When life gives you lemons…

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…make lemon loaf!

Lemon Loaf

I have always wanted a lemon tree but have never had one of my own. The thought of having to pay for lemons abhors me so I have only ever made lemony treats when I have been able to score a bag (or two) of them from a friend or neighbour with surplus on their trees.

When I first went to look at my new house my eyes were drawn immediately to the fully laden lemon tree in the yard. Even before seeing inside the house I was mentally flicking through lemon recipes in my head and deciding what I would make first.

This lemon loaf recipe is very similar to the Crunchy Lemon Muffin recipe but, obviously, made in a loaf tin. It is lovely as it is and especially nice when still warm. A few months ago I made a couple of these but they didn’t get eaten as quickly as I thought they would and after a few days the last of it was a bit stale. Thinking stale bread is still OK for toast, I wondered what this would be like toasted. I popped a slice in the toaster then when hot and golden, spread with butter… hot, lemony, buttery…delicious!

Try it, and let me know what you think in the comments.

Ingredients

2 eggs
100g butter, melted
2-3 tablespoons finely grated lemon rind
1 cup sugar
1 3/4 cups flour
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup milk

Syrup

1/4 cup lemon juice
1/4 cup caster sugar

Preheat oven to 180C

Grease and line the bottom of a loaf tin (21cm x 9cm)

Beat eggs and butter. Add lemon rind and sugar and beat until creamy.

Mix in combined dry ingredients and milk until combined, then pour into loaf tin.

Bake 45-55 minutes until cooked.

Just before taking loaf out of the oven. mix the lemon juice and sugar together. Pour syrup over the loaf immediately after removing from the oven.

Cool a while in the tin then remove. The lemon juice will have soaked into the loaf giving extra sweet lemony flavour, while any undissolved sugar will have formed a slight crust on the top of the loaf.

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Now does that look good or what? Mmmm Mmmmm…

Enjoy!

caramel oat slice

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This has got to be one of the most delicious baked slices I have ever tasted! You can kid yourself into thinking it is healthy because it has rolled oats in it (oats are a superfood you know!) but the truth is, it really should be served with a defibrillator on standby.

I was given a copy of the Jo Seagar book “It’s easier than you think” for Christmas a couple of years ago and this recipe caught my eye immediately.  I think it had something to do with the gooey caramel layer in the centre. Anything with a visible layer gooey caramel gets the thumbs up from me!

I tweaked the recipe a bit, using the dulce de leche I have in the pantry rather than making the caramel as per Jo’s method (see below) which made the recipe even simpler than the original, but no less delicious, and probably no more healthy… but as a treat for special occasions (e.g. any day ending in Y), it’s perfect.

Get those ingredients ready! You will need…

2 cups plain flour
1 cup self-raising flour
1 cup desiccated coconut
2 cups brown sugar
3 cups rolled oats
2 eggs
300g butter
2 cans dulce de leche
1/2 cup chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C. Grease and line a 25 x 35 cm slice tin with baking paper.

Combine all the dry ingredients in a large bowl. It really does have to be large. There are 9 cups of dry ingredients in that list.Yes… NINE! Then add the beaten eggs and melted butter and mix well. Press two-thirds of the mixture into the prepared tin.

Open two cans of dulce de leche and spread over the base. Add the chocolate chips to the remaining crumbly mixture and sprinkle over the sweet caramel layer.

Bake for 30 minutes.

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Jo recommends you let it cool in the tin and refrigerate a few hours or until the next day before cutting it. Good luck with that! I swear, nothing I bake is ever allowed to cool properly before cutting. Unless I bake at 9am when the rest of the household are at school or work. And to tell the truth, it really is even more delicious when still warm… but then, most baking is, right?

Enjoy!

(If you don’t have any ready-made dulce de leche on hand, you can make the caramel layer as follows. Melt 400g butter, 2 x 400 cans sweetened condensed milk and 4 tablespoons golden syrup together. Mix well and add 1 teaspoon vanilla. )

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Basil Pesto

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After a good start to the year with great intentions to blog more regularly, I have been a bit slack lately. I was good while on holiday but then real life struck.

Work. Summer school. Economics assignment. Laziness…

Pffft. I really should get my priorities right and get back in the kitchen where I belong! So today I did. It was a matter of having to. The Basil plants are growing like triffids and if I didn’t make pesto soon we would be having trouble getting out the door!

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I’ve been meaning to make pesto for a while and now that I know how quick and easy it is I won’t hesitate to make it again. Probably when this lot runs out, which will be… probably tomorrow!

Anyway, let’s get to it.

Gather your ingredients.

