Thursday, July 31, 2008
Wednesday, July 30, 2008
I ultimately decided to make the Hummingbird Cake that I first saw in an old edition of Martha Stewart Living. I have made this cake before and it always provokes a lot of oohs and aahs. In fact, when I stopped at a cafe to grab a coffee (with the cake in a carrier), the proprietor took it into the kitchen to show the chef. Very festive indeed. The cake itself is moist, and has lots of fruit and nuts, so if you try, you could nearly convince yourself that it was quite low on the "sinfulness scale".
Have a look at the beautiful picture on Martha's website to see how really amazing this cake could look. I like my pineapple really crisp for the textural contrast with the cake, so my pineappple looks a little less yellow and less perfect. It also takes a couple of hours instead of one hour to dry the pineapple out to my preferred level of crispiness, but the good news is it keeps well, so you can dry the pineapple the day before you make the cake. If you want the pineapple to cup like Martha's I suggest laying the slices in a lined muffin tin, as mine were as flat as the tray I dried them on.
Hummingbird Cake adapted from Martha Stewart Living
3 cups plain flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup vegetable oil
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 cups sugar
3 large eggs
2 cups mashed ripe banana, about 3 large
1 small can crushed pineapple, drained
1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans
1 cup desiccated coconut
Preheat oven to 180C. Butter two 9-by-2-inch round cake pans, and flour the sides. Line the bottoms of the pans with baking paper.
In a medium bowl, sift together flour, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt, and then set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat oil, vanilla, and sugar until combined, about 2 minutes. Add eggs one at a time, incorporating each thoroughly before adding the next. Beat at medium speed until mixture is pale yellow and fluffy, about 3 minutes.
Mix together banana, pineapple, walnuts, and coconut. Add to egg mixture; stir until well combined. Add flour mixture; blend well, but do not overwork.
Divide batter between pans. Bake, rotating pans halfway through, until golden brown and a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean, 30 to 40 minutes. Transfer pans to a greased wire rack. Let cool 15 minutes. Run a knife around edges to loosen. Invert onto racks; reinvert, top side up, and leave to cool completely. Assemble cake, or wrap each layer well and freeze (thaw before using).
With a serrated knife, trim and discard rounded top off one layer. Place layer on serving platter. Spread top of layer with 1/4 inch of icing. Top with untrimmed layer. Frost sides and top of cake with remaining icing. Decorate with pineapple flowers. Serve at room temperature. (Cake can be refrigerated up to 3 days.)
Cream Cheese Icing (I halved the recipe and still had leftovers)
24 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
375g unsalted butter, room temperature
6 cups icing sugar, sifted
With electric mixer, beat cream cheese on medium speed until smooth and creamy, about 2 minutes. Add butter, 1/4 cup at a time, and beat until smooth. Reduce speed to low and then add icing sugar 1 cup at a time, beating until fully incorporated. Chill before spreading.
1 large pineapple
Preheat oven to 110C. Line two baking sheets with baking paper. Peel pineapples. Using a small melon baller, remove and discard "eyes." Slice pineapple very thinly; place slices on baking sheets. Cook until tops look dried, about 30 minutes. Flip slices; cook until completely dried, 25 to 30 minutes more. Cool on a wire rack. Refrigerate in an airtight container up to 3 days.
Tuesday, July 29, 2008
Sydney has been unseasonably cold this week, with maximums of 14C and worse. While I know that the rest of the world must look at this and laugh, Sydney is almost uniquely unprepared for weather like this. Houses are designed to catch draughts and stay cool, and big open plan rooms are sometimes hard to heat. To make matters worse, the shops are already stocking what they call "first summer"; nothing makes me feel colder than looking at little cotton tees in July.
So, it is weather like this that makes me want to stay home, do the crossword and put something in the oven for a few hours. I am convinced that a casserole helps warm the room as well as providing dinner, or maybe I have just been seduced by the fabulous smell that drifts from my kitchen when I leave something cooking for a couple of hours...
