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Monday, April 7th, 2014
9:14 am
Having been introduced to the recipe for Knock You Naked Brownies from Pioneer Woman I was intrigued. Disappointed in the ingredients list, I went on a search for alternatives that are available in the UK.

The first and most obvious in the list is 'German cake mix'. German cake is a uniquely North American delicacy, named for the chocolatier who developed the chocolate traditionally used in the cake. I did find a fresh recipe and decided to use the ingredients from that. American friends assured me there had to be coconut too.

This is what I came up with, and they are gooey and amazing.

Brownie mixture:

65g chocolate chips (I use a jar of Steenberg, hence the bizarrely exact amount). I imagine a chopped Green & Blacks bar would work too.
1 cup cocoa (I use Green & Blacks)
2 cups SR flour
1 cup dessicated coconut
2 cups granulated sugar (I use Silver Spoon, because it's local. If you use cane sugar, you probably want to use a little less.)
1 cup chopped pecans
About a third of a tin of evap milk (I've used both Tesco and Waitrose own brand)

Caramel layer:
1 tin condensed milk (I've used both Tesco and Waitrose own brand)
1 cup dark muscavado sugar

Mix your dry ingredients first. Then add enough evap milk to make it into a cookie dough texture. You could add melted butter at this stage - when I forgot, it didn't seem to matter.

Divide into two, one slightly bigger than the other. Grease a 9x9 cake tin. Press the bigger half into that, and bake at 200degC for about 8 minutes.

Meanwhile, make your caramel. Pour your condensed milk into a saucepan, add the sugar, and stir until the sugar is dissolved, it's all combined and starting to thicken.

Pour your caramel on top of the first layer of brownies, then put back in the oven while you work the top layer.

Knead the top layer and stretch or roll it out to about 9x9. Add extra flour or cocoa if you need to. Retrieve your brownie pan, and put the top layer on. Don't worry if it doesn't quite cover everything.

Put the whole thing back in the oven for another 20 minutes, then allow to cool in the tin. Then put it in the fridge, still in the tin, and leave for at least three hours.

You may find you have to cut it into squares to get it out of the tin, but that's OK, because you'll be cutting it into squares anyway.

Saturday, March 1st, 2014
10:40 am
Quest to eat more vegetables.
In a quest to eat more vegetables and generally feel healthier, I've been following a thirteen step plan. Yesterday's step was to eat a vegetable I hadn't tried before, which is remarkable difficult. But I took me to the local Asian grocers and picked a thing, which looked like a cross between a cucumber and a star fruit. Sadly the inside is circular so no awesome star shaped slices.

On some investigation, it turned out the label it was with, 'turia' is a less common name for the veg than ridged skin luffa, so I found some recipes including this bhaji recipe. The vegetable soaks up flavours like a loofah, which is partly the reason for the name, and has a great texture. I might buy again, but that was a bit too hot for me so if I make that recipe again, I'll use fewer spices.
Wednesday, April 10th, 2013
8:30 am
The Taste of Africa (cookbook project)
This was actually a library book. I have no African books at the moment, rather some North African recipes in my Middle East cookbook (written by an Egyptian), so there were several of various regions/time periods in my Amazon wishlist when I transferred it to a library reserve list. This was the only one of those books the library had.

For my taste, it's a little Morocco heavy in terms of recipes. I'm not dissing Morocco or Moroccan food, just that that's the part of Africa I have covered already, and I'm looking to fill the holes from further south.

Anyway, last night, I made Fish with crab and aubergine sauce (Mauritius), with okra and tomato tagine (general North Africa, particularly Egypt according to the book), followed by spiced nutty bananas ('central Africa'). Well, I would have done had I remembered to buy aubergine.

The fish was absolutely delicious, and I should remember to keep crab meat in. Judith went from 'I don't like salmon' to 'this is yummy'. She only ate the bits untouched by vegetable sauce, though, so if and when I make this again I should keep her some separate. You make a smooth sauce from onion, pepper, aubergine and tomatoes, then layer salmon, crab meat and vegetables in a pan, put the lid on, and leave it to cook. I think this would be a good Wonderbag recipe actually. Anyway, while I would have preferred this with aubergine, it was still good without, and I think basically it's the sort of thing where almost any veg could be thrown in to good effect, particularly things like mushrooms and courgette.

