Wednesday, December 29, 2010

{Chocolate & Almond Cake}

This is our christmas cake this year and you know what it made me think that I'm not sure that I like chocolate cake, is that even possible? I keep searching for the perfect one and not finding it, not that there is anything wrong with this one, its delicious, quite almondy and it won the gourmet farmer third place in the Bream Creek Show, its just not the chocolate cake I dream of, I will continue my search, not for me but for you.

...the cake

125g butter, softened
150g brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla essence
3 eggs
100g dark chocolate, melted
100g sour cream
2 tbsp cocoa
100g self-raising flour
125g almond meal

...the ganache
100mls cream
250g chocolate, broken into small bits

Preheat the oven to 170 and grease and line a 20cm springform cake tin or similar (small is good its not a huge cake).

Cream the butter and sugar with the vanilla. Beat in the eggs one at time. If the mix looks a bit curdled, don’t worry, stir in the melted chocolate, then the sour cream until just combined. Fold in the sifted cocoa and flour and then the almond meal. Scrape into the cake tin and smooth the top a bit. Bake for about 40 - 50 mins or until a skewer comes out clean. Coo in the tin for ten minutes then on a rack, once completely cool ice with ganache.

To make the ganache heat the cream in a small saucepan and when it comes to the boil, whisk in the chocolate, returning to the heat if necessary to melt it. Stir until the mixture is smooth. Allow to set just enough to be able to spread over the cake (this took over an hour on a hot melbourne night).

Tuesday, December 14, 2010


This is my version of tabouli, its really zesty with lots of lemon, and I love the fresh mint and parsley combo which in this case are extra delicious since they came from our vege patch, I just love walking out into the garden and picking big handfuls of herbs, this is such a yummy salad you can hardly believe its good for you, its super fast to make and it goes with everything, last night we had it with steak but its good with fish, lamb or chicken, I have some leftover for lunch and I can't wait, that's a pretty big call for a salad.

...the salad

1 cup fine bourghul wheat
juice of 2 lemons
3 spring onions, sliced
2 vine ripened tomatoes, diced
1 lebanese cucumber, peeled & diced
bunch of mint, chopped roughly
bunch of parsley, chopped roughly
3 tbsp olive oil

Pop the bourghul wheat into a sieve and run cold water over it, then leave it to sit for about an hour to plump up.

Once that's ready put it into a salad bowl and squeeze over the lemons, add the olive oil and a generous amount of s+p, stir then finish by adding in the tomatoes, cucumber, spring onions, mint and parsley, give it another stir to combine and serve.

Monday, December 13, 2010

{Coffee & Toffee Shortbreads}

These little sweeties are this years christmas biscuit, the second runner up in the christmas biscuit competition in my head being a cranberry orange shortbread, which is a bit more christmassy I know but they got pipped at the post by the idea of a melted toffee and coffee combo, the last few years I've made big batches of shortbreads to give away, its a bit of a tradition now and a good gift I reckon, hopefully appreciated more than the mass produced stuff that comes in a box with a snowman (appropriate, not) or a jolly santa on it. These come from my little kitchen and are made with love.

...the shortbreads
250g unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 cup icing sugar
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup toffee bits
(I used 2 packets of werthers originals, smashed with a rolling pin)
1 tablespoon granulated coffee powder
2 cups plain flour
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon sea salt

Beat the butter with a mixer on medium speed until creamy and smooth, about two minutes. Gradually add the icing sugar, beating again until smooth. Add the vanilla extract, toffee bits, coffee powder and mix until combined. Combine the flour, baking powder and salt and gradually add to the butter beating at a low speed until blended.

Form the dough into 2 logs, each about 4cm in diameter; roll & wrap in clingfilm, I made mine a bit square for something different, refrigerate for 1 hour (or up to 3 days). Preheat oven to 175. If frozen, let the logs stand at room temp for 10 minutes before removing clingwrap and slicing logs into 1cm thick rounds, space them a couple of cm's apart on baking tray lined with baking paper. 

Bake until pale golden, about 12 minutes. Remove the tray from oven and let the bickies sit on it for another couple of minutes before transferring to a rack to cool completely.

Monday, December 6, 2010

{Mustard Creme Fraiche Baked Chicken with Olive & Cucumber Salad}

This is a Nigel Slater recipe from the Guardian online (Hi Sam), his food is really beautiful, usually, don't get me wrong this tastes absolutely divine but its ugly, I don't even really want to show you the finished dish and Jay said encouragingly when I was snapping away "is it going on the blog is it?" it pays not to be shallow though because its really so yum and matched with the cucumber and olive salad, it is a perfect summer dinner for four.

...baked chicken
6 chicken thighs
250ml creme fraiche
2-3 heaped tbsp grain mustard
2 garlic cloves, crushed
150g pancetta or bacon in one piece
3 or 4 small sprigs thyme

Put the oven on at 200. Cut the thighs in half, trim and lay them single layer in an ovenproof dish. Combine the creme fraiche in a mixing bowl with the mustard, crushed garlic, a little salt and black pepper and thyme leaves.

Cut the pancetta into short, thick strips then fry in a non-stick pan until they are golden. Mix with the sauce then spoon over the chicken. Bake for 40 minutes until the sauce is bubbling and the chicken is nicely coloured.

...the salad
2 lebonese cucumbers
100g stoned green olives
a bunch of flatleaf parsley
1 tsp lemon zest
2 tbsp lemon juice
3 tbsp olive oil

Peel the cucumbers, halve them along their length then scrape out the seeds with a teaspoon. Slice the cucumber thickly, then put in a serving bowl with the halved olives (I forgot to buy the green ones so just used Kalamata). Pull the leaves from the parsley and add to the cucumber. Mix the lemon zest, juice and oil, grind in a little salt then toss with the cucumber. Serve with the chicken above.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

{Dinner Rolls}

Tonight for dinner we are having leftovers, spring beef stew to be exact and so I thought I'd bake some bread to go along with it, its a bread baking kind of afternoon here, the air is heavy and humid and the rain is falling, perfect for dough to do its thing, I really get a buzz out of baking bread, the smell is so homely and it just makes me feel good, these little rolls which I found over at salt and chocolate are the perfect size for beside a soup or stew but if you want to put anything into them then divide the dough into eight instead.

...dinner rolls
2 1/4 tsp dried yeast
1 1/2 cups warm water
1/2 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp melted butter
1 1/2 tsp sea salt
3 cups plain flour
1 cup wholemeal flour

Combine the yeast, warm water, sugar, butter, and salt. Let it stand five minutes then stir in the flours mix till the dough comes together. Cover the bowl and let the dough rise for one hour.

Punch down the dough on a floured bench, cut into 16 equal pieces. Roll each piece into a ball. Place 5cm apart on a baking tray lined with baking paper. Cover with a clean tea towel and let them rise for another 20 minutes (until almost doubled).

Once that's done bake in a 200 degree oven until golden brown, 15-18 minutes. Serve warm or cool.