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
Author:
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
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.

 

 

 

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:
Total time:
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:
Prep time:
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!

Mango Kulfi (Indian ice cream)

I would like to be more proficient with asian cooking and flavours – especially curries – so each week I plan on trying a new recipe. Last weekend I made a vindaloo goat curry which used the front leg of the goat (the butcher recommended this cut for long slow cooking), he cut the goat leg into serving size pieces leaving it on the bone (best for flavour). The vindaloo used vinegar along with loads of garlic, chillies, ginger and spices to form the gravy (it was yum). Today I am making a lamb shank Punjabi curry that has spinach and tomatoes in the gravy and loads of aromatics; the shanks marinated in ginger, garlic, chilli, oil and cumin for hours. I am very keen to make vegetable pakoras and some samosas the only trouble being they are deep fried and so I’ll cook them when we have visitors to share them. Today I am experimenting with an indian ice cream called kulfi, I made it years ago and loved the spicy flavours but haven’t made it since, anyway mango kulfi is in the freezer and we will see if it passes the pasta man test. Note : pasta man says the kulfi tastes like a cross between ice cream and sorbet and it reminded him of the Weiss mango ice cream blocks we used to buy years ago.

Mango Kulfi (Indian ice cream)
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Recipe type: sweets
Cuisine: Indian
Author:
Prep time:
Cook time:
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Serves: 6
A delightfully fruity ice cream
Ingredients
  • 2 X 375ml cans of evaporated coconut flavoured milk (or normal)
  • ¼ cup of castor sugar
  • 10 cardamon pods (bruised)
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 2 large mangoes chopped (or other fruit)
Instructions
  1. Combine milk, sugar, cardamon and cinnamon in a saucepan and bring to the boil
  2. Simmer on low heat for 5 minutes
  3. Let it cool and then strain into a food processor or blender (discard the spices)
  4. Process the milk mixture and mangoes until smooth
  5. Pour into a lined tin and freeze until nearly set
  6. Remove the Kulfi from the freezer and tray and process again in the blender or food processor
  7. Poor into a lined tray, cover and freeze for at least 3 hours
  8. To serve remove from tin and cut into suitable shapes

 

Profiteroles / chocolate eclairs

choux pastry delights

choux pastry delights

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I have played with choux pastry over the years without a lot of success (mind you I cooked in a wood stove oven without any temperature control) but after making profiteroles at the cooking school in Positano and making them a few times since I am happy to say they are fun to make, cost next to nothing and look and taste fabulous. I have made them with a custard and cream filling and probably prefer a blend of both or just the whipped cream filling. In Positano we made a lemon cream sauce (with lemonchello) instead of chocolate sauce (icing), but it was just too much cream – chocolate is much better! I used my kenwood mixer to do all the hard work (beating the eggs into the choux pastry base) so it was easy to make and it’s fun playing with a piping bag and watching the whole process.

Profiteroles
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Recipe type: Dessert
Cuisine: French
Author:
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 12
Delicate light choux pastries filled with a creamy centre and drizzled with chocolate
Ingredients
  • 250gm plain flour
  • 250gm water (1 cup)
  • 75gm butter
  • 5 eggs
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 220*C
  2. Place the water and butter in a saucepan and bring to the boil
  3. Immediately add the all the flour and stir strongly until it forms a firm ball- about 3 minutes
  4. Take off the heat
  5. Let the mixture sit for about 5 minutes then place in a large bowl of a mixer and whip in eggs one at a time (or beat mix by hand)
  6. Place into a piping bag and make small mounds on an oven tray lined with baking paper (leave some room around them)
  7. Push the peak (or pointy bit) down gently with a wet finger (it will burn otherwise)
  8. Cook for 12 minutes at 220* then turn down to 180* for a further 12 minutes (should be golden brown and puffed up)
  9. Let the pastries cool before filling with whipped cream (add some icing sugar & vanilla essence) using the piping bag again
  10. Make some chocolate sauce (can use equal weight of chocolate and cream) and pour over the pastries (or use your own recipe)