It is Autumn in Sydney still, with a lovely sunny day today but a crisp and cool evening as the sun sets. Apples are in abundance and my inspiration for this post.
One of my favourite cosy, comforting desserts as the temperature drops is apple crumble. I used beautiful green granny smith apples, which are perfect for cooking because they retain some of their texture when cooked. I cook my crumble topping separately because I like the contrast in textures between the soft apples and crunchy crumble topping and want to exaggerate that contrast.
If you happen to have any left-over crumble topping, store in an airtight container and use again next time (or sprinkle on whatever takes your fancy).
Cloves and apples are a classic combination, but because I didn’t want to have to go fishing whole cloves out at the end of the cooking process, and I didn’t have any ground cloves on hand, I used mixed spice instead.
What I was cooking this time last year: Spinach Dal
- 1/2 cup plain flour
- 1 cup rolled oats
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon mixed spice
- 50g butter
- 125g walnuts
- 4 large granny smith apples
- 50g butter
- 50g brown sugar
- To make the crumble topping, add the oats, flour, brown sugar, butter and mixed spice to your food processor bowl.
- Process until everything is combined.
- Transfer crumble mix to an oven proof dish and add the walnuts. Stir to combine.
- To prepare your baked apples, add the butter, brown sugar and mixed spice to a saucepan.
- Heat oven to 180°C.
- Heat the butter and sugar mixture, stirring, until the butter is melted.
- Take the saucepan off the heat and prepare your apples.
- Peel and core the apples, and slice.
- Add sliced apples to the saucepan and stir to coat in the butter and sugar mixture.
- Spoon the coated apples into 6 individual oven-proof serving dishes or 1 large oven-proof serving dish.
- Add the crumble mixture to a medium shelf in your pre-heated oven, and your apples to a bottom shelf.
- Cook the apples and crumble for 30 minutes, stirring the crumble mixture occasionally to ensure it cooks evenly.
- Remove your apples and crumble mix from the oven.
- Spoon crumble mix on top of your baked apples. Serve with cream, ice-cream, custard or natural yoghurt. Enjoy.
What is your favourite warming dessert? Has this post inspired any new ideas?
Most muffin recipes are for sweet muffins, but you can of course make savoury muffins. I am going for a walk tomorrow to Barrenjoey Head and wanted to bake something to take to snack on. If you are a bit scared of baking, muffins are a great way to build your confidence. With muffins, the less mixing and work you do the better and it is simply a matter of measuring and mixing then baking.
Continuing with my Australian native spices experimentation, I used Ajydhyra or Bush Tomato in this recipe, which I tracked down at Herbie’s Spices. The akudjura gives the muffins a lovely roast tomato flavour. You can order Herbie’s Spices online, or they are stocked in many delis and gourmet food stores. I also used dried greek oregano, which is normally sold with the stems still intact – to separate the dried oregano leaves, you give the bunch a bit of a shake or a rub to separate the dried leaves.
What I was cooking this time last year: Watercress and Pomegranate Tabouli
Tomato and Cheese Muffins
* This recipe’s base ingredients were inspired by a Pear and Ginger Muffins recipe that appears in Nigella Lawson’s cookbook, Nigella Express. I have modified and adapted Nigella’s recipe to come up with the below reincarnation.
Makes 12 muffins.
- 300g self-raising flour
- A generous pinch of salt
- 80g pine nuts
- 1/2 tablespoon ground akudjura or bush tomato
- 1/2 tablespoon dried greek oregano
- 200g feta cheese
- 100g grated parmesan cheese
- 1 punnet cherry tomatoes
- 125mls natural low-fat natural yoghurt
- 125mls vegetable oil [I used rice bran oil but any neutral tasting oil is fine]
- 2 large eggs
- 1 small red onion
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1 teaspoon oil
- Cooking oil spray
- Peel, quarter and finely slice the onion.
- Crush the garlic cloves.
- Heat the teaspoon of oil in a small saucepan. Add the onion and garlic and cook until the onions are soft and just starting to brown, stirring occasionally.
- Set the onions and garlic aside to cool.
- Heat oven to 200°C.
- Line a cupcake / muffin pan with muffin cases. Spray the cases lightly with cooking oil spray.
- Measure the flour, salt, akudjura, dried oregano, pine nuts and grated parmesan into a bowl.
- Cut the cherry tomatoes in half and add to the bowl.
- Crumble the feta and add to the bowl.
- Add the cooled onion mixture to the bowl.
- Stir the ingredients in the bowl until everything is well combined and coated in flour.
- Measure the oil and yoghurt into a jug.
- Add the eggs to the oil and yoghurt and stir to combine.
- Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir until just combined – the less mixing you do the better.
- Add spoonfuls of the mixture to the muffin cases.
- Place muffins in the oven and bake for 20 minutes, or until the muffins spring back when touched in the middle.
- Remove muffins from the oven and either eat warm or when they have cooled. Enjoy.
What is your favourite baking recipe? Has this post inspired any new ideas?
A friend is currently in the US and has raved about the New England Clam Chowder he discovered in Boston. This got me thinking about the Seafood Chowder I tried and loved when I was in San Francisco a few years ago. There are many variations on the chowder recipe, normally inspired by fresh produce available in different regions in the US, and further back in history, several parts of Europe. I decided to try to make my version of chowder now that the weather has got cooler here in Sydney.
