Crème Brulee

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Guess who’s got a blow torch, guess who’s got a blow torch?

Yes, ME!!!

I love Crème Brulee and this recipe worked out FANTASTICALLY!! Not to brag overmuch, but this tasted wonderful. It was worth waiting overnight for.

2 C cream
1 tspn vanilla extract
5 egg yolks
1/3 C caster sugar
2 Tblspns brown sugar

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Place the cream and vanilla in a saucepan and stir once in a while over a low heat for about ten minutes. Once the cream simmers, take it off the heat. Don’t let the mixture boil.

While the cream is cooking, whisk the egg yolks and caster sugar together and organise the ramekins. I sat the ramekins on top of a folded tea towel in one of the slice tins that He Who Eats All of Our Leftovers made for me (the tea towel is so the ramekins don’t slide around). Turn on the oven (130 degrees Celsius) and boil the jug now too so you are ready to make the water bath as soon as the mixture is ready to go in the oven.

Once the cream is simmering, take it off the heat and whisk it into the egg yolk mixture.

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Pour the mixture into the ramekins, then re-boil the jug and pour water into the tray around the ramekins, to about half way up the sides.

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Bake for around 30 minutes. They should be slightly wobbly in the middle. Refrigerate overnight.

Before serving, sprinkle with brown sugar and whip out the blow torch!! The smell of the sugar is sensational at this point, but just wait until you taste these…

My plan for the leftover egg whites is to make meringues, so this is a win win day for baking in my house.

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Eat Well, Save More by Cath Armstrong

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Eat Well, Save More by Cath Armstrong has some great tips for saving money and good recipes.

When I was young and very poor, I had an envelope system for my budget. Every week, I put $20 into envelopes marked electricity, car rego, insurance and so on. If I recall, I budgeted $70 per week for groceries (meat, vegies, dry goods, cleaning stuff, chocolate) but only used to shop every eight days, so that every once in a while I had a windfall of $70 fall into my lap. It was a great system.

I also made up a meal planner. The idea was, I’d have something worked out for every dinner for six weeks (sometimes it was something simple like eggs on toast or tinned tomato soup) and then I would just repeat as required. The plan was, there would be a good nutritional balance and I would be able to take advantage of specials in the supermarket by stockpiling.

It was a long time ago now, but it worked. I forget why I stopped.

Cath Armstrong has done all of the hard work for her readers, by making templates of grocery tracking spread sheets (the idea is that you fill in the prices of the products you buy so that you know when they are due to come on special again), suggesting low cost menus and things to do with leftovers.

There is also the idea of eating out of the pantry for a week and getting rid of all of the bits and pieces that have been ignored for too long. I could probably eat out of my pantry for several months. I do stockpile groceries on special to save money, but I also worry about the shops being shut (like on Christmas Day) and my family and I starving while we wait for them to re-open (on Boxing Day).

The recipes in Eat Well, Save More are very good too, all ordinary food that you don’t need to make a special trip to the shops for. I’ve copied down the author’s recipe to make Swedish Meatballs, a Vegie Quiche using leftovers and a few other bits and pieces.

I’ve also copied down the author’s recipes for vanilla extract, sweetened condensed milk and brown sugar. With the amount of biscuits, cakes and puddings I bake, these could save me a fortune.

My only problem with the book is the suggested serving sizes, which would not fill up He Who Eats All of Our Leftovers, who is a mountain of a man and needs more on his plate than skinny, little blokes. The author does state very firmly somewhere that you must stick to the serving sizes otherwise the budget will be blown and there will be nothing left to make leftovers with, but the reality in my household is, that won’t be happening. The family would mutiny.

I’m going to make the Mexican Haystack thing from the book for tea tonight, as I have everything in the pantry. I’ll have to go the shops tomorrow to replenish though, otherwise I’ll be traumatised looking at the gaps in the pantry. I’ll also have a look at the Cheapskates Club website, for more money saving tips from Cath Armstrong. I believe she has a recipe for her own washing powder, which costs around $10 for a year’s worth. That is a huge saving.

This book is well worth a look. The recipes are good and the money saving tips are even better.

Shortbread

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Mum makes lovely shortbread and so does my niece, C. C makes her shortbread in Christmas shapes (last year they were stars) and Mum cuts hers into thick wedges. I thought I would try rounds.

375gm butter
1/2 Cup caster sugar
3 Cups plain flour
1/2 Cup rice flour
pinch of salt

Sift the flour, rice flour and salt. Cream the butter and sugar, then mix in the dry ingredients.

Turn out onto the floured bench and knead well. Divide the mixture into four parts, then shape each into a round and cut (I used two pieces of baking paper and the rolling pin).

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Use your thumb or the end of a spoon to pinch around the edges for decoration. Cut into eight and prick each pices with a fork.

Bake at 130 degrees Celsius for about 25 minutes, or until the shortbread starts to colour slightly. The shortbread will need to be cut again when it comes out of the oven.

Almond and Walnut Shortbread

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More Christmas cooking.

