Friday, 15 April 2016

Spaghetti and Meatballs

Date & Apple Bars
We love pasta and we love meatballs, too. We already got a tried and tested spaghetti meatballs recipe but it doesn't stop us to be always on the lookout for any decent meatballs recipe out there in the world. So it's normal that we try out this much vaunted recipe from the Epicurious website that's got a very high review rating from readers. They were right! Only a few adjustments in the recipe and it's all thumbs up from the whole family. The recipe is humongous. Probably enough to feed a horde people for a party. So I promptly halved and reduced volume and spice proportions and it scaled down well.


Spaghetti and Meatballs

*For the meatballs:

750 g  minced beef
250 g  minced pork
1 1/2 cups torn day-old Italian bread (or any white bread)
1 cup whole milk
1 medium onion - chopped
2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
5 garlic cloves - finely chopped
3 large eggs
60 g  [about 1 cup] parmesan cheese - grated
3 Tbsp finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
2 Tbsp finely chopped fresh oregano (or 1/2 tsp dried)
1/2 Tbsp grated lemon zest
2 1/2 tsp fine sea salt
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1/2 cup vegetable oil (for frying)


*For the tomato sauce:

6 x 400 g  cans of chopped or plum tomatoes
1 medium onion - chopped
3 garlic cloves - finely chopped
3 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
2 tsp fine sea salt
1/2 tsp ground black pepper

1 kg  dried spaghetti


*To make tomato sauce:
  1. In a large pot, heat the olive oil and cook the onions in medium heat until soft - about 5 minutes.
  2. Add the garlic and cook until softened - about a further 2 minutes.
  3. Add the rest of the ingredients, bring to a boil then lower heat and simmer uncovered stirring occasionally until thickened - about 45 minutes to 1 hour.
  4. Midway through cooking, you can crush the whole tomatoes with a spatula or stick blender.

*To make meatballs:
  1. Fry the onions in a wide frying pan on medium heat. Cook until softened while stirring occasionally - about 5 minutes.
  2. Add garlic and cook while stirring occasionally until fragrant and softened - about 2-3 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and cool completely.
  3. Soak bread in milk for about 20 minutes or until soft. Squeeze the bread firmly to remove excess milk. Discard excess milk.
  4. In a large bowl, combine all the ingredients except for the vegetable oil. Mix with your hands just until combined - do not overmx.
  5. Form into balls about 28 g (1 oz) in weight or about 1 1/2-inch in diameter.
  6. Heat vegetable oil in the same pan used with the onion and fry the meatballs in batches without crowding until browned all over - about 5 minutes each batch.
  7. Add fried meatballs into the tomato sauce and simmer for about 30 minutes.
  • Cook spaghetti according to instructions in the packet.
  • Serve spaghetti with meatballs and sauce with the optional grated parmesan cheese on top.

Wednesday, 16 March 2016

Date & Apple Bars

Date & Apple Bars
What a nice way of using up my soon to expire dried dates and Golden Delicious apples. The recipe in the Good Food Magazine was found upon googling for any tray bakes with apples and dates as main protagonists.

A lot of the volume of the ingredients were changed though, as per comments of reviewers. And out came a very pleasant and delish tea/coffee fodder. See, that's why I like recipe websites where there are a lot of honest reviewers because you can then adjust the recipe according to real life experiences of real people in ordinary kitchens. That way trial and error (that I often do) is minimised and ingredients and efforts not wasted.
[Gosh this is sounding like a IT project writeup.]



Date & Apple Bars

185 g  [3/4 cups] butter
140 g  [about 1 medium] cooking apple - cored, peeled, and chopped
140 g  stoned dried dates - chopped
200 g  [1 cup packed] light brown sugar
175 g  [heaping 1-1/3 cups] plain flour
1 tsp  bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)
100 g  porridge oats
  1. Preheat oven to 190°C/fan 170°C/375°F. Grease and line a 18 cm (7-inch) square baking pan.
  2. Put the chopped apples in a saucepan. Add 2-3 Tbsp water and cook until soft and pulpy. This may take between 5-10 minutes and you may have to add a bit more water.
  3. Add in 25 g (2 Tbsp packed) of the brown sugar and the dates. Continue cooking for a further 5 minutes or until the apple is smooth and mixed well with the dates. You should have a very thick paste at this point. Remove from heat and cool completely. You may puree the mixture in a food processor or blender.
  4. Gently melt the butter in a saucepan; cool.
  5. Combine the flour, bicarbonate of soda, and remaining sugar in a bowl.
  6. Add in the melted butter and mix well.
  7. Press half of the flour mixture in the prepared pan.
  8. Spread the apple-date mixture on top.
  9. Cover with the rest of the flour mixture and press gently.
  10. Bake for 30-35 minutes until golden and firm.
  11. Cool copletely in the baking pan. Remove and cut into bars or squares.


