Posts Tagged 'vanilla'

Rhubarb & Vanilla Jam

My tummy is the boss. When it says jump, I don’t even stop to ask how high, I just jump as high as I can in a desperate attempt to keep it happy. My tummy tells my mind what to think, and my hands what do to. Which is why I can never be blamed for eating anything I’m not allowed to, my tummy made me do it officer!

Avoiding sugar for so long as made me slightly nuts. My tummy has been rather angry with me and is intent on seeking revenge. The other day I was sitting on the couch and my tummy said to me “why don’t you try that delicious custard tart in the fridge, Frank won’t even notice it’s gone, and I won’t tell your Naturopath”. As my tummy presented a solid argument, I thought “why not eh!” and proceeded to scoff down the only custard tart in the fridge (it was small, don’t worry).  Unfortunately Frank went into the fridge that night and asked where the custard tart went… and I was totally busted! I believe his words were “has it gotten so bad that you are eating in secret?”, but of course it wasn’t me, it was my tummy that did it!

Because of my sugar addiction, my tummy has been dreaming up all sorts of sugary deliciousness for me to make. And as there has been a mass of rhubarb in our local store lately, I decided to try my hand at rhubarb jam. This recipe is really simple to follow, and the jam is delicious. As soon as I finish the diet I’ll be making fresh scones to have all the jam with.  And tummy says “yes please!”
Rhubarb & vanilla jam – recipe from the BBC Good Food website

1 kg rhubarb, weighed after trimming, cut into 3cm chunks
1 kg jam sugar (or 1 kg sugar plus 1 x 8g sachet pectin)
2 vanilla pods , halved lengthways
juice 1 lemon

Put a small plate in the freezer. Put the rhubarb into a preserving pan or your largest saucepan with the sugar and halved vanilla pods. Heat gently, stirring, until all the sugar has dissolved, then squeeze in the lemon juice and increase the heat.

Boil for about 10 mins, skimming off the scum as you go (the fruit should be soft).

Test for setting point by spooning a little onto your chilled plate. After 1-2 mins, push your finger through the jam – if the surface wrinkles it is ready, if not, keep cooking for 2-min intervals, testing in between. (Or if you have a sugar thermometer it should reach 105C)

Once the jam is ready, let it cool for about 15 mins before ladling into warm sterilized jars and sealing. Will keep for 6 months in a cool, dark place.


Rooibos and vanilla loaf cake

My cupboard is a mess. So much so that I have to store half my shoes in Frank’s cupboard, much to his annoyance. He leaves his shoes in the lounge, so I always take the opportunity to sneak my shoes into his shoe-space when he’s not looking. Sometimes I’m even too lazy to put my shoes in his cupboard, so I leave them next to the bed. But then I throw dirty clothes over them and end up tripping on them every time i go back into the bedroom. (Frank doesn’t see them either, so it’s worth hiding them to laugh when he trips and swears!)

My cupboard can no longer close, so as Frank has been feeling very under the weather today I decided to clean out the cupboards and find all those clothes I’d forgotten about. And what better way to reward myself than with a cake!

A couple of weeks ago I entered a competition on Not Quite Nigella’s site and won myself a box of rooibos tea. For those of you who don’t know, rooibos (or redbush) tea is a herbal tea that originated in the Cedarberg in South Africa. I’ve been interested in using it in food, and decided to adapt a recipe to make rooibos and vanilla loaf cake. It has a wonderful delicate and sweet flavour, and worked well in the cake. It is best eaten with a nice hot cup of rooibos tea!

Rooibos and vanilla loaf cake – adapted from BBC Good food recipe for Jaffa loaf cake

140g butter , softened
200g self-raising flour
1 1⁄2 tsp baking powder
200g golden caster sugar
3 large eggs
1 bag rooibos tea covered in 3 tbsp boiling water (steeped for 5 mins)
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 tbsp milk

to finish:
1 bag rooibos tea covered in 3 tbsp boiling water (steeped for 5 mins)
50g golden caster sugar
50g dark chocolate

Heat oven to 180C/fan 160C/gas 4. Butter and line the base of a 1.2-litre loaf tin. Put all the cake ingredients and the tea (excluding tea bag of course!) into a bowl and beat with a hand whisk or wooden spoon for 3-5 mins, until light and fluffy.

Spoon the mix into the tin and level the top.

Bake for 40-50 mins, until golden brown and firm to the touch. Meanwhile, dissolve sugar in boiling water with tea bag. When the cake is cooked, remove it from the oven and spoon over the tea. Leave to cool in the tin, then remove and cool completely on a wire rack.