Years ago, I was lucky enough to work with a Greek man whose mother liked baking. This man’s problem was, the same man’s Greek wife preferred being skinny to eating her mother in law’s cooking. So, to keep everyone happy, his mother cooked, his wife fit in her skinny jeans and his co-workers happily ate the excess cakes, biscuits and dolmades.

He very kindly passed on his mother’s recipe for shortbread, which I have adapted slightly.

I iced the shortbread with a lemon glaze, but they are nice plain if you can’t be bothered. I actually meant to make a thicker icing to drizzle on top, but over enthusiastically tipped too much lemon juice into the icing sugar. They taste nice anyway.

250gm butter
3/4 Cup icing sugar
2 teaspoons lemon zest
1 egg
3/4 Cup almonds (or walnuts or pistachios or whatever buts you prefer).
2 1/2 Cups plain flour
1 teaspoon baking powder

Cream the butter, sugar and lemon zest, beat in the egg, then fold in the nuts, flour and baking powder to make a soft dough.

Roll large teaspoons of mixture into logs then curve into a horseshoe shape.

Bake at 160 degrees Celsius for about 14 minutes, until lightly golden. Cool on tray.

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Lemon Icing

Juice from 1 lemon
1 Cup icing sugar

Mix together and dunk the top of the shortbreads into the icing. Leave to dry on baking paper.

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Peppermint Christmas Biscuits

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Peppermint flavours and Christmas go together, but you could also make these biscuits anytime. Change the flavour of the biscuits using your choice of hard boiled lollies and essences or extracts.

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Filling
100gm cream cheese
2 Tblspns icing sugar
7 or 8 crushed peppermint sticks. (We started with eight peppermint sticks, but S, who was helping, ate one). We put the sticks into a sandwich bag, then wrapped them in two more plastic bags before whacking them with the rolling pin. Very therapeutic, especially just before Christmas [the festival where hard-working women work even harder than usual]).
1/2 tspn peppermint extract

Mix the filling ingredients together and chill while making the biscuits.

Biscuits

175gm butter
1 C sugar
2 C self raising flour
1 egg
1 tspn vanilla extract
2 Tblspns sugar extra, coloured with red food colouring

Cream the butter and sugar, mix in the egg and vanilla extract, then fold in the flour using a metal spoon. Roll into balls.

Press your thumb deep into each ball and spoon in about half a teaspoon of the filling. Don’t over-fill with filling or the biscuits won’t roll up again easily.

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Roll the biscuits back into balls with the filling inside.

Press each biscuit flat using the bottom of a wet glass which has been dipped in the coloured sugar.

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I usually cook 15 biscuits per tray but this mixture was very spread-y. I ended up cooking eight biscuits at a time so they didn’t end up as one big biscuit.

Bake at 175 degrees Celsius for about ten minutes. Let the biscuits sit on the tray for a few minutes before moving to a wire rack to cool. Makes about 30 biscuits.

The World According to Joan by Joan Collins

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Wow, is Joan Collins the most glamorous woman alive or does someone else own that title? For what it’s worth, I think she is. The role of Alexis Carrington in Dynasty probably sealed the deal.

The World According to Joan is, as the title suggests, the author’s opinions on a number of topics, from glamour, to men, aging, children, values and manners. She is so famous that her surname does not appear on the cover of this book.

Joan Collins is an entertaining writer, although there isn’t anything particularly ground breaking in this book. The insights into being famous, beautiful and successful weren’t as surprising as I had expected. There was a lot of name dropping of famous people, but since they are probably the people she actually knows, this wasn’t all that surprising either. None of the stories about famous people were either so unknown or so scurrilous that they would make a gossip page in a magazine these days either.

The chapter on travel was interesting, as the author had been able to travel Concorde, which to my generation sounds like a glamorous and fast way to get from here to there. There is a romance to the name Concorde too, which I don’t feel when I hear the word ‘Dreamliner,’ although ‘private jet,’ (as mentioned by Joan Collins), has more of a ring to it.

Not surprisingly, Joan gives her readers good fashion, or rather style advice, in a series of dos and don’ts. For example, she suggests investing in Spandex to smooth the bumps, advises that polo necks for those with bigger busts in any other colour than black will make you look like a sausage and recommends white jeans for St Tropez or wearing on a yacht (I’ll bear that in mind next time I go within Cooee of either).

I did appreciate the author’s beauty advice though, which can be summed up as KEEP YOUR FACE OUT OF THE SUN. (I can not stress this enough, having had sun spots removed from my own nose after spending my teenage years trying to get my pink, freckled face to tan). Her other tip is to wear wigs. I don’t have any wigs, but it sounds like good advice. No more bad hair days.

The advice about men was good too. If you’ve made a mistake in the man (or men) you have married, cut your losses. Move on. Joan’s advice regarding messing around with married men should be heeded also. Don’t do it. And if you are stupid enough to make this mistake, since the married man Joan Collins was messing around with did not leave his wife for her, what makes you think your married man will leave his wife for you? And if he does, would you really want him anyway? (Okay, that last sentence was my opinion, not Joan’s, but I couldn’t resist).

