Saturday, March 27, 2010

Banana and Raspberry Bread

I was originally going to make banana bread but realised I didn't have any walnuts in the pantry so I decided to make banana and raspberry bread instead :)


150g butter, softened
1 cup brown sugar
2 eggs, lightly beaten
3 ripe bananas, peeled, mashed (approx. 1 cup)
2 cups self-raising flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ cup milk
¾ cup fresh or frozen raspberries 
butter, to serve

  1. Preheat oven to 180°C. Grease base and sides of a 7cm deep, 11cm x 21cm (base) loaf pan. Line with baking paper, allowing a 2cm overhang at both long ends.
  2. Using an electric mixer, cream butter and sugar until pale. Add egg, in 2 batches, beating well after each addition.
  3. Stir in banana. Sift flour and baking powder over banana mixture. Add milk. Stir with a wooden spoon until combined. Carefully fold in raspberries.
  4. Spoon mixture into loaf pan. Smooth surface. Bake for 45 to 50 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Cool in pan for 10 minutes. Lift onto a wire rack to cool completely. Cut into 10 even slices.

Notes & Tips
If using frozen raspberries, place on paper towel to thaw before using.

To Freeze 
Individually wrap each slice in plastic wrap. Freeze slices in an airtight container for up to 4 weeks. Remove from freezer and unwrap. Spread with butter or margarine and rewrap. Place into lunch box frozen. Slice will thaw by morning tea/recess

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Pork Steaks with Spicy Apples


2 tsp olive oil
4 red apples (such as royal gala or pink lady), cored, quartered, thinly sliced
½ tsp ground cumin
½ tsp ground cinnamon
Pinch cayenne pepper
4 tsp brown sugar
4 pork chops or pork steaks
1 broccolini or green beans to serve

  1. Heat the oil in a large, heavy-based non-stick frying pan over medium heat. Add the apple and cook, turning occasionally, for 3-4 minutes or until golden. Add the cumin, cinnamon and cayenne pepper, turn apple to coat. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook for 2-3 minutes or until apple is just tender. Sprinkle over the sugar and stir until sugar melts. Transfer the apples to a plate.
  2. If required, heat another 2 tsp oil in the pan, season the pork steaks then add to the pan and cook for 2-3 minutes each side or until cooked through. Move the steaks to one side of the pan and add the apple mixture. Cook for 1 minute or until heated through.
  3. Cook the broccolini or beans in a large saucepan of salted boiling water for 2 minutes or until bright green and tender crisp. Drain well.
  4. Place a pork steak on top. Spoon over the apples and serve with the broccolini or beans.
Notes & Tips

For a milder dish, omit the cumin and cayenne pepper from the apple.

Cumin & cinnamon pears with pork: Replace the apples with 2 beurre bosc pears, halved, cored, cut into wedges.

      Tuesday, March 16, 2010

      Chicken Carbonara

      This recipe is a really great way to use up left over roast chicken or turkey. It's also very simple to prepare and cook as a mid-week meal.


      30g unsalted butter
      4 bacon rashers, thinly sliced
      2 tbs pine nuts
      4 eggs, beaten
      300ml light thickened cream
      3 garlic cloves, crushed
      ⅓ cup finely grated parmesan, plus extra to serve
      500g pasta
      2 cups shredded cooked chicken
      2 tbs chopped flat-leaf parsley, plus extra to serve

      1. Melt the butter in a deep fry pan over medium-low heat. Add the bacon and cook until just starting to crisp. Add the pine nuts and cook, stirring, for a further minute or until they start to brown. Transfer both to a plate lined with a paper towel
      2. In a bowl big enough to hold the cooked pasta, whisk together the eggs, cream, garlic and Parmesan. Add bacon and pine nuts, and season with salt and pepper.
      3. Cook the pasta according to packet instructions, then drain well. Immediately add the hot pasta to the egg mixture and toss for 1 minute, allowing the heat from the pasta to cook the sauce. Stir through the chicken and parsley, and serve topped with extra Parmesan and parsley.

      Monday, March 15, 2010

      Duck Fat Roast Potatoes

      Roast potatoes are the perfect accompaniment to meat dishes like a Sunday roast or BBQ dinner.

      Potatoes roasted in duck fat are in my opinion the crispiest, tastiest and the best in the world. But if duck fat isn't available where you live or you don't want to risk increasing your chances of getting heart disease, you can substitute with either olive oil or vegetable oil. Or, for a lighter version, spray with olive oil spray or canola oil spray.

