Monday, 26 March 2012

poor soldier's cake..

this is a cake i started making when my husband was in the army in greece..i'd make a couple of loaves when i knew he was staying overnight in the barracks or when he went on bivouac..he used to share slices of it with the soldiers doing sentry duty who like most of the others in the barracks were away from home for many many months and they relished a piece of home made cake particularly in winter when the temperature would get to minus 15 deg c..

as a novice cook i started making the cake as per the instructions in the iconic 'green and gold cookery book'*'s a funny little book that was first published in 1923..the copy i own is a 34th edition and there have been several editions published since..the recipes in the book were put together to raise funds for king's college in adelaide by a group of four women..apparently some of the recipes were obtained through members of the school community but many must have been sourced through some other means because many of the recipes have the name of the person who contributed the recipe and the town/city where they lived and some like my maternal grandmother lived in ardrossan 150 kms away from adelaide and many others lived in other states..

i haven't made this cake for years but my daughter is coming over tomorrow to do some renovation work with me and i thought, for old times sake, it would be really nice to have this cake with our morning and afternoon tea..over time i have tweaked the recipe a lot..fairly soon after i started making it i added an egg to the batter and then i decided walnuts would be a nice addition and i used to vary the spices according to my's alterations mean the cake is not quite as poor these days..

poor soldier's cake..poor photo!

poor soldier's cake


1 cup raw sugar
1 cup of strong tea
115 gms butter
250 gms chopped dried figs
1/2 cup walnuts cut medium
2 tbs cumquat marmalade
150 gms plain flour
150 gms self raising flour
1 tsp ground cloves
1 tsp ground allspice
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 tsp sodium bicarbonate
1 egg beaten


~put sugar, tea, butter, figs, marmalade, and spices on to heat and let it just come to the boil
~take off the heat and add the sodium bicarbonate
~allow to cool and add egg and vanilla 
~heat oven to 175 deg c
~add sieved flours and walnuts and mix well
~bake for 60 mins or until browned and cooked when tested with a cake skewer

* recipe for original 'poor soldier's cake'


one cup sugar
one cup water
half cup butter
1/2 pound raisons
one teaspoon carbonate soda
one teaspoon ground cloves or other spice.


~put all ingredients into a saucepan and let just come to the boil
~allow to cool and add sufficient flour to make a thin batter (about a cup and a half flour)
~bake in a moderate oven for one hour

i hope your week is happy, productive and safe..x 

Friday, 23 March 2012

pastel natural soap

i now have about 60 bars of soap that i've's enough to keep me, my family and friends clean for quite a while..and it will also keep our skin in good condition too which is good in winter when the atmosphere is very drying particularly for those like me who have sensitive skin..

the pink soap is made with pink french clay, dried rose petals from my garden and olive, coconut, castor, grapeseed and walnut oils..i made a mistake with my calculation so that i had to rebatch it and add it to a second mix..that's what caused the 'salami' look..and the rose petals were initially on the top of the soap but of course when i rebatched it they were mixed through the soap..but happily it's matured nicely and it produces a good lather which makes it a lovely soap to use.. 

the green soap is another rescue mission..the recipe i used for the initial lemon verbena soap i made must have been faulty because i don't think..really and truly..that i made a mistake with this one..but i'm starting to set up well but it has continued to 'leak' i cut up 3/4 of the bars into dice and i added the dice at trace to another batch of soap that i made with olive, coconut and almond oil to which i also added crushed dried lemon verbena leaves that were from my garden..i made this soap about two weeks ago and so it isn't quite ready to use but it is already quite also has a lovely scent from the lemon verbena leaves..

i kept a few of the initial lemon verbena bars of soap because it is such a lovely emollient soap and for that reason i am using it to wash my face..i've never used soap on my face before but it is so moisturising that i am confident that it won't contribute to my wrinkles.. :)

happy weekend petals..x

Sunday, 18 March 2012 big fat greek buns

my family and i have developed a tradition over the years at easter of getting together on easter sunday for an informal afternoon tea..anyone who wants to join us is welcome..the more the merrier is my motto..

