While it is true that winter is my favourite season of the year, I can’t help but feel a little enlivened by the warmer weather and the knowledge that summer is on its way. The shops are starting to supply summery fruits once more: mangoes, melons, apricots and other stonefruits, my favourite being the yellow peach. To celebrate the promise of all things summer, I decided it’s the perfect time to try out this simple and delightful recipe from my friend Jess. I love the way Jess does hospitality – simple and tasty food accompanied by no amount of fuss and flourish, she simply focusses on the folks she’s serving. This lovely dessert is the first of a number of affordable and tasty recipes contributed by Jess – costing no more than $5 and even less when peach season is in full swing.
- 125g butter, softened
- 1 cup / 220g caster sugar
- 1 teaspoons vanilla
- 2 eggs
- 1 ½ cups / 220g self raising flour, sifted
- 2 peaches, cut into thin wedges
- 150g raspberries
- 2 tablespoons icing sugar
1. Preheat oven to 160 degrees and line 22cm springform tin (not a tart tin – the first time I made this I used a loose-bottomed tart tin and it overflowed because the walls of the tin didn’t come up high enough).
2. Beat butter, sugar, vanilla until light and creamy. Add the eggs and beat well.
3. Fold in flour and put in tin.
4. Top with peaches and raspberries and sprinkle with icing sugar (you can do this randomly or with an ordered pattern. I tried to go with random, but seriously struggled not to order my randomness! The picture above shows a bit of both)
5. Bake 1 hour or until cooked through and serve with vanilla ice-cream, thick cream or good quality yoghurt.
Though not here yet, summer is on its way. And while signs of winter can still be seen, as daylight saving time began in NSW last weekend, our barbeque has been beckoning us. Today we had good reason to give in and so enjoyed our first of the season. And what’s a barbie without some yummy fresh salads? Originally from my friend Amy, the following Asian Noodle Salad is my all time favourite salad. It’s so tasty and filling it could easily be eaten on its own as summer style main course. For these reasons, it’s a terrific option when needing to cater for vegetarian friends and can you believe, this scrummy salad is also egg, dairy and gluten free. As if it couldn’t get any better, this very large salad is so affordable, costing around $8 to make and serves 15+ people as an accompaniment or 8 served as a main.
- 1 x 250g packet of rice stick noodles (clear flat ones, come in a variety of widths)
- 1 x 250g packet of bean shoots
- 1 small bunch of coriander, leaves picked from stalks (cheapest from a grocer)
- 1 bunch of shallots (8-10 stalks)
- 4 tablespoons soy sauce (use gluten free variety if necessary)
- 4 tablespoons peanut oil
- 2 tablespoons sesame oil
- 2 tablespoons lime or lemon juice (fresh is great, but I always use squeeze from fridge)
- Cook noodles for a couple of minutes only, until soft, in a large pot of rapidly boiling water. Drain using a sieve or colander and run lots of cold water through the noodles to stop the cooking process. Rinse out pot with cold water to cool it down, ready to use again for combining the salad ingredients.
- Place cooked noodles, coriander leaves, bean shoots and chopped shallots in the cooled down pot. Set aside.
- In a jar with a tight lid, shake together soy sauce, peanut oil, sesame oil and lime/lemon juice.
- Pour dressing over all the ingredients in the pot and toss well using tongs. Transfer to a large salad bowl and serve at table. Enjoy!
In general, I don’t really like baking biscuits. I do love the taste of a chewy homemade chocolate chip cookie, but just the thought of repetitively rolling teaspoonfuls of mixture into little balls and cycling tray after tray through the oven, is enough to make me flip-out before I even begin. But when my friend Cathy sent this recipe the other day, I was forced to reconsider my anti-biscuit position. The recipe that follows does away with rolling balls of mixture (yay!) though you can still do that if you prefer, and is made in super-sized quantities that fit the bill for multi-purpose cooking (individually wrapped for school lunches, supper for Bible study, morning tea when cooking for a camp or just for filling the household cookie jar). Along with all these things, I fell in love with this recipe because each of the logs of uncooked cookie mixture can be wrapped in plastic wrap and frozen for emergencies. Simply thaw the log out on 50% in the microwave, cut into rounds and bake for 10 minutes in a moderately slow oven. When I trialled this bumper cookie recipe, I chose to bake half the mixture into 48 biscuits, and freeze the other half in two logs for whenever I need them next. Using Nestle chocolate melts, this recipe, that costs no more than $12 to make (even less if you use homebrand chocolate) works out at just 12 cents per cookie and has definitely softened me up when it comes to biscuit baking!
- 500grams softened butter or margarine (I use butter)
- 2 cups/460g castor sugar
- 1 x 395 tin condensed milk (I use homebrand)
- 2.5 cups/380g plain flour
- 2.5 cups/380g self raising flour
- 190g each of dark, milk and white chocolate melts (half a Nestle Melts packet of each)
- Preheat oven to 170 degrees.
- Using an electric mixer or beaters, cream butter, sugar and condensed milk. Mixture perfectly fits 5L mixing bowl. If yours is smaller than this, use a plastic all-purpose bowl, readily available in laundry section of the supermarket.
- Stir in flours until combined and then stir in choc chips.
- On a floured bench top, divide mixture into four equal portions and roll into evenly shaped logs.
