Raspberry Fudge Cake

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Okay, we all know the deal – you need a spectacular dessert, and no time to bake from scratch. If you’re anything like me and have a reasonably well-stocked pantry, you might even manage this one without a trip to the supermarket (I did!). I baked this one for my sister-in-law Kerrie, for her recent birthday.

rasberry fudge cake

Rasberry fudge cake

 

What You Need:

2 packs of Betty Crocker Chocolate Fudge Cake Mix

1 tub of ready-made chocolate frosting

2 tubs of ready-made vanilla frosting

2 cups of dark chocolate melting buds

1 cup of frozen raspberries (you can use fresh, but frozen razzies are just as yummy and far more convenient)

1 pack of raspberry M&M’s

Baking paper

20cm round cake tin (even better if you have 2 of these!)

rasberry fudge cake_layers

Layering the cake

 

How it’s Done:

Prepare cake mixes according to the directions on the packet. I baked them in two 20cm round pans. Allow to cool, and then slice each cake horizontally in half – use a bread knife to do this – it makes life easy. Also trim the top of each cake so they are nice and flat.

 

While your cakes are baking, defrost your raspberries, then mix and mash them into the ready-made vanilla frosting. Pop the raspberry mixture into the fridge to help it firm up a little while your cakes are cooling.

 

Melt the chocolate buds using your preferred method – I use the microwave for small amounts like this – in two batches. On a long piece of baking paper laid flat on the bench, spread the chocolate as smoothly as you can. Allow chocolate to set for around ten minutes at room temperature, but not until it’s completely hard. With a sharp knife, score vertical lines right through the chocolate, to leave you with pieces about 5cm wide. I did mine on a slight angle for added effect. Allow the chocolate to set totally, then put aside for decorating.

rasberry fudge cake segment

On the inside!

 

Spread approximately one third of the chilled raspberry and frosting mix over one of your cake halves. Layer another half cake and repeat with the frosting – and repeat again until you add the very top cake half. (Yes, I know that would technically make them cake quarters, but hey…) Spread the chocolate frosting over this top half, keeping some frosting in reserve. Use this frosting to ‘glue’ the chocolate pieces around the outside of your cake. You can use perfectly measured pieces that all match, but I liked the idea of it being a little more rustic. The chocolate slabs should stay put with the frosting, but I also added a tulle bow because – pretty! Then, cover the top of your cake with the M&M’s. I added a few left-over pieces of chocolate too, because I knew the recipient of this particular cake happens to be a chocoholic!

 

There are a zillion variations you could use for a simple cake like this one. Instead of sticking with pinks, what about the bright multicolours of a traditional M&M pack? Blueberries instead of raspberries? Cookies and cream? Mint chocolate? Caramel, white chocolate? Hmm, white chocolate and caramel…might try that one soon actually. Anyone have a birthday coming up?

rasberry fudge cake_slice

Take a slice

 

 

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Alice’s Wonderland Marshmallow

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 Recently, my niece turned one. Miss Alice is the only girl-child of her generation in our family (I have 3 boys, my only sister has a son as well as Alice), so this pink stuff is a big novelty for us. I have to admit I was ridiculously excited at the thought of helping out with some goodies for her Alice in Wonderland themed birthday party. My sister Nicole was expecting a fairly large number of people at her home, so I went with a couple of recipes that while simple, looked really effective.

 

Pineapple, raspberry and blueberry marshmallow - with edible butterflies!

Pineapple, raspberry and blueberry marshmallow – with edible butterflies!

To start with, I went with home-made marshmallow. It’s fluffier than the commercial stuff, while at the same time silky smooth. You can flavour it however you like and it’s easy, easy, easy.

 

What You Need:

2 tablespoons of gelatine. Use the powdered stuff rather than leaves.

1 ½ cups of boiling water.

3 cups of sugar.

Food colouring. I used yellow, pink and blue.

Flavourings. I used pineapple, raspberry and blueberry.

Spray oil.

½ cup icing sugar.

½ cup of corn flour.

Edible corn starch butterflies, to serve.

 

Pineapple, raspberry and blueberry marshmallow - with edible butterflies!

Pineapple, raspberry and blueberry marshmallow – with edible butterflies!

How it’s Done:

Unless you have arms to rival Wonder Woman’s, I’d definitely recommend using an electric mixer for this recipe. I made three separate batches of this – one for each flavour / colour.

