Category Archives: Spices

Happy Christmas

Christmas is a time for gratitude, remembering all those things you are thankful for, and indulging in things that make you happy, spending time with loved ones and overdosing on favourite foods. I have a lot to be grateful for, and one thing that is high on my happiness list is chocolate. I decided to revisit a recipe from last year and improve on it by combining cocoa with my gingerbread recipe to create a chocolate version, and substituted milk for ginger beer.

This gingerbread is delicious by itself, dressed up with your favourite icing or used in trifle, which is what I will be doing later this week for Christmas.

Wishing you a very happy Christmas.

What I was cooking this time last year: Gingerbread Trifle

Chocolate Gingerbread

Ingredients

  • 2 cups self-raising flour
  • 1/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon mixed spice
  • 1 cup ginger beer
  • 1 cup sugar
  •  2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 125g butter
  • 1 cup golden syrup
  • Cooking oil spray

Method

  • Melt butter and syrup in saucepan over low heat until butter is melted and set aside to cool a little.

Butter and syrup

  • Sift the flour, cocoa & spices into a bowl.

Sift flour spice cocoa

  • Add sugar, eggs, ginger beer and butter syrup and mix well.

Cake batter mixing

  • Spray your baking tin(s) with cooking oil spray. Pour cake batter into tins – I used mini-cupcake tins.

Chocolate cake batter in tins

  • Bake for 20 minutes at 170°C [fan-forced] or 180°C normal oven (you will need to adjust the cooking time if using larger tins). Remove from oven when cooked – ie skewer comes out clean or the gingerbread springs back with lightly touched.

Chocolate gingerbread

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Filed under Baking, Cake, Chocolate, Recipes, Spices, Sweet, Vegetarian

Crazy as a coconut

Banana bread has become a breakfast staple in cafés. A coconut bread recipe by Bill Granger was the inspiration for my recipe this week. I’ve changed ingredients and swapped it from a loaf to muffins, to come up with the below recipe.

I’ve packed in triple coconut, with desiccated coconut, coconut milk and coconut oil. Coconut oil is sometimes referred to as coconut butter, they are the same thing. If your coconut oil becomes solid, it can easily be melted my standing the jar in some hot water from the kettle and it will return to liquid again. Coconut oil is reported to be a good oil, with lots of health benefits, and works well in baking.

Coconut oil butter

If you are not a confident baker, muffins are the perfect thing to try making to build up your confidence. No fancy equipment is needed for mixing the batter. In fact, the less mixing you do, the better. It’s also a good recipe to get the kids involved with.

The salt quantity below is based on using fine salt flakes, if you are using regular table salt you will need to reduce the amount you include – adjust to taste but start off cautiously. If you need to reduce or limit your salt intake, you can of course skip the salt.

Delicious served warm straight from the oven, with a slather of butter or just as they are. Suitable for breakfast, morning or afternoon tea or a snack. Any leftovers can be frozen and zapped for a few seconds in the microwave to warm through again.

What I was cooking this time last year: Strawberry and White Chocolate Mousse

Coconut Muffins

* This recipe was adapted from a Coconut Bread recipe by Bill Granger. I have modified and adapted it to come up with the below reincarnation.

Makes 12 muffins

Ingredients:

  • 2 eggs
  • 300mls coconut milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 350g self-raising flour
  • 1 teaspoon mixed spice
  • 100g brown sugar
  • 150g shredded coconut
  • 75mls coconut oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt flakes
  • Cooking oil spray to grease your muffin tin

Method

  • Pre-heat the oven on to 180°C.
  • Add the dry ingredients (flour, mixed spice, coconut, salt and brown sugar) to a large bowl. Stir to combine.

Muffin dry ingredients

  • Add the coconut oil, eggs and vanilla to a measuring jug and mix to combine. Add the liquid to the dry ingredients in the bowl.

Eggs, oil, vanilla

  • Measure out 300mls coconut milk and add to the dry ingredients in the bowl.

Muffing batter ready to be mixed

  • Stir until the mixture is just combined, being careful not to over-mix.
  • Spray a muffin or cupcake tin with cooking spray.
  • Pour the batter into the muffin tray.

Muffin batter in tray

  • Cook your muffins in the oven for 20 – 25 minutes or until cooked through (test by pressing lightly on the middle of a muffin, it should bounce back, or when you insert a skewer into the center it comes out clean without any batter stuck to it).
  • Remove from the oven, and serve still warm, or allow to cool in the muffin tray. Enjoy.

DSC07609

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Filed under Baking, Breakfast, Cake, Coconut, Recipes, Spices, Sweet, Vegetarian

Beetroot blast

Beetroot are in abundance at the moment, and are the inspiration for this recipe. Ingredients that compliment beetroot include cumin, walnuts and feta, which produce a vibrantly coloured purple dip – what’s not to love. This recipe makes quite a large batch, so feel free to halve if you aren’t cooking for a crowd or don’t want to be eating it for the next week.

