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Baked Jam Roll

July 11, 2012
Baked Jam Roll

Winter being upon us in the southern half of the world, it’s time for all those comfort food recipes: lots of butter, sugar and flour.

Baked jam roll is one of those old fashioned desserts our mothers and grandmothers used to use to fill up a brood of bottomless pits on the cheap. It’s simple, cheap, but most of all, so, so delicious.

My Mum always said to just use a scone dough for the pastry. For my own recipe, I’ve taken the Golden Syrup dumplings recipe from our battered old copy of the classic Cookery the Australian Way (one day I will get around to writing an entry on cookbooks), and tweaked it a little.

What do I need?

Dough:

  • 1 tbsp of butter
  • 1 cup of self-raising flour
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 2-3 tbsp of milk
    (maybe more, depending)
  • 2-3 tbsp jam
    (I prefer raspberry or blackberry jam, but plum or strawberry do fine)

Syrup:

  • 2 cups of water
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 tbsp of butter
  • 1 tbsp of golden syrup
    (golden syrup is apparently not that common in the United States, where it is also known as cane syrup, often used in Cajun cooking. Corn syrup can be substituted, perhaps)
  • 1 tsp of lemon juice

What do I do?

Heat the oven to a medium 180-190°C.

Rub the butter into the flour, and then add the egg and enough milk to make a soft dough.

Roll the dough roughly out so it’s between one or two centimetres thick (about half an inch), and spread the jam along one edge.

Roll the dough up into a log, and pinch the edges sealed. Place it into a greased baking dish.

Put the syrup ingredients into a saucepan, stir until the sugar has dissolved, and bring it to the boil. Let it simmer for a couple of minutes.

Pour the syrup over the roll, and bake it for about half an hour. Spoon the syrup over the roll now and again to get a really nice, gooey glaze on it.

Serve it up with cream and/or ice-cream and a good, hot cup of tea, and banish the winter chill.

Knives

July 10, 2012
knives

So many gadgets!

This is the first of an occasional series I’ll be posting, dedicated to sorting the necessities from the clutter when it comes to kitchen gear.

As part of what I call the ‘food porn’ trend of recent years has come an obsession with cooking gear, which can make it all a bit daunting if you’re setting up your own kitchen for the first time.

If you are getting started – perhaps if you’re a youngster setting up in your first place, or your cooking has been pretty minimal for a while – then setting yourself up with just the basics can actually be pretty simple.

Knives

One of the first things you should get are some good knives.

Again, this can be a bit scary. Go into a kitchen place and you’ll see sets of Global knives selling for hundreds of dollars. And it’s not just the price tag that’s scary – just what the hell do you do with all those different knives?

The good news is that for 90% of the stuff you do in the kitchen, you really only need a couple of good knives, and decent ones needn’t be that expensive.

Of course, there’s a reason why brands like Global are so expensive: they’re bloody good. But to be quite honest, for most of us, it’s a bit like using a Ferrari to do your shopping.

Why just stick to a cheap, reliable family car for the time being?

Scanpan make a range of knives that are surprisingly inexpensive – under $20 – and reasonably good. Not brilliant, but still great value.

So what knives do I need?

To be perfectly honest, I use about three knives for nearly everything in the kitchen: a paring knife, a santoku (or ‘east-west’) knife and a large chef’s knife.

The paring knife is one of the Scanpan ‘Spectrum’ range. Use a paring knife for peeling fruits and vegetables, slicing and cutting small stuff, and basically anything that requires precise handling and delicate work. Unlike most knives, which you use on a cutting board, you can often use a paring knife with one hand while holding whatever it is you’re cutting in the other.

A santoku is an all-purpose knife using a design that originated, as the name suggests, in Japan. Use them for slicing, dicing and mincing. One drawback of a santoku is that the straight blade doesn’t allow for much ‘rocking’ when you’re cutting, but to be honest, I’ve never found it a big problem. On the plus side, for what appears to be such a small knife, they’re surprisingly versatile. Again, the one I use is a Scanpan Spectrum.

If I have one criticism of the Scanpan Spectrum knives, it’s that they don’t hold their edge for as long as they might, but for their price, they’re still a damn good knife.

Finally, I have a big Chef’s knife, which I use for bigger things that the santoku might struggle with, especially stuff like cutting up a pumpkin, etc. I’ve no idea what brand it is – one with a wooden handle pretty well covers it. But I’ve had this particular one for over 20 years, and it’s still going strong.

The only other knives I use with any frequency is a bread knife, and a long, flat pastry knife that I sometimes use to lift troublesome pastry off the bench after it’s been rolled out.

