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Archive for the ‘Recipes’ Category

Batch Cooking

Monday, November 27th, 2017

Over the last few months I’ve been trying a new approach to cooking – one which involves spending two to three hours in the kitchen during the weekend (sometimes on Saturday, sometimes on Sunday, sometimes spread across the two days) – and doing a big cook-up. Sometimes I’ll make three, or even four, meals for the week ahead, other times I’ll only do one or two, but I’ll prepare a few bits and pieces that can go towards making meals for the following week easier and often a lot yummier.

I started “batch-cooking” because I was keen on the idea of having one or two nights a week – particularly the first couple of nights of the week – where I didn’t have to drag myself into the kitchen and come up with a meal out of thin air after a day already full to the brim of running around – and driving around – in circles.   And there’s no doubt about it – it is very, very nice indeed to pull a big pot of soup out of the fridge on a Monday night and to have to do nothing more than heat it up and toast a few rounds of pita bread. It is even nicer to go to the fridge on Tuesday night and find a chicken casserole waiting there. All I need to do is prepare some potatoes or rice and some steamed veggies and voila – a meal.  It definitely makes a nice change from my previous routine of me suddenly lifting my head up from whatever it was I happened to be doing around 5.30 every afternoon and going “Oh my God!!! What the hell am I going to make for dinner?”

I realise I’m probably sounding annoyingly smug, I really don’t mean to. I’m writing about this because I’m wanting to share the honey about just how marvellous this batch cooking thing is.  And if I can do it – truly – anyone can. Because I really am one of the world’s least organised people. To be honest I never actually thought I’d be capable of continuing with this. I imagined it would be yet another one of those great ideas that other people do but that – because I am me – I just couldn’t seem to manage. I thought I’d do it for a few weeks and then life would get in the way and I’d fall back into my old habits.  Surprisingly though that hasn’t happened . . . well not yet anyway! I started my batch-cooking expdriment in late July of this year – and four months later I’m still doing it. And reason I am still doing it is because I enjoy it.  And enjoyment is absolutely key to being able to maintain any kind of routine I reckon. At least it is for me!

As well as having the intense pleasure of pulling a meal out of the fridge or freezer at the end of a busy day batch cooking has also reignited my joy of cooking. Believe me, spending a couple of hours in the kitchen on a Saturday or a Sunday preparing meals – and parts of meals – for the week ahead is a very different game from my usual harried and grumpy efforts on weeknights.  Because it’s the weekend and I have time to just moodle I try new recipes – either from my own embarrassingly extensive library of recipe books or from books discovered at the local library. I have the time to get a bit creative, to tweak recipes, or even to make stuff up. And while I cook I listen to music – usually it’s Baroque opera but sometimes it’s schmoozy jazz or even a bit of country music to remind me of my Dad.  Sometimes I sing along – no doubt annoying the hell out of the neighbours because I have a Very Loud Voice. And sometimes, if it’s getting on towards late afternoon (or mid-afternoon even!), I might have a glass or wine or a beer. And at the end of it all I have lots of yummy food and I feel extremely efficient and effective and yes, just the tiniest bit smug.

As well as really enjoying cooking in this way it also forces me to be more organised with the grocery shopping. Previously I’d tended to go into the supermarket with very little in the way of a list.  Often I just scribbled down a few essentials that I’d noticed were running out – if I was lucky! Then with this ‘list’ in hand I’d wander listlessly through the aisles picking up anything that caught my eye. This meant I came home with a bunch of random bits and pieces that more often than not ended up collecting dust at the back of my pantry because every night I’d end up making the same old meals I always made because it was getting close to six o’clock and people needed to be fed and I didn’t have the time to do anything more adventurous than tuna pasta – again.  Now I arrive home with food I’m actually going to use and – ironically enough – I often spend less than I used because I know exactly what I need and I don’t impulse buy as much.  There are also now also a lot less dusty cans and out-of-date spices lurking at the back of the cupboard, and a lot fewer wilted vegetables slowly mouldering away in the bottom of my vegetable drawer. Yay.

