) The pastry and meringue are not play doh. They do not like being touched and overworked.

5) Keep your thieving fingers off the meringue. This applies to both cooked and uncooked meringue.

Anyway, Miss had great delight piling the meringue up on top of the pie and calling it Mt Kosciusko, which is Australia’s tallest “mountain”. To be honest, there was a  bit too much delight and she would’ve been playing with the meringue for hours if I hadn’t stepped in.In case you weren’t aware, meringue doesn’t like a lot of handling.

It is not the mountain we conquer but ourselves.
-Edmund Hillary

Miss applying the snowy mountain.

Miss applying the snowy mountain.

I was pretty pleased with the end result but am going to have a few more practice attempts and fiddle with the recipe a bit before I post it. After all, there is nothing humble about the gracious Lemon Meringue Pie.

Miss building her meringue mountain.

Miss building her meringue mountain.

That is until little fingers start pinching bits of the meringue and the snow appears to be melting only in this instance, it’s patches of yellow which are peering through the gaps instead of green.

Decapitated...the mixmaster was looking terminal until Geoff wove his magic.

Decapitated…the mixmaster was looking terminal until Geoff wove his magic.

By the way, I almost forgot to mention that we had a near fatality during the baking process. Probably on account of my poor instructions, Mister pressed the wrong lever and the mixmaster came off its base and then the clip came off and fell inside the stand and later proved to have snapped. We hate needless waste and at the thought of having to throw a good mixmaster away because some clip broke, was unacceptable. Geoff took on yet another engineering “Mr Fix-It” Challenge. He disappeared off into the garage and returned with a clip he’d manipulated out of chunk of a metal hard disk. You can knock people for “keeping” all sort of bits and pieces for a rainy day but when they achieve a miracle like this, I can’t but be impressed.

Any memories or reflections? Would love to hear from you!

xx Rowena

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

 

Baked with Love: Our Aussie Christmas Cake.

To be perfectly honest, I’m not all that sure that I really like Christmas Cake. Being more of a death-by-chocolate chocoholic, I’d much rather some wickedly indulgent, melt-in-your-mouth, oozy rich chocolate cake. Indeed, I have been known to add the boiled up Christmas fruit to a chocolate cake mix, which was a fabulous alternative to tradition. Yet, like the Canadian salmon swimming upstream to their birthplace to reproduce, I keep returning to my mother’s Christmas cake recipe year after year and reproducing that.

To quote the great but “vintage” Professor Sumner Miller: Why is that so?

Why is it So? Professor Julius Sumner Miller

Well, while the end product might be a bit iffy, the mixture tastes sensational what with all that butter and brown sugar beaten together and that silky smooth divine sweetness when you beat in the eggs. Wow! It’s just the kind of thing that’s going to lure in little fingers, big fingers and if you’re not careful, the dog might even help themselves.

Mister supervising the mixing of the scrumptious brown sugar and butter. Yum!

Mister supervising the mixing of the scrumptious brown sugar and butter. Yum!

But delving into the deepest recesses of my memory, I’m remembering Christmases past when I also needed to stand up on a chair to reach the kitchen bench. My mother used to grease the empty butter wrappers to line the bottom of what is now a prehistoric cake tin. Of course, this shell of silver, Alzheimer’s-inducing aluminum knew nothing of Teflon surfaces and almost seemed designed to grip hold of your precious cake and rip it to bits. This was also in the days before easy-to-use baking paper when life was “Pure & Simple” or smears of greasy butter.

In the nature of family recipes, Mum’s Christmas cake recipe was originally known as “Deidre’s Christmas Cake”. Mum and Deidre went to Music College together and some 50 years later are still close friends and now grandmothers. Deirdre originally found the recipe in the Sydney Morning Herald. Mum has been baking this recipe most of my life and she’s renowned for her small servings of cake about the size of a matchbox. However, over the last couple of years, making the Christmas cake has become my job and I’ve made it with my kids who, of course, love the mixture, licking the beaters and being rough n’ tumble mini Masterchefs-in-training.

Howzat! Geoff gets the bowl...an act of true love and incredible sacrifice!!

Howzat! Geoff gets the bowl…an act of true love and incredible sacrifice!!

