Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Chicken Pie

This pie is oh so delicious and looks rather tempting.  The pastry mix is one I use for making apple pie only I omitted the sugar and still kept in the custard powder, it comes from my "Best recipes from the Weekly". I think the custard powder helps to give it that rich golden colour and a nice smooth crust to taste.  The chicken pie filling is one that I have made up from a combination of recipes off the internet and have ironed out the wrinkles to make it a perfect pie.  I had lots of chicken so I decided to make two pies.  One I cooked and the other I prepared but didn't cook, so it went straight into the freezer for another day.  The ingredients below are for one pie, just double it for two, although I must say I did only use half of a large chicken, it was a very big chicken.  Just give yourself plenty of time for this pie, pastry could be made in the morning or the day before so you just have to roll it out and add the filling. 

Chicken Pie

1 egg yolk
1/2 teaspoons baking powder
2 1/4 cups plain flour
1/3 cup cornflour
1/3 cup custard powder
185g butter
1/3 cup water approx
1 egg white
sesame seeds

2 potatoes diced and pre boiled
1/2 sweet potato diced and pre boiled
1 carrot diced
1 onion chopped chunkily
2 sticks of celery chopped finely
30g butter
extra virgin olive oil
2 shallots
3/4 cup corn kernals
1/2 large BBQ chicken chopped (free range if possible)
1 tablespn corn flour
1 teaspoon chicken stock
300ml water
salt & pepper to season

To make the pastry, sift flour, cornflour and custard powder together with the baking powder, rub in softened butter.  Make a well in the centre, add egg yolk and enough water to mix to a firm dough, knead lightly.  Cover and refrigerate while you prepare the pie filling.

Turn oven on to 190° C/375° F.  Boil potatoes until just ready, you don't want them too soft.  Oil large pan with extra virgin olive oil and a dob of butter, gently cook up the onion, carrot and celery until softened.  Add chopped chicken and herbs then the cooked potatoes, corn, shallots and seasoning. Gently mix together.  Add water to the stock and cornflour, mix together then stir into the pie filling, let thicken.  Turn off the heat.  You also don't want the pie too soggy, the liquid just binds the ingredients together.

Retrieve pastry from the fridge and cut into two halves.  Roll out the first half of pastry onto floured surface.  Roll it large enough to cover the greased pie plate with a little over hang around the edge.  

Fill the pie with the cooked filling. Brush egg white around the rim of the pastry.  Roll out second half of pastry and cover over the pie, press edges together firmly and trim.

Any spare bits of pastry can be rolled out and shaped to decorate your pie.  Brush top of pie with egg white and sprinkle with sesame seeds.  Cut an X in the top of the pie to allow steam to escape while cooking.

Bake in moderately hot oven 25-35 mins until golden brown, serve immediately.  Any leftovers are great for a warm lunch the next day.

Friday, June 19, 2009

School lunches

Back in my day lunch times at school were called little lunch and big lunch and we had a tuckshop at the school where you could get a lunch order or just buy a snack over the counter.  I remember in grade one, the tuckshop was about 15 meters away from our class room and the smell of pies and sausage rolls heating up through the morning used to make me so hungry.  On a hot summer's day in Queensland you could buy a sunny boy triangular pyramid shaped ice block that would last all the lunch hour because it was frozen solid.  Usually at the end of the lunch hour you'd be left with a tasteless blob of ice as you sucked the juice out of it.   

Today my boys call their little lunch recess and big lunch is just lunch time, tuckshop is now canteen.  At my boys school there is only one day in the week that the canteen is open all day and on Fridays it's open for recess only.  During the early years of my first son's schooling we never really did lunch orders, but since my second son started school it's been a habit in the last year or so every Tuesday to have a lunch order.  I look forward to Tuesdays, not only does it give me a break on Tuesday mornings from making lunches, but if the cupboard is bare I don't have to worry, unless of  course we have run out of small change...then we have to raid the money boxes.

The lunches I make for my boys every day is fairly simple.  The only pre-packed thing I sometimes use is a little pyramid of laughing cow cheese to pop into their recess.  For their recess, I cut up a piece of fruit and have crackers and cheese or a little container that I put some dip into.  This recess had some carrot sticks for dipping, a few water crackers, grapes and spinach and pine nut dip in a tiny sealed container.  Sometimes it's just cookies or muffins that I have made, but there's always a piece of fruit.

