Friday, April 23, 2010


I sometimes get random pikelet cravings. The problem with pikelet cravings is that they are so easy and quick to make that it's hard not the give in. This is just a basic little recipe that produces a nice, consistent batter. I overcooked these a little because I was scared they weren't cooking all the way through, so they ended up being a little tough, don't make the same mistake!

Cinnamon Pikelets

Mix 1cup self raising flour with 2 tablespoons of caster sugar. Make a well in the centre.
In another bowl, add 2/3cup milk to 1 beaten egg. Pour this into the well. Using a wooden spoon, gradually beat in the flour. Add some cinnamon to the mix, however much you like, maybe about 2 teaspoons?
Brush frying pan with a little butter.
When hot, place spoonfuls of mixture in frying pan. When bubbles appear on the surface, turn with a spatular. Allow to brown on other side and cook through.
Brush frying pan with butter between batches.
Lift onto cake cooler covered with a clean cloth to keep them soft.
Serve with butter, jam, and/or whipped cream.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Basic Bread

Although Anna is most definitely the bread baker of the two of us (what with her fancy ratios and all), I've decided that it's a skill I must learn. I've dabbled with bread making before but it's mainly been sweet rolls and pizza dough. I've been spurred along this journey by this book from this lovely lady, and it's where this recipe comes from. It's about homesteading and the importance of learning country skills. Each chapter is about a different skill, such as growing vegetables, cook, sewing, keeping animals etc, with each chapter combining an amusing anecdote from the author and ideas for how you can incorporate these skills into your life. I raced through this book from start to finish in a day and now I desperately need some angora rabbits and a banjo!
My first attempt at bread wasn't that bad. It was just a basic white sandwich bread. I ate most of it slathered in butter, but it wasn't the nicest when toasted. I think I should look into using live yeast. After this attempt I went out and purchased a large, intensive bread making book full of recipes, tips and troubleshooting. I'll be sure to keep you all informed as to my progress, and please let me know how this recipe goes for you if you try it!

2 cups warm water
1 packet dry yeast
1 teaspoon honey
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 teaspoon salt
5-6 cups unbleached white flour

In a large bowl, combine the water and yeast. Once the yeast has dissolved, add the honey. Leave it for about 10 minutes until it starts frothing.
Mix in the vegetable oil, salt and 2 cups of flour to the yeast. Mix this with a wooden spoon for about five minutes. Keep adding flour until you have a ball of dough that will stay together without being too sticky.
Place on a floured surface and kneed until you can poke it and it bounces back. This will take a while.
Grease a clean bowl with the butter and put the dough in the bowl. Cover with a damp cloth and leave for one and a half hours.
Punch down the dough and kneed a little more. When it's back to how it looked before, rip it in half, shape into loaves and place in greased bread pans. Cover these with a damp cloth and leave for another hour.
Brush some melted butter over the loaves and place in a 375F oven. Bake for about 30 minutes (mine took a little longer.) When they are brownish on top and a bit hard it's time to take them out. Let them sit for a bit before transferring them to a cooling rack. Cover in butter and eat!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Plum Tea Cake

I baked this cake to celebrate / commemorate / commiserate the end of the Easter holidays. 3 days off from work = 5 day weekend! It was a slow, relaxed weekend with large stretches of time spent tirelessly digging garden beds in a backyard overrun with weeds.

This morning I decided to wander aimlessly around Preston looking for food tidbits. I ended up with all sorts of vegies, grains, some green curry paste and dried oyster mushrooms. I finished the trip with a quick circuit of Aldi to hunt for bargains. I mean, you don't go to Aldi for anything specific - unless of course you were stopping by to quickly pick up a mountain bike or a watering can. They had a kilo of plums for 2 dollars, so I grabbed those, as well as some 69c sliced beetroot, a 99c bag of spinach and some unsalted butter. I forgot to pick up a plastic bag at the start of the queue (not being Aldi initiated) so ended up having to cram all the things I bought into my handbag quickly whilst being glared at by the people queueing behind me. Argh.

Anyway, the plums. I made a cake using Michael Ruhlman's pound cake ratio, but browned the butter first and used soft brown sugar. I tossed some white choc chips in at the end because we had them in the cupboard. I layered the surface with the cut plums and sprinkled them with brown sugar so they would caramelise in the oven. Sticky plum syrup pooled in the crevices where the stone of the fruits once were. The plums were not anywhere near as delicious as the plums I used to make plumble, but they were half the price. And why is it a tea cake? Well, Andrew called it a tea cake and when I asked him why he said 'I don't know, because it's brown.' Indeed it was brown, a deep, rich brown.

Plum Tea Cake

8 plums, halved and stoned
150g flour
150g soft brown sugar
3 eggs
150g butter
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
1/4 cup white choc chips (optional)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder

Preheat an oven to 170 degrees C.

