Cook this: Orange, cranberry & rosemary cake

There are some really great things about being part of the food and travel blogging community. You make new friends all over the world, get some great ideas to add to the bucket list, always have like-minded people to bounce ideas off, and best of all, always have great new recipes to try  : )

I saw this one on Rachel’s site, Emerging Adult Eats, last week, and immediately added oranges and cranberries to my shopping list. I love orange and cranberry – one of my favourite old recipes is orange, cranberry and oat cookies. I was also really intrigued by Rachel’s addition of rosemary, for a savoury touch… I intended to make this as more of a cake than a bread, and planned on omitting the rosemary, but once the matter was made and tasted before being poured into the tin, I decided to add a little dried rosemary that I had in the spice cupboard anyway – it just seemed the right thing to do.

Anyway, I made my only little adjustments, as I am want to do, and here’s how it went…

 

Ingredients:
– 2 ½ cups self-raising flour
– ½ cup caster sugar
– 3 eggs
– ½ cup olive oil
– ½ cup plain Greek yoghurt
– juice of 2 oranges
– zest of 2 oranges
– 1 tsp vanilla extract
– 1 cup dried cranberries
– pinch of salt
– 1 tsp dried rosemary
– ¼ cup mixed seeds (I used pepitas and sunflower seeds)

Method:
1. Preheat the oven to 170°C and grease a bread loaf tin.

2. Combine the flour and sugar in a large mixing bowl and set aside.

3. In another bowl, whisk together the eggs, oil, yoghurt, orange zest and juice, and the vanilla.

4. Whisk the wet ingredients into the flour until completely combined – you may have to scrape out the whisk a few times.

5. Finally, stir in the cranberries, salt and rosemary, pour the batter into the tin, and sprinkle the seeds over the top.

6. Bake for 40 – 50 minutes, until a skewer poked into the middle of the cake comes out clean.

Oktoberfest V.2 – Cook this: chocolate pretzels

Oktoberfest V.2: SUCCESS.

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We had so much fun with Backyard Oktoberfest last year, we decided to do it again this year. Well, that was the plan originally. Then, we started getting a bit more into it, and the ideas got a bit more out of control…

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For those of you not married to beer connoisseurs, Oktoberfest is an annual beer festival originating in Germany. For Australians, it’s just a good reason to dress like idiots and drink with your mates. But it’s about more than the beer, I think. I don’t even like beer. I hate it, actually – I imagine beer is what cat piss would taste like. But I love wine. And good food. And having a great night with my friends. And so, on the inebriated success of last year’s slightly impromptu event, we decided to do it all over again this year – just bigger and better.

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The backyard BBQ seemed too simple to repeat; we wanted something bigger and better. So we decided to transform the man cave into a beer hall (obviously), which was decorated with (almost too) much enthusiasm. 5000 pretzels were baked (that’s what it felt like, anyway). And not just the regular delicious bready ones to eat with mustard; there were little chocolate ones, too (keep scrolling, the recipe is coming). Cured sausages were sliced and served. Schnitzels crumbed and fried. Potato mixed with copious amounts of bacon and mayo, and called a “salad.” Steins were filled. And emptied. And re-filled. Hell, there were even balloons. And ridiculous outfits.

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All that fun aside, I did also promise you a recipe. While some people may think that dessert is unnecessary and potentially even dangerous when there’s drinking going on, I’ve found that, quite to the contrary, cookies are actually the perfect friend to beer and wine. Last year I did Black Forest cookies (which were demolished within half an hour of appearing), but I wanted something a little different this year. Chocolate pretzels.

These were a bit of a challenge because they’re not a standard cookie recipe per se – we’re still using a yeast risen dough to given them the pretzel texture, just adding sugar and cocoa powder to sweeten them and turn them from savoury to sweet. Anyway, it was actually a pretty simple recipe once I tweaked it a bit and practiced a few times – I based my version on the one that appears in the 500 COOKIES cookbook.

