Saturday, 30 April 2011

Pea & Ham & Sausage Soup

This post is from M & B's parents today!!

The second of our soup series.  Another hearty and warming recipe, although this version brings an added taste and variety to the old favourite.

As a footie fanatic back in the VFL days in Melbourne, I would not go to a match without my thermos of pea and ham soup.  At half time the cups would be filled and not only would our insides be brought back to a decent temperature, but so too, would our frozen hands, as they wrapped around that inviting cup of pea and ham soup. Ahhh, the memories.
This is a recipe from the “ABC Delicious comfort book”, page 16. It is a Pea and Ham with add-ins and serves 6. The split peas should be soaked overnight. 


2 ½ cups dried green split peas (soak overnight in cold water)
1tbls olive oil
30g unsalted butter
2 onions finely chopped
1 carrot finely chopped
2 celery stalks finely chopped
2 x smoked ham hocks*
1 cup dry white wine
1 cup chicken or vegetable stock
2 tsp thyme leaves
2 bay leaves
Grated zest of 1 lemon
150g sour cream
¼ cup flat leaf parsley plus extra to serve
8 mixed smoked sausages such as cabanossi, Vienna franks, bratwurst and kransky*

Rye bread to serve
Drain soaked peas, rinse and drain again.
Heat the oil and butter in a large heavy based saucepan over medium heat. Add onion carrot and celery. Cook, stirring for 5 minutes or until softened. Add ham, peas wine, stock, herbs, zest and 1.5L of water. Bring to the boil over med-high heat, skimming any foam on surface. Reduce heat to low. Simmer, partially covered for 2 hours until ham and peas are tender, stirring occasionally to prevent catching and topping up with water if it becomes too thick. Remove ham from soup. Cool, then peel and shred meat discarding skin and bone.

Stir sour cream and parsley into soup. If you prefer a smoother soup, coolslightly then puree half in a blender. Return to heat with ham and heat through.
Meanwhile cook sausages in boiling water for 3 minutes to heat through. Drain and transfer to a plate and slice. Serve soup topped with sliced sausages and extra parsley. Whole sausage can be served on the side with rye bread.

*From delis and butchers

Enjoy  M & B's parents xx

Thursday, 28 April 2011

Raspberry macaroon tarts

I have this thing lately, raspberry and chocolate together. I can't seem to get enough, one week it was "brownies", the next "white chocolate and raspberry muffins" and one thing I think my gorgeous family is glad I've moved on from, is raspberry and white chocolate friands!! They were made on a regular basis and I don't blame my lot for the groan I get if I mention them.

I found another recipe....yes it is raspberry and chocolate....but in a macaroon tart. It was just jumping out of the Donna Hay - Off the Shelf  book wanting me to make it, so of course I had to give it a go. If you like the crunch of coconut and the flavour of chocolate and raspberries this one is a winner.

I did have a little difficultly in removing my tarts, but that was because I didn't read the recipe properly (yes B I do stuff up....occasionally!) They were supposed to be in tins with removeable bases, but I jumped the gun and put them in this great tart tin I have, thinking it would be ok. So the pictures I have aren't very pretty but the taste.....I can't repeat the words Mr M used to describe them when he first took a bite but can tell you when he first layed eyes on them he did say "did something happen to them" thanks Mr M for the vote of confidence!!

I will most definitely try these little babies again but in my tart tins with the removeable bases.

You will need (page 155 Donna Hay - off the shelf - cooking from the pantry)
3 egg whites
3/4 cup sugar
3 cups desiccated coconut
1/2 cup cream
125g dark chocolate, chopped
2 eggs
2 tablespoons caster sugar
2 tablespoons self-raising flour, sifted
200g raspberries

Preheat oven to 140 degrees(280F). Combine the egg whites, sugar and coconut to make the macaroon mixture and divide between 6 x 8 cm well-oiled tart tins with removable bases. Press firmly over the base and sides. Bake for 25-30minutes or until the macaroon is firm.

To make the filling, place the cream and chocolate in a saucepan over low heat and stir until smooth. Set aside. Place the eggs and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer and beat until light and creamy. Fold through the flour and chocolate mixture.

Spoon the mixture into the macaroon shells and top with the raspberries. Bake at 160 degrees (325F) for 25 minutes or until the filling is just firm. Cool in the tins.