In short, this way of cooking has been a bit of a revelation to me. It’s so marvellous in fact that I’d really like to record my experiences with it here on this blog – for my own record-keeping pleasure, and also for anyone else who might like to try it themselves.  What I’d like to do – reasonably regularly – is to share my weekly cook-up notes here.  Ideally I’d like to do it every week but whether that will actually happen I don’t know.  To be honest – I doubt it but dreams are entirely free.  I’d also like to share a few past batch-cooks that I’ve done – there’ve been a few really lovely ones and I’d like to record them here – even if just for myself 🙂

So – without further ado – here is an example of a weekly batch cook.  It was the first one I ever did and the reason I remember it so well is that I actually kept a record of it at the back of a scrubby old notebook because I was so impressed with myself for doing it. And I’ve kept a record of all the batch-cooking sessions I’ve done ever since. Not at all like me but it’s proof that you actually can teach yourself new tricks even if you are getting a little long in the tooth  🙂

My batch-cooking notebook

 

 

Menu for the Week 

Saturday: Grilled Monkfish with Black Olive Salsa & Lemon Mash

Sunday: Vegetarian Nachos

Monday : Mediterranean Vegetable Soup

Tuesday: Roast Chicken with Roast Vegetables (I always keep the bones for stock – more on that in a future blog post)

Wednesday: Lentil Bolognese with WholeWheat Spaghetti Pasta

Thursday: Fish Tacos with Lettuce, Cheese, Refried Beans & Pickled Onions

Friday: Penne Pasta with Slow-Roasted Tomatoes

 

To Make Ahead – Saturday Afternoon 

Black Olive Salsa for Saturday night’s fish

Boil Potatoes for Potato Mash

Mediterranean Vegetable Soup (for Monday night)

Lentil Bolognese Sauce (for Wednesday pasta)

Bean Topping for Nachos

Pickled Onions (for Thursday’s Fish Tacos)

Slow-Roasted Tomatoes (For Friday night’s pasta)

 

How the afternoon unfolded

  1. First I sliced the tomatoes in half and put them in on a tray in the oven at about 150 degrees Celsius with oil and herbs.  I left them to slowly roast into a sweet delicious mess while I did everything else
  2. Then I prepared the soup and left it to quietly simmer (recipe below)
  3. While I prepared the Lentil Bolognese Sauce (recipe below) & left it to quietly bubble & plop like a small mud pool . . .
  4. While I chopped up potatoes for Saturday night’s Mash & put them on to steam.
  5.  As the potatoes steamed I made the Black Olive Salsa to go with the Monkfish (I’ll share recipe for the salsa below) . . .
  6.  Then I chopped and simmered the onions (recipe below)  . . .
  7. Then I took the Lentil Bolognese sauce off the heat and left it to cool. I popped it in a freezer container for Wednesday night.
  8. Finally I took the tomatoes out of oven and left them to cool in their oil. I popped them in a jar – covered in their oil & a little red wine vinegar – until Friday night when I mixed them into our Penne Pasta with some fried garlic and fresh herbs.

A FEW RECIPES

Mediterranean Vegetable Soup

This was adapted from a recipe by New Zealand’s National Treasure Alison Holst. It was in her book Meals Without Red Meat.  I’ve tweaked it a fair bit but I reckon Alison deserves a nod for having given me the inspiration 🙂

  • 3 cloves garlic – chopped
  • 2 large onions – chopped into fine half-rings
  • 2 carrots – diced
  • 3 stalks celery – finely sliced
  • 1 capsicum – diced
  • 400g can chopped tomatoes in juice
  • 1 tin cannellini beans
  • 1 tsp salt
  • Coarsely ground pepper – a sprinkle
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup chopped parsely
  • 1 tsp brown sugar (optional)
  • 4 cups vegetable stock or water

Fry onions in a couple of tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat until they become slightly coloured and start to wilt & sweeten.

Add the carrots and the celery, capsicum and garlic and fry for 10 minutes or so until the veggies start to soften.

Add the tinned t0matoes, with their juice, stir until mixture starts to simmer and the veggies are well coated in the oily  tomatoey juices

Add the 4 cups of water or stock.

Finally, drain the beans and add them to the soup and let everything come to a boil before turning down the heat and letting the soup simmer for 20 to 30 minutes.

