Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Easter Monday = ANZAC day

So this year two days worthy of baked goods rolled about at once. I didn't even realise that ANZAC day was falling on easter until the day before so the plan to make hot cross buns (for the first time) became the plan to make hot cross buns and ANZAC biscuits. Luckily there were supermarkets open, despite Galway usually being so backwards about that sort of thing. Hot cross buns turn out to be simple enough, now that I know it is not so hard to make bread. However you do still need to have your mind on the job. While there was no kitchen disaster on Easter monday it was nearly close.

It began fine, I mixed together the yeast with the milk and sugar, I added the flour and stirred, I let it rest a bit. Then the next step - you are supposed to add all the rest of the dry ingredients, mix it well and knead it. The kneading being pretty vital. And of course that is the bit that I very nearly forgot. I mixed it all together and I don't know where my head was at because the next thing you know I covered the bowl and went off to do other things while it rose. So a half hour or so later I go to check on it and I wonder to myself why it hasn't risen at all? It doesn't even occur to me immediately, it took a fair while of staring at the bowl before I realised that I had not kneaded it. And I though 'oh shit!' and quickly took it out of the bowl and gave it a good knead and put it back, all the time wondering if it was too late, maybe you can't leave it unkneaded like that. Fortunately, an hour later and the dough was definately double in size so it was time to punch it down, shape the buns and put crosses on them. When they were finally in the oven it was time to make ANZAC biscuits.

Now for those of you that don't know ANZAC is Australia New Zealand Army Corps and during the war the people left at home baked biscuits to send the troops that would last the distance. Now we have a day to remember the slaughter of our troops at Gallipoli and Flanders and basically everywhere else that they were sent, and while ANZAC biscuits are good all year round we make the most of them at this time of year. They are probably the best biscuits ever, you can't go wrong with oats and coconut and golden syrup. Except this batch did not turn out so good as the last batch, I think they needed more liquid, even more golden syrup. Still, they were good, so here are both recipes:

Hot Cross Buns

375 mL warm milk
20 grams fresh yeast
1/4 cup (60 grams) soft brown sugar
60 grams melted butter
1 egg
4 cups (600g flour) (plain or strong bread flour are both OK)
2 cups sultanas or mixed dried fruit
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons mixed spice
2 teaspoons cinnamon
2 tablespoons water + 1/4 cup flour
1 egg yolk + 1 tablespoon brown sugar + 1/4 cup milk - whisk together for glaze

First combine the warm (not hot!) milk with the yeast and sugar. Melt the butter and let it cool, then add that to the milk mixture. Whisk the egg and add that too.

Stir in the flour a half cup at a time until you have added about 3 and half cups. Mix it well and cover the bowl. Let it rest for about 20 minutes.

Now mix the salt and spices in with the rest of the flour and then mix that into the dough as best you can. Turn the dough out onto a well floured surface and knead for 10 minutes. The dough should be smooth, soft and springy and sort of sticky, but not so sticky that it comes off on your fingers.

Take your mixing bowl and give it a good coating of flour. Place youre ball of dough in it, cover it with clingform and wait for it to rise to roughly double in size.

When you are happy with the amount that your dough has risen take it from the bowl and knead very lightly to remove the air from the dough. Divide into about 12 or so even pieces and roll each into a ball. Grease a baking tray and place the buns side by side.

Mix together the extra flour and water to make a paste, place in a piping bag or icing syringe and make crosses on top of the buns. Brush glaze over the top and leave the buns to rise for 20-30 minutes.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 200 degrees celcius. When the buns have risen about 2 cm brush another layer of glaze over and place in the hot oven for 10 minutes. Turn the oven down to 180 degrees and bake for another 10-15 minutes.


ANZAC biscuits

1 cup (250 g) flour
1 cup (250 g) sugar
2 cups (250 g) coconut
2 cups (250 g) rolled oats
200 grams butter
½ cup golden syrup
¼ cup hot water
½ teaspoon baking soda

These biscuits are really easy to make.

