Honeycomb

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Fun Fact #1 – There’s no actual honey in honeycomb. Well, not in this version anyway.

Fun Fact #2 – Cooking is science. And what better way to prove it to your kids than watching honeycomb fizz and puff and grow to triple its size?

Fun Fact #3 – Honeycomb is crazy-easy to make.

Fun Fact #4 – Honeycomb isn’t just for kids…

So, Honeycomb is number two in this series of little recipes that will fit together to make one seriously impressive dessert. In the meantime, why not have a trial run?

Honeycomb 1

Hubble, bubble …

What You Need:

4 tablespoons of Golden Syrup

1 cup of Caster Sugar

2 teaspoons of Bicarb Soda

Honeycomb 2

Cool the honeycomb

How It’s Done:

Grease a slice or cake tray and set aside.

Add golden syrup and sugar to a large saucepan and bring to the boil. As soon as it’s boiling, turn the heat down to a low simmer for about 10 to 12 minutes – but stand by to make sure it doesn’t burn. When you think it’s time, add a drop of the syrup into a glass of water. If it is ready, it will become brittle as soon as it hits the water.

Remove pot from the heat, and place close to your prepared pan on the bench. Add the bicarb and stir vigorously. It’s important to work fast at this point, because the mixture will foam up instantly and you need to get it into that cake tray as soon as possible. Leave at room temperature to set, then break into bit sized pieces. Delish!

Honeycomb 3

Delish alright!

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Easy Peesy Chocolate Brownies

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Okay, so I’m going to try something a little different over the next week or two. It occurred to me that most of those amazing dessert recipes you find are really just a few simple recipes thrown together. So let’s do just that. I’m going to give you recipes for three sweet, simple goodies and at the end, put them all together for something special.

First up, we have ridiculously easy, and oh-so-chocolatey Brownies.

Choc brownies 1

Chocolate Brownies!

What You Need:

  • 1 ¼ cups of butter
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 ½ cups of plain flour
  • ½ teaspoon of baking powder
  • 2 cups of caster sugar
  • 2 teaspoon of vanilla
  • 1 cup of cocoa (use the best quality you can)
Exploded Mixer

Messy Mandy!

How It’s Done:

Pre-heat oven to 170 degrees C. Melt the butter in the microwave, being careful not to burn. Add to a large mixing bowl – I used my electric mixer with a stir attachment, but these could just as easily be done by hand, probably with less mess (see pic below!). Add cocoa, then sugar and eggs – one at a time. If using an electric mixer, give a quick blitz for a few seconds between each addition. Stir in the flour. If you are using an electric mixer, remember to use the spill guard, or, like me you’ll end up with flour everywhere.

Bake for aprox. 30 minutes in a greased slice tin – I used a pan about 15cm by 25cm. Remember, brownies don’t spring back quite like a cake when tested, so be careful not to overcook. Allow to cool on a rack for 20 minutes, then slice and serve…although they’re pretty delicious served warm!

I served mine with a sprinkling of icing sugar, strawberries from my garden and a little chocolate sauce.

Boys and bowls

My boys!

Kale and Quinoa Salad

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It’s stifling hot here in Victoria, Australia right now. Today is the fourth day around the 40 degree C mark (that’s 104 Fahrenheit) and there’s more to come. Even with air conditioning in the living area and a pool out the back, we’re wilting – and that’s just the humans and the dogs. I don’t even want to discuss my poor vegetable garden!

I’ve been using the oven as little as possible (lots of barbequing) so there hasn’t been much baking action going on, but we have been eating loads of salads. I came across this one over Christmas, when my Mother in Law purchased something similar from a local deli, and it was SO good I had to experiment and come up with my own version. It’s crazy healthy, full of ‘super foods’, oil free and delicious. Last week we had fabulous crime writing friends Angela SavageAndrew Nette and Leigh Redhead come and stay for a couple of days from the city, and the Kale & Quinoa Salad was a huge hit with everybody. Hope you enjoy it just as much…

Quinoa and Kale

The Fresh Ingredients

What You Need:

Okay, so this is one of those recipes that will probably vary a little each time you make it – I’m not too fussy with quantities of ingredients and I’m sure you’ll find your own perfect combination.