Ingredients for the cookies (makes 40-ish)
– 375g plain flour
– 4 tbsp castor sugar
– 3 tbsp brown sugar
– 2 tsp yeast
– 1 cup (240ml) warm water
– 150g butter, melted and cooled
– pinch of salt
– 4 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder (or same amount of regular cocoa powder, just use half the amount of sugar)

For the icing:
– 1 egg white
– approximately 300g icing sugar
– blue food colouring

 

Method
1. Combine 4 tbsp on the flour with 2 tbsp of the caster sugar, the yeast and the warm water in a bowl, mix and set aside for 5 minutes.

2. Sift the flour into a large bowl, with a pinch of salt, the rest of the sugar and the cocoa powder.

3. Pour the butter and yeast mix into the flour, and stir to combine completely.

4. Turn the dough out onto a floured board and knead for 5 minutes, until it’s smooth and elastic. Then transfer it to a lightly greased bowl, cover with cling wrap and set aside to rise for 30 minutes.

5. Pre-heat the oven to 180°C and line two oven trays with baking paper.

6. Roll out small pieces of dough and shape as pretzels – how much dough you use depends on how big or small you want your pretzels. To shape them, roll the dough into nice long pieces, bring the two ends up to meet each other, making a long U shape. Twist the ends, fold them back over each other to the bottom of the U, and use a little water dabbed on the ends of them to attach them.

7. Place on the oven trays with a little space between each, and bake 12 minutes, until firm to touch.

8. Once completely cooled, you can ice them with a pretty basic royal icing recipe – just whisk the egg white, then sift the icing sugar in, a half cup or so at a time, until you’re happy with the consistency. I used a little blue food colouring, but you can obviously use whatever colour you want 🙂

Cook this: Coconut pumpkin soup

Not only does my friend Jess know all the good brunch spots, she’s also pretty nifty in the kitchen – she produces wonderful food porn which frequently has me drooling over my phone, and her Bill Granger coconut pumpkin soup last week was no exception. She kindly passed on the recipe, which, as usual, I screwed around with a little to suit myself, and it turned out a damn good soup! I was really impressed at how easy it was (that’s usually a massive deterent for me making soup more often) and how much flavor it packed. I served it up with some home made Irish soda bread, and plan on making it again and again through out Melbourne’s upcoming winter. Enjoy!

 

Ingredients (serves 4):

– 1-2 tbsp garlic infused oil (I use this to keep it as FODMAPs friendly as possible – if your stomach doesn’t have issues with garlic, just use oil + 3 roughly chopped garlic cloves)
– 1 red chili, chopped
– 2 tsp ground cumin
– 1 tsp ground ginger
– 1 tbsp smoky paprika
– 1kg butternut pumpkin, peeled, de-seeded and chopped
– 2 carrots, peeled and chopped
– 400ml coconut milk
– 3 tbsp fish sauce
– squeeze of lime juice, to your taste
– fresh coriander leaves and bread to serve

Method:

1. Heat a large pot over low heat, and add the garlic oil, chili, cumin and paprika. Cook, stirring, for a minute or two, until the smells of the spices really come out.

2. Add the pumpkin and carrot, cooking for another few minutes, still stirring.

3. Add 6 cups of water (or vegetable stock – I prefer a stronger coconut flavour so I just used water), turn the heat up and bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 30min, until the veggies are soft and you can easily stick a fork into them. 

4. Take the pot off the heat to cool for 10 minutes, then purée (I like my Big Foot, which you can see below; a food processor or blender will do the job perfectly well, too) until smooth.

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5. Stir in the coconut milk, fish sauce, and as much salt, pepper and lime juice as you like the taste of.

6. Re-heat over low heat to bring it back up to a warm enough temperature to enjoy, sprinkle with a little fresh coriander and serve with toasted bread.

Kensington Market, Toronto

This is one of my favourite photos from our recent trip, and every time I look at it, it makes me smile; I had not just one, but two awesome days wondering around Kensington Market in the snow, and it was one of the best parts of my time in Toronto…

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Husband worked with a guy from Toronto quite a few years ago, and they became really good friends really fast; fortunately, they’ve also stayed in touch, and he was the big reason for our wanting to visit Toronto. We were there over New Years, and before the celebrations started that night, the boys went to watch a hockey game in the afternoon, leaving us ladies to entertain ourselves. As tends to happen when ladies are left to their own devices, we went shopping.

