Cook this: popovers (or, Mother’s Day treat breakfast)

Here in Australia, this weekend we’ll be celebrating Mother’s Day. And being a mum to two little fur babies who aren’t capable of making me breakfast in bed, I’ll be making my own.

I saw this recipe aaaaages ago on Namiko’s blog, JUST ONE COOKBOOK, and saved it with every intention of making it ASAP. And then, of course, I promptly forgot about it. Because, life. I actually haven’t been baking much lately, but I’d to try and get back into it a little, and Nami’s recipe looked like the perfect place to start. I adapted it to make it a sweet bread rather than a savoury, because treat yoself.

Realllly easy, super delicious, and a bit more special than regular bread, so it feels like a proper treat. They come out with a nice crust, but are super light inside. Namiko recommends slathering them in strawberry butter, but I have a jar of apricot jam that my auntie made for me, and that went just perfectly with my popovers! Here’s my adapted version…

Ingredients (makes 8):
• 1¾ cups milk
• 2 cups plain flour
• pinch of salt
• ½ tsp baking powder
• 1 tbsp caster sugar
• 3 large eggs, at room temperature

 

Method:
1. Pour the milk into a small saucepan and warm over very low heat – more than lukewarm, but not so hot it burns your finger when you test it.

2. Combine the flour, salt, baking powder and sugar in a large bowl, and set aside.

3. Beat the eggs with an electric mixer on medium speed for a few minutes, until paler and frothy/foamy.

4. Then turn the speed to low and slowly add the warm milk as you continue to mix.

5. Next, add the flour mixture, a spoonful at a time, and beat on medium speed for another few minutes, until well combined. You may need to scrape the sides of the bowl down if the flour starts the build up.

6. Now the easy part – set the batter aside to rest at room temperature for an hour.

7. When you’re ready to bake, preheat the oven to 230°C and place 8 extra large silicon cupcake cases on an oven tray. You can purchase popover pans online or use large muffin trays, but this mixture is sticky and the silicon cases are WAYYY easier to clean up!

8. Fill the cases almost to the top, and bake at 230°C for 15 minutes. Then, turn the temperature down to 190°C and bake for a further 30 minutes. Pop them out of the cases, smother them in butter or jam or cream or whatever else you’re feeling, and enjoy!

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Cook this: ANZAC cookies

If you’re an Aussie or a Kiwi, you’re getting ready to deal with two days of work before the ANZAC Day public holiday on Wednesday. To make tomorrow go a little faster, make yourself a batch of these tonight after work – the sugar will pull you through Tuesday!

ANZAC Day isn’t all about a day off work, though. It’s a day for us to pay homage to those who were brave and selfless enough to give their lives so that we could contribute to live ours. And it might sound a bit lame, but I really do think about that every time I make these cookies. They’re super easy to make, and came to be when the mums and wives of the fighting troops wanted to send something over that wouldn’t spoil – they came up with these cookies, made from cheap ingredients that keep well for a while. That doesn’t matter anymore, because it’s impossible to keep a batch of these for more than 3 days without eating them all.

Ingredients:
• 1¼ cups plain flour, sifted
• 1½ cups rolled oats
• ½ cup brown sugar
• ¾ cup shredded coconut
• 2 tbsp golden syrup
• 150g butter
• 1 tsp baking powder

Method:
1. Preheat the oven to 170°C/350°F and line two oven trays with non-stick baking paper.

2. In a large bowl, combine the flour, oats, brown sugar and coconut, and set aside.

3. Melt the golden syrup and butter in a small saucepan over low heat, then set aside.

4. In a small bowl, stir the baking powder in with 2 tbsp water, then stir into the melted butter mixture.

5. Pour the melted butter mixture into the dry ingredients and stir well to combine.

6. Drop tablespoons of cookie dough onto the prepared baking trays with a bit of space between, and bake for 12 – 15 minutes, until golden and just set for a softer cookie, or 15 – 18 minutes for a crunchier one. Cool for 5 minutes on tray before transferring to a wire rack to finish cooling.

 


This recipe is one of my all-time favourites, and it has a spot  in my cookbook, along with another 60-odd favourites! If you’d like to get your paws on a copy (with a fancy new cover), prices start from just $9.99 – click on through to get shopping 🙂

Cook this: Cinnamon-free hot cross buns

Happy Easter! I’m a chocoholic, so I’ll be continuing to gorge myself with chocolate this weekend. But the other part of Easter is hot cross buns, which I’ve never been able to partake in, because I hate cinnamon.

