Chocolate Cake

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Earlier in the year my friend Jacqui gifted me with this gorgeous chocolate cake, ready to eat along with the recipe below, telling me how it’s a favourite in her extended family. We so enjoyed the cake she gave us and I’ve been keen to try it myself ever since, except for me, the ‘year’ has become the new ‘month’ and time has got away way too quickly. But as of yesterday afternoon it’s school holidays around here, and as much as I LOVE school holidays (no driving, sport, lunches, homework and washing uniforms) the thing that has the potential to drive me quite up the wall during this time is the constant question “Mum, what can I eat?”. So the ducks of need + time + energy have lined up and I’ve finally got around to making this lovely and dead-easy cake myself. This moist cake cooks evenly and comes out shiny and rich looking, but best of all it’s light and chocolatey and very easy to eat. Costing less than $3 to make with ingredients you’re bound to already have in the pantry, this cake is simply awesome. Thanks for sharing it with us, Jacqui. 

  • 1 1/2 cups self raising flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 4 tablespoons cocoa
  • 1 level teaspoon bi-carb soda
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 cup milk
  • 110g butter, softened to room temperature
  • 2 eggs
  1. Grease and line a deep 20cm round cake tin, and preheat oven to 150 degrees.
  2. Beat all the ingredients except the eggs together for about 2 mins. Add the eggs and beat for a further 2-3 minutes. 
  3. Transfer cake mixture to greased and tin and smooth out evenly.
  4. Bake for around 50 mins, but start checking earlier with a skewer so cake doesn’t dry out.
  5. Ice with a simple mixture of icing sugar, butter, cocoa and a dash of milk, though as you can see I’ve used a jar of Betty Crocker’s chocolate icing cause it needed using up in my stores.

Amy Heap’s Lemon Bread

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Lemon Bread

Since blogging about my prolific lemon tree lots of friends have sent me their winning lemon recipes, and so I’ve been enjoying the process of trying them out as needed, photographing and blogging about them (sorry I’m not faster at it… life doesn’t generally afford me the fun of cooking just for the sake of it!). Next cab off the lemon rank is Amy’s Lemon Bread, which she tells me is probably the cake she’s made more than any cake ever, and the one she still makes most often. This lovely loaf took little time and only a few dollars to make, lasted a good week in my take cake keeper and worked well with cream as dessert when needed. Thanks for sharing, Amy.

For the cake:

  • 90g of butter
  • 1 cup castor sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups plain flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • pinch salt
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 dsp grated lemon rind
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup almond meal

For the lemon syrup:

  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup castor sugar
  1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees.
  2. In a small saucepan or microwave jug melt butter and mix in the sugar. Transfer to a large bowl, and add eggs one at a time, mixing well as you go.
  3. Add sifted dry ingredients alternately with milk and then fold in lemon rind, juice and ground almonds.
  4. Pour into a greased or lined loaf tin and bake in moderate oven for 50-60 minutes, though start checking earlier if you’re oven is hottish or fan-forced.
  5. While cake is in the oven, prepare the syrup by stirring lemon juice and sugar in a small saucepan over low heat until the sugar dissolves.
  6. When cake is cooked and still hot and in the tin, gradually spoon over the lemon syrup. Allow to cool completely in the loaf tin.

Cheesy Chorizo and Potato Bake

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Chorizo and potato bake

Recently my friend Ruth and I have found ourselves sitting together in the stands at basketball a couple of afternoons a week, watching our boys play and getting to know each other while talking food, kids, faith and life in general. She recently shared a couple of recipes with me, the first of which was this lovely Spanish take on the old Potato Bake. Our whole family really liked it as a main meal, though my husband enjoyed pairing it with leftover pulled pork for lunch for a number of days afterward as well. Chorizos are frequently on half-priced special at the Woolworth’s deli, and when they are I tend to buy lots at once and freeze them in pairs, which makes each bundle about 200g, just the amount needed for this recipe. Even when using full-priced Chorizo this yummy dinner costs less than $10 to make and serves 6, even more when serving as a side dish. Thanks for sharing this lovely wintery recipe, Ruth.

