Spice Cookies

So… Hey. It’s been, 3 years? since I’ve written a post for this? Crap, that’s no good. Sorry about that. I haven’t really been cooking because my Mum’s really tight with the grocery budget; I’m actually paying for a lot of the ingredients myself now. I’m 19 by the way, in can’t you can’t tell.

Anyway… I found this really interesting cookie recipe in Ottoloenghi and Tamimi’s Jerusalem. It’s a really beautiful book, if you’ve yet to see it.

I thought it’d be fun to blog my second time making it owing to the fact it was for my Grandma’s birthday, but, I only had half the ingredients on hand and couldn’t be f#*%ed going to the supermarket – Yes. Even for my Grandma…

Since I made a couple substitutions, I’ve included a link to the original recipe as well. It’s got American measurements which may be of help! – http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/spice-cookies-51115800

If you do make this, let me know. It was a fun challenge which I’m sure you’d enjoy too. You can also make them really cute with glacé cherries, candied peel, crystallised ginger. and since their flavour’s fairly complex, and moreish, you can really steal show at a shared lunch – send your kid along to primary school with this and everyone will think you very posh, even if you do drive that Nissan Tida.

 

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125g of cranberries/sultanas/glacé cherries/apricots…
2 tbsp brandy/bourbon/rum
150g plain flour and 100g ground almonds
1 heaped tbsp cacao powder
½ tsp baking powder
¼ tsp baking soda
½ tsp each ground cinnamon, allspice/cloves, ginger and nutmeg
¼ tsp salt
150g dark chocolate, crushed in blender
125g soft butter/coconut oil – I used 1/3 butter, 2/3 coconut
125g brown/caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
½ tsp grated lemon/lime peel
½ tsp grated orange/mandarin peel
½ an egg – sorry about this

To finish:

  • Make a glaze with – 3 tbsp lemon juice &160g icing sugar
  • Sprinkle over a tbsp of fine-chopped candied citrus peel, glacé cherries
  1. Preheat the oven to 190°C. Saturate the dried fruit in bourbon for 10 minutes, even overnight. Mix together the dry ingredients (excluding sugar), and dark chocolate in a food processor. Turn out to a bowl.
  2. Process the butter, sugar, vanilla and zest ’til lightly aerated – About 1 minute. With it running, ease in the egg and then the dry ingredients and fruit. Pulse ’til combined.
  3. Turn out to a bowl and roll it to a ball shape. Divide into about 20 balls and handle lightly – I have a lot of practise in this. Set onto a couple trays (greased or lined with paper), spacing widely apart.
  4. Bake for between 12-20 minutes – until the top firms up but the centre’s still a little soft. Allow to cool for 5 minutes then transfer to wire racks and drizzle over the glaze while still warm – coating the biscuit with a thin, translucent layer. Decorate with of candied peel and either serve or leave in the fridge. They’re best within 5 days.

 

Need a gluten-free alternative? My Grandma has Coeliacs, so for hers, instead of flour, I used 250g of almonds – ground in a food processor. You then make it the same, except line a cake tin instead and firmly press the dough into it. Bake for 12-20 mins – still slightly soft in the centre – glaze and drizzle more bourbon over the top.

Alternatively, you could use almond or gluten free flour – though you may have to play around with the ingredients to disguise the rice flavour, e.g. adding more butter.

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Step by step

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  • Grated whole nutmeg – Mind your fingers! I nearly lost one

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  • Crushing the chocolate

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Carrot Cake and my attempt at the 5:2 diet

You may have noticed I haven’t written anything for ages; did you miss me? Please God let one of you have! With my hugely impressive 20 or so followers I’d expect nothing less.

I hope you’ve had a nice week and cooked up a storm at home. My one was really busy. Today I enjoyed a full day of baking for my 17th birthday. 

Tragically, almost everything was inhaled beforeI got back with my camera. They said it was so good they weren’t even sorry; bastards; so I’ll go and bake them again for you soon. This  even includes my birthday cake.

My Grandma’s fake fudge is here though, and also this beautifully simple carrot cake I made for Mum’s tennis club. It was nearly gone when she’d finished her set so was clearly well received. I’ve even made it for dessert. It’s that good.

