Sunday 30 January 2011

Notella success amid my failures

It hasn't been a great week in the kitchen for chocolate experiments. Brownie, pizza and scones have all gone awry. I have told myself that mistakes are a good learning experience but I still prefer a success. Fortunately I have had the consolation of a wonderful chocolate hazelnut spread made in my own kitchen. Call it nutella or notella or what you will.

Firstly I tried Hannah's raw brownies. She raved about them. They looked amazing. I had to try them. I wanted to use up all the dried dates in my cupboard rather than buying medjool dates. Big mistake! I have now learnt that medjool dates give the caramelly flavour. I also didn't measure the ingredients for the avocado frosting and forgot the vanilla essence. This didn't help either.

E was not impressed. He told me, accompanied by his ukelele strumming, that brownies should be warm and gooey not cold. I still have faith in the possibilities of the recipe. Not only does it seem a healthy alternative to rich decadent brownies but, on a 40 C day, I love the idea of bypassing a hot oven. I hope to revisit these someday having learnt my lesson the hard way.

Next I tried Ricki's Chocolate Hazelnut Spread. It took a while to find the hazelnut butter but I found some at the Vic Market nut shop opposite the borek stall. I mixed the hazelnut butter, coconut oil, cocoa and some maple syrup. Tasted ok but not quite sweet enough. I added some agave and it was too sweet. I thought it was another failure and added more cocoa. Hmmm! Maybe more experimenting is needed with cocoa and sweetener balance for me.

Both taste and texture need to be right with notella. Mine was not nearly as creamy as Ricki's. Then I reread her recipe and put it in the food processor. She says to process it for a long time. I don't think I am as patient as Ricki and I felt too guilty at the noise while E was trying to read stories to Sylvia. Even so, it was far more creamy than my first attempt at vegan notella.

Then came my ideas for how to use the notella. I have long wanted to make pumpkin scrolls with nutella inside them. After my fruit mince scrolls success I decided to try these with pumpkin scone dough and my home made notella. First sign that it wasn't working so well was when I tried to spread the notella over the dough. It wasn't really creamy enough.

The scrolls came out of the oven looking good. But the notella didn't really work with the pumpkin scone dough. It dried out a bit and fell away in chunks when eating the scrolls. Even worse was the taste which was a little dark and not quite sweet enough to work in the scroll. I love the pumpkin scones so much that I still enjoyed them (as did Sylvia) but more work is needed before I post a recipe.

My final failure was a pizza. I made a version of Katie's pronto pizza dough (with double the dough but only 1 tsp of yeast). The pizza was great, no doubt thanks to it having to sit while Sylvia needed a cuggle. But the notella again proved unspreadable, not sweet enough and dried out too much in the oven. I didn't have enough blueberries either. Nutella pizza has been something I have wanted to try for ages. Now I want to try again.

So you may be wondering what to do with this notella. Well, it tastes excellent eaten straight off the spoon. When I was at school we were sold small packages of nutella with plastic spoons so I assume this is one way nutella is meant to be eaten. I also think it would work well as a sauce. My other notella attempt was great served with a pear cake and I have seen Ricki use nut spreads as sauce for pancakes.

I still have some notella in the fridge for eating and experiments. Maybe I will just eat it or maybe there will be some successes with it that I can share. Meanwhile I wanted to send the notella to Ricki and Kim for their SoS Kitchen Challenge blog event which is focused on coconut oil this month.

I am also sending the picture of my pumpkin notella scone to the Bake Lady for her scone event. I love scones and wanted to participate but have been cutting back on my baking. When I am baking I have found myself returning to some favourite recipes already blogged, such as my pumpkin scones. It is a recipe I wanted to share, even if I don't quite recommend baking it with this notella. Check out the round up of scones on the BakeLady's blog.

Chocolate Hazelnut Spread (Notella)
adapted from Diet Dessert and Dogs

250g hazelnut butter (mine had a few cashew nuts in it)
1/4 cup coconut oil
1/4 cup cocoa (or to taste)
1 tbsp maple syrup
1 tbsp agave syrup (or to taste)
1 tsp vanilla essence

Mix hazelnut butter, coconut oil, 2 tbsp cocoa, maple syrup and vanilla essence in the food processor. Check for sweetness and add a tsp of agave at a time and extra cocoa to get your desired taste, depending on whether you love it more or less sweet and dark. Blend until mixture is smooth and quite liquid - this can take some time. Transfer into a tub with a lid and store in the fridge. I have found that mine needs to soften a little before eating either by sitting at room temperature a while or a gentle burl in the microwave.

