Block of Choc Brownie

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This brownie is very easy and quick to whip up when unexpected visitors arrive and it can be served with coffee or as a dessert.  Use one bowl and there is very little to clean up.  The finished brownie is crunchy around the edges, chewy on top and moist in the middle.  If you like chewy more than gooey, leave the brownie in the oven for an extra 3-4 minutes.  White sugar will give a crustier top than raw sugar. I usually make this brownie with 72% cocoa dark chocolate to keep it dairy-free however the 33% cocoa with toasted coconut is extremely popular.  Any of the nut chocolates work well as does white chocolate.  Chocolate with a flavoured toffee shard such as mint or hokey-pokey turn out a delicious but sticky brownie as the toffee shards melt and sink to the bottom.
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Block of Choc Brownie

Ingredients

  • 4 medium eggs
  • 200 ml lite olive oil
  • 50 ml almond milk (or other non-dairy milk alternative)
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 400 g (2 ½ cups) raw sugar
  • 70 g (2/3 cup) cocoa powder
  • 75 g (1/2 cup) white flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 250 g block of chocolate, roughly chopped

Instructions

  • Preheat oven 160ºC and grease and line a 33 cm x 23 cm slice tin.
  • Place eggs, oil, milk and essence into large bowl and whisk until combined. Sift in cocoa powder, flour and baking powder. Add sugar and chocolate. Stir until combined.
  • Pour brownie batter into prepared baking tin.
  • Bake for 40-45 minutes for moist & gooey in the middle chocolate brownie or leave in the oven for a little longer if you like the brownie chewy all the way through.
  • Remove from the oven and leave to cool.
  • Cut into pieces (between 20 – 24 pieces) and dust with icing sugar to serve.
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Variation: Toasted Coconut Brownie

Use the 33% cocoa milk chocolate block with toasted coconut, use coconut milk instead of almond milk.  Sprinkle the brownie with ½ cup toasted chocolate chips before placing in the oven.

Variation: Dark Gingerbread Brownie

Use 62% or 72% dark chocolate and add 2 teaspoons of gingerbread spice mix when adding the flour.  Sprinkle brownie with ½ cup chopped crystallized ginger before placing it in the oven.

Gingerbread Spice Mix

2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground cloves
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
Combine spices in a small airtight jar.

Beets & Beans Salad

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This recipe was partly inspired by a recipe for a beetroot, carrot and bean slow cooker casserole from Sara Lewis’ Ultimate Slow Cooker cookbook. The remaining “inspiration” was more like desperation when I needed to come up with some sort of dish to take to a pot luck dinner and the fridge was fairly bare apart from plenty of beetroot and carrots.  A salad was thrown together and turned out to be one that the family voted a ‘make again’.  It has been through several tweaks and trials and each has been a success with a different member of the family.  So it can be changed according to what you have available: use brown onions instead of red and green or savoy instead of red cabbage.  The cabbage can be lightly steamed instead of raw and the green beans left out completely or swapped for another green vegetable such as broad beans or broccoli.  The amount of dressing is enough to coat the vegetables and it can be incorporated before serving. Omit the garlic aioli if desired (or use mayonnaise instead) although I like the slight tang it adds to the dressing.  The salad is filling enough to be served as a main course and any left overs are perfect for lunch the next day.
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Beets & Beans Salad

Yield: 4-6

Ingredients

  • Salad
  • 1 x large red onion
  • 6 x medium beetroot
  • 6 x medium carrots
  • Salt & freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • ¼ of a red cabbage
  • 2 x 425 g tins mixed beans
  • 2 cups frozen green beans
  • 2 spring onions
  • ¼ cup fresh mint leaves
  • Dressing:
  • 75 g goat feta
  • 65g natural unsweetened yoghurt
  • 100g cucumber and mint yoghurt dip
  • 2 T garlic aioli (optional)

