Thursday, 27 October 2011

lemon and yoghurt cake

i needed a short reprieve today from the hand quilting i'd been doing so i decided to make a recipe choice was influenced by a large past it's use by date container of yoghurt sitting idle in my fridge and which i felt could only now be used in cooking..

i settled on this recipe after looking at several lemon and yoghurt cake recipes because i liked the sound of the ingredients..a lot of the recipes i looked at had a lemon and sugar syrup poured on the cake after cooking but, as much as i like that type of cake, i wanted to avoid a very sweet cake..

i didn't make any changes to the recipe but i did process my own almond meal from unblanched almonds and i left some pieces unprocessed so occasionally when eating a slice there's a nice little almond surprise..i cooked the cake in a slightly bigger tin than specified too so mine isn't quite as high as the one in the site photo but it cooked in the specified time given in the recipe..

after a few cups of tea and a slice of what turned out to be a delicious cake i returned to quilting my daughter's patchwork quilt..

the backing fabric

Monday, 24 October 2011

kali orexi*

pasticcio macaroni is one of my favourite greek dishes and i have fond memories of eating it in athenian tavernas as a 21 year's a traditional greek dish similar to lasagne with layers of a special uncut macaroni in a sweet spicy sauce and a creamy cheese bechamel sauce that is baked until it's bubbling and golden crusted..the flavour of pasticcio really shines though when it's served luke warm which is the typical way it would be eaten in greece..

it's a great dish that feeds many and can be reheated successfully (it's even better the next day)..i've adapted the recipe i've used over the years from the recipe in 'the best of greek cookery' by chrissa paradissis that was my first greek cookbook..the main changes i've made are the addition of cinnamon and allspice to the meat sauce which are traditionally used in pasticcio by some greek cooks..

pasticcio macaroni recipe
8-10 people

meat sauce ingredients
750 gms of minced beef or lamb
2 finely diced medium onions
1-2 cloves garlic finely cut
1 cup of white wine
750 gms tomato puree
2 tbs tomato paste
10 allspice
1/2 tbs cinnamon
1/2 tbs greek origano
1 tsp chilli flakes
2-3 tbs olive oil
2 egg whites

cheese sauce
60 gms butter
4 tbs plain flour
1 litre warm milk
1 tsp grated nutmeg
1 cup of tasty cheese**
2 eggs
2 egg yolks

500 gms 6.3 mm hollow pasta (or macaroni or penne)
1 cup tasty cheese
olive oil
approx 1/2 cup breadcrumbs

meat sauce method
heat olive oil in a large frying pan and saute minced meat, onion and garlic until slightly browned
add remainder of ingredients except for egg whites, cover and cook for 15-20 minutes
cool and then stir in egg whites

cheese sauce method
melt butter in a heavy based saucepan, add the flour and cook stirring until smooth and gold in colour
add milk in stages stirring well between additions and cook until the mixture just boils
remove from the heat and add cheese, nutmeg and salt and pepper to taste and then the eggs and egg yolks

cook the pasta in salted boiling water until al dente
drain and return to the pan and add 1/2 of the cheese and 2-3 soup ladles of the cheese sauce

brush a 30x38x6 cm baking dish with olive oil and distribute bread crumbs to cover the base and sides of the dish
add half the pasta, cover with the meat filling and then add remaining pasta
cover with the cheese sauce
sprinkle with remaining cheese and bread crumbs
bake in a moderate oven for 40-45 minutes or until golden and bubbling
leave for 20 minutes and then cut into squares to serve

a greek salad or a green salad are the usual accompaniments

 *  means good appetite
 **i often use a combination of cheeses such as tasty (or kefalograviera or kasseri),  parmesan (or mizithra) and feta..

i love the way the pasta on the top becomes a bit chewy

Monday, 17 October 2011

pumpkin bread

as i said in my last post i have a fridge full of's a bit less full since i've now cooked with it twice..the first time being my not very inspiring pasta and pumpkin dish that i cobbled together at the last minute because i had been sewing and not eating properly for days and i hadn't been shopping for i don't know how long actually..and yesterday i made pumpkin bread which is the topic of today's post..but there is still 5.7 kgs left..yes..i actually just weighed it because i didn't want to exaggerate for the sake of a good story! so don't be surprised if pumpkin features in my next few food related posts..

a very flexible pumpkin bread recipe

a few spoons of starter that i wanted to use up
1 tsp yeast
a couple of spoons of yoghurt because i felt like it
about 50 mls of whey from yoghurt draining that i wanted to use up
1 tsp honey
1 1/2 tbs salt flakes (less if using processed salt)
400 gms white bread flour
100 gms whole wheat flour
tepid filtered water
approximately 500 gms pumpkin-half cut into large chunks and the remainder cut into small dice
1 red capsicum finely diced
1 onion finely diced
about 12 sage leaves chopped finely
1/2 cup of grated parmesan cheese
pepper to taste
extra salt to taste
olive oil 
pumpkin seeds

dough method
first steam the large chunks of pumpkin until soft and then mash roughly leaving a few chunks
put the starter, yeast and honey into a mixing bowl and add about 100 mls of tepid water and mix
add yoghurt, whey and mashed pumpkin and flours and then while mixing, either by hand or with a mixer, start adding enough tepid water to achieve a soft slightly sticky dough
mix for 2 minutes, rest for 10 minutes 
repeat 3 times adding the salt on the third mixing
cover with greased clingfilm and leave until the dough is well risen

