Archive for June, 2010

Quick and easy lemon curd

Frank and I made a trip up to see Mama and Papa C on the weekend past. Papa C’s lemon and orange trees have been going crazy at the moment, and despite the bumper crop I got last week there were still copious amounts of fruit on the trees. Mama C and I immediately got the ladder out of the garage and started pillaging the lemon tree, and I came home with about 40 lemons and 15 oranges! (and 2 dozen eggs, but who’s counting eh?)

Mama C and I also spent the weekend checking out the local food stores and delis, so I cam back with a delicious bag of goodies including some orange blossom water and my favorite Dutch cookies. A shop I would recommend if you are ever up near Newcastle is Bibina, it is amazing and stocks just about everything an amateur cook would want.

Now I can hear you say “she’s already posted a recipe for lemon curd”, but this recipe is different. As much as I love doing things the proper way, when you need a quick lemon curd, or you have copious amounts of lemons and eggs, this recipe is fantastic. It has more lemon juice than the last one, so is much more tangy and cuts through any surrounding sweetness. It is also a lot smoother, and sets firmer, so perfect for tarts and pastries. I made this curd to include in my seasonal cupcakes (see the next post coming up!)

I wrote this recipe on a post-it to take home with me, instead of using company stationery for personal use like I normally do. What I would recommend is you don’t stick any post-it notes on cupboards near gas stoves that are on, as the sticky back isn’t sticky enough to save you from a small kitchen fire!

Microwave lemon curd (makes two cups) – recipe from

1 cup white sugar
3 eggs
1 cup fresh lemon juice
3 lemons, zested
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted

In a microwave-safe bowl, whisk together the sugar and eggs until smooth. Stir in lemon juice, lemon zest and butter. Cook in the microwave for one minute intervals, stirring after each minute until the mixture is thick enough to coat the back of a metal spoon. Remove from the microwave, and pour into small sterile jars. Store for up to three weeks in the refrigerator.

If you can’t be bothered taking the pips out, just squeeze them into the bowl and strain them out once the curd has cooked!


Seasonal cupcakes

On a good day I quite fancy myself as an accurate predictor of baby gender. When my sister-in-law was pregnant, Beets had a dream that she was having a girl, and therefore I told my sister-in-law throughout her pregnancy that she was having a girl. And what do you know, I was right! So, guessing correcting, I did the required “I told you so” dance. Of course I am in Sydney and they are in London, so it didn’t have the same effect.

Next up was LL. I was convinced that she was having a girl, despite what everyone else said. I was right before, so of course I was going to be right again! She had a boy, and I was wrong. I was running on a 50/50 tally, which didn’t stop me from believing I could predict genders. My latest prediction was for Frank’s sister: I said “girl” again, and when she went into labour this morning I decided I was going to make her cupcakes to have in the hospital. But what colour to ice the cakes? I wisely asked Frank if he wanted to change his prediction to a girl, and if he thought I should ice the cupcakes pink. His response was: “ice them pink, and if you’re right you get to gloat tomorrow when we go in, and if you’re wrong we get to laugh at you.” Just before I was due to make the icing this evening we received a call from Mama C telling us that TW has just had a baby boy. And as sad as I am that I was wrong AGAIN, I am very overjoyed that little JTW is here safely, and that I hadn’t iced the cupcakes pink!

As citrus fruit is in season at the moment, and I have an abundance of the little darlings in my dining room, I thought I would make some orange and lemon cupcakes.  I picked up some orange blossom water while on a shopping spree with Mama C, and was keen to try it. Proud Daddy MW loves any cupcakes I make, so I thought I’d give it a go and no matter what I would have an appreciative audience!

