Shortbread Sunday

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I thought I’d stay on board the whole food processor easy biscuits thing, and add a recipe on the heels of the parmesan biscuits recently posted.

These are equally easy to make- and why would you ever buy a packet of shortbread when you can make them so easily? From a block of butter, some flour and icing sugar, you can make a wonderful gift too; the next time you are thinking of a present for a hard to buy friend, Izzy, make up a batch of these!

Saw the Chuck Close exhibition today- it was good being at the water on a sunny day with so many people about. There is a huge P&O ship parked next to the MCA-quite a sight in the middle of the city! I don’t know if I’ll ever get used to seeing these huge ships, right in town!

 

Ingredients

  • 100 grams icing sugar
  • 200 grams plain flour
  • 100 grams cornflour
    200 grams softened unsalted butter

Preheat the oven to 160°C.
Put the icing sugar, plain flour and cornflour into the bowl of a food processor and give them a whirl.

Add the softened butter.

Process again until the soft mixture begins to form a ball, loosely clumping around the blade.

Turn this out on to a buttered cookie tin and press to form an even layer.

Using the tip of a sharp knife cut the pressed-out shortbread into fingers.

Using a fork, make little holes in each marked-out biscuit.

Put the tin into the oven and bake for about 20-25 minutes, by which time the shortbread will be pale still.

Remove the tin from the oven and cool for 10 minutes or so. Store the pieces in an airtight container.

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Australia Day From Afar : Parmesan Biscuits for Nibbling.

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I’ve really welcomed this quiet long week-end. We’ve all been so occupied with lots of ‘family business’. Thank you everyone for the perseverance getting it all worked out and happening. Izzy, I know you fretted at not being right here in the thick of all the action, but believe me, your timely messages and cheery voice on the phone were more support that you probably know. You certainly did you bit from Melbourne, actioning a bunch of plans from there.

Some Izzy art

Now Little C is in snowy New York, catching up with high school friends and  doing all her art related things, and Dad is on his amazing ski adventure. May they stay safe and well while they travel.

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I cooked the plum cake again yesterday for a lunch with friends in the most charming back courtyard in Annandale. And Anzacs, of course, it being Australia Day and all.

Also, I whizzed up these parmy biscuits a few times over the Christmas holidays,  Your sweet cuzzie T and her hubby are quite into them. I’ve made them to serve with demitasse cups of chilled gazpacho, rolled them in cumin seeds for a bit of spice, and chopped rosemary into the dough too. A bag of them even made their way to the ski slopes of Aspen! There’s really no wrong way to make them, or taste them! The nice thing is that when you’ve rolled out the dough, you just wrap the extras in some baking paper and refrigerate: then its all ready to slice onto a baking tray for next time!

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Parmesan Biscuits

1 cup (250g) plain flour
1 tablespoon cornflour or rice flour
1 ½ cup (120g) finely grated parmesan
1 teaspoon sea salt flakes
150g cold butter, chopped and 1 tablespoon milk, plus extra for brushing

Method:
Preheat oven to 180°C (355°F). Mix flour, cornflour, parmesan and salt in a food processor and process until combined. Gradually add the butter and with the motor running, process until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Add fennel seeds or cumin or chopped fresh herbs and milk, and process until a dough forms. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and roll out to a 15cm log. Wrap in baking paper and refrigerate for 30 minutes or until firm. Slice into 5mm rounds and place on baking trays lined with non-stick baking paper. Brush with extra milk if desired. Bake for 12–15 minutes or until golden. Makes 20.

Happy 2015! Let’s record that eggplant recipe.

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Beautifully wrapped hand made chocolates

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Christmas cookies!

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Gingerbread

Happy 2015!  How special to have had Christmas with both you girls home.  I loved the hand made theme of presents SO MUCH! You two are such creative souls ; from hand sewn donuts (don’t ask, readers!) to scented chocolates, intricate necklaces and boxes of spicy chai, and the worlds best Martha Stewart gingerbread to even a coconut and coffee scrub! Too clever by half! IMG_1194

Extended lazy days, and very late nights, music playing, long conversations, friends dropping by, endless cups of tea, and shared cooking. My idea of holidays at home. Thank you both for being here and making it so memorable.