Date & Apple Bars

Wednesday, 2 March 2016

Blondies

Blondies
I've never had blondies but have read about it in some American magazines for years. It intrigued me enough to put it in my list of things to bake if I have a chance. One came up recently when a colleague had a leaving do where we usually bring all manner of snacks and sweet things for everyone to partake.

My verdict? It's essentially a cookie dough baked in the shape of a bar or square. The dough have to be light in colour of course, afterall 'blondie' is the name. So nothing really like a major discovery here but it is delicious just the same. I adapted the recipe from the excellent The New Best Recipe (by Cook's Illustrated) cookbook.



Blondies

230 g  [1 3/4 cups] plain flour
1 tsp  baking powder
1/2 tsp  fine salt
185 g  [3/4 cup] unsalted butter - melted and cooled
300 g  [1 1/2 cups packed] light brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 1/2 tsp  vanilla extract
200 g  [1 cup] chocolate chips (milk, dark, white, or combination)
1 cup  pecans (or walnuts, macadamia nuts) - chopped
  1. Preheat oven to 180°C/fan 160°C/350°F.
  2. Grease and line a 13x9-inch baking pan with baking parchment.
  3. Combine the flour, baking powder, and salt in a bowl. Set aside.
  4. Mix the melted butter and brown sugar in another bowl.
  5. Add the eggs one at a time while whisking.
  6. Add vanilla and mix well.
  7. Fold the flour mixture into the egg mixture. Do not overmix.
  8. Next, fold in the chocolate chips and nuts and mix well.
  9. Pour into the prepared baking pan and bake for 23-25 minutes.
  10. Cool completely in the pan a wire rack.
  11. Remove from pan and transfer to a cutting board and cut into bars.

Saturday, 27 February 2016

Banana Apple Bread

Banana Apple Bread
I've always wanted to combine the two most favourite fruits our family like to include in baking - apples and bananas. The experimentations over the years were not very successful at all. Most of the recipes were from the internet and they range from the really soggy ones (too much bananas) to the dry ones (not enough moisture) and the too sweet ones.

This one fits the bill, although I have to adapt and reduce or increase some of the ingredients, but generally it's quite good and not overly sweet which I guess is why it's called a 'bread'. That's one of my dilemna, do I call it a bread or a cake? For me, it can be classified as a cake but then it's not very sweet so a bread then? Whatever it is, teatime or coffee time would be better with this addition.

Thanks to Kelly in Just A Taste for the great recipe I adapted.


Banana Apple Bread

260 g  [2 cups] plain flour plus 1 Tbsp extra
1 tsp  bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)
1/2 tsp  fine salt
1 tsp  ground cinnamon
95 g  [6 Tbsp] unsalted butter - melted
150 g  [3/4 cup] granulated sugar
2 large eggs
2 tsp  vanilla extract
1/4 cup  buttermilk
1 cup  mashed overripe bananas (about 2-3 bananas)
1 large baking apple - diced small (about 1 1/4 cups)
2-3 Tbsp  demerara sugar or granulated sugar for sprinkling
  1. Preheat oven to 180°C/fan 160°C/350°F. Line a 9x5-inch loaf pan with baking parchment.
  2. Combine flour, cinammon, salt, and bicarbonate of soda in a bowl.
  3. Sprinkle 1 Tbsp flour on the diced apples and toss to coat. Set aside.
  4. In another bowl, mix sugar with melted butter.
  5. Add eggs one at a time and beat each time.
  6. Add bananas and vanilla, stir to mix.
  7. Fold dry mixture to the wet mixture alternately with the buttermilk.
  8. Then fold in the apple.
  9. Pour into the prepared loaf pan.
  10. [Optional] Sprinkle top generously with demerara sugar.
  11. Bake for 55 minutes or until a skewer pierced in the middle comes out clean.

Monday, 8 February 2016

Sour Cream and Vanilla Bread

Sour Cream and Vanilla Bread

This is more like a cake than a bread to be honest. But it's very very nice especially when straight out of the oven and slathered with butter. This is adapted from the Betty Crocker website and is obviously for a bread machine. You will have convert when doing it manually such as activating the yeast first, then putting them all together in a bowl. Then proving twice and finally baking. Right now I don't have the time nor the energy to do it that way. So to the bread machine I will stick!