You can use unthawed frozen raspberries to top the tarts if you prefer.

Yum! M x

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Beef and Barley Soup

With winter just around the corner our thoughts start turning to menus and recipes that have warmth…………. broths, soups and casseroles.  What could be better than a plate of warm soup with a crusty piece of bread, especially if you can get away with curling up in front of a good movie in your favourite comfortable chair?

There are literally hundreds of soup recipes out there, but if we can suggest a few proven favourites over the coming weeks how good would that be.

First up, is a true hearty tummy warmer straight from “The Australian Women’s Weekly cook it freeze it” cook book, page 10. It was the photo of this dish on the cover that caught my eye and “made“ me buy the book.  The fact that this soup can be frozen is a bonus. This recipe feeds 6 and once the prepping is completed it takes care of itself

1tbls olive oil
500g gravy beef, trimmed, diced into 2.5cm pieces
2 cloves garlic crushed
2 medium brown onions chopped finely
¾ cup pearl barley
3 cups beef stock
1.5 litres water
1 bay leaf
1 sprig fresh rosemary
1 sprig fresh thyme
2 medium potatoes diced into 1cm pieces
2 medium carrots diced into 1cm pieces
2 medium zucchini diced into 1cm pieces
2 medium yellow patty-pan squash diced into 1cm pieces
100g swiss brown mushrooms chopped coarsely
½ cup finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

Heat half the oil in a large saucepan. Cook beef in batches until browned.

Heat the remaining oil in the same pan. Cook garlic and onion stirring until onion softens. Return beef to pan with barley, stock, the water, bay leaf, rosemary and thyme, bring to the boil. Reduce heat , simmer covered about 1 hour or until beef and barley are tender, skimming fat occasionally.
Add potato, carrot, zucchini, squash and mushrooms to soup. Simmer, covered about 25 minutes or until vegetables are softened.

Discard bay leaf, rosemary and thyme sprigs and serve in bowls sprinkled with parsley.

Enjoy M & B x

Saturday, 23 April 2011

Cake-Shop Vanilla Slice

Thinking back to my childhood I actually wasn't a huge fan of the old custard slice. I couldn't really say that it was the first thing I chose at the bakery. The thing that sticks in my memory about them is how messy they are when taking that first bite....the custard oozing out everywhere and if you had fresh cream with it that would just fall out onto the plate!! I think the fresh cream actually turned me off them when I was young. I think you are either a fan of lots of cream or not so much.

One place I do remember as a kid which would have the BIGGEST custard slices that I'd ever seen was "Miss Maud's". We would frequent there on occasions when we were out on shopping trips with Mum and Dad. I think the real attraction was the kids plate you could order - toasted ham and cheese sandwiches with plain potato thin crisps on the plate with some fairy bread. Every kid's dream. Dad would have the custard slice and it had about three layers, a pastry layer in between two custard layers and the top layer had icing spread across the top (not great for the diet Dad!). My dear sister B? Well she was OBSESSED with this cake they had, a traditional Swedish cake called Princess Cake (you may have seen it at Ikea?). She mainly loved it as the icing was made out of pure marzipan. I think B would have been happy just sitting there eating a ball of marzipan if she could have!! (In fact that's just what she did, mum had bought this little marzipan frog cake decoration and B quietly snuck off somewhere and eaten the whole thing!!)

Back to the custard slice or I'm going to get fired from writing any future blogs and letting little secrets out about B. I like my custard slice to be a little firmer than some and have made a few over the years, with some being a success and some not so successful. One that I did find that we really liked and was quite simple to make was from Janelle Bloom's book "Fab Food for Family and Friends". I have made it a few times and have halved the recipe also to make the height not so high but for you today I have gone the whole hog!!

Janelle says that this recipe has been a closely guarded secret in her family for years so of course it would have to be good!! We like it.

4 sheets ready rolled frozen puff pastry, thawed
1/3 cup white sugar
3/4 cup custard powder
1/2 cup cornflour
1 cup caster sugar
2 cups milk
2 cups thickened cream (yes I know!!)
60g butter, chopped
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 egg yolks
pure icing sugar, for dusting

Place a flat baking tray into the oven and preheat the oven and tray to 220 degrees no fan/200 degrees fan forced or gas mark 7-8.