For best flavour allow to stand for a few hours and then reheat – but don’t worry, this soup is still delicious if you eat it straight away.

Before serving taste and if you think it needs it add the teaspoon of brown sugar. Then drizzle the rest of the olive oil over the soup, and sprinkle it with salt, freshly ground pepper and chopped parsley.

Take the table and serve with crusty bread and a block of parmesan cheese for grating over the top.

Lentil Bolognese Sauce

This is adapted from a recipe I found in a book called Destitute Gourmet: Stunning Food from Small Change by Sophie Gray. Again, I’ve tweaked it a fair bit but Sophie definitely deserves to be credited because I would never have thought about making something like this otherwise. This meal has turned into a real family favourite and it’s a fabulous sauce to make ahead.

  • 1 heaped cup of red lentils – uncooked
  • 1 large carrot – grated
  • 2 TB olive oil
  • 1 onion – finely diced
  • 2 cloves garlic – chopped
  • 2 x 400g can tomatoes
  • 2 TB tomato paste
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 2 TB basil pesto or fresh chopped herbs
  • salt & freshly ground pepper
  • 2 cups water

Fry the onions and garlic in olive oil until onion softens and sweetens and garlic is smelling aromatic. Add grated carrot and stir around until carrot coated with oil and starting to wilt a little. Add lentils, tomatoes, and their juice, tomato paste, sugar, herbs and 2 cups of water.  Bring the sauce to the boil and then turn the heat to low, pop the lid on the pot and let the it all simmer until the lentils soften and thicken into a delicious gloopy sauce. Check the sauce part-way through to make sure there is enough liquid in there – add more water if it’s starting to get a bit dry.

If you’re making this ahead let it cool in the pot and then transfer to a freezer-safe container and freeze until you need it.  It re-heats really nicely after freezing and then you just need to boil some pasta (penne or spaghetti – wholemeal is particularly nice) to go with it.  It’s lovely with grated parmesan, a sprinkling of Basil (fresh or dried) and & freshly ground pepper.

Black Olive Salsa

This salsa is from a recipe by Jamie Oliver from his book Cook With Jamie: My Guide to Making You a Better Cook and it really is quite delicious – as well as being a great way to use up the end of a bunch of celery!  He calls it ‘Black Olive Sauce’ – but it’s a really more of a salsa I reckon.

  • 2 large handfuls of black kalakaua olives, stoned & roughly chopped
  • 1/2 a fresh red chilli (de-seeded if you would prefer not too much heat – otherwise, leave the seeds in!)
  • Small handful of fresh herbs (e.g., basil, oregano, parsley, thyme, mint)
  • 1 celery heart, yellow leaves chopped
  • 1 clove of garlic, finely chopped
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • A couple of glugs of extra-virgin olive oil
  • Balsamic Vinegar

Mix everything except the Balsamic Vinegar together and then carefully balance the flavours with the vinegar to taste. This essentially means pouring a little vinegar in, stirring it around, tasting it – and adding more if you think you need it. I like mine with quite a hit of Balsamic but you might prefer yours a little milder.  Other vinegars can work well in this salsa too – I’ve tried it with red wine vinegar and sherry vinegar. Yum.

Quick Pickled Onions

This recipe has been adapted from a fabulous cook-book devoted to batch-cooking called A New Way to Dinner: A Playbook of Recipes and Strategies for the Week Ahead by Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs – the founders of online kitchen and home destination Food52 .  I’ll do a blog post on the book another time – suffice to say it’s a marvellous resource if you’re at all interested in taking the batch-cooking approach to your meals.

  • 1 red onion
  • 1 TB salt
  • 2 TB sugar
  • 3 TB water
  • 6 TB cider vinegar

Slice the onions very thinly and pop them in a small saucepan with the salt, sugar, water and vinegar.  Set it over the element until it boils then turn down the heat and simmer very gently for 10 minutes – stirring occasionally. Cool and then refrigerate. These get nicer the longer they sit but they’re still yummy straight after you’ve made them 🙂

These are great with fish tacos but they’re also fabulous on sandwiches and in salads – or just eaten straight from the jar.

