Recipes

It’s beginning to smell a lot like Christmas…

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Ah, the smells of Christmas. Many years ago, when pot pourri was still fashionable, I had a wonderful mixture that smelled of Christmas. I would put it out in early December, and each night when I got home from work, the spicy fruity smell would welcome me in the door.

The real thing, of course, is Christmas baking. The heady fragrance of the Boozy Christmas pudding mix that wafts up as you stir it. The warm smells of a rich and spicy Christmas cake as it slowly cools.

There are so many recipes for fruit cake, and I’ve certainly tried a few. But this one is my keeper. It’s a boiled fruitcake from Aussie cookbook author Belinda Jeffrey that was published in Australian Home Beautiful magazine a few years ago. The beauty of the recipe is its flexibility—the types of fruit included can be varied to include any combination of raisins, sultanas, currants, prunes, dates, apricots, and other dried fruits; similarly the liquids can be varied to include orange and lemon juice, brandy, rum, port, to your tastes.

One of the main ingredients in this fruitcake recipe is fruit mince, and I’ve included a recipe for a homemade version as well, although a good quality store-bought fruit mince will work just as well. This recipe also comes from an Australia cookbook writer, the beloved-by-many Margaret Fulton.

I’m not one for the traditional marzipan icing and fake holly leaves. I don’t even make a nice pattern of almonds and pecan nuts on the top of the cake. It’s all about the rich, dark, fruity, dense cake for me.

Wishing you all a very merry Christmas and all the best for a Happy New Year!!!

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Christmas Cake

Adapted from a recipe by Belinda Jeffrey, published in Australian Home Beautiful, December 2009.

Makes 2 Christmas cakes, 20cm diameter.

1 large lemon, zest finely grated, juice reserved
1 large orange, zest finely grated, juice reserved
495ml brandy or cognac
450g butter
540g dark brown sugar
1200g mixed dried fruit—for example, raisins, sultanas, currants, chopped apricots, chopped prunes, diced dates, candied fruit peel, glace fruit)
555g fruit mince (see recipe below)
3 tsp bicarbonate of soda
3 heaped tsp cinnamon
1.5 tsp nutmeg
3/4 tsp ginger
1/2 tsp cardamom
1/2 tsp cloves
3 tsp vanilla extract
1.5 tsp almond extract
6 eggs
570g wholemeal flour
blanched almonds and pecan halves for decorating (optional)
extra brandy/cognac

Measure out lemon and orange juice and add 1/2 c water to it, then pour in brandy until mixture measures 900ml total. Add the zest and set aside.

Melt butter over medium heat in large saucepan. Add the sugar and stir until the mixture is wet and slushy. Add the dried fruit, fruit mince, bicarbonate of soda and reserved juice mixture and stir to mix. Increase heat to high and stir until the sugar has dissolved, then stop stirring and bring the mixture to the boil. Allow to simmer for 4-5 minutes, adjusting heat as necessary to avoid the frothy mixture boiling over. Then turn off the heat and allow to cool completely in the saucepan.

Preheat oven to 150C. Grease 2 20cm round deep cake tins with butter and line with a double thickness of baking paper.

Add cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, cardamom, cloves, vanilla and almond extracts to the cooled mixture and stir. Add eggs and stir in well. Mix in flour and stir to thoroughly combine, then allow batter to sit for a few minutes before scraping it into the two prepared tins.

If desired, decorate the tops of the cakes with almonds and pecans arranged in concentric circles.

Bake the cakes until a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean, approximately 1.5 hrs. Check the cakes periodically during cooking, and cover with foil once the tops are a good rich brown colour.

Leave the cakes to cool completely in the tin, on a rack. Remove from the tin, and brush the base and the top with brandy/cognac, then wrap in cling wrap and foil. To prolong the life of the cake, store in the fridge.

Notes:

1. The boiled fruit mixture can be cooled overnight if that is convenient.

2. The top of the cake will feel firm when lightly pressed when it is fully cooked.

3. The cake will last in the fridge for at least a couple of months.

Fruit Mince

Adapted from a recipe by Margaret Fulton, published in Australian Home Beautiful, December 2009.

Makes approximately 4.5 cups.

1.5 c raisins
1.5 c currants
1.5 c sultanas
1/3 c blanched almonds, coarsely chopped
1 apple, grated
3/4 c brown sugar
75g unsalted butter, melted
1/3 c brandy or rum
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 orange, zest and juice

Process dried fruit and almonds in a food processor until coarsely chopped. Spoon into a bowl and combine with grated apple, sugar, butter, brandy, spices and orange juice and zest. Mix well.

Cover and chill, stirring daily for at least 2 days before use.

Notes:

1. Fruit mince will last for several months in the fridge. Give it a stir now and then.

2. This recipe is actually half of the original recipe, but I find I don’t use it all up (I’m not one for making fruit mince tarts). I have enough left over after making the cakes to make a batch or two of fruit mince muffins.

