Sunday, November 25, 2012

Taste & Create: Mushroom Ragout

This month I did my first Taste & Create in months and months and months and... ages!

Taste & Create is a monthly blogging event where the lovely Min of the Bad Girl's Kitchen pairs you up with another blogger and you each get to make, and report on one of each other's recipes.

This month I was paired with Min herself and I chose to experiment with her recipe for Mushroom Ragout... I followed the index link for FAST recipes because I didn't want to have to make anything too complicated. Complicated and/or time consuming are just not valid options when you're sharing a kitchen with 11 other people (not to mention their friends)!

And it was a good choice. As Min mentions in her own post - this ragout has bacon in it! How could it be anything but a good thing!

It came together very quickly with minimal effort and dishes and maximum flavour! I served mine over boiled brussel sprouts, rather than pasta - but this is a recipe for a sauce! Put it on whatever you want! It'd be awesome in a toastie-pie sandwich!

This is a tasty ragout that I've already made twice! I thoroughly recommend it!

Gado Gad-ish

Gado-Gado is an Indonesian dish which consists of veggies and a peanut sauce. Essentially. This is my interpretation...

So many colours!
 Okay, so basically I providing you with a "recipe" for my style satay sauce... and a serving suggestion. But! It's an excellent serving suggestion! And Gado-Gado sounds like a much more legitimate meal than peanut-butter scooped out of the jar an onto a carrot stick... and there's only a *little* bit more effort required!

Veggies? Check! Peanut sauce? Check! Extra protein kick? Check!!!
We have here stir fried pepper, carrot strips and bean sprouts on greens with a soft-set boiled egg. Probably 10 minutes effort start to finish (not counting dishes) and the peanut sauce! Oh! The peanut sauce!

Wanna see?

Friday, November 23, 2012

A Taste of Home: Afghans

What else is a girl to do when her body is all...

"No. Screw you! You missed those three seconds wherein I was actually tired... and now I'm gonna stay up AAALL NIGHT!!! WoooOOO!!!"


"No, I don't particularly care that you have to be up at 6:30am to go count people in a train station. I'M GONNA KEEP YOU AWAKE UNTIL 3AM ANYWAYS!!!"


...but blog? About food. It's the logical solution.

...What's a girl to do when she starts referring to herself in the 2nd person and giving her "Body" a voice and opinion of its own? Probably see a therapist... Well, I am studying psychology (still!) and you know what they say about us Psyc(o) kids...

As for the counting people in at train station? Yes. I'm actually doing that. It's for science. Leave me alone.

Anyway. I thought I said I was gonna blog about food? Yes. Right. Um.

So... I'm in Sweden at the moment - have been for the last almost four months (!)... Haven't really been cooking a lot. Cooking for one sucks. It's horrible! So horrible that I currently cook very rarely. And when I do I make massive amounts of whatever it is and then I have to eat it for days and days because I have THE smallest drawer in the freezer. You know the one. The bottom one which is shorter than all the others anyway... even before it loses half its depth to the freezer motor thingy. Oh! Woe is me! And stuff.

One thing I have gotten really into while over here is proper Kiwi Kai... which is a bit of a misnomer, really... because the only foods (according to Wiki) that are truly unique to New Zealand and New Zealand alone are sweet things... which don't really count as "proper" food... Sorry guys, turns out we didn't invent fush and chups, the BBQ or roast lamb... Who knew?!

But sweets we do well! And they've gone over pretty well too! I've made Lolly Cake (but I ate it all... *ahem* I mean, shared it with all my friends before I remembered to snap a photo), Chups and dup (chips and dip - not exactly a "sweet" but junkie all the same...) and Afghan biscuits! Now referred to by my corridor mates as "those cookies you make" - I've only made them once guys! But I smashed them out of the paaark!

 So - it turns out no one else makes cookies quite like these little babies? I've taken to describing them as "shortbread with cocoa and cornflakes topped with icing and a walnut" ... which works well until the person you're talking to asks in their cute, European accent "what is shortbread?"


Describing things. Not one of my greater talents. I usually say - "Look, next time I make 'em - I'll give you a call, yeah?" ... but I haven't made them since. Mostly because I used up the last of my flour and cocoa to make the photographed batch here... and as I'm basically moving out in a month (!) I can't really justify the Swedish prices to buy more...

Don't get me wrong though, these are totally student appropriate! There're only, like, 5 ish ingredients most of which you probably have naturally occurring in your pantries!