Kensington Market isn’t a market in the traditional sense of the word; rather than a heaps of stalls in a common area, it’s basically just a really cool, very multicultural area of the city. It seemed to pop up in every guide book I picked up on Toronto, and it sounded like a pretty cool place, so I was stoked when our friend’s girlfriend offered to show me around the area while the guys were at the hockey.

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The “market” area is spread out over a few streets, with the majority being food and second hand stores, covering the full gamut from genuine vintage to absolute junk. When you visit, it’s best to go closer to lunch time, as a lot of shops don’t open up particularly early. Also, bring an appetite – there are so many tempting food spots in the area, particularly being so close to China/Korea town!

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You can take the subway to the College stop, or if the weather is friendly and you’re feeling energetic, you can walk from downtown Toronto in around an hour, like husband and I did when we re-visited the area the morning we left. The “Kensington Market” area itself is bordered by Spadina Ave, Dundas St, Bathurst St and College St, not far from Chinatown (read: more good food!).

There are some really great finds if you have the time and patience to look, things like old sports jerseys, second hand leather shoes, hand made hair accessories and new winter coats. It’s a really great way to spend a morning or afternoon in Toronto, even in the cold and the snow – there are plenty of cute little cafes and restaurants to stop at and warm up/re-fuel in between treasure hunting. And the street art is amazing, too!

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Cook this: Oktoberfest Pretzels

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It’s not Oktoberfest without pretzels, and if you’re going to do something like this, you do it properly. As soon as we decided Oktoberfest was happening, I concurrently decided that home made pretzels were going to happen, too. I was going to make them myself, from scratch, and they were going to be awesome (God willing). Guess the baking gods were smiling on me, because I nailed them!

With a fantastic recipe I got from Feast Magazine (no idea how long ago it was, I just know that I cut it out and kept it, knowing that one day, surely, I’d need it), I steeled myself to face what I assumed would be a cumbersome and daunting task. Spoiler alert: it wasn’t Completely anti-climactic. There was nothing complicated or scary about this at all! I wish I could claim I’d slaved away for hours, and that there was a terrifying kitchen experience to tell everyone about when they first saw these golden twists, but actually, the process isn’t as impressive as the end result looks!

Don’t get me wrong; just because the procedure wasn’t laborious and complex doesn’t mean the end product wasn’t a thing of beauty. I don’t think I’ve ever been prouder of anything I’ve baked before these pretzels. They were literally the definition of perfect! Once they’ve sat out of the oven for a while, they harden up like a proper, legitimate Brauhaus type pretzel. They’re crunchy on the outside and impossible soft and airy on the inside. They are a dead set, top notch professional job. Henceforth, pretzels shall be made regularly in my kitchen, and shall be consumed with beer and wine, regardless of the time of year. They’re that good!

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To make 12:
– 525g plain flour
– 375ml lukewarm milk
– 1tsp caster sugar
– 7g sachet dried yeast
– coarse salt to sprinkle on top

1. Sift the flour into a large bowl with around 1tsp salt.

2. In a small bowl, combine the milk, sugar and yeast, stirring to dissolve.

3. Pour the milk mix into the flour and stir it to combine. Then, using an electric mixer fitted with a dough hook, knead/mix the dough for around 10 minutes; it should form a soft and smooth and very elastic dough. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside for 5 minutes.

4. Turn the dough out onto a floured board and divide into 12 equal pieces. Gently roll the dough pieces into long, thin logs (around 40-50cm long).

5. Twist the dough into pretzel shape by laying it in a U shape, then cross the ends over and and bring both ends back to the curve in the U. Dab a little water onto the two ends before you press them down onto the U to join them. Place them on a large plate or baking tray lined with baking paper as you go.

6. Let the pretzels sit uncovered for 30 minutes, then cover them in plastic wrap and refrigerate preferably overnight, but no less than 3 hours.

7. After they’ve rested, pre-heat the oven to 220°C.

8. Combine 1L water, 1tbs salt and 1tbs bicarb soda in a large pot. Bring to the boil, then remove from the heat. Immerse each pretzel, one at a time, in the solution for 10 seconds, then return to a baking paper lined oven teat. Sprinkle each with salt, and bake for 15 minutes, or until nicely golden. Eat them warm with a little butter and mustard. Or cold, with butter and mustard. Just eat lots of them, they’re so, so good!