Break up the chocolate and melt over a pan of simmering water or in the microwave on Medium for 1-2 mins. Drizzle over the cake and leave to set.

July Daring Cook’s challenge – nuts!

My mom always says “you are what you eat”, which is very apt for this month’s challenge: nuts! The July 2010 Daring Cooks’ Challenge was hosted by Margie of More Please and Natashya of Living in the Kitchen with Puppies. They chose to challenge Daring Cooks to make their own nut butter from scratch, and use the nut butter in a recipe. Their sources include Better with Nut Butter by Cooking Light Magazine, Asian Noodles by Nina Simonds, and Food Network online.

When I logged in to find out what this month’s, and my first, challenge was; I almost jumped out my chair in glee to discover that it was nut butters. I’ve always wanted to make them, but never got around to it. The recipes were also straight-forward, and the kind hosts allowed for an optional extra challenge, so I immediately started searching for some recipes to use the nut butter in. As I’m not allowed dairy or wheat at the moment, the hosts had two recipes I could try. The optional extra recipe has dairy in it, so I could only have a tiny taste, but Frank was happy to polish off the rest.

Out of the 4 recipes provided, I decided to make the Almond (Butter) chicken and the walnut dip. I also found a recipe for peanut butter and caramel ice-cream, which I adapted to suit my fool-proof ice-cream recipe passed down from Beets. As we could choose any nut butter for the dessert recipe, I gave Frank the choice. He makes a fantastic food consultant, as he picked macadamia nuts and they were the perfect thing in the recipe!

One Saturday in June I decided to tackle the challenge. First up: Walnut dip. This recipe is lovely, as you just toss everything in the food processor with the nut butter and it’s done in 5 minutes. It also uses minimal dishes, which pleased the Chief dish-washer no end! The first time I made it I served it with chips, and Frank decided it would be even more delicious with toasted pitas. So I made it again for friends and served it with pitas, which is when Frank decided it actually tasted more delicious with chips. His nickname is now Goldilocks.

walnut dip with chips

walnut dip with pitas

Next up: the Butter chicken. This recipe was also straight-forward and quick to do. It is a yummy winter recipe, but I would recommend using less Garam Masala, it was a little bitter with the quantity that the recipe calls for. It is also best served with some naan bread, as there is a lot of sauce to mop up.

Last, but definitely not least, was the optional extra challenge dish of macadamia-nut-butter ice-cream with salted caramel. I used a wonderful recipe handed to me by Beets to make the basic vanilla ice-cream. You don’t need an ice-cream maker, and it freezes without crystals, so I make it as much as I can. Once the basic ice-cream was made I stirred in the roasted macadamia nut butter and shards of salted caramel I made (for the first time, yay for me! I am normally scared of melted sugar as it not only burns like nothing else when it touches your skin, but it sticks like a demon too…) This was by far the best dish of the day. I have already sent the recipe to a friend and cannot wait to make it again! Even my honest-oppinion-giver had only the best things to say about it.

All in all, the challenge was really fun, and I got to make things I never had before. I can’t wait for next month’s challenge!

Approximate Processing Times in Food Processor for Nut Butters: (from our hosts…)

Almonds: form a thick butter in about 2 to 3 minutes for slivered almonds, or 3 to 4 minutes for whole almonds; the skin of whole almonds will leave dark flecks in the butter
Cashews: form a smooth, spreadable butter after about 2 minutes of processing
Hazelnuts: form a firm, thick, and grainy butter in about 2 to 3 minutes; to remove the skin from whole hazelnuts, roast in a 400 degree F oven (200 degrees C/Gas Mark 6) for about 5 minutes or till skins loosen, then rub hazelnuts in a clean dishtowel to remove some of the skin; the remaining skin will leave dark flecks in the butter
Macadamias: form a soft and smooth butter in about 2 minutes
Peanuts: form a thick, grainy butter in about 2 or 3 minutes
Pecans: form a very soft, oily, pourable butter in 1 or 2 minutes; the skins give pecan butter a slightly tannic and bitter flavor
Walnuts: form a very soft, oily, pourable butter in 1 or 2 minutes; the skins give walnut butter a slightly tannic and bitter flavor

If you want to, roast the nuts for 10 mins on a baking tray and wait until cooled before processing.

Challenge Walnut White Bean Dip with Rosemary & Sage
Recipe notes: Canned beans tend to be salty, so you may not need additional salt. Taste the dip after blending and add salt as needed.

