Monthly Archives: March 2014

Sri Lankan Beef Curry

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I was an incredibly fussy eater as a child. The list of foods I didn’t eat was a lot longer than those that I did. I was very anti tomato. I despised mushrooms and if there was anything in my rice; turmeric, vegetables or sultanas (ahhh) my poor parents would have to ask for plain.white.rice. I think they especially enjoyed this when we were at friends places for dinner. I was fussy with fruit, I only liked crunchy, sour types like granny smith apples. I did not eat bananas and okra and eggplant were a bit contentious.

I’m well and truly getting my come-uppance now, Mister C’s tastes change almost daily. Yesterday and today he ate a kiwifruit in a sitting, and now that I’ve gone and bought a bag of the really nice expensive, organic variety, I bet you he’s not going to try any of it.

As I got older I thankfully got over most of these ‘issues’, nowadays there are only a few things I don’t eat, bananas being one of them. I did however stop eating red meat as I finished Uni.  We didn’t eat it much at home, except for mince, and therefore I couldn’t cook it well. By the time I got married I didn’t eat it at all and it was only moving to the US that got me eating it again. Beef is huge here, where you’re likely to get pork or lamb in Australia, Washington especially prides itself on beef (with the animal’s name and favourite variety of grass printed on the menu) and fish. So if you’re not eating much fish, it’s mushrooms for you! When I was pregnant there was a limit to the amount of fish I could eat, I couldn’t eat a lot of cheese (common in the vegetarian meals) and so beef it was.  Now that I started, I’ve been enjoying learning to cook it better and identifying different cuts and of course learning to cook the perfect steak.

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Ingredients

  • 1kg (a little over 2 pounds) of beef stewing meat cut into 2.5 cm (1 inch) chunks
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 tsp. chilli powder
  • 2 tbsp. vinegar
  • 1 medium red onion, roughly chopped
  • 1tbsp. ginger, roughly chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
  • 1 red bird’s-eye chilli, roughly chopped
  • 2 tablespoons ghee
  • 4 cloves
  • 4 cardamon pods bruised
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • curry leaves
  • 1 tbsp roasted curry powder
  • 1/2 tbsp. curry powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1 tsp. of chilli powder (or to taste)
  • 4 large vine-ripened tomatoes pureed in the food processor or 1 tin chopped tomatoes
  • 1 tbsp. sugar

Preparation

Marinate the  beef with the salt, pepper and vinegar. Set aside for at least 1/2 an hour.

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In a food processor chop the onion, chilli, ginger and garlic. If you don’t have a good processor just chop all of these up finely.

In  a large heavy bottomed saucepan add the ghee, curry leaves, cloves, cardamon and cinnamon. Wait till the spices start getting lovely and fragrant and add the chopped onion mixture.

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Cook this mixture off until the onions are soft and sweet. Add the spices (chilli, curry powders, turmeric) to the oil and onions and fry until the spices are no longer “raw” .

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Now add the marinated beef and coat evenly with the spice mixture. Finally add the tomatoes and the sugar to the curry. Simmer the curry on medium heat with the lid on for at least an hour or until the sauce is thick and the meat is lovely and tender.

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Filed under Beef, Meat/ Fish Curries, Meat/Fish Dishes, Sri Lankan Food, Uncategorized

Donna Hay’s Raspberry Brownie Tarts

  HP1B1068When Mr Firehouse came home last week and said he wanted something “super chocolately”, I consulted my Pinterest treasure trove of “sweet treats” desserts I would get to one day and found this. It’s originally a Donna Hay recipe and who doesn’t love Aussie Donna?

This week we also bought a deep freeze, to try and unburden our poor refrigerator.  You see, it’s the kind of place where things fall out as soon you open the door. Generally, full, frozen, glass-like things. Now, most of these solid missiles have been relegated to the garage, and our freezer is no longer a cavernous mess where to find one thing, you must pull out all things. These chocolate tarts were part of my attempts to stock the “baked goods” sections of our freezer, along with some sticky date puddings for good measure. Sometimes the need for dessert shouldn’t have to wait. Besides, why conform to this silly notion that vegetables and meat should stock a deep freezer?  Ours has baked goods, ice cream and the bowl for the ice cream maker, lest we run out of ice cream!