To toast and grind your cumin seeds, cook them without any oil in a fry pan over a low to medium heat – be careful to keep the spices moving so they toast evenly and only cook until lightly toasted and the aroma is released, don’t let the spices burn, then grind to get maximum flavour into your dip. The cumin seeds can be ground in a blender, coffee grinder or a with a pestle and mortar.

Serve your dip with your favourite biscuits or rice crackers, and / or vegetable crudités.

What I was cooking this time last year: Chocolate Beetroot Cake

Beetroot dip

Ingredients:

  • 1 bunch of beetroot, approximately 1 kg
  • 200g feta
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 50g toasted walnuts
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 2 lemons, zest and juice
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Method

  • Turn the oven on to 180°C.
  • Peel the beetroot and chop into pieces.

Beetroot

  • Lay beetroot pieces on a baking tray, add the garlic cloves (with skins intact).

Beetroot pieces garlic

  • Put the beetroot into the oven to start roasting while you prepare the walnuts.
  • Put the walnuts in a heat proof dish and put in the oven for 10 minutes or so, until the nuts are toasted and fragrant.
  • Set aside the walnuts to cool.
  • Toast the cumin seeds in a dry pan until fragrant, stirring occasionally to ensure they cook evenly.

Toasting cumin seeds

  • Grind the cumin seeds.
  • Roast the beetroot until it is tender, then remove from the oven and allow to cool.
  • Add the roast beetroot, feta, ground cumin, peeled garlic cloves, walnuts, lemon zest and juice and olive oil to your food processor bowl or blender.

Beetroot feta

  • Blend until smooth and everything is combined.
  • Add salt and pepper to taste and blend to combine.
  • Transfer your dip to a bowl and serve (or refrigerate until ready to serve). Enjoy.

Beetroot dip

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Filed under Beetroot, Cheese, Dip, Recipes, Savoury, Spices, Vegetarian

Mushrooming

Mushrooms were proudly on display at my local farmers markets this weekend, so I used this as the basis for my recipe. Most mushroom soup recipes use cream, but this one relies on tangy citrus flavours to compliment the earthy mushrooms.

Mushrooms

I used a mixture of button mushrooms and portobello. Sumac is a middle eastern spice with a tangy citrus flavour. If you don’t like things spicy, you could substitute the cayenne pepper with paprika. If you have some home-made or bought vegetable stock, feel free to use that instead of the stock powder and hot water. Strict vegetarians can of course skip the anchovy filets. Given that everything will be blended at the end, don’t worry too much about your chopping. The recipe below produces quite a big batch, enough for 6 portions, but it’s always handy to have leftovers for lunch or freezing for later.

What I was cooking this time last year: Passionfruit Pudding

Mushroom Soup

Serves 6

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon of olive oil
  • 1 large red onion
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 2 anchovy filets
  • 2 sticks of celery
  • 1 tablespoon sumac
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1kg button mushrooms
  • 500g portobello mushrooms
  • 1 lemon, zest and juice
  • 2 tablespoons lemon thyme, plus extra for garnishing
  • 2 x 400g tins of butter beans
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable stock powder
  • Water
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Method

  • Chop the onion and garlic.

Onion and garlic

  • Heat the oil in a large pot, add the chopped onion and garlic and anchovy filets and fry over a medium heat while you chop the celery.
  • Chop the celery and add to the pot.
  • Add the sumac and cayenne pepper to the pot and stir to combine. You may need to turn the heat down slightly.
  • Dust any dirt off the mushrooms.
  • Chop the mushrooms and add them to the pot.
  • Cook until the mushrooms wilt down, stirring occasionally.

Butter beans and mushrooms

  • Add the butter beans, and fill up each empty can with water and add that to the pot too.
  • Add the zest and juice of the lemon, stock powder, thyme and salt and pepper to taste.

Mushroom soup thyme

  • Cook the soup over medium heat for 15 minutes or so.
  • Blend the soup until smooth.
  • Your soup is ready to serve. Garnish with extra thyme if desired. Enjoy.

Mushroom soup

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Filed under Herbs, Lemon, Mushroom, Recipes, Savoury, Soup, Spices

Grandma cake

I’m not exactly sure why, but for me rhubarb has always been a grandmaesque ingredient. Rhubarb is also popping up at farmers markets and green grocers in Sydney at the moment, so I used it as the inspiration for this week’s recipe. I love the pretty deep pink colour cooked rhubarb provides. Because I don’t like my rhubarb too stringy, I cut the pieces quite small, about 1cm wide. I used hazelnuts, but you could experiment with almonds or other nuts.

This cake could be served with some thick cream, ice-cream, natural yoghurt or custard, delicious warm or cooled.

What I was cooking this time last year: Orange Crème Caramel

Rhubarb and Hazelnut Crumble Cake

* The basic cake recipe ingredients list is taken from a Women’s Weekly Recipe Card recipe.

