Cook this: popovers (or, Mother’s Day treat breakfast)

Here in Australia, this weekend we’ll be celebrating Mother’s Day. And being a mum to two little fur babies who aren’t capable of making me breakfast in bed, I’ll be making my own.

I saw this recipe aaaaages ago on Namiko’s blog, JUST ONE COOKBOOK, and saved it with every intention of making it ASAP. And then, of course, I promptly forgot about it. Because, life. I actually haven’t been baking much lately, but I’d to try and get back into it a little, and Nami’s recipe looked like the perfect place to start. I adapted it to make it a sweet bread rather than a savoury, because treat yoself.

Realllly easy, super delicious, and a bit more special than regular bread, so it feels like a proper treat. They come out with a nice crust, but are super light inside. Namiko recommends slathering them in strawberry butter, but I have a jar of apricot jam that my auntie made for me, and that went just perfectly with my popovers! Here’s my adapted version…

Ingredients (makes 8):
• 1¾ cups milk
• 2 cups plain flour
• pinch of salt
• ½ tsp baking powder
• 1 tbsp caster sugar
• 3 large eggs, at room temperature

 

Method:
1. Pour the milk into a small saucepan and warm over very low heat – more than lukewarm, but not so hot it burns your finger when you test it.

2. Combine the flour, salt, baking powder and sugar in a large bowl, and set aside.

3. Beat the eggs with an electric mixer on medium speed for a few minutes, until paler and frothy/foamy.

4. Then turn the speed to low and slowly add the warm milk as you continue to mix.

5. Next, add the flour mixture, a spoonful at a time, and beat on medium speed for another few minutes, until well combined. You may need to scrape the sides of the bowl down if the flour starts the build up.

6. Now the easy part – set the batter aside to rest at room temperature for an hour.

7. When you’re ready to bake, preheat the oven to 230°C and place 8 extra large silicon cupcake cases on an oven tray. You can purchase popover pans online or use large muffin trays, but this mixture is sticky and the silicon cases are WAYYY easier to clean up!

8. Fill the cases almost to the top, and bake at 230°C for 15 minutes. Then, turn the temperature down to 190°C and bake for a further 30 minutes. Pop them out of the cases, smother them in butter or jam or cream or whatever else you’re feeling, and enjoy!

Cook this: ANZAC cookies

If you’re an Aussie or a Kiwi, you’re getting ready to deal with two days of work before the ANZAC Day public holiday on Wednesday. To make tomorrow go a little faster, make yourself a batch of these tonight after work – the sugar will pull you through Tuesday!

ANZAC Day isn’t all about a day off work, though. It’s a day for us to pay homage to those who were brave and selfless enough to give their lives so that we could contribute to live ours. And it might sound a bit lame, but I really do think about that every time I make these cookies. They’re super easy to make, and came to be when the mums and wives of the fighting troops wanted to send something over that wouldn’t spoil – they came up with these cookies, made from cheap ingredients that keep well for a while. That doesn’t matter anymore, because it’s impossible to keep a batch of these for more than 3 days without eating them all.

Ingredients:
• 1¼ cups plain flour, sifted
• 1½ cups rolled oats
• ½ cup brown sugar
• ¾ cup shredded coconut
• 2 tbsp golden syrup
• 150g butter
• 1 tsp baking powder

Method:
1. Preheat the oven to 170°C/350°F and line two oven trays with non-stick baking paper.

2. In a large bowl, combine the flour, oats, brown sugar and coconut, and set aside.

3. Melt the golden syrup and butter in a small saucepan over low heat, then set aside.

4. In a small bowl, stir the baking powder in with 2 tbsp water, then stir into the melted butter mixture.

5. Pour the melted butter mixture into the dry ingredients and stir well to combine.

6. Drop tablespoons of cookie dough onto the prepared baking trays with a bit of space between, and bake for 12 – 15 minutes, until golden and just set for a softer cookie, or 15 – 18 minutes for a crunchier one. Cool for 5 minutes on tray before transferring to a wire rack to finish cooling.

 


This recipe is one of my all-time favourites, and it has a spot  in my cookbook, along with another 60-odd favourites! If you’d like to get your paws on a copy (with a fancy new cover), prices start from just $9.99 – click on through to get shopping 🙂

Cook this: Cinnamon-free hot cross buns

Happy Easter! I’m a chocoholic, so I’ll be continuing to gorge myself with chocolate this weekend. But the other part of Easter is hot cross buns, which I’ve never been able to partake in, because I hate cinnamon.

It makes me ill – the smell of it literally makes me gag. But I love bready things, and I hate that I don’t have an excuse to eat delicious little buns smothered in butter for breakfast for a week at this time of the year. So I thought I’d try making my own.