For lunch it's always a sandwich.  Ham, cheese, tomato, lettuce and a little mayo on whole grain bread.  It varies sometimes, ham, cheese and avocado, chicken, tomato and avocado etc depending on what I have in the fridge.  We don't do peanut butter at school because of children with allergies, so we save peanut butter sandwiches for the weekend.  My boys like the same things for lunches pretty much every day.  I just vary the fruit and the sandwich fillers.  I love this time of year, the fruit, especially mandarines are fantastic for putting in lunch boxes whole, if it's an apple I usually quarter it and cut out the middle seed section and give half to each child and throw in a few grapes or half of a banana. 

My theory about school lunches is if you make it bite size they can pop it into their mouths easily and have enough time for play.  If they eat their lunches, which they do, then I know they are pretty much getting a balance of all the right food groups and we can have something yummy for afternoon tea.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Chocolate Hazelnut slice

I was looking for something to bake this morning as it was time for something sweet.  As I was flicking through a recipe book from the boys school, compiled by the families to celebrate 50 years of the school, I came across this Chocolate Hazelnut slice.  Most of the time when I see a recipe I fancy I want to cook it there and then, so a lot of the time I have to make do with what ingredients I have.  I am not one for popping down to the shops for just a few ingredients as I usually come home with a trolley full.  So if I don't have it, I improvise or twist it to a similar recipe, the same goes with all of my recipes, I never seem to bake exactly the same thing twice. Now I didn't have a hazelnut chocolate bar on hand (they don't last long in our house) but I did have some hazelnuts in the cupboard which I crushed and added to 200g of milk and dark chocolate melts and I also don't use copha so see the alternative if you're not a fan of it either.

Chocolate Hazelnut Slice

250g plain sweet biscuits (milk arrowroot)
125g butter melted
150g flaked almonds or chopped slivered almonds
1/2 tin condensed milk
2 tablespoons golden syrup
200g block hazelnut chocolate melted
30g copha (hydrogenated coconut oil) melted 
(see note below * about alternative for copha)

Line a 20cm x 20cm square tin, (or of similar dimensions) with baking paper.  Call for your biscuit crusher to come and help you, mine is the best helper, he hammered away at a bag full of biscuits and then we poured them into a bowl to finish them off.  

Crush biscuits, chop almonds and place in a bowl.  Add melted butter, golden syrup and condensed milk.

Mix well and press into prepared tin, refrigerate.

For the topping, melt the chocolate and copha together in a double boiler and pour over base. Refrigerate 1-2 hours then cut into squares.

*Alternatively:  I didn't have copha, I don't like copha and I won't use copha so instead I melted about 200g of choc melts, a combination of milk chocolate and dark chocolate bits and I added about 30g butter instead.  When the chocolate was melted and smooth I also added a few tablespoons of condensed milk and then the crushed hazelnuts.  You don't have to add the condensed milk if you don't want to as it firms up the melted chocolate mix (this is how I make chocolate fudge) you have to press the chocolate mixture onto the base with your fingers, it's quite malleable when warm, to smooth it out.

Once you have pressed the chocolate over the base refrigerate for a few hours and then cut into slices.  It's quite a sweet slice due to the condensed milk and golden syrup but a little piece does rather nicely for afternoon tea or desert.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Vegetable Lasagne

After being afraid of making lasagne in my early 20's it is now one of the easy meals that I am so used to preparing that I rarely use a recipe.  This recipe is one of the many different lasagnes I cook.  So please forgive me if it seems a little long winded, as I wrote this one out myself weeks after making and taking the photos. This is such a delicious dish that my kids will eat, particularly because it has lasagne sheets, tomato sauce and cheese, which tend to disguise the vegies and fools them into thinking they are eating a regular lasagne.  It may look a little complicated but just prepare the chopped vegies and sauce ahead of time and all you have to do is make up the layers.  The tomato sauce could be made anytime even the day before, just heat it up a little before you start layering.  I also make a double size lasagne in a large baking dish.  We usually get two meals out of it and serve it again a few days later.  The ingredients below should be enough for a standard lasagne dish, if you use a larger one just double the ingredients.