It makes me ill – the smell of it literally makes me gag. But I love bready things, and I hate that I don’t have an excuse to eat delicious little buns smothered in butter for breakfast for a week at this time of the year. So I thought I’d try making my own.

Turns out they’re actually pretty easy to make, the removal of cinnamon does nothing to harm the structural integrity, and because they’re not technically hot cross buns, these delicious sweet little raisin rolls can be made sans cross and eaten all year round now! This simple recipe was adapted from Taste.com.au:

Ingredients (makes 12 large or 16 medium buns)
– 4 cups plain flour
cup caster sugar
– pinch of salt
– 2 x 7g dried yeast sachets
– 1½ heaped cups raisins (or any other dried fruit, like cranberries or apricots)
– 50g butter
– 1¼ cups of milk
– 2 eggs, beaten

Method:
1. In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, salt, yeast and dried fruit – set aside.

2. Set a small saucepan over low heat and melt the butter in it. Then add the milk and heat it for a minute – pour the mixture into the large bowl, along with the eggs, and stir together with the blade of a butter knife.

3.Use your hands to bring the dough together, and turn it out onto a floured board to knead for a few minutes. Alternatively, you can use a kitchen mixer with a bread hook to do this.

4. Place the dough into a large bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and sit it in a warm room for an hour and a half to “grow.”

5. Line an oven tray with baking paper, and bring the dough back to the kitchen. Knead in for a minute, to shrink it back down, and divide the dough into 12 – 16 equal pieces. Roll them into balls and place them on the tray, leaving a little space in between – cover them back up with plastic and put them back in the warm room to rise again for another half an hour.

6. Pre-heat the oven to 180°C, and if you want crosses on top, now’s the time to add them. Just mix a half cup of plain flour with a few tablespoons of water to make a thick paste, and either pipe the goop onto the buns in a cross, or be lazy like me and spread it over carefully with a teaspoon.

7. Then all you need to do is bake them for 25 minutes, let them cool, smother then in butter or jam, and enjoy! Keep them for a few days in an airtight container, or freeze them like you would with normal bread to enjoy later.

 

Cook this: (almost) paleo granola

On my naturopath’s advice, I gave up grains for a few weeks to help reset my tummy lining. The only thing I really missed was my morning bowls of porridge and muesli; I need my oats!

Because I eat breaky at work every morning, poached eggs and sautéed veggies every morning wasn’t a realistic option, so I needed something else… something easy to prepare in advance and easy to take to work.

Enter paleo granola. Basically, a whole lot of nuts and seeds, toasted and ready to top my green smoothie bowl. Over the last few weeks I’ve become hooked on it, so now that I can reintroduce some grains back into my diet, I’ve decided to stick with it, but just add some oats to the mix. And it’s pretty delicious!

Ingredients:
– juice & zest of 1 orange
– 1 tbsp maple syrup
– 1 cup mixed sunflower & pepita seeds
– 1 cup shredded coconut
– 4 tbsp chia seeds
– ½ cup rolled oats (leave these out if you want a proper paleo mix)
– ½ cup crushed walnuts
– ½ cup slivered almonds
– ½ cup chopped dates

 

Method:
1. Preheat the oven to 180°C and line an oven tray with baking paper.

2. Combine the orange juice, zest and maple syrup in a small bowl, and set aside.

3. Combine the remaining ingredients in a large mixing bowl, then stir through the orange juice.

4. Pour the mixture onto the tray and spread it out. Bake for about 20 – 25min or until golden; stir the mixture around every 5min or so to ensure it bakes evenly.

5. Once completely cooled, store in an air tight container up to 2 weeks

Bone Broth: what it is, how to make it & why I’m trying it

So, I’ve been drinking a cup of bone broth every afternoon for the past 17 days. And as odd as I thought the prescription of it was for my gut problems, my time spent investigating it on Google has informed me that its actually becomming a bit of a “thing” right now. There are dozens of articles and posts already swimming around out there from multiple perspectives/health issues, so I’m going to add my experiences and health perspective to the pile, too.

 

WHAT IS BONE BROTH?
Its exactly what it sounds like, actually. A broth made by simmering marrow bones in water for several hours (like, 12 hours minimum). While the health hipsters have only just climbed on board the broth train, my Italian family (and many more like mine) have been doing this for generations. Having mostly grown up in small towns and provinces around Italy, and not being particularly wealthy, my ancestors had to learn to use every single part of the animals they had to slaughter in order to feed their families, and that included the bones. As kids, we’d always get a bowl on mum or Nonna’s brodo when we were sick – the old-school, uncool, billion year old, Italian, original bone broth.