Turns out they’re actually pretty easy to make, the removal of cinnamon does nothing to harm the structural integrity, and because they’re not technically hot cross buns, these delicious sweet little raisin rolls can be made sans cross and eaten all year round now! This simple recipe was adapted from Taste.com.au:

Ingredients (makes 12 large or 16 medium buns)
– 4 cups plain flour
cup caster sugar
– pinch of salt
– 2 x 7g dried yeast sachets
– 1½ heaped cups raisins (or any other dried fruit, like cranberries or apricots)
– 50g butter
– 1¼ cups of milk
– 2 eggs, beaten

Method:
1. In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, salt, yeast and dried fruit – set aside.

2. Set a small saucepan over low heat and melt the butter in it. Then add the milk and heat it for a minute – pour the mixture into the large bowl, along with the eggs, and stir together with the blade of a butter knife.

3.Use your hands to bring the dough together, and turn it out onto a floured board to knead for a few minutes. Alternatively, you can use a kitchen mixer with a bread hook to do this.

4. Place the dough into a large bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and sit it in a warm room for an hour and a half to “grow.”

5. Line an oven tray with baking paper, and bring the dough back to the kitchen. Knead in for a minute, to shrink it back down, and divide the dough into 12 – 16 equal pieces. Roll them into balls and place them on the tray, leaving a little space in between – cover them back up with plastic and put them back in the warm room to rise again for another half an hour.

6. Pre-heat the oven to 180°C, and if you want crosses on top, now’s the time to add them. Just mix a half cup of plain flour with a few tablespoons of water to make a thick paste, and either pipe the goop onto the buns in a cross, or be lazy like me and spread it over carefully with a teaspoon.

7. Then all you need to do is bake them for 25 minutes, let them cool, smother then in butter or jam, and enjoy! Keep them for a few days in an airtight container, or freeze them like you would with normal bread to enjoy later.

 

Cook this: fig & walnut jam

Nonna and Nonno have an enormous garden, full of fruit trees and vegetable plots, all lovingly tended to every day. I grew up surrounded by overgrown zucchinis and their flowers which mum and Nonna would stuff and fry, the sweetest mulberries that I ate by the (very literal) bucketload that I’d pluck from the lower braches of the tree myself, and my favourite,  figs.

Sweet, sticky, brightly coloured and impossibly delicious, figs are one of the most vivid tastes of my childhood. I’ve tried the odd few from a supermarket or fresh food market, but they’re just not the same as Nonno’s.  Now, every year when the figs come in, Nonno gets on the phone to let me know, and off I go to collect. I was pretty stoked last weekend to get the call up and find a kilo of figs waiting for me instead of the usual handful!

With my fructose intolerance,  I can’t stomach as many as I used to, but there was no way I was letting them go to waste, so I decided to eat a few, keep a few for the next few days, and turn the rest into jam! If you’re lucky enough to be able to get your hands on a kilo of fresh, sticky figs, this is a pretty easy way to keep them around for a little longer…

Ingredients:
– 1kg fresh figs (stems removed, roughly chopped)
– ½ cup caster sugar
– 1 tbsp vanilla extract
– juice of 1 medium lemon
– ½ cup toasted, crushed walnuts

 

Method:
1. Combine the figs, sugar, vanilla and lemon juice with ⅔ cup of water in a large pot. Set it over high heat and bring to the boil.

2. Once boiling, lower the heat and simmer for around 45 minutes, until it thickens up to a more jammy consistency.

3. Stir in the walnuts ans pour the jam into clean jars and cool to room temperature before screwing the lids on and refrigerating (will keep for 3-4 weeks). Easy!

 

This jam works really well on fruit toast, as a cake filling, and especially well on my date and sesame scones (smothered in jam above), which, if you have a spare $9.99 laying about, you can find in my cookbook 🙂

Cook this: quick & healthy – everything-but-the-kitchen-sink omelette

This isn’t so much a “recipe” as your friendly Monday morning reminder that healthy food doesn’t have to be expensive, complicated, or time consuming. By Monday morning, most of us have probably enjoyed a bit of weekend indulgence (I know I did, after attending a gorgeous wedding with amazing food!), and we’d like to get back to eating something a bit healthier and lighter. But the thought of eating a boring salad sends most of us back to the heavier food we’d indulged in to start off with; it’s a vicious cycle.

This is one of my go-to recipes when…
a) I’m craving something healthy and lots of veggies but I don’t want a salad
b) I’ve got leftover veggies and rice that are at the end of their lifespan in the fridge and want to use them up rather than wasting them (and more money on more food)
c) I’ve got other delicious odds and ends in the fridge or pantry that I want to use but can’t think of another dish to tie them all together
d) I can’t really be bothered working too hard to get a healthy meal on the table

Eggs are also a pretty great source of protein, and it’s not a bad idea to give your gut a break from digesting meat all the time. With my food intolerances, beans and legumes are sadly off the table for me now, so eggs are the perfect back up option (they’re also pretty cheap compared to meat). Aaaaand if you double to recipe, you’ve got dinner for 2 and leftovers for lunch!