Recipes

Christmas is cooking …

photo credit: k e e k i via photopin cc
photo credit: k e e k i via photopin cc

Around this time of year, talk in my family turns to what we’re going to eat on Christmas Day. If it’s my side of the family, our preference is to have one big meal that stretches out for most of the afternoon—perhaps some nice nibbles to start with, some BBQ’d seafood (we ARE in Australia after all, what’s Christmas without a BBQ?) for a first course, then maybe a whole fish (again, cooked on the BBQ) and a turkey breast or some slow-roasted lamb, or a beef fillet, with some salads and maybe some asparagus and of course roast potatoes!

Then there’s a ham on the side for those that want it; the leftovers will keep us in sandwiches for the next week or so! That usually takes us through to late afternoon, and after a rest it’s time for dessert—something lighter and more summery like pavlova or summer pudding, as well as the more traditional Christmas pudding.

Christmas pudding has become a tradition in our family over the last 20 years or so. I don’t really remember it featuring on the menu when I was a kid, unless we were visiting our relatives, although I know it made the occasional appearance. But when I moved to the US in the early 90s and started teaching myself how to cook, I came across a recipe in The San Francisco Chronicle that was easy and delicious, and with some minor modifications I’ve been making it ever since!

It’s not too labour intensive, although you need to plan your cooking around your schedule as you need to start the fruit macerating the day before you cook the puddings, and the steaming time is several hours long. And here where Christmas meets Summer, I also have to keep an eye on the weather, as I don’t want to heat the house up more than I need to on a hot day.

My recipe makes two good-sized puddings— each one is plenty for a group of 12 as it is very rich—and they keep for a while, although I have made them as little as a week before the big day with delicious results. I think the longest I’ve kept a pudding is about a year—the quantity of alcohol is sufficient to preserve it well!

I’ve got a couple more Christmas cooking posts for you over the next few days, a great boiled fruitcake recipe as well as the most fantastic raspberry chocolate truffle slice, seriously it’s to die for!

(You’ll have to wait for a photo—there is absolutely nothing photogenic about a pudding in a tin mould!)

Boozy Christmas pudding

Adapted from a recipe published in The San Francisco Chronicle on 16 December, 1992.

Makes 2 puddings, each serving 8-10 people.

350g prunes, pitted and chopped
300g currants
225g dark raisins
125g mixed peel
100g dried apricots, chopped
zest and juice of large orange
zest and juice of large lemon
1 Tbs molasses
2/3 c Guinness stout
1/2 c brandy
1/4 c tawny port
1/4 c Cointreau
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon, rounded
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg, rounded
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1/2 tsp ground cloves, scant
1 c plus 1 Tbs dark brown sugar
8 cups of breadcrumbs made from fresh white bread — about 500g
175g butter plus additional for greasing the pudding basins

Combine the prunes, currants, raisins, peel, citrus zests and juice, apricots, and molasses in a large non-reactive bowl. Add the stout, brandy, port and Cointreau and mix well. Stir in the spices, add the sugar and mix very well. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 24-48 hours, stirring occasionally.

Take the fruit mixture out of the fridge and stand at room temperature for about an hour. Fold in the breadcrumbs in batches with a large spatula, until no white specks of bread are visible. The mixture will be quite stiff at this point. Allow to stand for about 30 minutes at room temperature. Melt the butter and thoroughly fold into the mixture. There will be about 9 cups of the pudding mixture.

Brush 2 pudding moulds, each about 2-2.5L capacity, with melted butter. Lightly pack the pudding mixture into each mould and smooth tops with a rubber spatula.

Butter 2 rounds of baking paper/parchment and press onto the surface of each pudding. Cover each mould with its lid, or with aluminium foil.

Place each mould into a stockpot with boiling water 3/4 of the way up the sides of the mould and cover pot with lid. Steam for 4 hours over low to medium-low heat so that water bath is at a gentle boil.  Replenish boiling water as necessary.

Transfer puddings to wire racks and cool to room temperature. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until day of serving. Brush them with brandy or Cointreau once or twice if desired.

To serve, let puddings stand at room temperature for 30 minutes, then steam as before for 2.5 hours. Let cool on rack for a further 1.5 hours.

Run a knife around the edge of the pudding and invert onto a cake plate or stand. Decorate with holly sprigs and/or glace fruit if desired.

Pour about 2 Tbs hot brandy over the top of the pudding and light with a match. The flames will subside as the alcohol burns off. Slice and serve with whipped cream, vanilla icecream, custard, brandy butter or even a slightly sweetened natural yoghurt.

Notes:

1. You need at least 3 days to make the puddings from start to finish. But the longer the puddings have to mature, the better. I try to make mine in early December.

2. The original recipe called for Frangelico instead of Cointreau, so feel free to mix up the alcoholic flavours a bit! Grand Marnier would also be nice. Cognac can be used in place of brandy.

3. You could use glace fruits instead of mixed peel.

4. I use a good quality white sandwich loaf for the breadcrumbs, which I prepare using a food processor. Sometimes I use the crusts, other times I cut the crust away. What is important is making sure that the bread is in crumbs not chunks.

