Friday 26 April 2013

Delicious Feijoa Crumble

Feijoas are a much anticipated seasonal treat in our house. So much so, that having eaten all the ripe ones, we have had to hide the harder ones from Little Miss 4 else she gobble them up as well.
Last night I made Feijoa Crumble for pudding at Nana and Poppa's house. Although often mixed with other fruits, this time I opted for the straight feijoa fix. This topping can be used on any fruit. The fruit doesn't have to be cooked first, just put in the dish, top with the crumble mix and put it in the oven.

Crumble Topping

1 cup flour
1 cup rolled oats
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon mixed spice
1/4 teaspoon salt
100g butter - melted

Combine the flour, oats, brown sugar, spice and salt in a bowl. Mix in the melted butter. The mixture should look like sandy crumbs.

Prepare the feijoas by peeling and slicing into bite sized pieces - I used about 8 good sized feijoas. Sprinkle the fruit with 2 tablespoons of white sugar and 1 teaspoon of mixed spice. The sugar will sweeten the fruit and stop it from discolouring. 

Place the fruit into an oven proof dish and top with enough crumble mixture to form a generous coating. Any left over crumble mix can be frozen for later use. It doesn't require thawing so can be used as a quick and tasty dessert solution. 

Bake in a hot oven - about 190deg. C - until it starts to turn golden and the fruit is bubbling at the sides of the dish.

We served ours with Deep South ice cream.

If feijoas are not your thing than any combination of apples, pears and a sprinkling of frozen berry fruit is equally delicious. Any left over fruit crumble can be stored in the fridge and reheated later. I ate the left over Feijoa Crumble for breakfast this morning. It was delicious!
Happy cooking!

Thursday 25 April 2013

Lovely Quince Cake

 Today we had a lovely morning tea catch-up with some friends on their lifestyle block. They have an amazing and lovely array of fruit trees, and a fabulous outlook on the country side. Weighed down with feijoas and quinces, and a huge and impressive pumpkin, we headed back to the city dreaming of all the possible recipes to make.

While the man of the house can take or leave them, Little Miss 4 and I love feijoas. We have already eaten several, raw of course, so I turned my attention to the quinces. This humble and, some might say, old fashioned fruit is traditionally made into jelly. It's a very firm fruit that requires long slow cooking. Straight from the tree they are covered in a fine furry coating. If your planning to eat the flesh of the fruit, then its a good idea to peel off the tough skin and roast the fruit with sugar and a little water. 

Given the quinces really firm density, I thought it might try baking them in a cake. I considered using the feijoas, but given their high moisture content I decided that more thought needed to be given to their cake formulation. With friends coming for tea, and the need for speed, I pulled out my trusty Carrot Cake recipe and simply substituted the quince for the carrot.

Quince Cake

2 cups caster sugar
4 eggs
1 1/2 cups oil - I used rice bran oil

Beat the eggs and sugar until light, fluffy and doubled in volume. Fold in the oil.

Add 3 cups of washed, peeled and grated quince flesh and 3/4 cup of sultanas.
Sift together: 2 heaped cups of plain flour, 2 teaspoons baking soda, 2 teaspoons cinnamon, 1 teaspoon mixed spice and 1 teaspoon salt.

Gently fold the flour mixture into the wet mixture and place into a lined cake tin. The cake will rise a bit so make sure their is enough room for expansion.
Bake for 40 minutes at 180deg. C until a cake tester comes out clean.

I was worried the quince would be too fibrous, but it turned out really well. The quince added tartness to the cake, which mixed with the spices and sultanas was delicious. 

I served the cake with Deep South Rum and Raisin ice cream and raspberry puree made from heating frozen raspberries and a little icing sugar.

Wednesday 24 April 2013

Matching knitted Striped Beanie

 It's hard to stay grumpy for too long when your this cute.

 And when you have just got a pretty new hat to wear to Preschool.