WHY IS IT A THING NOW?
Let me back track a little so I can answer that question properly…

I’ve been plagued with gut issues for around 5 years now, bounced back and forth from doctor to specialist and back again, trying everything that’s been suggested and prescribed to absolutely no avail.

A few weeks ago, at my wit’s end, I went to another appointment, this time with a naturopath specialising in gut issues. All I could tell her for certain was that in recent hospital tests, I had tested negative to coeliac and SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth), extremely positive to fructose malabsorption, and had a history of severe lactose intolerence as a baby.

Among several supplements that I was to try, I was also prescribed a modified GAPS diet for a few weeks, which for me, includes the following guidelines:
– no sugar or processed foods
– no gluten
– no grains
– no cow’s milk products
– bone broth, kefir and sauerkraut daily

As the name suggests (Gut And Psychology Syndrome), it’s now been well documented that there is a strong link between the gut and the mind, with a rather high incidence of people suffering from depression and anxiety also suffering from gut disorders. Exhibit A, me.

So back to the original question – why bone broth? It’s believed that the gelatin in the broth (that comes from those long simmered bones, particularly knuckles and joints) can be incredibly helpful in healing dodgy gut lining. It’ also said to help boost the immune system, which is great for those of us with gut issues, as our immune systems are generally not in prime condition. While there are certainly more studies needed to verify these claims of good, there are certainly no harmful side effects to drinking a cup of broth each day, and with the staggering numbers of people who swear by it and nothing to lose, I figured I’d give it a go – couldn’t make my current game of Russian Roulette every time I sit down to eat any worse!

HOW DO YOU MAKE IT?
How long is a piece of string? My investigations led me to a ridiculous amount of recipes, all with slight differences in ingredients and method, and all claiming to be the right way of doing it. I call bullshit and came up with my own recipe, combiming the plethora of online advice I found, what I remember from my childhood, and plain common sense. I will say though that this is a long process, with the broth simmering for at least 12 hours, soma slow cooker would be much easier and safer than a pot on the stove!

I did two versions, one beef and one chicken. I suspect the beef broth (made with marrow bones that the butcher sliced into smalled pieces for me and a few ox tail bones) was closer to what it’s “meant” to be like; once cooled, it formed a gelatinous mass with a nice layer of fat hardened over the top. The chicken one (made using the carcass of a roast chicken we ate for dinner) was a lot thinner – no jelly, no fat layer. They both tasted pretty good on their own, to my surprise (and relief), and would make great soup bases.

Beef Broth Recipe
– 1.5kg beef marrow bones, cut up by the butcher so the inner parts are exposed. Knuckles and joints are great, so is cartilage and fat and meat; use it all!
– 2 carrots
– 3 celery stalks
– 5 brown mushrooms
– 8 bay leaves
– 1.5 tsp turmeric
– 1.5 tbsp apple cider vinegar

1. Heat the oven to 220°C. Place the bones on an oven tray, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and roast for 30 minutes.

2. Take the bones out of the oven and place them into your slow cooker, along with all the other ingredients. Fill the slow cooker with enough water to cover the bones, set on low heat, put the lid on, and ignore it for 12 – 18 hours. I’ve been putting mine on before dinner and turning it off the next morning at breakfast time.

3. After it’s cooled a bit, I ladel my broth through a sieve into empty peanut butter jars to freeze. Some websites recommend glass jars, but I’m not willing to risk them in the freezer!

HOW DO YOU EAT/DRINK IT?
I’ve been taking my jars out of the freezer and putting them in the fridge to defrost slowly over 24-36 hours. Then, I take it to work in a travel mug, sprinkle a little salt in it, heat it up around mid afternoon in the microwave for 2 minutes or so, and sip it down!

It can be used as a great soup base if you’d rather incorporate it into a meal, and a lot of people also prefer to have it in the morning with their breakfast, but I like it in the afternoon when I tend to get the nibbles.

 

SO, HAS IT MADE ANY DIFFERENCE?
Honestly,  it’s hard to tell… one thing I have noticed though is that while I’ve been experiencing severe stomach pain and bloating most afternoons for a very long time now, I actually haven’t really had that while I’ve been on this GAPS diet, which has been wonderful! Whether it’s the bone broth though, or the probiotics, kefir, sauerkraut, gut relief supplement, foul tasting herbal elixir, or a combination of the lot, I don’t know. But I figure I’ll stick with it a little while longer!