As a base, I used my ever-faithful vanilla cupcake recipe. I left out the vanilla, and added in the zest of two of Papa C’s navel oranges and a tablespoon of the juice.  Once baked and cooled, I used an apple-corer to take out a little bit of the centre of each cake. A knife is normally recommended to hollow out cakes for filling, but I didn’t want to add too much filling so I only made small hollows. Once hollowed, I filled each cupcake with a spoonful of freshly made lemon curd and popped the top back on. I then make some buttercream icing with orange juice and 2 teaspoons of orange blossom water, and tinted it blue. Lastly I used a big star tip to ice buttercream swirls on top of the cakes.

I made 13 cupcakes, as I needed my honest-oppinion-giver to give it a taste test before I inflicted it on the family. I believe his response was: “mumble mumble mumble” *swallow mouthful of cake* “you done good.”

Seasonal cupcakes – adapted from basic cupcakes in “Little cakes with attitude” by Kate Shirazi

1 cup self-raising flour
1/2 cup caster sugar
1/2 cup margarine
2 large free-range eggs
1 tsp baking powder
rind of two oranges
1 tbsp orange juice

Preheat oven to 160 degrees C. Line a 12-hole muffin pan with cupcake cases. Sift flour and sugar into a large bowl. Plonk the rest of the cake ingredients and whisk away until pale and fluffy (I would use an electric whisk).

Plop a tablespoon of the batter into the cases and bake in the oven for 20 minutes until firm and springy to the touch. Remove from the oven and allow to cool. Hollow out with a knife, fill with lemon curd and put the tops back on.

Orange blossom buttercream icing

1 1/2 cups icing sugar, sifted
1/2 cup soft unsalted butter
1.5 tsp orange blossom water
1 tsp orange juice

Beat everything in a large bowl for a few minutes until light and fluffy. Add food colouring to your heart’s content. (I used royal blue colouring)

Definitely-not-Grandma’s Apple pie

“Ladies and Gentlemen… if I could offer you only one tip for the future, not being over-confident in the kitchen would be it.”
Singing the lines of the Sunscreen song while typing this, I would like to offer you the reasoning behind my tip. Having fun in the kitchen is great, and having wonderful friends and family complimenting your food is even better. Until you start to think: “hey, my friends love my food, so I must be a dab hand in the kitchen” and you convince yourself that trying a pastry recipe for the first time would be mere child’s play to you. And that of course you can make an apple pie with your eyes closed.
That’s where the ever-present kitchen fairy likes to prove you wrong. (The kitchen fairy also decides whether your cupcakes will rise, or whether your lamb cooks in time for dinner.)

My kitchen fairy was rubbing her hands in glee when I strolled in to the Pig Palace kitchen with my pretend Masterchef apron and my newly purchased rolling-pin. (As Frank says, it’s better than using an empty wine bottle) Not-so-silently confident that I was going to whip the apple pie recipe into shape, I proceeded in getting all the ingredients on the bench. Which is when my 6 bruise-free apples went tumbling onto the floor. “Never mind” I thought, “just a small hiccup”. After Frank’s masterful peeling of the apples I chopped them up and got ready to make the pastry. (See Frank, I did mention you. ;)) And this is where it got a bit scary: pastry is HARD to work with. I am incredibly thankful that Beets and I spent hours in front of the Good Food channel, because if I hadn’t known to roll the pastry back on the rolling-pin to get it in the pan I would have lost the pastry, and my rag, all at once.

Now I strongly suspect I didn’t have enough pastry, as it was veeeery thin when I put it in the pan. Once I piled in the apples, I popped another sheet of needle-thin pastry on top, rips and all. Attempting to recover my pride, I cut out a little apple and a leaf from the left-over pastry and decorated the top with it. After glazing with egg white and sprinkling with sugar, I shoved the apple pie in the oven and ran out the kitchen as fast as I could.

40 minutes later, I crept back into the kitchen to discover a really funny-looking pie! To quote Frank “it looks like a moonscape”. And as he assessed correctly*, I should have left more pastry hanging over the edge. Oh well, Masterchef I am not, but at least it doesn’t look too bad.

