Baking oven-tures

I’ve had a lot of crappy ovens in my life.

In our first rental, the oven looked straight out of the 50s. And probably hadn’t been cleaned since then. It cooked a main meal ok, but baking was a challenge. Gas, but no fan.

Our first apartment in Beijing had no oven. But we had 5 kuai noodles at the doorstep… who needs to cook? Plus, in a department store, we learnt how to make a cake in a wok. Sorted.

Our second apartment also had no oven, but I was beginning to itch. We bought a little convection oven, which we kept on the indoor balcony as I was a bit alarmed at how hot the outer surface got, and thought it might melt bits of our rental kitchen. Supposedly you can roast a whole chook in these. Supposedly.

Surprisingly, our third apartment came with an oven! Again, possibly from the 50s, so maybe 80s China? Gas, no fan, also no temperature gauge. Basically, the longer you left it on, the hotter it got. This was probably the biggest baking challenge by far. It was also imperative that you decided which cutlery you needed before the meal because once you got that baby going, there was no chance in hell you could open the quickly expanding drawers up against the oven. It also had a non-functioning side-warming compartment. Useful for storing objects that didn’t melt.

I wish I had a photo… will keep looking…

Back to Australia, and I was a bit disappointed to find that our kitchen was electric, rather than gas. It took me a long time to get used to it, yet still I burnt things on the outside, and had to be so careful and attentive.

And then it died.

And got replaced.

And I realised that baking is a million times easier with an oven that works. My first meal of ‘The Petite Kitchen’s’ lavender chook was the most delicious ever… and I’ve been cooking it for ages. My eyes widened as I realised the baking opportunities, and threw myself into a baking frenzy. Especially after finishing uni and not having an oven for 10 days or so!

So, I wish to share two exciting recipes with you.

The first is a Chocolate Caramel Poke Cake from the Coles magazine. Woah. Hold onto your pants with this one. I’m looking forward to playing with this recipe and trying out some different flavour combos.

The second is a low-FODMAP, vegan-friendly banana pudding. The original recipe has been tweaked from Donna Hay Issue 81, p132.

20161019_131221

  • 250g coconut oil, melted 
  • 2-3 bananas, mashed
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp chia, 6 tbsp water, briefly mixed and soaked (as an egg replacement)
  • 1.5 cups of GF SR flour (I used the Aldi one)
  • Dark chocolate pieces, to taste

Mix the first 5 ingredients, stir through the chocolate, and bake in individual ramekins at 180 for about 15-20 mins.

Note: These are quite oily, but they don’t feel heavy, as it is coconut oil, rather than butter. But you may wish to put less oil.

Whilst the puddings are baking, make the caramel. This isn’t a true caramel, because of being vegan, but it is still delicious! I found that it was actually quite hard to dissolve the sugar in the coconut oil. I’m not entirely sure why… I’m sure science would tell me. Also, the sauce separates quickly quickly as there is less fat, so give it a good whisk before serving.

  • 150g coconut oil
  • 1.5 cups brown sugar
  • 1 cup of coconut milk

Melt the oil in a saucepan, add the sugar and dissolve as much as possible. Add the coconut milk carefully and continue to cook until it thickens slightly.

20161019_131407

 

Mmm.

Advertisements

Peppa Pig Party

Was there ever going to be any other theme?

I decided that a Peppa Pig-shaped cake was going to be too much effort, and after being sent this buzzfeed (thanks Nic!), I decided it wasnt’ worth the risk! But, on pinterest, I saw a Women’s Weekly cake that had been adjusted, so I thought I’d do my own version of that. A purple jelly muddle puddle, green coconut grass, a little Peppa and some Happy Birthday bunting. I did my usual sugar-free banana cake, since the icing had so much in it!

DSC_0902

DSC_0903

We had chocolate crackle muddy puddles with wriggly worms, fairy bread, spring rolls, lots of fruit, cheese, crackers and a stellar bbq. Plus warming mulled wine for the mummas and daddas to try and counteract the chilly weather.

DSC_0905

I made a (somewhat operatic) Peppa Pig ball throw.
20150712_161125

With, of course, some bubbles for blowing.IMG_4732

And a big muddy puddle for jumping!

IMG_4729

Joy!!