I picked this recipe because the blogger did an awesome job taking photos and I thought they were really preeety. Mostly though I love chocolate and I generally eat really chocolatey things with berries. I like to eat my brownies with slices strawberries or add some raspberries to ganache. Why not combine the two? Genius!

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I added some chopped walnuts to about 1/3 of the batter and made these.

Ingredients

  • 200g dark chocolate chopped
  • 60g butter
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup single cream
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • handful of frozen raspberries to serve
Directions
Preheat oven to 150C, 300 F. grease and line your selected baking containers, I say this because the original recipe called for 4 10cm/4 inch springform pans, which I’m sure most people have lying around. I used 8 2 inch tart tins and 8 1 inch ones. Ramekins can work, but really I think 12 muffin cups would work perfect.
Place chocolate, butter, sugar and cream in a medium saucepan over low heat and stir until melted and smooth
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Place the eggs and flour in a bowl and whisk well until combined
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Whisk in the chocolate mixture until combined. Pour into lightly greased tins lined and top with the raspberries.
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Bake for 20-25 mins or until cooked with tested with a skewer.  I took mine out at the 20 min mark or just a little under. These were not going to be served immediately so I wanted them to maintain some gooeyness on the reheat. Serve the tarts with ice cream or some cream.
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P.S if you own a deep freezer here are some fabulous organisation tips
 http://stuffparentsneed.com/how-to-make-a-chest-freezer-organized-and-functional/
We’re in the process of placing all our goods into canvas bags and having heated discussions about whether we should paint the top of the freezer with chalkboard paint (which we already have) or cover with chalkboard contact(which we need to purchase).
Mr Firehouse just declared in revelatory fashion that
“we do own the appliance”….well duh! I think this might mean that this argument might go my way….paint all the way!

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Filed under Cake, Sweet Treats, Tarts

Sweet Potato Soup with Capsicum and Spicy Sausage

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While I was pregnant with young Master C, I took a trip to Australia and spent some quality time with family and friends. During this holiday I took the chance to catch up with the lovely teachers I completed my MTeach qualification with. We decided to meet in Surry Hills at a lovely cafe. I, underestimating my fitness, decided to walk the considerable distance from the station. You see, I hadn’t been doing much walking since getting pregnant. Turns out when you’re 6 months pregnant, a 15 minute walk turns into a much longer marathon.

As I was approaching the cafe, the first thing I saw was ‘sweet potato soup with capsicum and chorizo’. You can’t imagine how good it sounded. When the soup turned up, there was lovely smooth orange sweet potato with floating bits of capsicum and chorizo. I was a bit disappointed, I was expecting something combined, amalgamated….alas, it wasn’t to be. However, as I tucked in I realised I actually enjoyed the smooth sweet potato and the crispy bits of chorizo and crunchy capsicum cubes.

Since then, it’s become one of my favourite dishes.

This recipe makes heaps, so feel free to halve or quarter it. I would say this quantity would serve me and hubby for 5 meals easily (that’s 10 portions)

Ingredients

  • 2 kg  (4lbs) sweet potato, peeled and chopped
  • 2 medium onions
  • 4 tbsp. butter
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 1L (1 Qt) chicken and vegetable stock
  • salt to taste

To serve/ per person

  • 1/4 red capsicum (pepper) diced
  • 1/2  spicy sausage (e.g. chorizo, andouille, kielbasa are all great options) sausage sliced and fried till crisp
  • 1 tablespoon sour cream

In a large saucepan add the butter, onions and garlic.

When the onions are soft and translucent add the sweet potatoes, stir and cover with the stock.

Place the lid on and cook until the sweet potato is soft. Once soft leave to cook and puree in a blender or simply use an immersion blender in the saucepan.

At this point this soup is perfect to freeze. Freeze in individual portions or divide up as you need. I simply line a bowl with cling wrap, place 2 cups of soup in and then  cover with wrap. When frozen I knock the blocks of soup out and keep the frozen blocks of soup in the freezer.