i can't remember when i last bought a hot cross bun because i started making them for easter years ago
but now that my children are older they come over in the morning and as part of our easter tradition we make them together..this year i decided that i'd like to include a greek element to our easter fare so i had a practice run at making tsoureki i said in an earlier post i've been wanting to experiment with greek recipes and ingredients and tsoureki encompasses both elements..i've wanted to make tsoureki for a long time and i never have and it often contains mastiha and mahlepi which are the very ingredients i've developed an interest in experimenting with..

i love the lamination of tsoureki and the way it tears

recipe adapted from 'flavours of greece' by rosemary barron



175 gms light brown sugar*
115 mls tepid water
1 sachet (7 gms) yeast 
300 gms strong flour
275-300 gms unbleached plain flour**
115 mls tepid milk
2 tbs olive oil
50 gms unsalted melted butter
5 eggs
juice of 1/2 orange
2 tbs finely grated orange zest
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 heaped tsp mastiha granules***
1/2 tsp ground mahlepi****
1 1/2 tsp salt
4 tbs sesame seeds or blanched slivered almonds*****


1 egg yolk
2 tbs milk
1 tbs honey


~dissolve 1 tsp of the brown sugar in the water and sprinkle over the yeast
~leave for about 10 minutes or until foam develops
~sift the strong flour into the bowl of a stand mixer and add the yeast mix and the milk
~mix on a low speed adding enough plain flour to make a soft elastic dough
~rest for 10 minutes and mix for 2 minutes
~repeat the cycle once more
~remove the bowl form the mixer and cover the bowl with cling film and leave until doubled
~while the dough is proving dry the orange zest briefly in the oven
~once dried grind the zest together with the mastiha granules with a tsp of the brown sugar
~brush a large baking tray with a little of the melted butter
~when the the dough is almost proved in another bowl beat the eggs until light and fluffy
~then add the remaining brown sugar, orange juice, vanilla, zest/mastiha mix and salt
~return the dough to the stand mixer and on a low speed add the egg mix, melted butter and remaining oil along with enough plain flour to make a soft dough..
~divide the dough into 6 portions and role each into a 20 cm rope making the ends thinner
~lay 3 ropes side by side and loosely braid tucking the thinner ends underneath so the loaf ends are rounded
~repeat with the remaining 3 ropes
~place the braided loaves well apart on the baking tray, loosely cover with cling film and leave in a warm draught free place for 2 hours or until doubled
~heat oven to 200 deg c
~for the glaze whisk egg yolk, honey and milk and brush the loaves with this mixture
~bake for 10 mins, reduce temperature to 180 deg c and cook for a further 20 minutes or until brown******
~transfer to racks to cool


* tsoureki is not typically very sweet but even for my not very sweet palate it needed a bit more sugar so next time i will increase it to 200 gms (see **)
**i needed a lot more plain flour to obtain a workable dough which may have affected the sugar to flour ratio
***/****the mastiha flavour was good but it needed to be balanced with more mahlepi so i will increase the mahlepi to 1 tsp
*****i forgot to use the sesame seeds i'd planned on using
******tsoureki typically burns easily so i covered the loaves with foil after about 20 minutes of cooking


next time i'm considering:

  • adding cardamon to the spice mix
  • replacing the orange juice with 2 tbs brandy
  • adding some raisons or sultanas
  • adding red eggs for easter

happy monday one and all..x

this post submitted to yeastspotting

Friday, 16 March 2012

chocolate cupcakes with morello cherry custard and almond praline cream

a dear friend of mine came for dinner last night so i decided to make cupcakes for sweets with some flavours that have been lingering at the back of my mind for a while..even as i put the different elements of chocolate cake, morello cherry custard, morello cherries and almond praline cream together i wasn't sure whether it would be a harmonious combination or a disaster..happily they were deemed a success..