½ cup (120 ml) walnuts*
1 (15.8 oz/448g) can Great Northern, Cannellini, or other white beans, drained and rinsed 1 garlic clove, chopped 2 Tablespoons (30 ml) fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons (10 ml) fresh rosemary, chopped
2 teaspoons (10 ml) fresh sage, chopped
¼ teaspoon (1 ml) lemon zest (optional) ¼ teaspoon (1 ml) black pepper salt to taste

Make walnut butter by grinding ½ cup (120 ml) walnuts in food processor for about a minute until it forms a nut butter or paste. (*Alternately, start with ¼ cup (60 ml) prepared walnut butter.) Add beans, garlic, lemon juice, rosemary, sage, lemon zest (if using), and black pepper to the walnut butter in the food processor. Process the mixture to a smooth consistency. Taste and add salt as desired. Garnish dip with chopped walnuts and/or chopped fresh rosemary or sage, if desired. Serve dip with pita wedges, crostini, or assorted vegetables.

Challenge Chicken with Curried Tomato Almond Sauce
Yield: 4 servings
Recipe notes: Substitute the protein of your choice for the chicken. This is a smooth sauce, so the onion is removed before serving. If you prefer, dice the onion and leave it in the sauce or substitute a bit of onion powder.

1 Tablespoon (15 ml) olive oil
4 (6 oz / 170 g) boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
Salt to taste

Spice Blend:
1.5 tablespoons (20 ml) garam masala seasoning
1 teaspoon (5 ml) ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon (2 ml) ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon (1 ml) black pepper

4 tablespoons (60 ml) butter
1 large onion, cut in half pole to pole
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 (15-ounce/425 g) can tomato sauce
⅓ cup (80 ml) almond butter
⅓ cup (80 ml) milk
½ to ¾ cup (120 to 180 ml) chicken broth or water, more as needed
1 cup (240 ml) frozen peas (optional)

Hot basmati rice for serving
Chopped parsley (optional garnish)
Sliced almonds (optional garnish)

Cook the chicken. If desired, pound chicken to ¼ inch (6 mm) thickness to promote even cooking. Sprinkle with a bit of salt and pepper to taste. Heat 1 teaspoon (5 ml) olive oil a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add half the chicken; sauté 3 to 5 minutes on each side or until cooked through. Cook the chicken in 2 batches, adding more oil if needed for second batch. Dice chicken into bite-sized pieces; set aside on clean plate and keep warm.
Prepare spice blend. Stir garam masala, ginger, cinnamon, and pepper together in a small bowl. Set aside.
Melt the butter in large nonstick skillet over medium-low heat. Add the onion and cook gently for several minutes to infuse the butter with onion flavor. Keep the heat low to avoid burning the butter; a little color is fine. Add the spice blend and garlic and cook for 1 minute or till fragrant, stirring constantly. Add the tomato sauce, stir well, and bring to boil. Reduce heat to simmer. Whisk in almond butter and milk until thoroughly combined with tomato sauce. The almond butter is thick so it takes a while to make a smooth sauce. Return to simmer. Add broth (or water) to sauce to reach desired consistency; return to simmer. Add more broth (or water) as needed to thin sauce as desired.
Remove onion from sauce and discard. Stir frozen peas (if using) into sauce. Transfer sliced chicken to sauce. Simmer gently for a few minutes until peas and chicken are heated through.
Serve chicken and sauce over rice. Garnish with chopped parsley and/or sliced almonds if desired.

Optional extra challenge: Macadamia-nut-butter ice-cream with salted caramel adapted from Beets’ recipe

4 egg whites
500 ml cream
1 x 397 g can condensed milk
10 ml vanilla essence
250g macadamia nuts
100g castor sugar
large pinch salt flakes

For the ice-cream:
Spread macadamia nuts on lined baking sheet and roast in oven (160C) for 10 mins until lightly brown. Once cool, put nuts in food processor and blend for 5 mins, until nuts become a paste.
Whisk egg whites stiffly with a good pinch of salt.  Add cream and whip again until stiff.  Add condensed milk, macadamia butter and vanilla and whip well.  Turn into a 2 litre fridge container.

For the salted caramel: Pour caster sugar into a single  layer in a pot, and melt without stirring. Once a dark caramel color, pour onto a greased baking sheet in thin layer and sprinkle over salt flakes. Wait for it to harden, and break into shards. Mix shards in with ice-cream, place container in freezer and freeze quickly.

Makes about 12 large scoops.

Ladybugs and cupcakes

I think I might be slightly crazy. And with the amount of cursing and mumbling coming out of the Pig Palace kitchen today, Frank agrees. As I was humming “I am a woman, on a mission”, I began the ambitious task of making two chocolate gateaux cakes (one with buttercream icing, and one with ganache), one batch of muffin-sized cupcakes and 16 mini-cupcakes. All in a morning. And why, I hear you ask? It is birthday weekend of course!

