Wednesday, 6 February 2013

BANANA AND CHOCOLATE BREAD WITH OLIVE OIL

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Happy New Year! I think we’ve gone past the point where it is acceptable to say that, but I am putting it out there anyway. I have been neglecting my blog for less interesting things like work projects, but that thankfully that has come to an end for now and I am going to be dedicating myself to making more delicious things.

My daughter had some allergy testing recently and it seems she’s grown out of her soy allergy, woop woop!! That will certainly make life easier as soy is in everything and I mean everything. It’s in 60% of items in Australian supermarkets, I’d say the other 40% is fresh fruit, meat and veg so it really is in most processed foods.  We’re back this month to try out rice so fingers and toes crossed, we could be dining out at Asian restaurants soon. That is, if we could still dine out without toddler tantrums and food throwing. I wonder when you get to hold your head high in restaurants again, at 3 years of age?

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This banana bread is adapted from a recipe at 101 Cookbooks. It’s a good one for morning or afternoon tea or a little snack for the kids. I think I’d prefer to swap the chocolate for some chopped walnuts and keep it more of traditional bread but the chocoholics might prefer it as it is.

1 cup of plain flour
1 cup of whole meal flour
3 very ripe bananas mashed with a fork
¼ cup dark agave syrup
¼ cup of dairy free margarine (I used Nuttelex)
1 cup of chocolate chips (I used Enjoy life, dairy and soy free)
2 eggs lightly beaten
1/3 cup of olive oil
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
¾ teaspoon of baking soda
½ teaspoon of salt

Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius (350 Fahrenheit). Grease and lightly flour a 25cm Bundt tin or a 23 x 13cm loaf tin.

In a large bowl whisk the flours, baking soda, salt and sugar together. Add the chocolate and mix well.

In another bowl mix the olive oil, eggs, banana, zest, margarine and vanilla. Pour the mixture into the flour mixture and fold until just combined. Pour into the cake tin and bake for 50 minutes or until golden. Be careful not to overcook.

Transfer to a wire rack and cool for ten minutes and then turn the loaf out and cool completely. Enjoy!

Friday, 21 December 2012

ZUCCHINI FLOWER, LEEK AND SAFFRON RISOTTO

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I should be posting about something Christmassy at this time of year full of spice, Santa hats and reindeer noses but I have decided to post about something else that is a special event at this time of year, zucchini flowers! I get very excited to see them on the menu and need to order them whenever I see them, I lost count of the number I ate in Italy stuffed with ricotta, battered and fried. Apart from the beauty of the blossom I love the tender baby zucchini attached.

I haven’t done a lot of Christmas baking but will over the next couple of days if I get a chance. I am cooking a boned turkey to take to my in-laws and am stuffing it with sausage, hazelnuts and sage, yum! Fingers crossed that goes smoothly as I have never tackled a turkey. My mum does such a good job I don’t normally need to step into the fray except for moral support with the vegetable peeler.

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We don’t eat a lot of dairy or rice anymore because of my daughter, it is easier not to have it around the house. We made an exception for this recipe as I wanted to try something apart from the stuffing with ricotta

I hope you have a beautiful Christmas with loved ones relaxing and eating treats!

INGREDIENTS
12 Zucchini flowers
400g Aborio rice
1 leek chopped
2 cloves of garlic
1-½ litres of hot chicken stock
1 onion finely chopped
100g of grated Parmesan plus more to serve
60ml white wine
100g butter
1 pinch of saffron
handful of basil
Salt and Pepper
This recipe is adapted from Sophie Dahl, From  Miss Dahl's Guide to All Things Lovely


Remove the flowers from the zucchini, wipe the flowers clean and detach the stamens. Then tear the leaves into three. Slice the zucchini


In a large saucepan heat half the butter and all of the olive oil.  Add the leak, onion and garlic and cook on a low heat until softened but not coloured, around 7 minutes.