chocolate cupcakes with morello cherry custard and almond praline cream
an original tea with hazel recipe



125 gms unsalted butter
125 gms castor sugar
80 gms srf (self raising flour)
20 gms plain flour
20 gms dutch cocoa
2 eggs
2 tbs milk
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp mahlepi (optional)**
pinch salt
icing sugar

morello cherry custard

1 jar of morello cherries drained and juice reserved
2 tbs corn flour
2 tbs castor sugar
3 tbs kirsch

praline cream

1/2 cup castor sugar
2-3 tbs water
1 tsp lemon juice
1/3 cup almonds
double cream


~place the almonds for the praline cream on a tray and cook on 180 deg c until roasted
~set aside to cool
~place cooled almonds on a baking paper lined tray

~lower oven temperature to 170 deg c
~line a 12 hole 100 ml capacity muffin tray with paper cases 
~sift the srf, plain flour, cocoa and mahlepi
~beat the butter, salt and castor sugar until pale
~add eggs one at a time beating well between each addition
~add flour and cocoa mix and milk and vanilla in two batches beating gently between each addition 
~divide batter between muffin cases 
~bake for 20 minutes or until cooked when tested with a skewer
~set aside to cool

~place 1 cup of the reserved cherry juice on to heat
~add 2 tbs castor sugar (or extra to taste)
~mix 2 tbs corn flour with a further 1/4 cup of cherry juice
~add a little of the warm cherry juice to the corn flour mix
~then add the corn flour to the saucepan and cook until thickened and just coming to the boil
~remove from the heat and add the kirsch
~set aside to cool

~in another saucepan put the sugar on to heat
~add the water and lemon juice and stir until the sugar crystals dissolve brushing down the sides of the pan with a brush dipped in boiling water
~increase heat and cook until the sugar turns a medium caramel colour
~remove from heat and immediately pour over the almonds
~once cooled process the almond praline finely leaving a few small pieces of toffee

to assemble***

~mix the half of the praline with 100 mls cream
~cut a deep cone shape circle from each cupcake
~cut the cone segment in half horizontally and put the cupcake top part aside
~spoon a large teaspoon of the cherry custard in the cupcake
~press four morello cherries gently into the custard
~top with a large teaspoon of praline cream
~place cupcake tops on the cream pressing them gently to secure
~dust with icing sugar

* this is a recipe that i've adapted over the years..replacing some of the srf with plain makes the cake a bit denser which is what i wanted here
**adding the mahlepi to this recipe was another one of my attempts to experiment with a less well known greek ingredient..i thought the bitter almond and cherry flavour of the mahlepi would compliment the morello cherry custard with the kirsch and the almond in the praline but i couldn't really detect it at all in the time i will double it..i was more cautious this time after my masticha disaster
***the praline cream and cake assembly are best done close to serving time..

it's a 'happy st patrick's day' coincidence that the cake is on a green plate..x

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

a greek weekend

my all time favourite rice custard is greek rice custard or rizogalo..for me it epitomises the notion of slow food because i like to make it over an hour and a half to two hours.. all that effort and patience is rewarded though with a voluptuous creamy rice custard with a hint of caramel flavour which is achieved from the slow cooking and reduction in milk volume..

 the recipe is from the book in this post

4 tablespoons arborio rice
1 cup of water
1200 mls unhomogenised organic milk
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/2 tbs corn flour
3 tbs water
1/2 tsp vanilla


