Friday, 27 February 2015

Big As Your Head Oat, Pecan and Orange Cookies

My kids eyes bugged out when they saw a stack of giant cookies on the kitchen bench when they came home from school. They must have thought all their Christmas's had come at once, until I told them they had to share one between the two of them because it was so close to dinner time. Then is was a matter of serious negotiations. There was lots of measuring and weighing and eye-balling sizes and discussions about who owned what territory and what compromises each had to make. It was like listening to a couple of politicians.

Big As Your Head Oat, Pecan and Orange Cookies
adapted from here
Makes 10

130g (1/2 cup) mejool dates, pitted and roughly chopped
2 tablespoons orange juice
300g (2 cups) plain (all -purpose) flour
180g (2 cups) traditional rolled oats
60g (1/2 cup) finely chopped pecans
1 tablespoon orange zest
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
150g (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter
125ml (1/2 cup) maple syrup
330g (1/1/2 cups) golden caster sugar
250ml (1 cup) cream
1 vanilla bean, split and seeds scraped

Preheat the oven to 160C (325F). Line two baking sheets with baking paper. Set aside.

Put the dates and orange juice into a processor and blitz until you have a smooth paste. Set aside.

In a large bowl, combine the flour, oats, pecans, orange zest, ginger and cinnamon and stir to combine. Set aside.

Put the butter, maple syrup, sugar, cream and vanilla seeds into a medium saucepan over medium heat and stir until everything is melted together. Bring to the boil and cook for about 6 minutes - we are effectively making butterscotch here. Pour the butterscotch mixture over the oat mixture. Add the date and orange puree and stir the lot together to combine.

Working in batches, dollop 1/2 cups of the mixture onto the trays and spread to form a thin 18 cm circle. I used an 18 cm tart ring to shape the cookies. Allow room for the cookies to spread a little.

Bake for 20 - 25 minutes or until golden. Leave to cool completely on the trays.

Thursday, 26 February 2015

Warm Salad of Spiced Chickpeas, Tomatoes and Torn Sourdough Croutons

There's been a rather massive calorie onslaught in my kitchen lately. I've been eating cake in varying guises for breakfast, lunch and dinner over the last week.  So, today is salad day. A veggie-filled bowl to bring balance to my life (and get my thighs back into my jeans).

Warm Salad of Spiced Chickpeas, Tomatoes and Torn Sourdough Croutons
adapted from here
Serves 6 - 8

For the Dressing:
200ml extra virgin olive oil
50ml pomegranate molasses
50ml lemon juice
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the Salad:
6 thick slices day-old sourdough, roughly torn
2 x 400g cans chickpeas, rinsed and drained
150ml olive oil
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 teaspoon ground smoked paprika
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground  coriander
12 Roma tomatoes
1 red onion, peeled and finely diced
2 tablespoons chopped parsley leaves
4 cloves garlic, crushed
200g feta, broken into bite-size chunks
1 teaspoon dried oregano

Make the Dressing:
Whisk all the dressing ingredients in a small bowl. Set side.

Preheat the oven to 200C.

Put the torn sourdough into a roasting pan in one layer. Bake in the oven for about 20 minutes, until dry and crisp. Set aside.

Put 60ml of oil to a medium frying pan and place on medium low heat. Add the chickpeas, spices and 1 teaspoon of salt. Cook gently for about 5 minutes, lightly crushing the chickpeas with the back of a wooden spoon. Set aside.

Grate 4 of the tomatoes into a bowl, discarding the skins. Chop the remaining tomatoes into small dice. Add the chopped onion, chopped parsley, crushed garlic and 45ml of oil. Add 1/2 teaspoon of salt and some black pepper to taste. Set aside.

Drizzle the dressing over the bread in the baking tray. Spoon the tomato mixture on top of the bread, followed by the spiced chickpeas. Push chunks of the feta into the mixture here and there and sprinkle with the dried oregano. Drizzle with the remaining oil.

Bake for 25 - 30 minutes, or until the feta starts to go golden at the edges. Serve warm.

Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Greek Sesame Bread Rings (Koulouri Thessalonikis)

For when you want to break out the Ouzo, sit in the sun, munch on golden, sesame crusted bread rings with olives and cheese and pretend you're on a Greek Island... which is every day really.