I'm talking about a shit-tonne of butter (technical term), some flour, a bit o' cocoa, a very small quantity of sugar and 1 1/2 cups of cornflakes... and that's it. Then there's the icing and essential walnut... but the cookie part is basically a pantry given!

The recipe I followed is fairly simple... there are some negative reviews on the basis of the biscuits being to "crumbly"... Guys. This is shortbread. It is crumbly. That's the point. Squish it! Or - start with only one cup of cornflakes they'll be what gets in the way of the sticking power of the butter.

Oh, and there's not a whole lotta sugar in the cookie for a reason - the icing is a little bit non-negotiable. Buttercream or icing/glaze is up to you! Just as long as it's there! The walnut? Up to you. For me, they make the cookie. The recipe I was using suggested flaked almonds (WTF?!)... some people go without entirely! O_o

Intrigued? I hope so! Read on, Mac Duff!

Friday, September 28, 2012

Buttons and Bows

I may have mentioned this before... but I'm not a very effective preparer of "simple" dishes... the Great Alison Holst describes the following dish as a "well balanced family dinner which can be cooked in half an hour in one pan"... she neglects to add the bit "unless, of course, you are Kat. In which case this'll probably take an hour and a half several pans a couple of pots and maybe even a little floor-space for good measure. But don't worry! Your flat mates will love it!"

And, inexplicably, they do! This is not my favourite dish ever... but it comes to you highly requested by one of my most favourite people ever... and I aim to please! :)

Even I recognise that this is a very cute dish!
The flavour and sauciness for this dish comes almost entirely from a can of condensed soup - so make sure you pick a flavour you like from a brand you trust! I usually pick mushroom soup and then bulk up the flavour with some combination of; shit-loads of garlic, onion, Worcester sauce, soy sauce, chilli sauce, oregano, mushrooms etc... It's a stone soup type recipe!

The bows are provided by the pasta shape... and the buttons come, ideally from carrots and courgettes... but if, like me you don't have any courgettes to hand make buttons, bows and pearls! Substitute in any veggies you have lying around! Make this dish your own...

You can bulk out the greens with salad, as I did here - but with all the veggies in the dish proper salad isn't a necessary addition to make balanced-ness.

And so Joshee, I have for you (at long last!) the recipe for buttons and bow - enjoy!

Friday, September 21, 2012

Super Sorbet (1 Ingredient!)

Hey all a y'all Southern Hemisphere kids... Rumour has it that as I head into what is effectively my fourth winter in a row up in Sven-Land (!) ... (Yo! New Zealand! Dafaq was up with my last "summer"?! - I felt ripped off!) ... Youse guys are finally getting around to your time in the sun... :)

As such, I shall present to you this fantabulous little recipe that's been sitting on my laptop for quite some time now... 1 Ingredient Sorbet...

Ain't it preeetty?!
This one I found in Jo Seagar's Lip Smackin', Fast Cookin', Hunger Bustin', Gr8 Tastin' Cookbook which was given to me years and years ago by a friend to whom I had lent my bicycle... This has been a really useful cookbook to me over the years! As was exemplified by my first ever recipe post: Lemony Fish Pita Pockets, this dish, by the way has been quite popular over my two years of feeding other people!

All this recipe requires is a can of fruit in natural juice. That's it. What you do - is freeze this can of fruit until solid... once it reaches this stage - open 'er up, stick the contents in a blender and whizz. Voila! Almost instant dessert and it's not too bad for you!

This one was apricot... and I jazzed it up with a few blueberries (love those things!)

Okay, so now it's a 2-ingredient pudding, but that's not so bad!
But you could use pear, peach... even tinned fruit salad if that's your thing...? (SO much tinned fruit salad!)

So, a rather simple "recipe" to break the fast... but maybe this'll be the taster and need to get my groove back... and maybe you'll be seeing more of me soon?

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Guilty Taste & Create: Drunk French Toast

Almost a month to the day... I made this delicious French Toast found on my May Taste and Create partner, Min's blog: The Bad Girl's Kitchen... Since then Life has spectacularly got in way with a variety of colourful excuses/reasons anywhere from the photo's were taken on my Daddy's camera and thus I was at his mercy to have access to them to my usual "lazy" excuse to Holy Hell! I head for London (and ultimately, Sweden) in a little over a month!!!

Still, it's very rude on my part - I didn't even send Min an apology e-mail yet. But fear not! If you were to sign up for Taste and Create for July (e-mail Min before the 8th of the Month) you won't be paired with me, and so your partner will, in fact, be reliable... I'm taking a break... Did I mention Sweden yet? ALL BY MYSELF!!! London for a week with family first... MEEP!!!