 

So – there you go Batch Cooking for Beginners. And like I say – if I can do it anyone can 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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A nutty post . . .

Saturday, October 14th, 2017

I keep meaning for my next blog post to be about our Big Family Adventure but I still haven’t gotten around to editing – and culling – all the photos I took while we were away.  Whether that blog post will ever eventuate I do not know but in the meantime – just to keep my blogging hand in –  I’ll share the recipes for a delicious almond and cashew nut milk and a scrumptious cashew and vanilla butter I made this afternoon. I was in full domestic goddess mode after spending a few hours at the 50th Jubilee for Brianna’s wonderful school – Tamariki – which just happens to be one of the oldest ‘free schools’ in the world. But I digress . . . Here, without further ado, are the recipes.

Cashew & Almond Milk

Soak 1/2 cup cashew nuts and 1/2 cup almonds in enough water to completely cover them for at least 5 hours – preferably overnight.

Drain the nuts and pop them in a blender with 2 dates, 1/8 tsp Himalayan salt and 3 cups of water and blend for 2 to 3 minutes on high power.

Strain the milk through very fine muslin or a special ‘nut-milk bag’ (you’ll find these in most health food stores) and pour into whatever bottle or container you’re going to store it in. Refrigerate immediately.

 

Cashew and Vanilla Butter

(Adapted from recipe from Ella Woodward’s Deliciously Ella Everyday)

400g cashew nuts

2 tsp vanilla essence

Spread cashew nuts out in roasting tray and bake at 200 degrees celsius until golden brown

Tip the roasted nuts into your food processor with 2 tsp vanilla essence and blend for 10 minutes. For the first 5 minutes or so you might think that all you will end up with is a lot of finely ground nuts – but have faith, the ground up nuts will start to clump together and then – eventually – they will become a lovely creamy nut butter. Don’t be tempted to stop the processor at the clumpy stage – keep it going until the mixture starts to turn creamy – like it looks in the photo below.

Then – once it’s nice and creamy scoop it into a jar and refrigerate.

This nut butter is gorgeous on bread, on porridge, and in smoothies. It can also be enjoyed spooned straight from the jar. Yummo!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Hello Again . . . And here are some cookies

Thursday, October 5th, 2017

CookiesI was going to write a piece about our big trip around the UK and Europe as my first blog back after a long, long time away but today Brianna and I baked some cookies together and after posting a picture of them on Instagram (which I have managed to keep up with – sort of!) I thought why not share them on my blog. I particularly adore this recipe because it doesn’t require creaming the butter and the sugar which – not being much of a baker – I absolutely loathe doing.

This is mainly because “creaming” requires me to get out my electric beater (beating the butter and the sugar by hand to the required pale creaminess takes way too long!). My electric beater lives in the Bottom Drawer – a sad place where all sorts of under-utilised kitchen gadgets (potato ricers, mandolins, electric knives, etc) lie lonely and forgotten. I then need to assemble the beater and find a suitable electric socket which allows the beater to reach the bowl where I’ll be doing the beating and . . . you get the idea. Anyway – these cookies (or biscuits as we call them in New Zealand) do not require all this faffing about, hence they get made very regularly in our house.

And so – without further ado – here is the recipe. I found it in a fabulous recipe book called “Cooking for Real Life” by a fabulously sensible and practical woman called Joanna Weinberg.

 

Wholemeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

125g butter

175g brown sugar

1 egg, lightly beaten

1 tsp vanilla extract

150g wholemeal flour

2 tsp baking powder

pinch salt

100g chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 190 degrees celsius

Melt butter in small pan. Place sugar in large bowl and add melted butter. Beat together with a wooden spoon and then add the egg and the vanilla. Beat this lovely goo until combined and then stir in the flour, salt and baking powder. You can sift the dry ingredients through a sieve to aerate or just tip it in without – I don’t think it matters too much either way. And last but not least – mix in the chocolate chips.

Taste to make sure it’s suitably yummy and then – using a teaspoon dot spoonfuls of the mixture onto baking sheets leaving 4cm or so between them as they will spread. Bake for 6 to 8 minutes – it will depend a little on the vagaries of your oven – just keep an eye on them because they can go from golden brown and delicious to incinerated in very short order. I know this from bitter experience.