• 1 tablespoon olive oil

• 200g chorizo sausage, sliced

• 1 red onion, sliced

• 1 red capsicum

• 1 kg potatoes, unpeeled, thinly sliced

• 1 cup cream

• 200g grated cheese – any is fine, but Gouda, Edam or Cheddar work well

• salt and pepper to taste

• Paprika, for sprinkling

1. Heat oil in a fry pan and fry chorizo, onion and capsicum together until golden and soft.

2. Overlap half the potato slices in the base of a large quiche or lasagna dish.

3. Layer with half the chorizo mixture, half the cream and half the cheese. Season with salt and pepper.

4. Repeat layers with all ingredients except other half of the cheese.

5. Cover with foil and bake at 200°C for 45 minutes, until potatoes are tender.

6. Remove foil, sprinkle with remaining cheese and bake a further 30 minutes until golden brown.

7. Serve sprinkled with paprika if desired.

Nigella Lawson’s Banana Bread (or my Rapidly Rotting Fruit Loaf)

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Banana Bread

This easy-peasy banana bread has become my frequent go-to for using up fruit that’s quickly losing freshness in my fruit bowl. Originally from Nigella Lawson’s excellent book, How To Be A Domestic Goddess, this banana bread is cheap to make, freezer friendly and super versatile. If bananas have become over-ripe I often throw them straight in the freezer whole, skins and all, and then thaw them out to use another time – upon defrosting the insides just slop right out of their skins, and don’t even need mashing. And this recipe copes really well with almost anything you want to throw at it: old, bruised strawberries, rhubarb, a drained can of pineapple chunks/crushed pineapple, a handful of nuts, crystalized ginger… whatever floats your boat. Just keep the bananas!) The loaf pictured above features rotten bananas, too-far-gone pears and a handful of frozen raspberries from the freezer, and cost about $5 to make.

  • 175 grams plain flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 125 grams unsalted butter (melted)
  • 150 grams caster sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 4 small very ripe bananas (mashed)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 170ºC and line a loaf tin with baking paper. Put the flour, baking powder, bicarb and salt in a medium-sized bowl and, using your hands or a wooden spoon, combine well.

In a large bowl, mix the melted butter and sugar and beat until blended. Beat in the eggs one at a time, then the mashed bananas, along with any other fruit you’ve decided to use – just blitz it in your food processor first. Then, with your wooden spoon stir in vanilla extract and any other ‘bits’ you want – nuts, raspberries etc… Add all this to the flour mixture, then scrape into a loaf tin (23 x 13 x 7cm) and bake in the middle of the oven for 1-1¼ hours (start checking at 1 hour). When it’s ready, an inserted toothpick or fine skewer should come out cleanish. Leave in the tin on a rack to cool, and eat thickly or thinly sliced, as you prefer. Also can be toasted and spread with butter for a yummy brunchy breakfast. 

Donna Hay’s Lemon Sour Cream Cake

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Lemon Tree

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So my lemon tree is going bananas (check out my heavy-laden little tree!), which has seen me searching high and low for good lemon recipes. Ages ago a friend made this lovely cake for me when visiting with them and it was such a delightful thing to eat – zesty and fresh with a lovely depth and moistness resulting from the addition of sour cream. And trying it out proved so simple I could do it while catching up with an old friend on the phone. Make this cake in whatever shape you like – a ring tin is a lovely option, or do as I did and use a regular 22cm round one. This cake is great when you’re in a rush cause it doesn’t matter at all if you need to ice it while it’s still a little warm – the drizzled glaze effect is perfect for this cakey genre. Turn it into a terrific dessert by serving with a dollop of cream and enjoy the cost effectiveness of this affordable option, which costs around $6.80 if you need to purchase lemons from a shop, and $3 less if you scrump some lemons from elsewhere.

