Monday, March 25, 2013

Hop to it -Marshmallow Bunnies -

In my opinion, the most awsomest MARSHMALLOW recipe for EASTER BUNNIES.
These cute edible critters have been doing the rounds in my family since I was a little un and they still bring a smile and a big "Yes Please" when offered to family and friends over the Easter long weekend.
You still have time to have a go.
This makes 4 middle sized bunnies and 18 -24 baby bunnies.  Any left over marshmallow can be poured into an oiled container, cut into squares and rolled in coconut.
Here we go:
Place 2 cups sugar and two tablespoons gelatin in a saucepan and mix together well.
   -I found this disperses the gelatin evenly and stops it from clumping.
Add 1 1/2 cup hot water.
Simmer for 5 minutes - do not stir
Boil for 5 minutes - do not stir
Take off the heat and let cool. This is when I usually tip the marshmallow into a big glass bowl. 

   -Don't let this mixture go cold as it doesn't whip up as much.
   - If it is too hot it takes FOREVER to whip up but it still work either way.
Place Bunnie moulds on a baking tray and lightly spray the inside of the moulds with oil.  I usually turn the mould upside down for a bit so any excess spray runs out.
Add  1 teaspoon coconut essence and beat using electric beater until white and frothy.  It will thicken but it still needs to be fluid, not chunky.
Spoon marshmallow into bunny moulds, give the mould a tap on the bench to move air bubbles out of the ears and head before you pop your little bouncing friends in the fridge to set - maybe 1/2- 1 hour.
The best way to get the bunny out of the mould and not mangle its cute little face is to stick your finger up its .....rear, and it will just pop out... (lol) with ears in tact.
Paint the ears with pink (or other) food colouring using a cotton tip and roll in coconut.
- Dry roasted coconut tastes amazing too and doesn't take much time at all.
Pack up in air safe containers and bunnies stay fresh for at least a week.
These are great gifts for family or friends. 
So get hopping..... and don't forget to let me know how you go!!


Sunday, March 3, 2013

Kale Risotto is Yummo!

I had never heard of kale until i began teaching cooking and kale risotto was the first dish we attempted with our garden produce.  The kitchen kids devoured the entire pot every time, without fail and requested we make it regularly.   

Apparently kale was common in Australia many years ago but was overtaken by spinach and disappeared.  It is now becoming a "trendy veggie" and available in supermarkets as well as markets.

As is standard with a risotto, it is a creamy dish - butter is the key here. I found the kale flavour to be quite mild, delicate and moreish.   It is easy to prepare but does take some stirring..stirring and stirring. 

The bonus with this recipe is that any veggies can be added.  Silver beet, spinach, carrot, pumpkin, corn, beans, zucchini and even eggplant worked well.

A risotto should be eaten immediately because as it cools it gets very gluggy/stodgy and it does not reheat well. 

Kale risotto

What ya need
3 cups chicken stock                                                        
3-4 cups water
1 tsp sea salt
400 g kale - wash, remove stem and finely chop
1 large onion - peel and finely chop
1 tblspn olive oil
2 tblspn butter
3 large garlic cloves - peel and crush
1 1/2 cups arborio rice
1/2 cup parmesan cheese - grated

What ya do
2 pots, one for kale/stock and one for the final result

*Bring stock and water and salt to boil in a saucepan - cold water/stock makes for a gluggy risotto
*Prepare kale and add to stock
*In a larger pot, using the olive oil, sweat the onion.
*Add the rice and garlic.  Fry off for a few minutes.
*Add a few ladles of stock/kale into the rice and stir
Not quite ready.  Keep stirring!

*Once the rice has absorbed the stock add another ladle full and stir, stir, stir
*Keep this process going until the rice is tender
*It is not essential all the stock is used, but all of  the kale should be added
*More hot water/stock can be added if  the rice if more liquid is needed to complete the cooking process.
*Once the rice is cooked add the butter and parmesan
*Do not forget to taste before serving to check there is enough flavour. Extra stock powder or salt or cheese can be added quickly before serving
*Mix through well and serve immediately
*Enjoy the texture as it rolls around your mouth, and the flavour it leaves behind.  You will become addicted!

Oops!  I was so keen to eat the end result that I forgot to take a pic, so you will have to make it yourself to see the end result. 

Hmmm, just thinking, I also have an awesome recipe for Basil risotto.  Might put that up soon so keep posted!