They’ll be very soft when they first come out of the oven – just let them sit on the tray for a couple of minutes and then – using a fish slice – transfer them over to a wire rack to cool. They’ll harden up fully as they cool.

Eat!

Corner View – Dinner Party

Tuesday, June 10th, 2014

Italian-inspired Vegetable Salad

Italian-inspired Vegetable Salad

 

My contribution to a pot-luck dinner would depend on whether I was asked to bring a side or a main or a dessert (sometimes people can be very specific about these things!).  If I was asked to bring a side I think I’d bring an Italian-inspired warm vegetable salad that I whipped up a month or so ago to accompany a gorgeous beef stew we shared with friends over a bottle of red wine.  There wasn’t really a recipe for it – I came up with it ‘on the hoof’ . . . but here, roughly, is what you would do to make it

Slice up and then fry in olive oil  3 capsicums (preferably red ones – for the colour and the sweetness) and 2 large eggplants.

Meanwhile lightly steam a head of broccoli and some green beans.

When the broccoli and the beans are ready toss them over the heat with the eggplant and capsicum for a couple of minutes.

Turn the heat off and splash the whole lovely  mess with red vinegar. Add a little more high-quality olive oil and – if you have them – sprinkle with toasted pine nuts or sunflower seeds.

If I was being asked for a main I would add some pasta and cannellini beans to the vegetables and voila! – a substantial and very tasty meal to share with friends.

PS: This meal goes very well with a nice bottle of chianti 🙂

Corner View – Potatoes with . . .

Wednesday, February 6th, 2013

Roast Potato Salad

Roast Potato Salad

Potatoes – roasted in olive oil and then tossed with feta cheese, grilled capsicum, a drizzle of vinaigrette and a sprinkling of fresh mint.  Truly delicious 🙂

Corner View is a weekly appointment – each Wednesday – created by Jane, where bloggers from all corners of the world share their view on a pre-arranged theme. Visit Francesca at FuoriBorgo for more Corner Views.  And this week’s theme is ‘Potatoes with . . .’

Corner View – Typical Family Dinner

Wednesday, April 18th, 2012

Frittata and Coleslaw

I’m not sure we really have a ‘typical’ family dinner – we’re like the United Nations of food here! We eat a lot of Asian food, particularly Thai. We eat food inspired by the cuisine of Greece and Turkey. We eat Italian food, we eat French food. We even eat a meal which – so the book says – comes from Russia. The meal I’m featuring here is a pecular mix of Italian-inspired – the frittata, and Asian-style – the coleslaw. I have already posted the recipe for the coleslaw here,  but for anyone who is interested here is the recipe for our all-time favourite family frittata.

Frittata

  • 6-8 eggs
  • 6 medium-large potatoes
  • 3/4 cup chopped sundried tomatoes
  • 150g feta cheese
  • 2 TB olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste

Cut the potatoes into cubes (you don’t need to bother peeling them – I never do) and steam until tender. While your potatoes are cooking slice your sundried tomatoes and chop your feta into cubes. Beat your eggs in a large bowl

When the potatoes are ready heat 2 TB olive oil in a big heavy-based pan (I use my cast-iron pan for this) and when hot tip in the boiled, cubed potatoes. Fry until crispy and golden-brown.

Next – tip your golden-crisp potatoes into the egg mixture and add the cubed feta and the sliced sundried tomato. Stir gently and tip the whole lot back into the hot frypan – you might want to add an extra TB of oil at this point if the pan is a bit dry.

Cook on medium heat for about 10 minutes and then pop under a hot grill to finish off the top. Serve with coleslaw, salad or mixed vegetables. Yum!!

 

 

Corner View – Eggs

Wednesday, April 11th, 2012

Eggs . . . well . . . Easter having just been and gone we do have rather a lot of them – of the chocolate variety –  in the house right now. This little plastic box is just a tiny sample of the huge number and variety of Easter eggs that Brianna managed to collect over the course of the holiday weekend. She got about 5 big hollow chocolate eggs, several smaller caramel or marshmellow eggs, a couple of chocolate Easter Bunnies and a few other bits and pieces.