Now, French Toast... or, more to the point, Drunk French Toast... The drunk-ness makes it all the more studenty! In fact, if I were flatting right now, I'd have been able to follow the recipe exactly as all my favourite people in Wellington drink Bourbon! My parents however, do not... my French Toast wants to be a pirate when it grows up... I used rum!

In future I'd use more rum... but otherwise the recipe is fantastic as Min writes it... I'm currently working 2-3 shifts/day and haven't the energy for more than a basic update right now... but I will be back! Perhaps typing from Sweden!

Watch this space...

xoxox ~ Kat

Friday, May 18, 2012

Honey Biscuits

Hi There! My name is Kat and I am the author of this blog! Apparently...

... if this blog had an author ... who actually wrote it ... regularly ... ?

As my dearest, darling pen pal Rosie will confirm, and as I have probably explained before... regular writing is not really my forte... I write to her about once a year. Mostly. Except for last year. When I wrote, like, three letters and posted approximately none of them. Pen pal of the year right here!

The point of this little rant is that I'm still here! Still cooking! Still blog stalking all my favourites... :) And now I will do some rabid posting for a little bit... if not here then maybe here or there...? We'll see...

For now, I'm going to start clearing some of my ever-growing back log of images of food that I've made!

Starting with these:

Honey biscuits! Which I made for a friends Nana who'd just had surgery and lives near-by...

This recipe comes from a book called, interestingly enough, Honey Biscuits , that I read in primary school about a boy who bakes with his Grandmother who explains where all the ingredients come from... it was my favourite book! The recipe which was explained throughout the story is printed in full...

This is the version I wrote out, from memory, so that I could bake them with my Grandma (I was probably 6-7)

And this is the translation of my pictograms (spelling wasn't my thing)

Down the far side of the page is 12-13 year old me writing the translations in... I've cropped that bit because it wasn't so cute!

These biscuits are small nuggets of spicy honey flavour and simple/cheap enough for students of any age to make!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Taste & Create: Peanut Butter Cupcakes with Chocolate Peanut Fudge Frosting

Taste & Create is  blogging event I participate in on an (almost) monthly basis... my post a reliably a day or two late... which is a reflection on Life and its tendency to get in the way and my own, blogging laziness - the actual process of reading my partner's blog and planning what I'm going to make is a lot of fun! That's why I keep coming back... that, and I love getting the feedback from someone else trying out my recipes.

So, if you're reading this, and you're a blogger too - you should sign up! The people are really lovely and it's a lot of fun! Also - it forces a person to post at least once a month... encouragement some of us need more than others... *ahem*

This month I was paired with Carol of No Reason Needed... her blog is a combination of food, family and Life - it's a fun and interesting read!

I had planned to make her Chicken Tetrazzini with Crescent Rolls, but I was called into work that day and my mummy made the Tetrazzini sans crescent rolls for me... but I couldn't submit something I didn't make! That would be cheating!

...So I kept on reading... and eventually stumbled across Peanut Butter Cupcakes SOLD!!!

Now, I didn't have any chocolate to melt to make the ganache suggested by Carol's daughter Dakota, so I decided to create my own peanut butter fudge frosting... and wow. Just. Wow. I'll share the recipe for that with you guys too!

Back to the original recipe - I did my best to follow instructions! I did, however make only a third of the recipe which is four cupcakes! The perfect number for two people!

In my thirding - I misread the quantity of baking soda called for and accidentally put in the full amount... I've corrected this for my version down below though... and that is the only factor that spoils these rather delicious cupcakes! I'll be making them again for sure, and I think you should too!

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Taste & Create: Seduce Your Taste Buds Thali

Eugh. I feel like a Zombie. I've gone from unemployed to over-employed in no time flat! (Not that I'm complaining per se - I'm grateful for the opportunity to be earning some savings!)But I've got a looong week of 3 shifts/day for the next 7 days so this is gonna be a brief post to get the important things out there... :)

After next week I will fill y'all in on all the details!

I had fun with Taste and Create this month! I was paired with Padmajha of Seduce Your Tastebuds and my taste buds were most certainly seduced! PJ offers a lot of tasty looking vegetarian, Indian food. Rather than selecting just one recipe to try out - I decided to chose five, and make a Thali.

'Thali' refers to the plate used to serve this meal, and is basically either a metal tray with little dishes for many curries/chutneys or a single plate with indentations. The thalis we have are of the indentation variety.

Clockwise from top left: Tomato Raita, Aloo Fry, Garlicky Spinach
Rice, Sambar. Centre: Black Sesame Seed Chutney.

