Make cake, not war

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Happy 2017 everyone!  I think we can all agree that the year we have just ushered out was rather bruising, whether you’re talking politically, artistically, or for many of us, personally.  So, what we really need to ring in the New Year is not cucumber sticks, lycra, mineral water or resolutions. No, what is called for is a big, comforting, chocolatey cake.  Or at least that is how I felt today in amongst reading, watching Netflix and snoozing on the sofa with our cats.

I’m not going to pretend I was feeling sparky enough to whip up my own recipe.  And why would I need to, when I’m lucky enough to have my very own copy of Alice Arndell‘s Alice in Bakingland?  This recipe, sweetly titled ‘Nanny’s chocolate cake’ is a winner, delivering a pleasingly chocolatey cake every time.  Because I really felt the need to up the nourishment factor on this one, I slathered jam and cream on cut halves before sandwiching the cake back together and topping it with a generous serving of chocolate icing.

Take care everyone and I’m hoping this cake sets the tone for a much sweeter, kinder year.

Nanny’s chocolate cake by Alice Arndell

Ingredients:

  • 170g butter
  • 1/4 cup golden syrup
  • 2 cups plain flour
  • 2/3 cups cocoa
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 3 tsp baking powder
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 2 tsp intant coffee granules
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tsp vanilla essence
  • 1/4 t salt
  • 1 & 1/2 cups milk

Method:

Pre-heat the oven to 170 degrees celsius.  Grease and line a 23cm cake tin.

Place the butter and golden syrup in a microwave-proof bowl and heat on high until the butter is melted – this is 1 minute 10 seconds in my microwave.  Stir to combine and set aside.

Place all other ingredients in a large bowl and beat for 5 minutes.  The original recipe calls for a stand mixer, which I don’t have, so I find a handheld electric beater works well.  You may need to beat for a little longer if you do this by hand.

Pour in the butter and syrup and mix through.

This mixture is runny so don’t worry!  Pour it into the prepared tin and bake for 50-60 minutes until a skewer inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean with a few crumbs.

Cool in the tin for 10 minutes then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

 

 

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Russian fudge

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If you fancy a sugar hangover, look no further.  This fudge is mouth-suckingly sweet and all the better for it.  A firm Kiwi favourite, it is dense and rich, comprised largely of sugar, sweetened condensed milk and golden syrup.

I can’t get to the bottom of its name.  In my travels through the internet, I was delighted to find Nigella acknowledges we call Russian Fudge in our little country, although she calls her version Vanilla Fudge.

This lovely Polish-authored food blog includes a recipe for Polish krówki, which translates as ‘little cows’ (how I love that!).  Krówki is a sweet fudge very similar to our Russian fudge, and apparently Russia have a version too.  New Zealand has a strong Polish connection, most famously through our post-World War II Polish refugee children.  Could this explain it?

I won’t keep you all waiting while I trawl through the history of New Zealand confectionary in hope of an answer.  Here is my preferred recipe for Russian fudge.  The best tip I can give you is beat the fudge for as long as it takes in the final stage – it really is important for making it set.

Ingredients:

  • 200g butter
  • 1 can condensed milk
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 2 Tbspns golden syrup
  • 4 cups sugar
  • 1 tspn vanilla essence

Method:

Place everything except for the vanilla essence into a pot and bring to the boil, stirring constantly.  Once it is boiling, keep stirring and let it boil for about 20 minutes, until a blob of fudge dropped in cold water can be formed into a squishy little ball.

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Take off the heat, add the vanilla essence, and beat the fudge until it starts to thicken (I’m always into doing things by hand but I can really recommend an electric beater for this bit if you have one!)

Spread into a baking tin and leave to set for at least two hours.

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Edmond’s apple steamed pudding

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Steamed pudding is like a sweet, jammy hug in a bowl.  I love it.  It’s a special favourite in our little country.  I was recently introduced to a New Zealand specialty steamed pudding which is the queen of both steamed puddings and now of my heart…burnt sugar steamed pudding.  Oh wow.  Like hot, soft caramel made into a cake and served with lashings of runny cream.  My mouth waters at the mere memory.

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So, it’s not a surprise that steamed pudding features in that bastion of all that is cooking and kiwi, the Edmonds cook book.  This particular version is jazzed up with a little apple, and all the better for it, as the tart apple partners nicely with the sweet apricot jam and the fluffy sponge.

To make this you will need:

  • 50g butter
  • 1/4 c sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 2 T apricot jam
  • 1 C plain flour
  • 1 t baking powder
  • 1/4 t salt
  • 1/2 t baking soda
  • 1/2 c milk
  • 2 T stewed apple

Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Add the egg and beat well.  Stir in the jam.

Sift the flour, baking powder and salt into the butter mixture and fold in.

Dissolve the baking soda in the milk and add to the mixture, along with the apple.