On the stereo:
The colour of black is black: Stephen Harrison

Friday 28 January 2011

Aussie morroccan salad

I have been finding inspiration in Joanne's reflections in the Eat Live Be series. Lots of healthy ideas and recipes. So, in the spirit of healthy eating, when my friend Will was coming over to lunch on Saturday, I decided to make Joanne's Morroccan Chickpea Barley Salad. As I started cooking the barley I had vague recollections of Will talking about pearl barley. I feared that he might hate it but it was too late to back out.

While I have had barley in stews and soups before, I have never used it in salad. Would it taste different in a salad? It turned out that Will loves barley. And chickpeas. He was delighted with the salad. I gave some of the cooked barley to Sylvia and she loved it. What is it about kids and carbs!

I bought the barley at the Vic Market. Back home I found that I didn't have as much as the recipe required. I didn't mind as I don't like salads that are dominated by grains. I was also pleased that it had dried apricots and pistachios. I love dried apricots and so does Sylvia. I haven't had pistachios for ages and ages. The salad was a welcome excuse to have them in the house. I had forgotten just how pretty they are.

Sylvia had her swimming lesson before lunch so I simmered the barley before we left and bought Half Moon falafels on the way home. In the mall while we waited for falafels to cook we watched the old busker with the didgeridoo. Sylvia refused to give him the coin I gave her to drop on his pile. I chopped some vegetables. I dug out some wraps that fell apart. I brought the yoghurt and beetroot dip out of the fridge. It was a great lunch. Will was impressed.

I used some of my Australian spice mix instead of the Moroccan spice mix. I am not sure I got the spices quite right. I found it a little lemony for my liking. There were so many wonderful flavours and textures from the other ingredients that I didn't mind. If I was a different sort of blogger I might try lots of different dressing variations. But I don't. I am posting how I made it anyway.

We had leftovers the following day when we were headed over to see Chris, Yav and Florence for lunch. I had said I would take along some salad. So I took the leftovers. I also chopped up lots of veg and made an orange dressing. The barley salad had dried up a little overnight so I poured a smidge of orange dressing on the salad. It worked well. Maybe I would prefer orange juice rather than lemon on the barley salad. Maybe I shall experiment further some time.

As an aside, the salads went well with the pizza that Yav baked. The pizza was a big hit. Even Sylvia loved it. I have been inspired to make pizza last night. Sylvia loved it too. Might need to be a more regular meal.

Previously on Green Gourmet Giraffe:
This time last year: Novelty Cakes from the Archives II
This time three years ago: WBB: Tofu Scramble and Imposters

'Moroccan' Chickpea Barley Salad

Serves 4 as a main, 6-8 as a side, adapted from Simply Recipes via Eats Well with Others

1 cup barley boil 30-60 min with salt
1 tsp salt
1 (400g or 15 oz) can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1 red bell pepper, diced (I used half red, half green)
1/4 cup shelled pistachio nuts
1 cup dried apricots, diced
2 scallions, chopped
1 cup chopped parsley (I used a whole bunch)
zest and juice of a lemon (I forgot zest)
2 tsp red Australian bush spice mix
1/4 tsp ginger
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp turmeric
salt to taste

Boil barley in salted water (using about 1 tsp of salt) for 30-60 minutes - I did it for about 50 minutes - until cooked. Drain and lightly rinse. Cool ( as I did or you can serve the salad with warm barley). Add remaining ingredients and mix. Best eaten on the day of preparation but can be eaten the next day - may need a little extra juice or dressing.

On the stereo:
Yellow Bird: Arthur Lyman

Wednesday 26 January 2011

Australia Day Poffertjes and Cars

Today is Australia Day so we headed into Kings Domain, a park on the fringe of the city, and joined in some of the fun. A nice excuse for a day out. There was a vintage car display and everywhere we looked seemed to be yet more old cars. Around the cars were lots of activities. However E had one aim when we arrived. Coffee and morning tea.

We shared a plate of poffertjes. These are mini-pancakes from the Netherlands that seem to be served at all events where there is a cluster of food vans. We haven't had them for ages. Normally I would have lemon juice or maple syrup on them but we had just sugar and butter so Sylvia could have some. It was Sylvia's first taste and she ate a few. She was fascinated by the toothpicks in them that are for those who don't want to get their fingers dirty.

I was fascinated by the poffertjes stall which is trying to get away from tacky greasy fast food van. It aims to look like an historic structure rather than a caravan that is here today and gone tomorrow. I also noticed some green cast iron decoration on the coffee stall. Curious!

You might say that Dutch pancakes are not particularly Australia for our national day. I ate from Dutch, Italian, American and Indian cuisines today. You can't get more Australian that that. If I had seen the scones first I might have had those instead of poffertjes but I had no desire for anything from the yabby stall. We ate pizza for lunch but it was forgettable apart from that Sylvia enjoyed the margherita.