Ingredients:

Rhubarb

  • 1 bunch of fresh rhubarb
  • 1 cup of sugar
  • 1 vanilla bean pod
  • water, to just cover the chopped rhubarb

Hazelnut crumble

  • 150g hazelnuts
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon mixed spice

Cake

  • 125g softened butter
  • 3/4 cups sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 cups self-raising flour
  • 1 cup milk
  • 50mls milk
  • vanilla bean pod from the rhubarb
  • Cooking oil spray to grease your cake tin

Method:

  • Wash the rhubarb, chop off the green top and the bottom of the rhubarb stalks.
  • Chop the rhubarb stalks into 1cm pieces and add to a saucepan.

Fresh rhubarb

  • Add the sugar and vanilla pod to the rhubarb, and add water until just covered.
  • Cook the rhubarb on a medium heat for 10 to 15 minutes until soft.
  • Drain the cooked rhubarb from the liquid, and return the liquid to the saucepan.

Rhubarb

  • Cook the rhubarb liquid until it reduces and thickens.
  • Add the rhubarb syrup to the cooked rhubarb and set aside to cool.
  • To make the crumble, add the hazelnuts, brown sugar and mixed spice to your food processor bowl.

Hazelnuts

  • Pulse the crumble mix until the nuts are chopped and everything is combined.
  • Set the crumble aside.

Hazelnut crumble

  • Turn the oven on to 180°C.
  • To make the cake batter, add the butter, sugar and vanilla pod to the food processor bowl. Beat together until  light and creamy.
  • Add the eggs and beat until combined.

Cake mixture eggs

  • Mix in a little of the sifted flour alternately with the milk, until everything is combined.
  • Spray your cake tin with cooking oil to prevent sticking.
  • Add half of the cake batter, and spread out over the bottom of the cake tin.
  • Top the cake batter with half of the cooked rhubarb, then half of the crumble mixture.

Hazelnut crumble cake

  • Add the remaining cake batter, rhubarb and crumble layers.

Rhubarb cake

  • Cook in the oven for approximately 60 minutes or until the center of the cake springs back when lightly touched.
  • Allow the cake to cool in the tin for 5 – 10 minutes, then remove from the tin. Your cake is ready to serve warm or you could wait until it is cool. Enjoy.

Rhubarb and Hazelnut Crumble Cake

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Filed under Baking, Cake, Hazelnut, Recipes, Rhubarb, Spices, Sweet, Vegetarian

Black fingernails, red wine

In the spirit of the cooler weather that is still lingering in Sydney and July, I wanted to experiment with a mulled wine recipe this week. If you are having a party, it would be perfect to make up a big batch and have it keeping warm in a slow cooker for your guests to ladle.

For me, christmas inspired spices include cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger. Lots of recipes call for sugar and orange in their mulled wine recipe, I decided to substitute marmalade to give some sweetness and citrus tang. Use a red wine you would be happy drinking, I used an Australian shiraz. It is important to only gently heat your mulled wine and not let it boil, otherwise all of the alchohol will evaoporate away. If you want to pimp up your mulled wine in the alcohol stakes you could add a wee nip or three of brandy.

What I was cooking this time last year: Zucchini Fritters

Mulled Wine

Ingredients:

  • 1 bottle (750mls) red wine
  • 2 cinnamon sticks, lightly crushed
  • 6 cloves
  • I star anise
  • 1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 kaffir lime leaf
  • 1 tablespoon marmalade

Method

  • Add all of the ingredients to a saucepan.

Mulled wine spices

  • Heat over a low heat until warmed through.
  • Ladle serves into mugs or heat-proof glasses, avoiding or straining off the whole spices.
  • Your mulled wine is ready to serve with a cinnamon stick as a stirrer. Enjoy.

Mulled wine cinnamon stick

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Filed under Cocktail, Orange, Recipes, Spices, Sweet, Vegetarian

Autumn Apples

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).

Crumble ingredients

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

Apple Crumble

Serves 6

Ingredients

Crumble Topping

  • 1/2 cup plain flour
  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon mixed spice
  • 50g butter
  • 125g walnuts

Baked Apple

  • 4 large granny smith apples
  • 50g butter
  • 50g brown sugar

Method

  • To make the crumble topping, add the oats, flour, brown sugar, butter and mixed spice to your food processor bowl.

Crumble ingredients

  • Process until everything is combined.

Crumble mixture

  • 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.

Butter and sugar

  • Heat oven to 180°C.
  • Heat the butter and sugar mixture, stirring, until the butter is melted.

Caramel

  • Take the saucepan off the heat and prepare your apples.
  • Peel and core the apples, and slice.

Apples sliced

  • Add sliced apples to the saucepan and stir to coat in the butter and sugar mixture.

Caramel apples

  • Spoon the coated apples into 6 individual oven-proof serving dishes or 1 large oven-proof serving dish.

Apples ready for baking

  • 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.

Apple crumble

What is your favourite warming dessert? Has this post inspired any new ideas?

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Filed under Apple, Baking, Caramel, Oats, Recipes, Spices, Sweet, Vegetarian