Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Scrolls two ways - savoury and sweet

Sometimes a get on a bit of a baking binge. I really like being able to take one recipe and get more than one thing out of it. Like taking a basic batter and make more than one cake or a universal muffin recipe and getting more than one type of muffin. It gives more options and I don't know why it just appeals to the multi-tasker in me.

One the weekend I decided to make pizza scrolls for the lunch-boxes this week. I cheated and made a quantity of bread dough in the bread machine using a bread mix that had been lurking there forever. (A bit of a tip but if you do that use fresh yeast...yeast expires and expired yeast means no rise and that's not what you want)

Then we halved the bread dough and made pizza scrolls with one half and choc-chip scrolls with the other. There is so much sugar in a choc-chip scroll that nobody needs a sweet dough with them in my opionion.

So this week the first few days my daughter and husband had savoury scrolls as their main lunch item and on Thursday and Friday they will have a sweet scroll. Easy.

A scroll is made by taking a sqaure of dough, covering it with filling, rolling jelly-roll style and slicing. In the US they call them cinnamon rolls...in Australia we used to put he jam-filled ones in acirle and call them Chelsea Buns.

Here's my version

Pizza Scrolls
1/2 quantity of bread dough
1/4 cup tomato paste
100g chopped tinned pineapple
125 chopped ham
1 cup grated mozarella

1. Roll dough into a rectangle
2. Spread with tomato paste, leaving a 1cm boarder. Cover tomato paste with other topping.
3. Roll. Jelly roll style. Cut and arrange in baking pan. Let rise in a warm place. bake moderate oven about 30 minutes.

Choc Chip Scrolls
1/4 cup softened butter
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 cup choc chips
1 teaspoon of cinnamon.

1. Roll into  rectangle.
2. Spread with butter, leaving a 1cm boarder. Cover with other toppings.
3.  Roll. Jelly roll style. Cut and arrange in baking pan. Let rise in a warm place. bake moderate oven about 30 minutes.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Old favourites

Some weeks just seem to go off the rails a little bit. We are not by any means a family that follows much of a schedule. The only set events are school hours and any after-school activities my daughter has, everything else is fluid.

We don't get up at a set time. We don't eat at a set time. My husband often doesn't have a schedule o his work hours and even then they change. Today for example he came home at 3pm when I thought he was coming home at 4pm and then the phone rang and he left and won't be home until 10pm or maybe 11pm.

Tomorrow he is working two jobs so again he will leave at 8am and come home at 11pm. It's a Saturday so where you might think we'd be having a BBQ or an outing, and frankly I did think that until mid-week, that's not the case.

Today i had pulled some pre-made burger patties out about five minutes before he got home and they are no back in the freezer from which I grabbed him a container of paella to microwave at work. My daughter and I are now having a basic pasta with a sauce of ham, mushroom, pea cream, tomato and white wine...not exactly how I pictured dinner 3 hours ago.

Valentine's Day went the same way. Instead of coming home a 8pm my lovely husband came home about 10.30pm and only found out at 5pm...(are you spotting a trend).

That kind of leads me to the point...instead of the seafood meal I had planned I threw an old favourite the Impossible Pie in the oven. Not exactly a meal that will win awards but it is high in protein if you're hungry and easy to digest if you are not long for bed.

I omitted the corn kernels and I guess my pie plate must have been a bit small because I had mixture leftover and made five mini frittatas in my muffin tin with the extra. They were great on a roll for breakfasts.

The other old favourite I made this week was Weetbix Slice. I was looking for a quick lunchbox filler and as we seem to have ended up with two boxes or Weetbix and three of Weetbix Bites this was a good one to use up some of the excess.

I added a bit more butter than suggested here.


Mu husband said it tasted like something you got at a church cake stall as a child. My daughter said it was the best thing ever. It was quick to make and exceedingly economical.

Sometimes in the midst of madness it is nice to fall back on some comforting old favourites.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Happy Valentine's Day from the kitchen

It's February 14th in sunny Sydney now. Well it was actually pouring rain soaked Sydney in my corner near the beach until well after lunch but the sun is out now.

My husband is working until after ten tonight so no great romantic meal is being prepared in our kitchen tonight.

In the past my efforts have included heart-shaped pancakes and heart-shaped brownies. We have done oysters and champagne and seafood platters laden with prawns and crab. Our favourite dish when we were first together was called Champagne Peachy Duck...yes very retro. That reminds me we've made Cosmo's, margaritas and Bellini's in the past.

We don't always celebrate Valentines Day however if we do we tend to do it at home due to babysitting constraints.

Anyway, I hope that there are lots of other people cooking delicious Valentine's feasts this year and celebrating with their loved ones.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Nigella inspired coleslaw

Here is a brief history of my relationship with coleslaw.