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Summer days

 

A while ago when we had a lovely family over for lunch, I made an eggplant dish which is reminiscent of one your Nanna cooks. Let’s just say it is one of those dishes which lingers in your memory. Sweet and sour, and thick and yummy. I promised to send this family the recipe, but had to make the dish again to record carefully all the ingredients and steps which I’ve never written down before.

Now, I’ll admit that this does not fit the category of recipes I usually send you girls. Namely: straightforward to make, quick and relatively healthy. Somehow though, I know you’ll both get around to making this yourselves despite the fairly long winded process because you know just how worth while it is.  Nanna serves this eggplant dish with rice and meat dishes, but always has a fresh cucumber sambal or raitha too. When our friends came to lunch, I served it alongside Ottogenhi’s pasta with yogurt and pea sauce. Unusual, but it somehow worked itself out to be a fantastic combination.

Eggplant Curry

  • 4 firm and large purple eggplants
  • 2 tablespoons peeled and chopped fresh ginger
  • six cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
  • 1 sprig fresh curry leaves if you have it
  • 1 large bombay onion
  • 2 teaspoons turmeric powder
  • 2 teaspoons cummin seeds
  • 2 teaspoons mustard seeds
  • 2 tablespoons salt
  • 2 teaspoons chilli powder
  • 1 tub tomato paste
  • 1 cup of water
  • 3 tablespoons tamarind paste
  • 1/4 cup white vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon white sugar
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • oil for frying

Method:

  1. Chop up eggplants into pieces about finger length and double finger length in thickness.
  2. Mix the chopped eggplant with the turmeric and salt cover and set aside for a few hours.
  3. Meanwhile,  mix together the tamarind paste, the chilli powder, white vinegar, sugar and tomato paste with a cup of water. Set aside.
  4. Press the juice out of the eggplant pieces between paper towels.
  5. Heat  two tablespoons of olive oil in a large wok or casserole pan.
  6. Fry batches of the eggplant pieces until golden and soft. Drain on paper towels.
  7. When all the eggplant has been cooked, heat the pan again with two more tablespoons of oil.
  8. Throw in the curry leaves and mustard seeds.
  9. When the seeds start to pop, add the cumin seeds, onion. ginger and garlic and stir.
  10. Add the eggplant.
  11. Now add the prepared sauce and stir well.
  12. Cover, lower the heat to a simmer and cook for half an hour, stirring occasionally.
  13. Adjust seasoning according to your taste: more vinegar for sourness, more sugar for sweetness. And of course more chilli powder for heat.
  14. The end result should be a yummy, thick dish, with no runny sauce. The eggplant should be very tender.
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Salt and turmeric first up.

 

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Tomato and tamarind pastes to make the sauce

 

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Frying up the eggplant

 

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Fresh curry leaves, ginger and onion

 

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Sweet and sour eggplant curry

 

Family Week And Some Good Home Cooking

How WONDERFUL that you and J and your sister Little C came up for a visit from Melbourne. A very special party brought you three to town, one we were  very excited to attend. It was a quick trip fro you and J, university and work beckoned as the fun week end came to a close. I was sad to wave you off at the airport on Sunday night, but luckily we were able to keep your sister behind for a bit longer.

A wonderful catch up on the first evening with your cousin and hubby.  I cooked shredded slow cooked lamb shawarma to wrap in pita bread with garlic and yoghurt sauce, and plenty of freshly chopped tabbouleh. Yum yum. Not to rest easy, your couzzie baked her amazing chocolate salted caramel brownies, AND little ramekins of deliciously silken creme brûlée. Oh my- it was a case of food coma on Friday night, wasn’t it!

For the big party, I was making sliders and coleslaw. It was so exciting to see members of the celebrating party arrive from all over the world: Six sisters and two brothers, only two unable to attend. The sisters were so lovely together, and we shared snatches of old stories, in between prep for the party.