I have made a cute little striped hat to match the Debbie Bliss Cardigan I just finished knitting for Little Miss Four. Made with 12 ply 100% wool it's a quick easy knit you can customise with your own unique combination of colours. Little Miss Four is a little string bean, so if your hat wearer is more bonny, then assume that this size will fit a 2 to 4 year old. There is plenty of stretching room in this design. However, if you want to increase the size just add extra stitches in multiples of 10, and increase the length of the sides of the hat before starting the decrease rows.

Start off by casting 80 stitches onto size 4mm knitting needles. Rib Knit 1 (K1) Purl 1 (P1) for 8 rows, ending with a right side row.
Change to 5mm needles and work 6 rows of stocking stitch (stst) (that's 1 row knit, then 1 row purl repeated) ending with the right side facing.

Join on your first colour - in this case pale blue - work 2 rows stst. Pick up the main colour again, break off the pale blue, and work 2 rows of the main colour in stst.

Join on the 2nd colour - in this case purple - work 2 rows stst. Pick the main colour and work 2 rows stst. Leave the purple yarn attached as this colour is repeated.

Join on the 3rd colour - in this case dark pink - work 2 rows stst. Pick up the pain colour again. Break off the dark pink. Work 2 rows stst in the main colour.

Pick up the 2nd colour - purple - and work another 2 rows stst. Break off the purple yarn, pick up the main colour again. The right side should be facing and the hat should measure 11.5cm from the beginning.

Begin the decrease rows:
First decrease row: K8, K2 together (K2tog). Repeat this sequence of 10 stitches until the end of the row.
2nd and every alternative row: purl until end.
3rd dec. row: K7, K2tog. Repeat sequence until end.
5th dec. row: K6, K2tog. Repeat.
7th dec. row: K5, K2tog. Repeat.
9th dec. row: K4, K2tog. Repeat.
11th dec. row: K3, K2tog. Repeat.
13th dec. row: K2, K2tog. Repeat.
15th dec. row: K1, K2tog. Repeat.
17th dec. row: K2 tog. Repeat.
18th row: purl.
Next row: K2tog. Repeat.
Continue to K2tog on knit rows until 3 stitches remain. Knit a cord by passing the knit stitches onto the left needle and knitting through them again. Continue to do this until the cord is the required length.

Use a wool darning needle to sew the hat together, starting from the top. Sew the ends of the contrast strips into the seam and trim off any extra wool.
Ready to wear as a matching set. Enjoy your knitting not that the cold weather is creeping in!

Monday 22 April 2013

Not-So-Secret Admirer Morning Tea

Oh the last day of the school term. The excitement, the exhaustion, the anticipation, the unfinished to-do list, the last minute jobs.

I have heard it said that there is no dilemma in life that can't be softened by a good custard square. Although flippant, this speaks to the feelings of togetherness and emotional and physical restoration that the sharing of food brings to people and their communities.

One of the lovely rituals of the last week of term 1 is a round of Secret Admirer: names are drawn, and admirers smuggle gifts and tokens of appreciation to their recipients. Having missed the deadline for putting our names forward, three of us decided to be everyones' not-so-secret admirer by providing a delicious homemade morning tea to our lovely colleagues. 
We all made a few favourite recipes that altogether made for an impressive spread. Sarah made Lemon Cupcakes, Salted Caramel slice and Chocolate Brownie. Rebecca made Citrus slice, Angels on Horseback, Sesame Lavosh with blue cheese, and Hummus with french bread. I made Sausage Rolls, Sticky Lemon Slice, Date Scones, gluten-free Rice Bubble Cake, and Carrot Cake. Follow the high lighted links to go directly to the previously blogged recipes.

Some of you have requested the Sausage Roll recipe. This one is always popular with our friends and family. It has a couple of extra ingredients that make them extra special.