Add the flowers and stir for a minute, then add the rice and stir until coated for another minute.  Add saffron

Add in a ladleful of stock when it has been absorbed you can add another ladleful. Repeat this process for approximately 15 minutes.

Add the baby zucchini and stir through, then add the white wine while still stirring. Cook for another five minutes or so. The rice should be soft but still have texture.

Add the Parmesan, butter, seasoning and basil to finish and serve. Enjoy!

Saturday, 8 December 2012

RUSTIC PIZZA

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I’ve been a little quiet of late, life has been busy and getting in the way of writing up any posts. It’s a lovely time of year as everybody is catching up with their friends and anticipating the holidays but it also means finishing off all the work projects for a fresh start next year, not to mention the frantic shopping.

We love to make pizza at home, that’s a royal “we” because my husband is Papa Giuseppe when it comes to making the pizza and I give instructions from the sideline about what toppings I’d like. It’s only fitting that the Italian of the house prepares the pizza wouldn’t you agree? It’s perfect for a day at home when you’ve got other jobs to do and the dough can rest and rise properly.

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Our favourite pizza toppings are sausage, chilli and caramalised onion, Capricciosa and Margherita so that’s what we tend to make. You can take the dough recipe and add whatever you enjoy from your local pizzeria, just not ham and pineapple... I enjoyed pizza while I was on a restricted diet so we decided to make one for my daughter without the cheese and she absolutely loved it. I think the key to good pizza is a crispy thin base, minimal toppings and a flavoursome sugo, the rest is easy. It’s really worth the effort, I love homemade pizza.

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SUGO

Whole can of crushed tomatoes 400g
Handful of basil
2 cloves of garlic finely chopped
½ finely chopped onion
2 tablespoons of olive oil
Salt and pepper

Heat olive oil in saucepan over medium to low heat, add the onion and garlic and sauté for 5-7 minutes while it softens but don’t let it brown. Add tomato, basil and salt and pepper and simmer for half and hour and set aside.

TOPPINGS

Sausage, chilli and caramelised onion


175 mozzarella cut into small cubes (buffalo if you’re feeling fancy)
2 italian sausages with skin removed (fennel and pork)
1 caramelised onion
1 birdseye chilli
Dried oregano

Capricciosa

175 mozzarella cut into small cubes (buffalo if you’re feeling fancy)
4 slices of ham
4 button mushrooms, sliced
Ten black olives
Basil leaves

BASIC PIZZA DOUGH

25g fresh cake yeast or 15g active dry yeast
250ml luke warm water
Pinch of sugar
1 teaspoon of salt
375 plain flour
Serves 4

Preheat oven to 180 degrees Warm a medium size mixing bowl by swirling some hot water around it and drain. Place the yeast in the bowl and pour on the warm water. Stir in the sugar, mix with a fork and allow to stand until the yeast has dissolved and starts to foam, around 5-10 minutes.

Use a wooden spoon to mix in the salt and about one third of the flour. Mix in another third of the flour. Add the last third, stirring with the spoon until the dough forms a mass and begins to come away from the sides of the bowl.

Sprinkle some of the remaining flour onto a smooth work surface . Remove the dough from the bowl and begin to knead it, working in the remaining flour a little at a time. Knead for 8-10 minutes. By the end the dough should be elastic and smooth. Form into a ball.

Lightly oil a mixing bowl. Place the dough in the bowl. Stretch a slightly moist tea towel across the bowl and leave to stand in a warm place until the dough has doubled in size, about 40-50 minutes. To test, stick two fingers in the dough, if the indentations remain it’s ready.

Punch the dough with your fist to release the air. Knead for 1-2 minutes. If you want to make 2 medium pizzas divide the dough into 2 balls. If you want to make it into individual pizzas (26cm pans) divide the dough into four balls. Pat the ball of dough out into a flat circle on a lightly floured surface. With a rolling pin, roll it out to a thickness of 5-7mm. Place on the pizza stone or the lightly oiled pan, folding the extra dough under to make a crust. The base is now ready for topping.

