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!
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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.

Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s Carrot, Spinach, Cumin (and Fetta) Muffins

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Having more of a savoury than a sweet tooth, I’ve long enjoyed a good savoury muffin. Aside from the wide variety of possibilities when it comes to flavour, they are a terrific option any time of year – another alternative to sandwiches for kids heading back to school, or a yummy accompaniment to a BBQ dinner or a bowl of soup (with a bit of real butter on the side too). They can also be a just meal of their own. Savoury muffins are healthy, tasty, filling, very forgiving when you have to fudge the quantities, inexpensive, and best of all, freezer friendly. I love how easy it is to grab one of these from the freezer, and place once more in a warm oven for 5 minutes – bringing them pretty much back to newly baked awesomeness. Julie Morrow has contributed a couple of wonderful recipes that you’re sure to enjoy, each first published by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall in The Guardian Australia. She suggests, and I wholeheartedly agree, adding 100g of fetta to the top of each muffin, and my hot tip for this (discovered by my thrifty husband Steve) is the Coles brand of Marinated Danish Fetta – pictured above. It’s EXACTLY the same as the South Cape variety (even the jar is the same), but costs $5.40 per jar, as opposed to almost $12). First up from Julie are these fluffy, moist, flavoursome and vegetarian friendly babies. This recipe makes 12 and costs less than $5.

  • 80g unsalted butter, melted and cooled, plus 10g for frying
  • 1 onion, finely diced
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 150g spinach, tough stalks removed and very finely shredded (I used baby spinach salad greens)
  • 250g plain flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1½ tsp salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 275g whole milk yoghurt (but sour cream, diet yoghurt or regular cream will do)
  • 150g carrots, grated
  • 100g fetta cheese
  • 40g pumpkin seeds, toasted (optional, I used sesame instead)
  1. Heat the oven to 200C/400F/gas mark 6 and line a muffin tin with 12 paper cases.
  2. Warm the 10g of butter in a large frying pan and sauté the onion with a pinch of salt until soft and translucent, about 10 minutes.
  3. Add the cumin, stir for a minute, then add the spinach and stir until wilted and soft. Cool.
  4. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and salt.
  5. In a jug, whisk the melted butter, eggs and yoghurt. Pour the wet ingredients over the flour and stir with a spatula until just combined.
  6. Fold in the cooled onions and spinach, the carrots and seeds.
  7. Spoon into the cases crumble the fetta evenly atop each portion.
  8. Bake for about 18 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean.

Bolognese Pasta Lunch Muffins (or a low-bar, guilt free alternative to sandwiches for bored kids and parents)

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Bolognese Lunch Muffins

Unless you’ve been living under rock, you’d know that the last week (at least in Australia) has been all about back to school. And for some precious little ones its meant heading to school for the first time. I’m not generally a sentimental kind of person but there’s something about it all that makes my heart stop and pause as the page of life turns. All this, as well as the good holiday break, somehow gives me at least a small spurt of energy for school lunches at the beginning of the year. Now generally, all those posts in the blogosphere about how to make school lunches organic, healthy, fun, dinosaur shaped and immaculately presented for our little idols, I mean, children – send me into a tailspin. And I’m glad to have mostly avoided them this back to school season. But level-headed suggestions from level-headed friends are always welcome and this recipe brings together two that recently came my way: one friend mentioned she feeds her kids pasta for lunch because it’s more filling than sandwiches and much easier to prepare in batches. Another suggested this recipe she found in Fresh Magazine at Woolworth’s. These pasta ‘muffins’ were painless to make, froze and thawed out well (so you can get a good fortnights worth done at once) and cost around the same price to make than the same number needed of ham and cheese sangas, approximately $5 for 24. I’m sure when the kids are tired of these we’ll head back to sandwich land, but these yummy numbers (adapted a little – I left out all the veggies) are a welcome option around here.

  • 500g macaroni, cooked al dente and drained
  • 1 large 700g jar home brand passata
  • 1 cup grated carrot (optional)
  • 1 cup grated zucchini (optional)
  • 2 eggs lightly whisked
  • Salt to taste
  • 2 cups grated cheese
  1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees celcius. Line 2 x 12 hole muffin tins with paper cases.
  2. Combine all the ingredients except the cheese in a bowl, and divide mixture evenly among muffin holes. Season to taste with salt.
  3. Top each muffin of pasta with grated cheese, using it all up.
  4. Bake in oven for 15 mins or until cheese has melted. Allow to cool before freezing them ready for school each day.