      But how do you make your roast potatoes crispy on the outside and soft on the inside???

      Here are my 5 easy steps for roasting perfect potatoes:

      1. Use the right potatoes.
      Floury or waxy potatoes such as pontiac, sebago, coliban or desiree are the best varieties to use for making roast potatoes. Floury potatoes have a lower moisture content and because of their high starch content, they have a fluffy texture when cooked which makes them excellent for baking. Waxy potatoes can also be used as they retain their shape well when cooked. Always, select firm, dry potatoes with no signs of greening skin or sprouts.

      2. Par-boil the potatoes first.
      Once they are peeled and cut into similar sizes, put the potatoes into cold, salted water and bring to the boil. Once the pot is boiling, boil for about 5 minutes, then drain all the water off, let some of the steam evaporate off, then clamp on the lid and shake the potatoes about until the edges have slightly bruised and fluffed up. This is what will absorb the oil to make a crisp surface as the potato roasts. You can also scratch the surface of the potatoes with a fork for the same effect.

      3. Heat the oil first
      In a roasting pan or baking tray, that is large enough to take the potatoes in a single layer, put enough oil to cover the bottom with ease. The potatoes mustn't be bathing in the oil though. Put the tray into the hot oven 200°C for 10 minutes before the potatoes need to go in (you can do this whilst the potatoes are boiling). Once the oil is hot, put the potatoes in so they sizzle and toss them so they are coated all over, then return the tray to the oven to roast. The potatoes can be turned two or three times during cooking.

      4. Timing
      The potatoes need to stay in the hot oven until the very last minute when you are ready to serve. If they hang around keeping warm they lose their crisp edge and gradually dwindle into leathery bullets. They also need at least an hour at 200°C to reach optimum crispiness.

      5. Temperature
      Keep the hottest part of the oven for the potatoes. Juggling roast meat, roast potatoes and everything in a small oven is tricky but the potatoes will only get crisp if they can bask in blazing heat for a while- minimum oven temperature for roasting potatoes is 200°C. If all else fails, when the meat comes out to rest, turn the oven up to max and put the potatoes on the top shelf for a blasting.


      500g potatoes - floury potatoes are best
      2 tbsp duck fat
      Salt and pepper


      1. Preheat the oven to 200°C. Peel and cut the potatoes into even size pieces, put into a suitable size saucepan with plenty of cold salted water, bring to the boil and allow to simmer for about 5 minutes. Do not overcook.

      2. Drain the potatoes, removing as much water as possible. Put potatoes back in the saucepan.

      3. Add the duck fat to the potatoes with salt and pepper. With the lid on, give them a vigorous shake to rough up the edges and coat them with the duck fat.

      4. Place potatoes in a tray and roast in the oven until golden and crunchy. Remove the roast potatoes from the tray when you're ready to serve up. Add salt and pepper to taste, and enjoy!

      Notes & Tips

      Before placing the potatoes in the oven add some whole garlic cloves and sprigs of rosemary for a great aroma.

      Apple Tarte Tatin

      This classic French dessert is essentially an upside down apple tart in which the apples have been caramelisd in butter and sugar before the tart is baked. It's absolutely delicious, and is always a great dessert to eat after a meal.

      Apple tarte tatin has to be made using firm dessert apples or they will turn into a soft mush after the cooking process. I've also made this tarte tatin using firm, slightly under ripe pear with good results.


      3 golden delicious apples
      1 tbs lemon juice
      ½ cup caster sugar
      50ml water
      20g unsalted butter, chopped
      1 ready rolled puff pastry sheet
      1 egg
      1 tsp milk
      Ice cream or cream, to serve

      1. Pre-heat oven to 220°C.
      2. Peel and core apples, cut into 6-8 wedges, and toss the wedges in a large bowl with the lemon juice and 1 tablespoon of the sugar.
      3. Using a 20cm frying pan as a guide, cut pastry into a circle slightly larger than the pan, prick all over with a fork.
      4. Melt butter in a 20cm non-stick frying pan over medium high heat. Cover with remaining sugar and water. Cook over medium-low heat, shaking pan occasionally to spread around any dark spots that appear, until a rich caramel forms.
      5. Place apple wedges into pan, rounded side down, arranging them around pan. Cut remaining apple to fill gaps. Cook the apples over medium heat for about 10 minutes until caramel is bubbling up in the pan, shaking pan occasionally to prevent burn spots.
      6. Lay the pastry over the apples, tucking it in around the edges, and brush the pastry top with a little of the egg mixture.
      7. Place the pan in the oven, cook for about 25 minutes, or until the puff pastry has risen and cooked. The pastry should be dry and flaky. Stand tart in pan for 5 minutes before carefully turning out onto a serving plate. To turn out your tart, carefully place a plate on top of your frying pan and, using an oven cloth or glove, put your hand on top. Being very careful, as there will be hot liquid caramel around, quickly flip the tart over on to the plate.
      8. Serve with cream or ice cream.