*Half a ‘bunch’ of kale. I used Red Kale this time around because that’s all I had available. Normally I use the green version, but this was just as good.

* Two full celery stalks, leaves removed.

* One cup of fresh mint, tightly packed.

* Half a cup of fresh flat-leaf (Italian) parsley, tightly packed.

* One cup of cooked and cooled quinoa (a third of a cup raw. See cooking instructions below). I used black quinoa this time, but white or red works just as well.

* Half a cup of dried raisins. This one is optional, and I left them out this time – only because I didn’t have any in the pantry. They weren’t really missed because the dressing is quite sweet.

Quinoa and Kale 2

Mix gently!

DRESSING:

Again, the amounts will vary depending on the size of your salad. It’s not a heavily dressed salad – you only need just enough dressing to coat when stirred through.

* Half a cup of orange juice.

* Two tablespoons of white wine vinegar.

*Two tablespoons of cranberry sauce.

*Salt and Pepper to taste.

How It’s Done:

First, you need to cook up and cool your quinoa. Add a third of a cup of rinsed quinoa to two thirds of a cup of water in a small saucepan. Bring to the boil, then reduce heat and cover with a lid. Allow to simmer for about another 10 minutes, or until the quinoa has absorbed the liquid. Allow to cool in the fridge.

Finely chop your kale, parsley, mint and celery. I use a Mezzaluna (a curved, two handled knife) to do this – makes life much easier and quicker. Add pepitas and cooled quinoa, turn over gently with a large spoon so the kale isn’t bruised.

Quinoa and Kale 3

Super healthy and delicious!

Add the dressing ingredients to a jar or small container with a lid. Shake to mix. Gently spoon just enough over salad to mix and coat.

Delicious served chilled with BBQ meat, chicken or seafood – and so, so good for you!

Oh, and if you get a chance, do go and check out Angela,Andrew and Leigh’s websites and award-winning crime novels. All highly recommended.

Review: Recipes for a Good Time

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recipes for a good time

Recipes for a Good Time

Recipes For A Good Time by Elvis Abrahanowicz and Ben Milgate is the coolest, sexiest cookbook I’ve ever held in my hands(and I’m not talking sexy in the Nigella double-entendre-raised-eyebrow kind of way). I’m talking hot vintage cars, cool tattoos, rockabilly hairstyles, vintage style photographs and absolutely, utterly to die for food. From the under-stated hardcover to the texture of the paper, this is not your everyday cookbook. It’s more coffee table delight with a practical, easy to follow internal instruction guide. With diagrams!

The authors are a pair of besties who also happen to own a couple of Sydney restaurants. In their introduction, they note that the idea for their first restaurant, ‘Bodega’ came from the two of them being sick of working in fine-dining restaurants. They opened the type of eatery they’d like to go to: somewhere with great quality food and a fun environment. They wanted Bodega to be a place that played good music, where you could sit at the bar and watch the chefs at work. These days, their award-winning restaurants include the original Bodega as well as Porteño and Gardel’s Bar. You can certainly get a feel for the restaurants from the stunning photographs contained here.

recipes for a good time_elvis and ben - chefs

Ben and Elvis

The contents in Recipes For A Good Time cover topics such as ‘The Perfect Picnic’ to ‘Cooking With Fire’ to ‘Pickles & Sauces’ (which will be my personal go-to around March when my tomatoes and chillies and ripe).

Their signature dish of Fish Fingers might sound basic, but as the boys note, they don’t call them fish fingers because they’re fingers of fish – it’s because ‘you’ve gotta use your mitts’. What I love most about this particular recipe is that they’ve added four pages of variations – one with a double spread of photographs, and another double spread of illustrated, coordinating diagrams. Win! While the original recipe uses cuttlefish and sashimi kingfish, they suggest using ingredients such as mud crab, sea urchin, prawns and even…wait for it…grilled spam. Kind of makes things accessible to every level of cook, huh?

I don’t think you can go past Recipes For A Good Time as that last minute Christmas gift, and not just for the Rockabilly Chicks or the Hipster crowd or your favourite Foodie. It’s a book that will be treasured and loved for many years to come by anyone lucky enough to receive it…if you can bear to give it away and not keep it for yourself that is. I couldn’t!