The recipes I chose were:
  • Aloo (potato) Fry which was amazing my favourite dish of the five! Spicy, slightly crispy and the most beautiful shade of yellow. Yum yum.
  • Sambar which is a sort of runny lentil dish that I'm not a huge fan of. And, although tasty, this particular recipe didn't make a convert out of me... my guests really enjoyed it though! I really enjoyed getting out the mortar and pestle to grind my own sambar powder though!
  • Garlicky Spinach Rice does what it says on the package - it's the most lurid green colour! Just brilliant!
  • Tomato Raita which is a little different for the cucumber/minty raita I'd usually make. It was fun and will no doubt feature on my table again!
and finally...
Now, as students, some of the spices called for may be a little odd... but, if you can buy them in only the quantities you require, can be sourced quite cheaply! I especially recommend the Aloo Fry as a good flatting meal!

Final conclusion? This was fun! And with the exception of the Sambar (which is more a reflection on me, than on the recipe itself) I'll be making these recipes in the future! The Aloo Fry was the absolute star!

Friday, March 16, 2012

Apple Streusel Inside-Out Cake

This is an amalgamation of two recipes and two ideas... I was asked, by my mother, to make a dessert for a dinner we were having that would use up some apples we had lingering in the fridge. There were only three - so not enough for baked apples... and I didn't feel like making Apple Pie en miniature either... So apple cake? Yeah - I like apple cake. I love the streusel topping! But... I want something more - I want to make it interesting! I know- what about cheesecake/frosting on the inside?!

I combined and played with two recipes to make this one, inside-out cake the first was Catherine Bell's 'Apple Spiced Streusel Coffee Cake' and the second came from a cookbook written by a family friend the recipe was called 'Chocolate Surprise Muffins'. The muffins have a surprise, cheesecakey centre that I recreated for this cake. Which is not, by the way, a diet food. By any stretch of the imagination!

The result was a tasty cake with a delicious, crunchy topping and a surprising, creamy centre - well worth recreating! Though I do say so myself...

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Marmite Spaghetti

... or, in my case, Vegemite Spaghetti. Because that's what I had. Also, Australian Vegemite is closer (in flavour, but not texture) to English Marmite than New Zealand Marmite is... Make sense? No? Good.

This is another Nigella recipe, and a absolute, bottom-of-the-barrel cupboard scratching recipe. Tasty though! Well worth making even when you do have sufficient ingredients to make something else.

do you think the pasta looks tastier from this angle...

The result is a salty, savoury pasta which is tasty when served under cheese. In much the same way that toast can be made tasty and savoury by being served beneath marmite (or vegemite) and cheese.

The sauce is simple enough to make... and if you want to feel as if you're eating a balanced meal - add some peas at the last second to the pasta water for a splash of green!

...or this angle?
I won't get into the vegemite vs marmite debate... you can suit yourself! Either will work just fine... :)

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Gooey Chocolate Puddings

Okay. So that's not the most beautiful photo ever. But the dessert is depicts is definitely one of the tastiest!

I made this last year as a Birthday treat/cake... so although it's not everyday student food - it is a feasible special occasion food - especially as it's only for two!

This is based on a Nigella recipe - so you know it's going to be good! I've pared down the ingredients list from serving 6 to serving two. Also, I baked the "babycakes" in my Texas muffin pan... so they got a little mangled on the way out... but it didn't matter they were still fantastic!

Because I baked them from fridge cold there was an amazing texture gradient from crispy outer shell, to gooey mantle with a firm, truffle like centre, which I think would be lost if one were to bake them straight from making.

I served them with chocolate ice-cream and a dusting of cocoa-y icing sugar (I'd give the dusting a miss next time)...

Final verdict? Although far from a regular food, on any budget, in any world - these are the ultimate, once-a-year treat! Mmmm!

Monday, March 12, 2012

Peanut Chocolate Cookies

I looove peanuts! In fact, I looove just about every nut I can think of... :) But peanuts are pretty awesome. Especially because they're affordable even when you're broke. Unlike almonds and macadamias... Snobs.

I wanted to make a really peanut-y peanut and chocolate chip cookie! But I didn't have a recipe that was going to offer what I wanted it to - so I developed my own!

I thought about substituting all the butter from an original recipe for peanut butter - but Google suggested that that wouldn't work... So I subbed half. I also halved the quantity of sugar (surprise!) and made the chocolate chip measurement half chocolate chunks/half salted, roasted peanuts, added in some refrigeration time... and then I made the cookies HUGE!!!