Prudence's Sausage Rolls

1 finely sliced onion
4 thick slices of white bread - made into fresh bread crumbs using the kitchen whizz
3 Tablespoons tomato sauce
3 tablespoons sweet chilli sauce
1 teaspoon salt
freshly ground pepper
2 eggs
2 x 450g tubes of sausage meat

6 sheets ready rolled puff pastry
12 rashers rind less streaky bacon
250g tomato relish - I used Barkers Sun dried tomato and olive

1 beaten egg for glazing

Mix the onion, bread crumbs, tomato sauce, sweet chilli sauce, seasoning, eggs and sausage meat until thoroughly blended together.
Put the sausage meat mixture into the fridge while you prepare the pastry.

Cut each pastry square in half and separate the bacon rashers. Leave the plastic sheet attached to the pastry as it will help you to shape the sausage rolls.
Lay the pastry sheets out over the bench; Spoon an even amount of sausage meat along each pastry sheet. It should be about 2cm in diameter.

Top each sausage meat row with a strip of bacon and spoon some relish along side the meat. Roll the pastry over the meat and leave with the seam facing down. Again, leave the plastic sheet on the pastry until your ready to bake the sausage rolls. They can be stored in the fridge for 24 hours or freezer for later use.

When your ready, cut each roll into evenly sized portions.  Glaze with the lightly beaten egg and bake at 200deg. C for about 25 minutes. They should be golden brown and crispy once cooked.
 The not-so-secret-admirers - thanks ladies for making this a morning tea to remember when we all needed an end of term pick me up.

Saturday 13 April 2013

Striped Debbie Bliss Cardigan

I am a big fan of Debbie Bliss childrens' knitting patterns. They are designed to minimise the amount of sewing up required, and the sizes are deliberately generous to allow for lots of growing space.
True to form, I can never make anything exactly to the given plan. There is always room for a little inspiration and adjustment. This cardigan pattern comes from the Junior Knits book - Ebury Press, 2004. If you don't want to buy the whole book, the local library will probably have a copy you can borrow.
Although it is lovely, I didn't use the Debbie Bliss yarn. With the New Zealand exchange rate it's horrendously expensive to buy in this country. Instead I used Paton's Jet 30% Alpaca/70% wool, for the main pink colour - I know it's made in china, but I scooped up in a half price sale! For the stripes I used one of my favourite New Zealand made yarns: Shepherd 100% Lambswool Felted 12ply. It's a lovely soft yarn with great loft for a soft light garment. The 5mm needles make it quick to knit.
The cardigan is knitted in one piece, with increases and decreases for the sleeves. The original pattern was plain with a knit 2, purl 2 rib for the bands and cuffs. I changed it by introducing stripes to the body and ribbing, making the cuffs tighter, and the rib a plain knit 1, purl 1 pattern. I also made the body about 4 cm longer, as Little Miss 4 is a string bean, and there is nothing worse than putting in all this effort only to find it is too short.
I put the first lot of stripes across the back of the body and sleeves using a simple 2 rows of each colour with 2 rows of pale pink in between.
At the back of the neck the work gets divided into two to form each side of the cardigan. I worked each side separately until I got to the first stripe. By doing a step at a time it eliminated the need to do lots of row counting later to ensure the two sides matched each other.
Without the stripes I would have worked both side at the same time, but with three colours of stripe it was going to be too much of  tangle!
I broke off the yarn after the stripes were worked. All the working in of the ends is a bit of a chore, but worth it for the stripy result.
I didn't need the extra length of the circular needles to accommodate the ribbing for the neck and front band, as the bamboo needles were just long enough.
I deliberately put the darkest colour on the outside edge of the ribbing, as we all know how grubby they can get.
New cardy in action at the Pet Expo. Just what our little blossom needed in the cold wind. I'm working on a matching hat now.