 

Grease a large roasting pan with spray oil. In a small bowl, add the gelatine to the boiling water. Stir until combined, using the back of a spoon to help squish out any lumps. Then, place the sugar into a large bowl and add the gelatine mix. Mix with your electric beaters until light and fluffy. This will take anywhere from 5 to 10 minutes. For this batch, I actually mixed for 20 minutes, because I wanted to make an extra fluffy mixture. Just before you finish mixing, add colour and plenty of flavouring. I went with fruity flavours – they not only tasted amazing, but the smell was to die for. Spoon mixture into pan and smooth the top. You need to work pretty quickly at this point because the marshmallow stiffens fast. Pop into the fridge for at least 20 minutes. Remove from fridge and using a sharp knife, cut to size. You could also use cookie cutters for interesting shapes. Combine cornflour and icing sugar in a shallow dish, and toss marshmallow shapes.

 

Can be stored in air tight container for 4 to 5 days.

 

*As you can see, I made 3 batches. I found it easier to do it that way, rather than dividing the mix into thirds. The butterflies were purchased from my local cake decorating store, and while they weren’t very tasty, they looked pretty cute!

Chocolate Spoons

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What goes with winter? Open fires, cosy rooms, woollen coats and chocolate. Always with the chocolate. Hot chocolate to be specific. I’m not a coffee drinker (anymore…wahhh!) and although I don’t mind the occasional herbal tea, my blood-warming drink of choice is hot chocolate. Day to day, I devour a sugar-free brand but for something special – there’s these. The real deal. Chocolate spoons. Simply add to warm milk…

 

Ingredients for Chocolate Spoons

Ingredients for Chocolate Spoons

What You Need:

  • Spoons. While you can use and re-use your finest silver, I bought a pack of cute mini-faux-silver spoons from one of those Super-Cheap shops – 50 spoons for $2. Bargain.
  • Chocolate. As always, the better the quality, the better the result will taste. For dark chocolate in particular, try using one that is at least 75% cocoa. You’ll thank me for it later.
  • Flavours: try adding mini marshmallows, chopped Jersey Caramels, cinnamon or chilli. Be adventurous! Try sea salt flakes (on dark choc) or raspberry dust* (recipe below) My one word of advice is this – think about who you’re making these for. Kids or adults? For my children, I’m more likely to make them with marshmallows, for myself – chilli or raspberry.
  • A chocolate mould. Make sure it’s deep enough to fit a spoon. I used a mini-muffin silicone mould.

 

How to make chocolate spoons...

How to make chocolate spoons…

 

How it’s Done:

Make sure your mould is clean and dry. Melt chocolate in a cup in the microwave, or in a double boiler over the stove. Spoon melted chocolate into moulds, tapping gently to get rid of any air bubbles. Add the spoon and flavours before chocolate sets completely. Leave for at least twenty to thirty minutes, pop out of mould gently.

 

Hot Chocolate, Chocolate Spoons with Raspberry

Hot Chocolate, Chocolate Spoons with Raspberry

To Serve:

Heat milk in either a saucepan over low heat – don’t let it quite come to the boil – or in the microwave. Serve in a large cup or mug, add chocolate spoon and stir until chocolate has dissolved. Yummo! Chocolate spoons are also great bunched together and tied with ribbon for a simple gift idea. Try finding delicate vintage spoons at your local second hand shop or market, playing around with mould shapes and sizes…the ideas are endless.

 

Dark Chocoate and Raspberry Dust Chocolate Spoon

Dark Chocoate and Raspberry Dust Chocolate Spoon

*Raspberry Dust Recipe

A handful of fresh raspberries, washed, dried and thrown into the dehydrator for about 5 hours on high. They won’t develop a crunchy texture, more like a fruit leather. Once dried, place the fruit into a snap lock bag, and into the freezer. Once frozen – but still in the bag – smash gently with the back of a knife of small hammer.

Voila! Raspberry Dust!

Store in an airtight container in the pantry. Use sprinkled on ice cream, meringues, biscuits or even warm Camembert cheese.

Chilli Chocolate Spoons

Chilli Chocolate Spoons

Cookbook Review: Argentinian Street Food

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Argentinian Street Food

‘Argentinian Street Food’ might be a super-cute cookbook with its simple cover and cut-out design, but don’t be fooled – it works damn hard for all that cuteness. A little on the quirky side, filled with simple step-by-step illustrations and gorgeous photographs, it’s the sort of book that will have you pouring over the recipes just for the fun of it. And then, pretty much demanding you cook from it. It’s that irresistible.