5. You could use several smaller pudding moulds or basins if you wanted smaller puddings, but make sure the bowls aren’t more than about  3/4 full. The steaming time remains the same.

6. Leftover pudding can easily be heated up in the microwave, and it’s nice cold too!

Recipes

The silverbeet solution

We have lots of silverbeet and rainbow chard in our garden. It’s about the only thing we grew this winter, and I kind of forgot about using it until suddenly there was so much I was a bit overwhelmed by it!

I had in mind some kind of silverbeet tart or pie, so I went looking through my recipes books. Have you tried Eat Your Books? It’s the perfect solution for someone like me, with an embarrassingly large collection of cookbooks! It’s an online recipe index with not only the recipes indexed but the ingredients in each recipe too—you add all your recipe books, magazines, even blogs, to your library and then when you are looking for a recipe, you type in the ingredients or type of recipe you’re looking for and it tells you what recipes are in what books, and a list of ingredients required! It’s fantastic!!

In the end, though, I didn’t find quite what I was looking for, so I made it up as I went along. My recipe is loosely based on this recipe, but I have changed it a fair bit, most noticeably by adding lamb! I also added a spice blend from a local middle eastern supermarket. It’s a Lebanese blend of allspice, cloves, black pepper, cinnamon, ginger, fennel, anise, nutmeg, mahlep and galangal, known as Seven Spices (I know, I know, there are 10!), and it just gave the pie filling a subtle boost of flavour without overwhelming it.

It ended up being a perfect meal, served with a green salad to add some crunch. And I think it would be just as nice with chicken instead of lamb.

Lamb and Silverbeet Parcels

Serves 6

2 Tbs olive oil
1 large onion, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
500g lamb mince
1 large bunch of silverbeet or rainbow chard
300g ricotta cheese
100g feta cheese, crumbled
grated rind of 1 lemon
1/2 tsp Seven Spices blend or a similar middle eastern spice blend
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 egg, lightly beaten
6 sheets of puff pastry
1 egg, lightly beaten with a splash of water for the pastry wash
 

Preheat the oven to 200C.

Cut the silverbeet/chard leaves away from the stems. Slice the leaves into ribbons and finely chop the stems.

Fry the onion and garlic gently in about 1 Tbs olive oil over medium-high heat for 5 minutes or until soft and golden.

Add the mince and silverbeet stems and fry until the meat browns. Then add the silverbeet leaves handful by handful, allowing it to wilt between each addition.

Stir through the cheeses and the spice blend, then season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Finally stir the beaten egg through and allow to cool slightly.

Divide the mixture into 6 portions and place each portion in the middle of a square of puff pastry. Fold the corners over each parcel to fully enclose and brush with the egg wash.

Bake in the oven for about 30 minutes, until the pastry is golden brown. Serve immediately.

Notes:

1. Filo pastry could be used instead of puff pastry. In that case, brush with olive oil or melted butter instead of the egg wash.

Recipes

Roast chicken with a twist

I’ve been in a bit of a food rut recently. We’ve been busy busy busy and while I’ve been doing a lot of cooking, it hasn’t been super exciting.

But I came across this Neil Perry recipe in the weekend paper yesterday and something about it just appealed to me. I love Asian flavours, and I love roast chicken, so the idea of marrying the two together is just inspired! It’s really easy to put together and tastes fantastic.

Neil Perry suggests serving it with steamed Asian greens. We ate it with homemade fried rice, steamed asparagus and green beans and just picked silverbeet and rainbow chard, sauteed and wilted with garlic and seasoned with a splash of soy sauce and a drizzle of sesame oil.

Lemongrass and Ginger Roast Chicken

Adapted from a recipe by Neil Perry, published in The Age, 20 October 2012.

Serves 4-6

2 stalks lemongrass, white part only, finely sliced
1 Tbs grated ginger
1-2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 eschalots, chopped
1 lime, juiced
1 Tbs fish sauce
1/2 tsp caster sugar
100g unsalted butter, diced and softened to room temperature
1.5 kg free range chicken
olive oil
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
sesame oil 

Preheat the oven to 180C.

Using a small food processor, chop the lemongrass, ginger, garlic and eschallots until very fine. Add the lime juice, fish sauce and sugar and blend to a paste. Using a fork, mix through the softened butter.

Gently loosen the skin of the chicken over the breast and legs and push the butter under the skin. Place chicken breast side up in a baking dish. Season with salt and pepper and drizzle with olive oil. Roast for 1 hour or until the juices run clear when the thickest part of the thigh is pierced.

Rest for 10 minutes before cutting into pieces. Drizzle with sesame oil just before serving.

Recipes

Gumbo ya ya

It’s Spring in Australia and already I can feel more warmth in the sun’s rays and we’ve been getting some lovely sunshine. In Melbourne we get a long grey drizzly winter, so it’s very welcome. But it’s still not quite there yet, and on a cooler day like today, a warm spicy stew is the way to end the day (and a good way to start the week too).

