Friday, 27 March 2020

Very Easy White Butter Cake, a Family Recipe and Never a Failure.



 I'm back to baking this weekend and it feels great. This delicious cake to mind, when ingredients are so hard to come by in the supermarket during this critical period of increased stocking up by so many people, and rationing of the number of ingredients we can buy is the new normal. It was a favourite of my Mum's to bake, and of ours to eat. Mr. HRK loved it as well once he appeared on the scene and we started dating. All the ingredients are in my pantry staples, although strangely flour is hard to come by now as well. Who would have ever thought that in my lifetime the supermarket shelves would be devoid of such a staple as flour, and that I would be purchasing it from the corner shop for twice the price.



 This was one of my Mother's favourite cakes to bake and now I realise that possibly part of the reason was that  there are no "fancy" ingredients in it and it's a cinch to make. My mum was a very good cook and there were always home baked cakes and biscuits in the kitchen, but often made with fairly simple ingredients, which was the norm when I was growing up. Mixed dried fruits, dried apricots, sultanas, various chopped nuts,  apples, corn flakes, weet bix, rolled oats, coffee powder, canned pineapple, and cocoa were some of the staples in her pantry available to add to the normal basic ingredients of flour, sugar, butter and eggs. In her baking I rarely saw her using dark chocolate (80%) , alcohol (except at Christmas time), dried cranberries, frozen berries like raspberries and blueberries, or almond or hazelnut meal. Items we generally take for granted under normal circumstances, but how things have changed.

There is a new normal now, and until this corrosive corona pandemic is over, I am making my life easier and only cooking with what is readily available and with what is in my pantry, as much as possible. It's back to basics my friends, which can still be damn delicious and interesting.

This cake can be served just with butter or iced. I had some lemon icing left over from a carrot cake which I had stored in the frig, so I have used that as I was running out of icing.

Let's Cook:

Preheat your oven to 170 deg. Fan Forced, 190 deg. Conventional, or 375 deg. Farenheit.




Ingredients:

110 g softened butter (1/4 lb)
2 eggs at room temperature
1/2 cup milk
1 cup castor sugar (ordinary white sugar can be used)
1 1/2 cups sifted good quality SR flour, or use baking powder and plain flour to make your own
Few drops vanilla essence

Method:

Grease and line a loaf tin with baking paper. I used an inherited  22 cm x 14 cm loaf tin.

Place all ingredients in your Mix Master bowl and beat for about 4 minutes until all are well mixed. The mixture will look white and fluffy.



Spoon into your lined baking tin.



Bake the cake batter in a moderate oven for about 45 minutes. Test whether it is cooked or not with a skewer. When the skewer comes out clean it is cooked. Leave to cool in the tin for 30 minutes and turn out carefully onto a cooling rack. Leave to cool before icing if you are serving this up to friends. This didn't happen in my kitchen of course, as we were hovering around it waiting for morning tea, so it was iced when it was still warm, which resulted in a delightfully gooey icing and cake combination with a sprinkle of coconut. This isn't what my Mum would have approved of at all, Bless her Heart.


I know you will love it.

What are you doing with your extra time at home? Last week cooking wasn't my priority as I started sewing again. We also had quite a worrying and time consuming drama with our beehive, but that story can wait for another time. Hopefully we are now back on track. With plenty of time on my hands it's good to know I can devote some of it to a sewing project.  It occurred to me that if I ended up sick in hospital what on earth would I wear that I feel really comfortable in? It's not the time to go shopping for new clothing and I felt the need for some new night wear so I started making a new nightgown (nightie) and actually finished it yesterday. I do have pyjamas, but nightgowns are very comfortable to sleep in. I used a home drafted pattern given to me by a very clever and lovely family friend living in Sydney, who was trained in England in weaving and designing fabric, and drafting and dressmaking around fifty years go, give or take, back in the day when it was recognised as a very worthwhile career for women and perhaps some men. She went on to do very well in the British fashion industry. Annie understands Warp and Weft and was trained to weave and design her own fabrics on the now superceded cotton weaving machines. Such a great story. She now makes some beautiful clothing for her grandchildren, lucky them and occasionally still makes silks for jockeys and some of her own clothing.