Place 1 sheet of pastry onto a sheet of baking paper, sprinkle with 1 tablespoon of white sugar and gently roll into the pastry with a rolling pin. Top with a second sheet of pastry, sprinkle with another tablespoon of sugar and gently roll into the pastry.

Working quickly , lift the pastry, still on the baking paper, onto the hot tray. Top with a sheet of baking paper, then place another tray on top. Bake for 10 minutes. Remove the top tray and bake for a further 10 minutes, or until golden. Remove from the oven and place second tray on top of cooked pastry and gently press to condense the pastry layers. Remove the pastry to a wire rack, repeat with the other two sheets of pastry.

Line a deep, 22cm base cake pan with baking paper (I used a square cake pan that had a removable base) allowing a overhang on all four sides. Use a serrated knife to trim 1 pastry square and ease it into the base of the pan. ( I just kept trimming around all four sides until it just fell into the pan)

Combine the custard powder, cornflour and caster sugar in a bowl. Add the milk and cream, whisking until smooth. Pour the mixture into a saucepan and place over medium heat. Add the butter and vanilla and cook, stirring constantly, for 10 minutes or until custard comes to the boil. It will thicken very quickly at this stage. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for 3 minutes.

Remove the custard from the heat and stir in the egg yolks. Pour the hot custard over the pastry. Trim the remaining pastry and place over the hot custard, pressing gently to secure. Set aside for 1 hour to cool, then refrigerate for 3-4 hours until cold.

Lift the vanilla slice out of the pan and remove the paper. Dust heavily with icing sugar and cut into pieces to serve. I used a serrated knife to do this.

Yum! M x

Thursday, 21 April 2011

A Quick Mid-Week Dinner at Maudes place

So I've mentioned before about preparing quick meals and B and I have shown you a couple that we love from our Jamie Oliver collection. Well today I'm going to share with you one of my mid-week creations that I would call very quick and some of it may even come from a jar!! Some nights you just can't be bothered with all the fuss and want something everyone is going to eat (which sometimes is a major problem in this house!)

My 3 are going through a stage where they love eating everything off a stick!! Maybe I should just cut some vegetables up and skewer them onto a stick! (well I can only try I guess). Miss 9 and Miss 4 will eat most meats but Mr 6 who will actually try most things, but is LAZY when it comes to meat. He just wants the food to just slide down the back of his throat. If he has to chew it more than a couple of times he gives up! He is getting better but it sure has taken it's time.

I'm sure you have all had shish kebabs at some stage, well these chicken ones that I have made are so easy. I have used the thigh of the chicken as I find it has more flavour but you can use the breast if you wish.
I have also just used a mallet to flatten them out a little, then sliced strips so I can then thread them onto the sticks. Make sure you soak your sticks in some water for a couple of hours if you are cooking them on a BBQ, this will stop the sticks from burning.

Once you have cut all your thighs up, just thread them onto the skewers and add your favourite jar of marinade (yes from a jar!!) or if you have a marinade you like and use why not use it. I have just used a teriyaki marinade that I bought.

Leave it marinate in the fridge for a few hours so the flavour soaks into the chicken. My little people LOVE these and it's one meal the whole 3 will eat.

If you wanted to make some beef ones you could add some onion, slices of capsicum, mushrooms and cherry tomato's and even on the chicken ones you could also add some pineapple. Just remember not to cut your meat too thick as it will take longer to cook.

With our shish kebabs we had some home made coleslaw that I made, but I will confess the dressing was from a bottle this time. (Yes B I do cheat some times) The amount I made will roughly be enough for 5 people and some left-overs for your sandwich the next day!

This is what my mother taught me
1/4 of a sugar loaf cabbage very finely shredded
1 carrot grated
1/2 red or green capsicum sliced very thinly - I used red as the colour looks fantastic
3 shallots sliced very finely
3 stalks of celery sliced finely
1/2 red onion - optional as it does have the shallots

Just toss everything into a bowl and coleslaw is completed. Now you can make your own dressing or you can just use some store bought dressing. If I was serving this coleslaw at a BBQ with friends I would dress the whole bowl but just for a meal at home with the family I let everyone dress their own once it's on their plate as any left overs of the salad will stay nice a crisp and last alot longer than if it was covered in dressing.