IMG_4735

A lovely local lady has made a fabulous facebook group for the selling and recycling of party products. Such a fab idea! My ball throw has already moved on to delight another three-year-old!

Last year we did a Transportation Birthday Party.

Chocolate beetroot cake

A little while back I saw a facebook status about a beetroot cake and I was instantly intrigued… it’s been on the back of my mind for a while, and I finally got around to trying one. I looked for a few recipes online and decided on this one by Nigel Slater on the BBC website.

It was the kind of cake that took quite a few dishes, but it was worth the effort. I made it for our playgroup this week.

I mean seriously, combining dark chocolate and beetroot, two of my favourite things?????? So cool. The beetroot makes it quite earthy, and so moist.

20130423_160211

20130423_160218

IMG_2682

This recipe is taken directly from the the BBC website:

Ingredients

  • 200g/7oz butter, plus extra for greasing
  • 250g/9oz cooked and peeled beetroot (I boiled 2 – I have no idea how much they weighed)
  • 200g/7oz dark chocolate (70% cocoa solids)
  • 4 tbsp hot espresso
  • 135g/5oz plain flour
  • 1 heaped tsp baking powder
  • 3 tbsp cocoa powder
  • 5 free-range eggs, separated
  • 190g/6½oz golden caster sugar (I substituted this with brown sugar)
  • crème fraîche or double cream, to serve

Preparation method

  1. Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4. Grease a 20cm/8in cake tin with a little butter and line the bottom of the tin with a disc of baking parchment.
  2. Blend the beetroot in a food processor to a rough purée.
  3. Melt the chocolate in a bowl suspended over a pan of hot water (do not allow the bottom of the bowl to touch the water), then pour in the hot coffee.
  4. Stir in the butter in small pieces and leave to soften. Remove from the heat and allow to cool slightly.
  5. Meanwhile, sift the flour, baking powder and cocoa together in a bowl and set aside.
  6. Separate the eggs. Whisk the yolks in a bowl until frothy. Stir the eggs into the chocolate and butter mixture, then fold in the beetroot.
  7. Whisk the egg whites until still peaks form when the whisk is removed. Fold in the sugar.
  8. Fold the sugar and egg whites into the chocolate mixture, then fold in the flour and cocoa mixture.
  9. Pour the batter into the prepared tin and bake for 40 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean.
  10. Allow to cool in the tin, then serve with crème fraîche or double cream.

Tangyuan – a newly found love affair

The last day of Spring Festival is Lantern Festival. To celebrate this festival, everyone eats tāngyuán (汤圆-roughly translated as ‘soup balls’). I distinctly remember being introduced to these sticky balls many years ago in Australia. Our good Chinese friends kindly brought some over for dessert one evening. But, it was not a good memory. I remember the glutinous texture coating the inside of my mouth, making it difficult to swallow. And when I did swallow, I remember trying to hide the fact that it made me want to retch.

A lot has changed since then. I no longer turn my nose up at ‘red bean’ flavoured goods. Strangely-flavoured icypoles no longer gross me out. And tangyuan is now one of my favourite desserts. I’m not kidding.

The most common flavour is black sesame (黑芝麻 hēizhīma). And it’s super good. Not too sweet and you still have the graininess (??) of the sesame seeds.

IMG_2566

However, of course, someone made non-traditional chocolate ones. And man, they are sooooooooooo good. These ones had little chunks of peanuts inside. If you’re looking to try tangyuan for the first time, go for these.

IMG_2568

And of course, would it be a trip to a Chinese supermarket without me buying something silly? I ummed and ahhhed between strawberry and orange. I decided strawberry would probably be so super sickly sweet that I wouldn’t eat them, so orange it was. And the result? Glutinous fanta. That’s the only way to describe it.

IMG_2567

They are so simple to cook too. Just throw them in boiling water for a few minutes until they rise to the surface.

IMG_2569

IMG_2571

IMG_2573

Our local sichuan restaurant serves these boiled in a little bit of booze, and that’s also delish. I’m not sure what they use, but there’s definitely room for experimentation. And I should probably learn to make these too! Though the supermarket is a very easy option.

I was also told recently that there’s another type called yúanxiāo that are made with a special technique that can’t be replicated by hand. I’ll have to try these out next year… has anyone tried them before?

A holiday sandwich like no other

Holiday time is for over-indulgence. And that’s what this sandwich is. It popped up on my my pinterest page and I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it. Until today.