We enjoyed viewing the cars. Some seemed out of the history books and other just seemed to jump out of our personal history. There were lots of activities but we didn't have time for any. I did enjoy looking around as we pushed the stroller along the paths. Everywhere was something interesting - baby animals, alpacas, tai chi, table tennis, boules, trampoline, kiddie soccer, bird house making, boomerang decoration, enjoyed just wandering around and watching rather than We also enjoyed seeing the baby animals, the alpacas, hari krishnas dancing, the parade and a fire brigade display to name a few.

We even saw some of the parade with all sorts of nationalities and communities represented, including jedi warriors! I love the above photo because it looks like the Chinese dragon is driving the vintage car. It is good to see so many cultures embraced in on Australia Day.

However most of all on this day, we must remember the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people of Australia whose invasion and colonisation began 222 years ago. I heard Oodgeroo Noonuccal (formerly known as Kath Walker)'s poem "Civilisation" on the radio this morning. It spoke eloquently to me about how those already living in Australia saw the Europeans who came on 26 January 1988. If I could find it on the web I would share a few lines. In lieu of this, I will leave you with the opening stanza of her poem "No More Boomerang". I must seek out her poetry and encourage you to do likewise.

"No more boomerang
No more spear;
Now all civilised —
Colour bar and beer..."

Tuesday 25 January 2011

PPN Lentil Ravioli - and a Potato Salad

After my recent visit to Gasworks Farmers Market, I made a few dishes with the food I bought there. Potatoes, watercress and ravioli! Firstly there was salad for my mum's birthday lunch and then a ravioli dish that got the thumbs up from E. However my cooking has been a little hit and miss lately and strange enough it is chocolate baking that is not quite working for me. (Though I hope to rectify this very soon!)

My aim at the market was to buy fresh apricots for my mum. Then I saw these lovely pink fir lady potatoes. They even look pink. I planned all along to make potato salad with them. It just seemed right. They cooked up into a compact nutty flesh that was full of flavour.

I also added some mustard and watercress which had some bite and a slight bitterness. It was was balanced by the sundried tomatoes, though maybe not enough. Maybe a bit of maple syrup or honey might have helped, if like me, your preference is not towards bitterness.

The potato salad was good though not my best. I think it would have been better fresh than having sat in the car for an hour but it still was a fine contribution and went well with the other salads my siblings had brought along.

I had also promised to bake a cake for mum. Having stem ginger left over from Christmas baking, I was delighted to find a recipe for chocolate and ginger cake on C's Cake Crumbs and Cooking blog. Having had great success with other recipes from C's blog, I was perhaps a little over-confident.

I made three mistakes. One was to use self-raising flour instead of plain. I added the choc chips when the mixture was too hot so too many melted and there were a lot less nuggets of chocolate than the recipe intended. The last mistake was to use my standard loaf tin. The recipe required a 450lb cake tin. I don't understand how you work out the size of a cake tin by weight but I suspect mine was too big.

The cake was nice but it was a little on the dry side and didn't keep well. I suspect my resolve to eat a few less baked goods has also meant it wasn't appreciated as much as my cakes normally are! E didn't like the stem ginger in it. My mum and my little niece Ella enjoyed it. I hope to try this recipe again and pay more attention because I think it could be much better than my attempt.

You can also see the market apricots, mum's pav and gluten free fairy cakes in the above photo. I was amused at the lunch to finally find something that Sylvia and her cousin Cooper can share: little cakes. Cooper eats the icing and Sylvia eats the cake. Both kids would eat far more of the cakes than is good for them if they had their way. Yet another thing they agree on!

Whereas I could have eaten far more of this sun-dried tomato and goats cheese ravioli than is good for me. It was delicious. I love pasta but am always searching for ways to eat it in a way that includes lots of vegies and protein. I know the purists say that when it tastes this good all you need is a slick of flavoured oil and maybe some fried sage leaves but it leaves me feeling heavy and not terribly healthy.

So I set about using the vegetables in the fridge to make a pasta sauce for the ravioli. Some watercress was leftover from my market haul. I also had a neglected packet of spinach that needed using. With a few extra vegetables and some brown lentils from a tin, this made a wonderful pasta stew. Not only does it taste delicious and healthy but it also makes the pasta go further.

E loved this ravioli stew and so did I. Sylvia was fascinated by the pasta but didn't like the extras. She even went so far as to insist that I take out the filling from the ravioli so she could just eat the pasta. It really defeats the idea of having ravioli. But she likes things plain. She also didn't like the brown lentils in the stew but loved them in a heap on her plate (though it is no fun when she flings a handful at the floor!). It amuses me that she calls all legumes 'baked beans'. Maybe because they were her first legume love.

Ruth is always looking for ideas on how to serve pasta. That is why she oversees the ever inspiring Presto Pasta Nights blog event. I am sending the pasta to Jen of Tastes of Home who is hosting this week (#197).