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The party was such fun, the table groaning with good food which my cousin, her siblings  and mother had made. There were also  some staple Malaysian classics like rice noodles, satay with peanut sauce, and curry puffs. MMMMM!

C had made her supreme carrot cake and red velvet cake; meanwhile, I doubled the recipe of the flour-less chocolate cake, and baked it with care, as this was such a special occasion, and I wanted it to be perfect.

After you left, I fed Little C when I could. I say that because you know how she loves to cook when she comes home! She made us the most delicious pizza one night, the base formed out of a cauliflower and almond meal ‘pastry’. The topping was an equally stunning passata which had aubergine and pumpkin pieces in it. SOOOO delish. She is a creative and careful cook.

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Little C tells me she’s crazy about mushrooms right now, so I bought paper bags of oyster and button mushrooms from the little market a couple of times after work, and cooked them up for her with melted onions, some balsamico, and lots of chopped parsley. She was in heaven.

Today, before Little C packed up her suitcase and bag of books and headed back to Melbourne, we had a picnic by the ocean. It was a stunning crystal clear, hot and sunny day. We sat overlooking the sparkling water, busy with boats and ferries and yachts in the distance, and people of all ages and shapes swimming closer to the shore. I made some savoury muffins, and Delia Smiths’s more-ish granola bars. My couzzie C brought a large box of fresh fruit, your cousin had little jars of fruit compote, with sprigs of mint, and so that we weren’t too healthy, a large box of Rosetta Stone almond croissants.

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IMG_9037 With coffees from the kiosk close by, we shared a lovely hour together. Our lazy morning was broken when a man rushed past, urgently  looking for help. Your sweet cousin, deep into relating her travel stories to us, stopped suddenly. I guess if you are trained as a doctor, it is an ingrained instinct. She leaped up mid sentence and sped across the sand with the man to a little baby who was very sick. How lucky for the parents to have a paediatrician on the beach.

I’m glad you caught the crazy wisteria on the back terrace on your visit.  And the old azalea bush, smothered in pink blooms. We’ve been gardening more lately with the warmer weather. At the nursery yesterday, we found an odd aloe plant. Asking after its name, the nurseryman scratched his head and said: ‘Eric’. I had to have it of course. It now has pride of place in the front garden, looking like something from Dr. Seuss.

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IMG_8945Thank you and J for coming- we really loved having a full house! I miss you girls already.

 

(G)rainy Week-End and London Visitors

IMG_8263It was so lovely to see the B family after a couple of years.  We’d not even met the youngest member of the family, all of two years old.  He strode into the house in his little overalls and threw himself down at Alice and Paisley who were quite taken aback, roused from their doggie dreams. It has been a while since anyone paid them such close attention! Baby’s older brother, now bloomed into a charming (and good looking!) eleven year old, kept a tender eye on his new sibling.

We knew Mr. B as a young bachelor, tooling around in his black Beemer convertible, and he was a funny uncle to you girls, always laughing and making naughty jokes. It is so nice to see him with his own two children, and his beautiful wife who does a tremendous job taking her wild husband in her capable stride. I hope you have an opportunity to catch up with them while they are in Melbourne. They’d love to see you. I think the last time you saw them was in London, and that must be a while ago now.

I made a freekeh salad to accompany a slow cooked lamb dish when they were here, and a crunchy green bean and bell pepper salad. Tonight I’ve cooked some farro. Stirring in some pomegranate seeds, baby tomatoes, chopped parsley, garlic, lemon juice and lots of olive oil.  About a week ago, it was some tabbouleh with bulgur to go with spicy lamb kebabs. I love using these different grains- they feel so healthy and the texture is so earthy after rice and pasta.  The nutty flavour of farro is hard to beat for me, and I love the colour- a deep green-y brown; so rich and appealing.

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With the freekeh and farro, just follow the cooking instructions on the box, and then add to salads using vegetables like green beans, chickpeas, chopped apricots, peppers, pomegranate, chopped celery, onion, spring onion, carrots, etc. On a wintery day, it makes for a more substantial salad. You can also add farro to soups, giving them texture and some heft. (add a handful to a minestrone ..)