Not feeling very confident about my first sewing venture in a while, I decided to make this a trial run out of less expensive fabric I had, hoping I would still be able to wear it at home though. So I used a cotton sheet with a nice pattern which I don't use any more, and a piece of plain fabric for the back of the garment which colour coordinated with the front. Along the way, I learned on Youtube about making and cutting my own bias tape from the same fabric instead of using store bought bias binding, and many other useful things I can tell you. Mr. HRK thinks the finished product still looks like a sheet, LOL,  but I am pleased with it, and now I'm feeling confident to use some nicer and more expensive fabric for the next one. The main thing is I really enjoyed doing it, learned a lot, used my brain in a different way,  and the week went really quickly, whilst still social isolating.

We also went out and bought some seedlings yesterday from Bunnings, there aren't many available so my purchases only included beans, mint and parsley. I planted them this morning so it might be seeds from my seed bank from now on.

Have a nice weekend everyone and stay well. Thanks for dropping by, I would love to hear from you.

Best wishes,
Pauline x


Wednesday, 18 March 2020

Portabello Mushroom Toast with Goat's Cheese, Pine Nuts and Chives, a perfect breakfast treat

Let's start our day with a delicious and healthy breakfast.  I now think of Breakfast, as an easy way to treat ourselves to something special, tasty and not necessarily expensive or time consuming, and to give us an important psychological and healthy boost to the day. This dish is also a perfect meal  for a Meat Free Monday dinner served with a delicious salad. Choosing Meat Free Mondays in our eating habits and reducing our met intake,  are simple ways to show respect for the mission by many to improve our own health and the health of the planet. 

I'm a cook and food writer, not a scientist, but I was interested to read that the BBC was quoting scientists when it said  that whilst there is no silver bullet to climate change, the humble mushroom has a role to play. The Mycelium, or the vast root systems of mushrooms, play an important role throughout various processes by improving the nutrient content of the soils. Those richer soils then encourage biodiversity by supporting diverse plant life..

Mushrooms make a surprisingly "meaty" accompaniment to anything from a baked potato gratin to a grain salad. Large Portobello mushrooms can be prepared like toast, and that is just what I did with these. Only not toasted, but grilled. This is such an easy way to cook big, flat, fresh mushrooms. Mushrooms, goat's cheese, pine nuts, and freshly snipped chives from the garden, what's not to love about this vegetarian dish for a weekend brekkie? Add a little finely chopped garlic straight onto the mushrooms if you wish. 

Portobello Mushroom Toast with Goat's Cheese, Pine Nuts and Chives, perfect for meat free Mondays

 I'll only buy mushrooms if they are available to buy loose and not packaged in plastic.  At least 14 million tons of plastic end up in the oceans every year, with plastic making up 80% of all marine debris found from surface waters to deep-sea sediments (IUCN). Marine species are suffering severely from ingesting or becoming entangled by plastic debris. We all know this, and yet supermarkets continue to use so much plastic wrapping on their produce. Storing mushrooms them in the refrigerator crisper in a brown paper bag is the most sensible storage option.

I try to cook mainly with vegetables that are in season, and cooking with mushrooms is an easy decision as they are available all year round now in our shops in the Southern Hemisphere. I hope it's the same for those of you in the Northern Hemisphere. Mushrooms must be very fresh or they are not worth cooking,Wash them well, and most importantly, dry them well.  

Portobello Mushroom Toast with Goat's Cheese, Pine Nuts and Chives

Ingredients:

Serves 2

4 Portobello mushrooms 
Slurp of olive oil on each one
60 g soft goats cheese (Meredith Dairy soft goats cheese works well), or choose hard cheese
2 tablespoons pine nuts
2 handfuls of fresh chives, snipped



Method:

Turn the oven grill to high.

Place the mushrooms open side up on the baking tray, drizzle with the oil and season with a pinch of salt and plenty of black pepper. 

Place under the grill for 3 minutes.



Remove the mushrooms from the grill, dot on the Goat's cheese and sprinkle with the pine nuts.