Cook this: fig & walnut jam

Nonna and Nonno have an enormous garden, full of fruit trees and vegetable plots, all lovingly tended to every day. I grew up surrounded by overgrown zucchinis and their flowers which mum and Nonna would stuff and fry, the sweetest mulberries that I ate by the (very literal) bucketload that I’d pluck from the lower braches of the tree myself, and my favourite,  figs.

Sweet, sticky, brightly coloured and impossibly delicious, figs are one of the most vivid tastes of my childhood. I’ve tried the odd few from a supermarket or fresh food market, but they’re just not the same as Nonno’s.  Now, every year when the figs come in, Nonno gets on the phone to let me know, and off I go to collect. I was pretty stoked last weekend to get the call up and find a kilo of figs waiting for me instead of the usual handful!

With my fructose intolerance,  I can’t stomach as many as I used to, but there was no way I was letting them go to waste, so I decided to eat a few, keep a few for the next few days, and turn the rest into jam! If you’re lucky enough to be able to get your hands on a kilo of fresh, sticky figs, this is a pretty easy way to keep them around for a little longer…

Ingredients:
– 1kg fresh figs (stems removed, roughly chopped)
– ½ cup caster sugar
– 1 tbsp vanilla extract
– juice of 1 medium lemon
– ½ cup toasted, crushed walnuts

 

Method:
1. Combine the figs, sugar, vanilla and lemon juice with ⅔ cup of water in a large pot. Set it over high heat and bring to the boil.

2. Once boiling, lower the heat and simmer for around 45 minutes, until it thickens up to a more jammy consistency.

3. Stir in the walnuts ans pour the jam into clean jars and cool to room temperature before screwing the lids on and refrigerating (will keep for 3-4 weeks). Easy!

 

This jam works really well on fruit toast, as a cake filling, and especially well on my date and sesame scones (smothered in jam above), which, if you have a spare $9.99 laying about, you can find in my cookbook 🙂

Cook this: quick & healthy – everything-but-the-kitchen-sink omelette

This isn’t so much a “recipe” as your friendly Monday morning reminder that healthy food doesn’t have to be expensive, complicated, or time consuming. By Monday morning, most of us have probably enjoyed a bit of weekend indulgence (I know I did, after attending a gorgeous wedding with amazing food!), and we’d like to get back to eating something a bit healthier and lighter. But the thought of eating a boring salad sends most of us back to the heavier food we’d indulged in to start off with; it’s a vicious cycle.

This is one of my go-to recipes when…
a) I’m craving something healthy and lots of veggies but I don’t want a salad
b) I’ve got leftover veggies and rice that are at the end of their lifespan in the fridge and want to use them up rather than wasting them (and more money on more food)
c) I’ve got other delicious odds and ends in the fridge or pantry that I want to use but can’t think of another dish to tie them all together
d) I can’t really be bothered working too hard to get a healthy meal on the table

Eggs are also a pretty great source of protein, and it’s not a bad idea to give your gut a break from digesting meat all the time. With my food intolerances, beans and legumes are sadly off the table for me now, so eggs are the perfect back up option (they’re also pretty cheap compared to meat). Aaaaand if you double to recipe, you’ve got dinner for 2 and leftovers for lunch!

Ingredients:
– 2 large eggs
– cooking spray oil
– salt & pepper & your favourite dried herbs
– whatever else you want to throw in! I used (for this omelette) a cup of (cooked) brown rice, leftover roast red capsicum and zucchini, a few cherry tomatoes, a handful of baby spinach leaves and a few Kalamata olives. I’ve also used everything from leftover roast vegetables, antipasto mixes and cheese left behind from weekend platters, even leftover stir fried vegetables and noodles in an Asian style omelette!

Method:
1. Preheat your grill to high and leave it waiting.

2. Whisk the eggs together, season with a little salt, pepper and dried (or fresh, if you have them) herbs, and stir in everything else you want in there.

3. Heat a large, non-stick fry pan over medium heat and spray with cooking oil, making sure to coat it well (otherwise you’ll leave half the omelette behind in the pan).

4. Pour in the omelette mix, and cook over medium heat for a few minutes, until you start to see the egg getting whiter rather than translucent. At that point, you can flip it, but I prefer putting it under the grill to slowing cook through from the top and forming a nice golden crust. This is also a good time to sprinkle some cheese on top, if you’re that way inclined.

5. Once cooked through, let it cool for a few minutes before removing from the pan, slicing up and serving – a little sauce on top is always a good touch, and we use everything from mayonnaise to mustard to hoi sin sauce to chili paste; anything goes!