The okra was a bit weedy. It starts with a spice paste, but even so, too much tomato, not enough anyhthing else. Judith declared that she prefers 'normal okra' by which she means bhindi bhaji, and I agree. We don't eat enough okra, and I should add a bhindi bhaji to our normal repertoire.

Pudding was a mixed success. You slice the bananas, cover them in juice and rum, and pour over crushed nuts, sugar and spices. It was alright, but never going to be a wild favourite, and I should maybe have chosen something a bit more exotic.
Tuesday, March 26th, 2013
6:48 pm
Benedict bought me a copy of the 1954 edition of the Olio cookbook for Mother's day. To quote the book: " "OLIO", viz a mixture, a medley, a collection, and this book is certainly a medley and collection of recipes, and recipes themselves are a mixture of ingredients".

For today's cookbook challenge, I made bacon roly poly with carrot souffle, followed by apple whisk. To give you an idea about the nature of the writing, here is the entry for bacon roly poly:

"Make a suet crust, roll out, lay on it slices of streaky raw bacon, season with chopped parsley, pepper, minced onion. Damp the edges, roll in greased paper. Tie in floured cloth. Boil 3 hours. Or it may be put in a basin and steamed."

That's actually one of the more verbose recipes, a lot don't have any method at all. Nowhere have I found the explanation for suet crust, one is expected to know.

The roly poly was flabby, stodgy and utterly delicious. I should make more rag-type puddings. (Judith made this one, though.)

The carrot souffle, I should have made in a different dish, but apart from it not coming out of the dish properly, was lovely, creamy and carroty, but I think maybe I'd use more eggs next time so as it would be lighter.

Apple whisk was roundly declared a success and will definitely be made again - make 1pt jelly, when it's almost set whisk in 1pt apple puree, then whisk in 1/2 pint whipped cream.

I love this book, and will be making a lot more from it, there's a lot of exciting stuff in there.
Thursday, January 24th, 2013
4:12 pm
French Toast in a Microwave
Andreas and I had microwaved French Toast for breakfast today. It wasn't so much like french toast as very cinnamony bread-and-butter pudding, but it was delicious, and Andreas, normally fairly conservative regarding breakfast, was particularly keen.

I'm working my way through 18 microwave snacks you can cook in a mug. I've made three so far - Quiche, Chocolate caramel cake and this, so far so good.
Monday, January 21st, 2013
10:34 am
7 recipes, 7 days: day 7, recipe 7!
On saturday, as I believe I mentioned, we had takeaway, so for breakfast today, I had takeaway omelette. No peas, mushrooms instead, and a little leftover chicken broth.

It's a great way to use up leftover egg fried rice (which we struggle to eat a whole portion of, but Colin likes it so we get it sometimes anyway), my goto for leftover rice is special fried, which is difficult to do when it's already fried! Only for me and baby, though, and for baby I'd leave out the soy sauce, as noone else likes omelettes (or at least, not with bits in).

I also discovered I was doing the whole challenge wrong in the first place! Not only was it meant to be seven new meals, there was a whole complicated choose 2 from list a and 1 from list b type system going on. So, I didn't do that, I only noticed at the end of my week! Ah well, it was fun.

This week is Farmhouse breakfast week. Well, it started yesterday, but I forgot. So you can look forward to another week of delicious blog posts.
Sunday, January 20th, 2013
10:07 pm
7 days, 7 recipes; day 6, recipes 5 & 6
I was all set to make chicken pot pie (a dish I have never eaten, let alone made) when Colin suggested he would order takeaway. So I decided to go with that, and make the pie today. I actually have turkey, not chicken, and used different vegetables, but apart from that, I made this recipe. I used carrots, mushrooms and leeks, as I don't like peas and didn't have celery. It's a little bit faffy, but was really nice and Andreas in particular was very excited about it.