Sharpening

The Global Minosharp sharpener

The Global Minosharp sharpener

Chefs say that ‘you’ll never cut yourself on a sharp knife’. Unfortunately I’ve proved them wrong on a couple of occasions, but that’s probably due more to my amateur knife-handling technique than anything else.

Nonetheless, it’s still important to keep your knives well sharpened, otherwise you’ll just find yourself hacking your way through the kitchen, turning tomatoes to mush.

In the old days, sharpening a knife meant faffing around with a whetstone, something I could never get the hang of, although my wife was a dab hand with one. Bit of a worry, really. But thankfully, today there are some really good knife sharpening tools around.

My personal favourite is the Global Minosharp. It’s relatively inexpensive (about $40) and easy as anything to use.

The Minosharp has a clear, slotted plastic compartment holding two ceramic wheels.Fill the compartment with water, put the knife blade through the slots and rest it in the grooves of the wheels.

To sharpen it, just run the knife back and forth on the wheels about 20 times. Use one wheel first to do the rough work, then move on to the second one to clean the edge up nice and fine. That’s it.

One thing to be careful of is not to put too much downward pressure on the wheels. Just let the knife rest on them, and run it back and forth. If you press down hard on the wheels, they could break.

So that’s the low-down on kitting yourself with a basic, trusty knife set!

Tart Pastry

June 4, 2012
tags: ,
shortcrust-tart-pastry

I originally featured a tart pastry in the recipe for Gluten-Free Lemon Tart, but I’ve decided to split it off into its own entry, because tart pastry crops up in a lot of recipes, such as the cauliflower and yoghurt quiche I’ll be posting tomorrow.

You can also find a recipe for short crust pastry here.

One drawback of tart pastry, is that I find it difficult to work with at times. Mostly this is because I don’t plan ahead enough to allow time for the pastry to sit. If you do leave the pastry to sit in the fridge for half an hour, the shortening has time to make the grains in the flour swell and burst, and the pastry becomes much more malleable.

The gluten-free recipe is even more difficult. Luckily it still presses back together easily, so when it (inevitably) falls apart, I just patch the pieces back together in the tart tin. Kind of like playing with play-dough all over again.

What do I need?

Tart Pastry

  • 1 3/4 cups plain flour
  • Pinch of salt
  • 150g (2/3 cup) unsalted butter, chilled and diced
  • 1 egg yolk
  • Chilled water as needed

Gluten-Free Option

  • 1 cup fine rice flour
  • 1/2 cup maize corn flour*
  • 1/2 cup soy flour†
  • 1 tsp guar or xanthan gum
  • 2/3 cup butter, chilled and diced
  • 1 egg yolk
  • Some cold water

What do I do?

Sift the flour/s and salt into a large bowl. Add the butter and rub it in with your fingers until the mixture has the texture of breadcrumbs. Add the egg yolk and mix the dough until the dough starts to come together. Add a couple of teaspoons of cold water (or more) as necessary. Bring the dough together with your hands and shape it into a ball.

Or you can be lazy and do the whole thing with a quick whiz of the food processor.

Wrap the ball of dough in plastic wrap and put it in the fridge for at least 1/2 an hour. Try to allow yourself enough time for this; I always decide what I’m going to make at the last minute, so I often cheat and skip it, which makes it much harder to work the pastry.

Use the time to make whatever filling you’re going to use!

Roll the pastry out into a large circle on a lightly floured surface until it’s large enough to line your tart tin. Do your best to pick the pastry up (see my shortcrust recipe page for tips on how to do this); slide a palette knife or egg lift under it first, as it tends to stick to the bench.

Line the tart tin with the pastry, trimming the edge and pinching the pastry up a little to make a slightly raised border around the rim.

Heat the oven to 200°C/400°F. Rest the pastry case in the fridge again for another 10 minutes.

To bake the case blind, line it with greaseproof paper, or maybe foil, then fill it with rice, dried beans, or baking beads if you’ve actually bothered getting them. I have a container of rice in the pantry that’s especially put aside for baking blind. God knows how long it’s been there now, but it’s still doing the job fine!

Bake the case blind for 10 minutes, then remove it from the oven. Reduce the temperature to 180°C/350°F. Remove the rice, beans or beads from the pastry case.

Fill the case with your filling, and finish baking!

Yes, I AM still alive!

May 29, 2012

Yes, well … sorry, folks. Once again, I find myself abjectly apologising for neglecting this blog again.

Where does the time go?