I noticed a couple of weeks ago that okra is in season right now. It’s not a particularly common vegetable here, and most supermarkets and greengrocers don’t carry it. But it’s a useful vegetable to have around if you want to cook gumbo, the Cajun stew from Louisiana in the USA’s Deep South. When it is sliced up, it exudes a sticky sap-like substance which is cooked away, and it thickens up the gumbo nicely.

I originally found this recipe in Bon Appétit magazine, which I subscribed to for years when I lived in California. It’s not on the Epicurious website, though, so I’m glad I kept this issue.

Gumbo is a dish that takes a while to set up, but then it happily simmers away for a couple of hours while you do other things, like bake cupcakes for your daughter to take to school. It’s a little spicy, so maybe not the most kid-friendly, but it sure is tasty! Serve it over rice.

Chicken and Chorizo Gumbo

Adapted from a recipe in Bon Appetit, November 1992.

Serves 8

12 cups water
1 chicken cut into 4-6 pieces
1/2 cup plus 2 Tbsp vegetable oil
500g okra, sliced
1/2 cup plain flour
500g chorizo sausage, cut into 2cm thick slices
2 400g cans diced tomatoes and their juices
1 green capsicum (pepper), chopped
2 celery stalks, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 bay leaf, fresh or dried
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp dried basil
1 tsp cayenne pepper
large pinch of sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp filé powder

Combine water and chicken in a stock pot or large saucepan and simmer for an hour or until chicken is tender. Remove chicken pieces to a bowl and cool. Once cool, discard skin and remove meat from bones. Reserve 4 cups of the chicken stock.

Heat 2 Tbsp oil over medium heat and cook okra, stirring frequently, until it’s no longer sticky, about 15-20 minutes.

Make a roux by heating the flour and remaining oil in heavy Dutch oven over medium heat, stirring frequently until the roux is a deep golden colour. It should take about 10 minutes.

Add the reserved chicken stock, okra, sausage, tomatoes, capsicum, celery, garlic, bay leaf, thyme, basil, salt and pepper. Simmer, partially covered for 1.5 hours until thickened, stirring occasionally.

Spoon off fat from the surface and then add chicken and filé powder, and simmer for another 15 minutes. Serve over rice.

Notes:

1. I’ve used chorizo sausage as andouille sausage is not available in Australia. Kielbasa or another spicy smoked sausage could also be used.

2. Making the roux is an important step, so don’t rush it. Keep it moving as it starts to colour so that it doesn’t burn.

3. Filé powder is made from ground sassafrass leaves and can be found at some specialty spice shops. It’s not essential, but it helps thicken the gumbo and adds a delicate flavour.

Beads, Recipes

¡Hola! Mexico! The Challenge of Travel

From one blog hop, straight into another … if you are looking for my Bead Soup Blog Hop post it’s here.

I’ve done a bit of travelling in my time. Family relocations from Australia to the USA and back again when I was a child, camping trips, road trips across Australia to visit relatives and then my own relocation to the US in 1990 and back to Australia 11 years later, but not before a three month road trip around the States! I’ve been to a fair few countries in Europe, a couple of tropical paradises in SE Asia and I’ve seen quite a bit of my own country too.

So when Erin Prais-Hintz announced the Challenge of Travel, I signed up very quickly!

In Erin’s words …

… travel with us around the world from the comfort of your own home. In this challenge you will be tasked with creating an accessory that captures the spirit of the nation that you are assigned.
Whatever your inspiration… the climate, the landscape, the colors on a topographical map, the way the people dress or what they eat, the architecture of the cities or the natural landmarks… I challenge you to be inspired by travel this month!

The first part of the challenge was to choose the country. The rules were to choose a geographical region (not your own) and a country, or have one assigned to you. I chose Mexico, the southernmost of the three countries of North America.

I’ve always been fascinated by Mexico, its culture and its cuisine. I remember a few things from my first trip to Mexico, at the tender age of 5 … the powerful smells of Mexico City, one of the most densely populated cities in the world, my Mum getting a dose of Montezuma’s revenge, flashes of climbing pyramid-shaped Aztec temple ruins and going to the Floating Markets … that may or may not come from photographs in my parents’ photo albums. But sadly, despite 11 years of living in the US as an adult, I managed to visit Mexico exactly once, to go scuba diving in Cozumel, an island off the coast of the Yucatan Peninsula. While there we managed to visit Tulum, a fascinating Mayan ruin in a picturesque location on the Yucatán coast.

The seaside view of El Castillo at Tulum
photo credit: CasaDeQueso via photo pin cc

Mexico has some fascinating traditions that draw on both its ancient Mayan, Olmec and Aztec civilisations and the more recent Spanish-Catholic influence. One of my favourites is Día de las Muertos—the Day of the Dead—which is celebrated on November 1st and 2nd, the same time as the Catholic Church’s All Saints and All Souls Days. Derived from an Aztec festival, it’s a time to celebrate and pray for friends and family members who have died, with visits to their graves to be with the departed souls. Traditions include building altars to the deceased that are decorated with sugar skulls and marigolds as well as the favourite foods and drinks of the dear departed.

photo credit: uteart_traveling via photo pin cc

A common symbol of the holiday is the calavera, or skull, and the calaca, or skeleton, which are often used as decorations for the Day of the Dead festival, as masks or costumes, small figures and sweet treats, or sugar skulls.

photo credit: digiyesica via photo pin cc

I have a couple of sugar skull pendants made by Australian ceramic artist, Natalie Fletcher. And recently she came up with some fantastic beads in bright colours that matched the colours used to decorate her sugar skull pendants.

