Winter weekend (Chilli pistachio brownie)

Well winter is finally upon us, apparently it’s the best start to the snow season for many many years, for us though it has been challenging, not the cold so much but the relentless wind pushing our garden to its limits. We haven’t suffered any losses but some plants are looking very stressed and tired. So this weekend I’ve been happily playing and experimenting in my kitchen, we had friends over for dinner on Saturday night and I decided to focus on a Spanish theme mainly because I wanted to make paella again, it’s such a wonderful dish that makes use of our local seafood and fresh vegetables from the garden.

I wanted to make a Spanish style dessert and thought of matching chocolate, chilli, spiced rum and pistachios. The base for the cake was a brownie recipe from Stephanie Alexander’s “The Cook’s Companion”.


Chilli pistachio brownie
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Recipe type: Cake
Cuisine: Australian
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Serves: 8
This cake combines the flavours of chocolate with chilli, pistachios and spiced rum.
Ingredients
  • 125 g butter
  • 100 g dark chocolate
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup castor sugar
  • 2 tablespoons of spiced rum or Pedro Ximenez sherry
  • 100 g sifted flour
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon (Mexican canela if you can get it)
  • ¼ tsp cayenne pepper or pequin chilli powder (or more to taste)
  • 125 g chopped pistachios
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 180*C
  2. Line a cake tin with baking paper (20cm)
  3. Melt the butter gently, adding the chocolate pieces when half the butter has melted
  4. Take off the heat and stir until the mix is smooth and thoroughly melted
  5. Let the chocolate mixture cool
  6. Beat the eggs with the sugar until the mixture is light and fluffy
  7. Gently fold the chocolate and egg mixtures together
  8. Add the flour and other ingredients to the cake batter
  9. Place into the prepared tin and bake for 30 min
  10. Let the cake cool in the tin or serve warm

I’ve been wondering how to make the most of the last 5 blood oranges on our tree and ended up making a Jewish almond orange cake and some confit oranges (not sure what I’ll use them for yet though). To make the cake you boil  2 – 3 whole oranges for 2  hours and when cool blend them into a puree. The recipe uses 6 eggs, almond meal and sugar and that is all! It’s a very popular cake but not one of my favourites, I’m not sure I like the texture or flavour that much. Last time I made it I didn’t like it that much either, oh well, that’s cooking, you win some you lose some.

 

 

 

Fruit cake (boiled fruit cake)

The only cakes I remember my mum making when I was little was a boiled fruit cake and a chocolate ripple cake. I’ve always loved fruit cakes and I’ve been making this boiled fruit cake for as long as I’ve been cooking, it is easy to make and only uses one saucepan. It’s always seemed a bit “healthy” with the use of lots of fruit (however a dietician will not agree) and it will easily last a week if you store it well. Mum liked to spread a layer of butter on the slice of cake (she put a thick layer of butter on everything) and sometimes I do this too. Why don’t you try it both ways and decide which you like best? This cake is perfect for the lunch box and very popular with the older generation.


Old fashioned boiled fruit cake
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Recipe type: cakes
Cuisine: Australian
Author:
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Serves: 12
This cake is moist and full of luscious fruit and nuts
Ingredients
  • 500 mg mixed fruit (or replace some with dates, glace ginger or cranberries)
  • 125 mg butter
  • 1 cup of dark brown or raw sugar (dark makes a darker cake)
  • pinch of salt
  • 1.5 cups of water
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tbs golden syrup or maple syrup
  • 1 tsp bicarb soda
  • 1 tbs boiling water
  • 1 cup of plain flour
  • 1 cup of self raising flour (I like to make one wholemeal)
  • ½ tsp mixed spice (spices are optional, I like ginger and cinnamon)
  • ¼ tsp nutmeg
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence
  • ⅓ chopped walnuts (can put some on top too)
Instructions
  1. Put mixed fruit, butter, sugar, golden syrup and water in a saucepan over low heat, stirring until the butter melts
  2. Bring to the boil and boil uncovered for 2 min
  3. Add the boiled water and bicarb of soda mixed together to the mixture (it will fizz up quite a bit)
  4. Remove from the heat and allow to cool
  5. Add lightly beaten eggs and mix well
  6. Add the dry ingredients and chopped walnuts
  7. Place into a prepared 20 cm round or square tin lined with baking paper
  8. Decorate with almonds if desired
  9. Bake at 160* C for 1¼ to 1½ hours or until cooked when tested with a skewer
  10. Cool in tin (covered with tin foil)

Moist dark chocolate cake

It is hard to beat a good chocolate cake and when I was learning to cook (still am actually) I searched high and low for a “good” recipe, I even asked my Auntie Mary –  a renowned cake maker – for her recipe, but Auntie Mary’s cake was too dry and not dark enough for my liking (I must have tasted a “really good” cake somewhere). I eventually found this recipe, it ticked both boxes – dark  & moist and it soon became “the family birthday cake” it was very popular! My mum really liked this recipe and made many of these cakes for celebrations or just for the heck of it; she made her version with a chocolate butter filling and icing, but I like it better filled with whipped double cream (sweetened / vanilla) with a chocolate ganache icing. The chocolate part of this cake is cocoa based and for best results you must use a good quality dark cocoa (I like Droste). The cake slices easily, stores well (in the fridge), is relatively cheap to make and is easy peasy as long as you have a good mixer (I suppose you could make it by hand like they did in the “old days”).