~bring the cup of water to the boil and add the rice..stir once and lower heat to a simmer and cook for 15 minutes
~add the milk and slowly bring to the boil..once boiling lower heat and simmer for 30 mins stirring occasionally
~take the saucepan off the heat and add the sugar
~mix the corn flour and water to a paste and add it slowly for the saucepan while stirring
~using a diffuser mat return the saucepan to the heat and slowly bring the custard to the boil while stirring
~lower the heat to a simmer and continue stirring for a further 15 minutes
~remove from heat and add vanilla
~pour the rizogalo into serving dishes and dust with cinnamon

best refrigerated for at least 8 hours before serving

along with making tried and true greek recipes i've been thinking a lot about making greek recipes that i haven't tried before and also experimenting with ingredients that i'm not very familiar of the ingredients i'd been wanting to use for some time is masticha..while it's typically used to flavour tsoureki  i've wanted to see how it would taste in a yoghurt cake.. so on monday when my elder daughter katerina came over for a visit i used this recipe which i made the same way as i did here but i added masticha..

masticha usually comes as hard resinous globules that need to be ground to a powder before use..the little packet i had weighed 5 gms and after grinding it was about 1 1/2 teaspoons..i decided to add the masticha in increments to the cake batter because i was completely unfamiliar with it..i did a taste test after adding a small half teaspoon of the masticha but i felt it wasn't quite discernable enough so i tested again after adding a further small half was ok at this point..but..this is where i look at the minuscule bit left and think it's not worth the effort of finding a small jar etc so i recklessly heave it into the batter..

everything was good about this cake except for the taste..the masticha flavour was far too strong and it left a bitter aftertaste..i tried to redeem it by making a fig compote to serve with it but it didn't really help..but i'm not giving up on matsicha..i might make a tsoureki for easter..i'll keep you posted.. :)

my greek table: small hand towels that i use as serviettes bought in greece last briki with greek basil..greek yoghurt cake with and white enamel plates


i hope your culinary and otherwise adventures this week are happy ones.. :) x

Friday, 9 March 2012

zucchini pizza with sour cream bread dough

my first ever overseas trip was to rome when i was 21 years old..back then the definitive travel reference book for australian travellers was 'europe on $10 a day'..that will give you some idea of my age..anyway, since then i have had a problem with pizzas and that problem arose because i fell in love with the pizza slices we bought from a bakery close to the pension where we stayed..i'll never forget the sight of the huge rectangular trays of pizzas lined up on the counters in the bakery each with a different but very simple favourites were the 'fungi' and artichoke pizzas..i don't remember all of the different toppings available but the others that i tried and liked were potato and zucchini..the other thing i liked about these pizza slices was that the base was about 1 cm thick which meant that the topping melded into the dough creating a luscious marriage of the two ingredients..i'm not entirely sure but i think we paid about 70 lira per piece..back then the exchange rate was 700 lira to the australian sure..the other round type of pizza with tomato, mozzarella and so on were available but they were never as appealing to me and they were also a lot more expensive..

since then any pizza i've bought has never lived up to those pizza slices i had many decades ago and i've made a few attempts at replicating them myself but never with any as i was making a sour cream yeast based dough i decided to use some of the dough to make a zucchini pizza..and even though i did add a couple of other ingredients and even though my base was thinner than the original my zucchini pizza did have that melding thing going on that i loved so much in those slices in rome..suffice it to say that i will be making this recipe again..soon..

zucchini pizza with sour cream bread dough 
this fourth zucchini recipe in a series of seven is a 'tea with hazel' recipe

ingredients (bread dough)

250 gms white bread flour
200 gms wholemeal flour
50 gms spelt flour
3 tsp salt
125 gms sour cream
1 tbs treacle
1 sachet (7 gms) dried yeast 
enough lukewarm water to make a pliable dough taking into account the extra absorbency of the wholemeal flour

ingredients (pizza topping)

2-3 medium zucchini (i used a 10 cm piece of a large zucchini) cut fine with a mandolin
4-5 bocconcini cut into 4 slices, dried
4-5 sun dried tomatoes bottled in oil (i used my own) cut into quarters
olive oil

1 bread tin and a 30 cm cast iron frying pan lightly oiled (or pizza tray of choice)

method (bread dough and loaf)