Happy cooking!

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Sour Dough lesson with Julia

Wow!  What a month it has been.   I resigned from my job as a Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Specialist.  It was a very difficult decision to make  but I am glad I had the courage to make it. 
I found my 2 1/2 years as the Kitchen Specialist (teacher) to be the most amazing, exciting, engaging and fulfilling experience.  In fact it was the experience of a life time and the most absolutely awesomest job I have ever had.  I learnt soooo much that I will carry with me through the next learning stage and extension of my career - my Bachelor of Education in Home  Economics degree. 
Last year I began my degree part time whilst working, this year I will be able to put all my energies into full time study (unless I decide to go for another SAKG Kitchen Specialist position). 

One of the things I will miss about my job is all the experimental cooking I have done over the last few years.   How am I going to keep it going I wonder...

To keep my creative juices flowing I enlisted the help of my cooking buddy Julia.  As one of my treasured SAKG kitchen volunteers, a passionate foodie and sour dough bread wizz, I felt sure she could teach me how to make her speciality -  scrummy sour bread loaf. 
I have always steered clear of baking bread and I question myself as to why baking bread seems such an intimidating task? Perhaps it is the thought of wasted time and supplies if it doesn't turn out. 
But I have learnt that each mistake brings me closer to the perfect end result.
Sour dough bread has been around since about 1500BC.  Lactic acid bacteria (lactobacillus) and natural yeast is the preserving/rising and flavour agents in sour dough.  Sour dough keeps longer than other yeast breads, is a little heavier and has a slight sour after taste which I think is a little like sour cream - but just a little!  It is not a lot of hands on work but does involve a lot of resting time.  Perfect for a weekend around the house and a loaf or foccacia can be made. Yummm!

 Firstly - We start with "STARTER".  Hmmm, funny bout that!  It is a runny, gloo like, sour smelling white pastey gloop.  This can be purchased over the net but it can also be made.  It is weird stuff, it is easy to make and you keep a little bit in a jar and use a bit and keep a bit for the next time and it just keeps going like that.  Julia gave me some of hers to START me off (giggle) but I found a blog that goes into more detail about making your own starter which is just putting flour and water in a jar!!!

Once we have the starter, we need to make "Fed starter" What the? you say. What is fed starter? It is STARTER that is FED! You need to feed the starter to make it come alive. How Bizarre! I swear, this has played in circles in my non scientific brain, but I understand the process now. I think!

To make 2 loaves, pour 100g starter into a bowl, mix in 200g of water and 200g of PLAIN flour.  I forgot and used self raising flour which resulted in a tasty yet doughy bread.   It doesn't have to be mixed perfectly as the lactobacillus will draw it together until it is a consistent gloopy texture. Give it a stir occasionally and you will notice the difference as it happens.   It is pretty amazing really.


 When the fed starter has been fed and is all swollen and goopy (this may take an hour or two) it is time to make the dough.
Measure out 200g fed starter ( left over fed starter can be added back to the starter).   Add 280g water, 2g instant yeast, 10g salt, 500g plain white flour.
Use a butter knife to bring the ingredients together roughly. Cover with greased cling wrap and rest for a couple of hours.
Now the fun begins!
Wet your fingers a little to stop the dough sticking to them and tip out the dough onto a lightly oiled bench top.  A stretch and fold technique is now used to activate the gluten and it takes hardly any time.  Imagine the dough is a square and stretch the dough out to the side, fold back into the square, stretching each side in turn.  Take note of the texture at this point for it will change.  Right now it should be bumpy and sort of rough.  Place back into the bowl, cover and let rest for a 2-3 more hours.  The rising times are shortened on a hot day.
With the second stretch you will notice how the dough is changing, it is becoming more flexible and resistance can be felt.  Rest again for half an hour or so.
Line a tray with baking paper.  After the third stretch, shape the dough into a loaf shape.  Make sure the edges are together so the dough does not separate.  Place the dough on a baking tray and let rest until the  outside of the dough is dry and firm to touch and you will see growth.  Score the top of the loaf with a knife before placing into the oven. Pre heat oven to about 195 degrees C.  Place another tray/oven safe bowl 3/4 filled with water on the shelf underneath to produce steam. Cook for 25-40 minutes.  Cool on a wire rack.  Remember - each oven is different so getting the right temp and cooking time may take a bit of practice. 
Foccacia works wonderfully with this recipe.  The dough is made the same but grated Parmesan, chopped rosemary and rock salt can be added.  Place a liberal amount of olive oil in the base of baking tray with an edge.