Moist dark chocolate cake
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Recipe type: Cake
Cuisine: Australian
Author:
Prep time:
Cook time:
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Serves: 8 - 10
The best chocolate cake ever!
Ingredients
  • 125gm butter softened
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence
  • ⅔ cup cocoa (dark is best)
  • ½ cup hot water
  • 2 tsp vinegar
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1¾ cups plain flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • pinch salt
  • cream for filling
  • chocolate ganache icing
Instructions
  1. Beat the butter until light and fluffy
  2. Add the eggs, vanilla and sugar and beat until well combined
  3. In a separate bowl make a paste by mixing the cocoa and hot water together
  4. Slowly add the chocolate paste to the batter
  5. Add the vinegar to the milk (makes it sour)
  6. Next add the sieved dry ingredients in batches to the batter alternatively with the soured milk
  7. Don't overbeat the mixture
  8. Pour the mixture (quite a wet mixture) into 2 greased and papered 20cm sandwich tins and bake at 180*C for approx 30 min or until cooked
  9. Cool in tins for 10 min before turning out onto a cooling rack
  10. Beat some good quality cream with a little icing sugar and ½ tsp of vanilla essence until it is quite firm
  11. Spread over one of the cakes and top with the other
  12. Make an icing by melting some dark chocolate with a little cream (in a bowl over hot water), letting it cool and starting to thicken before topping the cake with it (or use your own icing recipe)
  13. Put in the fridge for a while to set
  14. Get the cake out of the fridge 20 min before serving time
  15. It should be firm and easy to cut

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Pumpkin citrus syrup cake

delicious!

delicious!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I picked the crop of pumpkins last week, I just hope it wasn’t too early, in the past I have gone by the rule that you leave the pumpkins on the vine until the vines wither and the first frost comes, but after reading alternative practises I made the decision to go for it. I was not happy to read later in another article that if pumpkins are picked too early they will not keep as well, oh boy what have I done? I guess we will just have to wait and see (I’ll look at it like a scientific experiment), so now there are 26 pumpkins on the deck (3 gone already) and my pumpkin cooking ideas may need to broaden. I made a batch of soup but the freezers are already full so there is no need for more soup just yet, and then I remembered a pumpkin syrup cake from the most used of all my cookbooks – The Australian Women’s Weekly Cakes and Slices Cookbook (1989), so out it came and as I flicked through it I realised that I have made most of the cakes and slices in it, what a fabulous cookbook it has been, the price tag of  $7.98 was still on it, I have certainly got my money’s worth from that book!  Anyway I made the cake and wow what a cake it is! My number two son said “that cake doesn’t look anything special but it is the best cake I have ever had” – now that is a ringing endorsement if I ever heard one – I changed the cake from an orange to a lemon / lime cake as I like the sweet/tart combination better (you could use orange juice and rind if you prefer an orange cake).

 

Pumpkin citrus syrup cake
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Recipe type: Cake
Cuisine: Australian
Author:
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Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 10
As no 2 son stated "mum this is the best cake I have ever eaten"
Ingredients
  • 250gm butter
  • 1tbs each of grated lemon & lime rinds
  • 1 cup castor sugar
  • 1tsp lemon essence
  • 2 cups self raising flour
  • 3 eggs separated
  • 1 cup mashed pumpkin
  • For the syrup:
  • 2tbs lemon juice
  • 2tbs lime juice
  • ¾ cup sugar
Instructions
  1. Prepare a large cake tin (23cm) and warm oven to 180*C
  2. Cream the butter (take out of the fridge to soften), rinds and sugar until well combined (it will be light and fluffy in appearance)
  3. Add the egg yolks one at time beating well after each addition
  4. Stir in half the sifted flour and half the cold mashed pumpkin
  5. Repeat with the remaining flour and pumpkin (the mix will appear dry)
  6. Beat egg whites until soft peaks form and fold gently through the cake batter
  7. Spread into the prepared pan
  8. Bake for approximately one hour or until golden and cooked through
  9. Pour hot syrup over the hot cake and leave in the tin for 10 min before placing onto a cake rack to cook
  10. To make the syrup:
  11. Combine the juices and sugar in a small saucepan and slowly bring to the boil while stirring constantly and until the sugar is dissolved. Reduce the heat and simmer for 2 minutes

The challenge now is to see how long the pumpkins last, whether they are ripe (hopefully a dark orange colour) and just how much pumpkin we can eat and give away. I want to roast up pumpkin pieces to store in the fridge to use in everyday cooking and salads, maybe some pumpkin dip, deep fried in batter might be nice but naughty, and one thing is for sure I am going to make more pumpkin citrus syrup cake.

fabulous cookbook

fabulous cookbook

This book and their birthday cake cookbook (for kids) were the most used books in my kitchen for years and they bear the scars well, they’re falling apart, are battered and torn but no wonder they were a part of our family cooking scene, we would pour over them (the kids and I) deciding what treat or birthday cake to make, such a lot of sweet memories belong to these two cookbooks, thanks Women’s Weekly!