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Grease a 2-cup pudding basin.  Spoon in the sponge mixture and cover the bowl with some greased baking paper.  Secure with string.

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Steam the pudding for half an hour, or until it is springy to the touch.  This took about 45 minutes for pudding.

Serve with cream and a cup of tea!

 

 

Antipasto, courtesy of Edmonds

Ladies and gentlemen, we have finally hit the International Dishes section of the Edmonds Cook Book.

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As I make my way alphabetically (and rather slowly, I do admit) through the Edmonds Cook Book, the A section to date has yielded a fair bit of baking and things involving almonds.  But now, we find ourselves at Antipasto, opening a rather ambitious International Dishes selection including foreign delicacies like nachos and cucumber salad.

I suspect in this day and age, many of us are familiar with antipasto and its role as the opening dish in an Italian meal.  In our little far-flung corner of the world, however, the inclusion of Antipasto, and indeed an International Dishes section at all, to the Edmonds was no doubt a bold leap into the unknown at the time.

This may explain why tasty cheese makes up the cheese selection in the ingredients list, when in other antipasto recipes we see rather more exotic cheeses such as aged Manchengo or Gruyere.  But tasty cheese is a firm favourite in our shaky isles and it is only appropriate that it features in the Edmonds take on antipasto.  And I don’t want to seem as if I am sneezing at tasty cheese.  There are very few snacks as lovely as a thick slice of tasty cheese on a cracker with a generous spoonful of my Mum’s tamarillo chutney.

So for an antipasto platter, Edmonds-style, you will need the following:

  • 425g can artichoke hearts
  • 1/2 cup black olives
  • 6 to 8 slices of smoked beef
  • 250g tasty cheese
  • cherry tomatoes
  • 6 to 8 slices of salami

 

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And the rest is pretty simple chaps.  After draining and rinsing the artichokes, all that one is required to do with the ingredients is ‘arrange decoratively on a plate.’  I will leave the arranging up to your imaginations.  This is how mine looked and it was most pleasing with a little tipple on a late Summer afternoon.  Enjoy.

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Re-rising to my Edmonds Challenge: introducing broccoli with almonds

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You could be forgiven for thinking my Edmonds Challenge had gone off the boil somewhat…truth is, it had, and for that I apologise. But, dear readers, we are back on the boil, quite literally in fact, as today’s recipe includes broccoli, boiling water and a saucepan.

A while ago, I promised a run of almonds as I worked my way through almond recipes in the ‘A’ section of our national treasure the Edmonds Cookbook, and indeed they did as I grabbled with some new treats, including devilled almonds and almond biscuits.

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Today we greet the last entry in the ‘Almonds’ section, Broccoli with Almonds. And can I say, what a delight. Lightly cooked broccoli covered with lemony butter and toasted sliced almonds. Oh yum.

This happy marriage of food with butter and nuts has its own official culinary term, ‘amandine‘, which means food cooked with butter and seasonings and garnished with a sprinkling of almonds.

Edmonds’ own take on this delight, a ‘Broccoli Amandine’ if you like, is a little gem. Easy and tasty, it would be a classy and delicious accompaniment to any supper. I chose to accompany mine with a little brown rice for lunch and can report this was a very satisfactory pairing.

The recipe is below…enjoy.

Edmonds Broccoli with Almonds
500g broccoli, cut into florets
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons lemon juice
salt
pepper
2 tablespoons toasted sliced almonds

Cook the broccoli in salted, boiling water until it is just tender.
In another saucepan, melt the butter and add the lemon juice, salt and pepper.
Drain the broccoli.
Add the almonds to the butter mix and spoon this over the broccoli.

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Turducken

Is it a bird, is it a plane, is it something else entirely ungodly?

We’ll go for the third option here.

It was Midwinter Christmas and, following a decision a few weeks earlier and most likely assisted by the fine beers available at Goldings Freedive, Turducken was the dish of the day.

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I like to think of Turducken more as a Frankenducken. An unwitting turkey becomes host to both an entire chicken and, in our case, four duck breasts, evolving into a bulging meat sack that is neither bird nor beast, but is definitely dinner.

I have to say our Frankenducken may never have got off the ground (so to speak…sadly for all birds involved, their flying days were well and truly over) had it not been for the wisdom and generosity of YouTube, in particular this aptly named ‘How To Make A Turducken’ clip by Armand Ferrante, who happened to be crowned Wholefoods Best Butcher in the US in 2012.

And thus, all research was completed, the de-boned and de-frosted poultry was collected from the butcher, a poultry lacer was purchased, and the hour of truth had arrived. Our merry Mid Winter Christmas party gathered in the rented holiday home’s kitchen to look on in horrified fascination. A hush fell over the group.

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Constructing a turducken is not pretty to watch, but it certainly is interesting. We were blessed with the culinary skills and can-do attitude of Chef and Chief Sommelier Jeremy, who began by splaying out the deboned turkey on the bench and generously slathering the upturned surface with stuffing.