As I have made this apple pie (or large pile of apples with a teeny bit of pastry) to take up to Mama and Papa C tomorrow, I cannot cut into it or tell you what it tastes like just yet, but thankfully it smells delicious! I’ve been told to let it cool properly and it will last for a week in the fridge if needs be. I’ll publish additional photos after we crack the pie open.

*For those of you who don’t know, Frank is not only the chief dish-washer and highly skilled sous chef, but he has nominated himself as my honest critic and is always willing to suggest how to do it better next time. 🙂

Apple pie – adjusted from the BBC Good Food website

1kg Granny Smith apples
140g golden caster sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
3 tbsp flour

225g butter , room temperature
50g golden caster sugar , plus extra
2 eggs
350g plain flour , preferably organic
softly whipped cream , to serve

Put a layer of paper towels on a large baking sheet. Quarter, core, peel and slice the apples about 5mm thick and lay evenly on the baking sheet. Put paper towels on top and set aside while you make and chill the pastry.

For the pastry, beat the butter and sugar in a large bowl until just mixed. Break in a whole egg and a yolk (keep the white for glazing later). Beat together for just under 1 min – it will look a bit like scrambled egg. Now work in the flour with a wooden spoon, a third at a time, until it’s beginning to clump up, then finish gathering it together with your hands. Gently work the dough into a ball, wrap in cling film, and chill for 45 mins. Now mix the 140g/5oz sugar, the cinnamon and flour for the filling in a bowl that is large enough to take the apples later.

After the pastry has chilled, heat the oven to 190C/fan 170C/gas 5. Lightly beat the egg white with a fork. Cut off a third of the pastry and keep it wrapped while you roll out the rest, and use this to line a pie tin – 20-22cm round and 4cm deep – leaving a slight overhang. Roll the remaining third to a circle about 28cm in diameter. Pat the apples dry with kitchen paper, and tip them into the bowl with the cinnamon-sugar mix. Give a quick mix with your hands and immediately pile high into the pastry-lined tin.

Brush a little water around the pastry rim and lay the pastry lid over the apples pressing the edges together to seal. Trim the edge with a sharp knife and make 5 little slashes on top of the lid for the steam to escape. (Can be frozen at this stage.) Brush it all with the egg white and sprinkle with caster sugar. Bake for 40-45 mins, until golden, then remove and let it sit for 5-10 mins. Sprinkle with more sugar and serve while still warm from the oven with softly whipped cream

28/06/10 UPDATE:

Despite the apple pie looking really silly, it tasted pretty good! The filling cooked perfectly dispite my misgivings, and even though the pastry was really thin it tasted like shortbread. (And I’ve figured out why the pastry was so thin, my pan was the right diameter on the bottom, but opened out really wide!) Next time I’ll use 1.5 times the quantitiy and have a slightly thicker crust.

In response to my lovely comments:
Lorraine – thanks for the tip! I am very keen to do a course at Planet Cake one day, I need to steady my hands first as they’re really shakey! Unfortunately being short wasn’t my problem (I’m 5’8″), I think put too much pressure on the pastry. 🙂
Renae – your filling sounds delicious. Do you add nutmeg and lemon in addition to the cinnamon, or in place of it? I’d never made pastry before, so I wouldn’t mind trying your recipe for it!
Queen Bee – Ooh, cardamom. Interesting twist! I’ll give that one a try with Renee’s adjustments next time. That darned kitchen fairy often knocks bowls and food onto my floor and then Frank has to clean it up. I swear it was her. 😉

P.S. Starry night cupcakes

As I type my blog from the Pig Palace office (aka a laptop, on a stable-table, on my lap, on the bed) I realise I haven’t show-cased my quick “starry night” cupcakes! I used the same recipe as features in the ladybugs and cupcakes post, I just tinted the icing purple and got my little sparkies out. I used a very simple idea, I just felt like something representative of the night tonight! (and I ran out of icing as I didn’t make as much. oops.)

Mid-week, low-faff, low-fat risotto

Everyone has that day where they (heaven forbid) don’t feel like cooking. Or they don’t have as much time as usual. Or, in my case, forgot to take the turkey mince out the freezer this morning. And everyone, in those situations, has a simple recipe they can fall back on that is quick and hassle-free.

