Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Tomato Soup

Here in Ireland it is cold (not to mention dark, wet and dreary). After my all too brief sojourn into summer I have to face the reality of being back in a country where the cold is unlikely to let up any time soon, my solution to which has always been soup! This week's soup is tomato because I had never made it before and suddenly I felt like giving it a try. To me, tomato soup is one of those slightly unreliable dishes, where if you order it at a cafe or restaurant you might get something really amazing or something barely edible. But perhaps that's just me. However, once a friend of mine made tomato soup that was so yummy that I figured I would give it a go. Because I am somewhat lazy and because fresh fruit and vegetables can be quite expensive here, my recipe uses canned tomatoes. To begin with I figured I make a soup just like any other vegetable soup, except the primary ingredient was tomato. And it worked, and is really tasty! Not to mention that tomato is a great source of vitamin C so hopefully it will keep colds at bay. Next time I'm going to try something different, I saw a recipe for roast tomato and pepper soup, so I think I'll try that. But for now I'm happy enough with what I have made so I hope that somebody else out there who is looking for a vege-boost will give this one a go.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Yummy Oaty Cookies

Today's treat is an old recipe that I remember my Mum baking when I was a kid, and I think these might have been our favourite bikkies. Sometimes she would bake early in the morning and we would wake up to the smell of biscuits, so that is what I did this morning! It is so gross and rainy here in Ireland right now, not to mention dark, so warm oaty cookies were really needed. These are sort of like ANZAC biscuits, in that all old oat-biscuit recipes are like ANZAC biscuits, the difference is that these use honey instead of golden syrup and have chocolate chips in them. The recipe comes from a big old book that my Mum had, with a red spine, called the New Zealand Radio & Television cookbook, and is the same book that my chocolate self-saucing pudding recipe comes from. They would be good with some sultanas in them too. Of all the cookies I make, I think it is these and ANZAC biscuits that get the widest appreciation - there doesn't seem to be anybody who doesn't find them amazing. So I strongly recommend that everybody have a recipe like this one to fall back on!

Monday, January 23, 2012

Pancakes for Breakfast

As I have travelled Europe I have noticed that every country has it's own type of pancake. Or at least, they think they do, and are very proud of them, but really they are all pancakes. When I was in Vienna I was taken to a restaurant called Palatchinkenpfandel (I think that is how it was spelt) which was all about pancakes and the special sort of pan that they are cooked in there. You could get savoury ones and sweet - some kinds were served in the pan with all the toppings on top, and other kinds were served with the fillings rolled up inside. When I tried to explain that we have pancakes just like this at home, my friends insisted that it couldn't be true. They were under the impression that I must be talking about American pancakes, those fat, fluffy things are stacked together and are on all the television shows. I tried to explain that our pancakes were thin and roll-able, but then they though I was talking about crepes. Everywhere that you go over here the people think that their food is really special and unique, when really there are variations of the same dishes all over Europe. And from there, they were taken to New Zealand and we come to the pancakes that I grew up with. Sometimes they are a little bit fat, if you use a raising agent, but generally they are thin and soft and you roll them up. My favourite filling is ice-cream.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Little Chicken Pies

Last night I made the yummiest dinner, and there is leftovers for tonight too. I made little chicken pies in my giant muffin tin, with carrot and onion and sage, and we ate them with mashed potatoes and peas, because that is the proper accompaniment for pies. I used frozen pre-made pastry sheets but if you would like to make your own pastry, it's not so difficult. I have no recipe of my own up yet, but I guess that just gives me reason to make pies again sometime in the near future. Or perhaps I should wait until Pi day. This recipe below could be used to make a large chicken pie, or about 4 or 5 small pies. In my opinion vegetables should be sneaked into everything that you make so I have added carrots but if this does not appeal to you I would also recommend peas or mushrooms. Now, I don't have loads of time to ramble because I need to get onto packing for my return trip to Ireland and saying goodbye to people, so let's just jump straight to that recipe.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Perfect Pavlova

Seeing as pav is a New Zealand icon, I absolutely had to make a successful pavlova before I left. With only one week to go, I finally managed it. Third time's lucky, after all. It turned out that I had not been using enough sugar, so after advice from I friend I went back to the recipe that I always used to use. I know that it seems silly to have tried to change it, but I was trying to combat my problem of sugar syrup leaking from the pav. I thought this was because there was too much sugar but apparently it happens when you don't beat the mixture for long enough and the sugar does not fully dissolve. However, this time around I beat the egg whites and sugar together for 20 minutes and it still wasn't smooth! Perhaps my caster sugar was not fine enough. So I settled for a leaky pav and just continued with the rest of the ingredients. I had no baking paper and at the best of times it is difficult to transfer a pav from tray to plate (at least, it is when you are clumsy like me), so I decided to just bake the pav directly on the plate that I would serve it on. It worked! The plate did not break, the pav only leaked a little, the outside was perfectly crispy and the inside soft and marshmallow-like. So following are my instructions and I hope that your pav works out well! If it doesn't, that's OK too, by the time you have covered it in cream and strawberries nobody will know any better!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Simple Summer Pasta