This recipe comes from Belinda Jeffrey's 100 Favourite Recipes. It is what I consider to be a lovely old-fashioned tasty casserole; the sort my mother used to make at this time of year. It serves 4-6 depending on your appetite, so I usually have a nice box of it to freeze, and it does freeze well. It is also very easy to reheat, if you are the type to cook on a Sunday afternoon for the following week. Hope this makes you nice and warm!
Beef, Mushroom and Red Wine Casserole
adapted from Belinda Jeffrey's 100 Favourite Recipes
2 tbls olive oil
350 g slab of bacon cut into small chunks, rind reserved
1.5kg blade or chuck steak cut into 5cm cubes
1 large onion, finely diced
4 large cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 1/2 tbls plain flour
2 tbls brandy
2 cups red wine (Belinda suggests Shiraz)
1 bay leaf
2 tsps fresh thyme
2 1/2 cups chicken or veal stock
18 spring or pickling onions
250g button mushrooms
Preheat the oven to 180C. Heat the oil in a casserole pot, then add the bacon and fry gently until it is pale golden. Remove from the pot and put aside.
Increase the heat and add some of the beef chunks. Fry the beef in batches until it is browned all over. Remove beef from the pot and put aside. Reduce the heat a little and add onion and garlic (and a little more olive oil if you need it). Cook these for a few minutes until they start to smell fantastic and the onion is becoming translucent. Next, sprinkle on the flour and cook it, stirring constantly, for another couple of minutes.
Return the beef to the casserole pot, and toss it with onion, garlic and flour. Pour in the brandy and red wine, and give it all a good stir. Scrape up any of the nice brown bits from the bottom of the pan for extra flavour. Add the bacon chunks, rind, bay leaf, thyme and a grinding of black pepper to taste. Pour in enough stock to cover the meat, then press a piece of baking paper onto the surface. (This will keep the pieces of meat at the top of the casserole nice and moist; they can get a bit dry and tough otherwise.) Cover the dish tightly, then put it in the oven and cook it for two hours.
After 1 1/2 hours, heat a little oil in a frying pan, and saute the onions until they are golden, then set aside and saute the mushrooms. Stir onions and mushrooms into the casserole, then return it to the oven for another 15 minutes or so. When the casserole is ready remove from the oven and scoop out the bacon rind and the bay leaf. Garnish with a little parsley, and serve with potatoes and salad.
++ Instead of serving with potatoes on the side, I like to cook potatoes and then add to the casserole with the onions and mushrooms. I love the way they sop up the juices!
The Simplest and Best Sticky Chicken Wings
The recipe below comes from "From Market to Table: Recipes and Ideas for Fresh Produce" by Joan Campbell and Barry McDonald. It is quick and easy, and even my kids loved it. If like me, you have nights where you want something satisfying that can be cooked inside 30mins, this is a good pick. Blue eye is a lovely white fish; feel free to substitute any other white fish that looks good to you (thicker fillets are better than thin for pan frying). Don't be afraid of the celeriac or the fennel; after cooking, both are very mild flavours. In fact this recipe might be a good way to introduce new vegies to your table.
Hope you enjoy.
Blue-Eye Cod With Winter Vegetables
adapted from "from Market To Table" by Joan Campbell and Barry McDonald
1 cup peas (frozen are OK)
8 baby pencil leeks, trimmed (look a bit like spring onions, with a milder taste)
125g butter (depending on your taste and your arteries, feel free to halve this)
salt & pepper
4 x 180g fillets of blue eye cod
1 tsp grated lemon rind
1 clove crushed garlic
1/4 cup white wine
2 baby fennel, trimmed and shredded finely
1 cup celeriac, peeled and sliced
Cook the peas in boiling salted water for 3-4 minutes until bright green and tender. Drain and set aside. Cook leeks in a separate saucepan of boiling salted water for 3-4 minutes until tender. Drain and set aside.
Melt the butter in a large frying pan over medium heat. Season the fish fillets and cook for 1-2
minutes. Turn the fish over and sprinkle with lemon rind, garlic and wine. Cover and cook over low heat for four to five minutes, or until just cooked. Remove from the pan, cover with foil and
Place the fennel and celeriac in the frying pan. Cook over medium heat stirring occassonally, until tender. Add the leeks and peas to warm through. Serve with the fish.