Archive for the ‘Recipes’ Category

You might recall that a few years ago, we started baking crumb cakes. If not, the recipe is here, and it’s a winner.

Since that time, we’ve always kept a plain cake base in the fridge, cut into quarters, specifically to use for crumb topping. We’re not a fan of traditional oat and nut mixes, so the cake is our go-to for any desserts that call for a crumble topping. Let me cut and paste the original recipe for you – it comes together in minutes in the food processor:

Basic Vanilla Tea Cake Batter

  • 250g unsalted butter, soft but not melted
  • 200g caster (superfine) sugar
  • 4 large free range eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract (I used homemade)
  • 150g self-raising flour
  • 150g almond meal

Note: this recipe can also be made in a stand mixer, instructions are here.

1. In the large bowl of the food processor, blitz together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time and pulse until combined, adding in a spoonful of the flour if required to stop the batter from splitting (but don’t worry too much if it does). Scrape down the sides as needed. Add the vanilla and pulse again.

2. Stir or sift the flour and almond meal together, then add to the food processor and pulse until just combined.

3. Scrape the batter into a baking pan lined with parchment paper (I used a rectangular 30cm x 23cm /12″x9″ pan enamel baking pan) and bake in a preheated 175C (or 160C with fan) oven for 35-40 minutes until a fine skewer inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean. This recipe makes enough to top four crumb cakes.

4. Allow the cake to cool, then cut it into quarters. Store well wrapped in the freezer until needed.

Making the crumb topping:

In a medium bowl, crumble defrosted cake (or leftover cake) into small pieces (not too fine), then stir in dark brown sugar and melted butter. Allow 50g each of sugar and butter to 250g cake. Mix well to combine.

I took this piece out of the freezer to make these muffins!

. . . . .

We use this for crumb cakes and also for Small Man’s berry crumble, but today I found it also works well on blueberry muffins. I only needed 125g vanilla tea cake, and 25g each of butter and brown sugar for this batch…

Blueberry Muffins with Cake Crumb Topping

  • 410g plain (AP) flour
  • 165g white sugar
  • 150g brown sugar
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)
  • ½ tsp fine sea salt
  • 2 large free range eggs
  • 185g unsalted butter, melted
  • 185g buttermilk
  • 3 tsps vanilla extract (I used homemade)
  • 125g fresh blueberries
  • 125g vanilla tea cake, defrosted if frozen (or other leftover plain cake)
  • 25g unsalted butter, melted, for topping
  • 25g brown sugar, for topping

Step 1: Preheat oven to 170C with fan. Line one or two 12-hole muffin pans with paper liners. Depending on the size of your pans, you’ll get between 12 and 18 muffins.

Step 2: whisk together the flour, white and brown sugars, baking powder and salt in a large mixing bowl.

Step 3: in a large pyrex jug (or another bowl), whisk together the buttermilk, extract and eggs. Pour this, along with the melted butter, into the dry ingredients and fold in gently until just combined. I think you’re meant to use a butter knife, but I use a silicone spatula. Once the dry ingredients are just incorporated, carefully fold in the blueberries.

Step 4: divide the batter between the lined muffin cups, filling each one about ¾ full.

Step 5: make the topping: crumble the cake into a bowl, then stir in the extra butter and brown sugar. Spoon a heaped teaspoon of the crumble mix onto the top of each muffin, pressing in gently with your fingers…

Step 6: bake for 20 – 25 minutes, rotating halfway through if using more than one tray. Allow the finished muffins to rest in the pan for ten minutes, before removing and cooling on a wire rack…

These were a huge hit with Pete and Small Man, and even though I’m not a huge muffin fan, I enjoyed them too. I think the crumble topping makes the difference! ♥

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Cheat’s Apple Turnover

When the pandemic hit, I stocked up on frozen roti.

Have you ever tried these? They’re wickedly good. They fry up in a dry pan to make the perfect accompaniment to Indian and Malaysian curries. Of course, they have a squillion calories each, although an Indian friend once told me that they’re much better if you fry them in ghee (I’ve never been game to try it). Our local takeaway turns them into wraps – filling a cooked roti with curry and salad – and it’s a completely delicious and brilliant way to eat them.