This same week, I also gave the 5:2 diet a whirl. I’ve been wanting to lose weight for ages but was pathetic at calorie counting and couldn’t force myself to exercise. If you haven’t heard of it before, the idea is that you eat normally five days a week. For the other two, just 600 calories. They aren’t consecutive and if you’re organised and thoroughly motivated, you can lose weight. How much? And will it come screaming back once you’ve reached your target? – Uncertain for most.

I was initially attracted because I loath being chained to notebooks and calculators.  And amazingly,  it’s supposed to get easy once you’ve jumped the first hurdle. Guess eating bugger all isn’t that impossible if you’re enjoying wine, cheese and crisps the next day. 

5:2 doesn’t just work because you consume less calories. Fasting damages your body. On the five days you’re unrestricted, your body burns more calories than normal to repair itself and even has to use that nasty fat around your internal organs, so you lose weight quite rapidly. And that’s always fun isn’t it?

But. I am in no way endorsing it. My first day, after enduring the saddest bowl of porridge I’ve ever had, sans brown sugar and banana, I had a cup of strong coffee with no sugar, and ice cubes, for lunch. Then I dissolved stock cubes in hot water and chewed on corn thins with Vegemite. In the afternoon I accidentally ate my sister’s jelly, rather than my Stevia one, which was choked with sugar. Forgive me for being a total moron there but I was ravenous.  Dinner was homemade hummus on toast with Jerusalem artichokes, roasted capsicum and some celery sticks… That was pretty good actually.

If you think you can stomach this diet though, listen to this – the following day I learnt just how evil the laxatives in vegetables are to an empty stomach. You get diarrhoea. Non-stop. I’m a very thorough cleaner with my bathroom but this time I literally had to scrub the crap out of my toilet.

That was my last day with 5:2 (If that wasn’t clear).

If you’d like to find out more about this event, or would like to take part, then follow this link to the host blog Bunny Eats Design – http://bunnyeatsdesign.com/our-growing-edge/

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My Mum’s Carrot Cake recipe 

Serves 20 well.

The best carrot cake ever

1 cup each of wholemeal flour (unsifted) and plain
2 cups of raw sugar (It’s honestly not too much)
2 tsp of baking soda and cinnamon
½ tsp of salt
Just under 1 cup of vegetable oil I use rice bran
4 eggs, pref. free-range and at room temp.
3 cups of grated carrots, that’s about 3 medium sized ones

Icing –
100g of Philadelphia cream cheese (my favourite), or an equally good cream cheese
50g of butter
2 cups of sifted icing sugar
1 tsp of natural vanilla extract
Handful of chopped walnuts to garnish  
Mix dry ingredients together then add the oil and stir well.

Stir in the beaten eggs and next, the carrot.

Pour into a greased cake tin that’s about 23 cm (10 in) across, or you could use one of those cool doughnut-shaped tins (Really easy shape for divvying among a large crowd).

Bake at 180C, 350F, for an hour. Do check it 15 mins early. If you need to check it a lot, cover with either baking paper or tin foil so the grill won’t burn the top as it reheats.

Leave to cool in it’s tin and then start the icing.

Blend cream cheese before adding butter, blend again, and add other ingredients.

Note -You can mix this by hand or with an electric beater, but I always use electric to get a lighter, creamier icing which spreads quickly.

Garnish with walnuts and serve. And be prepared to hear ooohs and aaahs of admiration. You could just shrug them off and point them in the direction of my blog for the recipe?

The Man Who Ate Everything review

Hi there! It’s been quite a while since my last post. Sorry for that. I’ve been working on a lot of end of term reassessments at school and haven’t been able to find the time to write; and I also forgot about it, twice. Anyway, I thought I’d try and make a real effort on this one, as it’s late…

This is a copy of a reading response I submitted as part of an English portfolio this year. I had to do about six of them and this is the only one I handed in that got an immediate excellence, which makes me very proud of it as that sort of thing doesn’t happen often – I normally have to rework it a couple of times with my teacher to bring it up to an E. I would love to hear your thoughts about it in the comments section too!