I have good and bad reasons for my wicked neglect, though: I’ve found myself back in full time work, and I’m also studying.

Ironically, I’m studying journalism!

Anyway, exams are here, so I’ll knock those buggers off, and start writing again.

(Oh, yes, ho-ho, a likely story, you say)

Potato Salad

January 11, 2012
potato_salad

Well, it’s allegedly summer here right now, although when I was moved to run the heat pump for an hour or so this morning, I strongly questioned that assumption. Anyway, it’s just gone Christmas (and I hope everyone had a good one!), and in my part of the world that means that it must be summer.

One of the great things about summer is salads, and one of my favourite salads is potato salad. I’ve tried various permutations on the basic potato salad, and this is the recipe I’ve distilled from my experimentation. It’s pretty simple, but with a particular twist that I like to think is my own.

I’m sure there could be endless debate about what is the best potato variety to use, but I just use Nicolas, which are pretty much the stock-in-trade here at Chez Bloke. They’re a nice variety of potato that seem to be pretty much all-round useful for everything.

When it comes to the mayonnaise, bugger all that low-fat rubbish, use a good quality, whole egg mayo. Where’s the fun in a potato salad without a yummy, creamy, proper mayonnaise?

I use lemon thyme in this recipe. Lemon thyme (Thymus x citriodorus – which I think sounds like the scientific name for Pepe Le Peu) is not quite as pungent as regular thyme, and also has an incredible lemon scent almost like a perfume. It’s a must-have for roast chicken, and is also used in Moroccan cooking quite often.

It’s not a herb I see regularly in shops, although it’s quite easy to find the plant to grow. Consider yourself under orders to grow it in your herb garden or in a pot, now.

If you can, make the salad a bit ahead, so the lemon thyme has the opportunity to infuse the dressing a little.

What do I need?

  •  4-6 medium to large potatoes
  • 2 or 3 eggs
  • 2 spring onions (scallions/green onions).
    Don’t use the white part, if you want to keep this recipe low FODMAP
  • 3/4 cup or so of mayonnaise
    Some mayos contain gluten, so check the label
  • 1/4 cup Greek yoghurt
  • A spring or two of lemon thyme
  • Small bunch of fresh parsley
  • 1 tsp or so of cracked black pepper

What do I do?

Cut the potatoes into roughly 1 inch cubes (for some strange reason, I find myself falling back into Imperial measurements at times) and place them into a saucepan of cold water, and put it on to boil. Bring it to the boil and cook the potatoes for about ten minutes, maybe a little less. Check them with a skewer or small knife to see if they’re tender. Be sure not to overcook them or the whole salad will turn to mush.

When they’re cooked, drain them and leave them to cool. I often run a bit of cold water over them for half a minute, to help them along.

While the potatoes are cooking, put the eggs in a small saucepan and hard-boil them. When they’re boiled (and cooled!) peel the shells off, and put the eggs aside.

Combine the mayonnaise, the yoghurt, chopped spring onions, the pepper, chopped parsley, and leaves stripped off the lemon thyme. If the lemon thyme is flowering, make sure to include those as well. The small, pink flowers make a nice visual touch.

When the potatoes and eggs are cooled, cut the eggs into quarters and put them in a large bowl with the potatoes, tip in the mayonnaise mixture and gently toss to combine. Don’t get too enthusiastic with the tossing, or you’ll start breaking up the potatoes, and it all gets a bit mushy.

Great with a summer barbecue and a refreshing, chilled white.

Jamaican Jerked Chicken

November 20, 2011

Apparently this is Jamaican, although to be honest, I wouldn’t know Jamaican food if I fell over it. It reminds me very much of Moroccan food, with its blend of spiciness and sweet tang.

You can use chicken pieces for this, but lately I’ve found myself preferring to buy a whole chicken and cut it up myself. A good pair of kitchen scissors comes in handy for this.

For some reason, I forgot to take a photo of this, so let your imagination run wild!

What do I need?

  • Whole chicken, or 1 to 1 ½ kilos of chicken pieces
  • A good dash of olive oil
  • 4 crushed garlic cloves
  • 1 large red or purple onion
  • 2 chillis
  • A handful of chopped, fresh parsley
  • ¼ cup of cider or red wine vinegar
  • ¼ cup (packed) of brown sugar
  • ½ tsp ground cinnamon
  • Generous pinch of ground cloves
  • 1 ½ tsp ground allspice
  • ¼ cup of lime juice
  • ½ cup fresh or tinned pineapple pieces
  • ½ sweet potato, peeled and cut into long slices (like chips, basically)

What do I do?