They’re also very reasonably priced – this pack of 30 cost me $10 at Costco…

A few days ago, I wanted to make apple pie for dessert, but didn’t have the energy to make dough from scratch. I don’t keep frozen puff pastry, but my friend Graeme had suggested this roti dough as a substitute in the past, so I thought I’d try it out.

I let the sheets defrost a little, then filled them with chopped apple that had been tossed in a little sugar, lemon juice and cinnamon…

It was easy to use the plastic sheet the dough came on to fold it in half and squish the edges together…

We baked the turnovers (I guess they weren’t really pies) in the oven at 200C – 220C with fan until golden. I forgot to time it (sorry), but we just kept checking it until it was ready and the juices were bubbling a little. It took longer than we thought, which gave the raw apples time to cook perfectly. We rotated the tray halfway through, but the pastries didn’t need flipping over, as the dough browned evenly top and bottom…

The finished turnovers were dusted in icing sugar. They were a huge hit with both Pete and Small Man!

As the roti dough is a little salty, it’s worth adding a bit of extra sugar to the filling. And while we all prefer a more traditional shortcrust pastry apple pie, it was hard to beat this for sheer mid-week simplicity. I hope you’ll give it a go! ♥

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Chocolate Babka

Have you ever tried a chocolate babka? They’re great fun to eat, and possibly even more fun to make!

Our latest batch came about when I uncovered a half empty jar of Nutella in the pantry. Coupled with Jane’s lovely eggs, Pete and I turned out six loaves to share with the neighbours recently. We used a modified version of our butter-enriched hot cross bun dough

  • 1kg bread flour
  • 20g instant yeast
  • 16g fine sea salt
  • 80g brown sugar
  • 180g unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • 3 large free range eggs, plus an extra one for the egg wash
  • 500g full cream milk, heated gently and then cooled to blood temperature, or UHT milk, unrefrigerated
  • Nutella
  • chocolate chips
  • caster sugar and water for the glaze

1. Whisk together the dried yeast and bread flour in a large, wide mixing bowl.  Add the salt and sugar and whisk in well.

2. Add 3 eggs, cooled melted butter, and milk, then mix together with a spatula or a clean hand until it forms a shaggy dough.  Cover with a tea towel and allow to rest for 20 minutes.

3. Uncover the bowl and give the dough a brief knead. I usually fold the dough onto itself a few times using a scraper.

4. Cover the bowl and allow to rise until doubled in size. Sweet dough can take longer than most, so don’t rush it.

5. Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and using your dough scraper, give it a couple of gentle folds. Divide the dough into three equal portions.

6. Flatten out each portion into a rectangle and smear over Nutella and sprinkle on chocolate chips. Them roll it up to form a long sausage…

7. Cut the sausage in half, and then weave it, cut sides facing up, over and under itself. Photos explain this better than words…

8. Now squish the ends together and pop the loaf, cut sides up, into a loaf pan that’s been lined with a greased paper liner (I usually spray it with a bit of oil). Repeat with the other two portions of dough. Cover and allow to prove until doubled in size…

9. Preheat your oven to 200C with fan. Once risen, brush the loaves with an egg wash (beat the extra egg with a little water) and bake for 20 – 25 minutes until very dark brown but not burnt. You’ll need to keep an eye on it, as the sugar makes this dough brown up very quickly. Turn the heat down a bit if you need to, and rotate the loaves halfway through to ensure even baking.

10. While the dough is baking, prepare a sugar and water glaze by boiling together equal portions of caster sugar and water until thick. I ask Pete to do it as I usually end up burning myself on the hot syrup. You want the glaze to be thick enough to stick. Any leftover works well in cocktails!

11. Take the baked babkas out of the oven and give them a couple of coats of sugar glaze…

These were a huge hit on our street! I made two raspberry jam filled ones as well – one for our neighbour Faye who is nut allergic, and one for Pete who isn’t a fan of Nutella. They were equally as delicious…

Best of all, that night we discovered the perfect way to eat chocolate babka – sliced very thinly and sandwiched around a sheet of crispy feuilletine-filled dark milk chocolate. Definitely worth making these again, if for that reason alone! ♥


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Chicken Bones

It seems that every few years, I’ll write the same post about chicken bones.