Previously on Green Gourmet Giraffe:
This time last year: Muffins at the tennis
This time two years ago: Baba - full of eastern promise
This time three years ago: Simple Substantial Salads for One

Ravioli with lentils and spinach
serves 3

420g fresh ravioli (I used sundried tomato and goats cheese)
glug of olive oil
1 spring onion, thinly sliced
1 carrot, cut into matchsticks
1/2 large red capsicum, cut into matchsticks
100g baby spinach, sliced
1 cup cooked brown lentils (I used tinned)
125g cherry tomatoes, halved
picked leaves of half a bunch of watercress
handful of broccoli florets, steamed

Cook ravioli according to packet instructions in a large saucepan. Drain ravioli in a collander and heat oil in saucepan in which you cooked the pasta. Fry spring onion, carrot and capsicum over a low heat for a few minutes. Add spinach and cook a couple of minutes until it is starting to wilt. Add lentils, tomatoes, watercress and broccoli and cook for a few minutes until warmed through and tomatoes are softened. Stir through ravioli and serve hot. Leftovers are delicious for lunch the next day.

Potato salad with spring onions, watercress and sundried tomato
inspired by these salads
serves a crowd as a side dish

1 kg pink fir lady potatoes, scrubbed and thickly sliced
2 spring onions, finely sliced
50g semi sundried tomatoes, chopped
handful of watercress (1/2 - 1 bunch) picked leaves
1 tbsp chopped parsley
2 dessert spoons yoghurt - about 100g
2 dessertspoons of mayo - I used vegan
1/2 tsp seeded mustard
1 tsp cider vinegar

Cook potatoes for about 20 minutes in salted water or until done. Add remaining ingredients and stir well. Best eaten fresh. Can be kept in the fridge overnight but the potatoes absorb the dressing so it becomes a bit drier and could use a bit more yoghurt and/or mayo to pep it up.

On the stereo:
Live at KEXP Radio Chicago 2008 (bootleg): Beiruit

Monday 24 January 2011

BBQ tofu like an Aussie flood

Blame Hannah! She posted the gorgeous raw brownie recipe that made me buy a ripe avocado. But it had to be stored in the freezer and there was no room. So I had to rethink my avocado plans. I decided it would go well in salad. This gave me the excuse to use the spice rub I recently bought. Meant for red meat, mine was destined for tofu. A Vegan Dad's bbq tofu and a last minute decision to serve it on rice noodles. An excellent dinner! Thanks Hannah!

I bought this Australian bush spice mix at King and Godfreys because I liked the range of spices and was able to find one with wattleseed and no lemon myrtle. I have a few spice mixes that don't get used so I am fussy about which ones I buy. And I loved the packaging! Only after I bought it did I read the label closely enough to see it is the red meat spice mix. Not for me!

I searched the web for ideas for using a spice rub on tofu and found Vegan Dad's bbq tofu, which had both a spice mix and a sauce. I am not keen on bbq sauce. It always strikes me as too sweet and too strong. Yet when I tasted Toby's ultimate bbq tofu at the potluck last year, I began to see possibilities.

The recipe required rubbing on a spice mix and leaving it for at least 30 minutes, frying the tofu and then cooking it in a sauce. The sauce starts off like the recent floods across our nation and ends up like the cracked and dry desert. It reminded me of Dorothea McKellar's "droughts and flooding rains" that has been quote so much lately with Australia's extreme weather patterns. Time for a rant, methinks!

I have heard a few negative references to Dorothea McKellar as though she is to blame for the floods. Rather, her poem expresses pride in the might and majesty of our "wide brown land" rather than the genteel "green and shaded lanes" of England. She tells us that drought and floods are the downside of our beaches and sunshine. She embraces both the good with the bad.

No one can deny that the floods have had a huge impact on Australia. One of my organisation's offices was flooded so the new girl who started last week came to Melbourne to meet staff here while they sort out her office. I am glad that a submerged office was the worst of the physical damage to those I know in Brisbane but it sounds like their lives have all been rather unsettled as a result of the floods.

I was also shocked on Friday to hear responses when the Prime Minister raised the prospect of a flood levy to help those affected. People were ringing talkback radio to suggest we stopped international aid and used the money for flood recovery. Hang on a sec! What about all the corporate salaries and bonuses! What about the millions paid to superstars to visit Australia! What about the ridiculous amount that public relations companies are paid to woo and impress! When I got to work I was heartened to see an email about a conference where the organisers had decided to donate to a flood charity rather than give presents to the keynote speakers. This is the sort of gesture that we need. Rant over!