After the third stretch, mold the dough into the oiled tray.
 Drizzle some olive oil over the top, and sprinkle more salt or cheese if desired. Place in the oven.    Cook with water bath but only for about 15 minutes.
P.S.  If starter has been in the fridge for a few weeks, tip half out and add equal amounts of plain flour and water and shazzam! It will bring it back to life!   
So have a go!
   Have fun!
         Experience a new cooking adventure!!!
Thanks Julia Babe for a GREAT experience!



Thursday, February 14, 2013

Strawberry jam...mulberry jam and Muffin

My 15 year old pup MUFFIN
always keeps me company whilst I am cooking! 
Even if it is past her bedtime.
Who doesn't love Strawberry Jam?   

I have made Jam successfully  a couple of times, but  I thought this time I would research recipes after chatting with fellow jam maker and friend Lyn.  Previous attempts have worked, even though I made them with vague recollections of a TV show viewed years ago which suggested  fruit and sugar be equal quantities.  On this flimsy bit of memory, I managed to work out how to make a jam, although it was usually a little thick but so very tasty.

Now for a taste test!
Once this current batch of jam had cooled I was a bit miffed to find it was still a little thick.   I find I am fixing a lot of my cooking recently...My T.A.F.E. Chef Peter, said you can fix almost anything unless it has too much salt, you just need to know how.  How to fix this then?  It's not burnt, just thick.  I figure take it out of the jar, add water until it is the consistency I want, bring to the boil and pour into re-sterilised jars. Perfectamundo!

Next on the list was mulberry jam.  I had a large bag of them in the freezer, thanks to Auntie Helen.  This made a very tangy and textured preserve AND I did not overcook it this time... See....she is learning! 
I made quince paste last September.  It is awesome on cheese and that is essentially the same as a jam.  I was wondering how jam would taste on cheese? Answer = Not sure, I will leave that up to you to decide. 

quince paste, mulberry and strawberry jam
on cheese

I would try this recipe with any jam worthy fruits and it is really easy once you can visualise the setting point, which may or may not take a couple of attempts.
Firstly - A few tips for jam making.... 
* It is not generally recommended to use over ripe strawberries for jam..why not I say!. (apparently there is not enough pectin, but i have never had a problem)  Waste not want not.  A punnet makes a jar, and you will be hooked. 

*Normal sugar works fine but jam sugar has added pectin, which helps with setting and decreases cooking times.  This can be found at the supermarket and is called JAM sugar.  Thanks for that tip Lyn.
*Use a pastry brush and a little water to brush down the sides of saucepan to stop sugaring.
*Stir, Stir, Stir.
*A fork in the bottom of the pot may help prevent sticking.
*If jam is too runny, you many need to boil for a bit longer but test regularly.
*Dancing in the kitchen goes well with some cooking, just not jam making! It gets flicked around...
*Wear shoes, in case a little spit of boiling jam lands on your toes! ouch! ( whilst you are dancing)
*Be careful taking photo's over a boiling pot of jam... a camera won't improve  it's taste ( No I didn't, but
1 cup fruit
3/4 cup jam sugar
1/4 cup water

This was the first time I used jam sugar which has pectin added.  This helps to thicken the jam and  cut the sugar down by 1/4 cup.
*Prepare fruit - large chunks for chunky jam or finely chopped for finer textured jam
*Place all ingredients in saucepan and dissolve sugar over a low heat
*Turn up the heat, boil for around 20 minutes, stirring to prevent sticking
*Test jam by dipping in a silver spoon, run another spoon along the back and a line should be left.    The jam should not run back together, if it does boil for another few minutes and check again
*Pour hot jam into hot sterilised jars.  Tip upside down for a few minutes to seal the jar.  When you put the jar upright you will notice the lid will have expanded and be hard. As it cools, it will flatten.  This seals the jar correctly.  When you open the jar it will pop like jars we purchase, cool!
This jam was excellent on the sponges I made during the holidays.
 P.S. Try eating a cherry whilst stirring jam.  The brain gets confused and we also taste through smell, so my senses just wanted to taste strawberry.  I could not taste the cherry until I looked away.... Weird!
A pear and apple tart using jam on top for sweetness.
Hope you have a go.
                     Happy Preserving!