~place all bread dough ingredients in the bowl of a mixer and mix on low for 2 for 10 minutes
~repeat this cycle twice more..remove bowl from mixer
~cover bowl with cling film and leave until doubled
~turn dough onto floured board, cut a tennis ball sized amount for the pizza and set aside
~knead the remaining dough and shape to fit tin
~cover with cling film and leave until doubled
~bake at 220 deg c on bread function for 10 minutes..reduce heat to 180 deg c and continue to bake for 30 minutes or until the top is well browned
~remove bread from tin and return the loaf to the oven for a further 5 minutes

method (pizza)

~salt the zucchini slices and leave to drain for 15 minutes
~knead the pizza dough briefly and shape or roll to fit the pan
~without rinsing dry the zucchini slices
~drizzle the slices with olive oil and mix gently to distribute the oil
~lightly oil the pizza base and place bocconcini and tomato on the dough
~add zucchini slices arranging them in an overlapping pattern
~drizzle with a little more oil
~add salt and pepper to taste
~bake at 200 deg c on the bread function for 30 minutes or until the base is well browned and the topping is cooked

i hope your weekend is a happy one.:) x

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

pomegranate wonderful..

'oh you are a wonderful've lived up to your name..only two years old and you're planted in a northerly position exposed to the hottest, driest and windiest weather in summer but this year you've produced your first crop ever of eleven pomegranates'..

'pomegranate wonderful'..punica granatum

'your fruit looks so lovely hanging on the tree like decorative and festive orbs that, on the one hand, i don't really want to pick you..but i'm also tempted to taste those secreted ruby jewels teasingly hidden among your white parchment like folds'..

i decide to tear one open and i find the palest pink facetted seeds that taste a little tart but that are deliciously juicy..they need another month to be fully ripe i think..but i will not waste these gems because i will use the juice in a salad dressing..

go to
if you are interested in reading about the
pomegranates rich and fascinating
cultural and symbolic history

Thursday, 1 March 2012

frugal friday..

two styles of tomato soup from the one base

soup base

250 gms pumpkin skinned, deseeded and cut into medium sized cubes
12 roma tomatoes cut in half
1 fresh red chilli cut in half and deseeded
4-6 garlic cloves left in their skins
2 tsp brown sugar (optional)
sea salt
freshly cracked black pepper 
olive oil
approximately 1.5 L fresh tomato juice* 

~place vegetables in a roasting tin and sprinkle tomatoes with sugar (if using)
~drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper

~bake at 190 deg c until the vegetables are well cooked
~sieve vegetables in a mouli to remove seeds and fibrous matter
~place puree in a saucepan and heat adding enough fresh tomato juice to achieve a desirable consistency-avoid overcooking at this stage in order to retain a fresh tomato flavour from the tomato juice

* i bottled 8 more bottles of tomato puree yesterday and the juice was a by product of this process

tomato soup (1)


approximately 1 L of hot tomato soup base
1/2 cup cooked rice per person..i used arborio
several sprigs of greek basil
parmesan cheese grated fine
chilli flakes
freshly cracked pepper
extra fresh tomato juice 

~place rice in the bottom of a soup bowl
~tear several basil leaves into the bowl
~pour over hot soup with extra tomato juice added if the soup is too thick
~sprinkle with chilli flakes and salt and pepper
~add parmesan and a small sprig of basil

serve with fresh bread or toast

tomato soup (1)

tomato soup (2)


approximately 1 L tomato soup base
3 tbs trachana
several sprigs of greek basil
crumbled feta cheese
freshly cracked pepper
olive oil

~bring tomato soup base to the boil, add trachana, and cook for 5-10 minutes until the trachana is soft adding extra tomato juice if the soup is too thick
~tear several basil leaves into the bowl
~pour hot soup over the basil leaves
~add crumbled feta and salt and pepper
~drizzle with a little olive oil

serve with fresh bread or toast

tomato soup (2)

happy first autumn (spring for those in northern hemisphere) weekend..x