I used black waxed linen cord to create some pretty czech glass dangles below the pendant and then knotted the bright ceramic beads above the pendant, along with a couple of silver-plated pewter spacer beads and some little birds. Above the knotted section I created a chain out of silver-plated pewter bone-shaped links and jump rings and finished the necklace off with a sun-shaped toggle. The silver plated components all come from TierraCast’s Viva Mexicana range.

And because this blog is called Beadrecipes, after two of the things I like to do in my spare time, I thought I would finish off with a recipe! So here are some Mexican-inspired fish tacos and skillet potatoes. Now I say inspired by, because tacos are not usually served in flour tortillas, however I could not get soft corn tortillas at our supermarket the day I made these. But the flavours are there!

Fish Tacos with skillet potatoes

Adapted from Masterchef Magazine, issue 24, June 2012

1/2 c plain flour
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
1/2 tsp chilli powder
1/2 tsp salt
500g flathead tails
olive oil to shallow fry
guacamole (see recipe below)
shredded lettuce
salsa
sour cream
shredded cheese
Flour or corn tortillas
 
3-4 potatoes
1-2 tsp mexican spice blend
3 Tbsp vegetable oil 

For tacos:

Combine spices and salt with flour on a large plate. Dredge fish in the flour mixture and shake off excess.

Heat 1cm of oil in a frypan over med-high heat.

Cook fish on each side for 1-2 minutes until cooked through. Drain on paper towel.

Heat tortillas in oven or microwave according to package directions.

Assemble tacos: place tortilla on plates, spread some guacamole down centre, flake fish into large pieces and place on top of guacamole. Top with shredded lettuce, salsa, cheese and sour cream as preferred. Fold in half or roll up. Serve with skillet potatoes (recipe follows).

For potatoes:

Cut potatoes into 1.5 cm dice.

Toss with mexican spice blend.

Heat 2 Tbsp oil over med-high heat in frypan with lid. Add potatoes and cook stirring continuously for 5 minutes.

Add remaining oil and cook for another 5 minutes, stirring continuously.

Reduce heat to medium, cover and cook for another 5 minutes or until tender.

Guacamole

2 avocados
1 lge tomato or a handful of cherry tomatoes
2 spring onions, finely chopped
1-2 cloves garlic, crushed
handful of chopped coriander
juice of 1-2 limes
sea salt and freshly ground pepper
jalapeno chili, chopped (optional) 
 

Mash avocado flesh roughly with a fork

Finely chop tomatoes and add to avocado along with spring onions, coriander, garlic and chili if using.

Add lime juice, salt and pepper to taste.

Notes:

1. Substitute flathead tails with any firm white fish, such as snapper.

2. Instead of mexican spice blend, use a combination of 1 tsp smoked paprika, 1 tsp of chili powder and 1 tsp salt.

3. This is really quite a loose recipe, adjust to suit the ingredients on hand. Tomatoes are optional in the guacamole, as is the chili, depending on your tastes.

Now sit back with a margarita and enjoy the blog hop!