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You will need:

2 packed cups fresh Basil leaves
2 cloves garlic
3/4 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup pinenuts
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Throw all ingredients except the oil into a food processor and process, adding the oil in a thin stream until smooth. This is quite a thick pesto, but you can add more oil if you like it a bit thinner.

Basil PestoThat’s it Amigo. All done. Finito.

Now was that easy, or was that easy?

Yep. Easy. Told ya!

I didn’t measure the volume of the finished product but I would say there is a good cup and a half of pesto here. We made a quick creamy chicken pesto pasta tonight which used about half of it in one go but I don’t think it will take long to get though the rest. Then I will have to make more! What a shame…

Now… does anyone have any ideas for what I can do with all the the sage in my garden? It’s taking over!

Hydrangea Cake

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It’s been a while since I have been creative in the kitchen. My new camera has been taking up most of my attention and I have been photographing everything except food – supposedly the reason I got the camera was to take better photos of my kitchen creations, but oh no, the creations of my camera lens have been luring me away from culinary exploits.

So today I got back in the kitchen. If it hadn’t been for the fact that I wanted to photograph this cake, I would have been wandering far and wide with my beloved Canon snapping photos of rusty wire, lichen covered fences and cows instead.

Anyway, back to the matter at hand. Cake.

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Glorious Cake.

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Is there ever a time when a slice of good cake is wrong?

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Didn’t think so.

I have had this hydrangea cake on my mind for a while. Ever since I saw this cake on Pinterest.

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As soon as I saw it I thought of two things. Firstly, these cute little sweets.

Sweet as

And secondly, these.

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So pretty.

Today was the day, so armed with a piping bag, unreasonable amounts of butter and icing sugar, and oodles of food colouring I started work on the Coconut cake I baked last week.

First, make buttercream. You may need to multiply the recipe 2 or 3 times depending on the size cake you are icing. The quantities I used today were 375g of butter, 4.5 cups icing sugar and a couple of tablespoons of cream, and I had quite a bit left over.

Because I wanted the cake to have two layers with a filling in between, and I don’t like the filling to spill out and ruin the icing, I first piped a dam of buttercream around the bottom layer to contain the filling, like so.

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Now it’s time for the filling. Sometimes I make my own passionfruit curd, but this time I opted for a store bought version which is rather delicious.

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Spread filling inside the dam you created with the buttercream

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Resist the urge to lick the spatula clean, then place the other layer on top.

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See how the sides of the cake cinch in the middle? Don’t worry. We can remedy that with buttercream.

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Observe how the application of buttercream has evened up the sides so they are now (more or less) straight up and down. That is good.

Eating buttercream has the same effect on my waist. That is not good!

Anyway… what I have done here is the ‘crumb coat’. It is not particularly important for this cake is it is more dense and doesn’t really crumble. I have done it mainly to even up the shape of the cake and provide a bit of a background for the flowers. But, you know when you are trying to ice/frost a really crumbly chocolate cake and crumbs go all through your buttercream and it looks really messy? What you need to do first is a crumb coat to seal in the crumbs, then refrigerate for half an hour or so until it sets hard and then do top coat of frosting. The crumb coat doesn’t have to be neat and it doesn’t have to be thick, in fact it should be very thin. It just has to be enough to seal in the crumbs and even up the shape.

Moving on. When I made the buttercream, I put a few drops of lilac food colouring in to provide the colour for the lightest ‘flowers’. Using a #21 Wilton tip in the piping bag, I piped ‘flowers’ randomly over the cake.

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I then squeezed as much of the buttercream that was left in the bag, back into the bowl and added more food colouring to get a slightly darker colour, and then piped more flowers…

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Then repeated the process with the addition of a few more drops of food colouring to the remaining buttercream…

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And again…

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Gradually filling in all the gaps until the cake is completely covered and you have used almost an entire bottle of food colouring.

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It really is an easy way to decorate a cake, especially when using graduated colours as I have done. If you were to use different colours like the cake that was my inspiration for this, you would have to divide the buttercream into separate bowls. add the different colourings to each bowl, and use different piping bags for each colour or, if using a reusable bag, wash and dry the bag between each colour. That sounds very fiddly to me.

Because I am lazy of the overall effect I was trying to achieve, I wasn’t too concerned about the colours mixing. I just kept refilling the bag with the ever darker mixture.

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And I am quite pleased with the end result.

What about you? What colour/colours would you like to try with this technique?

pork larb

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IMG_0952_thumb.jpgLarb is a classic Thai salad made with minced beef, pork or chicken and vegetables, served in a lettuce cup. The combination of flavourings, mint, coriander (cilantro) and lime, is very refreshing. Freshness and flavour – a perfect meal on a hot day.