Caramel Choc-Chip Fudge Bars

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In my favourite baking cookbook, Belinda Jeffery’s Mix & Bake, there’s a recipe for Walnut and Caramel Bars that is awesome for many reasons, except that nobody at our place likes walnuts at all (my husband feels especially ripped off when they taunt him by randomly turning up in chocolate brownie), so I’ve avoided this recipe until now. I had a spare packet of Nestle milk chocolate chips hanging around in the pantry, and it occurred to me that this recipe could be just as good with the combination of chocolate and caramel flavours. And wow – it turned out beautifully! The base of this slice is lovely and short – pastry-like, buttery and crumbly without falling apart, and in the oven, the topping forms another three layers to create a total of four with the base: first a thin layer of caramel, followed by messy choc-chips underneath a layer of meringuey goodness that settles on the top. And I love the versatility of this one – it’s been used at our place for dessert with friends over for dinner, lunch box treats and afternoon tea following a big day. The quantities that follow make a very large slice in a 30x20cm tin, and produces approximately 40 pieces (for a regular lamington sized tin, just halve the recipe). Worst case scenario this massive slice costs just under $9 to make, but less if you stock up on chocolate chips when they’re on special or use a Homebrand variety.

BASE

  • 320g plain flour
  • 140g caster sugar
  • 250g butter

TOPPING

  • 4 eggs
  • 140g castor sugar
  • 140g brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons plain flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 x 250g bag Nestle chocolate chips
  1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees and line a large 30x20cm slice/roasting tin with baking powder.
  2. Throw all the ingredients for the base into a food processor and process until pastry has formed and is well-combined. Press mixture into lined tin, setting aside the food processor to use again later (don’t bother washing it up) and use fingers or the back of a spoon to ensure pastry is evenly spread in the tin. Place in oven for 20 minutes or until golden brown.
  3. While base cooking, combine flour, baking powder, cinnamon and salt in a small bowl and set aside.
  4. Throw the two sugars, eggs, vanilla extract into the food processor and combine well. Add the dry ingredients from the small bowl and process again. Remove blade from the bowl of the food processor and stir in chocolate chips.
  5. Allow the base to cool for 10 minutes (doesn’t have to be completely cool) and spread the topping mixture evenly over the base. Bake again for 20 minutes, though start checking earlier. Once the topping seems set and brown, remove from the oven. It should still be a little wobbly as it will set further as it cools. Cut when cool. Enjoy!

Nigella Lawson’s American Breakfast Pancakes

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How To Be A Domestic Goddess by Nigella Lawson is my second favourite cook book for baking (the first being Belinda Jeffrey’s Mix and Bake), and it’s where I came across this lovely pancake recipe. I’ve been using it for more than ten years because the resulting pancakes are wonderful: light and fluffy, and lovely and thick, without being dense or rubbery. The mixture can be used immediately, though it can also be made ahead of time and allowed to stand in the fridge for whenever you need to use it. The batter I made for those in the picture here was left on the bench for only 10 minutes before cooking. The quantities below make 30 medium sized pancakes (just halve the quantities for a smaller crowd) and costs no more than $1.50 to make.

  • 2 tablespoons baking powder or 1 teaspoon bi-carb soda
  • 2 pinches of salt
  • 2 teaspoons icing sugar
  • 60 grams butter, melted
  • 600ml milk
  • 4 eggs
  • 500g plain flour
  • Butter for frying
  1. Place all the ingredients in either a food processor or stand mixer and mix together until all the lumps are gone.
  2. Transfer mixture to a 2L jug, or smaller if halving the recipe.
  3. Cook pancakes one at a time in a decent non-stick pan on medium heat. When you start to see bubbles blistering on the pancake it’s time to flip to the other side for no more than a minute.
  4. Enjoy topped with whatever you like: lemon and sugar, maple syrup and butter, bacon or berries or ice-cream.

One Pot Chicken and Basil Pasta

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This recipe comes directly from the kitchen of my dear friend Lisa, who found it in One Handed Cooks magazine. Lisa is such a wonderful old soul – she carefully loves the people around her, thinks hard about everything that’s important in life and wastes no time on what isn’t. She looks after her family simply but diligently, with a heart full of wonder at all God’s given her. She put me onto this tasty, simple, and affordable meal and in addition to all these things, it’s so very her: warm, generous, and hearty. Once cooked, this crowd-pleasing one pot dish can be pureed with a stick blender for babies and frozen for future baby meals – no need to make the little ones a separate meal. And if you need a gluten free meal, simply exchange pasta for the gluten free variety. This dairy free recipe costs around $7 to make and serves 6. Thanks Lis, when I grow up I wanna be just like you.

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 red onion thinly sliced
  • 1 clove garlic crushed
  • 340g dried linguini (any pasta is fine though)
  • 1 x 400g can diced tomatoes
  • 1 large chicken breast, diced very small
  • 4.5 cups chicken stock (powdered is fine, but check for gluten if need be)
  • ½ cup basil leaves (but dried is totally fine too)
  1. Heat oil in a large pot/frypan. Sauté onion and garlic together over low heat. Gently fry chicken pieces in this mixture.
  2. Add all the other ingredients and simmer for 20 minutes, or until pasta is cooked through and liquids have reduced to a risotto-like consistency. Enjoy with crusty bread and/or salad.