Monique Urquhart http://ahalfbakednotion.blogspot.ca/ Africa Burkina Faso
Niky Sayers http://silverniknats.blogspot.co.uk/ Africa Egypt
Therese Frank http://www.theresestreasures59.blogspot.com Africa Kenya
Raychelle Heath http://abeadloveaffair.blogspot.com/ Africa Lesotho
Joan Williams www.lilrubyjewelry.wordpress.com Africa Mauritania
Sherri Stokey http://www.KnotJustMacrame.com Africa Senegal
Regina Santerre http://reginaswritings.blogspot.com Africa Seychelles
Raida Disbrow http://havanabeads.blogspot.com Africa Tanzania
Kristi Wodek http://livedinlife.blogspot.com Africa Zimbabwe
Sally Russick http://www.thestudiosublime.com Americas Brazil
Melissa Trudinger ME! https://beadrecipes.wordpress.com Americas Mexico
Tracy Stillman http://www.tracystillmandesigns.com Americas USA
Sandra Wolberg http://city-of-brass-stories.blogspot.de Asia India
Tanya Goodwin http://pixiloo.blogspot.com Asia Japan
Susan Kennedy http://suebeads.blogspot.com Asia Japan
Beth Emery http://storiesbyindigoheart.blogspot.com Asia Japan
Lisa Cone http://inspiredadornments.blogspot.com/ Asia Japan
Tanya Boden http://fusionmusebangkok.blogspot.com/ Asia Japan
Inge von Roos http://ingetraud.wordpress.com Asia Laos
Erin Prais-Hintz http://treasures-found.blogspot.com Asia Nepal
Dee Elgie http://cherryobsidia.blogspot.com Asia Phillipines
Carolyn Lawson http://carolynscreationswa.blogspot.com Asia South Korea
Lisa Stukel http://carefreejewelrybylisa.blogspot.com Asia Sri Lanka
Elly Snare http://themagicsquarefoundation.wordpress.com Asia Thailand
Shelley Graham Turner http://www.shelleygrahamturner.blogspot.com Europe Austria
Mallory Hoffman http://rosebud101-fortheloveofbeads.blogspot.com/ Europe Bosnia Herzegovina
Paige Maxim http://www.pmaximdesigns.blogspot.com Europe France
Jenny Davies-Reazor http://www.jdaviesreazor.com/blog Europe Germany
Sharyl McMillian-Nelson http://sharylsjewelry.blogspot.com Europe Greece
Evelyn Shelby http://raindropcreationsbyevelyn.blogspot.com/ Europe Iceland
Holly Westfall http://silverrosedesigns.blogspot.com/ Europe Ireland
Rebecca Siervaag http://www.godsartistinresidence.blogspot.com Europe Ireland
Toltec Jewels http://toltecjewels.blogspot.com Europe Ireland
Lee Koopman http://StregaJewellry.wordpress.com Europe Ireland
Laren Dee Barton http://larendeedesigns.blogspot.com Europe Italy
Cindy Wilson http://www.mommysdreamcreations.blogspot.com Europe Norway
Kathleen Lange Klik http://ModernNatureStudio.blogspot.com Europe Poland
Shaiha Williams http://shaihasramblings.blogspot.com/ Europe Portugal
Jennifer Justman http://soulsfiredesigns.blogspot.com/ Europe Romania
Elsie Deliz-Fonseca http://ladelizchica.blogspot.com Europe Spain
Lola Surwillo http://www.beadlolabead.blogspot.com Europe Sweden
Kim Hora http://www.kimmykats.com Europe Switzerland
Leanne Loftus http://firstimpressiondesign.blogspot.com Europe The Netherlands
Patti Vanderbloemen http://myaddictionshandcrafted.blogspot.com Europe The Netherlands
Marcie Carroll http://labellajoya.blogspot.com Europe Turkey
Marlene Cupo http://amazingdesigns-marlene.blogspot.com Oceania Federated States of Micronesia
Ine Vande Cappelle http://jewelsbyine.blogspot.com Oceania Fiji
Tammie Everly http://ttedesigns.blogspot.com/ Oceania Guam
Alice Peterson http://www.alice-dreaming.blogspot.com Oceania Kiribati
Elisabeth Auld http://www.beadsforbusygals.com Oceania Nauru
Susan McClelland http://mistheword12.wordpress.com/ Oceania New Zealand
D Lynne Bowland http://islandgirlsinsights.blogspot.com Oceania New Zealand
Denielle Hagerman http://somebeadsandotherthings.com Oceania New Zeland
Rebecca Anderson http://songbeads.blogspot.com Oceania Papua New Guinea
Mischelle Fanucchi http://micheladasmusings.blogspot.com/ Oceania Samoa
Kari Asbury http://hippiechickdesign.blogspot.com Oceania Solomon Islands
Cece Cormier http://www.thebeadingyogini.com/ Oceania Tonga
Emma Todd http://www.apolymerpenchant.com Oceania Tuvalu
Debbie Price http://greenshoot.blogspot.com Oceania Vanuatu
Recipes

Lotsa lemons

A friend came over for lunch last week bearing an enormous bag of lemons. Not just ordinary lemons, either, but lovely juicy ripe Meyer lemons she’d rescued from a tree about to be cut down.

Meyer lemons, for those who’ve never heard of them, are a somewhat thin-skinned sweet lemon, that apparently comes from a cross between a lemon and an orange, or perhaps mandarine. The skin and the flesh are almost orange and they taste divine! I first encountered Meyer lemons when I lived in Berkeley 20-odd years ago, where almost every house had a prolifically fruiting Meyer lemon tree in the back garden. But they are not quite as common here in Australia.

Rather than just freeze juice, I decided to put the lemons to good use. I’ve been wanting to try making my own preserved lemons for a while, using Stephanie Alexander’s recipe. And I thought the sweetness of the lemons would lend themselves well to lemon curd. Again Stephanie Alexander came to the rescue with a simple recipe.

It’s going to be a month or more before I can use the preserved lemons, but the lemon curd is absolutely delish! Now I need to make some scones, or some pastry cases to go with it …

Stephanie Alexander’s Preserved Lemons

From The Cook’s Companion, by Stephanie Alexander

500g coarse kitchen salt
20 lemons
6 bay leaves
9 cloves
2 sticks cinnamon
extra lemon juice as needed

Sterilise two 1L jars or equivalent. Add a heaped dessertspoonful of salt to each jar.

Scrub lemons and quarter lengthways. Place in a large non-reactive bowl with remaining salt and mix with hand, squeezing to release some of the juice.