I also have a dozen tiny little free-range pullets eggs – which I bought by mistake thinking they were normal-sized eggs. I took two of them out of the fridge this morning and I used them to make my new favourite breakfast – fresh apple, carrot and pineapple juice eggnog. Yes, I know, it sounds strange – but it is GOOD!

The eggs before they went into the eggnog

JUICY EGGNOG  – How to . . .

This is really easy to make if you have a juicer. You can put any fruit you happen to have on hand in to it. I’ve tried it with orange and lemon juice and with orange and apple juice. You can also use vegetables – though sweeter veges like carrots are best.  Today I juiced 3 apples (Cox’s Orange & Granny Smith), 1 large carrot, and a large slice of pineapple. Then I tipped the juice in the blender with 1 tablespoon of LSA (which is a mixture of almond meal, ground linseed and sunflower seeds) and my two little pullet eggs. Usually I would just use one egg but these are tiny. Blend until frothy, tip into a glass and drink. Yum!

Corner View is a weekly appointment – each Wednesday – created by Jane and currently curated by Francesca, where bloggers from all corners of the world share their view on a pre-arranged theme. If you’d like to join in, please leave a link to your Corner View post in the comments at www.fuoriborgo.com, and be sure to visit other participants too. This week’s Corner View theme is ‘Eggs’.

 

 

 

Coleslaw with Asian Flavours – Thanks Nigella!

Tuesday, February 7th, 2012

Coleslaw with Asian Flavours

The following is one of my all-time favourite recipes. We eat it with chicken. We eat it with tinned tuna. I take it to pot-luck dinners and BBQs. I make it as a salad accompaniment for family dinners. It’s always lovely. It’s always popular. Try it!

All the yummy fresh ingredients for the coleslaw

Coleslaw with Asian Flavours – Adapted from a recipe by Nigella Lawson

  • 1 small red chilli, chopped finely
  • 1 fat clove of garlic, chopped finely
  • 1 TB brown sugar
  • 3 TB white wine vinegar
  • 3 TB lemon juice
  • 2 TB Thai fish sauce
  • 2 TB sunflower oil
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 1 small onion, finely sliced
  • black pepper
  • salt
  • 250g white cabbage, finely chopped
  • 1 medium carrot, grated
  • a fat bunch of fresh mint, finely chopped
In a bowl combine the chilli, garlic, sugar, vinegar, lemon juice, fish sauce, oil, onion and black pepper to taste. Put to one side for half an hour so the onions can steep in the dressing and become soft and sweet.

Onions steeping in the spicy dressing

Now, in a big plate or bowl, mix the cabbage, carrot and mint. Pour over the dressing and toss – slowly and patiently (says Nigella) – so that everything is combined and covered.

Note: Nigella leaves the seeds out of her chilli but I often leave mine in for extra heat if just grown-ups will be eating the coleslaw. Nigella also uses lime juice while I use lemon juice – this is mainly because limes are INCREDIBLY expensive in New Zealand. And Nigella uses rice wine vinegar instead of white wine vinegar. I prefer white wine vinegar and always have it on hand. I also use larger quantities of vinegar, lemon juice and fish sauce. And I add sesame seed oil for an extra flavour boost.  Also, if I haven’t got any fresh chillies on hand I leave out the sugar and add a big dollop of Thai chilli sauce. Yum!

See Nigella Bites (page 232) for the original recipe. A fabulous book!

Nigella Bites

 

 

Corner View – Light

Wednesday, February 1st, 2012

Evening Light and Apricot Jam

I was so proud of myself the other day! I actually made some jam! Apricot Jam! Without burning it!  I took a photo of my efforts and loved the way the golden light shone through the golden jam making the jars look like little lanterns.