When KFC opened in Sydney back in the 1970's it was the only place you could buy pre-prepared salads and so my mum would sometimes go get the coleslaw and bean salad. I thought the bean salad was gross but LOVED the coleslaw.

When I went away to university I was less than enamoured by the campus cafeteria food but I lived on campus for three years so I had to eat it. Every single lunch time I ate coleslaw and an apple and usually 1/2 a sandwich but not always if they happened to have something palatable for a change. I'm pretty sure that coleslaw and apple stopped me from getting scurvy and many other things because they were my daily does of fibre in between the coffee and donuts and cheap alcoholic beverages that all students live on.

Unsurprisingly when I left college I couldn't actually even look at coleslaw for the next ten years. I had more than had my fill. By this stage all the supermarkets carried pre-made coleslaw exactly like the stuff I had at college but I never really bought it because my husband and daughter don't like coleslaw.

So to the now about three years ago I was watching an episode of Nigella Lawson on the ABC. I couldn't even tell you which series it was on but she was making coleslaw to take on a picnic. She used buttermilk and nuts and maple syrup in the dressing. It looked yummy.

I didn't have the recipe and I just never ever use enough buttermilk to justify purchasing it because I always end up throwing it out. So I adapted the recipe and here it is below.It's a great low budget recipe as well.

 Even if you don't like coleslaw you should try it because my husband and daughter love this and still claim not to like coleslaw. We like it with pulled pork on buns (very American) and also as a side with oven fried chicken.

If you have a food processor use that to shred the cabbage and grate the carrot. It then makes this 5 minute coleslaw as well

My coleslaw

1/4 cabbage, shredded
4 carrots grated
1/4 cup chopped nuts (walnuts or pecans work best)
1/4 cup whole egg mayonnaise
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1 teaspoon dill
3 tablespoons milk
1 tablespoon white vinegar
squeeze lemon juice
salt and pepper

1. Combine shredded cabbage, grated carrot and chopped nuts in a bowl.
2. Combine all other ingredients in a bowl and whisk until smooth.
3. Combine dressing and vegetables.
4. Leave in fridge to let flavours meld for about 15 minutes before serving.


Thursday, February 9, 2012

Simple food processor shortcrust pastry

People are often scared of pastry. I'm not sure why that is. A basic shortcrust or pie pastry is such a versatile thing. If you make it in the food processor it's not even messy or labour intensive.

I have been using this method for years and it has never failed me.

I use it for sweet and savour dishes because I find sweet dishes already so sweet they tend not to need a sugar based pastry. Some ways I use this pastry are:
- quiche
- Aussie meat pies
- chicken and vegetable pie
- pumpkin pie
- pecan pie
- jam tarts
- fruit pies

Jam Tarts

Simple food processor shortcrust pastry
85g butter
3/4 cup sifted self-raising flour
3/4 cup plain flour
pinch salt
1 egg yolk lightly beaten
squeeze lemon juice
iced water (2-4 tablespoons)

1. Put butter, flours and salt in bowl of processor and pulse until it resembles crumbs or is combines. 2. Add egg yolk  and lemon juice and 2 tablespoons of iced water and run until it forms a ball (You may need another tablespoon or 2 of iced water...it willquite literally form a ball when done).
3. Wrap in plastic and put in the fridge 20 minutes or until ready to use.


Wednesday, February 8, 2012


In Australia we don't really eat cornbread. In fact we don't do much with cornmeal or polenta either. Obviously that's not isn't true in other parts of the world.

Americans love their cornbread. Apparently different parts of the country like different sorts. Some are sweet and some are not, sometimes it's laden with chili and sometimes not. You can cook it in a skillet or in a baking dish. I think it's a bit like making a potato bake. Every family has their own version.

This is the version I have made for years. I adapted it from a US cookbook I was given in the very early 1990's, which makes us both sound old. It does contain sugar and also creamed corn. It's great as cornbread and also makes yummy cornmeal muffins. It freezes well in either form. I have used the leftovers for cornmeal stuffing for a whole turkey which is another American dish.

We tend to eat cornbread with mainly three dishes - oven friend chicken, which I also serve with coleslaw, chili which we sever fully loaded (topped with sour cream, chopped tomato, guacamole, grated cheese etc) and sometimes if I have it in the freezer we also have it with ribs.

I forgot to take a picture last night...

1 cup butter
1 cup sugar (I use raw)
4 eggs
1 large tin creamed corn
1 cup grated tasty cheese
1 cup flour sifted
1 cup cornmeal sifted
4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt.

1. Cream butter and sugar. Add eggs one at a time (it can look a bit curdled at this point but don't worry it's fine). (You can add a tin or chilis now or some chopped jarred jalapenos if you like).
2. Add cheese, creamed corn and mix well.
Sift together dry ingredients and add to wet mix. Stir to combine.
3. Pour into greased baking dish or muffin tins or papers. (I use a Pyrex baking dish.)
4 Bake in moderately hot oven 1 hour.
5. Serve warm.


Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Lentil Soup or Pantry Soup

To give you an idea of how nutty Sydney weather has been last weekend I didn't want to cook inside the house because it was too hot and by Tuesday I was making lentil soup for lunch. Crazy right?

It was cool, though not cold  at lunchtime and yet by the afternoon warm enough for my husband and daughter to go down to Shelley Beach at Fairy Bower, Manly for an after-school snorkel.

So I decided to make this very simple Lentil Soup. It can also be called pantry soup because really most of these ingredients lurk in the kitchen cupboard all the time and can be easily substituted. I like this soup because it is high in fibre and low in carbohydrates. I don't eat a strict low-carb diet but I try to be aware of how many I eat and as a way of making sure I don't have loads of them. I find lunch which I tend to eat alone a great place to cut carbs and soups are a great way of doing it.

It's pretty simple - this was enough for 4 serves of soup. So I checked the carbs on the tins I used. And each serve comes to less than 7g of carbs which is pretty good.

lentil soup
1 onion diced (I used a red onion because I had one)
2 bacon rashers chopped (omit if you want it vegetarian)
2 celery stalks diced
3 1 carrot diced
5 basil leaves chopped
1 garlic clove crushed
2 tablespoons tomato paste (I didn't have this so i used 1/2 cup passata)
1 tin of brown lentils (drained and rinsed)
1 tin chopped tomato
olive oil for cooking
salt and pepper
parmesan cheese to serve

1. Heat olive oil in sauce pan then add bacon, onion, garlic, celery, basil and carrot and cook over a low heat until onion softens.
2. Add tomato paste and brown off to release flavour.
3. Then add lentils, tomato and 1 1/2 tins of water (use lentil tin to measure).
4. Cook 20-30 minutes. Season to taste.
5. Serve in bowls topped with grated Parmesan cheese.


Monday, February 6, 2012

Popeye's favourite - Spinach!

It's a funny thing but one of my daughter's absolutely favourite things I make is my version of Creamed Spinach. Nuts right? Kids don't eat spinach and they certainly don't request it. Another of her favourites is my Green Vegetable Soup which also relies pretty heavily on spinach and all the other green veggies we usually have to force feed children such as peas, brocolli and zucchini.

Last year we went to the USA on a big month-long vacation. When you travel for that long no matter who you are you miss home cooking and when you eat out alot when travelling you reach french fry overload. On more than one occasion we all fought over the veggies on someone's plate.

Anyway we rented a vacation home in Orlando for a few days with family and I was planning to make dinner so we found ourselves at the supermarket on our way home from Disneyworld when my lovely daughter said. "Mum please can you make your creamed spinach." It was boiling hot and humid and not really steamed spinach weather and I thought the others would all think I was mildly insane when I started preparing it (which they did) but when your kid asks for spinach it seems churlish to deny them.

At dinner that night I served up a bowl of this spinach and everyone (OK not the other two kids at the table who looked more than a little horrified) ate it up and loved it. So here is my recipe.

I adapted this from a great low-carb cookbook I bought about 13 years ago and loaned to someone who never returned it and I can't for the life of me remember the book's name. My version is a bit different anyway in that I add tomato and mushroom and the quantities are also different but I would thank that author for the inspiration if I could find them.

Mum's Creamed Spinach (serves 4 as a side)
1 clove of garlic crushed
1 tomato diced
1/2 cup sliced mushrooms (You can dice these as well..sometimes I do, sometimes I don't)
500g spinach (either baby spinach leaves raw or a box of frozen spinach cooked (follow directions for cooking)...I have also used the leaves of Swiss chard but I like that less)
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese grated
1/2 cup cream (more or less to suit your taste)
olive oil for cooking

1. Heat oil in fry pan. Add garlic, tomato and mushrooms and cook till mushrooms soft.
2. Add spinach and stir fry till wilted (You may want to pop the lid on a minute or two). If using frozen spinach stir till warmed through.
3. Add nutmeg and cream to combine. Toss in cheese and stir until melted.


Menu Planning Monday

This week is a busy one. Our activities are back in full swing, weird work and life schedules and lots of evening meetings so I am keeping it simple.
Tuesday's cornbread can re-appear on Thursday and Thursday's coleslaw can appear on Friday. Why make life more complicated than it needs to be?

Monday - stir fry
Tuesday - chilli and cornbread
Wednesday - slow cooker corned beef
Thursday - oven fried chicken and cornbread and my version of Nigella's coleslaw
Friday - pulled pork and coleslaw on buns

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Putting some Sydney in mysydneykitchen

So I really haven't down all that much cooking this weekend. After a pretty average summer the weather this weekend has been sunny and hot and frankly exactly the way it is supposed to be. This year, however, we are so over-excited by sunshine that everyone is downing tools at the mere sight of it and heading to the beach or the Harbour.