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Feel free to experiment with the ingredients to suit your taste buds. Adjust the amount of chilli if you like it more or less spicy, or use substitutions if some ingredients are not readily available.

I do it all the time… sometimes I get an idea in my head about what I want to make and if I don’t have all the ingredients on hand I just use whatever I have on hand. Results may vary, but that can be a good thing.  Like the time I was going to make this incredible chicken pasta salad, but I didn’t have a couple of the ingredients so I substituted here and there. The resulting Tiramisu was incredible! As I said, results may vary.

Anyway, I digress. Back to the Larb. I had a Thai Pad Kaprow paste in the fridge that had lemongrass, garlic and chilli so I used that up and adjusted the amounts of those individual seasonings. I also used tubes of lemongrass and fresh chilli paste rather than fresh.

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And of course, you could use beef instead of pork.

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Or chicken.

And leftovers – if there are any – are very tasty cold. And that’s major coming from me. I’m really not a cold leftover sort of girl usually but for this I make an exception.

You will need:

1 tablespoon peanut oil
2 tablespoons finely chopped lemongrass (you can get this in jars if fresh is not available).
2 small red Thai chillies, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic
40g grated fresh ginger
1.4kg pork mince
1 red capsicum, diced
2 tablespoons fish sauce
160ml lime juice
5 shredded kaffir lime leaves (again, I used some from a jar)
2/3 cup loosely packed mint leaves
1/2 cup fresh coriander leaves
4 spring onions sliced thinly
8 large iceberg lettuce leaves

Heat oil in a large non stick frying pan or wok. Add the lemongrass, chilli, garlic and ginger and stir until the fragrance wafts through your kitchen – about 2 minutes.

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Add the pork and cook, stirring, for about 8 minutes. Add the capsicum, and stir for another 2-3 minutes.

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Add the fish sauce and half the lime juice and cook for another 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, combine the remaining lime juice, herbs, onion and lime leaves in a small bowl.

Take the pan off the heat and pour over the pre-mixed juice and herbs.

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On each plate, form a bowl by placing two lettuce leaves together.

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Place 1/4 of the larb in each bowl of leaves.

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And you’re done! This is a meal on its own and it’s perfect if you follow a high protein, low carbohydrate regime.

And, as an added bonus, you wont need to call everyone to the table. They have been sitting there waiting for you since the aroma from the kitchen brought them in 10 minutes ago.

Enjoy!

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My New Love

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Photography. I’m obsessed.

Red Door

If I’m not doing it, I am thinking about it.

Knot again

It fills my waking hours, and some of the sleeping hours too.

IMG_1135I bought the camera with the intention of improving the photography on my blog.

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But the problem with that is, in order to photograph food I have to cook it first.

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And right now, I can’t be bothered.

Lone Soldier

I promise, we will return to normal programming soon.

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Maybe with a beef dish.

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Moo!

coconut cake

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My mother is the best source of recipes. In fact, she should be running this blog. She out bakes anyone I know. Including me. Now that my boys aren’t at home with me, I probably only bake once a month and even then it only gets eaten if I take it to work.

I tried this cake for the first time last year when she made it for my birthday. I loved it so much I have made it for my birthday again this year. It’s slightly dense and moist, not light and fluffy but it is divine and will keep well for up to a week without drying out. The flavour reminds me of summer even when it is dreary and cold outside.

Summer in a cake. I like it!

If the quantities in the photos look larger than the ingredients suggest, it is because I made a double batch – some for the dozen cupcakes featured in this blog post today, and two round cake layers to be assembled in a week or so for my birthday cake. Stay tuned for photos of that.

The cast of characters for this episode are:

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125g butter
1/2 tsp coconut essence
1 cup caster sugar
2 eggs
1/2 cup dessicated coconut
1 1/2 cups self raising flour
1 1/4 cups (300g) sour cream
80 mls milk

Start by preheating your oven to 150 C and grease and line your cake tin(s). This is my least favourite part of the whole baking process but don’t wait until you have already mixed the ingredients before preparing the tins. You really want to get the mixture straight in the tins and into the oven rather than leaving it sitting while you prepare the tins.

Trust me. I know these things.

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Or if you are making cupcakes, simply place liners in the cupcake tin.

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Cream the butter, coconut essence and sugar until light and fluffy.

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This is what light and fluffy looks like. See? Light … and fluffy!

Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.

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With the eggs added the mixture should now look glossy.

Place half the coconut and flour, and half the sour cream and milk in the mixer and slowly mix.

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Then add remaining flour, coconut, sour cream and milk and mix until well combined.