Vegetable Lasagne

2 zuchini’s sliced
1 carrot thinly sliced
1 capsicum (red bell pepper)
fresh baby spinach
fresh basil and oregano leaves.
lasagne sheets

Tomato Sauce
1 800g tin of chopped whole peeled tomatoes
3 cloves of garlic crushed
1 brown onion diced finely
salt and pepper to taste
extra virgin olive oil

Ricotta cheese approx 375g
Grated Colby approx 1-2 cups
Sliced mozzerella or bocconcini 
(approx 1 container of bocconcini)

Turn oven on to 200° C/400° F
To make the sauce cook onions in pan on medium heat with olive oil, until softened. Add tinned chopped tomatoes, mix and simmer, then add crushed garlic. You might want to cover a little as the tomato bubbles about a lot. Allow to simmer on low heat for at least 10 mins while you prepare the vegetables.

Spread a thin layer of sauce on the bottom of lasagne dish, then a layer of zuchini, carrot, capsicum, spinach, basil and oregano and a little more sauce. Then place the lasagne sheets evenly across. Layer more vegies and then sauce and repeat again.  You end up with about three layers of lasagne sheets and vegies.

For the top layer after you put down the last layer of lasagne sheets dob a few blobs of sauce over the lasagne sheets, dob some blobs of riccotta cheese, sprinkle with grated colby cheese and top with small slices of mozzerella or bocconcini cheese. Then blob any sauce in spots over top of the cheese.  I like dobbing blobs.

Bake in a hot oven 200°C/400°F for about 40-45 mins or until the top is bubbling and browned a little.  Serve with a side salad or just on its own.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Breakfast Crepes

I am not a great lover of pancakes but I love crepes.  I have only eaten theses ones for breakfast, but these crepes can be used for anything, deserts, seafood or savory dishes.  I love them for breakfast with fresh fruit, maple syrup and melted butter.  This is the breakfast I ask for when it's Mothers Day or my Birthday.  This time I made them for my boys.  They really love constructing their own crepes.  My boys chose to have fruit crepes for their "Kids Day" breakfast this year.  For a little background on Kids Day go here.  

Breakfast Crepes

2 cups plain flour
2 cups milk + extra
1 tspn vanilla essence
6 eggs
pinch salt
1 tablespoon sugar
maple syrup
fruit salad

Turn your hotplates on to just above a medium heat or if you have a gas stove keep a low flame.  Sit your flat pans on the stove top to heat up.  In a medium bowl add flour, sugar, salt and stir through.  Add eggs, vanilla and most of milk to the flour mixture.  Stir through until combined, add the rest of the milk.  I use my electric hand beaters to thoroughly mix and make sure there are no lumps.  You want the consistency of the mixture to be like thin runny custard, because your crepes need to be thin.  If it's too thick just add more milk to the mixture and stir in.

With a folded up piece of paper towel wipe a bit of butter on to it and then rub around the surface of the pan.  You don't want liquid butter running across the surface though, just a thin film of butter to stop the crepe from sticking to the pan.  If you have a large pouring jug transfer the mixture into that to make pouring onto the pan easier.  Now pour your first crepe to the size of a saucer.  Then swirl the pan and mixture around to spread the crepe out a little thinner.  When the surface of the crepe looks dull and not shiny and wet, use a spatula and gently lift to turn over the crepe.

You don't want the crepe too dark, just a light browning as it cooks quickly.  Turn down the heat a little if it cooks too quick or turn it up if it's not browning.  There is a delicate balance to the heat so try not to swing from hot to cold try to keep the temperature steady.

While the crepes are cooking cut up some fresh fruit, any that you might like.  I used navel oranges, kiwi fruit, rock melon and banana, a light fresh mix.  After each crepe is cooked place in  a container to keep warm until all crepes are done.

In a small jug melt about 80 grams of butter.  This is for pouring over the crepes with the maple syrup. Next step constructing your crepe.  Lay out your crepe, add a serving of fruit.

Then roll it up like these guys.  "Rollin, rollin, rollin..."!

Pour a little melted butter and some maple syrup, or maple flavoured syrup over the crepe and enjoy.  This batch makes about 18 crepes, some for today and some for tomorrow...or maybe desert.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Crispy Chocolate Meringues

For a light crunchy chocolate treat, these are fantastic.  I've made a trial batch as I will be making them next week at our church's cooking group.  My friend Stacy is going to be making pizza's for us and I thought these might go down as a light and sweet snack after pizza.  They are easy peasy lemon squeezy.