We had that with potatoes, carrots and broccoli (Judith's favourite veg)

Afterwards, sticky chocolate surprise pudding. This was one of those that's sponge on top and a custard underneath. Very chocolatey, and quite nice.
Friday, January 18th, 2013
8:57 pm
7 days, 7 recipes; day 4, recipes 3 & 4
Yesterday, I completely forgot the challenge in the morning and had a boring but functional and tasty English muffin with ham on one side and taramasalata & smoked salmon on the other. It was our day for the zoo, so I had a baked potato in the zoo cafe, and then pizza at home for tea. So today is catch up.

Fridays, we normally eat no meat. I fancied something with pickled walnuts, and my normal recipe for this feeling, pickled walnut & saffron pilaff wouldn't be new. So I googled, before finding nothing suitable and giving in, we had pasta with pickled walnut and cheese sauce:

Chop & sweat as many onions as you can be bothered (I used 3 onions). Now would be a good time to throw in random veg (I used a bulb of fennel) Add a spoonful of cornflour and a splash of milk, mix to a roux, then add about half a pint of milk. If you haven't lost your blender attachment, blend (well, that was my intention anyway). Add a boursin (I actually used President alternative, because Ocado suggested it as a cheaper option) and stir. Chop or crumble half a jar of pickled walnuts, and add those.

Judith doesn't eat sauce, that was about right for three adults and a baby (one of the adults is a teenager, but foodwise, same thing).

Then for pudding I made
chocolate caramel cake in a mug. It would have been better if I'd made them separately, rather than mixing 4x quantities and attempting to microwave them all at the same time. Also, if I'd had proper baking caramels, rather than just using elderly chocolate caramel sweets. I haven't managed to source salted baking caramels, they sound amazing so if you know where I can get some, or even tell me a brand name, I'd be very grateful.
Wednesday, January 16th, 2013
8:34 pm
Cooking from a different book
Judith has a much loved Disney storybook, half of which is given over to a story about a picnic planned by Minnie but executed by all of the super six.

There has been much talk about all 55 pages of that story, and much reading, and today, we finally made the meal described ourselves: hotdogs in buns with ketchup and mustard, corn on the cob, lemonade and fruit salad. There's not a lot of preparation in the mains, and I mostly did that, but the fruit salad and lemonade are explained in detail, and the lemonade in particular is a bit more work.

The fruit salad is blueberries, watermelon and pineapple, I did the chopping, she did the mixing, and it was much appreciated.

The lemonade contains both lemon and lime juice, and also cocktail cherries, which was a surprisingly good idea, I'm not sure it will ever be a regular feature on our table, but it was delicious.(ALso, another new recipe for me, so if I run out of ideas by day 7, might get counted in 7 days, 7 recipes challenge, even though it's a bit cheaty as Judith did the work.)
9:11 am
Day 2, recipe 2
Again, today's is less of a recipe and more of a new way of combining things.

When I was pregnant, a lot of the other mums were going crazy over McMuffins. Well, I'm far too lazy to go out for breakfast, and I don't like McDonalds anyway, but I was thinking about that recently, and decided to have a go at something similar.

So, I did a bit of googling and it turns out the egg is baked. So, this is what I did:

Squash your sausage meat into a burger shape. Crack an egg into a ramekin and poke the yolk with the tip of a sharp knife or skewer. Pop in a hot oven for about 10 minutes. Grate some cheddar. 10 minutes in, toast an English muffin in the toaster.

Butter, then apply fillings in whatever order you wish. I went for cheese, sausage, egg, but I think sausage, egg, cheese might be more traditional? Also, any brown sauce or ketchup would go on before the fillings, I did not indulge.

I can't speak for how authentic it was, but the baking of the egg with the sausage made it low effort and although the egg didn't look like much (the yolk was brown and not at all runny, my usual preference), it was soft and cream.

Overall, delicious, would cook again (which is good, as I only used about a fifth of the sausage meat)
Tuesday, January 15th, 2013
8:32 am
Starting at the very beginning: 7 days, 7 recipes
I recently was pointed at the blog 'Dinner: A love story' where they're running a 'Seven Days, Seven Meals' challenge. Well, my children are picky and I don't feel that our dinners are in a rut (except when I cook only what J likes), but I love the idea of even more variety, so I'm not going to make seven totally new dinners, but I am going to try to make 7 new recipes in a week.

