Monday, 5 January 2009

Christmas Cookies

I love making cut-out cookies. And I always think I'll love decorating them. These days, though, it always seems to be harder and more time-consuming than it was when I was little. And rarely do sugar cookies have the depth or interest in flavours that drop cookies do.

But Christmas is a time for decorating, and I've always liked playing around with new recipies, so I was willing to try the chocolate biscuit recipe provided in this month's cookie carnival.

Let me say, firstly, that my brothers - the main baked-goods eaters in this house - loved the chocolate cookies. And I liked them very much myself too. The cinnamon brought them alive, I think.

However, my dough was quite moist, and difficult to work with unless very cold. Still, I persevered, and even tried to get fancy with the decorating. My (slightly disapointing) results are here;

This last one is not following any of the recipes provided. Instead, it's a gingerbread recipe, one I use every year to make our gingerbread house. The dough's easy to work with, and i decided to experiment with 'glass windows'. They didn't unfortunately work quite as well as I hoped (not as clear as they have been in the past - but neither were the sweets I used). But I'm quite pleased with this landscape one.

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Saturday, 20 December 2008

Christmas Carrot Cake

Wow...long time no blog. I've had a busy term, and that, combined with a lack of oven, has kept me from any creative cooking or baking. But I'm back home now, and the countdown to Christmas is well and truly on, so I've been catching up. Just a quick post to start off with though.

This term I've developed a love of carrot cake. Odd really, as it's not something I ever would have eaten before, but Sainsbury's do an absolutely amazing version...which you can't get here in Geneva of course. So I decided to make one myself.

Okay, this isn't really a proper carrot cake. There's plenty of carrot and spice in it, but other than that it's just a plain sponge cake. And the cream cheese frosting was a bit more liquid than I would have liked. But it was still yummy. I may have to experiment more once Christmas is over.

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Friday, 26 September 2008

Swiss Roll 1

I've wanted to try making a swiss roll for ages. It seems appropriate, given that I live in Switzerland. But I've always been kind of intimidated by the idea. I finally got around to searching for recipes a while back, and realised that they didn't sound that complicated. And as I have so much time on my hand.

The cake part of the swiss roll is fairly amazing - just egg, sugar and flour, it's ridiculously light. Unfortunately, I made a normal sized amount, then realised that my swiss roll tin is about twice the normal size. This led to a little experimentation, ending with an upside down loaf tin blocking part of the tray. I also didn't spread the mixture properly, so the cake came out slightly lumpy...

So aesthetically it wasn't perfect, but the combination of chocolate sponge and vanilla buttercream went down well with my brothers. I'm planning to try again before going back to college, and maybe experimenting a bit more with flavours. Particularly as I now have a new swiss roll tin...

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Monday, 22 September 2008

Cornish Pasties

Cornish pasties are one of those things. I rarely eat them, but when I do, I absolutely love them. And I've never made them before, even though i love working with pastry in any form. So when my brother, after a week at a rugby training camp, came home and asked if I could try, I readily accepted the challenge.

They turned out to be ridiculously simple and very tasty, though possibly a little bit on the dry side - which could be fixed by remembering to put the butter in before cooking...

The recipe I used made 5, which meant three were set aside for a later date. Well, there's only one left now. So it's a reasonable guess that my brother liked them too.

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Saturday, 13 September 2008

Steak and Mushroom Pie

My family have always had a thing about Australia and New Zealand. Maybe because my cousins live in Australia. Maybe because we had two wonderful whirl-wind trips to New Zealand when we were little. Regardless, we all talk often of going back. But it's a long way and its expensive, so we're not sure it'll ever happen.

But in the mean time, we've developed a soft spot for a traditional Australian favourite. Steak and mushroom pie. It's a recipe I dug out of an old Australian cook book of my mum's a couple of years ago, and it's one that my brothers request regularly. It's good, hearty, comforting food, ridiculously simple to make and exceptionally tasty.

Serves 6
plain flour for dusting
salt and pepper
1.25kg chuck steak, cut into dice.
250g button mushroom, quartered
2tbsp mixed chopped herbs
1tbsp ketchup
1tbsp brown sauce
500-600ml beef stock
1 sheet puff pastry (200g)
1 egg yolk

Set oven to 200°C
Mix the flour, nutmeg, salt and pepper together in a shallow bowl. Dust the steak pieces with flour so that each is completely coated and place in a pie dish.
Sprinkle over the chopped herbs, then put in the mushrooms.
Pour in the beef stock until it just covers the meat and mushrooms, then stir in the ketchup and brown sauce.
Cover with puff pastry, and brush this with the egg yolk.
Bake for 25-30 minutes until the pastry is golden. Remove and cover with aluminium foil, then put back into the oven at 185°C for two hours.
Serve straight from the dish.

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Thursday, 11 September 2008

Fresh Pasta

My first attempt at fresh pasta...

It's something I've been wanting to try for ages now, and I finally decided to give it a proper go. I was really happy with the results too. I made ravioli with a crab stuffing, and for a start, the crab was really tasty. It was just crabmeat, cream cheese and onion, but it's a mix I'd be tempted to make again on its own.

Then - the pasta. It worked surprisingly well. I used proper pasta flour, but was quite worried in the begining because the dough was very crumbly and dry. 10 minutes of kneading produced a lovely smooth shiny dough, so the effort was worth it. The only major problem I had with the pasta was rolling it out thin enough, but I think that's something that will come with practice. Besides, I don't have a pasta machine, so all the rolling was done by hand.

I was very happy whilst cooking it, because none of the filling came out of any of the ravioli. And served with parmesan and tomato was gorgeous. A bit time consuming, and definitely not an everyday dish, but something I'd make again on a special occasion. Maybe with a different filling (because my fussy brothers don't like crabmeat). But would definitely try again.

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Wednesday, 10 September 2008

Fried Colcannon

Colcannon is an Irish dish made from mashed potato, cabbage, salt, pepper and whatever other bits you fancy throwing in. It's absolutely delicious, and a great way to use up excess mashed potato (although I made some from scratch). I like to stir some mustard into the mash and serve it with fried bacon. It made my mum and me a very happy lunch yesterday - and if you've got everything left over, it's pretty quick too.

Mashed potato
boiled cabbage
salt and pepper
olive oil
bacon rashers.

1. mix the mustard and boiled cabbage into the mashed potato and season with salt and pepper.
2. fry the bacon in a dry pan and set aside.
3. add a tablespoon of olive oil to the pan and fry the mash for about 5 minutes, mixing occasionaly, until it starts to brown.
4. serve with the bacon.

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