Sunday 7 April 2013

Adventures with my Mixer / How to make Donuts

 The mainstream consumption of donuts is really only in its infancy in lil' old New Zealand. We have all done cupcakes, dabbled with macaroons, maybe the next big thing will be donuts. I'm not so sure what that will bring to our waistlines, but I have always believed in all foods in moderation. I recently found a recipe for Grapefruit Donuts on A beautiful Mess an American blog I follow. Not so sure about the Grapefruit part of it, I adapted the recipe back to plain and added lemon icing for a bit of zing. It was a super easy recipe to mix; the hardest part is getting them from the tray to the deep fryer without too many dents and squashes.

Lemon Iced Donuts

1 cup milk
1/2 cup caster sugar
2 1/4 teaspoons dry yeast
2 eggs
1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons butter - melted and cooled, but not set
4 cups high grade flour
1/4 teaspoon salt

Warm the milk and add the sugar and yeast. Whisk the mixture until the yeast is dissolved, then leave it for 5 to 10 minutes until it starts to froth.

Combine the butter and eggs in a large mixing bowl. Add the yeast mixture and stir to combine. Add the flour and salt and mix using the dough hook attachment. 

I love my commercial mixer: its a fab piece of time saving kit. 
The mixture will start to come together to form a soft springy dough. Once it starts to slap against the sides of the bowl, remove from the mixer and knead by hand on a board for a few minutes.
Put the dough into an oiled bowl; turn the dough over so the top is oiled as well. Cover and leave over night in the fridge.

The next day take the dough from the fridge and leave for 15 minutes before kneading for 5 minutes until it returns to room temperature. 

The dough should be soft and springy.

I rolled some of mine straight from the fridge, but they turned out a lot flatter that the ones that were kneaded for a while first. Set your oven to 50deg C ready to use to prove the donuts.

Roll out the dough to about 1.5cm in thickness and cut the donuts into shape using a large and small cutter.

Put onto a lined and oiled baking tray, leaving plenty of room in between each one so the donuts don't touch each other once they have risen.

Loosely cover with greased plastic wrap and put into the warm oven to prove for at least one hour.

Once proved gently transfer to either a deep fryer or heavy based pot of oil heated to 185deg. C. 

The hardest part of the whole recipe is gently transferring the donuts from the tray to the oil without putting finger prints and dents into the donuts before they fry.

Fry the donuts in batches for a few minutes on each side until golden brown. Drain onto kitchen paper or a clean tea towel, then transfer to a cooling rack ready to dip in icing.

Lemon Icing

2 cups of icing sugar
the juice of a lemon
enough bitter lemon cordial to form a pouring consistency icing

Combine the icing sugar, lemon juice and about 2 tablespoons of the cordial. Mix and add more cordial a teaspoon at a time until a pouring consistency is achieved.

Once the donuts have cooled, dunk the top side of each one into the icing and place on the cooling tray to dry. You could double dunk them once they have dried if you want a thicker layer of icing.

The recipe makes about 24 large donuts; enough for a crowd. We gave some to two sets of our neighbours and fed the remainder to friends that came to visit. Like all home baked, non preservative laden yeast items, they are much better eaten fresh. Next time, unless I'm feeding a bunch of hungry blokes, I'm going to make them smaller as they are quite a mouthful. 

If your making them at your house I'd love to know how you got on.   

Friday 5 April 2013

Autumn Pumpkin Soup with Lamb Mini Meatballs

After all the unseasonal warm weather we have been having in the last few weeks, winter's icy breath blowing over Christchurch today came as an unwelcome but inevitable surprise. Crisp cold salads suddenly don't seem so appealing, and its time to reach for the kinds of foods that bring us warmth against winter's chill.

The autumn pumpkin harvest is well underway and any number of great meals can be made from this simple and seasonally inexpensive vegetable. It's a good time to stock up on pumpkins. Stored in a cool, dry and well ventilated place they will keep for weeks. Just be sure to choose a pumpkin that is free from blemishes and has the stalk intact, as any break in the skin will invite in mould and decay.