Greek Sesame Bread Rings (Koulouri Thessalonikis)
Makes 10
adapted from here

500g (19 oz) baker's flour
2 teaspoons fine sea salt
300ml (10.5 oz) lukewarm water
8g (1 sachet) dry active yeast
1 teaspoon sugar
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/3 cup pomegranate molasses mixed with 1/4 cup water for coating
250g (9 oz) sesame seeds for coating

Line two baking trays with baking paper and set aside.

Place the lukewarm water, yeast and sugar in a the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a dough hook. Stir and cover with plastic wrap. Set aside for 10 minutes, until it becomes foamy. Uncover and add the flour, salt and olive oil. Mix in low speed for 5 - 7 minutes until the dough comes together and forms a smooth, elastic ball. Add a little more water if the dough is too dry, or a little more flour if the dough is too sticky. It should be soft and should come away from the bowl cleanly.

Put the dough into a lightly greased bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Leave in a warm place for about 30 minutes.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly oiled work surface and knead for a few minutes. Cut it into 10 even portions. Roll each portion into a ball. Poke a finger through the middle of the balls and stretch the dough out to form a circle about 12cm in diameter (don't get your ruler out).

Spread the sesame seeds onto a baking tray. Mix the pomegranate molasses and water together in a bowl. Dip each bread ring into the pomegranate molasses mixture, then straight into the sesame seeds, coating them thickly. Lay the rings on the prepared trays. leaving room for them to spread a little. Cover the trays loosely with plastic wrap and leave them in a warm place for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 200C (400F).

Bake for 15 minutes, or until golden brown.

Monday, 23 February 2015

Coconut Bread - Gluten Free

I would have published this earlier today if I hadn't decided to go for my run first. Or if I hadn't swung by the supermarket to pick up some supplies for the weeks baking after my run. Or if I hadn't desperately needed a cappuccino and another slice of Coconut Bread after shopping. Or decided to brown the pork ribs and Italian sausages for tonights Sopranos Sunday Gravy. My day is all messed up, but at least I have Coconut Bread and Sunday gravy on Monday.

Anyhooo, here's some Coconut Bread for ya. Enjoy!

Coconut Bread - Gluten Free
adapted from here
For the Gluten Free Flour Blend:
2 cups brown rice flour
1/2 cups white rice flour
1 1/2 cups sorghum flour
1 1/3 cups cornflour
1/2 potato flour
1/4 cup ground almonds
2 teaspoons xanthan gum

Mix the Gluten Free Flour Blend:
Sift all the ingredients for the Gluten Free Flour Blend in a large bowl. Mix thoroughly. This will make more than you need for this recipe, but you can store the remaining flour blend in an airtight container ready to use in your next gluten free recipe.

For the Coconut Bread:
2 eggs
300ml buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups Gluten Free Flour Blend (above)
2 teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup golden caster sugar
150g shredded coconut
75g unsalted butter, melted

Preheat the oven to 180C (350F). Spray a 23 cm x 13 cm  (9 inch x 5 inch) loaf pan and line it with baking paper. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, beat the eggs lightly and add the buttermilk and vanilla. Beat lightly again to combine. Set aside.

Place the  2 1/2 cups Gluten Free Flour Blend, baking powder, cinnamon, sugar and coconut into a large mixing bowl and stir to combine. Add the egg mixture and stir until incorporated. Add the melted butter and stir until you have a smooth batter.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 1 hour, or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.  Leave the bread to cool for 5 minutes in the pan before turning out onto a wire rack.

To Serve:
Cut into thick slices and slather with jam, or toast it and spread with butter and then dust with icing sugar - either way, it's delicious.

Friday, 20 February 2015

Cheese and Potato Bourekas


Friday nights call for wine and elegant nibbles, yes? Okay, so some Friday nights call for beer and pretzels... and I'm okay with that too. But tonight it's all about cheesy, potato-y crispy mouthfuls, with crispy white wine... I mean, crisp white wine. I may have had a little too much of the crispy stuff. Cheers and have a delicious weekend.

Cheese and Potato Bourekas
Makes 12

For the Filling:
1 cup cold mashed potato (I baked a few small to medium potatoes for about an hour at 200C, then when cool, scooped the flesh out of the skins... then stood at the kitchen counter and sprinkled salt on the skins and ate them.)
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
2 tablespoons finely chopped chives
1 egg, lightly beaten
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the Pastry:
12 sheets of filo pastry
100g unsalted butter, melted
I egg yolk whisked with a teaspoon of water for egg wash
1 tablespoons nigella seeds

Make the Filling:
In a large mixing bowl, combined the potato, feta, chives and egg. Season lightly with salt and pepper to taste. Remember that the feta is salty and if you are using leftover mashed potatoes, they will probably have already been seasoned. Set aside.