First, preheat the oven to 180 degrees celcius.

Mix together the dry ingredients in a large bowl. Then in a saucepan melt the butter and golden syrup.

Remove from the heat and add the water and baking soda. Then pour the liquid mixture into the dry ingredients and mix well. Roll the mixture into balls and flatten them onto a  greased baking tray.

Bake at 180 ° C for about 15 minutes, until they are golden and crispy.


Sunday, April 24, 2011

Beautifully Green Brocolli Soup

Again, despite the time of year, I have been making soup and I don't really need somebody's illness as an excuse, I just like soup. Too hot for soup? There's a solution for that - just let it get cold! My apparently odd habit of eating vegetables has been commented on by both family and friends but despite what some may think the purpose of brocolli (and other vegetables) is not just for feeding to your rabbit or guinea pig. Brocolli is a great food, everybody should eat more of it. It is high in folate and iron and also vitamin C which helps your body to actually absorb the iron. Plus it tastes good, so end of story. Following is my recipe for brocolli soup and it is a very adaptable recipe and the great thing about vegetables is that they are budget-friendly. Besides, I like colourful foods.



Brocolli Soup


1-2 tablespoons butter or vegetable oil
1 chopped onion or 3 chopped leeks
1 large head of chopped broccoli (about 300-500 grams)
1 cube chicken stock
½ cup rice or small pasta or 1 medium potato, diced
Enough water to cover vegetables
Salt and pepper to season.

So first you want to heat your butter or oil in a medium to large sized saucepan and cook the onion or leek until it is soft.

Next you add the chopped brocolli, rice/pasta/potato, water and the chicken stock. The amount of liquid of course depends on how thick you like your soup but more could be added later if the soup is the wrong texture. I would use enough liquid so that the vegetables are not only covered but floating a little.

After the liquid has come to a boil turn the heat down and simmer until the vegetables are cooked, which shouldn't take longer than about 20 minutes. They say that boiling things like brocolli removes the nutrients but it's not like you're going to tip the water out so surely the nutrients are still there in the soup somewhere?

Now that everything is cooked you need to get out your stick-blender or pour half of the soup into a food processor and make it nice and smooth. I only make my soup half smooth because I like to have vegetables lumps but you can process it as much or as little as you like.

Finally it is time to season your soup and as always you begin with simple salt and pepper. If you want more I would suggest taking a look through all your herbs and spices and tipping in a little of whatever smells good. Personally other than salt and pepper all I ever add to this particular soup is chilli.

So, voilĂ , you now have beautiful green brocolli soup and it is time to eat it. The great thing about soup is that you can freeze it and pull it out anytime, which is very useful for a student like me. I cook on the weekend, as much as I can, and live off of the results for a week. When you freeze soup the texture changes, it seems to get thicker, which I like, but at the same time you can always add a bit of water to it when you reheat it if you would rather a more liquidy soup. Unfortunately at the moment I have no microwave which means I have to go the long way about reheating things, so after very tiring days at work I usually end up eating cold food. That's okay now that the weather is good, but if I want hot food soup is the fastest thing to get hot.

Anyway, just one last thing before I go. It just occurred to me that you, random reader, may be a voracious carnivore like some of my friends who never complain at vegetarian dishes, but always have more enthusiastic compliments when there is meat. So, to add some protein to this soup? I would suggest chicken, it goes well with brocolli. I don't think bacon is suitable here but ham would be nice. For both I would use something pre-cooked, so great use for leftovers, and I would dice it or shred it or crumble it. If not pre-cooked, I would cut up nice and small and fry lightly with the onion, then continue as above. I would not suggest any really red meat here but turkey might also be nice. For non-meat protein, to turn this soup into a fully balanced meal, I would personally go for a cup of lentils, to be simmered with everything else until soft. If you wanted to use beans, maybe some sort of white bean like butter beans. Personally I would either go for just vegetables here or vegetables and a little meat, I for some reason do not really think that legumes would fit in nicely here at all. But that may just be me.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Vegetable Soup