Like all good family recipes, there’s always a story to tell: the good, the bad and the ugly.

My story relates to last Christmas when the kids and I hastily made our Christmas Cake in the 3 days I had before I started chemo. While not one for catastrophising and melodrama, I was concerned that the cure might kill me, instead of the cause. With only 3 very short days to get my affairs in order, I frenetically did what I could and what was considered “essential”. For me, that meant having a proper Christmas and that meant baking the Christmas Cake, writing Christmas cards and writing about what was happening. In what was something of a funny, comic sub-plot, my daughter’s best friend who had been living in Poland for the last five years, suddenly arrived in Sydney on holidays during this waiting game before chemo. So my list of essentials also included play dates and baking the traditional Marble Cake with the girls. Miss was so excited to have her friend back and there was no way I was going to let chemo or my health get in the way of that but it was funny the sort of things you get up to while going through chemo. A time when you strangely expect the world to stand still until you’re ready to return to the real world, which, of course, never happens!!

I will blame the upcoming chemo for the “Great Christmas Cake Mistake” where I accidentally and haphazardly used Self-Raising Flour instead of Plain Flour. I didn’t know what this would mean at the time and didn’t think it would be too much of a problem. However, the end product was quite different to the usual Christmas cake. All the boiled fruit had sunk to the bottom and instead of the usually dense cake, which could well substitute a brick through a window, it was comparatively light with a top layer of cake. Rather than being a mistake, Mum and I both wondered whether it was an improvement.

Another thing I’ve discovered along the Christmas Cake journey, is that Christmas cakes are made to be eaten…especially in a hot Australian summer. After a conservative approach to consuming the cake, the weevils beat me to it and the much prized, home-made Christmas cake became bin fodder. I hate any kind of food waste but it was particularly painful throwing out my Christmas cake!

Of course, we all know that organised someone who bakes their Christmas Cake precisely 3 months before Christmas. The 25th September is circled and reserved in their calendar in bright red pen as: “Christmas Cake Day”. However, following in my mother’s footsteps, our cake was made 11 days before Christmas. Oops. I forgot. That was only the first part. There was a considerable amount of mixture left over which didn’t fit inside the pan and is now “maturing” inside my fridge. Made note to self to deal with that tomorrow. I’m very tempted to split it with Geoff and have it for dessert. We have family who eat pudding mix…aoll of the pudding mix instead of cooking it. Somehow, that seems very naughty and indulgent but I’ve enjoyed joining in and it tastes great!

When it came to making this year’s Christmas cake, time was running out and we had a lot on.So that meant baking the cake last Saturday  while Miss was at dance rehearsals and having a mother & son experience with Mister. He’s now becoming quite adept in the kitchen after all our efforts throughout the year.

Mister cuts the butter into "slices of bread".

Mister cuts the butter into “slices of bread”.

This went very well and Mister had great fun turning the slab of butter into “slices of bread” and well as sampling the mixture to ensure it hadn’t been poisoned.

There is something truly fabulous about baking with the kids and sharing that bond together…especially now that they’re not just doing their own thing and throwing ingredients into the mix master willy nilly. Stuffing up the recipe like this used to drive me absolutely wild…such waste! We’ve had a few accidents over the years not to mention experiments and “mixtures” appearing while I’ve been otherwise engaged. The worst took place just before Christmas in 2010 (aged 6 and 4) when the kids created Food-Colouring Soup in several, lurid rainbow colours. As you can see, this was splashed around the kitchen floor like a Rorshauge painting or the proverbial bomb going off.

The Kitchen Crisis...too much creativity and not enough respect.

The Kitchen Crisis…too much creativity and not enough respect.

How would you respond to this catastrophe?

How would you respond to this catastrophe?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You can just imagine my response. I rang Santa directly and told him not to come!!

I was also thankful that I hadn’t renovated the house at the time. The mess was heartbreakingly bad…widespread destruction!

However, as much as the mess, the accidents and deaf ears can drive me over the edge, cooking is certainly bonding our family together and makes excellent glue. We are now having quite a lot of fun together and the kids are learning very valuable and practical life skills and becoming independent.