Make the Bourekas:
Preheat the oven to 180C (350F). Line two baking sheets with baking paper, Set aside.

Lay a sheet of filo pasty out on a board and brush it generously with the melted butter. (Keep the remaining sheets of filo under a clean, damp tea towel to prevent them from getting dry.) Fold the buttered filo into thirds lengthwise. You should have a long, thin, three layered strip of filo. Brush the top with more butter. Spoon a tablespoon of the filling on the end of the pastry and fold the pastry over the top of the filling into a triangle to completely cover. Fold the pastry up and over itself, in a triangle again. Keep folding until you have a neat triangle. Place it on one of the prepared baking sheets and continue to make the bourekas with the remaining pastry and filling until you have 12.

Brush the top of each triangle with the melted butter and sprinkle with nigella seeds. Bake for about 30 minutes, rotating the baking trays halfway through baking. Eat warm or at room temperature.

Thursday, 19 February 2015

Condensed Milk Mocha Fudge Sandwich Cookies

You NEED these. They are so easy and delicious... and you probably have all the ingredients in your pantry right at this very moment. Go on, go to your pantry and check, I'll wait... See, I told you! What are you waiting for? Make a batch of these, brew some coffee and then invite me over. We can have coffee and cookies and chat about everything.

Condensed Milk Mocha Fudge Sandwich Cookies
Makes 10

For the Cookies:
125g unsalted butter, softened
1/4 cup golden caster sugar
100g sweetened condensed milk
1 1/4 cup plain flour
1 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
Pinch of salt

For the Filling:
150g dark chocolate, chopped
50g sweetened condensed milk
1 teaspoon instant espresso powder
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Make the Cookies:
Preheat the oven to 180C. Line 2 baking trays with baking paper. Set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. beat the butter, sugar and condensed milk together until light and fluffy. Sift the flour, baking powder and salt over the mixture and mix on low speed until just combined.

Roll tablespoon of the mixture into balls and place them on the prepared baking trays. Dip a fork into flour and lightly press the top of each ball to slightly flatten and mark.

Bake for 9 - 12 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through baking. They are done when they are still pale, but slightly golden at the edges. Leave them to cool or 5 minutes on the trays before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

Make the Filling:
Put all the filling ingredients into a small saucepan and melt over low heat, stiring constantly. Remove from the heat as soon as the chocolate has melted.

Match the cookies according to size. Dollop a spoonful of mocha fudge filling onto the flat side of half the cookies and press the remaining cookies on top to sandwich the filling.

Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Kick-Ass Buttermilk Pancakes with Coffee Butter and Maple Syrup

Because I don't mess around when it comes to my Shrove Tuesday.

Kick-Ass Buttermilk Pancakes with Coffee Butter and Maple Syrup
Inspired by Richard Blais
Makes 8

For the Coffee Butter:
1/4 cup brewed coffee
90g unsalted butter at room temperature
1/2 teaspoon cacao powder

For the Pancakes:
80g plain flour
1 tablespoon caster sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
3/4 cup buttermilk
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Maple syrup to serve
Butter for cooking the pancakes

Make the Coffee Butter:
Put the brewed coffee into a pan over medium heat. Bring to boil and reduce the brew to about 1 tablespoon. Remove from the heat and leave to cool completely.

Put the soft butter, coooled and reduce coffee and cacao powder into a small bowl and beat with a wooden spoon until latte-coloured. Set aside.

Make the Pancakes:
Sift the flour into a bowl. Add the caster sugar, baking soda and salt and stir to combine. Add the buttermilk and stir until just incorporated.

In a separate bowl, beat the eggs lightly with the vanilla. Pour this into the buttermilk mixture and stir until just combined. Do not over mix.

Heat a cast iron pan on medium heat. Melt about 1/2 teaspoon of butter in the pan and then pour in 1/4 cup of the pancake batter. Cook for about 2 minutes (until bubbles appear all over the surface), then flip and cook on the other side for about 1 minute. Repeat with remaining batter.

Stack the pancakes, smear with coffee butter and flood with maple syrup. Happy Pancake Tuesday.