- Each log makes 24 biscuits, so starting in the middle, with a knife, cut the log in half leaving two portions to make 12 biscuits from each. Cut each section again to make 4 portions which will make 6 biscuits from each. Again, cut each of the four portions in half again, which will make 3 biscuits from each. Finally, cut each of these smallest portions into three equally sized rounds. Repeat the process for each log. This ensures evenly sized biscuits and production of exactly 96 biscuits.
- Roll each portion into balls, or do as I do and just place the cut up rounds straight on lined oven trays.
- For a crunchier biscuit bake until golden for around 12 minutes, and if you prefer a chewier cookie, cook for no longer than 10 minutes and remove from oven while still a little pale. Cool on tray or wire rack.
My friend Cathy is a great example of someone who practices hospitality. She knows how to make food taste good and she cares for others by unashamedly choosing do-able meals that aren’t trying to impress, but instead hit the spot in ways that don’t break the bank. Recently Cathy sent me a number of her favourite recipes that do all these things and I’m excited to share the first of these with you. The Butter Chicken recipe that follows is delightfully easy – choose to cook this crowd pleasing favourite in either the slow cooker or in a sealed casserole dish for a few hours in the oven. Doubling the measurements listed below neatly fills a 5.5L slow cooker, and doing so is my favourite time saver, fulfilling more than one purpose with just one venture in the kitchen. If you decide to make extra to freeze, here’s a tip I read in a magazine years ago: spray the inside of plastic containers with olive or canola spray before filling. This will create a film that protects the containers from the stain of the red coloured sauce. The quantities that follow serves 10 people and costs under $15 to make.
- I kg chicken thighs, chopped into chunks
- I onion, roughly chopped
- I jar of Patak’s Butter Chicken paste (not the sauce)
- I x 400g tin of diced or crushed tomatoes
- I x 420g tin of chickpeas, drained
- 150ml cream
- Handful of chopped coriander
- Brown chicken and onion in frypan.
- Put in a slow cooker or a heavy based casserole dish (covered) with the whole jar of butter chicken paste, tin of tomatoes and chickpeas.
- Cook for 2 hours in the oven, or 3 hours on high in the slow cooker or most of the day if set to low.
- Season with salt and pepper and add cream and coriander just before serving.
- Serve with basmati rice and microwaved pappadums.
- Raita (natural yoghurt mixed with grated or chopped cucumber) is also a yummy accompaniment.
As in most households, I suspect, Sunday night dinners get very slack in this house. ‘Breakfast for dinner’ (yes, Weetbix and porridge) get regular guernseys here – thankfully the kids like it. Every now and then, Sunday night dinner goes beyond slack to the absolute trashy, and tonight it was just that. A few months ago I heard of Nigella Lawson’s Vegemite Spaghetti and it intrigued me. Vegemite and cheese are winners in my tastebud book, so vegemite pasta topped with grated cheese throughly appealed. I was absolutely not disappointed. While I hate to think how bad it is for me (carb heavy, no protein, no vegetables), I think it’s set to become a Sunday night favourite in this house. Despite its not-so-healthy specs, it really is very cheap to make, so much so it’s not worth costing. If you’re a Vegemite fan in other gastronomic contexts, go on, give it a go!
- 375g dried spaghetti
- 50g unsalted butter
- 1 teaspoon Vegemite
- freshly grated parmesan or tasty cheese to serve
1. Cook the spaghetti in a large pot of salted boiling water according to directions. Drain and rinse under water keeping a cup of the pasta water.
2. In the same pan, put on the heat and evaporate the water and then melt the butter and add the Vegemite and a tablespoon of the pasta water and mix to dissolve. Add the cooked pasta and more pasta water to combine if necessary. Serve with grated parmesan or tasty cheese if you like.
I do love homemade biscotti so was very excited when this simple and yummy recipe landed in by inbox from my friend Soph, who found it on a friend’s blog. Needing to provide dessert for dinner with friends this week, I decided to give these a go because they were able to be made ahead of time, and Soph’s super do-able serving suggestion of dipping in chocolate fondue grabbed me immediately. Don’t be turned off by the two stage cooking process – this recipe is still dead easy and really nowhere as labour intensive as it might seem. I have never succeeded in making biscotti wafer-thin, but having tried, failed and still enjoyed eating chunkier homemade versions of it, I’ve decided I’m okay with it. This winning recipe costs less than $3 to make. Thanks Soph, for this terrific contribution.
- 1/4 cup oil
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 2 tsp vanilla essence
- 2 eggs
- 1 3/4 cup all purpose flour
- 1 tsp baking powder
- pinch of salt
- 1/2 cup cranberries
- 3/4 cup roasted almonds (Woolworth’s homebrand are terrific and cheap!)
1. In a mixing bowl, mix together the sugar and oil until combined.
2. Add eggs and vanilla essence and mix thoroughly until combined.
3. Add flour, baking powder and salt to the egg mixture, and stir to form a dough. When all the flour is almost incorporated, add in the cranberries and almonds. Continue stirring until all the flour is incorporated and a dough has formed.
4. Take half the mixture and using wet hands, form it into a log. Place the log onto a tray lined with baking paper and pat into a smoother log shape. Repeat with the remaining dough
5. Bake at 300F/150C for 35-40 minutes until the logs are slightly golden.
6. Remove from the oven and cool. Reduce oven heat to 275F/135C.
7. Once the logs are cool enough to handle, slice into slices. Place sliced biscotti back onto tray and bake for 8-10 minutes until crisped.