Joan Collins shows her age in a number of ways in this book, not by being dated, but because of her common sense. I enjoyed The World According to Joan, but after watching an interview with her on television when she visited Australia a few years ago, think she appears even more interesting in person.

Cake Pops

Cake Pops. These could also be called “What was I thinking?”

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What happened was, I saw a picture of Cake Pops in a magazine. Tiny, yummy, little bites of gorgeously decorated balls of cake, what could be easier? So I bought the pink silicon cake ball trays pictured below.

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Then, I saw some tin trays (pictured below) in the hard rubbish on the kerb outside my neighbour’s house three doors down, so I crept back that night and grabbed them. (The fact that other people were throwing these tins out should have been a clue, but no, I’m a slow learner). Don’t judge me for taking my neighbour’s hard rubbish either, we all do it. For the uninitiated, you walk around the neighbourhood eyeing each other’s cast offs during the day, then sneak back under cover of darkness to collect whatever has caught our eye. It’s all going to the rubbish tip eventually.

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Next step, make cake. Easy, peasy, I can make cake.

60 gm butter
1/4 C caster sugar
1 egg, beaten
1/2 tspn vanilla extract
3 tblspns milk
3/4 C self raising flour

Cream the butter and sugar, add the egg and vanilla extract. Mix in 1/3 of the flour, then the milk at a time, stirring gently.

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Prepare the cake pop tins.

(At this point do what I say and not what I do. My suggestion is to make patty cakes with this mixture and ice them, bugger making cake pops. But, if you are determined to press on, follow the rest of the recipe. Just don’t say I didn’t warn you).

Spoon tiny bits of mixture into the side without the hole in the top. Don’t fill them flush with the top as the cakes will overflow. Under-filled is better.

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Bake at 160 degrees Celsius for about 15 minutes. I stuck a toothpick in to make sure the cakes were properly cooked.

Once cooled, He Who Eats All of Our Leftovers started throwing cake balls into the air and catching them in his mouth. It was funny, but I stopped him after he ate three because my niece, S and her friend F, who were having a play at our house after school, had been looking forward to icing the rest.

Ice when cool. You don’t have to make aqua icing, the only reason I did was because the two twelve year olds chose the colour.

2/3 C icing sugar
1 and 1/2 Tblspns water

For aqua, mix 4 drops of blue food colouring and 2 drops of green.

Dip the sticks in the icing, then stab the ball of cake. Dip in the icing and roll in sprinkles.

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I prepared the egg carton before making the icing by stabbing it with a metal skewer so the girls had somewhere to put the cake pops once they were decorated.

Freestones Roadhaven at Aireys Inlet

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He Who Eats All of Our Leftovers and I recently took a trip down the Great Ocean Road, when we stopped for lunch at Freestone’s Roadhaven 60’s Diner at Aireys Inlet.

We ate in a booth in the Malt Shop and Barefoot Bar. We both had a pulled pork roll and a vanilla malted milkshake (well, to be fair, he ordered one milkshake, but it came with two straws, so obviously I had some). He Who Eats All of Our Leftovers liked his roll so much that when he finished the first he ordered another one. I forgot to take photos of our meals, but they were delicious and the prices were good. I think the rolls were about $8 each.

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The ’57 Chev in the photo above was owned by Walt Disney and used in a movie. No idea which movie, because I forgot to ask. There were too many other things to look at.

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There is hot rod and speedway memorabilia everywhere. There are photos of hot rods on the beach (before they were hot rods), old pictures of Airleys Beach, motor sport collectables and interesting bits and pieces everywhere you look.

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He Who Eats All of Our Leftovers was very taken with the framed programs from Tracey’s Speedway at Maribyrnong, which had closed long before he was born. One of his friends who also likes speedway racing, is married to a woman who was named ‘Tracey’ in honour of the place.

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The two pictures below are taken looking through the window into the museum. There is also a restaurant upstairs (the Diner) although it was booked out the day we went. The Malt Shop and Barefoot Bar suited us, anyway. I swear, the music could all have come straight from my playlist, Buddy Holly and the Crickets, the Atlantics, I bopped all through my lunch.

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Sticky Banana Pudding with Butterscotch Sauce

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File this recipe under OMFG, because Sticky Banana Pudding with Butterscotch Sauce is really, really good.

2 Cups Self Raising flour
1/2 teaspoon bi carb soda
1 tspn cinnamon
150gm butter
1 Cup brown sugar
3 eggs
2-3 mashed bananas
1/3 Cup sour cream
1/3 Cup milk

Beat the butter and sugar until creamy, then add the eggs one at a time. Stir in half the flour, half the banana, all of the sour cream and milk, then the remainder of the flour and banana.

Bake in a large, lined casserole or cake tin at 170 degrees Celsius for one hour and ten minutes. Stand for ten minutes before turning out onto a plate to serve.

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Serve with Butterscotch Sauce and cream or ice cream.

Butterscotch Sauce

1 Cup brown sugar
1 Cup cream
125gm butter
1 tspn cinnamon

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Stir all ingredients together in a pan until the sugar dissolves, then simmer, stirring for three minutes.