Monday, August 10, 2009

Fruit & Spice Brownie

I love mixed dried fruit, the kind that you make fruit cake or fruit mince from; sultanas, raisins, currents, candied peel and cherries (usually imitation, those little jelly balls). However, I hate the candied citrus peel that is in it. I love the flavour that it gives to the fruit, I just hate chomping down on whole pieces of peel. So I pick it all out before I use it. It takes a while, but it's definitely worth it. Most people I know hate the imitation cherries, and while you can get top shelf mixes with real maraschino cherries, just between you and me, I love the imitation cherries!

Above is a brownie with mixed dried fruit and spices (cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg). It didn't last 24 hours. One of my flatmates nearly inhaled the whole thing, he liked it so much. I made it in the evening and it was gone before lunch the next day.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Garden Firsts

My first Snow Pea.

My first Sweet Pea

Friday, July 31, 2009

Salty Peanut Butter Balls

I saw these Milk and Honey Peanut Butter Balls. As all the comments on that post indicate, you can pretty much put whatever you want in these 'raw cookies'. Here's what mine had:

1/2 cup crunchy peanut butter
1/3 cup golden syrup
1/3 cup unsweetened coconut
3/4 cup milk powder
1/4 cup oat flour
1 tsp vanilla


Wednesday, July 29, 2009


No editing here. I saw the plant reflection in my cup of tea (rosehip and hibiscus) and snapped it. That's the apricot and choc chip cookies in the background.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Apricot Choc Chip Cookies

When I saw this cookie recipe on the back of a packet of dried apricots I knew I had to make it. I've had really good luck with 'packet recipes'. My favourite peanut butter choc chip cookie recipe was found on the back of a brown sugar packet. My mum even has a cook book that has cut out recipes stuck to the blank side of every page (it's a very old book).

These cookies were great. They are crispy on the outside and soft and cakey on the inside. I made them quite large, the size recommended, and they held together really well. However I think that next time I make them (and I will definitely make them again), I'll make them just a little bit smaller to up the crispy edge to soft centre ratio, because I do like the crispiness.

I absolutely love dried apricots, and they work really well in these cookies. Their soft chewiness contrasts nicely with the choc chips. I also added a bit of cinnamon to the mix, which adds an extra flavour dimension.

I think this cookie stack looks like a monster, about to attack my rosehip tea!

Apricot Choc Chip Cookies

100g butter
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla essence
1 1/2 cups plain flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp cinnamon
3/4 cup chopped dried apricots
1/2 cup choc chips

1. Cream butter and sugar in a mixing bowl until light and creamy. Add egg and vanilla essence and beat well.

2. Add sifted flour, baking powder, and cinnamon and combine. Stir in apricots and choc chips.

3. Place tablespoons of mixture onto tray and press down to flatten. Bake for 15-20 minutes at 170 C.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

White Choc Coconut Slice

I love white chocolate and coconut together, and have been wanting to make something combining these too for a while. So I 'invented' this white chocolate and coconut slice last week.

I basically reworked the standard caramel slice/any condensed milk based recipe. While it tasted really really good, it wasn't exactly what I had planned, so I was still a little disappointed. For the middle layer I wanted to mix coconut milk and egg whites with condensed milk and white chocolate. I already had the base in the oven when I discovered that my flatmates had used up BOTH my coconut milk and the communal eggs. I forged ahead anyway, and the middle was thankfully not too gooey. I'll try again to make it the way I planned, but not for a while I think. It was one hell of a sugar overload.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009


The moment I saw the sev[en]circle pattern, I had to make one. I love how it looks, and it really keeps my neck warm. For better drape, I think my yarn would have worked better with 5.0mm needles rather than 4.5mm. But that's not the pattern's fault.

I love it.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Sweet Polenta

Another random breakfast idea popped into my head a few days ago: sweet polenta. Obviously I'm not the first person to think of this (as a quick google will show), but this is what I did: I cooked it up as 1/2 cup each of polenta, water, and milk, plus a spoon of sugar, a handful of sultanas, and some powdered cloves and cinnamon. (I did have to add extra liquid though, as the polenta I used was a lot more thirsty than my usual brand).

A perfect breakfast! Polenta has plenty of protein, so it kept me going for ages, unlike the tapioca. It was also delicious, and freshly made it was a nice warm start for the cold morning. I made about two serves worth. I love to reheat set polenta with vegetable sauce for a fast dinner, but there's no reheating soft polenta (in my experience), so I'll need to experiment to figure out the perfect one serve amount, and see if it goes ok in the microwave too. This will defintely be a regular breakfast from now on.