While going through a “I can’t afford meat” stage in the early days of London, my friend Peanut and I discovered the joys of vegetarian cooking. Once we had passed the days of packet stir-fries and smash (oh yes, but at least it wasn’t baked beans on toast. Not that there is anything wrong with that…) we moved on to more adventurous dishes like chickpea curries and spicy risotto. Which is where I found my incredible, budget-proof, idiot-proof, vegetarian risotto.

This risotto recipe is adapted every time it’s used, and while making it at least once a fortnight I have only messed it up once. (Too much curry powder. Not nice.) It doesn’t have alcohol or cheese, but is still sticky and delicious. It definitely tastes healthy, but really naughty at the same time. You can add meat to the dish, and I have been known to add prawns and chorizo more often than not. You can also add any veg you have in the fridge. I would go as far as to say: as long as you have a bag of arborio rice, some stock and a carrot or two; you can make something tasty in 20 minutes!

rice and spices in the pan

Delicious vegetarian risotto – a lollcakes original!

This feeds 4 with leftovers. I am incapable of cooking for the right amount of people, and fear tiny portions…

olive oil
2 cups arborio/risotto rice
5 cups chicken or vegetable stock
1 big onion, finely diced. Any colour will do
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1 small red chilli (can be omitted for sensitive tummies)
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp smoked paprika
1 tbsp mild curry powder (can be omitted, needs more paprika if so)
2 carrots, finely diced
2 courgettes, cubed
1 red capsicum, cubed
a handful mushrooms, sliced
1 cup frozen peas

Fry the onion in olive oil on a low heat until soft and transparent. Add turmeric, paprika, curry powder, chilli and garlic and fry for a minute until fragrant. Add in rice, and fry for a minute. Add in stock and carrots and bring up to the boil. Once boiling, leave to simmer for 10 minutes, stirring after 5.

Add courgettes, capsicum and mushrooms; and simmer for another 5 minutes. Add in frozen peas, stir, and simmer for 5 minutes. The risotto should be sticky and the rice should be cooked. Dish into a nice big bowl and scoff!

– you can add any other veg you feel would be good, just add any hard veg in with the carrots and any soft veg in with the courgettes. You can add any cooked meat in at the end.

Lemon curd delight

When I am asked the question “what is your favorite food?” I am stumped. My favorites change depending on what new food I have discovered, or what the weather’s like, or what I had for breakfast. But one favorite that has stood the test of time has been lemons!

I love lemons in dessert. There is nothing better than having a slice of lemon meringue pie after a good dinner. Or a bad dinner. (But really, do those exist?) Or just for! I remember one year my mom asked me what cake I wanted for my birthday and I requested one of her delicious lemon meringue pies. I waited in anticipation for a week, and when it arrived it was amazing. My fatal mistake was having friends around for tea – they scoffed it all and I ended up with only one tiny slice! I still get sad just thinking about it…

Last week Mama and Papa C gifted Frank and I with some eggs. And by some, I mean two dozen. They are delicious free-range eggs, and they deserve to be made into something special. As luck would have it, Papa C’s lemon tree has been going crazy in the sunshine and has produced a bonza crop of lemons, so we were gifted a dozen lemons to go with the eggs. I wracked my brain for a recipe to use the eggs and lemons, and with a lot of inspiration from Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella’s post on finger lime caviar butter I decided to make lemon curd. As I have never made any sort of curd before, and I am currently in “daring cook” mode, I thought there is no better time to give it a try. It isn’t nearly as exciting as Lorraine’s, but hopefully I’ll get to make that one soon!

Tangy lemon curd – adapted from Good Housekeeping’s Step-by-step cookbook

4 lemons
4 eggs, very lightly beaten
100g butter, chopped into small cubes
350g castor sugar
600ml glass jar for storage

The recipe recommends using a double boiler. I used a metal mixing bowl over a smaller pan of boiling water.