So here it is:

A tried and tested tradition: pinching the mixture!

A tried and tested tradition: pinching the mixture!

Mum’s Christmas Cake

The cake is made in two stages. In stage one, the dried fruit is boiled in a saucepan and left to “mature” overnight. Stage 2, is the cake mix.

Boiling the Fruit: Ingredients

2 packed cups Sultanas

1 packed cup Raisins

1.5 cups Currants

1/2 packed cup Prunes – very finely chopped

1/4 cup Mixed Peel (I leave this out)

Finely grated rind 1 lemon & 1 orange

1/4 cup of each of orange & lemon juice

1/4 cup Sherry

1/4 cup Marsala

 Directions

Place the above ingredients in a large saucepan. Cover and cook on low heat stirring occasionally until the fruit is soft. Watch closely as the fruit mix can easily burn. Leave overnight.

Mixture:

210 grams of butter

1.5 cups packed brown sugar

5 eggs

1 lvl tablespoon Plum Jam

10 oz Plain Flour (1 cup + 2 tablespoons)

1/2 Teas Baking Powder

100g Glace Cherries halved

1 tablespoon cinnamon

Blanched Almonds or macadamia nuts

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven on to 150˚C .
  2. Using your mix master, cream butter and sugar in a large mixing bowl.
  3. Add eggs one at a time and then add jam.
  4. Sift dry ingredients and add to mix.
  5. Fold through fruit mix and add chopped glace cherries and blanched almonds or macadamia nuts.
  6. Grease tin and line with baking paper to prevent bottom from burning.
  7. Top cake with blanched almonds or macadamia nuts unless you intend to ice the cake.
  8. Cover cake with foil and check during cooking to prevent the top of cake from burning. Remove during cooking time.
  9. Bake in a slow oven at 150˚C for 3 hours.
  10. Splash a bit of sherry over the top of the hot cake.
  11. Cool in the tin.
  12. Nigella Lawson recommends: when the cake has cooled, wrap it tightly in a double layer of greaseproof paper or baking parchment (parchment paper) followed by a double layer of foil and then store it in an airtight container or tin in a cool place away from direct sunlight. Do not wrap the cake directly in foil as the fruit in the cake can react with the foil. If you are making the cake more than 3 months in advance then you will need to “feed” it occasionally to help it to stay moist. Feeding involves brushing the surface of the cake with a couple of tablespoons of alcohol (brandy, whisky or bourbon are the most popular choices). This is usually done after the cake has been baked, but if storing for a long period we would suggest unwrapping the cake and feeding it every 4 to 6 weeks then re-wrapping it after feeding. http://www.nigella.com/kitchen-queries/view/When-to-Make-Christmas-Cakes/270
  13. Store the Christmas cake in a cake tin, NOT a plastic container as it can go moldy.

Wishing you and yours a very Merry and Blessed Christmas and a wonderful New Year!!

Love Rowena, Geoff, Mister, Miss, Bilbo & Lady.

Lego Santa Loves Christmas Cake.

Lego Santa Loves Christmas Cake.

My Dysfunctional Orange Cake

You wouldn’t think that such a sweet, innocent-looking cupcake could cause so much trouble but it did!

A few weeks ago, the kids’ Cub Scout camp was called off and I was given a bag of oranges and I started having grandiose visions of Duck a l’orange which soon got knocked down to size and tonight I found myself baking a Quick-Mix Orange Cake from one of my Australian Women’s Weekly cookbooks. This is a very simple recipe. You just throw all the ingredients into the mix master at once and switch it on. Simple Simon. A cake so easy, the kids could make it without any intervention from me. That is, aside from grating the orange peel. When it comes to the kids, grating is a vicious activity which usually draws blood.

Anyway, being the very competent and capable multitasking sod that I’m not, I decided to make the orange cake while I was cooking dinner. While this might have been good time management or at least appeared that way ahead of time, I really struggle to do two things at once and added to the challenge, I was mentally doubling the mix and some of the maths can get a bit complicated. I was having trouble measuring out the butter…adding, subtracting. I had multiple packets of butter needed to double the amount. Tricky! I must have been tired.

What a waste of good mixture...Attack of the Killer Orange Cake Mix.