Also, I’m now going to start writing more book reviews for the blog which I think you’ll like. I’m not sure if a reading response qualifies as one though so I’m adding here my thoughts that – ‘I found “The Man Who Ate Everything” to be just brilliant. Jeffrey Steingarten’s acclaimed first compilation of essays on food most certainly lives up to it’s phenomenal praise and I thoroughly enjoyed it. His writing especially was a pleasure to read (But I wouldn’t expect anything less from the food editor of Vogue). I hope you give it a go as it’s a really cool read. Why don’t you grab a copy from your local bookstore, from the Kindle Store or at your closest library, and maybe throw in a bar of Valrhona, or if in New Zealand, a bar of Whittaker’s Peanut Butter Chocolate Block (which is my favourite chocolate, even though it’s not dark) and settle down to a few good hours of reading.

5 stars out of five. I would also recommend it as a great present for a fellow foodie.

The Man Who Ate Everything

English reading response on “The Man Who Ate Everything”, by Jeffrey Steingarten
Text type – Non-fiction, collection of food essays

For this reading responses I elected to write about the book – “The Man Who Ate Everything”, by Jeffrey Steingarten. It is a compilation of articles and essays about food, and about experimenting with food; how to make it better. One article was entirely devoted to water and about how to make it taste like everyone imagines it should. You know, that pure and delicious ethereal spring water on the crest of an ice capped Swiss mountain. All in all though, a very interesting read.

The thing that stood out to me about Steingarten while reading his book was his mildly obsessive compulsion to better the taste of his food. How he went about researching it and so on. He went to extraordinary lengths to achieve culinary perfection, or very near to it which I thought was really cool. A good example of this would be the article where he travelled through a whole lot of series of small brasseries in the French countryside until he found the perfect sauerkraut. This showing how passionate he is about his work. Or how he went all around Sicily to find the world’s best and most traditional sorbet; making me admire and truly appreciate how much work/effort Jeffrey put into his research and how devoted he is to food, (He is the food editor at Vogue after all) and it expresses his passion for it.

I think that this links to the modern world in a whole lot of ways. There are more and more people today who are passionate about food and who are intent on discovering the true nature of a dish, who are insistent on finding out more, how to make things better, how to add more dimensions to a dish. I was watching a program on Food TV where one French chef was so inexorably dedicated to the art of salads and who went on and on about how wonderful they were that he wrote a book with hundreds of different recipes for them. Every ingredient for every recipe thoroughly analysed and thought out in the most thought-provoking and inexplicably delicious way for the palate’s enjoyment.

The world needs more people like them and like Jeffrey. Can you imagine a world where food was boring, or where the true and original recipes were lost forever? It would be like Beethoven’s Ode to Joy being changed again and again over the years until nobody knew the right notes and where it sounded awful. Jeffrey gets the true recipes and improves them, him and other cooks in the world, but still stays true to the original. Very noble work in my view.

 

By the way… I would like to thank you very much for taking the time to read my blog. While writing it I never forget how invaluable my readership is and how lucky I am to have any followers at all – right now it’s floating around 20 or so. It’s not a huge number. But considering how many thousands of blogs and internet publications there are out there on the world wide web, I am very glad and consider myself very fortunate that my posts are seen by people other than myself and that I’m not just wasting effort. I hope that you noticed my post was late too.

Thank you.

P.S. If you think there is anything I could improve or add to my blog then why don’t you give me feedback on it. I would be very interested to hear your thoughts and if I implement them then they may increase my audience, which would be awesome! And if you feel like it, why don’t you pass this on?

The Paleo diet –

Animals of the Paelolithic era

I recently heard of the Paleo diet while I was making headway through some of the seemingly hundreds of emails that arrive in my inbox each week. Emails from popular food blogs, blogs I just like, online magazines, gardening circulars, etc, and while reading the latest blog post from the Lexie’s Kitchen food blog, where she was reviewing this new cookbook – by Tammy Credicott  (you can find the link to it here – http://www.lexieskitchen.com/lexies_kitchen/2013/9/23/new-book-make-ahead-paleo.html), I subsequently found out about the Paleo diet. This may only be news to me, in which case I’m sorry to disappoint you, but after a quick google search and a light skim of the official website, I found a whole lot of information about the diet and concept, which is a thought-provoking and thoroughly interesting idea.