Cut up the chicken, or just take the chicken pieces, and put them in a large bowl, or preferably a marinating container (Tupperware make a good one).

Combine the rest of the ingredients, except the sweet potato and pineapple, and process lightly, then pour over the chicken and marinate for between 2 and 6 hours.

Put the marinated chicken, the pineapple and sweet potato in a baking dish and cook for an hour to an hour and a half. If you’ve got a clay pot, like one of the old Romertopfs, or even a tagine or suchlike, this recipe cooks beautifully in one of those. Allow a little longer cooking time with a clay pot.

Serve with some rice – try stirring a knob of butter and a sprinkle of saffron through the rice, to give it some colour and flavour.

To give it even more of a Moroccan feel, try adding a good sized teaspoon or two of coriander to the marinade, and serve it with couscous instead of rice.

Gluten-Free Lemon Tart

November 18, 2011
gluten-free-lemon-tart

Tarte au Citron, or Lemon tart to us plebs, is a French classic that’s surprisingly easy to make, yet definitely hard to beat.

A note on Tart Pastry:

I find tart pastry difficult to handle at the best of times; this gluten-free recipe isn’t any easier. The good news is that tart pastry is highly malleable and presses back together easily, so if it falls apart on you (almost bound to happen), just patch the pieces back together in the tart tin. It’s kind of like playing with play-dough all over again!

**Update** I’ve corrected a couple of errors in the pastry recipe, sorry: slight change to the amount of butter, plus I neglected to specify to use only the egg yolk. I hope I haven’t contributed to too many kitchen disasters!

What do I need?

Tart Pastry

  • 1 cup fine rice flour
  • 1/2 cup maize corn flour*
  • 1/2 cup soy flour†
  • 1 tsp guar or xanthan gum
  • 2 tbsp icing sugar
  • 2/3 cup butter, chilled and diced
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence
  • Some cold water
  • 1/4 cup of ground almonds makes an interesting variation

Lemon Curd Filling

  • 6 eggs
  • 3/4 cup caster sugar
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • Grated rind and juice of four lemons
  • Icing sugar for dusting††

What do I do?

Tart Pastry

Sift the flours and salt into a large bowl. Add the butter and rub it in with your fingers until the mixture has the texture of breadcrumbs. Stir in the icing sugar, and the ground almond if you’re using it. Then add the egg yolk, vanilla essence, and a couple of teaspoons of cold water and mix the dough until the dough starts to come together. Bring the dough together with your hands and shape it into a ball.

Or you can be lazy and do the whole thing with a quick whiz of the food processor.

Wrap the ball of dough in plastic wrap and put it in the fridge for at least 1/2 an hour. Use the time to make the lemon filling!

Roll the pastry out into a large circle on a lightly floured surface until it’s large enough to line your tart tin. Do your best to pick the pastry up (see my shortcrust recipe page for tips on how to do this); slide a palette knife or egg lift under it first, as it tends to stick to the bench.

Line the tart tin with the pastry, trimming the edge and pinching the pastry up a little to make a slightly raised border around the rim.

Heat the oven to 200°C/400°F. Rest the pastry case in the fridge again for another 10 minutes.

To bake the case blind, line it with greaseproof paper, or maybe foil, then fill it with rice, dried beans, or baking beads if you’ve actually bothered getting them. I have a container of rice in the pantry that’s especially put aside for baking blind. God knows how long it’s been there now, but it’s still doing the job fine!

Bake the case blind for 10 minutes, then remove it from the oven. Reduce the temperature to 180°C/350°F. Remove the rice, beans or beads from the pastry case.

Lemon Curd Filling

Beat the eggs, and put them in a pan with the sugar and butter. Stir continuously over low heat until the sugar has dissolved completely. Add the lemon juice and rind, and continue to heat the mixture over low heat. Keep stirring the mixture continuously, until the lemon curd has thickened slightly.

Pour the lemon curd into the blind baked pastry case, and bake for another 20 minutes, until the curd has just set.

Transfer the tart to a wire rack to cool.

Dust it with the icing sugar just before serving. Serve with whipped cream, creme fraiche, or even better, some incredible King Island Vanilla Bean yoghurt (seriously – this stuff is amazing! It’s more like whipped cream than yoghurt).

* Make sure it is proper maize cornflour, not “cornflour” that is actually finely ground wheat flour – check the ingredients.

† Remember that unless you buy debittered soy flour, it’s going to taste pretty nasty until it’s baked – No licking the spoon!

†† Make sure it’s pure icing sure, not an icing sugar/flour mix.

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