Melt butter in a small pan. Keep cooking it until it turns a golden brown colour, not too dark. Turn off heat and leave to cool for a few minutes. Beat the soft brown sugar into the butter in a mixing bowl, until a smooth mixture is achieved. Beat in the eggs and vanilla. Stir in baking powder, flour and salt. Stir through choc chips (if using). Butter a square cake tin and line with baking paper (I layered some long strips of baking paper under the main sheet to over-hang the tin, to ease the cake out after baking - see photo). Spoon cake batter into tin, sit the 16 plum halves on top in a 4 by 4 arrangement. Sprinkle with dark brown sugar and bake for 1 hour to 1 hour and 15 mins - keep checking when it gets close to an hour to see when the centre has cooked through. Leave to cool for 15 mins, then carefully lift out of cake tin using the strips of baking paper.

Serves 8.

Friday, April 2, 2010

I am never making a roast chicken again.

Sure, it tasted pretty good, but it took hours, dirtied every dish I own with a film of grease and ended up tasting ... like chicken. By the time it was ready the kitchen was a disaster, and I was too tired to enjoy eating it.

The roasted onions, garlic, beetroot, sweet potato and potato and the steamed grean beans were much more interesting.

The leftovers today for lunch, however, were rather tasty - livened up with a bit of whole-egg mayonaisse and Maille dijon mustard.

mushroom tangle, barley greens & plumble

I recently discovered that the Preston Market is open on Friday nights 'til 8pm. This means that if I get out of work on time and don't dally about, I can make it to the market by around 6pm, pick up some fresh vegetables and tidbits for the weekend, and not have to deal with the soul-testing, all-encompassing throng of market-goers that descend on the place on a Saturday morning. It also means that I can make a delicious meal to celebrate Friday evening with pretty much any ingredient I've been distracted by dreaming about all day at work that day. Last Friday, I had been daydreaming about mushrooms. (Really - who daydreams about mushrooms? Is that a common occurence? I assume other people daydream about things like pina coladas on tropical islands and adventurous holidays to far off places and meeting cool people at hot parties and what not. But I'm sitting there in the office thinking about shiitakes. Strange or not? Let me know.)

Anyway, at the market I got a bunch of spinach, 3/4 kilo of dark red plums, enoki mushrooms, black fungus mushrooms (dried, from the Asian grocery store), field mushrooms, another Asian mushroom I don't know the name of (pictured below, right, next to the enokis - can you tell me the name if you know it) and some dried shiitakes.

What resulted was a sumptuous, buttery tangle of fungus, which I served with a barley risotto strewn with a whole bunch of spinach. The mushrooms were indescribably richly flavoured, overwhelmingly umami, meaty and moreish. The barley served as a filling and subtle sidedish to balance out the richness of the mushrooms.

Mushroom tangle

As many different types of mushrooms as you like, chopped, soaked if dried, I used:

1 handful of dried shiitakes, soaked in boiling water for 15 mins
1 handful of black fungus, soaked in boiling water for 15 mins and chopped finely
1 large field mushroom, sliced
1 packet of enokis, base chopped off and separated into strings
a bunch of another Asian mushroom (name pending!), separated

50g butter
2 tablespoons soy sauce
white pepper

Prepare all mushrooms for frying. Add half the butter to the pan and melt on high heat. Add in mushrooms, one variety at a time, stirring well. Fry, stirring often, for about 10 minutes until mushrooms are cooked through and wilted. Stir through soy sauce and other half of butter, turn off heat. Sprinkle with white pepper. Serve with barley greens. Serves 2-4, depending on love of mushrooms.

Barley greens

1 bunch spinach, washed, separated into leaves
1 cup barley
2 cloves sliced garlic
black pepper
1 vegetable stock cube
Boiling water
1 teaspoon oil

Soak the barley in boiling water half an hour in advance. Have a kettle of boiled water nearby. Heat the oil in a large pot (one that has a lid) and stir in the barley. Add the garlic, crushed stock cube and some black pepper and stir. Add hot water, one cup at time, stirring well whilst it soaks into the barley and evaporates (similar to making a risotto). Once the barley is almost soft, stir in the spinach and a little extra water and turn off the heat. Put the lid on the pot and leave for 5 minutes whilst the spinach steams in the heat of the barley. Take lid off and stir well. Serves 2 - 4.


As dessert had been requested for the evening, I made an easy crumble with the plums - simply core and slice the plums into quarters (I used about 5 plums / 750 g), put them in a baking dish and stir in a couple of tablespoons of soft brown sugar and a teaspoon of cinnamon. In a pan, melt around 40 grams of butter, cook until brown. Stir in a cup of oats. Spoon oat and butter mixture over plums and then cook in a 200 degree C oven for around half an hour (or until plums are saucy and soft and oats are brown).

Serves 4. Andrew gave this the wonderful name, Plumble. I was too busy devouring the sticky, unctuous red sauce that the plums had exuded at the time to notice. Apparently he said it about 5 times before I looked up and giggled about it. Welcome, Plumble! I will be making you again.