Back to dinner, it was just right. The tofu could have been a tad more crispy but it was so full of wonderful nicely-balance flavours that it didn't matter. The salad on the side was fresh and perky. The last minute decision on the rice noodles was a stroke of genius and gave the meal a nice fusion touch, which Australia is so good at.

I was pleased that I could get away with tomato paste instead of dead horse (yes I mean the goo that we call tomato sauce and Americans call ketchup). I was most displeased (hell hath no fury and all that) to find that E had used up the last of my vegetarian Worcestershire sauce and not put it on the shopping list. Tamari with a touch of tamarind paste and molasses did the trick! Maybe I will never need to buy veg Worcestershire sauce again now I have discovered this is a good substitute. The spice rub flavours weren't very prominent but I am sure they added to the mix.

I cooked mine on a large frying pan but in an ideal world (as Toby has proved) it would be cooked on a barbecue with charred edges. I wish I was brave enough to use public barbecues in parks but I always am a bit suspicious about who has been there before me - and it is not our sort of thing anyway. If you are looking for an excellent vegetarian (or vegan) Australia Day (aka Invasion Day) bbq idea, this is it! You might even hold a bbq for the floods.

I am sending this bbq tofu to Simone of Bricole who is hosting My Legume Love Affair #31, the legume-centered food blog event that is the brainchild of Susan of The Well-Seasoned Cook.

Previously on Green Gourmet Giraffe:
This time last year: Novelty Cakes from the Archives II
This time two years ago: NCR How My Chowder Fed the Dalek!
This time three years ago: Gorgeous Grubs

Aussie bbq tofu with rice noodles and carrot salad
Adapted from Vegan Dad
serves 2

200g firm tofu, cut into 0.5cm slices
2-4 tsp canola oil
70g vermicelli rice noodles

Spice rub:
2 tsp aussie spice rub (maybe even a bit more next time)
1/2 tsp onion granules
1/4 tsp smoked paprika
1/4 tsp garlic powder

BBQ sauce:
1 tsp olive oil
1 small brown onion, finely chopped
1 large garlic clove, crushed
2 tbsp tomato paste
1 tbsp soy sauce
1/4 tsp tamarind paste
1/4 tsp molasses
2 tbsp cider vinegar
1 tbsp seeded mustard
1/2 tsp chilli paste
2 tbsp maple syrup
2 tbsp brown sugar
1/2 cup water

2 carrot, grated
1 avocado, chopped
50g semi-sundried tomatoes, chopped
juice of about 1/2 a lemon, or to taste

Mix spices rub ingredients and rub over tofu. Set aside for at least 30 minutes.

While tofu is soaking up the rub, make the bbq sauce. Fry the onions and garlic in the oil until nicely browned. Place remaining ingredients in a medium bowl and add onions when they are cooked. Mix well.

Heat 1-2 tablespoons of oil in a large heavy based frypan (I used the one that I fried the onions in) and cook tofu over medium heat for a few minutes until browned on one side. Add another 1-2 tablespoons of oil when you flip the tofu over and cook for another few minutes. Pour in sauce (it will look like there is more than enough) and let it bubble away on medium heat for about 10-15 minutes until the sauce has become a thick glaze.

While the sauce simmers, make the salad by mixing all ingredients. Prepare the rice noodles by soaking in boiling water for 5 minutes and draining.

Place noodles on a plate, arrange tofu slices and an extra glaze on the noodles. Spoon some salad onto the side and serve.

On the stereo:
Mondo Exotica: Various Artists

Friday 21 January 2011

CC Hal's Stirfry Sauce

My cookbooks and I go back so much further than my blog and me. We have shared lots of good times. There are recipes buried in my shelves that were well loved in times of my life. When I saw that the Cookbook Challenge for this fortnight was citrus all I could think was orange and that meant Hal's Stirfry Sauce from The Enchanted Broccoli Forest by Mollie Katzen.

Citrus is not my favourite family of fruit. I hated lemon desserts growing up, wouldn't go near the sour grapefruits that my mum ate for breakfast and I don't eat as many oranges as I should because they are so messy. Every now and again I remember how much I like oranges. I dislike the sourness of most citrus fruit but oranges have a pleasing sweetness. Often when I see lemon in a recipe I can't help but think orange would be preferable.

But back to the cookbooks! When I first went vegetarian, I had a love affair with Mollie Katzen's Enchanted Broccoli Forest. We all like cookbooks with lots of glossy pictures but this book has enough charm to be forgiven for lacking any photos (other than of Mollie). Despite the lack of photos, I still think it is one of the most beautifully presented cookbooks, in a hippy kind of way. Mollie Katzen illustrated the cookbook and hand wrote all the recipes. The book is imbued with a love of food.