Pack lemons into jars, with bay leaves, cloves and splinters of cinnamon layered into the jars along with the fruit. Press down to release as much juice as possible.

Spoon leftover salt and juice into jars, adding extra juice if required to cover the lemons.

Wipe down the mouths and necks of the jars with a clean cloth dipped in boiling water to remove salt and seal lid tightly.

Allow to mature for a month or so in a cool place before using. Refrigerate after opening.

Notes:

1. Any kind of lemon can be used.

2. I doubled the quantities from the original recipe.

3. I sterilised jars by washing in very hot soapy water and then drying jars and lids for 30 minutes in an oven at 150C.

4. According to Stephanie Alexander, preserved lemons should last at least a year without refrigeration.

Stephanie Alexander’s Lemon Curd

From The Cook’s Companion, by Stephanie Alexander

4 large lemons
200g unsalted butter
350g sugar
6 eggs, lightly beaten and strained through a sieve

Sterilise enough jars for about 4 cups of curd.

Zest and juice lemons. Combine with butter and sugar in a heavy-based saucepan.

Stir over medium heat until butter melts and sugar has dissolved.

Remove from heat and add eggs, whisking to mix well.

Stir constantly over low heat until the mixture thickens. Do not boil as it will curdle.

Pour straight into hot sterilised jars and seal.

Keep refrigerated.

Notes:

1. Any kind of lemon can be used.

2. I sterilised jars by washing in very hot soapy water and then drying jars and lids for 30 minutes in an oven at 150C.

3. It should keep for several weeks in the refrigerator.

Recipes

Brunch or lunch?

We caught up with old friends this morning. They used to be our neighbours until we moved to a bigger house, and we kind of lost track of each other over the last few years. Earlier this year they had a baby of their own, and today they came over for brunch, or lunch, or whatever you like to call it.

To make things easier for myself I thought I’d serve a dish that I could prepare the night before. This recipe is based loosely on a few recipes from Bon Appetit magazine from about 15 years ago—a variety of recipes can be found on the Epicurious website using the search term “strata“. To me it’s a lot like a bread pudding, albeit a savoury one. I mixed and matched from a couple of recipes, tweaking it to suit the ingredients I had to hand.

It’s a really simple recipe and takes about 15 minutes to set up. Tastes pretty good too, eggy, without being overpowering, nicely cheesy, a spicy kick from the sausage. It’s simple to change around ingredients to get a different flavour, think prosciutto and goats cheese, or fetta cheese and olives, or artichoke hearts and roasted veges. A good brunch dish or a simple supper, or a make-ahead Christmas day breakfast.

And it went down a treat, along with some good conversation.

Chorizo, cheese and vege bread pudding

Serves 4-6

2 chorizo sausages
olive oil
10-12 thick slices of white bread
200g grated cheddar cheese
1 red capsicum, cut into strips
1 spring onion, sliced finely
12 cherry tomatoes, halved
handful of basil leaves, roughly chopped
5 large eggs, lightly whisked
2.5 c milk
1 tsp dijon mustard
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper 

Slice sausage into half-rounds about 1/2 cm thick and fry over medium-high heat for 3-4 minutes until starting to colour. Drain on paper towel.

Remove crusts from bread, and cut each slice into 4-6 squares. Mix bread, sausage, cheese, capsicum, tomatoes, spring onions and basil in a large bowl.

Combine eggs, milk, and mustard in a bowl or jug and season to taste. Pour over bread mixture and stir gently to combine.

Use olive oil or butter to lightly grease a rectangular glass or ceramic baking dish. Spread bread mixture evenly across and chill for at least 2-3 hrs, preferably overnight.

Preheat oven to 180C and bake for 30-40 minutes until puffed and golden. Cool for 5-10 minutes before serving.

Notes:

1. The crusts can be left on the bread if preferred.

2. Ingredients can be substituted to suit your own tastes: use a different kind of smoked sausage or replace with ham, bacon or proscuitto, vary the vegetables, replace some of the cheddar cheese with feta or goats cheese, add olives or sundried tomatoes, try sourdough bread instead of white.

Recipes

Almost risotto

I like risotto and rice dishes made with arborio rice, but really, who has time to stand there stirring for 45 minutes? Especially with two or three kids snapping at the heels, whinging about how hungry they are. So I love cooking oven-baked risotto-style meals, which are much easier to put together. These recipes follow the initial steps of risotto-making, but instead of stirring the stock in, one ladleful at a time, it’s added all at once and put into the oven to absorb.

The resulting rice is not quite as creamy as properly made risotto, but stirring in some parmesan and even butter at the end can bring it close.

I’ve found that the trick with these recipes is to make sure the stock is brought to a simmer just before it’s added to the dish. I’ve tried a few variations of these recipes and this seems to be the critical step for making sure the rice cooks properly.

This particular recipe is not a cheesy risotto, however. Instead it has a Spanish influence, with chorizo sausage and smoky paprika. It comes from an Australian Women’s Weekly special issue I picked up last year.