Tabbouleh, with bulgur is so much more economical assembled at home. My jaw dropped at the market the other day when a lady picked up a tub of tabbouleh and the guy said cheerily: Nine dollars please! Ouch! You can make it for a fraction of that.

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Definitely make a huge batch at home, and enjoy with some grilled sangers or chicken, or make hummus and grill some egg plant and capsicum for a vegetarian meal. Parsley is plentiful and beautifully fresh right now, so I’d encourage you to buy a pile and make some! No cooking involved, just chop up some favourite ingredients and toss together.  Here’s how:

Tabbouleh ingredients

  • 2 medium sized tomatoes diced fine
  • 1 small onion chopped fine
  • 1 large bunch mint leaves
  • 2 to 3 large bunches of flat leaf parsley
  • 1/2 cup good olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • 4 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon allspice
  • 30 grams bulgur

Method:

  1. Place the bulgur in a sieve, and wash under cold water. Drain well and put in the salad bowl.
  2. Add the chopped tomatoes and onions to the bowl with some of the lemon juice and stir to combine.
  3. Chop off the main parts of the parsley stems and discard.  Gather the bunches of leaves together, and chop fine. Add to the bowl. Now the same with the mint leaves, but no stems at all.
  4. Add the spices, and olive oil and rest of the lemon juice, and toss all the ingredients thoroughly.  You might need a little more olive oil.

Parsley is so good for you too! Full of anti-oxidants and high in Vitamin C, can you think of anything better during flu season?  Sending you both hugs.

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Biscotti: Just A Little Nibble!

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Dad brought home the Canada biscuit tin last night. Reminded me of the cookfest we had in the kitchen while you girls were here on holiday only last month. That was when the empty tin had come out of a dark cupboard…

Having you both home ( and on our travels) was just so much fun-  I didn’t get much of a kitchen look-in during that time; Little C took the reigns while the rest of us enjoyed her endeavours.  She was determined dad shouldn’t go hungry on the long days he spent at work, and sent him off to work one day with amazing Anzacs, to which she’d added dried mulberries that she’d bought at the Bondi farmer’s market.

Izzy, I have to confess those crinkly dried berries looked so much like little critter droppings, I was quite dubious about the whole idea. Of course they turned out beautifully, adding a lovely semi-sweet chewy-ness to those Anzacs…

Anyway seeing this empty Canada biscuit tin on the kitchen bench reminded me of those lovely biscuits  Little C so thoughtfully baked for her dad so I pulled out a mixing bowl…….time to fill up that tin again! Can’t have your dad staying at work till all hours without a snack to reach for, right?

I was reminded of our gorgeous Brissie friend’s excellent home-made biscotti, and how whenever we are together, she says: Tina, you really should make some yourself. So I am, and I’m sharing them with you, ladies!

Such simple ingredients, and the nice thing about it is you can store it half-baked in the freezer for ages. I’ve made a vaguely middle eastern variety with rose-water and pistachios, but you can substitute with chopped dates, almonds, grated orange or lemon zest and hazelnuts – whatever you are feeling like on the day.  They are only thin and light, so yes, a sweet, but not such a BIG indulgent one! Also perfect with a cup of tea… especially with the colds you’ve both had. I hope you are past the worst of it. I am thinking of you, my sweet girls. Wrap up tight against the Melbourne cold and bake! Here is how you make these biscotti babies:

Ingredients:

  • 3 eggs at room temperature, beaten with a fork
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon rose-water (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 cups plain flour
  • 1 cup shelled and unsalted pistachios

Method:

  1. Pre heat oven to 160 degrees celsius.
  2. In a bowl, mix flour well with baking powder, stirring through with a fork.
  3. Add sugar and pistachios or other nuts/dates/dried cherries, etc that you are using (1 cup in total) and mix well.
  4. Add beaten eggs and rosewater and knead with your fingers into a soft dough.
  5. Sprinkle some flour onto a clean surface and shape your dough into a long loaf, slightly flattening the top.
  6. Line a biscuit baking tray with grease proof paper and place the loaf onto the tray.
  7. Bake for half an hour, and then remove the loaf from the oven, place on a wire rack and cool completely.
  8. Now slice the loaf with a serrated bread knife into 1 to 2 cm thick slices.
  9. At this point, you can put some slices in a ziplock bag and freeze for later if you like.
  10. Put the slices back onto the tray and bake for another 15 to 20 minutes until pale gold in colour, and crisp.
  11. Store in an airtight jar….. or a biscuit tin!