Even today many years later, I can reel off a list of favourite recipes that are remembered fondly as bringing joy to my newbie vegetarian diet. Mollie Katzen had great ideas, fun recipe names and the recipes worked. Green green lasagne, tofu nut balls, spoonbread, the enchanted broccoli forest and Hal's stirfry sauce. Not only are the recipes inspiring but the book is full of useful advice.

Towards the back is a section on vegetables. It gives advice on chopping and how to enjoy them. If you have the book and haven't looked at this section, I encourage you to read it. At the end of the section is a recipe for Hal's Special Sauce. I tend to call it Hal's Stirfry Sauce because I associate it with stirfries. This is where I learnt to stirfry when I lived in households with woks (those were the days)! Her advice about dividing up vegetables into groups according to how quickly they cook was invaluable and still informs how I cook today.

Once upon a time when I used to make this sauce, I had a hot wok and peanut oil so I could cook the vegetables really really quickly. I would serve the stirfry with the vegetables just cooked, with a slight snap to them. No longer am I so particular. I am happy to just get it on the table.

It is ages since I made this sauce, but I am glad to have been inspired to revisit it. I had a near disaster when in a heavy conversation with E about the dishes and spooned out custard powder instead of cornflour, but luckily checked the label on the container before adding it to the sauce. I also sat down to eat it only to have Sylvia crying in her cot and needing a cuddle. Yes, getting dinner on the table is challenge enough for me. It doesn't have to be perfect.

The sauce seemed exotic as a new vegetarian but now it is a bit less exciting. However the flavours meld beautifully into a tasty, easy sauce. I cooked it with lot of vegetables. The half cabbage took quite some time to cook down before I could begin to add more vegies. I think it took almost half an hour to cook altogether. I also added tofu and hokkien noodles. Maybe I cooked a bit much as the sauce wasn't as intense as I remembered it but it was still delicious and went down well with everyone in my house. I don't know who Hal is but I would love to thank him.

To find out more about the Cookbook Challenge and see what others are cooking, go to my Cookbook Challenge page or checkout the Cookbook Challenge community page.

Previously on Green Gourmet Giraffe:
This time last year: WHB: Tomato and Peach Relish
This time two years ago: Hot weather, hopeful politics and summer food
This time three years ago: Stuffed Pears - in the swag

Hal's Stirfry Sauce
From The Enchanted Broccoli Forest
serves 4

1/2 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
1/4 cup tamari (or soy sauce)
1 Tbsp honey (or other sweetener)
1 Tbsp fresh ginger
1 clove fresh garlic, crushed
2 tsp sesame oil
1 Tbsp cornflour

Mix all ingredients together except the cornflour. Spoon cornflour into a separate small bowl (or measuring cup in my case) and dissolve with a few spoonfuls of the sauce. Stir cornflour into the sauce. Add sauce to stirfry a few minutes before the end. It should thicken slightly once brought to the boil so it coats the vegetables, noodles or whatever you choose to add.

UPDATE: check out my vegan version of Hal's stiry sauce.

On the stereo:
In Time: The Best of R.E.M. 1988–2003:

Thursday 20 January 2011

Breakfast Club Yoghurt Scones

On my recent pouring over cookbooks for the cookbook challenge, I found the very recipe to make for the January Breakfast Club event. The theme is yoghurt so I decided to make Mollie Katzen's Yoghurt Scones. I expect the scones to be all about yoghurt. However I should have taken into account that this is an American recipe and if there is one thing blogging has taught me, it is that in Australia we bake scones differently to our American friends.

I will confess that I don't read American recipes so well. I looked at 6 tablespoons of butter and it didn't seem a lot. When I converted it to about 170g butter, that seem a truckload! Tablespoons seemed an odd way to measure butter until I found a change comment on a blog. Apparently Americans have tablespoons marked on their butter packaging but we don't.

Australian scones are far plainer than the rich ones made by Americans. Ours are mostly flour with just a little butter and milk. (Or a little cream and lemonade if we want to be fancy.) American scones are full of butter and eggs. More like a cross between one of our cakes and a scone. Their dough is far softer and not often patted out and cut into shapes like we often do. (I wont go into the scone vs biscuit terminlogy as I have already written about it before.)

These scones were not cut in wedges like many American scones I have come across. Instead they were dropped on the tray in spoonfuls. (They were also meant to be glazed but the batter was so soft this would have been difficult. I accidentally put the egg for glazing in the dough by mistake, despite reading the recipe first!) It suited me to spoon the batter onto the tray. I had meant to bake while Sylvia slept but she decided on a short daytime nap. Instead we sat on the kitchen floor and she watched and even had a stir. I was glad there was no rolling out of dough involved.

When the scones came out of the oven, Sylvia was delighted. I left the scones on a rack to cool. Sylvia took this as an invitation to help herself. I forget how much she is growing. Now she can reach parts of the kitchen that were hitherto to far away. Every now and again I see the little hands reach up to the bench and feel for whatever goodies (or knifes or plates or whatever) can be found.