For the cake

  • 220g butter (melted or at room temp)
  • 330g caster sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 120g sour cream or cream or greek yoghurt
  • 60 ml lemon juice / juice 3 lemons
  • 2 Tbsp lemon zest / zest 2 lemons
  • 300 g all purpose flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder

For the lemon icing

  • 320g icing sugar (sifted)
  • 1 Tbsp lemon juice 
  • 2 Tbsp water (boiling)
  1. Preheat the oven to 160°C if fan forced or 170 degrees otherwise. Grease and line a 22 cm round or ring tin with flour and butter or baking paper.
  2. Place the butter, sugar, eggs, sour cream, lemon juice and zest in a stand mixer or food processor and mix well until batter is well combined and smooth.
  3. Add the flour and baking powder and whisk until smooth.
  4. Pour the mixture into a greased pan and bake for 40-45 minutes (or until a skewer inserted comes out clean). Cool in the pan for 10 minutes. Turn out onto a wire rack and take off the pan. Let it to cool completely.
  5. To make the lemon icing: place the icing sugar, juice and water in a bowl and mix to combine. Drizzle over the cake.

Cauliflower Bake

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Cauliflower Bake PlatedCauliflower Bake

Well here in Australia, my favourite season – winter – has arrived. For me, winter is all about boots and soft socks, jackets, warm jumpers, snuggly evenings on the couch and having people over to enjoy comfort food. The downside is only that these yummy dishes are often carb-heavy and and high in fat, and well, over the course of winter, the old jeans can get a bit tight. So I thought I’d share this recipe with you cause it’s been getting a bit of a workout at our place lately and while it’s definitely a treat-like comfort food (it’s no low-calorie salad!), it is very low carb. And it’s so versatile – we use it as a side as well as a main and the whole family devours it. It’s also great for lunches made on Sunday afternoons for the working week ahead or as an easy meal to give away. This yummy, wintery dish that serves 15 people as a side, 8+ as a main, costs $28 to make if you buy your cauliflower and all the other ingredients from a supermarket (I’ve calculated this based on current Woolworth’s pricing), but almost half that if you’ve got time to swing past a fruit and veg shop. Similarly, Coles has recently released an excellently priced and packaged You’ll Love Coles cream cheese product, and streaky bacon from Aldi is always a good price. A little shopping around makes the whole meal quite affordable. Happy winter, everyone!

  • 2 heads fresh cauliflower
  • 250g cream cheese
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1 bunch spring onions sliced finely, white stalk to mid-green length (chuck away dark green part)
  • ½ cup parmesan cheese, grated finely
  • 10 slices of streaky bacon (though any kind is fine), fried off and crumbled
  • 2 cups grated cheddar cheese
  1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees. Boil the cauliflower covered in water in a large pot. Drain the water completely and mash to a pulp in the pot you cooked it in.
  2. Mix in cream cheese, sour cream, spring onions, parmesan and ¾ of the bacon.
  3. Spread the mixture evenly into a large lasagne dish. Sprinkle with cheddar cheese and reserved bacon. Bake for 30-35 mins until hot and bubbly. Enjoy!

Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s Red Onion, Cheddar and Bacon Muffins

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baconcheddarmuffins

Although I hear that some people don’t like bacon, to me, it’s a food group all of its own, along with Diet Coke and good coffee. What follows is another delightful recipe from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, the third and final in this series for summer hospitality and easy back to school non-sandwich lunches. These cheesy, bacony, and very pretty muffins are fluffy and so eatable. The recipe below produces 12 and costs less than $6 to make.

  • 1 tsp oil
  • 100g streaky bacon, cut into 1cm pieces
  • 1 red onion, finely diced (I used a regular brown one)
  • 250g wholemeal self-raising flour (I used plain white flour)
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 80g unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • 200ml buttermilk (replace with yoghurt, sour cream or ordinary milk if need be)
  • 1 tbsp finely chopped chives (optional, I like chives so put in 3 tablespoons)
  • 150g strong cheddar, grated
  1. Heat the oven to 200C/400F/gas mark 6 and line a muffin tin with 12 paper cases.
  2. Warm the oil over a medium heat and fry the bacon in it until just crisp. Lift the bacon from the pan with a slotted spoon and drain on kitchen paper. In the same fat, sauté the onion until just softened, about five minutes, then set aside to cool.
  3. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and salt.
  4. In a jug, whisk the eggs, butter and buttermilk, stir them into the flour mixture with a spatula until just combined, then fold in the cooled bacon, onion, chives, if using, and two-thirds of the cheese until just evenly distributed.
  5. Spoon or scoop the mixture into the muffin tins, sprinkle on the rest of the cheese, and bake for about 18 minutes, until the tops are golden and a toothpick inserted into the centre of a muffin comes out clean.