Apparently this diet tries to mimic the eating habits of our pre-agricultural, hunter-gatherer ancestors using our modern-day foods.

The concept was first thought of by Loren Cordain PH.D (“The world’s leading expert on Palaeolithic diets and founder of the Paleo movement” – as proclaimed on the official website – http://thepaleodiet.com).

As you might expect, the type of food you’d eat if you went on the diet would be lean, whole foods. Particularly grass-fed meat and fish, fruit and veggies, nuts and eggs. Nothing that was not available to them, oh, except potato. That’s a bit of a strange one. No starchy food of any kind is meant to be eaten on the diet. According to the official website “Non-starchy fresh fruits and vegetables represent the main carbohydrate source (while on the diet) and will provide for 35-45 % of your daily calories. Almost all of these foods have low glycemic indices that are slowly digested and absorbed, and won’t spike blood sugar levels.”

While on the diet you are supposed to have a –

higher protein intake,

higher fibre

higher potassium

moderate to higher fat intake, which is mainly monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats with balanced Omega-3 and Omega-6 fats (I’m not exactly sure what these are. They sound good though.)

larger intake of, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and plant phytochemicals

lower carbohydrate and glycemic index

net dietary alkaline load that balances dietary acid

and so on and so on…

 

Following this diet also makes you healthier, helps you to lose weight and also lessens you’re chance of contracting the chronic diseases of today. Like obesity, gout, cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, acne.

The only problem that I have with the diet is that while on it you can’t consume dairy. Something I don’t think I could ever be without. I’m not sure why you’re not supposed to eat it, but as a person who doesn’t enjoy their morning coffee black and eats a surprisingly high amount of yoghurt, I can assure you that I would not be able to even try going on this diet. There’s also cheese, chocolate, mayonnaise and ice cream to think about too. None of which, incidentally, are in any way healthy.

Now you are informed at least. I thought it was an idea worth sharing and may give you something to think about next time you jump on the scales, myself included. And I guess if the diet worked for our stone age ancestors, it should work for us as we are genetically predisposed to follow their eating habits and are hardwired for them.


Some other interesting sources of info –

The paleo diet blog – http://thepaleodiet.com/the-paleo-diet-blog/

http://www.stuff.co.nz/life-style/food-wine/food-news/9208848/What-to-know-about-paleo

http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/86dcab6e-26c7-11e3-9dc0-00144feab7de.html

and obviously, – http://thepaleodiet.com/

 

The following is a list that will give you a rough idea of the foods you can and cannot consume if you intend to go on the Paleo diet. You will need to look at some of the books dedicated to the subject for a more comprehensive one .

 

Eat –

Grass-produced meats

 Fish/seafood

Fresh fruits and veggies

Eggs

Nuts and seeds

Healthy oils (Olive, walnut, flaxseed, macadamia, avocado, coconut)

 

Don’t eat –

      Cereal grains

        Legumes (including peanuts)

        Dairy

        Refined sugar

        Potatoes

        Salt

        Refined vegetable oils

 

 

 

 

 

Lemonade

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lemons

Lemonade is one of the most refreshing drinks you can make yourself. It’s easy. Delicious. And it’s choked with enough sugar to rev you up and let you walk on the ceiling if you want to.

When I tried to quit my soft drink addiction, this recipe really, really helped. For one, it takes a fair bit of effort to make large batches, so you’re forced to make it last instead of chugging it down within an hour of making it. Small batches are really quick though.

And if you or a neighbour are lucky enough to have a lemon tree, it’s very economical. The price of supermarket lemons borders on nightmarish so this may have to be one of your treats for Summer and Autumn.

Two things you need to know if you’ve never made it before –

You’ve got to find sour lemons. There are some varieties which are really, really sweet and taste like a mild grapefruit. They make crap lemonade. If your lemons are fairly mild, just so long as they don’t taste like grapefruit, you can still make it. It just won’t pack the same punch or achieve the liveliness you’re after. And if the ones you get are waxed, give them a really good scrub in the sink before you grate their zest.