Here in the south of New Zealand it has been so uncharacteristically dry and warm that a cooked meal in the evening is just not always appealing. To that end, today I'm writing about pasta that I made about a week ago. This pasta doesn't have a cooked sauce, so it isn't as heavy as pasta can be. It's very garlicy however, so if you're not a fan then maybe this pasta is not for you. I'm running a bit behind in my writing these days, I have been too busy holidaying to keep up to date, but soon enough the holiday will be over and it will be back to using the kitchen as an escape from the dreariness of study. Don't get me wrong, I am still cooking, but I've been revisting past creations lately. Last night, for instance, I introduced my sister to quinoa with quinoa-stuffed peppers, and today I am using a crock-pot for the first time ever to make orange chicken casserole. Not to mention that right at this moment I am baking bread, something I haven't done in ages now. It is basically just normal white bread, but I have kneaded in roasted seeds and sprinkled more seeds and grated cheese over the top. It smells amazing! However, shall we get back to the pasta?

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Lemon Curd Cake

After finally getting the oven to work, I had to celebrate with dessert. First of all, I attempted to make a pavlova but again I had no success. This time it was not because of the oven, but now I have a new recipe and very soon I will be posting about how to make a successful pav. Until then, everybody will have to settle for lemon cake with lemon curd on top. Why? Because after attempting to make a pav, I had a lot of egg yolks left over and seeing as I am not a huge fan of egg, I decided to use it for lemon curd, because lemon curd would have to be one of the yummiest custard-like substances around. So I had lemon curd and I had to make a dessert, and I couldn't quite decide on what I wanted. A friend of mine makes the most delicious lemon curd cake, which I think may simply be plain sponge cake, cut into four quarters and stacked together with lemon curd sandwiched in between. However, I wasn't sure and would rather wait for a recipe than take a guess, so I made up my own cake instead. I didn't actually make it up entirely, first I checked out taste.com.au and took inspiration from the first lemon curd cake that I found. I had to change it because I didn't have all the ingredients that I needed, but the final product turned out really well.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

The Oven Works!

After resigning myself to attempting to cook a proper, nice meal in the microwave, as opposed to the salads and sandwiches that I had been living off before that, the oven finally began to work. It didn't need to be fixed after all; turns out that the oven is connected to the fire alarm system here at my sister's house (which she knew about) and when there was a power cut awhile back, the system switched off. To make the oven work was as simple as pressing the 'reset' button! Now, this has happened before but when I asked my sister if she knew of any reason why the oven wasn't going she failed to mention the fire alarm system. I did wonder about the panel on the wall with the little light, but it's not like it's right next to the oven and I didn't know that she even had a fire alarm system! However, all's well that ends well and now the oven works. So I made pasta (my favourite, as surely everybody has guessed by now).

Monday, January 2, 2012

Unbaked Apricot Slice

Once again, I have managed to give away all of my treats without taking any photos. So, if instead you can just imagine a slice that is sort of fudgy looking, but much more solid than fudge, that is a plain biscuit-y/caramel sort of colour, with chunks of bright apricot and chunks of white chocolate, that is what this recipe will make you. It is unbaked and only requires a bit of melting stuff and a bit of chopping and crushing stuff. It is sweet but not overly sweet, tastes of vanilla, brown sugar and apricots and is quite firm but not at all crumbly. This is similar to what we (here in NZ) call chocolate fudge cake, only without all the cocoa powder and chocolate icing. There are many recipes for this particular slice, I can remember my Nan having made it on a couple of occassions so I guess it must be another old kiwi classic. This particular recipe came from the Chelsea sugar website, but thought it needed something a bit extra so added the white chocolate. I've also doubled the recipe because it seems wasteful to use only a half of a can of condensed milk, when I am unlikely to ever use the rest of it. So be warned, this is going to make loads. It's very easy to eat though, so you will probably find that it is gone before you know it!

Sunday, January 1, 2012


It is now the new year and I am still without an oven. I had big plans to make all sorts of nice food for my friends and family but now I am at a loss. There is no range either so I am left with very little choice - I can make salads, sandwiches, unbaked slices and baked potatoes (in the microwave). It leaves me just not much wanting to bother anymore! However, yesterday I got over my apathy long enough to prepare a salad, the recipe for which I got from a family friend. It's very simple and very delicous and makes use of one of my very favourite vegetables - broccoli! A great source of iron, vitamin C and loads of other good stuff, everybody should eat far more of it and this salad is so yummy that even fussy, non-vegetable eaters will surely enjoy it. The pepper and red onion add a bit more colour and lots of antioxidants, while the cashew nuts provide a bit of protein and the good sort of fat.