One thing that my kitchen lacks is a good big pot. On that is big enough for a nice batch of soup. I really must remedy this problem but it is so hard to find exactly what I am looking for, a really good heavy pot, none of this lightweight stainless steel rubbish. I want the type of kitchenware that we had when I was growing up. Nevertheless despite the lack of proper soup pot and despite the lovely weather outside I made a nice batch of vegetable soup this evening because my mother is sick. It is so simple to make and it can taste so good, especially if you don't restrict yourself to vegetarianism and add a nice bacon hock. So here is my very simple recipe for vegetable soup and I hope that all enjoy!

Vegetable Soup
 
A little olive oil
3 leeks
1 potato
1 parsnip
1 small butternut squash
2 carrots
1 small bacon hock
Salt and pepper to taste

First,  chop all your vegetables into small cubes.
Heat olive oil in the bottom of a large pot and add leek. Cook lightly, adding a little water if the leek is sticking.
Add all the chopped vegetables, bacon and enough water to cover well - about 3-4 litres or more.
Bring to the boil and then reduce to a simmer until the vegetables are soft and meat cooked through.
If you like, blend a little (or a lot) with a stick-blender, season with salt and pepper. Either strip the meat into the soup or leave whole in the soup pot.
And now you have soup!

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Squashy Brown Rice with Grilled Vegetables

I was at the supermaket the other day trying as usual to stick to my shopping list when I saw a pile of huge butternut squash and I just had to get one. So then I had to think of what I wanted to do with it. One reason I wanted it is because I would like to try pumpkin bread but you really don't need an entire huge squash for that. By the way, I find calling it a squash really weird because in NZ we just call them butternut pumpkin, but the word is quite fun to say so I will stick with it for awhile. Well today I bought roller-blades (which everybody of all ages should do because they are so much fun!) and went roller-blading for the first time in many years, by the end of which I was starving and, as usual, while out and about I had been daydreaming of food. So I had decided to make something with rice and pumpkin and maybe just a little cheese. Because I love vegetables I decided to grill bell-peppers and courgette to go with, and because my house-mate loves meat I added bacon to the rice dish.

It turned out delicious! So I will share the recipe with the world. When it comes to cooking (as opposed to baking) I tend to just throw things together until it tastes good, which is a fine method until somebody asks for a recipe. It turns out that many people just don't get this concept of throwing things together so I will use this blog to record what I cook and have already had a very enthusiastic response from the people that I live with. That's a good start I guess and maybe other people out in the big wide world will also enjoy my food? But anyway, to get to the point, here is what I cooked tonight. I would love to include mouthwatering photos but I can't seem to take the sort of photos that you see in the food magazines. I guess I will have to learn. For now, somewhat average photos but I will work on it!


Butternut Brown Rice


1 cup brown rice
2 cups water
1 cube/teaspoon chicken stock (optional)
Butternut squash
200 grams chopped bacon (optional)
3 tablespoons pine nuts
2-3 tablespoons parmesan (or more)
Cracked black pepper to taste


 In a saucepan place rice, water and chicken stock – bring to the boil and simmer until rice is soft and the water absorbed, maybe about 20-30 minutes. Remove the saucepan from the heat and cover.
Chop the butternut squash and place in a saucepan, cover with water and bring to the boil. Simmer until the squash is cooked. Drain the water and mash (or blend).
In a large frying pan heat a little olive oil (or any other sort of oil or butter) and lightly cook the bacon.
Add the pine nuts and fry very lightly.
Add the rice, pumpkin and cheese. Combine well and season with pepper (and also salt if not using bacon).

Grilled Vegetables

Olive oil
Courgettes
Eggplant
Bell peppers
Garlic
Herbs – oregano and basil are good
Salt and pepper

Chop the vegetables into large lengthwise chunks.
Peel the garlic and slice roughly.
Toss all together with oil and seasonings
Grill at 200 ° C until everything is cooked to your liking, perhaps 20 minutes or so.