Today was day 1, and as the beginning, I'm told, is a very good place to start, that's what I did. With breakfast and this list of 18 snacks you can make in a mug in the microwave.

Coffee cup quiche for breakfast. Well, it was nice, and I do like to eat eggs for breakfast (and that was my resolution way back at the beginning of December - more protein, less starch at breakfast). It sort of felt a bit of a cheaty new recipe though, more like scrambled eggs with cheese and ham, done in the microwave, which I don't do often, and the bread didn't make it feel like quiche. Perhaps I should have added more milk to give it more of a custard texture.

Anyway, it was a nice reminder.
Sunday, July 8th, 2012
3:40 pm
Today I made an extremely boring vegetable soup. Courgette, onion, garlic, pumpkin, stock, but maybe a little too much water. So I fried up some chorizo and mushrooms and added it to the mix, and suddenly it was delicious smokey vegetable soup.
Wednesday, July 4th, 2012
3:21 pm
Cookbook project: Bosnia and Croatia
I forgot to take photos, sadly, but the book was 'Cooking in Croatia and Bosnia' by Karmela Kis which I bought on our return from Zagreb last year, as I couldn't find an English language local food cookbook in either Banja Luka or Zagreb.

The meal was delightful, a success even though I forgot to cook any starch.

We had pork with a prosciutto sauce with stewed courgettes, followed by apple pudding.

There's a sort of Dalmatian ham called pršut which is (almost?) impossible to buy here but is very similar to prosciutto, and this dish involves frying it with onions, garlic, wine and a little sour cream, then adding to pork steaks in the last few minutes of cooking. Very tasty, would work also for chicken (or perhaps a fish like swordfish).

Stewed courgettes - slice your courgette thinly, plonk in a saucepan, cover with chopped onion and garlic, pour in a tin of tomatoes and some chopped parsley, shake, and leave to cook while everything else does. THe book said eat hot or cold, I tried both and it was delicious. B normally doesn't like courgettes, he liked this, so a winner.

Apple pudding was a sort of stewed apple custard topped with whipped egg whites and chopped walnuts before baking. Apple and walnuts is a common combination in Bosnia - we were fed apples three times a day, and at least half the time the dish involved walnuts too - and it works really well.

So, three easy and delicious keeper dishes.
Friday, May 25th, 2012
5:38 pm
Food according to toddlers
On wednesday, I made cauliflower cheese. Judith nibbled hers and then said 'I want a clean one please'.

On thursday, I made sausages. I misheard something she said, and gave her two sausages instead of one. She said 'I want one sausage, you gave me two sausage' pause for thought 'you give me one no sausage'.

Today, Judith cooked. We haven't eaten it yet, but it smells good and I have every confidence it will be delicious.

Cashew curry with pineapple rice

Soak 200g cashews overnight (start with boiling water to cover)
Whisk 1tsp red curry paste[*] with 1 can coconut milk. Fry an onion (get your sous chef to do that if you're little). Tear up an assortment of veg, and mix all the ingredients together. Bake in the oven at 200degC or about 30 minutes.

Pineapple rice - she measured the rice, she chopped some pineapple (with her kitchen scissors) and we added juice and water until there was twice as much liquid as rice by volume.

I'm going to make rhubarb and mango smoothies to drink with it, too.

[*] I use bought at the moment, but when this is up, we'll probably make it up in advance.
Tuesday, April 17th, 2012
9:32 pm
Thai-inspired baked risotto
Inspired by I Can Cook's baked risotto, today Judith and I made our own Thai-themed version. It was good.

Tear up one bag of bak choi, one pepper (we used green), and 125g mushrooms. Add two chopped spring onions and a bag of cooked prawns. Put them all in a lidded oven proof dish with four cups of short grain rice. Whisk one teaspoon of Thai red curry paste into a tin of coconut milk, and pour over.

Bake with the lid on at 200degC for thirty minutes.