I will take a quick diversion and illustrate how Sylvia feels anything is hers by right. This week we went to the bakery and I sat her on the counter to stop her running out the door. She grabbed a bread roll from a basket, nibbled it and put it back. I paid for it and had it for lunch the next day. I also caught her taking money from my purse as she loves to do. When I remonstrated, she held up her hand and said "stop"! Now I am not sure that is why they taught her to be assertive at her child care centre! I can't help but think this hilarious story could so easily be about Sylvia. (Thanks for the link, Penny.)

Petty complaints aside, I am always happy when Sylvia embraces my cooking. I just wish she wouldn't embrace it until it falls apart in a shower of crumbs. Never mind, she ate enough to enjoy some of the scones.

E and I also enjoyed the scones. We ate them for dinner served with a soup. I am not going to write a recipe because I have too many of these soup recipes on my blog where I just chuck everything in a pot, boil and blend. But I will give you a list of ingredients to give you an idea of the soup: onion, spinach, potato, cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, zucchini, carrot, celery, rice, brown lentils, stock, salt, smoked paprika, cumin, ginger. It was inspired by the Gluten-Free Goddess' Detox Soup but was actually nothing like it. Maybe another time I will stick to the recipe.

We ate scones for breakfast the next day and they were even better because they weren't so light that they would fall apart as soon as you looked at them. Delicious with peanut butter and I am sure a slick of jam would go very nicely too. Hence I am sending this to Sarah of Maison Cupcakes for the Breakfast Club which focuses on yoghurt this month. This blogging event is run by Helen from Fuss Free Flavours and Sarah from Fingers and Toes.

Previously on Green Gourmet Giraffe:
This time last year: PPN Baby pasta and adult stew
This time two years ago: Apricot History and a Chutney
This time three years ago: In Praise of Cookbooks

Yoghurt Scones
Makes 12-18
From Still Life with Menu by Mollie Katzen

1 1/2 cups white plain flour
1 1/2 cups wholemeal plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp bicarbonate soda
1/2 tsp salt
170g butter
2 tbsp brown sugar
2 eggs
1 1/4 cup yoghurt
1/2 cup sultanas, currants or raisins

Mix dry ingredients in a large bowl and rub in butter and sugar. Lightly whisk yoghurt and eggs together (you can use 1 egg here and 1 for glaze or put both eggs in the mixture). Stir eggs and yoghurt and sultanas into dry ingredients until only just combined. Drop heaped dessertspoonfuls onto a greased or lined tray and bake at 200 C for 10-12 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on a wire rack.

On the Stereo:
Live at the Royal Albert Hall: Tiny Tim

Tuesday 18 January 2011

Fruit mince scrolls and muffins

I know the year has well and truly begun when I feel like there was never a holiday from work, I am starting to write the correct year (2011 not 2010), my blog reader is filling with posts quicker than I have time to read them and the Christmas food has almost disappeared from my kitchen. Almost but not quite. I still have a few fruit mince muffins in my freezer.

The fig and walnut fruit mince was among the last of the Christmas baking to go. I had quite a lot leftover from my panforte and didn't fancy making mince tarts. So it sat in the fridge for a few weeks until I checked it was still viable - given that it used banana which doesn't keep so well. I was reminded of it when I saw a link to Chele's Mincemeat and Apple Tart. We had no apples in the house but I remembered C's Mincemeat Swirls with Lemon Icing.

It is ages since I have baked with yeast and normally I would not do so in the middle of summer. I also should have done lots of baking while I had my Christmas break. Yet there was not enough sun, too much food about to justify it and I was too busy relaxing. It was only on my first day back at work when free time seemed precious again that I baked these

I got home to a big cuddle from Sylvia and a chat about the day with E. We had bangers and mash, a favourite meal of ours, especially given that we have had a lot of grey cool days this summer. I put a little leftover cheese and baked beans into the mashed potato. Waste not, want not! But really I tell you this because I then decided that rather than scald milk as C had done for her dough, I would use my favourite potato bread recipe from Nigella.

I have read and admired a lot about Dan Lepard on C's Cake Crumbs and Cooking blog. I decided to use his method that C described. It involved kneading for 10 seconds at regular intervals three times in 30 minutes. It was only after I had added all the flour that I read it should be a very soft dough. In retrospect I would have used a bit less flour but I was happy that I was able to use up leftover mash that wasn't too strongly flavoured despite its odd ingredients for a sweet dough.

You can see in the above and below photo that the dough didn't seem to increase a lot in the second rise but the resulting scrolls were soft and pleasing. When I have baked bread I have sometimes found that it helps to turn it upside down at the end to brown the bottoms (maybe it is my old oven) and I think it would have helped with these scrolls but I thought of it too late.