I don't know why I do this. I like crunchy cookies. And I like gooey cookies. But I do not like cakey cookies. I know this. And I also know that taking a "should be" crunchy cookie and making it HUGE will result in a cakey cookie... and therefore I won't looove it... but I find the allure of a ginormous cookie too strong! And have yet to learn to listen to my inner voice which says "Kat. No."... but that voice does seem to know only those two words... so I've learned (learnt?) to drown it out!

In an effort to combat the huge cookies = cakey cookies equation I did refrigerate the dough for about an hour before baking them. Apparently something to do with the butter melting from scratch inside the cookies helps ensure fudginess? Or something... I can't quite remember the mechanics of it all! I think if I hadn't subbed half the butter for peanut butter this may have worked... but as peanut butter isn't famous for its melting properties... gooeyness was not achieved.

The flavour was great, though - so I'd recommend that future cookies are made normal sized and enjoyed two at a time. With milk. All cookies should be enjoyed with milk. :)

P.S. My favourite chocolate chip cookie recipe makes HUGE and gooey cookies... but the amount of butter required is astronomical... and convincing my Mother that making them is a good idea is not an easy task... but watch this space!

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Caramel Sandwich Cookies

These have been heralded by my flatmates as "the best melting moment cookies ever!!!"

...I should have published these for Valentine's Day...
They vary slightly from traditional recipes because I've added a little milk to the dough so that it would be rollable so that I could make cookie cutter heart shapes.

But I still wanted that melting-moment feel - which is why I didn't use a standard sugar cookie dough...

The icing is runnier that I intended - because I wanted it to be frosting for my Choco-Caramel Cupcakes (I didn't post a recipe - but there's a picture of them...) but because this icing involves heat it's runnier and not fluffy like frosting... quite how I expected frosting I'm not sure... my brain was tired? But the icing is tasty! And it really made these cookies.

A note on frosting vs icing... if it's liquidy/doesn't hold its shape when piped, I call it icing - if it's pipeable and holds its shape, I call it frosting... and if it's totally liquid and runs everywhere with a mind of its own, I call it a "drizzle"... :)

Cookies on a Chess Board... Just 'Cause...
Read on for instructions on how to make your own crunchy, sweet cookies...

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Jenny's Famous Chocolate Cake

When I was little... Like 12/13ish I "wrote" a cook book. By "wrote" I mean typed out all my favourite recipes, attached clip art images, printed them off and bound them into books which I proceeded to present to my family and friends as gifts. Copyright infringements were, no doubt, abound - but I never sold the cookbooks nor did I claim to have developed the recipes myself. They were just my tweenage favourites.

Served with chocolate sauce and yoghurt.

Featured in that book was my recipe for Jenny's Famous Chocolate Cake(s) - a delicious cake recipe made in a food processor (or by hand if, as a student, you don't own a food processor) that makes two dark, moist chocolate cakes. Which you can then layer or freeze one for later...

In the photographed image provided I've made the cake with 50% wholemeal flour and some rolled oats for extra fibre/texture but this is not necessary. The chocolate sauce I made is a recipe which comes from Edmonds Food For Flatters.

In my cookbook Katies Kool Kooking (don't ask...), when writing out the recipe I neglected to include sugar at all - instead suggesting that an auxiliary 2 cups of flour would be needed... and I left the cocoa out in it's entirety. The following version of this recipe has only one cup of sugar but it does include that all important half cup cocoa required to make the cake chocolatey...

Egg Flop Omelette

Super healthy, super tasty breakfast...
Omelettes and I get along in kinda the same way that stir-fry and I get along... I like to eat 'em... but I kinda suck a cooking them.

My current theory is that this is because I like to fry my "fillings" and then pour the egg over them and cook it all together unlike a normal person - who either doesn't cook the fillings at all or cooks them separately from the egg part and actually using them to fill the omelette...

My may is easier - and requires less mess. But only when "mess" refers to the number of plates and pans required. The finished result invariably looks a mess... kinda like someone else already tried it and didn't think much of it...

But that's beside the point! Kat Omelettes are tasty and healthy. And that's what matters here. They involve egg, which is good for protein. Spinach (whenever possible) which is good for iron. Tomatoes, which I cook a bit to help prevent prostate cancer ( ;] ). And cheese which is good on everything. Oh! And they're cheap. And easy. Student-able. Yeah.

See how I managed to get the daisies in the background in perfect
focus? Yeah! Mad photography skills...
I dunno... Let's just read the instruction now.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Le Chicken Stock

Vegetarians and Vegans: Avert your eyes now!