Next, the chicken is laid out across the turkey, with more slathering of stuffing, and finally the four duck breasts (de-skinned) are laid out across the top.

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Here’s the bit where you need the poultry lacer. No, I had never heard of such a thing either, but we concluded it sounded much more sophisticated than’meat needle,’ the name we had assigned to this tool in earlier planning sessions. The Frankenducken comes to be when the turkey is sewn back up together with the chicken, stuffing and duck inside. The poultry lacer works a little like a corset, with the metal spikes pinning each half of the unfortunate bird together and providing eyelets for the twine that sews it up. The chef will need some willing helpers at this point.

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The appearance of the metal spikes and stitching does nothing to dispel any thoughts of Frankenstein’s monster. Here we have our final product, pre-cooking. There was much sniggering, the exact cause of which I will leave to your imagination as you gaze upon this sight.

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There are a number of schools of thought on how one should cook one’s Frankenducken. My main concern was reliability. I did not want a raw bird on our hands, nor a house of Christmas revellers struck down with salmonella.  And so, I found myself tiptoeing around the kitchen like a little Christmas elf early in the morning, putting our Frankenducken in the oven at roughly 110 degrees celsius.

This seemed terribly low to me, but it was most effective. Our turducken took about 4 and a half hours to reach the recommended internal temperature of 165 degrees farenheit and maintained its heat for several hours happily nestled in a layer of foil.

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Now, for the most important question that is no doubt on everyone’s minds…how did it taste? Quite delicious! The low temperature cooking left all meat moist and tender, with bacon layers on the turkey breast crisping up pleasingly.

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I’m wondering if we should try a goose next year.

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Herman the German Friendship Cake

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Herman came into my life my accident.  My plans were to have morning tea with my sister and gorgeous little niece.  This did happen.  But what I didn’t expect was to leave my sister’s house with my very first sour dough starter for my own Herman the German Friendship Cake.

 

Herman is the chain letter of sour dough.  A lucky Herman recipient is given a portion of sour dough starter and instructions on how to feed, love and nurture Herman for 10 days.  On the tenth day, Herman is split into four portions.   Three are given away to new Herman owners to start the process again.  The fourth portion is kept to be made into one’s very own Herman sour dough cake or bread.

 

I love the savoury chewiness of sour dough.  Ever since reading the lovely Clotilde’s sour dough adventures on Chocolate&Zucchini I’ve been keen to try my own but just a little too scared.  My unexpected acquisition of Herman was just what I needed to kick-start my own sour dough adventures. Herman and I were meant to be.

 

Sour dough starters are rather fascinating.  The happy little bugs and bits who occur naturally in flour develop into a culture that will rise dough if they are left for long enough and treated to water, refreshment and the right temperature.   And so, Herman took up residence on top of my microwave.  Devotedly following the Herman instructions, I heartily stirred Herman each of the first four days.  He was developing an interesting bubbly texture.

 

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On day four, the instructions informed me, Herman is hungry.  Dutifully, I fed Herman (or refreshed him, as it is known in sour dough parlance) with 1 cup of flour, 1 cup of water and 1 cup of sugar.  Days five to eight: more stirring.  My Herman now had a sticky-looking top and plenty more bubbling.

Day nine was a big day.  Three quarters of my Herman were packaged up and shipped off to their new homes.  It was time to turn my mind to baking for day 10.

 The Herman website has plenty of delicious ideas for when it’s time to bake your Herman.  My sister made the original Herman, and it is indeed lovely.  I played around with the original recipe, borrowing heavily from my most favourite Christmas cake recipe, Nigella’s chocolate fruit cake (because why wait until Christmas to make a delicious cake?).  Prunes, chocolate, orange and coffee combined to make this Fruit and Chocolate Herman.  This recipe produces a dark, dense cake with a pleasant hint of spice.

 

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Fruit and Chocolate Herman

Ingredients:

  • 1 portion of Herman starter
  • 2 cups of plain flour
  • 1 cup of cocoa
  • 1 cup of brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons of baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons of mixed spice
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla essence
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 2 cups of pitted prunes
  • 1 & 1/2 cup of raisins
  • 1 cup of currants
  • 1 cup of cranberries
  • 2 oranges, juice and zest
  • 1/2 cup of espresso coffee

Grease a 23 cm round cake tin and line the bottom.  Heat your oven to 180 degrees celsius.

Stir the flour, cocoa, baking powder, brown sugar, mixed spice and vanilla essence into your Herman starter, which will be in the large mixing bowl as per the Herman instructions.   Add the eggs and mix in.

Next, tip in the prunes, raisins, currants and cranberries. Add the orange juice, zest and the espresso coffee, and stir all ingredients together.

Pour the cake batter into a 23cm round cake tin.  Bake for 50 minutes until a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean.  Cool on a cake rack.

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