We also had a baked potato on the side. I hope all you beginners out there found some helpful hints on this very EASY mid-week dinner.

M x

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Shaken fish with tomato salsa & corn salad

Yes…….. Another Sophia Easter special from the MasterChef Magazine Issue 11 and no, once again we couldn’t wait for Easter. This one, however, will reappear for the Easter bunny. This is a must for  the Easter seafood menu.

“SHAKEN”, you say. What the?………I, like you, had a second take on this one. The very thought of a shaking fish brought all sorts of vision on board. “Read on” I said to myself and there it was. “A Mexican Lenten dish that gets its name from the way the fish is cooked and turned (or shaken) in a wire fish cage over a charcoal barbecue.”

CONFESSION:  No fish cage or charcoal barbeque? No whole fish (Snapper) but a large Snapper fillet. Not a worry. Be adventurous and creative. Sometimes we can be, by adapting available utensils and/or ingredients. In this case I had a large pan and an oven at my disposal so instead of putting the fish in the wire cage, I placed the fish fillet, spread with mixture, skin side down in the hot pan for 2 minutes and spread the upper side with the remaining mixture. After turning the fillet, put the pan in a 170C oven to finish off for a further 10 minutes………….. absolutely scrumptious!!!!!!
FISH Ingredients

150g (1/2 cup) whole egg mayonnaise
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 tbls chipotle chillies in adobo* finely chopped
2 x 600g whole snappers cleaned and butterflied*
Lime cheeks to serve

 SALSA & SALAD Ingredients

2 cobs corn husks removed
1 onion halved
3 roma tomatoes
6 cloves garlic peeled
2 avocados cut into 1cm pieces
1 jalapeno* seeded, finely chopped
¼ cup coriander leaves, chopped
3 limes juiced

To make salsa and salad, preheat barbecue or grill plate. Add corn cobs and cook, turning occasionally. Add onion, tomatoes and garlic and cook, turning as well until everything is charred and tender. Cool.

To finish corn salad, holding cobs upright, cut kernels away from cobs and place in bowl with avocados, jalapeno, coriander and one third of the lime juice. Season with salt and toss gently to combine.
To finish salsa, thinly slice onion and place in a bowl. Finely chop garlic, roughly chop tomatoes and add to bowl with remaining lime juice. Season with salt and toss gently to combine.
Combine mayonnaise, garlic and chipotle chillies. Spread one third of mayonnaise mixture over the skin side of each fish. Turn over and spread flesh side with remaining mixture. Oil a wire fish cage, place 1 fish inside. Barbecue skin side down for 4 minutes, then turn and cook for a further 4 minutes or until just cooked. Place fish, flesh side up, on a large platter. Repeat with second fish.
Spoon salsa over fish and serve immediately or at room temperature with corn salad and lime cheeks
*Chipotle chillies in adobo are sold in cans from selected delis. Substitute 2 seeded finely chopped red bird’s-eye chillies and a pinch of smoked paprika.
*Jalapenos are a type of chilli available from most supermarkets
*Ask your fishmonger to butterfly the fish, removing the bones and keeping the tails intact.

Enjoy M & B x 

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Crunchy olive and rosemary polenta fingers with aioli

Polenta has eluded my cooking repertoire for some time now. Just the word sounded foreign and difficult (without the knowledge of how easy it is) and it was never the first thing I turned to as a partner for say, lamb shanks or another comforting meaty dish. Let me say, polenta is really easy to prepare and pairs with many dishes. For this recipe however, the polenta is the star of the show.

Once again Donna Hay's simple styling and photography got to me. I was flipping through her book Seasons and came across these crunchy little beauties. I was in the midst of planning a big elaborate stay-at-home romantic dinner for two, when Mr B announces that instead he's off to the footy.

'Is that ok?', he asks, obviously expecting me to be upset.

'Yeah, just fine.....', I trail off, thinking of the glorious time alone on the couch I would have with a bowl of these with the aioli and maybe a cheesy romantic comedy.