Instructions

  • Peel the red onion and cut in half width-wise, then cut each half into 8 wedges. Peel or scrub the beetroot and cut into bite sized pieces. Peel or scrub the carrots and cut into bite sized pieces (the cut vegetables should all roughly be the same size). There should be about 3 cups of beetroot and 3 cups of carrot.
  • Place the prepared vegetables into a large roasting dish – to keep the beetroot from colouring all the carrots, place the beetroot at one end, the carrots at the other and the red onion in between. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper then drizzle over the olive oil. Give the pan a shake to settle the vegetables into an even layer then roast at 200C for 30 minutes. Stir (adding a little more oil if required), then roast again for a further 15-20 minutes until the vegetables are cooked.
  • While the vegetables are roasting, prepare the remaining ingredients. Finely slice the cabbage, as if cutting for coleslaw (there should be about 3 cups). Rinse the tinned beans and drain well. Lightly steam the green beans until just cooked. Slice the spring onions and mint leaves finely.
  • To make the dressing: mash the feta with a fork. Scrape it into a bowl, add the yoghurt and whip the ingredients together with a fork. Add the dip and aioli (if using) and stir to mix the ingredients together well.
  • Pile the cabbage and beans onto a large serving platter. Add the roasted vegetables and lightly toss the ingredients together. Sprinkle with the spring onions and mint leaves. Serve the dressing alongside.
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Potato Raclette Bake

This dish is inspired by a delicious meal of Raclette cheese with boiled potatoes and crispy bacon that we enjoyed in Switzerland and an equally delicious Tartiflette I ordered in Versaille thinking I was ordering some sort of tart but was instead a potato bake.

As Raclette Grills are uncommon here in New Zealand, I have borrowed the idea from the Tartiflette and used the oven to melt the cheese.  The cheese is the star of this dish so use the greater quantity if desired.  Substitute a different sort of melty cheese (try Gruyere or Emmental) or use camembert or brie which heads more in the Tartiflette direction.  Waxy salad or boiling potatoes such as Nadine, Draga or New Season Perlas work best but an all-purpose potato (Moonlight, Vivaldi Gold) will also work ok.
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Potato Raclette Bake

Yield: 4-5

Ingredients

  • 1.2 kg small waxy potatoes
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 150 g chunk of Pancetta or Bacon
  • 200 g small mushrooms
  • ½ red capsicum
  • ½ green capsicum
  • 3-4 shallots
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 150-250 g Raclette cheese
  • Cornichons, optional
  • Pickled onions, optional

Instructions

  • Preheat the oven on to 175ºC on grill (top heat only).
  • Scrub or peel potatoes. Boil in salted water until just tender. Drain and set aside.
  • Crush the garlic. Cut the piece of Pancetta into slices about 5 mm thick, then into batons (lardons). Clean the mushrooms and cut in half. Half and deseed the capsicum then slice thinly. Peel and quarter the shallots.
  • Melt the butter a large skillet or frying pan. Add garlic, Pancetta, mushrooms, capsicums and shallots.
  • Cook over medium heat for about 5-7 minutes.
  • Remove from the heat and transfer to an oven-proof dish if required. Nestle the potatoes into mixture, making sure the dish is large enough to hold the ingredients in a single layer.
  • Thinly slice the Raclette and place evenly over the top.
  • Place in the oven in the top third of the oven. Grill at 175ºC for about 7-10 minutes, keeping an eye on the cheese. Once it is melted and bubbly it is ready.
  • Serve immediately with baby gherkins (cornichons) and pickled onions alongside.
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Cookbook Review: Little Bird Goodness

Little Bird Goodness by Megan May, Penguin Random House New Zealand

Little Bird Goodness
For many people, food intolerance is a huge interruption to everyday life.  Product availability has improved with gluten-free, wheat-free, dairy-free, refined sugar-free, or egg-free items now being available in many mainstream grocery stores.  Larger cities also have the luxury of vegetarian, vegan or raw food café’s such as Megan May’s award-winning Unbakery Café’s.

With the release of her first cookbook The Unbakery, raw food became more accessible to people living outside of the main centres or without access to café’s catering to specialist eating programs.  Little Bird Goodness, Megan’s second cookbook, is aimed at a larger group of people, not just those already eating raw food.  These recipes are all plant-based but some include a cooked portion to help newbies ease into this type of eating.