When you’re ready to serve place the soup back on the heat and add sufficient water to thin it to soup consistency.  This is really about personal preference. I generally prefer my soups quite thick. Add salt to taste.

Place the warm soup in a bowl and top with the crisp sausage, capsicum and sour cream. Serve while piping hot.

This is delicious with some warm sourdough bread on the side!

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Sticky-Date Puddings

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A few years ago, while I was still actively caking I decided that the world needed a sticky date cupcake. It was easy, I basically baked the mix instead of steaming it and turned the butterscotch sauce into a buttercream.  Then I tasted it and I couldn’t stop. I think I had it for dinner one night. Really, the only thing better than butterscotch sauce is butterscotch butter cream.  I decided to stop making it, for the sake of my own health.

I think it was only a few years ago that I realized that what us Aussies call “Sticky date pudding” is what the English refer to as “Sticky toffee pudding”. Thanks Rick Stein for setting me straight on that one. Whatever name it goes by, this is truly one of the best desserts in the world! The kind of dish that I can’t pass up on a menu, that makes me want to lick the plate in fancy restaurants…you know that sort of thing?

A lot of pudding these days are baked, giving them a more “cakelike” texture. Adding water to the baking dish here gives it a nice sponginess that makes it more like the traditional pudding.

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Ingredients
  • 180g dates, pitted and roughly chopped
  • 1 1/4 cups water
  • 1/2 tsp. bicarbonate of soda
  • 3/4 cup  firmly packed brown sugar
  • 60g butter, softened chopped
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup self-raising flour

Butterscotch sauce

  • 50g butter
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup cream
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract

Preparation

Preheat oven to 180 degrees C (160 degrees C fan-forced) and grease either an 8 inch cake tin or a set of moulds. I used a set of greased silicon baking cups for mine.

Place dates and water in a saucepan and bring to the boil over a high heat.

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Take the dates off the heat and add the bicarb (baking) soda. Set aside to cool and stir occasionally. The dates will break down as you do this. If you like a really smooth pudding, place the dates in a food processor. I like little chunks of date throughout my pudding so I skip the processor.

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Broken down dates

Beat the butter and sugar using a mixer. Gradually add the eggs one at a time. The mixture will become light and fluffy. Add the cooled dates to the egg mixture and stir. Add the flour and give it one last mix.

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Pour the mixture into the tin or divide between the baking cups you are using.  You want the cups about 2/3rds full. Place the puddings in a large baking dish and pour enough water to come half way up the cups.

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Bake for 40 minutes until the puddings are golden on top and a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean.

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The butterscotch sauce is simple. Simply place all the ingredients to boil in the saucepan over medium heat. Watch for the sugar to dissolve and then reduce the sauce for a few minutes until it thickens slightly.

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Filed under Desserts, Sri Lankan Food, Sweet Treats

Mini Baked Cheesecakes (Gluten Free)

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I want to talk a little less about the cheesecake here and more about the gorgeous cake stand that my girlfriends got me for my birthday. Isn’t it darling? It sits on our buffet and generally looks beautiful but today it was put to real use!

I’m strictly in the baked cheesecake family when it comes to cheesecake and this is my favourite recipe. I’ve changed and tweaked it a little but the best thing about it is that it is super flexible. Serve it wherever and with whatever and it’s a fabulous make-ahead dessert that can be frozen or refrigerated before you guests arrive.

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Makes 12

  • 250g cream cheese, softened
  • 75g (1/3 cup) caster sugar (superfine sugar)
  • 1 large egg (we use eggs with a minimum weight of 59g)
  • 20ml (1 tablespoon) lemon juice
  • 100ml (5 tablespoons) thickened cream (about 35 percent fat)
  •  1/2 cup  gluten free flour (simply use plain flour to make these non gluten free). 
  • 2 tbsp.  firmly packed light brown sugar
  • pinch tsp salt
  • 20g pecans (1.2 oz.)
  • pinch ground ginger
  • 1/4 cup cold butter
  • 1/2 tablespoon cold water

Fruits, sauce, topping to serve

Based on two recipes, the cream cheese mixture is from exclusively food and inspiration for the base goes to Sprinkle Bakes

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350 F/ 180 C degrees. Place foiled line wrappers in the holes of a muffin/cupcake tin.