Photo Credit: Anson Smart

Recipes For A Good Time by Elvis Abrahanowicz and Ben Milgate

Published by Murdoch Books (Allen &Unwin)

Hardcover, 290 pages.

ISBN – 978-1743364376

Celebration Cake Pops

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So, Christmas is done and dusted, and as has been the case for the past couple of years, it was a very quiet and relaxed day for us. All the action happens crazy-early morning when our three boys leap out of bed to discover what Father Christmas has delivered. After that, it’s all about doing as little as possible. Besides my Beloved and our sons, I only have my sister (and her family) and my Mum left on my side after losing my Dad and both my maternal grandparents in a short space of time. Christmas without them is still a bit weird. We call it ‘the new normal’. We don’t do the whole mega-meal in the middle of the day – and there’s definitely no hot oven making the kitchen an uncomfortable place to be (seriously, our Australian summer is enough to contend with!) So this year, in between splashing around in the pool, we adults munched on some gorgeous antipasto platters while the kids were able to choose whatever they wanted to eat – it is Christmas, after all – and they chose chicken nuggets and hot dogs. Why not, I say!

CCake pops 2

Celebration Cake Pops

I did, however whip something special up for dessert. Again, totally non-traditional. Yes, more cake pops! They’re so easy, and suddenly everyone’s favourite – kids and adults alike. They’re easy to eat, don’t require a bowl or crockery, and, they’re FUN. While I served them up over Christmas and Boxing Day, there’s no reason why these can’t make your New Year’s Eve table centrepiece or any other special occasion.

What You Need:

1 packet of chocolate Tim Tams

1 packet of white chocolate Tim Tams

5 malt-style biscuits

2 x 80 grams of cream cheese

White chocolate melts

Dark chocolate melts

Chocolate transfer sheets in various designs. I used two – gold swirls and pink brushstrokes.

Small round cutter, aprox 2cm diameter (for biscuits, scones or icing)

Cake Pop sticks (you could use icy pole sticks)

CCake pops 3

The pops!

How it’s Done:

Add the chocolate Tim Tams to your food processor. Blitz for a few moments, just to break them up a little. Add 80 grams of cream cheese and continue blitzing until combined in a doughy ball. Remove and roll teaspoon sized pieces into balls. Place on a tray lined with baking paper, and pop them in the fridge.

For the white chocolate Tim Tams, the process is the same, except you’ll need to add the malt biscuits as well. This is because specialty-flavoured Tim Tams (white, dark, mint etc) are a few biscuits short in the pack. Sneaky, sneaky.

While your Tim Tam balls are chilling, cut a 10cm strip away from your chocolate transfer sheets. The sheets cost about $8 each and are available from all cake decorating shops, as well as online. There’s a huge variety of colours and designs and available, and I think they’re my new favourite thing! I melted a teacup full of chocolate buds in the microwave before pouring the liquid chocolate over the rough side of the transfer sheet. This bit is a little tricky, mainly because you need to smooth the chocolate to a thin layer with a spatula, but not too thin – about 2 or 3 mm is good. Now, wait a couple of minutes – don’t walk away! – until the chocolate is beginning to set, but is still pliable on the sheet. With your round cutter (mine is about 2cm in diameter), cut out circles just as you would for biscuits. If you wait until the chocolate has set too much, it will crack. If it’s still too wet, it just won’t work. Trial and error, folks. As you lift the remaining circles, you’ll find the transfer has done its job and err…transferred the edible design onto your chocolate disk.

CC pops 4

Melt Icing

Remove your Tim Tam balls from the fridge, melt a little more chocolate, dip the end of each stick in it before pushing gently into the ball. Place back on the lined tray upside down, not minding if a flat spot is created on the top on the ball. Give a few minutes to set before melting more chocolate (I use a deep mug) and dipping the whole ball inside. This isn’t the time to be stingy! Let the excess drip off, and while the chocolate is still wet, attach the decorated disk. Replace on the tray upside down to help the disk stay in place while setting.

CCake pops 1

Decorate however you like!

These quantities made 32 cake pops, and I was able to make them a day ahead of time. I served them in plain old household jars, in the middle of the table. Get creative! Try colouring your chocolate, and who says you need to stick with circles for your transfers? I’d love to hear your ideas. For me, I think I’ll try stars next time…