Thankfully, only one of our family members suffers from a food allergy/intolerance, but the vitality and enthusiasm of Megan for eating a plant-based diet encourages me to try to incorporate more raw components into our diet.  Simple ideas such as Watermelon dipped in citrus spice mix, chocolate-dipped dried fruit or green superfoods popcorn all look delicious, fresh and healthy snack choices.  The spiced pumpkin salad with caramelised shallot dressing would also fit into our diet without too much trouble ie ordering in a raft of new exciting ingredients.

At the back of the book, the Basics section covers sprouting, (sprouts are fundamental to a raw food diet), as well as fermented foods such as kefir, yoghurt, kimchi and sauerkraut all of which are easy and very satisfying to make.

Each recipe includes an equipment needed list which is useful to know before beginning a recipe, particularly as some equipment specified is not what an everyday regular kitchen would have, such as a cold brew coffee maker or a cold-press juice extractor.

First up on my list of recipes to try is the Pea Guacamole and the popcorn.  Megan also shares recipes on her website and for Bite Magazine (such as this delicious-looking intriguing-sounding Winter Spice Buttercup Cake with Coconut Cream Frosting.

 

Prune & Cardamom Biscuits (Cookies)

Prune & Cardamom Biscuits (Cookies)This recipe was created to use a bag of diced prunes that were purchased (in error) instead of whole prunes.  The result were biscuits so tasty that I had to make them again – this time using whole prunes that I diced and dusted in a little flour so they didn’t clump together otherwise all the prune would end up in just a few of the biscuits.
Prune & Cardamom Biscuits (Cookies)

Left to right: Prune & Cardamom, Double Chocolate & Ginger, Apricot & Almond

Prune & Cardamom Biscuits

Yield: 18-24 depending on the size of the spoonful.

Ingredients

  • 170 g butter, melted
  • 200 g (1 cup) brown sugar
  • 125 g (½ cup) white sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 eggs
  • 300 g (2 cups) pure plain flour
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • 2 tsp ground cardamom
  • 150 g (3/4 cup) dark chocolate drops
  • 150 g (3/4 cup) diced prunes

Instructions

  • Preheat the oven to 165ºC. Grease and line a baking tray.
  • Combine melted butter and sugars in a large bowl and whisk until well blended.
  • Whisk in vanilla and eggs until the mixture is light and creamy.
  • Sift in flour, baking soda and cardamom.
  • Add the chocolate drops and diced prunes.
  • Stir the mixture well so all the ingredients are combined.
  • Refrigerate the mixture for at least 15 minutes.
  • Place spoonfuls onto the prepared baking tray about 8cm apart.
  • Bake for 15-20 minutes.
  • The biscuits are still soft once baked so leave on the tray for five minutes to firm up.
  • Transfer the biscuits to a wire rack to cool completely.
  • Store in an airtight container

Notes

Variation: Double Chocolate & Ginger Biscuits Reduce the flour by ½ cup and replace with ½ cup cocoa powder Replace ground cardamom with ground ginger Replace diced prunes with diced crystallized ginger

Apricot & Almond Biscuits Replace vanilla extract with almond extract. Omit the ground cardamom Replace the dark chocolate drops with slivered almonds Replace diced prunes with diced dried apricots

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The language of apples

Currently six weeks into a nine week holiday in the U.K. and Europe, it’s been interesting trying new foods in new countries.