What a waste of good mixture…Attack of the Killer Orange Cake Mix.

Anyway, while I was attending to the gourmet pork and leek sausages or perhaps I was boiling the potatoes when a glob of mixture hit me in the forehead. I’d only turned my back on the mix master for a few instants and for some bizarre reason a only happened once in the history of all my baking event took place. The mixture had spiraled up the side of the bowl drawn by centrifugal force and kept spinning all over the kitchen bench, splattering across the microwave, all over the kitchen bench and even jumped across time and space to splatter down the tablecloth half a metre away. My Quick-Mix Cake had become some kind of feral bomb required extensive cleaning up and I mean extensive! I bet this never happened in the Australian Women’s Weekly Test Kitchen. Their recipes are triple-tested but they’ve never had to stand up to the likes of me before. I unwittingly manage to achieve the impossible.

I've heard about spreading your love around but this is taking things too far!

I’ve heard about spreading your love around but this is taking things too far!

I don’t need to tell you that it wasn’t all disappointment. Lady, our much beloved little black dog, appeared out of nowhere to assist with the clean-up. Now, I’ll have to clean-up after the cake and the cleaning squad. As much as I love the dogs, dog germs are another story.

Nothing was sacred. Even our dog Lady was splattered with cake mix frustratingly in places she couldn't lick it off. She also helped clean the table cloth. Hmm...that was taking her assistance too far. No for the disinfectant. We love our dogs but there are some limits!

Nothing was sacred. Even our dog Lady was splattered with cake mix frustratingly in places she couldn’t lick it off. She also helped clean the table cloth. Hmm…that was taking her assistance too far. No for the disinfectant. We love our dogs but there are some limits!

Even though this experience might not be the best endorsement for this recipe but it did taste great. I suspect I just mucked something up when I doubled the ingredients. This is the double-mix.

Enjoy!

xx Rowena

Quick-Mix Choc Orange Cupcakes – Based on The Australian Women’s Weekly

310g butter (250g packet + 60g)

4 teas finely grated orange rind (approx. 4 oranges)

11/3 cups castor sugar

6 eggs

2 cups Self Raising Flour

1/2 cup milk

Directions

1) Take butter out of the fridge about 30 minutes beforehand.

2) Take a 12 hole muffin tin and line it with muffin cases.

3) Turn oven on to moderately high around 180 degrees celsius.

4) Finely grate the rind of about 4 oranges. Be careful not to grate the yellow pith underneath as this is sour.

5) Sift flour.

6) Combine all ingredients in a large mixing bowl.

7) Turn your electric mix master onto low speed and mix until all the ingredients are combined. You don’t want to turn the speed up too fast too soon especially if the butter is still firm or your baking efforts will turn into a flying circus.

8) Increase the speed to medium and beat for about 3 minutes or until the mixture has changed colour and is nice and smooth.

9) Using a dessertspoon, dollop mixture into the muffin cases until they are about 3/4 full.

10) If you are not wanting to ice them, you can sprinkle chopped macadamia nuts over the top or some coconut.

11) Bake the muffins for about 15 minutes or until a skewer comes out clear.

12) Enjoy!

Chocolate Orange Icing

I decided to make chocolate icing as a special treat for the kids and added a few squeezes of orange juice. I hope they like it. You could well ask how I could go wrong with chocolate but you don’t know my kids!

90g milk or dark chocolate depending on your preference.

30g butter

1 cup of sifted icing sugar

a few squeezes of orange juice

a little hot water

Directions:

Making this icing is not a precise science.

1) Place the chocolate in a medium sized bowl and melt in the microwave for about a minute. My butter was so soft that it didn’t need to be melted but it can be melted in with the chocolate.

2) Sift icing sugar into the chocolate mix. Stir well making sure there aren’t any lumps. If it goes lumpy, smooth it was your hand mixer.

3) Add a few squeezes of orange juice. You can also do this while stirring in the icing sugar if the mix is too dry.

4) Add sufficient hot water to give the icing a firm, spreading consistency. You want it to stay put on top of the muffin without dribbling down the side.

That mixture spread like a shrapnel blast.

That mixture spread like a shrapnel blast.