      Sunday, March 14, 2010

      Mung Bean Soup

      Mung beans, according to Chinese physicians, have a 'cooling' effect on the body, so this is a very popular dish in Summer. This dessert soup can be served hot or cold.

      Serves 6


      ½ cup split yellow mung beans
      6 cups of water
      5 tablespoons sugar or adjust to taste

      1. Soak beans overnight, or at least for 4 hours, in plenty of cold water
      2. Place mung beans in a large pot, add 6 cups of water
      3. Bring to a boil, add sugar, stir, and simmer for 1 hour
      4. Let cool, then refrigerate for 1 hour, and serve
      Notes & Tips

      If you prefer your mung bean soup to have more of a yellow tinge, substitute the white sugar with rock sugar instead.

        Microwaved Lemon Curd

        Lemon curd is delicious served on toast or scones, and also very good as a filling for cakes, biscuits or crêpes. This is one of the recipes demonstrated by judge of 'MasterChef Australia 2009', Gary Mehigan in one of the Masterclass episodes.

        Makes approx. 2 cups curd


        3 whole eggs
        2 egg yolks
        1 cup caster sugar, sifted
        125g unsalted butter, cubed
        finely grated rind of 1 lemon
        200ml lemon juice, from about 3 lemons


        1. In a microwave-safe bowl, beat whole eggs, egg yolks and sugar until incorporated. Cut butter into small cubes and add to the egg mixture.
        2. Add grated lemon rind and lemon juice, give it a quick stir and place into microwave.
        3. Microwave, uncovered, on MEDIUM or 50% (I used a 700W-power microwave) for about 8 minutes, or until the mixture thickens. During the cooking, stop the microwave every minute and give the mixture a stir before resuming cooking.
        4. Store in sterilized jar in the refrigerator. Best consumed within 1 week

        Monday, March 1, 2010

        Creamy Chicken Pasta Bake

        What I love most about this creamy chicken pasta bake recipe is that it's so versatile. You can pretty much add or substitute any number of ingredients in this recipe and come up with so many different combination of flavours. I often just throw together whatever is left over in my fridge, freezer or pantry. Try adding zucchini, sauteed sweet potato, corn or peas to increase the vegetable content of this dish or a touch of mustard for a bit of a kick. Since I'm so time poor these days, it's great to also rely on an old favourite that I can whip up in a short amount of time.


        300g dried rigatoni or penne pasta
        4 cooked chicken drumsticks or BBQ chicken
        4 rashers rindless bacon, diced
        1 onion, chopped
        2 garlic cloves, crushed
        100g mushrooms, sliced
        100g baby spinach leaves or 1 bunch fresh asparagus
        300ml light thickened cream or light evaporated milk
        2 tbs semi-dried tomatoes
        ¼ cup grated parmesan cheese or more if desired
        1 cup grated mozzarella cheese or more if desired

        1. Preheat oven to 200°C. Lightly grease a 5cm-deep, 20cm x 28cm (base), 8-cup capacity baking dish.
        2. Remove chicken meat from the bone. Thinly shred meat. Discard bones.  
        3. Heat a little oil in a frypan over medium-high heat. Add the bacon and cook, stirring, for 5 minutes or until it starts to crisp. Then add onions and garlic and cook a further 5 minutes.
        4. Meanwhile, cook pasta in a large saucepan of boiling, salted water for 10 minutes or until tender.
        5. Drain pasta and return to saucepan. Add chicken, spinach or asparagus, mushrooms, cream, tomatoes and half the Parmesan. Toss until well combined. Season with salt and pepper.
        6. Spoon mixture into prepared dish. Top with mozzarella and remaining Parmesan. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until golden. Spoon pasta bake onto serving plates. Serve.
        Notes and Tips

        If using fresh asparagus, blanch in boiling water. Remove from heat, plunge into iced water, set aside for 5 minutes then drain.

        For the vegetarian version of this recipe, just omit the meat and add more vegetables of your liking.
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