Monday, 21 January 2013

Cherry Wink Cookies

Just before Christmas amidst my usual pre-Christmas baking flurry I promised to give you some recipes for the massive pile of biscuits I made. There is nothing especially Christmas-y about these except that they have a bright, red glace cherry on top, and for some reason I associate glace cherries with Christmas. And with gobbling down ice cream on a hot summer's evening (in summer on special occasions mum would make us an ice cream cone with (usually) vanilla ice cream and a glace cherry on top. There's nothing quite like licking your way around the cherry and then trying to push it down into the ice cream with your tongue so it won't fall off. And then of course you get a frostbitten tongue, but who cares?? You're eating ice cream!).
This one is from Margaret Fulton's Baking. I got this book for my 30th birthday from Kirsti. So far I have had two excellent biscuit-making experiences from it, and one really bad cake-making experience. At this point I'm inclined to blame the oven I used but I'm going to have to try and make that cake again to figure it out. And then give the cake away immediately that I have taste-tested one slice, because although it was a disaster I still ate more of it than I ought to have!
To the biscuits! (or, cookies for the American readers)
1.5c (225g) plain flour
2tsp baking powder
Pinch salt
125g butter, softened
0.5c (110g) castor sugar
1.5tsp vanilla
2tbsp honey
1 egg
2tbsp milk
2c corn flakes, lightly crushed
0.5c glace cherries, halved.
Preheat oven to 200oC. Line tray with baking paper.
Sift flour, baking powder and salt together.
Cream butter, sugar and vanilla, then add in the honey and egg and beat until combined.
Mix in sifted flour mixture alternately with milk until of an even consistency.
Roll tablespoons of the dough in the crushed cornflakes and place on tray. Gently press a glace cherry on top.
Bake for around 10 minutes, or until golden.
Eat 12,086,473,493 of them because you enjoy the subtle honey taste and the light crunch of the corn flakes so much!

Sorry that this is the only picture I have of them - I had a spectacular one on my iPhone of them all cooling on racks, row upon row, but my phone died two Sundays ago and took with it to its grave a lot of photos that I am quite sad to lose :( I still haven't even figured out if I will get my music back (although I'm sure that given I bought most of it from iTunes, straight to my phone, there must be a record of me having purchased it). There's a valuable lesson in that - back up your iPhone!

Lastly, an Australian tablespoon (tbsp) is traditionally 20mL where the rest of the world satisfies itself with a mere 15mL. So if you're using an American or British tablespoon and the mixture seems a little dry, it's probably because it's missing 10mL of milk and 5mL of honey.

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Apple & Tomato Chutney

Hi guys! I know I've been gone a while but my first week back at work was a bit nuts, as is usually the case, and instead of putting some time into my blog that it probably needs, my brain just bombed out and I ended up spending the entire weekend doing things that don't require much brainpower, like getting lost in a book, and gardening. And apparently I didn't spend time addressing my tendency towards run-on sentences, which I also should have done. Excuses, excuses. I plan to gain enough motivation to have a line of posts waiting, but for now, here's a recipe that I made before Christmas to give to my friends (some of you missed out - sorry!).
As I am wont to do, I chose one of the hottest days of the summer thus far to stand over the stove (in a house that only has air conditioning in the lounge room), wearing not much more than a bikini, apron and thongs, stirring a bubbling pot. It's just a talent I have. Usually I manage to do my Christmas baking on the hottest day, but this year it was my Christmas chutney that took that place of pride!
This is one – to make chutney - that was on my 101 Things list and I thought the most sensible course of action would be to consult my Weekly Times CWA Classics cook book. For those readers not from Australia, the Weekly Times is a newspaper with a rural focus, and the CWA is the Country Women’s Association, so you can probably imagine that I chose a recipe from that particular book as it had no doubt been tried and tested by families (possibly several generations), neighbours and possibly even several seasons' worth of shearers!
1.4kg apples, minced/grated/finely chopped
1.4kg onions, minced/grated/finely chopped
1.4kg tomatoes, peeled and sliced
3dsp salt
1 ½ dsp black pepper powder
1.8kg sugar
Place all ingredients in a saucepan of the appropriate size (a standard large saucepan with two handles that comes with most saucepan sets nowadays is too small, I’m afraid, so either reduce your quantities or use a large stock pot – or something bigger! I used a massive saucepan from my mum’s catering days but not everyone has one).
Boil for around 2 hours, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking. And I’m serious about that – there’s a burnt sugar mark on the bottom of the saucepan that I just can’t get off! Good thing it’s black enamel ;)
It’s done when… hah. I hate when people say this, but it’s done when it looks right. I didn’t want mine to “gel” completely, but I waited until it was somewhat less watery to take it off the heat.
Meanwhile, sterilize about 16 jars (I filled 11 or 12 but some were huge pasta sauce jars and some were tiny curry paste ones). You can find instructions here which are a little different to how I was taught – my lesson involved sitting the jars in a roasting pan with about 1” of water in it (i.e. enough so that there’s liquid but doesn’t make them float) and then turning the oven on, bringing it up to 110oCish and keeping it there for ten minutes or more. And boiling the lids in a saucepan for about the same time. It also helps if you’ve put them through the dishwasher, because as far as I understand it, that more or less sterilizes things anyway.
If you’re using your super-hot jars then ladle super-hot chutney into them. If you have let your glass cool, then let your chutney cool, but bear in mind you won’t get a perfectly sealed jar if you do that (not a big deal if you plan on eating the chutney soon. Acid (vinegar) and sugar don’t spoil easily). Basically, you just don’t want to crack your glass. Loosely screw the lids on immediately that you have filled them – you want there to be little enough seal on it so that the heat can escape from the chutney, but enough that as the jar cools and the air contracts, it sucks the lids on and creates a (theoretically) sterile vacuum.
And that’s it! I found that when the chutney was fresh it was like being punched in the face with the vinegar (in a good way!), and then the sweetness hit. As it has matured it still has a little bite, but it was pleasant with a more consistent flavour throught. A friend of mine came back for a second jar, and I have to say I’m quite partial to spreading it on a cheddar cheese sandwich. One day I actually treated it as a dip and just spooned it onto water crackers!
If you’re struggling, a dsp is a dessert spoon – probably slightly over halfway in size between a teaspoon and a tablespoon. Just use a spoon from your cutlery drawer.
If you have no idea how to peel a tomato, it’s quite easy. Bring a saucepan of water to the boil. Drop tomatoes, with a small, shallow cross scored into their base, into the water. After about 30 seconds to a minute you will start seeing the skin splitting away from the cross. When this happens, pull the tomatoes out with a slotted spoon or tongs and submerge in cold water to arrest cooking and also make it cool enough to handle.
Note that I have the very vaguest of recollections of adding a few other spices to my liking to the mix – I think at the least I put a bit of a sprinkle of ground cloves in (because I couldn’t be stuffed fishing whole ones out at the end), but I can’t promise that I did.
Great way to use old onions/tomatoes/apples, and excellent use for old jars. Enjoy!