ASSEMBLY

Smear the bases with the prepared sugo, leaving the outer rim uncovered. Sprinkle with mozzarella and then add the other ingredients and herbs to finish. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until the crust is golden and the cheese bubbling. Enjoy!

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

BLUEBERRY FRIANDS

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We have a touch of cabin fever, my daughter has been a little under the weather (nothing serious thankfully) so all the social things get cancelled and we both start to go a little mad after the tenth rendition of Old Macdonald, bless her for putting up with my singing and pretending to enjoy it. The weather has also turned cool again so it’s a nice opportunity to enjoy the slowness of the day and tuck into something from the oven.

I have a soft spot for nutty desserts frangipani tarts, baklava, hazelnut tortes, macarons, the more nuts the merrier for me. One of my other favourites is friands, delicate, dainty and moreish they are perfect for a little treat. The almond meal and eggs mean that they are high in protein and calcium overriding any guilty thoughts about the sugar.

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These are so very quick to prepare so you could whip up a batch for friends coming for afternoon tea or keep them all to yourself. The fruit choice is very flexible too depending on what you have in the fruit bowl, you can use some chopped apple or stone fruits.

The recipe is adapted from Bills Food, swap for equal parts butter if you desire. 

135g almond meal
220 icing (confectioner’s) sugar sifted
85 Plain sifted flour
8 egg whites
210 Blueberries
150 dairy free margarine melted (I use Nuttelex)
Extra icing sugar for dusting
Makes 12

Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius (350 Fahrenheit). Grease and lightly flour a non stick friand tin. Mix together the flour, almond meal and icing sugar. Stir in the egg whites until just combined and then stir in the melted margarine.

Pour the mixture into the tins and place a couple of blueberries on top. Bake for 25-30 minutes until pale and golden. To test, press the friands and they should spring back instead of sinking. Remove from oven and rest in the tin for five minutes before turning out onto wire rack to cool. Dust with icing sugar and store in airtight container. Enjoy!

Friday, 19 October 2012

DATE AND BANNANA MUFFINS

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In contrast to the decadence of my last post I am sharing my recipe for a guilt free snack.  I always need something (or more accurately several things) to snack on between meals and I get tired of just fruit and nuts. I have very limited snack options to give my daughter so these are perfect to pack for morning tea time or for me to take to work. The muffins are sugar and dairy free but still manage to taste great. I get a kick out of eating healthy ingredients but if it’s not for you can stick with the caramel treats from my last post!

I have replaced the sugar with a combination of dark agave syrup, apple puree, dates and honey. I think dates are amazing and completely underrated, nature’s caramel.  Instead of using a plain flour I’ve also used half wholemeal. It’s also a nice idea to replace a little of the flour with almond meal for extra flavour and moisture.

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DATE AND BANNANA MUFFINS

110g chopped dates
2 very ripe bananas
1 cup wholemeal flour
1 cup of plain flour
½ cup of dark agave syrup
½ cup of canola oil
3 eggs
¼ cup of apple puree - you baby food or an apple and mash
2 tablespoons of honey
1 ½ teaspoons of bicarb soda
½ teaspoon of cinnamon
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
Makes 12

Preheat oven to 180 degree celsius. Mix all of the ingredients together except the flour and bicarb. Once combined add the dry ingredients and mix until just combined. Spoon the mixture into cases on a muffin tray  and bake for 20 mins. Enjoy!

Monday, 1 October 2012

SALTED CARAMEL AND CHOCOLATE CUPCAKES

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Well, they sound pretty good don’t they? And they were, a totally indulgent, cheeky treat. The icing is a salted caramel swiss buttercream with a chocolate cupcake base. Not dairy free but a snack for my work colleagues, who were pretty happy at morning tea on a Monday. There was heavy negotiations about who would be eating the last one so that always makes the baking worthwhile.