Chicken stock. One of the more useful things a person can make in their student kitchen... but one that is very rarely bothered with...

Why? To be perfectly honest - I don't know... it's not like it's difficult or expensive to make - all your need is the carcass left over from your Sunday Roast or, failing that, chicken bits are next to nothing from the supermarket... My guess is that, to most, it seems like too much hard work...?

I'm here to tell you that that is not the case!

Chicken stock... it's never going to win a prize for
"most presentable ingredient of the year"...
Granted, it's not very pretty or photogenic work - but it's pretty simple.

First. Eat your chicken and pick of any leftover bits to have for lunch the next day.

Then put your chicken bones into a large pot (like the one you'd normally cook pasta in...) with the lemons you roasted it with (or new lemons if you didn't roast the chicken with any... or no lemons if lemons aren't your thing), a little oregano, salt and pepper. - basically match the flavours you're putting into your pot now, to the ones you used when you roasted your chicken.

Then toss in a quartered onion and a couple of crushed garlic cloves. Celery tops and/or beet heads are good here too - next time you buy a celery, cut of the leaves and freeze 'em until you want to make stock - they add a lovely, savoury flavorur. Beet heads turn everything a gorgeous pink!

Now, fill the pot with tap - warm water and put it on the heat. Medium heat is probably Okay. - You can also half fill the pot with tap hot water, then top it up with just boiled water (this method is more power usage friendly I believe)...

Turn on your extractor fan, if you have one.. and allow the pot to bubble away until the quantity of liquid has halved.

At this point you can either strain it straight away into a bowl before allowing the liquid to cook and the fat to rise and solidify and then scrape the fat off later (this method is good if you want to reboil the chicken bones for a second [slightly lesser] chicken stock) OR you can allow the whole lot to cool and solidify in the pan and then strain the whole lot, fat and all (this is my preferred method). My chicken stock is never jelly-y (I think because I use so much water to only one chicken carcass) so that's never a problem when straining the cooled stock...

I find playing around in cold chicken stock trying to pick out little discs of congealed fat kind of repugnant, which is why I prefer the second method. The fat sticks to the bones and, if your sieve is fine enough, gets strained out.

Steam it up!
That's it. Pretty simple, really. Next time you roast yourself a chicken - try it out and let me know how you go! :)

Sunday, February 26, 2012

A Decorated Cake

My Psychological Synaptic Transmission Cake

This is not a recipe. I used a boxed cake mix. This is a suggestion as to how a student might decorate a cake...

First - buy a packet cake mix... this is cheaper than if you have to start totally from scratch and don't plan to bake at all in the immediate future. Thus, you have more money for decorations.

This cake was a packet chocolate (note the term "packet"... I didn't even splash out for a boxed cake mix... although, in future, I probably would) with some added vanilla in an effort to make it feel more homemade-ish.

The white "frosting" in the background is, in fact, white chocolate which I melted and spread over - I wanted the decorations to be sufficiently durable that I could cover the whole cake in cling film and take it to my exam without worrying about ruining my design. If I were at home with my fancy thermometers I would have bought "real" white chocolate and tempered it - but these were just melting buttons.

The dendrites (purple), terminal bouton (purple), vesicles (pink)and transporter (blue, cropped out of photo - woops!) of my neuron as well as the words are from standard supermarket gel pens/tube-y things.... The neurotransmitter are 100's and 1000's (I've decided that it's a serotonin cake, 'cause all the insulin from the sugar in the cake will assist with tryptophan crossing the Blood Brain Barrier) And the soma (purple berry lolly), axon hillock (red berry lolly) and myelin sheath (white milk bottle lollies) are all gummy lollies... found in a cheap party mix bag of lollies... I got to eat the rest! :)

And that's how I decorate on the cheap! The cake was much admired and well received... All my friends and I did well in Psyc that year!

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Macaroni Cheese Pasta Bake

Disclaimer: despite the presence of a small quantity of green atop this dish... it is by no stretch of any imagination a health food... this, right here, is pure, glutinous comfort food.

...because three green leaves totally makes this healthy...
 But sometimes, in the life of a student (and I'm sure in the life of a Real Person as well), the need to feel comforted out-importants the need to feel virtuous. In these times, more often than not, what is called for is cheese. Cheese and carbohydrates. And, if a little bacon can be thrown in? So much the better.

Other times what you really need is chocolate. But... I don't know that chocolate would work here...?