The sultanas were lovely and juicy, and I'm sure other dried fruits will be really nice, such as dates and apricots, and nuts would be great too. Also, I kept the sugar amount low, because I intended to pour golden syrup all over it in the bowl. As you can see from the almost empty jar, golden syrup is very popular in this household.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Tapioca with Apricots and Orange Blossom

I bought my first bottle of Orange Blossom Water last week, and the first thing I wanted to use it in was tapioca pudding. I didn't get the chance to make and eat anything that night, so I decided I would have a slightly healthier version for breakfast the next day.

I soaked 1/3 cup of tapioca in water over night, then drained it and cooked it with 1 cup of milk, a tablespoon of sugar, some chopped dried apricots, and a splash each of vanilla extract and orange blossom water.

It was delicious, but I wouldn't recommend tapioca as a breakfast food. It's almost pure carbohydrate and even with the milk, I was hungry again less than two hours later. The rest of it was lovely as dessert the following evening though.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Cabled Beanie

The knitting project turnover rate has been pretty slow lately. I've mostly been working on a shawl which is now 0% complete, because I've ripped it back for the third time.

However, last week I finally purchased a set of interchangeable needles! So I'm gearing up to get some serious knitting done, and this is the first item finished:

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Custard & Pear Cake

What I was aiming for: A light tea cake with a layer of vanilla custard and pear slices in the middle.

What I got: A giant scone with a layer of vanilla custard and pear slices in the middle.

I'm not sure if the problem was me or the recipe, but I suspect the latter. I knew something wasn't right when rather than cake batter I had a sticky dough to work with; that's why there's so many and such large air gaps in the cake. The end product wasn't at all bad, and if I had intended to make a giant scone I would have been very pleased. My flatmate is actually the one who noted the resemblance to scones, and she was more than happy to have seconds. And it turned out quite handy two days later when friend came to visit. Intending to bring scones, I told her there was no need as I still had part of giant scone in the fridge!

One thing I really did love was the white, vanilla seed speckled custard. My local supermarket only has custard powder made with wheaten cornflour, so until I remember to grab some next time I'm at a different store, I'll have to continue to use plain cornflour and vanilla. I added yellow colouring when I made the vanilla slice recently, but this time I didn't bother. The stark whiteness allows the vanilla seeds to really stand out, and somehow suits the pears.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Coffee and Apple Cake

Yes, that's my doona/duvet in the photo. I was sitting on my bed, just about plough into my piece of cake, the last piece of cake, when I realised I hadn't taken any photos of my Coffee and Apple Cake. You see, I like cake best when it's fresh out of the oven, still warm. So I bake when people are already over. Then the cake (or pudding, or cookies, or whatever) gets eaten straight away. So there's only photos if something is leftover the next day, and only if I can remember to take the photo before sticking that something in my gob.

This cake is a total crowd pleaser (unless it comes out of the oven looking like this!). I have one friend who, when my name and baking are mentioned together, will tell anyone in ear shot about this cake, even though I've made it for her only maybe three times in the ten years that I've known her. She even expressed more desire for it than a Brownie Mosaic Cheesecake! I think that's going a little far, but the Coffee and Apple Cake is the perfect afternoon cake. It's a very moist cake, slightly crumbly and best eaten with a fork. The flavours of the brown sugar, coffee, apple, and cinnamon work so perfectly together. Everyone needs a piece of this cake.

I had a pretty extensive look online for the same or similar recipes, and I was surprised that I came up empty. The recipe is originally from a Woman's Weekly cake book - hardly an obscure source. So here it is, with the small changes made by my mum and I over the years.

Coffee and Apple Cake with Caramel Icing

1/2 cup sultanas
1 tbs instant coffee
1/2 cup boiling water
90g butter
1 tsp vanilla essence
1 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1 1/2 cups self-raising flour
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp bi-carb soda
1/2 cup walnuts, chopped
1 large apple, grated

Line a 22cm square cake tin with baking paper. Pre-heat the oven to 180 Celcius.

Combine the sultanas, coffee, and boiling water in a bowl, cool to room temperature.

Cream butter, vanilla essence, and brown sugar until light and fluffy, beat in egg; beat until combined. Stir in half the sifted flour, cinnamon, and bi-carb soda along with half the coffee and sultana mixture, then stir in the rest of the flour and sultana mixtures. Stir in grated apple and walnuts.

Spread batter into cake tin and bake for 25-30 min.