Place the mushrooms back under the grill for a further 2 minutes until Goats cheese is further softened and pine nuts are toasted. The pine nuts need to be watched as they will burn if left under the grill for too long.

Sprinkle on the snipped chives to serve. 

Served with homemade spicy tomato relish, or any savoury relish, in my opinion these rival any meal served in a cafe for brekkie. Add delicious bread on the side if you wish.




Say healthy,

Saturday, 14 March 2020

Gorgeous German Plum Cake



Ripe blood plums are in season at the moment, however in North Queensland unfortunately they aren't available for long.  Inspired by a delicious Plum cake we ate at the Groove cafe in Annerley on a visit to South Brisbane, and because I was entertaining my Mahjong friends who love a good cake, I made this very special plum cake. The recipe was originally created  by Stephanie Alexander, and she called it Mieze's Plum Cake, after a German friend of hers who introduced her to this cake. I think this would be a perfect cake to bake over Easter, for a special meal.

This is a large mixture, capable of serving 12 people for dessert, if it is baked in a 28 cm spring form tin. If you aren't feeding a crowd, just halve this recipe and use a smaller spring form tin.

The less cake mixture in the base the better, so only filling the cake tin a quarter full with the cake mixture is the preferable way to make the cake. It rises so well. I have also baked this in a smaller 23 cm tin and used the extra batter to bake a smaller cake for Mr. HRK. That kept him happy until the other one was served up a day later.


Ingredients:

275 g softened butter
250 g sugar
200 g plain flour
200 g self-raising flour
pinch of salt
3 eggs, lightly beaten
100 ml milk
1 cup ground almonds or fresh breadcrumbs
20 ripe blood plums, halved and stoned


TOPPING

125 g butter
200 g sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
4 eggs

Preheat oven to 180 deg C and lightly grease a 28 cm spring form tin. Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy, then mix in flours and salt. Add eggs and milk to make a soft dough ( the mixture should drop easily from the spoon.) Spoon batter into prepared tin (it should not fill more than a quarter of the depth of the tin as the cake rises a great deal) then sprinkle over the ground almonds. Arrange the plums, cut-side up, on top,starting around outside edge and working towards centre. (Have one yourself as they are delicious.)




To make the topping, melt the butter and stir in the sugar and cinnamon, then allow to cool. Whisk eggs well and stir into cooled butter mixture. Spoon over and around plums on top of cake. Bake for 1 hour, and test with a skewer that the cake is cooked in the centre.

Serve warm with cream or ice-cream. Any leftover cake can be warmed up, wrapped in foil in the oven at 180 deg. C for 15 minutes. There won't be much left over though, I assure you.

Thanks Stephanie Alexander, this is a brilliant recipe.

Best wishes

Pauline




Thursday, 12 March 2020

Quick Blueberry Self Saucing Pudding





Need a quick but delicious pudding for dessert just because you want some comfort food in a hurry on a rainy and windy day, or for just no particular reason?  A self saucing pudding always hits the mark. This post is laced with nostalgia, focusing on a pudding recipe that Mr. HRK passed on to me from his Mum Jessie, a long time ago. All of the ingredients were already in my pantry so that was easy. I added dried blueberries to the batter instead of using currants or sultanas, as that's what I had left over from making my Rustic Blueberry Scones. I always try to keep a couple of packets of dried blueberries on hand as they come in so handy.

I thought this pudding was really delicious, however Mr. HRK said he prefers it with sultanas, but he still managed to eat half of it in one sitting with egg custard. We have a joke in our family about favourite family recipes, and I hear their voices in my head regularly, "Don't mess with the original recipe Mum". Sometimes I go a little bit deaf though and make a couple of tweeks to the recipe just to make life interesting. Sultanas and mixed dried fruit would have been much more economical to use than dried blueberries when Jessie was probably making this dessert in the 60s and 70s.. I don't remember ever seeing dried blueberries during that era, they would have been a luxury item, however I love eating them now.

Before we went on holidays 2 months ago I used up a lot of my more perishable pantry items and didn't replace them, including dried fruit as it is a long time to be out of the house and during the wet season things can go a bit mouldy, not that they did this time. So I have been gradually stocking up again on essentials as I realise a need, including dare I say, toilet paper ha, ha.