This is my favourite baked macaroni cheese recipe because it's super cheesy and - if you bake it in a large dish there's plenty of surface area for the delicious melty cheese on top. Yum!

The method is fairly simple - but it does require a fair few pots and pans...but hey! This is all in the name of warm fuzzies.

If you really want to add more than the merest hint of good-for-you-ness offered by the three green leaves - make it with wholemeal pasta...

Mmm! I feel better just looking at it!

Sweet, Skint Lentils and Rice

I put a lot of faith into Sam when I tried out this recipe... literally all it is is rice, lentils and onions... but, as he promises it is "surprisingly gorgeous".

I made this one day, two weeks after I last went to the supermarket... my cupboards were getting pretty bare! - But we had to eat! Lentils for protein, rice to bulk it out and onion to make it taste good... truly - that's all you need!

This is a very low effort meal, even if it takes a little while to cook - but you don't actually have to do a lot to it!

I've made this since, and will do so again - whether my cupboards are near empty, or I just got back from the supermarket... Skint Lentils and Rice are here to stay!

Friday, February 24, 2012

Yummy Mince (Burger) Patties

These little mince patties don't have to be made into burgers... and have been well received even when served on their own!

The (unfortunately) over-exposed discs at the front are the patties I'm talkin' about!
I don't really have a recipe for these... but the basic idea is the same every time... a little bit spicy, a little bit aromatic and a whole lot yummy!

I first made this version while staying in India in 2010 so I guess you could call them Indian "influenced"? I think the mince used might have been lamb though... :)

My favourite spice (aromatic?) at the time was cumin (jeera) which is why I've included fresh ground, roasted and whole... the chilli is intended to be more of a subtle push than a kick and I added the onion, ginger and coriander for a bit of freshness and because that's what I had available.

These are all ingredients which I have always had readily available in any flat/home where I've lived and the photographs come from a flat-warming BBQ from early 2011 (I'm finally getting through my back-log of images!) so I'll call these student friendly...

The hand in the back is showing a big thumbs up, and a happy grin!
Delicious and easy - that's what a student likes!

Taste & Create: Rawa Dosai

Dosa are something I first tried in India last year... to an untrained, Western eye they're basically delicious, savoury pancake. When Taste & Create, which is my favourite monthly blog event, paired me with Jayasri Ravi of Samayal Arai this month I was super excited to see her Dosa Section, and I immediately hopped on over to have a look.

Most dosa recipe than Jayasri has listed require several hours fermentation which put me off in this instance - simply because I decided, about two hours before teatime that I wanted to make dosa to serve alongside. Here, it should be noted that dosa are primarily a breakfast food, I think, so usually you'd make them the night before and let 'em sit over night.

The recipe I chose to try out was for Rawa Dosai - I think 'rawa' is the term used to describe grains once ground into a flour-like consistency... but I'm totally unsure about that! We had most of the ingredients already, because we do eat a lot of Indian (or, more accurately, Indian-style) food at home - but if you don't, and I don't expect many students would... it'd be well worth going to your supermarket or local Indian market and trying to source them - these dosa are divine!

Rawa Dosai, served with a Goan-Style fish curry.
I did learn, after my very, very pale first several that it's vitally important to get the pan really, really hot before you try to cook these. Leave your impatience at the door when you enter the kitchen to cook dosa!

I was excited because I was able to cook these on our tawa - a flat, side-less frying pan, which meant I was the first to use it for it's intended purpose, but any frying pan will do - just as long as you can pick it up and swirl it! :)

A real, live, tawa... :)
These were great, and we'll definitely make them again... and, one day when I'm a bit more organised, I'll try out some of the other varieties too!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Thin (Dessert) Pancakes (for Breakfast)

Made in India and served with fruit, cream and honey on my 20th Birthday...
I love,  love pancakes they're one of my top five favourite foodstuffs of all time (along with spinach, olives, ice-cream and whatever happens to be flavour-of-the-month)!! However although I love all pancakes in all their different incarnations at all times (buckwheat, crepe, American stacking, buttermilk, dosa... etc...) my favourite way of the moment varies. Currently, it's super fluffy buttermilk that I crave... when this photo was taken (and post intended to be posted) *gulp* over a year ago in India I loved thin, tender, almost crepe like pancakes.

This kind of pancake is often presented as a dessert pancake, I guess because it is more delicate than it's fluffier cousins? The batter needs to sit for at least an hour to allow the gluten in the flour to soften which results in a more tender pancake. I like to make my batter the night before (or morning before - if you're making dessert) just to be sure to be sure...