Caramel Icing
2 tbs brown sugar
30g butter
1 tbs milk
1 cup icing sugar

Combine brown sugar, butter, and milk in a saucepan, stirring constantly over heat without boiling, until smooth. Remove from heat. Gradually stir in sifted icing sugar.

Note: The coffee flavour in the cake is pretty subtle, so if you really like coffee feel free to make the 1/2 cup of liquid as strong as you can, and/or use real espresso. Also, I sometimes make coffee flavoured icing instead of caramel, to increase the coffee flavour.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Black Beans

A few weeks ago I was soaking some black beans (turtle beans) to make a salad, and I wondered if the beans would sprout. I had a look and couldn't find any pictures of the growth habit, but someone on a gardening forum said that they grow into bushes rather than climbing, which suits me just fine because I already have snow peas and sweet peas on my limited fence space.

Just over a week ago I put eight seeds in a container, and five have already sprouted!

I'm not sure how they'll go. It's towards the end of general bean planting time here in Sydney, so hopefully it suits them. I won't be too upset if they fail though. Eight beans out of a one kilo bag of beans - it was definitely worth a try. They're such pretty looking seedlings too.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Coconut and Passionfruit Two Ways

I wanted Coconut & Passionfruit Self-Saucing Pudding.

But, I only wrote down the ingredients and didn't read the instructions.

I got Coconut Cake With Passionfruit Custard Top.

It was actually really nice. The cake was really dense, but the passionfruit custard was great. I'll make the effort to read the instructions next time though, because as nice as it was, I wanted self-saucing pudding and it didn't scratch the itch.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Rose & Pinenut Rice Krispie Cups

My American flatmate had a craving for Rice Krispie Treats, so I set about making them for him. I've made Australian style chocolate crackles plenty of times, but I wanted to make these the normal American way. So, I went to the Kellogg's site and got the original recipe. However, I could only find packets of mixed white and pink marshmallows. I couldn't be bothered buying two packets and separating out the colours, so I resigned myself to making pink Rice Krispie Treats. The colour got me thinking though, so after filling a square pan with 2/3 of the mix, I added a dash of rosewater and a handlful of pinenuts to the bowl and pressed the remaining mix into some oiled cupcake pans.

Et voila: Adult Rice Krispie Treats

They were delicious. The heady scent of the rosewater and the creaminess of the pinenuts took them from being a pleasantly sweet but basically uninteresting bar, to a really enjoyable 'treat'.

I thought my friend would be disappointed by the non-standard pink colour of the plain bars, and totally uninterested in the souped up version, but I was completely wrong. He didn't mind the colour at all, and it turns out he actually loves rose flavoured desserts and would have preferred the whole batch that way. I also much preferred them in the cupcake pans- it's so much easier and less messy than cutting bars.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Vanilla Slice

This was a request by a flatmate. I grew up eating vanilla slices and I always loved them, but I hadn't had one for years. They're not the best thing to eat in public because of the tendancy for the custard to squish all over the place when you take a bite. These ones were enjoyed in the privacy of our home, and with the assistance of forks.

This was definitely one of the best vanilla slices that I've had. The recipe is from Donna Hay in the Sunday Mazagine's ANZAC Day special. It called for custard powder, but I swapped it for cornflour, vanilla bean paste, and a few drops of yellow food colouring. The passionfruit icing isn't essential, but I highly recommend it.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Brownie Mosaic Cheesecake

This ugly brown and white lump is a slice of the Brownie Mosaic Cheesecake that I made for my flatmate's birthday recently. Believe me when I say that it tastes as good as it looks ugly! We were like animals, groaning as we ate and smushing cake around the plate in our haste to get more into our mouths.

Like Smitten Kitchen did, I substituted each of the different elements of the cheesecake for recipes that I already had: my own vegan brownie recipe, a New York Cheesecake recipe (minus the lemon) in Australian measurements, and I winged it with the ganache.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Soft Gingerbread

These unassuming brown balls are the tastiest gingerbread I've had in a long time. They are soft, spicey little balls of heaven. The recipe yields only a fairly small amount, so I recommend doubling the batch. I certainly will be next time.

This is my mum's Mother's Day present, and why I'll be making that double batch really soon. The whole lot fit into the container with no leftovers for me!

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Banana and Date Cake with Lime Icing

Banana and Date Cake with Lime Icing
I used the innards of a fruit from a kaffir lime to flavour the icing. It took a bit of effort to separate the seeds from the fruit, but it had a good lime flavour, and not at all bitter, and the little pearls of the fruit popped when eaten.