Woah.

Amazing.

I think I’ll just let the pictures speak for themselves.

Introducing the Roasted Strawberry, Brie and Chocolate Grilled Cheese Sandwich (by ‘How sweet it is’) – click for the original recipe.

IMG_2452

IMG_2453

IMG_2455

IMG_2456

IMG_2457

IMG_2458

The only thing to follow this sandwich was a cup of sheng pu’er tea. And a sit-down.

Hot Cross Cookies

One of the highlights of being back in Australia is being able to cook in my Mum’s wonderful kitchen. Combine that with pregnancy hunger and I’m in heaven!!

My Mum was raving about some cookies that my sis had made recently… and so we made them together! It combines the deliciousness of hot cross buns, but without the hassle of waiting for them to rise, etc. Here are the results:

So rarely do my cookies turn out so round and picture perfect!

Georgia starting the icing…

Voila!

Who said hot cross buns had to have crosses?

The recipe is a Donna Hay recipe, taken from the Sunday Mail. This recipe made us 22 big cookies.

Ingredients:

  • 125g softened butter
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 2 tsp. finely grated lemon rind
  • 2.5 cups SR flour
  • 2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. mixed spice*
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup sultanas**

Icing: 1 cup icing sugar, 1 tbsp. water

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 160.
  2. Beat the butter and sugar until pale and creamy.
  3. Gradually add the eggs and vanilla, then the lemon rind, flour, cinnamon, mixed spice, milk and sultanas.
  4. Mix until a smooth dough forms.
  5. Roll spoonfuls of dough into balls and bake for 14-15 mins (or more realistically, about 12 mins). 
  6. Cool. Then use a piping bag to pipe the icing.

*I don’t think it would hurt to use a little extra spice!

**We used a mix of sultanas, raisins, cranberries and choc-chips

When we’re back in Beijing, I will definitely be making these for Easter!

 

Masterchef Beijing

When Masterchef Australia finished for the year, I felt that there was a hole in my life. It’s slick. It’s addictive. It’s nail-bitingly tense. It makes you drool. And, it’s educational.

What better way to fill that hole but with more food!! So, we hosted a Masterchef challenge at our place. Every participant was given a mystery ingredient, and that ingredient had to star in 3 courses. We all voted, plus we had a guest judge, in case of any close calls.

The results were fantastic! We had such a wide variety of delicious food – way too much though. Next time, we need to invite extra guests as well.

We had a quite a few dietary restrictions within the group, which made it an extra challenge! By looking at the dishes, you can probably guess what they were.

My ingredient was ginger. For my entree, I made sushi with pickled ginger. When pickling ginger, if it’s young enough, it should naturally turn pink in the pickling process. Mine had no luck  though, so I cheated and used some food colouring. I did a sushi making course ages ago at my fave Japanese restaurant, Hatsune, and I’d been dying to try it out. I think it worked out pretty well! I filled the sushi with carrot, cucumber, daikon and fried enoki mushrooms.

Pickled ginger recipe from: http://www.rain.org/~hutch/ginger.html

My main course was fried tofu in a ginger broth. I really struggled with this one. I think I put a lot of extra thought into my dessert, and lost a bit of focus on the main. It was yummy, just nothing exciting.

My dessert was based around gingerbread. I made edible cups and spoons of gingerbread. Then I filled them with chocolate risotto. I’d seen Jamie Oliver make choccy risotto on TV, and had been dying to try it out. I topped the dish with candied ginger too!

Candied ginger from: http://www.davidlebovitz.com/2008/12/candied-ginger/

And here are some pics of what the other contestants cooked:

Andy‘s ingredient was carrot. He made carrot soup with baby carrot rolls, carrot ravioli with pickled carrots and carrot cake icecream with candied carrot. And, he was the champion of the day!

Michelle‘s ingredient was lemon. She made baked fennel stuffed with lemon, lemon risotto and lemon curd panna cotta.

Nic’s ingredient was chocolate. She made mexican chocolate soup, mole and jicama salad, followed by Ancho chilli and chocolate truffles.

Zac‘s ingredient was chilli. He made pan-fried salmon with chilli salsa, chickpea and chilli curry and chocolate chilli muffins.

As you can imagine, after all this food, it was nap time!