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Thursday, 31 May 2012

Simple Pumpkin Soup



What is it about winter that brings on the innate urge to sit down to a giant bowl of homemade soup! Whatever it is, this rather cold and miserable weather [also the amazing butternut pumpkin I found at the local green grocer!] had me in the kitchen preparing a simple, fast and mind-numbingly easy version of this winter classic... PUMPKIN SOUP




 To make soup:

Ingredients

2kg Pumpkin [whatever your favourite is or on special that week]
2 carrots
2 cups of water*
2 vegetable or chicken stock cubes*

Method

  1. Peel pumpkin and de-seed your pumpkin. 
  2. Cut into small pieces [doesn't have to be any particular size or shape]
  3. Cut up the carrots into similar sizes to the pumpkin [this does not matter all that much]
  4. Place all the diced pumpkin and carrots into a stock pot and pour in the water and add the stock cubes. 
  5. Cover with lid and place on stove top and a medium heat. 
  6. Allow to simmer away, remembering to stir occasionally so that pumpkin does not stick to the bottom of the stock pot. 
  7. Let the pumpkin simmer away for about an hour. You will know that it is ready to take of the heat when the pumpkin has practically disintegrated to a mush.
  8. Take the stock pot off the heat and blend until smooth**
  9. Serve however desired! [The bigger the bowl the better!]


* The water and stock cubes could easily be substituted for 2 cups of liquid stock, or if you have fresh home-made stock around [which is deceivingly easy to make!]. Just use whatever stock you have and prefer to use.

** The easiest way I have found to blend the pumpkin until smooth is using my Bamix [hand held blender]. I love it as you can simply blend it in the stock pot and not have to worry about trying to pour it into another bowl, or create even more dishes, as we know who will be cleaning it all up in the end! But again, I know that everyone has their favourite. So if you don’t have a hand held blender, you can always decant the pumpkin into your food processor or blender. Just be careful when doing this, as you may need to let the pumpkin cool down first as many use glass bowl it WILL crack your bowl or jug.

Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Naughty Muffins

“Naughty”..... I’m sorry to disappoint when I tell you there is actually nothing naughty about these little morsels. This name came around when the girl at work kept thinking I was eating something naughty every time I brought one of these out. Needless to say, they didn’t know what ingredients actually make this up.


Okay, so it’s not a traditional muffin. But, it’s a muffin that I bring out regularly for morning or afternoon tea when I’m at work. Heat it up till warm and serve with some lovely yoghurt. It fills me up and leaves me satisfied as though I have actually been indulging in something all together wicked!
 

My Naughty Muffins.....

Makes 6 muffins

Pre-heat Oven: 180°C

INGREDIENTS

6 tablespoons Oat Bran
6 tablespoons Plain Yoghurt
2 eggs
1/2 tablespoon sugar
2 table spoons of orange juice*

METHOD

1. Place 6 muffin cases into a muffin tray and set aside.
2. Combine all the ingredients together into a bowl, making sure to mix well.
3. Divide the mixture evenly between the 6 muffin cases
4. Place in the oven for 30-35min or till golden brown.
Allow muffins to cool on a cake rack [or you could start munching on them straight away]. If they do survive beyond the first day, make sure to store them in an air-tight container. They should last about 7 days when stored correctly.

*I love using Orange juice. But I have tried these with Lemon, Strawberry, cocoa powder [just need to add a little more yoghurt]. Whatever I try they seem to taste delectable!! So play around with them and see what you come up with!

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Home made butter!!!

There is nothing I like more then fresh butter smeared on some lovely thickly sliced bread. And honestly, what can top anything that has been home made? Nothing can ever be out done if it has been made with tender love and care from your own two hands.


Butter is no exception to this rule! It tastes even better when you have spent the time to make it, and really it requires little effort on your behalf. As long as you have a your trusty Kenwood chef (cake mixer)at hand your work is already half done.

Some lovely cream was on special at the supermarket this week and it caught my eye. So I decided that I would show my gorgeous little niece how to make BUTTER! Yes she may only be 11 months old, but she is already an avid lover of cooking and constantly at my feet when ever she hears the beaters doing their thing. So up on the hip she went and together we watched the transformation of cream into butter. The look on her face was priceless, watching the cream being mixed around and around, at first a little shy and scared of the big scary machine that was in front of her ( as only previously used the hand held beaters around her). But in the end she was lifting the splatter guard and trying to stick her hands in where with a cheeky grin, where she knew they should not be!

Finally the mixing and churning came to an end and we were left with a fantastic tub of butter. A couple slices of toast later smothered in our marvelous creation and she was happy once again eating what she she had helped me prepare.

TO MAKE BUTTER:
Use as much cream as you want.
Generally I use a 300ml bottle of cream. Today I used a litre bottle
[DO NOT use lite cream. Lite cream does not whip and therefore will not be able to make butter]

1. Pour the cream into the bowl of your mixer.

2. Turn the mixer to medium and allow to mix away. This will take a little while, probably 10-20min. After which time you will notice that the colour is turning yellowish and what seems to be like waters is flicking everywhere. Keep it going a little while longer.

3. The cream should now look as though it has split into two different form... One being a lump of butter and the other liquid. Pour this liquid into a bowl and leave only the firm butter in the bowl.