Ingredients:

1 cup SR flour (or sift 1 cup of plain flour and 2 teaspoons of baking powder)
1/2 cup dried blueberries or currants, sultanas or any mixed fruit ( I used Angus Park dried Blueberries) Throw in some more if you like it really fruity.
1 level tablespoon butter
1 level tablespoon golden syrup
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup sugar or 1/4 cup honey ( if you don't like things too sweet)
pinch salt

Let's Cook:

Mix flour, dried blueberries, milk, sugar and salt into a dough. Press into a greased pie dish.

Mix 1 cup boiling water with the butter to the golden syrup, and pour slowly  and gently over the dough.










Bake for 30 minutes in a moderate oven.

The following are photos from a time previously when I made this with mixed fruit in a pyrex pie dish. It still tasted delicious.





Happy cooler days, hoping we have seen the last of the heat. Have a wonderful weekend my friends and please stay healthy.

Best wishes, 

Pauline

PS to my blogging friends who use Google Blogger, my spellcheck function has disappeared
from my list of tabs, is it still on yours. Thanks . I'm having trouble with formatting on this post so perhaps its all linked.

Saturday, 7 March 2020

The Falkland Island's Gentoo Penguins and a fresh Mango, Coriander and Corn salad






Dear Friends,

You can use what you have on hand for this salad but the fresh ingredients of mango, cherry  tomatoes, cucumber, pumpkin, shallots and coriander really pack such a punch of flavour into the rest of the ingredients. No need for a dressing at all. The beauty of a salad is that it can be anything you like, served for main course, a side dish or just a nourishing bowl to munch on. This is the easiest salad ever, it's the many ingredients which bring the flavour to the dish and we loved it.

It's great to be home again after being away for 7 weeks in the Falkland Islands, Chile and Peru and I am embracing the freedom of eating salads. A lot can happen on such a trip and it did, some good and some not so good. I hope to share some of my stories with you over the next few months and once the jet lag settles, and my mojo returns I have lots of recipes to try and experiences to share.

This post is dedicated to the amazing and quite gregarious Gentoo Penguins we visited on the Falkland Islands.



We just couldn't get enough of the Penguins on East Falklands Island, so I thought I would share a Penguin story with you. We drove along the beach in our son's Falkland's inherited Land Rover, to Bertha's Beach, located on Fitzroy Farm, a very large working sheep farm, (and there's a whole book written about the fleet of Falkland Island's Land Rovers if you are interested). People are often recognised by the Land Rover they drive in Stanley, so as we had use of it for the month that we lived in the Falklands, we received lots of friendly and knowing waves from locals, ha, ha.  We saw this gorgeous colony of Gentoo Penguins on the beach and in the moorland. Suzi and Gilberto who manage Fitzroy Farm for Falklands Landholdings gave us permission, via Matthew,  to access the beach (for a bottle of red wine) and along with a few tourist buses we were treated to the beauty, magic, and wonderfully inquisitive personalities of these intriguing animals. Here we are driving in Matthew's Land Rover along the beach towards the parking lot near Bertha's Beach and the penguins.



Bertha's Beach is located only 6 miles from the Mt. Pleasant Military Base and Airport at Stanley, which is where we flew into on LATAM Airlines, on arriving at the Falkland Islands. Such an interesting part of the world to be driving through a high security military zone, before entering a pristine and protected penguin sanctuary. Besides managing one of the largest sheep farms on the islands, Suzi and Gilberto are also quite self sufficient and very eco friendly on their own farming patch, rearing pigs, chickens, orphaned lambs, and growing what fruit and vegetables they can, weather permitting. The extreme weather at times in the Falkland Islands can be very challenging. Suzi invited us into her lovely home for a cup of tea and then showed us around their farm. Such beautiful country hospitality and an amazing day. Thanks so much Suzi and Gilberto.

We were so excited when we arrived at the beach and saw all of the Penguins. Many hungry Penguin chicks were waiting on the beach for their Mother's to return from the ocean to feed them. Interestingly the adult penguins feed in the ocean close to the shore, they don't venture into the deeper ocean like some breeds do.