Place flour, sugar, salt, pecans and ginger in the bowl of a food processor.  Process until the pecans are finely ground.

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 Add cold butter and process until crumbs form.  Add water and process in bursts until the dough starts to come together in clumps.  Press dough evenly into the bottom of the prepared pans. About 1 tablespoon per cup seemed about right.

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Bake for 20 minutes or until the tops are lightly golden. Cool completely.

Beat cream cheese and caster sugar in an electric mixer or food processor. Stop the machine a couple of times to scrape down the sides and base of the bowl. When the mixture is completely smooth and creamy, add egg and beat until combined. Add lemon juice and cream and beat until well combined. Divide mixture evenly among cases.

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Bake cheesecakes for 20 minutes. Remove from  the oven and allow to cool in pan for 30 minutes.

Remove cheesecakes from pan, place in an airtight container and refrigerate. Cheesecakes are ready to serve when they are cold and set. Remove cases before serving. Top with your favourite berries and sauces. I love these with lightly stewed frozen berries or passionfruit….fresh is best but even canned works brilliantly.

Cheesecakes can be stored in the refrigerator for up to three days. They are suitable to freeze.

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Filed under "Something" Free Cooking, Cake, Soups, Sweet Treats

Nelum Ala (Lotus Root)

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I was listening to a show on NPR here (national public radio, kinda like the ABC if you’re in Australia) where the Asian American author of novel Soy Sauce for Beginners, Kirsten Chen, bonded with the Indian American newsreader over their being tied to two different cultures. Here were two educated, well respected women who strived to not only be good and partriotic Americans but pay homage to their cultural roots too. Meghna Chakrabarti (the journalist) commented that she spoke to her mother about moving to America and the cultural challenges that it provided and her mother said “Back then, when you moved, you moved.”. Both women agreed. In the time of our parents, an international move was just that. You left without knowing whether you’d ever be back. Tickets were expensive and travel long and ardous.

Flashforward to today and the women discussed that today travel has more of a fluidity. There are options and moving back to where you’re coming from is often an option. In fact, there are probably many people moving back to China and India to work as there Chinese and Indian immigrants moving here and to Australia.

My long-winded point here is that today moving also means that you’re not leaving behind your food culture either. In the time that we’ve been in Bellevue (nearly 18months) Asian and Indian groceries have been popping up just about everywhere. There is competition and when there’s competition there’s inevitably quality. Last week I bundled up my little cherub and took him to the newest of these Indian supermarket. This one claimed to be “the biggest”

I was pleasantly surprised, there were freezers stocked with frozen exotic vegetables and I helped myself to a bag of breadfruit and lotus root. These are classic Lankan vegetables and quite rare in Lanka even, this time we only had one really good breadfruit curry.

Ingredients

  • 350g nelum ala (frozen lotus root)
  • 2 tomatoes chopped
  • 1/2 small onion chopped
  • curry leaves
  • 1 tbsp. curry powder (unroasted)
  • 2 tsp. turmeric
  • 1 tsp. paprika
  • 1 tsp. chilli powder
  • 1 tsp. fenugreek seeks
  • 1 tsp. maldive fish flakes
  • salt
  • pandan leaf
  • 1 cup coconut milk

Preparation

In a medium saucepan add the lotus root, tomatoes, onions, curry leaves and spices. Cover the lotus root with water, stir in the spiced and place on a medium heat.

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Cook on a simmer until the lotus root is tender, but has a slight crunch. You don’t want them disintegrating. Don’t be afraid to add more water if needed.

When the lotus root is cooked add the coconut milk  and simmer until slightly thickened.

Serve hot with rice and sprinkle of black curry powder.

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Filed under Sri Lankan Food, Uncategorized, Vegetarian Curries