Oven-baked Chicken and Chorizo Risotto

Adapted from Winter Favourites Special 2011, published by The Australian Women’s Weekly

Serves 4-6

4 c (1L) chicken stock
1 Tbs olive oil
2 chorizo sausages, sliced thinly
500g boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into 2-3 cm chunks
3 small onions, chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 large red capsicum, sliced thinly
2 c arborio rice
2 tsp smoked paprika
3/4 c dry white wine
1/2 c coarsely chopped flat leaf parsley

Preheat oven to 180C.

Bring the chicken stock to a simmer in a saucepan (keep covered so it doesn’t evaporate too much).

Heat 1/2 Tbs olive oil over high heat in a large dutch oven or flameproof casserole dish with a lid. Fry the chorizo until it is browned all over. Remove from dish. If necessary, pour out excess oil so that about 1 Tbs remains.

Add the chicken and cook until golden, stirring frequently. Remove from pan.

Add the remaining olive oil to the pan, and saute the onions and garlic until soft, about 3 minutes. Add the red capsicum and saute for another minute. Then add the rice and paprika and stir for a minute or so, until the rice is coated in the onion mixture and the grains are starting to go opaque.

Pour in the wine and simmer until it has evaporated. Then add back the chicken and pour over the hot stock, and bring back to a simmer. Cover with the lid and transfer to the oven.

Bake for about 30 minutes, until liquid is absorbed and rice is tender, stirring about halfway through. Add the chorizo back to the pan, and stir for a minute or so until chorizo heats back up.

Sprinkle with parsley and serve immediately.

Notes:

1. I used a sweet smoked paprika, but a hot smoked paprika would be nice too.

Recipes

The whole enchilada

I’ve never made much Mexican food, even though I love it. When I lived in California, there wasn’t much point—I could get superb Mexican food from all sorts of places, ranging from the gigantic burritos available around Berkeley, to the formica-tabled taquerias in San Francisco’s Mission District, and even high end Mexican cuisine. There wasn’t much need to cook it at home, although I would often make fajitas and I learned to make a decent guacamole.

But back here in Australia, until recently, Mexican food was a joke, greasy cliched menus and buckets of acidic margaritas. Even the ingredients were hard to get, unless you wanted Old El Paso taco kits. That’s changed with the arrival of a number of very popular Mexican restaurants and a slowly widening availability of ingredients like chipotle chilies in adobo sauce.

I recently aquired a bag of dried pinto beans, and cooked them up. But what to do with them? I decided to make some chicken and bean enchiladas. The challenge? They had to be kid friendly, as my kids haven’t yet acquired a taste for spicy food. I looked through my recipe books and finally found a recipe that I could adapt fairly easily in Rick Bayless’s book Mexico One Plate at a Time. In the interest of time, I decided to use a rotisserie chicken from the supermarket, rather than cook my own chicken.

And the result? The flavours were there, although more heat would have been nice! I was a bit disappointed at how quickly the tortillas dissolved into the dish, but maybe that’s the difference between Australian store-bought tortillas and homemade ones. Still, at least one kid liked them and I will definitely make them again!

Chicken and bean enchiladas

Adapted from Mexico, One Plate at a Time, by Rick Bayless

Serves 4-6

1 1/2 Tbs olive oil
3 400g cans tomatoes, can use whole, diced or crushed
1 medium onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 tsp mexican spice blend or to taste
2 c chicken broth
salt
1/2 c sour cream
2 c shredded cooked chicken
1 c cooked beans (pinto, black, kidney, borlotti, can be canned or cooked from dry)
2/3 c mild cheese (colby, tasty cheddar, monterey jack)
10-12 corn tortillas
coriander for garnish

Preheat oven to 180C.

Puree the tomatoes in a blender or food processor.

Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a large saucepan or dutch oven. Cook the onion for about 5 minutes until soft and golden. Add the garlic and the spice blend and stir for 30 seconds or so. Poor in the tomatoes and turn heat up to medium-high. Cook, stirring frequently, for about 15 minutes until tomatoes have thickened to the consistency of tomato paste and darkened slightly.

Add the broth and simmer partially covered for 15-20 minutes, until it has thickened to the consistency of a tomato sugo or passata. Adjust seasoning and stir in the sour cream.

Meanwhile, combine 2 cups of shredded chicken with 1 cup of drained beans. Mix in about 3/4 c of sauce.

Spray or brush the tortillas on both sides with oil and lay out on a baking tray. Heat for 3 minutes or so in the oven, until they are soft and pliable. Remove and wrap in a teatowel while assembling to keep them warm and soft.

Ladle about 1 cup of sauce into a rectangular baking dish. Working quickly, spoon some of the chicken and bean mix into each tortilla, roll up and put seam side down in the baking dish. Pour remaining sauce evenly over the tortillas and sprinkle with cheese. Bake for 15-20 minutes until cheese is golden. Garnish with coriander and serve immediately.

Notes:

1. For more heat, roast, de-skin and de-seed a couple of jalapeno chilis and add to the tomatoes before pureeing.