I can’t help it. I’m always just so blown away by the frugality of them.

If you live in Sydney’s Inner West, let me give you a tip. The chicken shop in Marrickville Metro – the one opposite Service NSW – will sell you a bag of chicken carcasses for $2. Three bags for $5. When Pete was getting his licence renewed recently, I picked some up. It wasn’t until I got home that I realised that each of the bags I’d bought had three carcasses in it, meaning I had nine to play with.

We immediately froze four of them, and then washed the remaining five. I carefully trimmed off all the fat, which went into a small saucepan with a little water to render down. We ended up with nearly a jar of schmaltz (chicken fat)…

The carcasses went into a 180C fan oven until golden brown, then into our giant stock pot with four litres of water, a tablespoon of salt, a chopped onion and a thumb of peeled ginger. The pot was brought to a boil, then covered and reduced to a simmer for 30 minutes. I turned it off after that and let it sit, covered for a further 30 minutes. Surprisingly, that was enough to infuse the stock with oodles of flavour (I think the roasting really helps).

I pulled out the carcasses and carefully stripped any remaining meat off the bones…

We strained the stock and stashed three boxes full in the freezer…

…then Pete turned the remaining stock and all the picked meat into the most delicious chicken noodle soup ever. It fed three of us for dinner, with enough leftover for lunch the following day…

. . . . .

So for about $3 (we used five of the nine carcasses), we ended up with chicken soup for dinner, three boxes of homemade stock and a jar of schmaltz.

I’ve always said that when times are hard, we could thrive on soup bones. Times aren’t hard now, but they have been in the past. And I think it’s wise to practise and hone our frugal life skills so that we’re ready for whatever the universe throws at us! ♥

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Cheat’s Chicken Curry

I used to make Malaysian chicken curries the way my mother did – starting with a good curry powder, adding extra spices, minced onion, garlic, lemongrass and curry leaves, frying the resultant paste in oil first…you get the idea. It wasn’t exactly from scratch – very few Malaysian curries are – but it was still a process.

Then one night a few years ago, Will and Bethany were over for Friday night dinner, and we started drinking champagne. I can’t remember why now, but we’d knocked off a bottle on empty stomachs before I realised that I’d forgotten to cook dinner. I’d had chicken prepped for a curry, but it was all going to take too long. Then I remembered a packet of curry paste that my cousins had insisted I try…

Even to my tipsy brain, the instructions were simple enough to follow…

I threw the paste into a wok with boiling water from the kettle (we were getting hungry), then bunged in the chicken pieces and peeled potatoes. Once the meat was cooked through and the potatoes tender, I added a carton of coconut cream and let it simmer a bit longer. Then we ate it, and it was the best curry ever. And since then, I’ve never made Malaysian curry the old way again.

I went searching for A1 sauces here, and found them at the Asian grocers in Flemington for $3 each, so I keep a good supply on hand these days. The only downside is the packaging – sadly, I haven’t found a way to recycle or repurpose it yet. One tip – be sure to get the right “A1” paste – there are a few brands using that name.

Then two years ago, just when I thought this curry couldn’t get any easier, I discovered that I can use my Römertopf to cook it for me while I’m out!

Last week, Pete and I visited Cockatoo Island to view the recently reopened Biennale of Sydney (there’s a post coming on that soon) and before we left I rubbed chicken pieces with the curry paste and sat them in my pre-soaked Romy pot with potatoes, coconut cream and a little water. As you can see, I literally just threw them all in…

I put the covered pot into a cold oven, set it to 200C with fan for two hours, then went out. Our oven has a timer to turn itself off after the designated time. This is what we came home to…

I marginally prefer the dish cooked in the wok, but using the Romy makes it even easier. Best of all, the dirty clay pot goes straight into the dishwasher and comes out almost perfectly clean. Definitely a simple solution for days when we’re out and about! ♥

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