Mum feeding her hungry chick.

Beautiful countryside back from the beach near where we had lunch. Matthew's Land Rover features in the background.


We were told not to approach the Penguins and keep a distance of at least 3 metres from them however some were quite inquisitive and approached us. There was also lots of seaweed and kelp on the white sandy beach which is abundant throughout the Falkland Island oceans.

I never thought that I, a food lover, would lose my appetite to the extent I did in Peru. The effects of High altitude in Cusco and Puno, I wouldn't call it altitude sickness in my case, plus a bout of food poisoning which is pretty common despite extreme hygiene and precautions, left me living on boiled eggs and toast, and Coca tea infusions for three days during our last week there, only a week before this last one. We spent our final two South American nights in Santiago in Chile in the beautiful Hotel Cumbres, organised by our tour company Chimu. This was such a panacea before we embarked on our flight back to Sydney, connecting to Brisbane and Mackay. Mr. HRK had a chest infection for some of the trip, and on presenting himself to our local GP on arriving home was of course tested for Corona Virus and many other things. He is now fine. Anyway we are here to tell the tale and I think we should have taken this trip to Peru and Chile 20 years ago. However many of the travellers half our age were suffering from altitude sickness in various forms as well, and oxygen tanks are readily available for use in most hotels and restaurants. The first 10 minutes of usage is free of charge. It helps with the breathlessness. I had organised for medication to take for altitiude sickness from my GP before we left Australia so we only suffered from breathlessness and loss of appetite, not the severe headaches and nausea.

On  our return to Mackay, our good friend Mr. S collected us from the airport and waiting for us in an esky on the patio was a cooked piece of Corned Silverside, a delicius Mango and Coriander salad that I am featuring today, and a healthy quinoa salad made by Mrs. S. Wow my appetite returned on the spot, and our dinner that night will be remembered by me as one of the best I have ever eaten. Eating freshly prepared salads and fruits can be a risky undertaking in Peru and Chile when travelling, because of the risk of contamination and water impurities which I probably found out the hard way. So it was just amazing to be able to demolish this delicious food without any qualms. This is my version of the salad which Mr. and Mrs. S made for us.

.Ingredients:

1 roughly chopped Kite Mango, or any firm mango
1 cup chopped cooked pumpkin
2 tablespoons chopped coriander of more if you really are a coriander fan (to taste really)
1 drained can of corn kernels
4 shredded lettuce leaves
2 cups roughly chopped cucumber
1 chopped red capsicum
2 cups finely chopped carrot
1 cup cranberries
1 drained can chickpeas
1 punnet chopped cherry tomatoes
1/2 cup chopped shallots or more if you like the zing
1/2 cup baby capers

Method:

Mix all the ingredients together and refrigerate. Add the pumpkin, mango and tomatoes just before serving if you prefer so it is all perfectly fresh, however this keeps in the refrigerator very well for a few days.

Thankfully we organised our Peruvian and Chilean tours through a Sunshine Coast travel company named Chimu, who then outsource all of the tours through various South American tour companies. In Peru, Chimu organised for the Tourist doctor to come and visit me and prescribe medication, which is challenging enough when I don't speak Spanish and they don't speak English, however we all did our best and I have survived to tell the tale.

One of the challenges of an extended but still temporary stay in the Falkand Islands is that there is no free WiFi anywhere. Even in the Tourist Information Centre, WiFi access is only available through SURE, the Telco, for a 5 pound minimum. I soon discovered that  creating a Facebook post from there can quickly use up a 10 pound credit. So consequently given our travels, I am very behind with reading my favourite bloggers posts and I may never catch up, so thank you everyone for bearing with me. I am still in the land of the living.

So my friends do you remember after returning from an overseas trip how much you enjoyed your first meal back on Australian soil. We live in such an amazing country here in Australia, despite the challenges we face at times. Peru is after all a third world country, but incredibly rugged and beautiful,  and despite some food and high altitude issues for tourists, the people as a whole are very warm and accommodating. It was an amazing holiday.


Best wishes,

Pauline