Also - don't let the fruity presentation of this post or the term "dessert" pancake blind you! There's no sugar in  this recipe - and I have been know to make these for breakfast and then keep some over to make Enchiladish later, using the now "savoury" pancakes in place of the traditional tortillas... Just make a basic chilli (or bolognese for an Italian feel...) roll the pancakes up with a little filling and place into a baking dish, seam side down, pour over a little tomato paste or pasta sauce, sprinkle some cheese on and bake at 200 until heated through and the cheese is bubbling. Yum. Yum!

That's enough chat... time for the recipe, I feel.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Apple Pie

First, a word of warning: Don't expect your boyfriend who believes that "fruit has no place in dessert" to eat this. He won't. And then you will be cross. And then he will wonder why you are cross because you know he doesn't like fruit based pudding... and then you'll get crosser-er. Which is silly. Just serve this to your appreciative, fruit eating flat mates who will tell you wonderful things about life, the universe and your pie and then you will feel that all is right with the world. The end.

Now, on to the pie in question...

I made this because we had, all of a sudden apples coming out of our ears at our flat! It's a sort of amalgamation of two recipes, both from student cookbooks - so, I guess if you have a glut of apples - this counts as a "student" recipe...? Yay me!

I made the pastry from scratch - because I find pastry making an easy, and soothing thing to do. But if pastry making is not your thing - buy some sweet, short crust pasrty (although flaky puff would be good too!) from the supermarket, I won't judge! Promise. :)

Here it is, in all its glory!
A close up of my heart shaped steam holes... I was really proud
of these... I cut them out before putting the lid on the pie, but
wonder if, in future it'd be easier to cut the holes out after the lid
is on the pie...? Any thoughts?
The pastry recipe (and inspiration to make apple pie in the first place) comes from Sam but the filling I took from the Edmonds Food for Flatters cookbook... just because I wanted a slightly thicker filling than Sam offered.

The pie (with the exception of the Boyfriend) was a success! And I'll totally make it again when the need to cook some apples arises again...

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Don't-Ask-Don't-Tell Pasta Puttanesca

Why don't ask, don't tell? Because puttanesca sauce contains three things people commonly believe they don't like: olives, capers and anchovies.


Before you give up on this recipe in disgust - know this, I loathe anchovies and am only just learning to tolerate capers (olives and I on the other hand... well put it this way - for much of my childhood I preferred olives to chocolate) but "a la" puttanesca is one of my favourite ways to eat pasta! Even when I've made it myself and I know what's in there!

See? Looks pretty harmless, really...
If you really, really can't stomach the idea of anchovies, you can substitute them for bacon or salami, I suppose. And the capers for gherkins. The olives? Pick 'em out you lazy so and so's...

Thus, if you're feeling brave, read on for the recipe:

Monday, February 20, 2012

Amazing Not-Too-Sweet Cream Cheese Icing

Computer Board Brownie Birthday Cake...

...Carrot Cake Cupcake...

...Red Velvet Cupcakes... 
...a little Red Velvet Birthday Cake...

...Big Red Velvet Birthday Cake...

...and a slice of that big ol' Red Velvet Birthday Cake...
What do all these cakes have in common? (Aside from the fact most of them are Red Velvet...)

You know it! Cream Cheese Icing... which is, basically, the bestest, most yummiest kind of frosting in the world... along with all the other kinds of frosting, off course!

Now, the problem a lot of people have with frosting is that it is really, really sweet... a direct result of all the icing sugar needed to make it stiff and fluffy... and not just butter or cream cheese with a bit of vanilla stirred in.

You'll often see question in the comments section "But *insert type of frosting here* is really sweet and it hurts my teeth... is there any way to make it less sweet?" and the answer is often "No - it's sweet because of the icing/confectioner's/powdered sugar... and you need all that sugar to get the right texture for the frosting"...

But... there is something else in your pantry with a very similar texture to icing sugar... and it isn't sweet... what I'm thinking of is... CORNFLOUR!!! (also know as cornstarch, I believe?)

Now, I'm not saying I'm the first to come up with this theory... but as far as I came up with it all by myself. :) And it really works for me! I just take out one 1/4 of the icing sugar the frosting recipe calls for and sub in that same quantity of cornflour... et voila! Frosting with the same texture you need but not as sweet as you dread...

I wouldn't sub any more than a quarter of the sugar for flour because then you start to taste it a little bit, which is kinda average. But a 1/4 or less and you have the same taste, only less sweet. Excellent!

Read on for my converted recipe for cream cheese icing...

EDIT: I have successful used this method for buttercream frosting too!