Secondly, you have to make it in advance to allow its flavour to develop and intensify. After two days it will really  brighten up. And this is not unique to lemonade but to curries, bolognese, soup. It also lets the sugar soften the sharpness of the lemons which I have never achieved with same day lemonade.

Lastly, while writing this post I thought of a description that I think would be very good on the back of a lemonade bottle. –

Lemonade encapsulates the liveliness of Spring and Summer. Each and every sip reminds you of warm, gentle memories picnicking at the beach, playing outside with your cousins and friends. It evokes scents like wild flowers blossoming in hedge groves, the buzzing of bees and cicadas from it’s characteristic frothiness. All bottled up in one rather simple, old-fashioned drink.

– Just waiting for that call from Sprite or 7 Up… Even L & P.

Anyway, here is the recipe –

Note – I’ve specified “around” quanitites for the sugar/honey and did so because I prefer a sharper, stronger lemonade so I often use a little less than recipes call for. You may prefer a sweeter one. So I’ll leave it up to you.

You’ll have to play around with anyway because your lemon variety may not yield as much juice as mine or it could be a lot less tangy. If you’re not feeling confident, I suggest making it exactly to the recipe and then adjusting it after the two days. Take notes for the next time you make it. Because you will want to.

Homemade Lemonade

Recipe excerpted from the newly revised “Mrs Beeton’s How to Cook” recipe book, made by Gerard Baker. A terrific and beautiful cookbook.

Finely grated zest of 2 lemons, and juice of 3

Around 150g of caster sugar, or about 120g mild English honey

1L of tap water

Combine all ingredients in a large, glass jug. Cover with clingfilm and put in the fridge for a couple of days, stirring occasionally. When steeped, pour the liquid through a sieve into a new glass jug and use within 1 week of making.

Cocktail Science: Is Tap Water Ruining Your Homemade Cocktails?

Broken faucet

This is a link to a review by Kevin Liu, from Serious Eats and is a very interesting read. It’s also quite similar, but does not go into the same depth as Jeffrey Steingarten’s article about water in his book “The Man Who Ate Everything”. which is a brilliant compillation of all of his food essays for the food and wine section at Vogue Magazine. Anyway, this article is all about minerals in water and how they affect it’s overall taste.

http://drinks.seriouseats.com/2013/08/cocktail-science-is-water-ruining-your-cocktails-hard-water-hacking-perfect-water-minerals.html?ref=title

Herman the German

Herman the German is quite a new discovery of mine which you probably haven’t heard of before and is obviously, the subject of this new post.

My Granddad got given a split of culture recently from his very good friend and hairdresser Mike, and he grew it and made a delicious German sourdough cake with it, and quite successfully. When the time came for him to split his culture, he passed some on to me and I have been having great fun cooking with it.

What is it?

It’s essentially just a yeast culture that you grow for ten days and you have to remember to stir it daily and you have to feed it twice with 1 cup of milk, flour and sugar. Then you can make a cake with it. At the end of the ten days you split the culture into four and give two to your friends. You keep the other two to yourself, one to start a new culture with, the second to bake a cake. Each time you split the culture, you have to start it as on day one of the instructions.

It’s really easy and is a great excuse for people to go and see family members and friends face to face (as you have to find some people to unload your split cultures on) and you can talk experimenting, give tips and exchange advice and so on.

And it is made all the more worthwhile by its delicious results.

I also think that this would be a fantastic project to start with small children, especially in winter. If you like to grow herbs and small plants with them in Summer, then why don’t you grow culture and bake cakes in Winter with them? It makes great sense and seeing that it’s alive, it bubbles and gets bigger each day, it should definitely be very exciting for them to play with.

To start –

You can easily make a Herman culture at home and grow it to be used in a cake; or you can wait for a friend to give you a quarter of their culture for you to grow yourself.