A diagonosis of OCG:

Today I decided to expand my undirected blog ramblings into something that has some semblence of purpose - to join the untold ranks of food bloggers and share with whoever cares to read about it my obsession with food. So while gastronomy does sound a lot like astronomy it does not actually have anything to do with gazing at stars or at stomach-contents in the sky. Gastronomy is the art and science of food and OCG is when you just cannot stop thinking about it. I would say that the point when you know you have a problem is when the only way to keep from getting bored while exercising is to imagine food and invent new recipes in your head. Which sort of defeats the purpose sometimes of the whole exercise thing if you have just spent an hour figuring out how to succesfully create the cookie idea that you had, then go home and immediately make cookies and then off course eat a lot of them because they are best when they are just out of the oven!

So at this point you may be thinking that I must be obese and I am often told that for the amount I talk about food I should surely be the size of a house but in fact I am not and that may be because a part of my obsession is to share. Not only do I have a compulsion to eat but I also have a compulsion to feed people - which is not actually appreciated by everybody! I have friends that are made uncomfortable by these habits, who say that they feel obliged to return the favour - they can't seem to understand that I am not looking for reciprocation, that the cooking and sharing is what makes me happy and that to turn down my efforts would make me most unhappy. When the day comes that I finally win big with the lottery I will open up a pretty little cafe somewhere and my business ethic will entirely consist of making delicious food, talking to people and encouraging everybody to enjoy their food as much as possible (and how can one not when I fill it with chocolate?). Once in fact I sent a box of my world-famous (in my world) chocolate-chunk cookies to a friend as an easter treat but they got stuck in the post over the public holiday - after several days she finally recieved them and they were still as fresh as anything, in her opinion because they were more chocolate than biscuit!

So perhaps the best way to start my new tradition of food writing will be to end with a recipe? Seeing as I just mentioned it and it is what I am most known for, I think the classic chocolate-chunk cookie is called for here. I have friends that say I should keep this all a secret and publish a cook book one day but really, there are so many cookbooks out there that I think you need something more than just a food obsession to become famous. Besides, I share with all my friends so why not the world wide web? So here it goes and I guess I will have to work on learning how to take beautiful pictures of food. Of course you will only be able to see the food and not smell or taste it but hopefully somebody somewhere is working on that technology!

Now I have been making this recipe since I was about 10 and it originally came from a very old Cadbury's book. All the new Cadbury's books don't have it for some reason which is sad but luckily I have it still, with a couple of my own little improvements! I am from New Zealand and so measure in metric cups but I am slowly working on converting all my recipes to grams, after all my new friends complained of the whole 'cup' thing. I really don't see why everybody can't just do it my way but I guess I should learn to be adaptable.


Chocolate Chip Biscuits


 125 grams butter or margerine
½ cup white granulated sugar
½ cup soft brown sugar
1 egg
½ teaspoon vanilla essence
1 ¾ cups plain flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon cocoa
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
Chocolate – as much as you like; chips, drops, roughly cut chunks, huge bits, small bits, flakes, anything at all, any type, white, milk, dark, you could even try caramello or one with nuts . . .

Preheat your oven to 200°C.
Cream butter, sugars and vanilla essence together, with an electric egg beater or by hand, until the mixture is pale and fluffy.
Add the lightly beaten egg, or just throw the egg in un-beaten and mix it in well.
Sift in the flour, baking powder (or use self-raising flour), cocoa, salt and cinnamon and mix will.
Stir in chocolate.
Roll into balls (if you have too much chocolate the mixture will not hold together so well, it might not be possible to roll it into balls. Just drop spoonfuls instead, they will still taste great!) and place on a greased baking tray. If you like flatten them a little with your hands or a fork.
Bake for 8-10 minutes or untill they are done to your likeing - if you cook them longer they will be crispier. If you make bigger biscuits you will need to cook them for maybe 15 minutes.