Fill cupcake liners only until 1/2 or 3/4 full and bake for 15 minutes-20 minutes. Many cupcake recipes recommend a higher temperature and quicker baking time however I usually find this results in a volcano shaped cupcake. I recommend baking at this lower temperature for longer as the cupcake will bake nice and flat. Perfect for decorating.

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If baking a cake with this mixture, use an 8 inch square or 10 inch round tin. Ensure the mixture is spread evenly in the tin to ensure it bakes flat.

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Because I was making two layers, I weighed each layer in the tin to ensure they were roughly the same weight. Baking time for the two layers was about 35 minutes, but if making one thicker cake, bake for approximately 40 minutes then test for done-ness with a skewer and adjust baking time if necessary.

Fill cupcakes (optional) and then pipe frosting on top. I filled my cupcakes with passionfruit filling and piped buttercream frosting on top, but they would also taste great with a cream cheese frosting.

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High tea anyone?

Happy New Year!

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Wow. 2013 already! Didn’t 2012 just go by in a flash? It seems like only yesterday I was looking forward to 2012 and the changes it was going to bring, and here I am 12 months later thinking the same about 2013. For me, this coming year wont bring such drastic changes as 2012 has, but I still have plenty to look forward to – not the least of which being the completion of my business degree which has been in progress for too many years.

May 2013 bring you and your family happiness, joy and many batches of cookies fresh from the oven.

Baking Basics–Preparing your tins

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OK, so not the most interesting of topics but I thought it would be good to get a series of baking basics posts together for absolute beginners.

I have detailed below the steps to preparing round cake tins as square ones are so much easier to figure out than the round ones with their curvaceousness.

The first step is to grease the tin. I prefer to use butter as the aroma that fills the kitchen is so much better than when you use an oil based cooking spray. I use a paper towel scrunched up with a small amount  of softened butter on it, like so. Or you could melt some butter and paint it on with a pastry brush. Your call.

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Then wipe all over the inside surfaces of the tin…

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Until it looks like this.

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Just a thin coating. Enough to hold the baking paper in place.

Ah… baking paper. That is the next step. Now there is one very important thing to know. Baking paper and greaseproof paper are two very different things. When it comes to baking, use B A K I N G  P A P E R! I cannot stress enough how important it is so don’t confuse the two. A big clue is in the name. Baking paper is for baking. Greaseproof paper is for, I dunno, I haven’t used it in years. Except that one time I had run out of baking paper so used greaseproof and it was a total disaster.

Baking paper. Got it?

If you haven’t, get some. Today. I don’t want you coming back here saying “oh Kate, your method sucks cos my cakes stuck to the paper”, OK?

Baking paper.

OK. Moving on. Place your tin on top of the baking paper and trace around with pencil, then cut out the circle. You don’t have to be super accurate so if you failed cutting and sticking in primary school there is hope for you yet. Now, you should have a circle roughly the size of your tin. Like this.

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This will be the base. Now we need to cut a long rectangle to line the sides of the tin. Cut a piece of baking paper long enough to wrap all the way around the tin on the outside, but no more than a centimetre longer than that as the circumference inside the tin is smaller so we will have enough overlap.

Then, we need a strip about 10cm wide. Because the standard width of baking paper seems to 30cm we fold the piece of baking paper lengthwise into thirds and cut – leaving us with three strips. We only need one, so you can save the other two for the next baking session.

OK, the strip you have cut should just wrap around the outside of your tin, and poke up a couple of centimetres above. Like so.

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Make a fold along one edge about 2-3 centimetres in. Like so.

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And then make angled cuts up to the fold line.

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Then place the strip, cut edge down, around the inside of the buttered cake tin, smoothing as you go. You should have a couple of centimetres overlap. Add a little extra butter here to seal the overlap. It should now look like this.

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Next, place the circle of baking paper you cut earlier into the tin and smooth it down.

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Voila! You now have a lined cake tin and angels will sing your praises when you turn your cakes out easily at the end of their cooking time.

Easy huh?

If you have any questions, or any other basics you want covered in a future post, let me know in the comments.

Happy Baking!

P.S. Baking paper!

grape sorbet

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Sounds fancy, but it could possibly be the easiest recipe I ever put on this website.

Only one ingredient, and one step. Actually, with only ingredient it can hardly be called a ‘recipe’ can it? But here it is anyway.

Take some seedless grapes, any quantity, and freeze them. When you take them out of the freezer, wait 10 minutes for them to soften a little and develop that lovely sorbet texture. Then they are ready to devour!

Add them to dessert, put a few in a glass of wine to keep it cold on a hot day or just munch them as a snack.

Delicious! I am having a few right now…

 

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Enjoy!

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