Ingredients:
– 2 large eggs
– cooking spray oil
– salt & pepper & your favourite dried herbs
– whatever else you want to throw in! I used (for this omelette) a cup of (cooked) brown rice, leftover roast red capsicum and zucchini, a few cherry tomatoes, a handful of baby spinach leaves and a few Kalamata olives. I’ve also used everything from leftover roast vegetables, antipasto mixes and cheese left behind from weekend platters, even leftover stir fried vegetables and noodles in an Asian style omelette!

Method:
1. Preheat your grill to high and leave it waiting.

2. Whisk the eggs together, season with a little salt, pepper and dried (or fresh, if you have them) herbs, and stir in everything else you want in there.

3. Heat a large, non-stick fry pan over medium heat and spray with cooking oil, making sure to coat it well (otherwise you’ll leave half the omelette behind in the pan).

4. Pour in the omelette mix, and cook over medium heat for a few minutes, until you start to see the egg getting whiter rather than translucent. At that point, you can flip it, but I prefer putting it under the grill to slowing cook through from the top and forming a nice golden crust. This is also a good time to sprinkle some cheese on top, if you’re that way inclined.

5. Once cooked through, let it cool for a few minutes before removing from the pan, slicing up and serving – a little sauce on top is always a good touch, and we use everything from mayonnaise to mustard to hoi sin sauce to chili paste; anything goes!

Cook this: “check every bulb” Christmas cupcakes

We’ve all got Christmas traditions. Some are pretty normal, like our tradition of baking scones on Christmas morning before taking Marley to the park for a run around. Some are not so normal, like watching National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation over and over and over again (not my tradition, originally, but husband has converted me). I didn’t like the movie much at first. But year after year, it’s been screened at our house on the 1st of December, and then almost every night thereafter until Christmas. Now I actually love the stupid movie. I find myself reciting the lines along with cousin Eddie and Clark. Damnit.

Anyway, we had our first family Christmas even for the season on a few weekends ago, and I took up the dessert task. I found inspiration in the most unlikely of places – the scene where Clark needs Rusty’s help to unknot some Christmas lights. Pinterest gave me a good idea on how to put them together. And I added my own touch by giving a few cupcakes “knotted” lights. It made me laugh. Simple things, I know…

Anyway, they’re pretty easy to put together! For the cupcakes, use your favourite recipe; I went with a thick chocolate brownie mudcake concoction. Then for the frosting:

Ingredients:
– 120g white chocolate
– 4 tbsp milk
– 50g butter
– 3 cups icing sugar
– m&ms and black writing icing to decorate

Method:
1. Combine the chocolate, milk and butter in a heatproof bowl over a small saucepan of simmering water, and stir witha wooden spoon until combined.

2. Remove fromthe heat amd cool for a few minutes, then sift in the icing sugar a cup at a time, beating with an electric mixer as you go, until you have a thick, smooth frosting.

3. Pipe or simply spread the frosting onto the cupcakes in a cone shape, and use a black writing icing pen/tube to swirl circles up each frosting cone. Pop m&ms in at intervals as the bulbs.

And that’s it! Super easy and very do-able 🙂 Nothing like a Pinterest win to get you into the Christmas spirit…

Cook this: Olive bread

Husband never used to like olives. Until he tried them again a while ago. And he discovered he actually did like them, a lot. He noticed a handsome looking olive loaf last weekend at a bakery we stopped for tea and coffee at, and requested I make a loaf; far be it for me to say no, so I threw together a quick easy loaf, and it turned out pretty darn good. Pretty easy to make, as well…

Ingredients (makes 1 loaf):
– 500g plain flour
– ½ tbsp salt
– ½ tbsp dried yeast
– 1 heaped tbsp dried rosemary
– 475ml warm water
– 1 cup pitted olives of choice – I used kalamata

 

Method:
1. Combine the flour, salt, yeast and rosemary in a large mixing bowl, then stir in the warm water. Once combined, mix in the olives.

2. Cover the mixing bowl in plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

3. When you’re ready to bake, take the dough out of the fridge and bring it to room temperature.

4. Preheat the oven to 220ºC, grease a loaf tin and place the dough into it (alternatively, line an oven tray with baking paper and shape the dough into a free form loaf). Bake for 45 – 50 minutes, or until baked through; the easiest way to test it while it’s still in the tin is to tap the bread – if it has a hollow sound, it should be baked through.


I’d highly recommend serving it fresh out of the oven, topped with prosciutto and fior di latte cheese. Amazing!