I have to say that the baking process with a child is chaos and I think to myself that I will never do it again, each time when the kitchen is covered with batter of some sorts and I am beating the mixture with my bub on my hip and my husband is in the background complaining about the mess but once they are iced and delivered to appreciative tasters all is forgotten and I am planning what I will make next time.


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SALTED CARAMEL SWISS BUTTERCREAM

1 cup of sugar

¼ cup of water
¼ thick cream
4 large egg whites
1 ½ cups of unsalted butter at room temp
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract

Recipe from Sweetapolita
Makes 4 cups

TO DECORATE:

Maltesers or chocolate covered coffee beans/nuts
Edible gold glitter flakes


Place 130grams of the sugar and water in a saucepan over a medium heat and bring to the boil. With a wet pastry brush wash the sugar down the sides of the saucepan. Add a large pinch of sea salt. Stop stirring and cook until dark amber, gently swirling the caramel occasionally. Remove from heat and slowly add the cream while whisking carefully.

Place butter in mixing bowl and beat with electric mixer on medium until pale and fluffy, around 3-5 minutes. Transfer to large bowl.

In a clean heatproof bowl, add the egg whites and remaining sugar over a saucepan of simmering water. Whisk the egg and sugar mix until the sugar dissolves and the temperature reaches 160 degrees Celsius on a sugar thermometer.

Remove from the heat and beat with the electric mixer for five minutes on medium. Increase heat to medium high and beat until stiff peaks form, around five minutes. When the bottom of the bowl is cool to touch, reduce speed to medium low and add butter, one cup at a time. With mixer on low speed add cooled caramel and beat for 3-5 minutes.

Pipe the icing on the cupcakes with a wide open tip. My piping  definitely needed some work, best not to do in a rush... Top with Maltesers and edible gold flakes. Enjoy!

Monday, 10 September 2012

FRUTTI DI MARE SPAGHETTI

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We all have a dish that we gravitate to whenever it’s on a menu and have since we were kids or teenagers, well mine is Spaghetti Marinara or Frutti Di Mare. I have eaten a lot, sampled them all over the world and gravitated back to restaurants for that one dish. My parents used to roll their eyes whenever it was on the menu because they knew what I would be having.


So this is my version that I’ve experimented with over the years and enjoy, it’s so simple too. It’s something I have been able to enjoy on a restricted diet because seafood is the one thing that Italians think putting cheese on is a sin. 


I would normally supplement the fish for 12 scallops but they weren’t available fresh at the time. Make sure you add the combination of seafood you love, crabs or Moreton baby bugs are delicious too. 


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1 small firm white fish fillet cut into bite size pieces, I used Gernard
12 mussels cleaned and de bearded
12 prawns, shelled.
2 small cuttlefish sliced into 1cm strips
6 very ripe tomatoes
1 cup of white wine
1/2 bunch chives
¼ bunch continental parsley
2 garlic cloves finely chopped
1 birdseye chilli chopped finely
4 brown shallots
400g spaghetti 
Olive oil
Salt and pepper
Serves 4

Cut a little cross in the bottom of the tomatoes and place in a saucepan of boiling water until the skin splits, around twenty seconds. Then drain and plunge into ice water. Remove the skin, core and chop roughly.

Put a large saucepan of water on the heat and bring to the boil. Salt the water and add a splash of oil. Cook spaghetti according to the packet instructions ensuring that it finishes cooking at the same time as the sauce below. 


Meanwhile, warm 50ml of olive oil in a frypan over a low to medium heat and sauté shallots and garlic until soft without colouring, around five minutes. Add the tomatoes and chilli and cook for eight to ten minutes. Add the wine, deglazing the pan. Add the fish and mussels and toss through the sauce. After a minute or two add the remaining seafood and simmer until just cooked through and the mussels have opened. Stir in the parsley and chives


Drain spaghetti and put back into the saucepan. Combine with seafood mixture and sauce. Reserving a little seafood mixture and sauce to top each dish with. Serve immediately. Enjoy!