Archive | November, 2011

The best chicken soup ever

29 Nov
The best chicken soup ever - really fills the house with delicious aromas

Chicken soup with tarragon and cheesy croutons

How good is a chicken soup on a cold, rainy day? This one’s really easy, you don’t need to pre-cook anything, you can just throw everything into the pot and turn it on.  I love the way this soup fills the house with its delicious aroma – it really gets the mouth watering. The tarragon makes a real difference – it doesn’t matter if you use dried tarragon out of a jar, the time it has to infuse brings out the flavour.

Ingredients:

Serves 4

2L water

2 Tbsp powdered chicken stock (I use Vegeta)

1 onion, diced

2 cloves garlic, crushed

3-4 bay leaves

8-10 peppercorns

Salt to taste

4 chicken thigh fillets, diced

3 rashers bacon, diced

3 whole bacon rinds

1 large stick celery, sliced

1 large carrot, sliced

2 tsp fresh thyme

2 tsp fresh or dried tarragon

1 tsp fresh or dried rosemary

½ cup cream

Optional: other veges I might add sometimes are pumpkin, potato or mushrooms. Small pasta like risoni or vermicelli also make a hearty addition. Add pasta about 15 minutes before serving so they don’t get overcooked.

To serve:

Bread stick, sliced

Cheese slices

 

How to:

Bring the water to the boil, bung all the ingredients in except for the cream. Bring to the boil again, and then let it simmer gently for 30-45 mins.

To make the croutons, slice the bread stick to your desired thickness, place a slice of cheese on top, taking care not to hang over the edges of the toast. Place under a hot grill for 3-5 minutes, and keep an eye on it, so that it doesn’t burn. The cheese should bubble and go slightly brown.

Just before serving, stir in the cream and test if it needs any extra salt, stock powder, pepper etc. Take out the bacon rind and bay leaves before serving. (And watch out for the peppercorns – they bite!)

Place the cheesy croutons into the soup, or on the side.

Enjoy!

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Easy peasy guacamole

20 Nov

Avocadoes are in season right now in tropical Queensland, indeed some people have them falling off trees and are giving them away! They’re also cheap at the supermarket at the moment. To make guacamole, you need really ripe avocadoes, so if you see some on special, pick those, they’re ready to go straight away.

Easy guacamole - perfect for a party

Ingredients:

1 soft, ripe avocado
2-3 Tbsp  sour cream
¼ onion, chopped finely
½ tsp minced garlic
Squirt of lemon juice
2-3 Tbsp salsa / chopped tomatoes
Chilli flakes
Salt & pepper

How to:

Cut the avocado in half, remove the seed, and scrape the avocado flesh into a bowl. Add the sour cream, lemon juice, onion and garlic and mix thoroughly. If you have some salsa lying around at home, add a couple of heaped spoonfuls of this into the guacamole. If you don’t have any salsa, you can chop up some tomatoes, or use diced tomatoes out of a can. If you don’t use salsa, you might want to go heavy on the chilli, salt & pepper, to give it extra flavour. If you use salsa, taste the mix before you add any further seasoning.

Stir it all up well and transfer to a serving bowl. Decorate the bowl with a dollop of sour cream, some grated parmesan or romano cheese and a sprinkling of chilli (anything red stands out really nicely against the green guac, instead of chilli try paprika, cayenne pepper or sumac). Serve with plain corn chips.

Enjoy!

Easy Gluten-Free Pistachio and Carrot Cakes

13 Nov

I have a few friends who need to eat gluten-free and I often have trouble catering for them. I recently discovered that White Wings has both plain and self-raising gluten-free flour and they’re available in my local supermarket here in regional Queensland. This recipe worked beautifully, and you can hardly tell the difference. They were just a tiny bit more delicate than when made with regular flour, so just be careful handling them.

Individual Gluten-free Pistachio and Carrot Cakes

Individual Gluten-free Pistachio and Carrot Cakes

Ingredients:

185g softened butter
1 1/2 cups caster sugar
3 eggs
2 cups grated carrot (about 4 smallish carrots)
¾ cup chopped pistachios, unsalted, or washed
¾ cup gluten-free plain flour
¾ cup gluten-free self-raising flour (Note: I found White Wings gluten-free plain and self-raising flour in the health/gluten-free section of my local Coles)
1 ½ teaspoons mixed spice – or double that for zingier cakes!
(Note: you can buy ‘mixed  spice’ in the spice section, or just use a mix of ground spices like cinnamon  & nutmeg, and you can add some ground cloves or ginger if you like.)

Icing:

100g Philly spreadable cream cheese
30g softened butter
1 ¼ cups icing sugar
Zest of 1 lemon (zest is the grated skin of a lemon – use the finest part of your grater, being careful to get only the yellow skin, not the white pith underneath).
¼ – ⅓ cup chopped pistachios for sprinkling on top.

How to:

1. Preheat the oven to 180°C.

2. Cream the butter and sugar together in a large bowl using an electric mixer, until light and fluffy.

3. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each one.