Wash jar in warm, soapy water. Place in an oven preheated to 120C for 10-15 minutes until the jar is dry. Keep aside.
Zest and juice lemons, and put these in a mixing bowl or double boiler.

lemon zest and juice

Add the butter, sugar and eggs; and place bowl over a pan of simmering water. Heat until sugar has dissolved, stirring continuously.

ingredients on the stove

Continue to heat, without boiling, for 20 minutes.

after 10 minutes over the heat

Remove bowl from the heat, and strain the mixture through a sieve. Pour the strained mixture into the jar, allow to cool and store in the fridge. The curd should be eaten within two weeks.

straining the mixture

Lemon curd can be used in pastry cases, for the base of lemon meringue pie, or to spread on toast! I doubled the recipe up and will be taking a jar up to Mama and Papa C to say thank you for the lovely ingredients.

ready to eat!

A spicy Anglo-African cottage pie

I love my new knives! I received a lovely shiny set for my birthday, and after using one blunt knife for everything for the last six months, I am in heaven. Frank was worried about giving me the new set of knives, as I am incredibly accident-prone, but in the end it was Frank who shed the first drop (or five) of blood. Not to worry, all wounds are healed, and I am proud to announce that I have not cut myself yet! (touch wood, touch wood.) We both used to dread it when I found a recipe that required sweet potato or pumpkin, as it took us hours – and buckets of sweat – to get the vegetables looking anything like they did in the recipe. Not with my new knives though, my chef’s knife just slid through those sweet potatoes like they were marshmallows. Never under-estimate the value of a good knife!

mince cooking in the pot

During a slow day in the world of bean-counting, or “work” as people like to call it, I was looking for some delicious recipes for dinner. As Sydney has been plunged into ice, I wanted some winter comfort food to fill our bellies. As luck would have it, I found a recipe for spicy parsnip cottage/shepherd’s pie. This recipe was very different to what I’m used to, as it had a tasty Moroccan twist to it. Needless to say, I made it and Frank hoovered it up! (Which is his fee for being chief dish-washer)

pie, waiting for the oven

The dish is a little time-consuming as it has three stages to the recipe. What’s great about it is that you can make it the night before and just pop it in the oven when you get home from work. It tastes as delicious the next day, as all curries seem to do. The cottage/shepherd’s pie has a surprisingly bobotie-like taste, bobotie being a traditional meat-and-custard dish from South Africa, so if you’re looking for the taste without the hassle, give it a go! I would recommend you serve it with a green salad and some crusty bread, but it’s also great on its own.

pie, out of the oven

Spicy shepherd’s pie (adjusted from BBC Good Food website)

For the meat sauce:

2 tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
small knob of ginger, peeled and granted
2 tbsp medium curry powder
2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
2 tbsp tomato paste
500g minced beef or lamb (or even chicken/turkey)
400g can chopped tomatoes
100g frozen peas

For the topping:

600g sweet potatoes , peeled and chopped into large chunks
large potato, peeled and chopped into large chunks
1 chilli , deseeded and chopped
large bunch coriander , chopped
2 tsp turmeric
juice of 1 lemon
50g butter (or nuttilex if you want to go dairy-free)

For the sauce, heat the oil in a pan and add the onion. Cook until soft, add the garlic, ginger and curry powder, then cook until aromatic. Turn up the heat, add the mince, fry until browned, then add the tomatoes, Worcestershire sauce and tomato paste and simmer for 20 mins until thickened. A few mins before the end, add the peas.
Meanwhile, tip the sweet potatoes and potatoes into a pan of cold water, bring to the boil, then cook for 10 mins. Drain, season and mash with the rest of the ingredients.
Heat oven to 220C/fan 200C/gas 8. Assemble the pies in individual dishes (or one large one) by placing some meat sauce on the bottom and topping with mash. Ruffle up the tops with a fork, then bake for 20 mins until golden and bubbling.

Frank's portion... 😉

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