Friday, 4 January 2013

New Years Resolutions 2013

Happy New Year, everyone! I've been off camping for the last week or so and have come home tired and dirty but quite content with my trip. I also had time to write out my new year's resolutions during an outdoor chalkboard concert on New Year's Day, which is more formal than I usually go for.

Quite some time ago I actually gave up on concrete new year's resolutions and started "committing" to much airier, vaguer ones like "be kinder to myself and to my body", probably because I repeatedly failed at the usual "lose weight" ones. What the hell does "be kinder to myself and to my body" even mean?? I mean, sure, it makes things more achievable in a way, but I find it more effective to be able to see what I'm aiming for.
Following the relative success of my 1001 Things list (okay, I'm nowhere near done but I feel like I'm on a roll); and, having realised that there are many, many, many more things that I wish I had put on the list but didn't, I have concluded that I actually do need to make some resolutions. This list kicks in on the 7th of January, simply because I have been away camping in the wilderness and haven't had a chance to settle into a routine.
So here they are, in no particular order:
1. Don't buy anything new for a year. Op shops are okay, second hand from eBay is fine, and swapping or borrowing is even better. But given that I recently cleaned out my wardrobe and discarded some 35-odd items with ne'er a thought; and that, during that clean-out, I discovered I own approximately 66 pairs of underwear (hey, that's what happens when you live in three states at once! Aaand you really needed to know about my underwear drawer, didn't you...), it kind of stands to reason that I don't actually need any more new clothes for at least a year. Unless I lose (or gain, but let's not consider that as an option here) a significant amount of weight, in which case I think it's okay to at least buy a new bra. Because second-hand underwear? Gross. There are a couple of new things I will allow myself to buy during the year, but they will be pre-determined and I will write them down before the 7th.
2. Following on from #1, I will consider the environmental impact of any purchases I do make. I know, I know, being a professional tree-hugger this should be second-nature to me but it rarely gets a gurnsey when I want something. This concept also applies to gifts I ask for in 2013. You could well argue that this one is irrelevant when I'm not going to be buying anything new anyway, but it's still something I want to think about.
3. Stop accepting plastic bags when shopping. When I was living in Adelaide, I was a total Green-Bag hero and never went shopping without them. I would even avoid putting vegetables in those freezer-style bags, and opt instead to have them loose in a green bag. And then I moved to NSW where plastic supermarket bags are not outlawed like they are in SA, and suddenly my resolve crumbled. Especially when I couldn't drive for six months and didn't have a car to store my crap, green bags included, in. So, no plastic bags in 2013. The exception is for things like meat, or green beans and snow peas - things that would be kind of disasterous not to bag up and which would really piss the checkout chick off to have to handle loose. And for every plastic bag I accept, I will donate $2 to an environmental charity (TBA).
4. Go out to at least one proper afternoon tea, multi-tiered cake stands and all. Prefably two.
5. Visit somewhere I have never been. Preferably somewhere in Australia AND somewhere overseas, but that will depend on how long I can get off work, and considering I just came home from a nine-week jaunt I imagine they will be none too keen to give me more than a week or so off in a stretch!

6. Engage in physical activity at least three days per week, including a mixture of cardio, strength and stretching.

7. Be able to run 5km.

8. Swear less. Every time I use the F-word I will donate $2 to charity. If I (heaven forbid) drop the C-bomb, that's $10 to charity, and for the S-word, a paltry 50c (because it doesn't bother me as much as the others, obviously).

9. Learn a new skill.

10. If I insist on eating chocolate or sweet things, I will eat it mindfully and savour it instead of gobbling it down.

So there they are. They're a bit of an odd jumble but they cover most facets of my life. Ten is quite a few to achieve, particularly considering that I have another list on the boiler, but they're some things I'd really like to try this year.

So tell me, what are your New Year's resolutions?