We brought this grey Crown Pumpkin a couple of weeks ago in anticipation of the winter chill. The following recipe is quick to prepare and can be served with or without the meat balls. It has bacon incorporated into the soup. If you prefer a vegetarian option just leave it out and use vegetable stock instead of water. Red split lentils can also be added to the soup if you would like to add a vegetarian protein source: add the lentils to the soup with the water; they will cook down to a pulp and blend with the pumpkin.

Pumpkin Soup with Lamb Mini Meatballs

1 tablespoon oil
1 large brown onion - roughly chopped
half of a medium sized pumpkin - seeds and skin removed, then cut into chunks
1 large clove of garlic - crushed or sliced
4 rashers of bacon - cut into slices
enough  boiling water to cover the pumpkin in the pot
Salt and pepper to taste

Approximately 100g lamb mince - not too lean, it needs some fat
salt and pepper
1 tablespoon oil

Heat the oil in a large pot. Add the chopped onion, garlic and bacon. Cook until the pieces start to brown. Add the pumpkin into the pot as you cut it up. Let the whole lot cook a little longer. 

Then add the boiling water, stir and allow to simmer until the pumpkin is tender.

While the soup cooks prepare the mini meat balls.

Combine the mince with the seasoning and roll into little balls. Because the meat has a fair amount of fat no other ingredients are required. 

If the meat is very lean I would add some fresh bread crumbs to soften up the mixture.

They should be rolled small enough that they can be eaten in one bite.

Heat the oil in a pan and cook the little balls.

Allow them to brown on the bottom before attempting to turn or they will fall to pieces.

They will only take a few minutes to cook.

Once the pumpkin is cooked, blend it into a smooth soup using a stick blender.

If you don't own such a gadget, then a kitchen whizz or even a simple potato masher will do the job. 

Once blended return the soup to the heat and check for seasoning. Pumpkin soup requires quite a lot of salt, so don't be frightened to add it.
Plate the soup into bowls, drop the meat balls on top and sprinkle with a little parsley. I served our soup with slices of ciabatta. 

Time to cuddle up in a cosy blanket and pull out the knitting my friends. Winter is on the way.

Wednesday 3 April 2013

Simple Store Cupboard Pizza

Mid-week meals can be the bain of any working mother. What to make and the time to make it before our darling children start making systematic raids on the fridge. We all know that a child's hunger is like a wolf on the loose in the hen house. The other morning Little Miss 4 announced that she was so hungry her stomach was "about to eat itself".
Believe me, she is far from starved. She loves to help us in the kitchen, and keen to divert her from the television, I suggested she help make pizza for dinner.
This is a simple no wait base recipe that utilises store cupboard and fridge ingredients for a simple, quick and satisfying dinner solution. 

Simple Pizza Base
500g strong flour
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon dried yeast
1 tablespoon sugar
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons warm water
2 tablespoons olive oil

Sift the flour into a large bowl and make a well in the centre.

Pour the water and oil into the flour well and stir in the yeast, salt and sugar. Once the yeast has dissolved stir in the flour to form a dough. Once the dough has formed turn it out onto the bench and knead to combine.
Knead the dough until it is elastic. It should spring back into shape when pressed.

Oil the bottom of the original bowl and put the ball of dough back in. Cover with plastic wrap or a damp cloth and set into a sink of warm water to rest while you prepare the toppings.

Set the oven to 225 deg. C.

Once the toppings are done, tear off a chunk of dough and press it out onto a piece of baking paper. It should be about 5mm thick, but doesn't have to be a regular shape.

Once the toppings are on, bake for 15 minutes until golden brown. The base should be crispy.

Pizza Toppings:

Home made tomato sauce
sliced spring onion
Bocconcini - a type of baby mozzarella
lamb mince made into meatballs with crushed garlic and salt and pepper
fresh basil leaves

We made enough to bake 3 pizzas and store enough dough in the freezer for another pizza to make later. 
Little Miss 4 is looking forward to having left over Pizza for "hot lunch" tomorrow.