It was a fabulous recipe – the apricots had to be left to macerate in sugar overnight and when I got them out again the next morning they were swimming in juice which had been drawn out of them by the sugar. Amazing!  Here’s the recipe – though those of you in the Northern Hemisphere will have to file it away for later use 🙂

Apricot Jam

  • 1.5 kg ripe apricots, halved and stoned
  • 6 apricot stones
  • 1.5 kg sugar
  • 1 – 2 small, pale-skinned lemons
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 fresh figs (optional)

Place apricots and sugar in large non-reactive bowl. Use a hammer to open the apricot stones (don’t bash too hard or you’ll smash the kernel). Spilt the kernels in half and add to bowl, discarding hard shells. Slice most of each lemon very thinly, reserving the unsliced sections for later. Add lemon slices and any pips to the bowl, and mix the contents of the bowl together. Then cover and set aside overnight.

By morning the juices will have come out of the fruit. Add figs, if using, and stir mixture then pour it all into a large saucepan with the water. Place over a medium heat for 5 minutes, stirring to prevent mixture sticking, while sugar dissolves. Increase heat to fairly high and boil for about 25 – 30 minutes until mixture just starts to thicken (see Cooks Tip in Notes Section). Skim off any yellowy foam and remove pan from heat. Squeeze in the juice from reserved sections of the lemon and stir.

Carefully transfer jam to hot sterilised jars and seal. Alternatively store in a covered container in the fridge if only keeping for a month.

I didn’t add any figs – ‘cos I didn’t have any – but the jam is absolutely divine anyway. Just like bottled sunshine!  Even Brianna loves it – and she’s not usually a big jam fan.

Baking Cupcakes with Brianna – Kids’ First Recipe Book

Saturday, January 7th, 2012

Our little cupcakes waiting to be iced

All finished!

Brianna and I made some mini cupcakes together a day or two ago – using a recipe from a fabulous book called Kids’ First Cookbook: A life-size guide to making fun things to eat .  The recipes in this book are written in simple language, using big font and lots of pictures, so that children can easily follow the recipes themselves. The ingredients are listed using photographs as well as text and all the ‘cooks tools’ they might need for the recipe are pictured in a little box in the corner.

The book includes cakes (complete with detailed instructions for cutting and icing them into all sorts of fun shapes), easy bread recipes, pizzas, pastry-based recipes, scones, biscuits, and desserts.  The little cupcakes we made were fabulously straight-forward – all the ingredients were just thrown in the bowl and mixed – no faffing about with creaming butter and sugar, beating eggs separately or anything else that might confuse the novice cook. I’ll pop the recipe up here just in case anyone might like to try it . . . Thank you very much to Kids’ First Cookbook – we’ll be using you a lot I think!!

Little Cakes – From Kids’ First Cookbook

  • 2 eggs
  • 100g soft margarine (we used softened butter)
  • 100g self-raising flour (we used plain flour with 1 1/2 tsp baking soda)
  • 100g caster sugar

Set oven to 180 C/350 F/Gas Mark 4. Put little paper cases into small or medium-sized muffin pans (or you can just put the cases straight onto a baking tray).

Sieve the flour into a mixing bowl. Add the softened butter and the caster sugar to the flour. Break the eggs into the bowl and beat everything together with a wooden spoon until the mixture is soft and creamy.

If making medium-sized muffins put two teaspoonfuls of mixture into the paper cases and if making small-sized muffins put one teaspoonful in (Brianna got the hang of this step very quickly – with much licking of fingers along the way!).

Bake the tiny cakes for 10 to 15 minutes (we have a very hot oven so 10 minutes was enough – just keep checking them from 9 minutes onwards) and the medium-sized ones for 20 to 25 minutes (we didn’t make medium-sized ones this time – again, just keep an eye on them from about 18 minutes).

When cakes are ready cool on a wire rack. Once cooled ice with your choice of icing. The book gives a number of options but I ended up going with the basic icing recipe from our good old Edmonds Cookbook because it wasn’t so full of butter.

Icing

  • 2 cups of icing sugar
  • 1/4 tsp butter
  • 2 TB water, approximately
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla essence

Sift icing sugar into bowl. Add butter. Add water – very slowly and carefully – until the icing gets to a spreadable consistency. Flavour with vanilla essence.

You can halve or even quarter this recipe (we quartered it), you can use a bit more butter for a richer taste or you can make chocolate icing by sifting 1 TB of cocoa in with the icing sugar, or lemon icing by replacing vanilla with 1 tsp grated lemon rind and replacing water with lemon juice (again, add slowly and carefully).