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Uni break Milk Shake

Today was enrollment for Fashion Design as part of my Home Ec degree so a few of my friends and I headed into town.  Once enrollment was over and the required sewing equipment was purchased we headed to an interesting coffee house for a beverage.

I cannot for the life of me remember the name of the place, and I have to say the chocolate milkshake I ordered was one of the most average ones I have ever had. BUT they served their drinks in clean pasta jars??? With re usable bamboo straws??? What the??? They are not bamboo paper straws but actual wooden bamboo.  Now that is something I have never seen.  What a great idea for a party.

Did a tad of research and here is what I found.
Have not found them in Australia yet, will keep looking.  If anyone knows where to get them please let me know... ta.

Preserving - Tomato Sauce (katsup)

Hi All,
This is rather a long blog... so if you just want the recipe scroll down the page. If you want a short
story about sauce, get reading.  Either way, enjoy!
One of the things I find  special about cooking is the passing down of recipes through family and friends.  It is not just the food,  I feel it is really passing down the feelings of love... "I love you enough to make you this special dish, I hope you enjoy it!"  It certainly gives me the warm fuzzys. 
 LOVE IS MY FAVOURITE INGREDIENT !!! And you need lots for this sauce!
Last year I wanted to learn how to make tomato sauce so I could pass on the love and teach my kitchen kids at school how to make it with the tomatoes they grew in their school garden.  
Of course I called on Mum to dig out her Grandmothers recipe from the 1920's, possibly earlier.  It was originally measured in pounds and ounces and I'm thinking it could be at least 100 years old.  It has now been passed down 4 generations.  I am told my Great Nanna Stoneman was a great at cooking, knitting and crochet.  All of which has been passed on down the family line, or at least, many of us attempt to continue the line of specialised Granny talents.

Mum and I made a successful batch of sauce before I attempted it with my kitchen kids.  All I can say is.... AWESOME and tasted just as I remembered.

A few weeks later the kitchen kids and I also managed to make a tasty batch of sauce which we used with sausage rolls made during class.  My mouth is watering whilst I am writing, remembering the flavours together...mmmm...

We entered our sauce in the Botanical Gardens Tomato Sauce Competition and came 3rd...our prize was a cooking demonstration by 2011 Master Chef runner up, Michael Weldon.  That was an exciting and entertaining class for us all.

A year later and  the sauce making began again.  It was a long process so a day needed to be set aside.  It is quality time with Mum, we can chat for the whole day whist doing something fun and productive.  And, I don't have to do all the dishes!
Little Nanna's old mouli
Tomatoes, apples and onions are peeled and chopped, spices are added, the sauce was on the stove top simmering so went around the corner to my Nanna's to borrow her mouli - we needed this to get lumps out of the sauce later. 

Little Nanna is my Dad's Mum (and YES! she is little) she came back for a cuppa and chat.  She became our third "stirrer". There is no way this sauce was going to stick now!  Nanna is an expert stirrer and at 86, she was still making her own apricot jam.

After a days work and ten kilo's of tomatoes later,  we had 2 massive pots of tomato sauce ready to be bottled. Yay!  
BUT, hang on, I think the after taste is a little sweet.  Hmmm, I was not happy with it.  What to do now?  Mum researched on GOOGLE... other sauce makers are saying add salt or more spices... hmmm.  Nope.  I was not happy with that either!  Thought I might just leave it in the pot overnight and have a think about it.  I think we overcooked it.  It was not burnt but the sauce was quite dark.   I think the sugar caramelised which led to the concerntrated flavour of sugar hence the over sweet taste.
My gut instinct  told me to just cook up some more tomatoes without any flavours, mouli it and add to the original sauce. I believe we need to follow our instinct in cooking.  I have often wondered, is there someone from the spirit world whispering a solution over my shoulder?  This solution was in fact the "perfect fix".  There was no sweet aftertaste.  I was happy now.  The sauce was saved.. dant da da da!
Here it is my Great Nanna Stonemans Tomato Sauce Recipe - make it with a friend and enjoy!
5 1/2 kilo tomatoes
60g chopped garlic
4 large onions
6 good sized apples
915g sugar
1 desert spoon pepper
28g cloves
21g allspice
80g salt
3 1/2 cups vinegar
Muslin/calico/cotton bag for spices or square of cloth and string
What ya gotta do:
*Place a 2 forks in the bottom of a large saucepan to stop the sauce from sticking
*To peel tomatoes (best done with firm tomatoes), cut a cross the base of the tomato and place in a   pot of boiling water ( a bowl will also do). When the edges of the skin curl up it is easy to peel off
*Chop and add to a large pot over medium/high heat
*Once it starts boiling, turn to a simmer
*Peel and finely chop apples, garlic and onion - add to pot
*Add sugar, allspice, pepper and salt
*Tie cloves in muslin bag - add to sauce
*Simmer sauce for 2 hours or so, stirring regularly
*Add vinegar and continue to reduce for another hour
*Prepare jars by washing in warm soapy water, rinse and heat in a hot oven for 20 minutes
*Use a silver spoon to test the sauce, it should coat the back without running off
*Each batch will take a different amount of time to reduce depending on the amount of water in the tomatoes
*When the sauce has thickened, dispose of spice bag
*Cool sauce a little and ladle into a mouli to get out the lumps
*I add the extra step of giving a quick wizz with a hand blender, It makes the sauce pour better
*Use a funnel to pour into the sterile bottles
*Put the lid on bottles whilst hot
*This sauce will keep for ages, if it lasts that long
*Refrigerate after opening