In January I volunteered to make a cake for Frank’s beautiful niece for her 6th birthday. As D-day (or shall I say B-day… ;)) is tomorrow, I gave her the option two weeks ago of choosing what themed cake she would like. With dread in my stomach I suspected she’ll ask for a Barbie cake (as this is all I wanted as a kid), but much to my relief she has requested a ladybug cake. PHEW. As the cake is being baked for a party, I have added some cupcakes to go with the ladybug to feed all the hungry little mouths.

For some reason, I seemed to have forgotten to bring my baking mojo into the kitchen this morning. In the course of the day I dropped cakes on the floor, I threw icing on the walls, I shut a Tupperware container straight onto the buttercream swirls of the cupcakes, and I dropped my new piping set from a dizzy height so that all the new nozzles migrates to places I’ll only discover in a year. When I drop something else.

First up: the cupcakes and mini-cupcakes.

I used my favorite recipe that got me into loving cupcakes in the first place. I made 1.5 batches, and this amount made 12 chocolate-y cupcakes and 16 mini-cupcakes.

For some reason the cakes pulled away from their cases as soon as they were taken out the oven, so in a McGyver moment  I tied a little pink ribbon on each of them to hold them in place.

I iced the cupcakes with vanilla buttercream, stuck a slice of marshmallow on top, and iced letters on top of the marshmallow. With the mini-cupcakes I simply piped a buttercream swirl and added some sprinkles. Just in case you wondered, Frank’s niece loves pink!

cupcakes with lettering

mini-cupcakes with buttercream swirls

Next up: the gateaux cake. I needed to make it into the shape of a ladybug, but last time I used a normal round tin the ladybug looked a bit sad. After doing a bit of research I decided to use my metal mixing bowl instead, which turned out rather well if I may say so myself! (I also got some great advice from the staff at The Essential Ingredient to line my bowl so the cake actually comes out)

I iced the ladybug with the same vanilla buttercream, used slices of marshmallows for the eyes, and licorice laces for the legs and lines on it’s back. For the final touch I added some edible glitter, and now it’s the fanciest ladybug around!

Ta daaaah!

The ladybug doesn’t have its feelers or legs yet, those will come tomorrow when it’s set up at the party. The big challenge will be tomorrow, when Frank and I have to get across Sydney with a cake, 12 cupcakes and 16 mini-cupcakes on my lap!

And what happened to the cake with chocolate ganache icing? That is for Frank’s Mom’s birthday on Monday. I’ll be icing the cake tomorrow night so stay tuned for some more photos…

Chocolate Cupcakes – recipe from “Little cakes with attitude” by Kate Shirazi

3/4 cup self-raising flour
4 tbsp cocoa powder
1/2 cup caster sugar
1/2 cup margarine
2 large free-range eggs
1 tsp baking powder
2 tsp milk

Preheat oven to 170 degrees C. Line a 12-hole muffin pan with cupcake cases. Sift flour, cocoa powder and sugar into a large bowl. Plonk all 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.

Vanilla buttercream icing

1 1/2 cups icing sugar, sifted
1/2 cup soft unsalted butter
1 tsp vanilla extract

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

Chocolate gateaux cake – recipe from BBC Good Food website

200g good quality dark chocolate , about 60% cocoa solids
200g butter , cut in pieces
1 tbsp instant coffee granules
85g self-raising flour
85g plain flour
1⁄4 tsp bicarbonate of soda
200g light muscovado sugar
200g golden caster sugar
25g cocoa powder
3 medium eggs
75ml buttermilk (5 tbsp)
grated chocolate or curls, to decorate

Butter a 20cm round cake tin and line the base. Preheat the oven to fan 140C/conventional 160C/ gas 3. Break the chocolate in pieces into a medium, heavy-based pan. Tip in the butter, then mix the coffee granules into 125ml/4fl oz cold water and pour into the pan. Warm through over a low heat just until everything is melted – don’t overheat. Or melt in the microwave on Medium for about 5 minutes, stirring half way through.
While the chocolate is melting, mix the two flours, bicarbonate of soda, sugars and cocoa in a big bowl, mixing with your hands to get rid of any lumps. Beat the eggs in a bowl and stir in the buttermilk.
Now pour the melted chocolate mixture and the egg mixture into the flour mixture, stirring just until everything is well blended and you have a smooth, quite runny consistency. Pour this into the tin and bake for 1 hour 25- 1 hour 30 minutes – if you push a skewer in the centre it should come out clean and the top should feel firm (don’t worry if it cracks a bit). Leave to cool in the tin (don’t worry if it dips slightly), then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

P.S. Below is a photo of the finished Ladybug with her legs and feelers!

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