The other change I made was to omit the lemon icing that C used. I am not a huge fan of lemon or icing. Instead I used the glaze that I use for hot cross buns. The fruit mince and the glaze gave all the sweetness I needed.

It is a great achievement to try these scrolls. When I was young I loved coffee scrolls - iced yeasted scrolls of bread with a smattering of spice and no coffee. I also remember enjoying the buttery sweet scrolls at Saint Cinnamon when I was studying in the city many years ago. Since starting blogging I have come across a few tempting scrolls, especially these pumpkin cinnamon scrolls and these nutella walnut and orange scrolls, but they seem terribly indulgent and a lot of work.

I love this recipe for not having the butter and sugar that most scrolls have. My fruit mince is home made and has no added fat or butter and no added sugar so it makes the scrolls even more virtuous. I think I preferred these to mince pies. Though I am not sure E did. Sylvia is constantly asking for fruit buns but she seemed to prefer her fruit mince in a pie as well. Not that I was complaining about more for me. They made wonderful breakfasts and work snacks.

With yet more leftover fruit mince and yet more cool baking weather, I then turned my attention to Haalo's Fruit Mince Muffins. It was such a lovely simple recipe and I was spurred on by my concern that the fruit mince would go off and waste all the lovely dried fruit. I substituted mixed spice for cinnamon and the smell just made me feel like it was Christmas all over again.

They were wonderful muffins even with a bit of wholemeal flour and a bit less fruit mince than the recipe specified. E was not keen on these but Sylvia has enjoyed them. I still have some in the freezer for lunches. Another great alternative to mince pies.

I am sending the scrolls to Susan at Yeastspotting, the weekly blog event rounding up all the yeasty baking in the blogosphere.

Previously on Green Gourmet Giraffe:
This time last year: In search of . . .
This time two years ago: Birthday chocolate cake and crazy computers
This time three years ago: Raspberry Vinegar for Dummies

Fruit Mince Scrolls
adapted from here and Cake Crumbs and Cooking
  • 150g mashed potato
  • 300g bread flour (I used 350g but I think less might have made a softer dough)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3/4 tsp instant yeast
  • 1 tbsp golden syrup
  • 150ml lukewarm water

  • 200g fruit mince (I think I used more)
  • 1/4 cup (60g) water
  • 2 tbsp (30g) sugar
  • generous shake of mixed spice
Mix the mashed potato, flour, salt, yeast, golden syrup and water until you have a soft dough. Knead for 10 seconds on a lightly greased board. Cover and rest for 10 minutes. Repeat knead and rest and then knead for a third time. Cover and rest another 30 minutes or until the dough has grown by 50 - 100%. (Closer to 100 than 50 is better.)

On a lightly greased board, use hands to press the dough into a rectangle of 30 x 20 cm (ie about the size of a swiss roll/lamington/jelly roll tin). Spread the fruit mince over the dough leaving a small border (I think I left too much of a border on the shorter sides). Roll up into a log with the longest side facing you. Cut the log into seven pieces using a sharp knife.

Arrange pieces in a greased 20cm round tin. Rest for approx 30-60 minutes until scrolls are very snug in the cake tin (I think I left mine for 45 minutes). Preheat oven to 200 C while the scrolls rest.

Bake scrolls for 25-35 minutes until the tops are browned and the scrolls sound hollow when tapped. (I baked mine for 30 minutes. If I did it again I would bake it for another 5-10 minutes upside down so that the bottom was browned.

When the scrolls are 5 minutes off coming out of the oven, make the glaze by simmering the ingredients in a small saucepan for about 2 minutes. When scrolls are hot out of the oven brush with glaze. Delicious warm and they lasted about 2-3 days in my house but were not so great by the 3rd day.

Fruit Mince Muffins
adapted from Cook (Almost) Anything
makes 12 regular muffins and 11 mini muffins
  • 300g plain flour (I used half white half wholemeal)
  • 1 teaspoon mixed spice (or cinnamon)
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 50g raw sugar (I used 30g but these are barely sweet - it probably depends on how sweet your fruit mince is)
  • 250g fruit mince (I used 230g)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup milk
  • 80g melted butter
Preheat oven to 180 C and line muffin pan(s) with paper cases. Place the dry ingredients in a bowl and mix in the fruit mince, breaking up any clumps with your spoon. Lightly whisk the egg, milk and melted butter with a fork in a small bowl or large jug. Add to the flour mixture and stir until just combined. Spoon into muffin cases and bake for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown and a skewer inserted in a muffin comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack. Can be frozen.

On the Stereo:
An Autumn Almanac: 15 songs in the spirit of Ray Davies (Uncut Magazine freebie): Various artists