Orange poppy seed syrup cake

I was flicking through my old hand written recipe book the other day and found this beautiful cake recipe that I made lots when I had more mouths to feed (a family favourite), I was inspired to make it (I wanted to use blood oranges but none were available) and I am very pleased I did. It is lovely and light for a butter cake and not too sweet (despite the syrup). It’s the long weekend holiday so we may get some visitors – let them eat cake!


Orange poppy seed syrup cake
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Recipe type: Cake
Cuisine: Australian
Author:
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 10
A very pretty delicate cake flavoured with orange
Ingredients
  • 200gm chopped soft butter
  • 1 cup castor sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 2½ cups self raising flour sifted
  • ⅓ cup poppy seeds
  • ½ cup orange juice
  • ¼ cup milk
  • grated rind 2 oranges
  • To make the syrup
  • ½ cup castor sugar
  • ½ cup orange juice
  • ¼ cup water
  • ¼ cup Grande Marnier (optional but nice)
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 160* C & prepare a 22cm tin
  2. Cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy
  3. Add the rind and eggs one at a time
  4. Beat well after each addition
  5. Fold the flour into the batter alternatively with the poppy seeds, milk and juice
  6. Place in tin and bake for 50 - 55 min or until cooked
  7. To make the syrup
  8. Place all ingredients into a small saucepan & stir over low heat until the sugar is dissolved
  9. Simmer for 5 min
  10. Pour hot syrup over hot cake just out of the oven
  11. Cool in tin

Chocolate coconut slice

yummy slice

yummy slice

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I was wondering which slice to make (pasta man suggested chocolate caramel slice) when I remembered this recipe (from my sister in law); it was perfect because I had all the ingredients in the pantry, it is incredibly easy to make, nice to eat and keeps well.

Chocolate coconut slice
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Recipe type: slice/ biscuit
Cuisine: australian
Author:
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 10
This is a crunchy, chocolate and coconut flavoured slice.
Ingredients
  • 3 weetbix crushed
  • 1 cup self raising flour sifted
  • 1 cup desicated coconut (I used toasted)
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence
  • ½ to ¾ cup of sugar (depending on how sweet you like it)
  • 2 tbsp dark cocoa powder
  • 155gm butter melted
Instructions
  1. Mix all the dry ingredients and add to the melted butter
  2. Press into a lined 7" X 11" lamington tray
  3. Cook in a moderate oven (180*) for 15 - 20min or until cooked
  4. Ice with chocolate icing while still hot (I melted some dark chocolate with a little cream)
  5. Cool and cut

 

easy to make

easy to make 

Chocolate Torte (with roasted nuts and figs)

I decided to make this torte for my Bro’s 60th birthday, it would travel well (we had a 2 hour drive), looks spectacular dressed with cream and fruit and is light and refreshing to eat. The torte is relatively easy to make (just need a large mixing machine) so give it a go…

Chocolate Torte (with roasted nuts and figs)
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Recipe type: Dessert
Cuisine: Australian
Author:
Prep time:
Cook time:
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Serves: 8
A lovely dessert/cake which ticks all my boxes, chocolate, nuts, figs, cream and berries
Ingredients
  • 250 gm of roasted nuts (I used pistachio, macadamia and hazelnuts)
  • 250 gm dark chocolate chopped into small pieces
  • 250 gm dried figs or dates sliced finely (I used a blend of both)
  • 125 gm castor sugar
  • 4 or 5 egg whites
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence
  • Mixed berries to cover the top (I was going to put fresh figs on too but my bro' didn't like them)
  • 300 ml cream whipped until thick with small amount of vanilla essence and 1 tbs icing sugar
Instructions
  1. Roast the nuts for 7 min at 150* C or until just turning colour
  2. Rub the skins from the hazelnuts (in a tea towel) don't worry you won't get them all
  3. Roughly chop the nuts and add to the sliced dates or figs.
  4. In a large mixer beat the egg whites until stiff and slowly add the sugar (spoon at a time)
  5. Add the vanilla essence, nuts and figs/dates and fold together (don't over mix)
  6. Place the mix in a lined tin and cook for 35 - 40 min at 170*C
  7. Cool in tin and decorate with the whipped cream and fresh fruit
Notes
You could use any nuts you like but remove the skins first especially on almonds. I used figs and fresh dates but either is fine and I particularly like the blend of pistachios, macadamias and hazelnuts.