 But what I love most about Argentinian Street Food is the subject matter. Yeah, yeah, of course – FOOD – but my favourite kind of food. We’re not talking sit-down to eight courses that take three days to prepare here, Street Food is exactly what it should be: simple to prepare. Simple to hold. Simple to eat, pastries. The kind of food where you’re more concerned about the awesome conversation you’re having with the people you’re sharing that food with than which of the eight knives and forks you’re supposed to use first. In other words, this is social food. It’s fun and it’s tasty. And then there’s ice cream. Well, helados, which is kind of like Argentina’s version of gelato, but… different.

argentinian

The authors, Enrique Zononi and Gaston Stivelmaher are Argentinian chefs who live and work in Paris, serving up their specialty pastries and ice cream in three different restaurants, as well as a mobile food cart that wanders through the streets of Paris. Called ‘Carrito’, the van is a tribute to the Buenos Aires of the 1950’s, serving empanadas and helados. The book starts out with the basics – how to make the two different styles of dough required for making stuffed empanadas (baked and fried).

Then, with step-by-step instructions even a first-timer can understand, it moves on to how to fill and fold the dough ‘parcels’, and, most importantly, how to ‘hem’ them to get not just a great-looking result, but a empanada that won’t leak. And then, the recipes move on to the actual fillings. For me, the first one I’m going to try cooking is definitely the Blue Cheese and Celery (with pecan nuts and mozzarella too!) though my husband is keen on checking out the Duck Confit and Foie Gras version. But it’s not just extravagant, out-there fillings included here – good old ham and cheese gets a look-in too.

Zanoni and Stivelmaher have also included a handful of ‘Pica Pica’ dishes, which are basically ‘little dishes’ – a bit of something on the side. My favourite here is the marinated beetroot with fresh goat’s cheese and chopped pistachios. Omgosh!

Finally, we get back to the helados and dulces – or confectionary. I’m passionate about making my own ice cream, and the stand-out recipe for me here is the Raspberry-Malbec sorbet. I can’t wait to try it out with some home-grown raspberries. And oh, while we’re at it, I think the Preserved Cumquats recipe just saved me the drama of marmalade this year…

 

Argentinian Street Food is available from April 1st, 2014.

 

Published by Murdoch Books

160 pages, hardcover

ISBN – 9781743362945

RRP – $29.95

Cookbook Review: Simply Good Food by Neil Perry

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There’s no doubt Neil Perry is one of Australia’s most distinguished, premiere chefs. Not only does he operate a string of highly successful restaurants, is a regular on our television screens and is the creator of airline Qantas’s menus – he also finds time to write gorgeous cookbooks and share his creations us.

Simply Good Food is Perry’s sixth cookbook, and delivers exactly what the title offers: Simple recipes made with fresh, quality ingredients. Retailing at $49.99, this is not just for Foodies, but it also doubles as a stunning coffee table book. Its hard cover, heavy papers and stylish matt photography makes it a book to ogle over in more ways than one.

neil perry

Neil Perry

Divided into sections covering a few of Neil’s favourite cocktails, soups, salads and pasta dishes, followed by meat dishes such as chicken, pork, beef, veal and lamb recipes, the real knock-out dishes are, for me, the Asian banquets, Mediterranean shared tables and Mexican Feasts. I love this kind of ‘open table’ dining with family and friends – it’s a great way to keep everyone happy!

Recipes at the top of my list to try out include:

  • Smoked Ocean Trout Dip With Lemon Thyme Toast
  • Chicken Wings in Vietnamese Caramel Sauce (omg, wow – right?)
  • Veal Escalopes With Artichokes and Prosciutto (I’m a fiend for both artichokes and prosciutto, so this sounds utterly heavenly to me)
  • Buffalo Mozzarella, Capsicum and Onion Salad (so simple, so stunning, so delicious)

And then, there’s the desserts.

  • Key Lime Pie (because, Key. Lime. Pie)
  • Passionfruit Syrup Cake With Mango Salsa (anything that combines passionfruit, mango and mint is, in my mind, pretty much perfect)
  • And finally, there’s the Bittersweet Chocolate Tart. You’ll just have to take my word for it – and buy the book – on how gorgeous this looks. And simple enough for us mere mortals to make at home.
Perry_Simply Good Food

Simply Good Food

While Simply Good Food is filled with mouth-watering photographs, I was a little disappointed that not every recipe has an accompanying photo. As someone who eats with their eyes first, (as I think most of do!) these are the recipes I skim over – especially when there are double-spread pages of stylistically stunning (but not so informative) photographs of empty crockery and wine corks taking up space within the pages. I was, however, pleasantly surprised at the simplicity of these recipes – the layout suggested a more complex menu. It’s  all about combining flavours and crisp, ‘clean’ food.

Simply Good Food won’t be left sitting on the coffee table at my place. Pretty sure I’ll be needing it far too often in the kitchen!

Simply Good Food by Neil Perry

Published by Murdoch Books

Photographer – Earl Carter

ISBN – 978-1743360514

Hard Cover, 339 pages

Available now

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!

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!