How to make the culture –

Ingredients –

  • 140 g / 5 oz plain flour
  • 225 g / 8oz castor sugar
  • 1 packet of active dry yeast (2tsp)
  • 235 mls / Half a pint of warm milk
  • 59 mls / 2 fl oz. of warm water

Method –

  1. Dissolve the yeast in warm water for 10 minutes then stir.
  2. Add the flour and sugar then mix thoroughly.
  3. Slowly stir in the warm milk.
  4. Cover the bowl in a clean cloth.
  5. Leave in a cool dry place for 24 hours
  6. Now proceed from day one of the 10 day cycle.

Now that it’s made, you can start growing it!

The Herman the German Cake Instructions –

I recommend that you bake a double cake if you can’t find enough/or any people who want some of the culture. But if you don’t want to do that, then there is still hope. You can actually freeze the culture for a couple of months. Just ensure that you take it out and give it a day or two to thaw so you can see it’s still bubbling, because if it isn’t then it’s dead! Then use as on day 10.

Or restart it on day 1 if you’d like. It’s a pretty cool culture.

If you’d like to find out more about Herman then simply type him into your search engine and it should come up with the official Herman the German Friendship Cake website, which is dedicated to the cake and gives you tips and new recipes, even ones for bread!, and it allows you to engage with other bakers and talk experimenting.

This is just the recipe for the basic cake. My Granddad and I have adapted it though as we found the recipe on the official website to be far too gluey and, actually, not very nice, so we’ve dropped the quantity of flour by half. That’s all we did.

Enjoy!!!

Recipe –

Ingredients –

2 cups of flour, sugar and milk (skim or full-fat. DO NOT USE TRIM THOUGH! Trim is beyond revolting and tastes like watered down white wash. Honestly, use slim milk! I cannot say this in enough capitals.)

Method –

Stir each day for 10 days. Leave uncovered on your kitchen bench, or somewhere where it won’t get knocked over. Leave covered with a paper towel (if you have cats or rabbits in the house, also cover with a wire cooling rack. It should keep them off it). On the fourth and ninth days also add 1 cup of flour, sugar and milk and stir thoroughly.

On the 10th day split the mixture into 4, give two parts away, keep one to start a new culture and use the last to bake a cake. See recipe below.

Note –

If you are not very confident in the prospect of forcing two spare cultures onto your friends and relatives, or in being able to hand it over and have it received gladly even; then there is hope! You don’t have to just bake a double cake and freeze some if you don’t want to. I came up with the idea of not adding the cup of flour, sugar and milk on day 9 and splitting into two on day 10. You effectively have two cultures as opposed to four and the weights roughly add up. I pulled this off quite successfully. But if it doesn’t for you then please comment at the bottom.
German Sourdough Cake
Ingredients –
1 cup of raw or brown sugar (225g, 8 oz)
1 cup of plain flour, sifted (150g, 5.3 oz
2 tsp of baking powder
1/2 tsp of flowing salt
2/3 cup of oil
2 eggs, pref. free-range and at room temp.
2 tsp of vanilla extract
2 tsp of cinnamon
1 cup of raisins or sultanas
Large handful of crystallised ginger cut into chunks (it may say glacé ginger on the packet)
1 split Herman the German (on day 1)

To top – (optional)
1/4 cup of brown sugar
1/4 cup of melted butter

Vary by adding whatever you’d like. Walnuts, apple chunks, dessicated coconut, citrus peel, anything you have on hand that you think would suit. Change essence to compliment.

Method –

Combine everything in a large bowl, preferably in that of a cake mixer, and mix well to combine. Line your chosen baking tin with baking parchment and pour in the mixture. Drizzle over the butter and brown sugar, if using, and bake at 180 degrees C, 350 degrees F in a fan-forced oven for 45-60 mins. When it’s been in for 45 test with a skewer to see if it’s cooked (so no bits of gungy mixture) and if it comes out clean – you’re away laughing. A nicely cooked and delicious cake! If not, pop it back in for a few mins, check again and keep checking until it’s ready.

Important to note –

If you notice that the top of your cake is looking a little too brown  or just perfect and you don’t want it to brown further, simply cover with either baking paper or tin foil. This will prevent it from colouring further.

This cake freezes well and should be kept for no longer than 1 year. Check on it after 3 months though. Wrap carefully.