Last night we had no plans so we decided it might be nice to have fish on the BBQ. We didn't go fishing for a change we ate fish we bought at the shop - leather jackets to be precise. They were very yummy with a delish potato side (I'll post the recipe later in the week), a salad and homemade tartare sauce.

Today was just magic so we took a ferry from Mosman Wharf to the city.

(Sydney is arguably one of the world's most beautiful cities and also one of it's most expensive. In line with that public transport and parking here cost a bomb but on Sunday's there is a scheme called Sunday Funday which means unlimited public transport access  for $2.50 if you have a child with you. It's almost worth borrowing a child if you don't spend all the saved money on hot chips and gelato, but I digress).

Here are a couple of beautiful shots of the city taken from the ferry today and you may even spot me in one.

Sydney Opera House

Sydney Harbour Bridge

My daughter and I on the ferry

After a lovely stroll through The Rocks we met my parents for lunch at the Harbour View Hotel. This is a link to their website which is not so fabulous and is probably due for an update.

What I like about this hotel is it does great pub food that you can share with your friends or family. It does all day breakfast. It is not overpriced and you are right there under the Sydney Harbour Bridge and you can see the Harbour.

So this was the view from our hotel. That's the underneath of the Sydney harbour Bridge. At regular intervals people walk along that railing at the completion of doing the Sydney Bridge Climb so if you know someone doing it and you want to grab a photo of them and grab a drink yourself then this is a great spot.

We shared some tasting plates between the five of us. I attempted a photo but I guess my husband was hungry because he couldn't wait and stuck his hand in the picture. Anyway for Sydney the food was delicious, abundant and well-priced pub food. It's a nice place for a pub lunch or a beer just out of the hustle and bustle of The Rocks, especially when the Rocks Markets are in full swing.

Finally here is a shot from the street outside. This is a classic Sydney image.

The Rocks/Millers Point, Sydney

Friday, February 3, 2012

This week's menu in review

This week we ended up adding two new meals to our menu.

This month's Australian Good Taste magazine has a Chicago-style deep dish pizza on it's front cover. You can see it here.

I varied the recipe to use ingredients we had and char grilled our own capsicum and zucchini on the BBQ.  I used my pizza dough recipe not the one in the magazine. Also we actually put the skillet on the BBQ and cooked it with the hood down because Monday night was actually the hottest day Sydney had seen in a year so I really didn't want to run the oven. Here is our version. I think it looks pretty good. It certainly tasted good.

Another recipe we made this week was a Gnocchi Bake. My daughter wanted to make a recipe from her cookbook back in January and so I bought 2  potato gnocchi packs at the fruit shop for $5 in anticipation. For some reason this is a product that is half the price at the fruit barn that it is at the supermarket.I was still waiting to see this culinary masterpiece when February rolled around.

I very simply cooked the gnocchi as per the instructions on the pack. I think it's very important not to overcook them or they become gluey and not so tasty.

Meanwhile I made a basic bolognese sauce. I mixed the two poured into a glass baking dish and topped with a bit of ricotta i needed to use and a combination of grated tasty and parmesan cheeses. baked for 35-40 minutes until bubbling and browned on top.

I forgot to take a picture (sigh) but this was yummy and a nice change from regular pasta. My family has requested we have it again so I will take a photo next time.

The multi-purpose zucchini slice

The Internet, at least the Australian corner of it, is full of recipes for zucchini slice. I have been making this one on and off since I saw it in a copy of Delicious magazine in 2003. That's quite a long time.


I made on on Thursday night as I had to take finger food to drinks at the school and as I wasn't even staying for the event (long not so interesting story) I really didn't want to spend a whole lot of time or money in the process.

So I took about 1/3 of the slice, cut it into squares and topped it with a little sour cream and chopped parsley. It looked good and tasted great.

This is the ingenious way my lovely husband covered it so the sour cream wouldn't stick to the cling wrap. He put a styrofoam cup in the centre of the plate and made a little tent. A square of slice is hiding under the cup.Very creative.You could use a child's plastic cup instead of course.

There was enough slice left for my husband and daughter to have a snack that night. The next day I put some in her lunchbox and my husband had the rest on a roll like an Italian frittata for lunch. That's not bad going for a recipe that costs about $3 to make.

Here are some variations on the theme:
- substitute smoked salmon for the bacon for a slightly posher version
- leave meat out all together for a vegetarian option
- switch grated zucchini for frozen spinach or leftover cooked broccoli

This is a very simple dish that is high in flavour and protein and easy on the pocket. Try it.