4. Using chilled water from the fridge, pour about a tablespoon over the butter, and using a wooden spoon squash it down to help expell the residual liquid from the butter, after a few minutes drain this liquid down the sink ( do not add it to the liquid you have set to one side). Repeate this process of adding chilled water and squashing the butter and drinking until the liquid that you drain from the butter is clear ands no longer coloured.

5. What you are now left with is butter, to be precise, you have Unsalted butter. Place it in a container and store in the fridge. I have had mine in the fridge for a couple of weeks and it always seems fine, after that it has always been finished so I do not know exactly how long it would last after this.

If you are wanting to make salted butter, that is fine, all you have to do is add salt after you Havel finished expelling all the liquid from the butter and season to taste. And ther you have it, your very own butter that take no time at all to make and tastes Absolutley divine!


Sunday, 27 May 2012

Gluten-Free Macadamia & Berry Chocolate Brownies



Pre-heat Oven:  180°C 
Preparation Time : 30 minutes
Cooking Time: 40 minutes
Makes: 20 pieces


INGREDIENTS


·         100g Macadamias, coarsely chopped
·         150g Unsalted butter
·         150g 70 per cent cocoa dark chocolate, coarsely chopped
·         35g Cocoa powder
·         80ml Boiling water
·         150g White chocolate, coarsely chopped
·         230g Brown sugar
·         40g Almond meal
·         60g Rice flour
·         50g Gluten-free plain flour
·         4 eggs

         Berry's of choice [I used raspberries and blueberries]
·         Pure icing sugar, to dust

METHOD
  1. Pour your Macadamia's into a baking tray and spread them out. Bake in the oven for about 5-10min or until just toasted. Set aside to cool.
  2. Line a 23xm base squar cake pan with non stick baking paper.
  3. In a heatprood bowl, combine the butter, cocoa, water and dark chocolate and place over a saucepan of simmering water [making sure that the bottom of the bowl does not touch the water]. Stir for about 5-8min or until the chocolate has melted and the mixture is smooth. remove from heat.
  4. To the chocolate, add the macadamias, almond meal, rice flour, plain flour, sugar and white chocolate. Stir well until all ingredients are combined. 
  5. In a bowl, beat your eggs for about 3-5min or until they are thick and pale. Gently fold in half of the eggs into the chocolate mixture until just combined. Repeat with the remaining egg
  6. Pour the mixture into your prepared pan. Scatter the berries over the top of the mixture. You don't want them to be too overcrowded, but you do want to have one in every mouthful. 
  7. Bake for about 25min or until a skewer inserted comes out clean.
  8. Set aside to cool before dusting with icing sugar and cut into pieces to serve

Straight from the oven!!!

Saturday, 26 May 2012

Heston's Tip


Heston Blumenthal...... With two restaurants in the top 15 in the WORLD this man is a culinary genius! And I would say probably the world’s greatest chef. I was lucky enough a couple of weeks ago to be in the audience for his Melbourne show and see him live on stage. What can I say? He was simply amazing. He took us on a three hour journey of his creations and the experiences he has had in order to get to where he is today.

His dreams are in full bloom, radiating joy and inspiration to all whom are lucky enough to ever see him talk about his master pieces. He toiled through blood, sweat and I'm sure even tears along the way to get his first restaurant, The Fat Duck, up and running. But now, this Michelin stared chef owns a second restaurant in the heart of London, DINNER.

Whilst sitting in the audience, fully enthralled in what Heston is telling us about some of his most famous dishes [Snail porridge being one of them...] he also gave many tips and tricks that would bring a normal home cooked, every day meal to a whole new dimension. By the end of the evening, a head full of tips, buzzing with energy and completely overwhelmed with being able to see such a wonderful man speak about something he loves so much, I left certainly feeling like a..........
“Kid in a sweet shop”

So this is the first ‘tip’ that I endeavoured to put to the test.

Crystal Clear Stock

Using everyday stock ... and yes, Heston Blumenthal, Michelin stared chef, said you can even use normal shop brought stock!! I’m sure that would make certain people cringe... but at times shop brought stock is a simple saviour! I never thought that I would be able to create or even attempt one of his culinary creations in my own kitchen. But here it is:

Block of frozen stock ready
to be strained in the sieve
1. Start off with as much or as little stock as you want and place it in the freezer. You could put it in a container or freeze it in snap lock bags. Whichever works best for you. I personally prefer containers as it makes the freezer seemingly organised when opened. 

2. When the stock is completely frozen, line a fine sieve with muslin cloth [you could just as easily use a Chux cloth. I have found that it does the same job just as effectively] and place the sieve over a bowl. Take the stock out of the freezer and remove from the container. It may need to be run under hot water for a moment to help it slip out easily.

3. When you have the frozen block of stock out, place it in the lined sieve

4. Now simply, gladwrap the bowl and place it in the fridge. This should take about 24-48 hours. But it does entirely depend on how much stock you are putting through this process.

5. When the stock has finished going through the sieve what you will be left with is a liquid that
is packed full of flavour and perfectly clear.

I could not believe the end result. It is utterly amazing. But really, could I have expected anything less from a chef as talented as   Heston Blumenthal? No, I dont think that I could have. Now this process is not something that can be done over night, and does need some hind sight in order to have the stock finished in time for a dinner. But it is worth the minimal amount of extra effort which is required to have an end result that could be seen in any restuarant.