filling method
add a tablespoon or so of the olive oil to a frying pan and saute the onion and capsicum until well softened
steam the small pumpkin cubes until soft
put the onion and capsicum, pumpkin cubes, cheese and sage in a bowl and add salt and pepper to taste 

when the dough has risen remove the dough from the bowl and knead it for a minute or so and then shape it into a large rectangle approximately 15cms x 30cms..evenly distribute the filling over the dough pressing the ingredients into the dough a little and then roll into a log shape..mine tore a bit at this stage..put the log onto a baking paper lined tray and when well risen sprinkle with pumpkin seeds pressing them in if needed..i baked the pumpkin bread on the bread setting function of my oven at 220 deg c with steam for the first 20 minutes and then i reduced the heat to 180 degrees c and continued baking it for a further 20 minutes by which stage it was nicely browned.. 

my breakfast

this bread was delicious warm last night and almost even better this morning when i had it for's a recipe i think i will make often because i think it suits both winter and winter it would be good with a warming bowl of soup and in summer it would make a quick and healthy lunch with a green salad..and i'm imagining the next loaf with other ingredients in the mix such as tasty cheese, cooked bacon or bits of cooked chorizo or a loaf with spinach, dill, spring onions and fetta..the list is endless..but the non pumpkin ideas will have to wait..

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

don't have time

lately i've been waking up in the morning with urgent sewing my daughter's quilt showering, teeth brushing and all that stuff we do to make ourselves presentable to the world has been irking i've found myself doing the bare minimum and doing a pretty good job of convincing myself that i just look like i've been painting when i throw on the faded paint spattered tracksuit pants..and i often don't eat breakfast..don't have time..lunch is a hit and miss affair where if i've made bread..i seem to find time for that..i will have a slice or three with butter and vegemite..and dinner has often been weird random grazing over a few hours..sultanas..celery sticks..another piece of time to toast apple..yoghurt..well, you get the idea..  

last night i had one of those little chats i have with myself about the state of affairs..the outcome was that i thought i'd better cook dinner..i wasn't surprised when i looked in the fridge to find a paucity of culinary time for shopping either..but i managed to mentally cobble together an embryonic idea that started with the over abundance of pumpkin that's residing in said fridge..i bought the pumpkin a few months ago because it was so beautiful and i had it sitting on my kitchen bench for ages to enjoy it's pumpkiny loveliness..i sometimes do things like that rather than livening up the domain only with flowers..

anyway getting on with cooking dinner bit of the story..i cut up a whole lot of pumpkin into smallish cook quickly chunks and put them in a roasting pan along with a couple of onions roughly cut the same size, a few unpeeled garlic cloves, a bit of dried home grown chilli and some fresh sage leaves, popped in some bacon fat i had sojourning in the fridge and the usual suspects like salt and pepper and oil..towards the end i added some roughly hewn bits of home made sour dough the meantime i boiled some twirly type pasta with a bit of rocket thrown in at the end of the cooking time..i mixed it together and served it with freshly grated parmesan..

ok..i agree it's not that exciting to look at but it tasted quite good and it was better than the crazy grazing alternative..and by the way i've made huge progress on the quilt..tomorrow it will be ready for me to start the hand quilting..

Thursday, 6 October 2011

cupcake anyone?

on tuesday i was hanging washing on the line when my newish neighbour whom i hadn't met before called out to ask me if i wanted some lemons from her tree which i surely did thankyou very much indeed..i wanted to ask her if she had psychic powers when she gave them to me because i'd had my lustful eye on that burgeoning tree so full of delicious looking lemony goldenness for a's not as if i can't buy lemons but for me a home grown lemon is so much better and these home grown lemons are truly beautiful..they are large with bright yellow unblemished flesh with just the right amount of pith and juice..

i never tire of cupcakes even though i've been making them since my children were little and 
despite the fact that they are in danger of taking over the world..and because i wanted to use those luscious lemons and because i needed to make a sweet for dinner last night i decided to make lemon curd cupcakes..i make all sorts of different cupcake batters and the one that gets an airing depends on my mood at the time..but yesterday i decided to try a new cake batter and it's success means that the other batters are in serious danger of being served with a recipe folder eviction notice..

cupcake batter
155 gms self raising flour sifted
155 gms castor sugar
155 gms unsalted butter
2 eggs
75 mls milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
cream butter and castor sugar until pale and fluffy
beat in eggs one at a time 
add flour, milk and vanilla and beat until mixture is smooth
place in 12 cupcake cases and bake at 180 deg c for approximately 15 minutes or until golden and cooked in the centre 

lemon curd*
2/3 cup castor sugar
60 gms unsalted butter
yolks 4 eggs
100 mls lemon juice
2 tsp grated lemon zest
beat sugar and egg yolks until well incorporated
place in saucepan with other ingredients and cook over medium heat stirring constantly until just simmering and thickened
cool before use

once the cupcakes are cooled cut a large deep circle from the top of each cake, fill with a teaspoon or so of organic double cream and a generous teaspoon of lemon curd, put the circle back on and then dust with icing sugar..

and then eat one..or two..

* lemon curd recipe from 'the cook's companion' by stephanie alexander

edit note 17 october 2011: since my original post i've made these cupcakes again and i increased the sugar in the lemon curd from 2/3 to 3/4 of a cup (unusual for me because i usually find i need to decrease the sugar in recipes) and i cooked the curd in a double boiler to prevent it catching on the bottom which it did last time..