Sour Cream and Vanilla Bread

1 sachet [2 tsp] fast action dry yeast
3 cups  bread or strong flour
3 Tbsp  sugar
1 1/2 tsp  fine salt
1 Tbsp  vanilla extract
1 egg  - slightly beaten
1/3 cup  sour cream
1 Tbsp  butter - softened
1/2 cup  water
  1. Put all ingredients in a bread machine in the order given (or according to your bread machine's instructions).
  2. Select White/Basic bread cycle. Do not use delay timings. After baking, remove from pan and cool on a wire rack.

Monday, 18 January 2016

Dark Carrot Cake

Dark Carrot Cake
I've been tweaking this recipe for god-knows how long. See, I only get to try it whenever there's an occasion to make a sweet baked product. And now finally I can officially include this in my storehouse of family recipes.

I named it Dark Carrot Cake, instead of just Carrot Cake as Angela Nilsen did in The Ultimate Recipe Book where I adapted this from, because I plan to bake other types of carrot cakes among the thousands out there online and on cookbooks. The darkness stems from the dark muscovado sugar it uses which lends it a nice treacly smell and taste. Although it is also the source of my mild irritation because dark muscovado tends to ball-up into lumps when mixed with liquid. You can bet I did a lot of smashing and pressing to get rid of the lumps. But if you use newly bought or fresh from the box one, it won't lump that much. If you're not interested in pressing away lumps, just replace the dark muscovado with light muscovado.

Despite this, the cake is lovely especially when made a day ahead and paired with the accompanying cream cheese icing. Enjoy!


Dark Carrot Cake


Dark Carrot Cake

85 g  nuts (walnuts, brazil nuts, etc.)
1 medium orange
115 g  [scant 1 cup] raisins
225 g  self-raising flour
1 1/2 tsp  bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp  ground cinnamon
175 g  dark muscovado sugar
175 ml  sunflower oil
3 eggs
280 g  finely grated carrots (about 2-3 medium carrots)

*Icing:
100 g  full-fat cream cheese - room temperature
50 g  unsalted or slightly salted butter - softened
50 g  [heaping 1/3 cup] icing sugar
1 tsp  lemon juice
  1. Preheat oven to 160°C/fan 140°C/325°F.
  2. [Optional] Toast nuts in a baking sheet in the oven for about 5-10 minutes.
  3. Finely chop nuts. Finely grate the zest from the orange set aside.
  4. Squeeze 2 Tbsp of juice from the orange and pour it over the raisins in a bowl. Leave to soak for about 20 minutes while you make the cake.
  5. Grease and line the base of a 8-inch/20 cm round or square baking pan with baking parchment.
  6. Combine the flour, cinnamon, and bicarbonate of soda.
  7. Put sugar in mixing bowl. Rub between fingers to break up lumps.
  8. Add in oil and beat with electric mixer on low speed until well mixed and have broken down as much of the little lumps as you can.
  9. Beat in eggs one at a time.
  10. Gently stir in the flour mixture with a large metal spoon.
  11. Fold in carrots, nuts, raisins (with the liquid), and orange zest.
  12. Pour into the prepared baking pan and bake for 45-50 minutes for a round pan and 55-60 minutes for a square pan or until a skewer poked in the centre comes out clean.
  13. Let the cake cool in the pan for 5 minutes.
  14. Turn out on a wire rack, peel off the lining and let it cool completely.
  15. Mix all icing in a bowl. Spread over cake. Best if cake is left for a day or two before icing and eating.

Monday, 21 December 2015

Rocky Road

Rocky Road
Here's one very simple sweets recipe that's very much welcome all year round especially during the holidays. My youngest was especially proud of this since she did most of this for her Girl Guides confectioner's badge. Granting that was more than 4 years ago, this post took sometime to publish I have to admit.

Some versions of rocky road involves biscuits both in chunks and crumbs. We prefer this version adapted from 101 Cakes & Bakes by BBC GoodFood magazine where no biscuits mar the beauty and deliciousness of chocolates, nuts, marshmallows plus our preferred Maltesers.


Rocky Road


Rocky Road

500 g  milk or dark chocolate - broken into pieces
10 marshmallows - cut into small pieces*
85 g  pecans, walnuts, or almonds (or combination) - roughly chopped
200 g  Maltesers (optional)
  1. Melt chocolate in a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water. Cool a little.
  2. Add in the rest of the ingredients, mix well.
  3. Pour mixture into an 8-inch (20 cm) square baking pan lined with baking paper.
    Leave to set for around 2 hours.
  4. Remove from baking pan and cut into 1-inch squares with a knife dipped in hot water and wiped.
Note: You may add biscuits, dried fruits, and other things that may take your fancy.

Rocky Road