You could use any type of seafood that inspires you and is fresh; prawns, fish, shellfish etc. I used clams, as my fish monger had fresh ones available vacuum packed in their own juice and ready to go. I left the clams in their shell, purely for aesthetic purposes. A lot of recipes use bacon, but as a pescitarian, I substituted smoked salmon to give a smokey depth of flavour. I love things spicy so I added cayenne pepper for heat and smoked paprika to pimp up the smokey stakes. If you don’t like things quite so hot, skip the cayenne and just use the smoked paprika. Some recipes use a roux (a mixture of flour and fat) to thicken the soup and leave the potatoes chunky, I skipped the flour and blended the potatoes to thicken my soup.
You can serve your chowder with water cracker biscuits (which I think are similar to the American style oyster crackers), crusty bread, croutons, or as it was done in San Francisco, in hollowed out sour-dough bread.
What I was cooking this time last year: Pasta Pronto
- 2 tablespoons oil
- 1 onion
- 2 sticks of celery
- 1 carrot
- 1 teaspoon thyme leaves
- 3 garlic cloves
- 2 fresh bay leaves or 1 dried
- 100g smoked salmon
- 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1kg potatoes
- 1kg vacuum pack fresh clams
- 2 cups milk
- 1 cup water
- 1/2 bunch parsley
- cream (optional, for serving)
- Bread or crackers, to serve
- Finely chop the onion, carrot and celery.
- Pick the thyme leaves off their stalks, and the parsley leaves off their stalks.
- Finely chop the parsley leaves and set aside.
- Finely chop the tender parsley stalks (discard any that are too thick).
- Heat the oil in a large pan.
- Add the chopped onion, carrot, celery, parsley stalks, thyme leaves, garlic cloves, bay leaves, cayenne pepper and smoked paprika.
- Cook, stirring occasionally while you roughly chop the smoked salmon.
- Add the smoked salmon to the pot and continue to cook and stir while you peel and chop the potatoes into 1cm dice.
- Strain the clam juice from the vacuum pack (you should end up with about 1 cup) and add to the pot.
- Add 2 cups of milk and 1 cup of water to the pan and cover with a lid.
- Cook until the potato is soft, stirring occasionally.
- Remove the bay leaves.
- Blend the soup until smooth.
- Add the clams to the soup pot and cook for another 5 – 10 minutes until the clams are hot.
- Your soup is ready to serve. Dish into bowls, drizzle with cream and garnish with chopped parsley. Enjoy.
What is your favourite soup? Has this post inspired any new ideas?
Next Sunday (the 2nd Sunday in May) is Mother’s Day in Australia, and lots of kitchens will be preparing breakfast in bed as a special treat for mum.
I first got the idea of using cottage cheese in pancakes from a Cheesecakelets recipe by Nigella Lawson, in her book Feast. Nigella’s recipe calls for separating the eggs and whisking the whites. This does produce lovely light pancakes but I think facing a whisk first thing in the morning is a bit much, especially if you have little helpers assisting with the cooking.
Cottage cheese is an under-utilised ingredient, it is a great alternative to ricotta cheese in cooking if you are trying to watch your fat intake. I am not using cottage cheese in this recipe because of it’s low(er) fat properties, but because the cottage cheese retains its curds, and once cooked, they melt and give a delicious oozy texture to the pancakes.
If you haven’t tried strawberries marinated in balsamic vinegar you may be skeptical, but the acid from the vinegar draws out the strawberry juice and you end up with a sweet sauce. You could add a little sugar to the vinegar and strawberries if the strawberries are especially tart, but I don’t find it is required. My only tip is to not leave the strawberries marinating too long (I wouldn’t leave them overnight) or they will continue to break down. Preparing the strawberries just before you start making the pancakes is sufficient time to allow the flavours to develop. Strawberries are expensive in Sydney at the moment, so if you wanted to skip them you could serve your pancakes with maple syrup, lemon and sugar or other fresh or defrosted berries.
What I was cooking this time last year: Bircher Muesli
Pancakes with Marinated Strawberries
Serves 2 – 3
- 1 cup self-raising flour
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 1 egg
- 250g cottage cheese
- Zest and juice of 1 lemon
- 100mls milk
- 20g butter (plus extra for frying if you don’t have a non-stick frying pan)
- 1 punnet of strawberries
- 1 tablespoon of balsamic vinegar
- Wash then hull your strawberries and roughly chop. Add your chopped strawberries to a bowl and add the balsamic vinegar and stir to combine. Set aside to marinate.
- Measure out the flour, sugar and cottage cheese into a bowl.
- Add the egg to the bowl with the flour.
- Zest the lemon peel into the bowl.
- Juice the lemon and add to the bowl.
- Add the milk and stir everything to combine.
- Melt the butter in a frying pan over low heat. Add the melted butter to the pancake batter and stir to combine.
- Heat your frying pan over a medium heat and add spoonfuls of the pancake batter to the pan.
- Cook on one side, your pancakes are ready to turn when bubbles start to appear on the top of the pancakes.
- Flip your pancakes and cook on the other side until golden brown.
- Dish up straight from the pan or place in a low oven to keep warm until all of the pancakes are cooked.
- Top the pancakes with marinated strawberries. Enjoy.
What is your favourite breakfast in bed? Has this post inspired any new ideas?