You could of course use different veg and different meat/fish or nothing (maybe add tofu or extra mushrooms?) instead of the prawns.
Saturday, March 31st, 2012
1:47 pm
Judith and I recently took up Country Skill's Big Bacon Challenge. I'd been intrigued by the idea ever since she first talked about making bacon, and this was all the encouragement I needed.

I sent the husband off to buy pork, where he encountered an enthusiastic butcher, and away we went.

This was the first time I've used my kitchen scales to weigh food (Colin and Benedict do weighing, I use them for yarn), so that was a thing. I weighed the first lot quite carefully, but I get the impression that bacon is quite forgiving and I could get away with experimenting with ratios. Also that it's going to be quite easy to eyeball the cure once I get used to making bacon.

This is my bacon on the second day of curing:

It looks quite shiny because of the bad lighting in my kitchen, but it was starting to turn brown and look more like bacon and less like pork.

Every day there was some change, Judith spent a couple of minutes on the rub and I supervised. Apart from the measuring, Judith did all the work, and by day two she knew what to do.

Here is the bacon the last day before resting:

by this point it's so like bacon that it is annoying to have to wait for it to rest, but I can well believe that it's much better for allowing a day for the flavours to permeate and the edges to get less salty.

We got two lots of sandwiches for the four of us and lardons for a further meal for the four of us out of our 600g pork joint. C and I loved it, B prefers shop bacon, and J just wanted to start making it again. It was salty (but not too salty), sweet and very bacony. The lardons were even saltier and sweeter because they came from the outside parts where the rub had actually been applied.

So, in summary: utterly delicious, and a three year old can make it.
Saturday, March 24th, 2012
8:23 pm
Judith cooks
I asked Judith what we should have for dinner and she said "I cook!" So I panicked a little and came up with a meal she could mostly do herself.

That's turkey nuggets and couscous. The couscous, I prepared the veg and stock, and she just mixed it all together. The nuggets were loosely based on this recipe:

1 cup breadcrumbs
1/2 cup seeds (we used pine nuts and fennel, but anything will do)
1/3 pack philadelphia or similar
1lb diced turkey

Mash your cream cheese. Mix the breadcrumbs and seeds. Rub a piece of turkey in the cream cheese then the breadcrumb mix. Bake at 180deg C for 25-30 minutes or until the turkey is cooked and the coating starts to brown.
Monday, January 23rd, 2012
10:43 am
Last night's dinner
Last night I made Apple sauce chicken with courgette rice.

(Fry an onion and a couple of courgettes in butter, add two cups of short grain rice, when rice is translucent add a pint of chicken stock. Vegetable or my usual standby tamarind would work as well, but as we were eating it with chicken I used chicken stock.)

The chicken was really nice, and I bet it would be good in a bento with a green salad... or as a baked potato topping maybe.
Sunday, January 8th, 2012
11:11 pm
Prawn and spinach pasta sauce
As a result of wanting to defrost the freezer, I had some prawns and spinach that needed using up. I don't normally like spinach, but I liked this, so I thought it was worth writing up.

Sweat a chopped onion and two finely chopped cloves of garlic. Add about 50g chopped mushrooms. Add 6 or 7 cubes of frozen spinach or a bunch of finely chopped fresh spinach. Add about half a pint of milk, and bring to the boil. Add a bunch of roughly chopped green beans, and simmer. A squeeze of lazy parsley (or some fresh parsley, finely chopped), a splash of mirin and a pinch of sugar, stir well. When the pasta (or whatever you're serving it with) is nearly ready, throw a packet of cooked prawns in. Stir well and make sure it's all piping hot.

Of course, you could omit the mirin or use sake or sherry. I usually have cooking mirin and sake, and often no sherry. Also, throwing random extra veg in rarely hurts.

Serve with pasta or whatever you feel like... I think it would be good on baked potatoes.
Friday, November 11th, 2011
6:09 pm
I do have a couple more cookbooks to work from for cookbook project, but I was just reading the WIkipedia page on breakfast and wondering how good an idea it would be to make a breakfast that fits every description. Like cookbook project but 'wikipedia breakfast project'.

What do you think?
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