4. Stir in the grated carrot and the chopped pistachios.

5. Sift in all the dry ingredients (flours & spices). Stir all together until thoroughly mixed.

6. Pour the mixture evenly into the muffin cases in the muffin tray and bake for 25-30 minutes or until golden brown. Let the cakes cool a bit before icing them.

7. To make the icing, add the cream cheese and butter to a bowl, and sift the icing sugar on top. You can mix either with a spoon or whisk, or with an electric mixer, until combined. Stir in the lemon zest. Spread on top of the cakes and sprinkle the remaining grated pistachios on top.

Notes:

Pistachios: you can find these already shelled and unsalted in some stores, but not where I live. I buy the shelled, salted kind from the fruit & veg section, and then shell the lot by hand (eating a few as I go!) then wash them in a sieve and dry them on a bit of paper towel before use. I also use my trusty stab mixer’s chopper attachment to chop them up into 2-3mm size bits really fast.

Cake or loaf: You can use this recipe to make a round carrot cake or loaf, you will just need to adjust the cooking time to about 1 hour, and test it with a skewer inserted right into the middle, to check if it is done. If the skewer comes out cleanly and the cake looks golden brown, it is ready.

Chocolate lava cakes

6 Nov

It was a pretty big decision, to choose the very first recipe for my site, but I made these chocolate lava cakes for a friend on the weekend and they went down really well. They were so good, she tried to propose to me, and then changed her mind, and proposed to the cake!

Chocolate lava cakes with the molten centre - easy to make, divine to eat!

Chocolate lava cake

These chocolate lava cakes are quite easy to make, they don’t require many steps. And, it actually helps to make them a few hours in advance and let them sit in the fridge to chill before cooking. This means if you’re having a dinner party, you can prepare them in the morning and just leave them in the fridge until you are ready to cook them. Very little stress for the host! They do also work with only half an hour in the fridge, but if you let them chill for a couple of hours, the centres will be really gooey and delicious.

Ingredients:

(Makes 6)
200g chocolate (good quality dark couverture chocolate works best but you can probably use any good quality chocolate off the shelf. I found Lindt cooking chocolate in the baking section at Coles so I have used this)
240g unsalted butter
4 eggs
90g caster sugar
60g plain flour
icing sugar for dusting

How to:

1. Chop the chocolate into small pieces (I use my hand mixer with the blade attachment for this as it pulverises the chocolate in about 20 seconds.)

100g of Lindt dark couverture chocolate, before chopping    100g of Lindt dark couverture chocolate, pulverised

2. Melt the butter and chocolate together in a bowl over a saucepan of simmering water, stirring occasionally. (Investing in a good set of pots that includes a melting pot that fits snugly over one of the saucepans is a good idea, as you should never melt chocolate directly in a saucepan, right over the heat – it’s likely to burn if you do that.) Set this aside and let it cool to room temperature before using.

3. Grease 6 ramekins and lightly dust them with flour, shaking off any excess flour. (*see note about greasing). You can get a set of ramekins cheaply at a supermarket or store like BigW/Target, or a specialist homewares store. If you have an oven-proof set of tea cups, you could use those instead, or just use a muffin tray lined with patty cases.

4. In another bowl, whisk the eggs and sugar together for a few minutes, the mixture should look thick and pale. You can use a hand whisk, an electric whisk, or your mixer to do this.

5. Add the cooled chocolate mixture and gently fold in with a spatula or spoon. Add in the flour (sifting it in helps give an even texture) and gently fold in again.

6. Pour this mixture evenly into your prepared ramekins and pop them in the fridge for as long as you can hold out.

7. When ready to start cooking, pre-heat the oven to 200°C (400°F, or gas mark 6). Place the ramekins on an oven tray (just easier, no other reason!) and put them in the oven. Bake for 12-15 minutes or until they have risen a bit and look like muffins on top.

8. Take them out of the oven and let them sit a minute or two. You can serve them in the dishes, but I prefer to take them out, so when you crack into them the chocolate centre runs out. It’s up to you whether you serve them upside down, or the right way up (the photo of the lava cake above is upside down, out of a ramekin). Serve them dusted with a little icing sugar and a dollop of ice cream on the side. Or get creative and serve them with berry coulis and/or vanilla anglaise.

Enjoy!

Notes

Greasing: take a piece of paper towel and rub it in butter, use this to grease the inside of the ramekins, then sprinkle a little flour in and shake them around, tapping them upside down to get rid of the excess flour. As an alternative to butter, you can spray lightly with a light vegetable oil spray, used for cooking, and then flour as above.

Cooking 4 Cheats!

3 Nov

The website for people who want to cook but don’t have access to a pantry worthy of Masterchef. Make good, wholesome, simple dishes that are easier to make than you might think, and look and taste far more impressive than they really should!

You should be able to find all the ingredients you need in your local supermarket, without a visit to a specialist deli.

It’s cooking 4 cheats! But it’s not really cheating, since you can proudly boast that you did make it yourself!

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