I added a teensy bit of finely chopped rosemary to the mixture before cooling, as when I tasted the olive and polenta mix hot, I thought it was just a wee bit bland for my taste. I also added a large pinch of sea salt. All in all, they were ok. Just ok. I think they needed some cheese as I still found them a little bland once cooked. They went well with the aioli however! (That said - I haven't met many 'fingers' or 'chips' that don't get on well with aioli!).

Crunchy Olive Polenta Fingers with Aioli
(Adapted from Donna Hay's 'Season' book - p244)

Polenta Fingers
3 cups chicken stock (I used Moredough)
50g butter
1 cup instant polenta
1/3 cup chopped Kalamata olives
2/3 cup instant polenta, extra for dusting
1/3 cup rosemary leaves
sea salt

Preheat oven to 200 degrees celsius. Place the stock and butter in a medium saucepan over high heat and bring to the boil.

Reduce the heat to medium and gradually add the polenta. Cook, stirring, for 2 minutes until thickened. 


Remove from the heat and stir in the olives. 

As you can I added a small amount of finely chopped rosemary. Here is where I would add some cheese next time also!

Spoon the mixture into a well greased 1.5L capacity ceramic dish (28cm x 16cm - or thereabouts), and allow to cool completely. 

 Turn the polenta out onto a flat surface, lightly dusted with the extra polenta, and cut into pieces.

Place the polenta fingers and rosemary (I forgot the rosemary here!!!) onto a lightly greased baking tray and bake for 25 minutes or until crunchy. I was in a bit of a hurry for some reason and got them out a little bit early. They were crunchy but next time I'd do them for 30 minutes or more I think. 

Sprinkle with sea salt and serve with the aioli.

4 egg yolks
1 tbsp white wine vinegar
1 clove garlic crushed
2 tbsp lemon juice
2 cups olive oil

Place the egg yolks, vinegar, garlic and lemon juice in the bowl of a food processor and process until combined.

Gradually pour in the oil in a steady stream (I did mine in batches in this smaller 'whiz' - couldn't be bothered getting my big processor out! Lazy much?) while the motor is running and process until the mayonaise is thick and smooth.

Enjoy lovelies!


Monday, 18 April 2011

An Easter treat - double chocolate freckles

How good are home made gifts? Especially if it is some yummy biscuits. I thought I would show you these really easy biscuits and you guessed it-they are chocolate. I've made these a number of times and you can use different cutters to suit. Since I found some lovely Easter ones I thought I would set about making some for my kids teachers as they seem to get a chocolate over load by all the kids at this time of year.

These biscuits are fairly simple and if you have the patience for little hands to join you, they can be really fun also. You can decorate these anyway you like, they don't have to have the chocolate on them, you can just spread them with normal icing if you wish.

The book that I found them in is truly one of my favourite biscuit books, I know I've said the "The Big Book of Beautiful Biscuits" is great (which it is) but this book (Cookies and Biscuits) has a more modern feel to it and has alot of different biscuits, for example - choc-cherry macaroon hearts, Christmas pudding cookies, rhubarb custard melting moments, double choc-chip chilli cookies and that's just the tip of the iceberg.

The Australian Women's Weekly - Cookies and Biscuits page 9

125g butter, softened
3/4 cup (165g) firmly packed brown sugar
1 egg
1 1/2 cups (225g) plain flour
1/4 cup (35g) self-raising flour
1/4 cup (35g) cocoa powder
200g dark eating chocolate - I really think you only need half of this as I always have heaps left over.
1/3 cup (85g) hundreds and thousands

 Beat butter, sugar and egg in small bowl with electric mixer until combined.

Stir in sifted dry ingredients, in two batches.

Knead dough on floured surface until smooth, cover and refrigerate 30 minutes.

Roll dough between sheets of baking paper until 5mm thick
Preheat oven to 180 degrees/ 160 degrees fan-forced. Line baking trays with baking paper.
Using any cutters you like, cut dough out and place on trays.

Bake cookies about 10 minutes for smaller cut outs and about 12 minutes for larger cut outs

Melt the chocolate - I melted mine in the microwave making sure you stir it after every 10 sec so you don't burn the chocolate.

Spread tops of cookies with chocolate, sprinkle with hundreds and thousands. Set at room temperature.

I put mine in a little cellophane bag and found these beautiful little boxes with tiny easter eggs on them!

Hope Mrs G and Mrs C enjoy their biscuits!!

M x