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Baked Eggs: And A New Melbourne Semester begins

It was hard saying good bye to Little C at the crack of dawn this morning, only a couple of weeks after we took you to the airport Izzy. We’ve so enjoyed having you both home for a while. And what a treat to have some time off cooking while you both took over the chauffeuring, the grocery shopping, and the cooking. Very nice indeed. I’ll certainly miss my lovely helpers.

Our family  holiday in Burma was memorable. The Shwedagon Pagoda visit together is one I won’t forget. It was so lovely wandering that  glittering complex amongst friendly locals in their beautiful traditional costumes. They were there to pray, enjoy family picnics and some to visit their children, there as novice monks.  I also loved seeing Papa’s old school, and wandering around the sleepy compound with you all. Fascinating to eat tea leaf salads- we’d never had them before. The meals at ‘Gekko‘, ‘Monsoon’ and ‘Sharky’s’ were great, weren’t they? Not to forget that amazing curry table at the Governor’s Residence. And Shan noodles-yum, yum!

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St. Pauls  in Rangoon where Papa went to school.

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The glorious Shwedagon Temple.

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Three lovely young ladies at the Shwedagon temple.

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Burmese tea leaf salad.

Back home in Sydney, I was hardly allowed into the kitchen with Little C around, but I did make some baked eggs one week-end morning. It needs to be recorded here as an easy go-to recipe; it is nutritious and delicious and takes you through a long morning of work or study.

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Ready to eat with a garnish of parsley.

 

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Filling up the pots with favourite ingredients.

The nice thing about bakes eggs is the variety of things you can bake them with, for a change from the usual. Because you cook them in a water bath, there is ‘no-fail’ built into it too, which works for everyone. You just want to watch the time so as not to over bake them.

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Bake in a pan of water.

If you don’t have little individual pots to bake your eggs in, you can use a small oven proof dish, or even a shallow fry pan. Left overs come in handy for this dish. Here’s how to put it together:

For 4 people:

  • 8 fresh eggs
  • 2 cups of spinach leaves
  • 1 large onion
  • any suitable left overs: I had some barley salad with diced peppers which was ideal. Also a left over bowl of baked beans.
  • a few cherry tomatoes, quartered
  • 1/2 cup parmesan cheese
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • salt and pepper

Method:

  1. Chop the onion into a large dice and soften in a sauce pan with a table spoon of olive oil. Set aside.
  2. Heat the oven to 180 degrees celsius.
  3. Wipe four ramekin dishes or a small over-proof dish with the rest of the olive oil, and place this in a baking tray half filled with water.
  4. Into the bowl, arrange layers of some spinach leaves,  the barley salad , some baked beans, the tomato and the cooked onion.
  5. Break two (or one) eggs onto the top of each dish. Sprinkle over with parmesan cheese, and grind some salt and pepper over each.
  6. Place in the hot oven and cook until eggs are firm, about twenty minutes.

Note: you can use a myriad of other ingredients with your eggs: chopped peppers, mushrooms, chopped and cooked bacon or prosciutto, slices of zucchini, a handful of arugula, some chopped cooked potato pieces, any cooked mince,sun dried tomatoes or even tinned sardines or tuna. Add grated cheddar cheese in between layers too, if you like it more cheesy.

Have a wonderful new semester coming up. Izzy- your new home looks wonderful from photos and I cannot wait to come visit. Little C, your Ormond room this semester makes up for the exile of T-Res. You deserve the great room you scored. I miss you, my lovely girls. I hope you get together often, and continue to cook like you did over the holidays here.