Apple Travels

Right now I am in The Netherlands.  I don’t know much about apples here but they must grown as I know several recipes that originate here showcase apples – Dutch apple pie or tart (appeltaart) for instance.  Dutch apple pie, as I understand it, differs from regular apple pie in that it has raisins and lemon flavouring.
Apple Travels
I thought I might see quite different varieties of apples in shops and supermarkets throughout Europe but they’re essentially the same varieties we have at home: Granny Smith, Fuji, Pink Lady ….. I’d have to venture out into the villages and shop at roadside stalls to get some of the older varieties and without a car, that isn’t always possible.
Apple Travels
So I am settling for apple products ie Cider.  I have tried English, Scottish and Irish Apple Cider and they’ve all been very very good.  I attempted to ask for Cidre in France but offended the waiter so much he didn’t speak to us for the rest of the service which we found comical.  We did find Cidre in France at a different cafe so we were all good.
Apple Travels
The French do, however, make a delicious apple pastries.  I thought I might see apple ice cream, gelato or sorbet as they like to make use of fruits in their iced treats but so far (we’ve managed to have ice cream of some sort in every county) I’ve not seen any so Tasmania still reigns as the best apple ice cream producer.
Apple Travels
The other apple treat I have consumed in great quantity is apple juice, my go to favourite cold beverage.  I have had single variety apple juice, green apple juice, cloudy apple juice and they’ve all been really nice.
Apple Travels

 

Christmas Trifle with Chianti & Berry Sago

A trifle can be as time-consuming or quick as time permits.  If, as I used to be, you have all day to create, cook and enjoy time in the kitchen then make each element of this dessert yourself. I haven’t provided recipes for sponge cake, custard or meringues as mostly likely you’ll have a go-to recipe tucked away.  And if, as I am now, you work full time and try to squeeze as much in to the time before work and the time after work, then the quick option is just as good. Continue reading

Golden Raisin, White Chocolate & Madeira Cake

Christmas cake: some love it (its cake so what’s not to like?) but some people hate fruit cake of any kind.  This light cake might just change their minds about fruit cakes; it has just enough raisins to add texture and a subtle flavour.

Continue reading

Banana & Chocolate Bran Muffins

I haven’t baked in a while (like a couple of weeks) and it is shows.  I got my muffin mixture all spooned out into the muffin papers and ready for the oven when I noticed my bowl of soaked sultanas was still on the bench. Oh well, my Sultana, Banana & Chocolate Bran Muffins just morphed into Banana & Chocolate Bran Muffins. Continue reading

Cookbook Review: Scrumptious

Scrumptious by Chelsea Winter

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This is the fourth cookbook from Chelsea Winter, following on from the very well received At My Table, Everyday Delicious and Homemade Happiness.  And once again, this book is full of mouth watering recipes that don’t seem too challenging.

Scrumptious has food that is perfect for dinner inspiration whether it is weeknight or weekend.  There is also a chapter on special occasion food such as Christmas family gatherings – yummy stuff like Christmas Truffles and Chelsea Bunny Easter Scrolls.

For us here in NZ, Chelsea probably doesn’t need much introduction as we know her from MasterChef NZ and her recent collaboration with Lewis Road Creamery to produce a double caramel flavoured milk got a lot of press time.  Chelsea also has a strong online presence in social media – Facebook, Instagram, Twitter – as Chelsea says herself on her website – she is everywhere.

Her food is simple without being boring, accessible to most cooks and home kitchens.  We’ve had Savoury Mince on Toast for our Friday night Fake-aways – adding a perfectly poached egg on top of a delicious mix of mince and vegetables is an inspired idea that makes the meal a bit more substantial.  The Sausage, Bacon & Bean Hotpot also gets a big tick from our family, although I can serve them a simple pan-fried sausage and they’re also happy as.  These two recipes are good examples of Chelsea’s recipes – mince, sausages, chicken, lamb shoulder – regular inexpensive food for the everyday eater.  Divided into lunches & dinners, on the side, salads, Christmas and sweets, the recipes range from everyday classics such as the perfect roast chicken or poached eggs on toast through to more exotic Rogan josh or slow lamb puttanesca.  Chelsea’s humour and sunny nature show through in the recipe head notes and often the titles themselves (Chelly con Carne or Spaghetti Chel-fredo).

I had wanted to bake the Caramel Apple Cake before posting this review but time has not been my friend this month.  As the light at the end of the tunnel is still pin-prick size, I’ve decided to box on with the post without the cake.  Stay tuned though as I am sure the cake will turn up at some point – I am quite ambitiously considering making it dairy-free which will be a challenge as it has butter, milk, sweetened condensed milk, cream and more butter to find replacements for.