Crispy Chocolate Meringues

2 egg whites
1/2 cup caster sugar
1 1/4 cups cornflakes, crushed
125g dark chocolate, finely chopped
2 tablespoons drinking chocolate, for dusting

Preheat oven to moderately slow 160°C/325°F. Line baking tray with baking paper.  Crush up the corn flakes with a pestle and chop up the chocolate with a big sharp knife.  There is something satisfying about chopping up chocolate, it gives a certain raspy crunch.  I did start to grate it up but it takes too long and crunching it up with a knife is much quicker.

Using electric beaters, beat egg white in a small bowl until stiff peaks form. Add sugar gradually and beat until sugar has dissolved and mixture is thick and glossy.

Using a metal spoon, fold the cornflakes and chocolate gently into the egg white mixure and stir until combined.

It should look a little like this.

Spoon 2 heaped teaspoons of meringue mixture on prepared baking tray 2 cm apart. Bake 25-30 mins or until dry and firm to touch.

Dust meringues with sifted drinking chocolate while still hot, but don't do this...

...it makes a bit of a mess.  Transfer to a wire rack when almost cool.  They are best eaten when they have cooled completely as they crisp up to a crunchy texture.  If you eat them too soon they might be a little chewy unless of course you like them that way. 

I think they look like little mountains, a whole range of little mountains.

Recipe from Crazy for Chocolate by Family Circle.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Goulash Soup

I have made this soup only a couple of times in the last few years.  I first tasted it in Melbourne while I was living with my Aunt Desley. She made it, and it has stuck in my mind ever since as one of the most delicious soups I've tried.  It’s the perfect winter warmer, rich and flavoursome and goes well with a crusty white ploughmans loaf. So first things first, put your crusty white loaf on in your bread maker or start mixing it up yourself so that it is ready for when you start eating your soup. Now this recipe can be a little fiddly so give yourself plenty of time. I’ve tried to simplify the method a little, but it is so worth it in the end.

Goulash Soup

30g butter
2 large onions finely chopped
2 large carrots chopped
3 sticks celery finely chopped
500g pork steak or stirfry strips
125g or 5 bacon strips (I used rindless short cut bacon)
3 teaspoons paprika
60g butter extra
extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup flour
2 litres of water
2 tspn beef stock
2 tspn chicken stock
1/4 tspn caraway seeds (optional)
1/3 cup tomato paste
salt, pepper
3 tablespoons fresh chopped parsley (optional)
cream (optional)

You will need two large pans, one for the soup mix and one for cooking up the ingredients. I used my deep pan on the stove top to cook up the vegies and meat and then transferred the mix into the large soup pot. You will notice the ingredients above with (optional) are the ones I didn’t have and the soup was still magnificent without them.

Heat butter and a little oil in large pan, add peeled and chopped onions, carrot and celery.  Saute gently until golden brown, remove from pan. 

Add extra butter and oil to pan, add pork and bacon pieces. Cook gently until meat is golden brown, remove from pan.

Add flour to pan, stir until dark golden brown.  Add paprika, stir 1 minute more.  The recipe actually called for 2 tablespoons of paprika but I felt it was too much so I used 3 teaspoons, you can add which ever your tastebuds desire.  Remove pan from heat, add water, stir until soup comes to boil. Mix well so you don’t get any lumpy bits and reduce the heat. Pour soup mix into large soup pot add pork, bacon and vegetables, stir until combined. Add caraway seeds, beef and chicken stock and tomato paste. Stir until combined, season with salt and pepper.  Cover, simmer gently 1 1/2 hours. Remove meat from soup with a slotted spoon and most of the carrot pieces. 

Cut up meat pieces finely. Before adding the meat back to the pot, I blend up the soup mix with a hand blender, just to disguise some of the celery and onion bits from my kids. Then add the meat and carrots back to the soup. Add chopped parsley (I didn’t have any so I didn’t use it). Spoon into serving bowls and swirl a little cream on top of each (again I didn’t have any cream but the soup itself is wonderful without it). Serve with your lovely fresh baked bread.

Recipe from Best Ever Recipes of the Australian Women's Weekly cookbook.