See you next time... Happy Preserving!




Saturday, January 19, 2013

Berry sponge cake helps to celebrate 30 years of friendship

A deliciously light, jam and cream filled sponge cake is an afternoon tea favourite at our place and my Mum is the master at making this crowd pleaser.

These holidays I made sponge cake filled with my own strawberry jam, decorated with mixed berries for my girlfiend Douha and my 31st anniversary of being friends.  How blessed I feel to have her still in my life.

Whilst my sponge cake  was well recieved and was shared around, it just doesn't seem the same as Mums.  So, I am on a mission to bake the perfect sponge cake and there are some "tricks to the trade".  What are they you ask?

*Get a great recipe off your Mum! It is tried and true so if it doesn't work, the reason is YOU!
*Use room temperature eggs.  A warm egg holds more air.  Air is the answer to a fluffy sponge.
  My friend Julia advised me that eggs should be left out for at least four hours for best results.

*Make sure the bowl/spoons used have no oils on them, this may stop the eggs whipping properly.

*Use a metal whisk and spoon, glass or ceramic bowls work best.

*Freezes great with jam and cream at the ready for surprise visitors.

*Be gentle when moving cooked sponge, this can make it flop... and DO NOT open the oven even a tiny weenie bit as I learnt (yet already knew!)


This makes 2 round sponges that at be sliced through the centre and filled with jam and cream

A stack of sponge kisses.  Two are joined together with jam and cream and taste the most awesomest when they are left for a little while so the sponge goes a  soft (not soggy).This method is a party favourite.
Cooked in patty pans for butterfly cakes. Great for a kids party.

You will need

4 large eggs - room temperature
3/4 cups of caster sugar
3/4 cups cornflour
1/4 cup custard powder
1 heaped teaspoon cream of tartar
1/2 heaped teaspoon bicarb soda

Pre heat oven to180C - gas fan forced
Prepare tins, trays, patty pans accordingly.
Sift the cornflour, custard powder, cream of tartar and bicarb soda 3 times.
Beat eggs and sugar in a glass bowl until light and fluffy looking. Takes around 7 minutes.
Using a metal spoon, fold the dry ingredients through the egg mixture.
Pour evenly into cake tins and bake.
Butterfly cakes - 3/4 full patty pans, cook for 10 minutes

Sponge kisses - place a tablespoon full on paper lined try, cook for 5-7 minutes
2 round cake tins - oiled and lines, cook for 20 minutes.

Remember that all ovens are a little different, so you may have to adjust your cooking time accordingly and cook ASAP to keep it light and fluffy.
Once the cakes are cool it is time to decorate!
Round cakes get sliced through the centre, spread a thin layer of jam/fruit and cream through the middle and put the top back on.  Don't take jam/cream out to the edges as it will spew over the edge and look messy.  Add cream and berries or grated chocolate to the top.
For fairy cakes, cut a small hole out of the top and cut the little round in half.  Place cream into the hole, arrange the "wings" on top. Decorate with fruit, or icing sugar.

Use 2 rounds of the sponge kisses to make a whole one.  Jam and cream the flat side and stick them together.  Sprinkle with icing sugar and enjoy! 

Im off to make another one, I want to get it just right!  Hope you will join me.

Happy cooking!