Roasted baby carrots with cumin for Easter

Upon smelling a new perfume I was given for my birthday, Kid 1 made the following comment.

Kid 1: It smells like melted Easter eggs.

I am not sure whether to be displeased or not. I envisage myself swanning around attracting small chocolate-loving children and perhaps even the E.B. (Easter Bunny) himself. Not sure if that’s what the perfumier was aiming for when creating this parfum. ‘Eau de Chocolate Easter Egg.’ Give it a whirl, it’s all the rage in the Easter circles.

If you are looking for side dishes to accompany your Easter feast this coming weekend, please consider this wee recipe idea. Calling anything ‘baby’ that you are about to devour and consume has always creeped me out a bit. However, there is no escaping the fact that young veggies are usually the most tender and sweet. Let alone, super cute. Just like a real life human baby! Rest assured, only vegetable babies were harmed in the making of this dish. (That’s OK, right? Told you the whole thing is just, well, odd.)

These carrots were sweet with lovely undertones of the earthy cumin. Tender and juicy, I am positive that all, including the Easter Bunny, will love them.

ROASTED BABY CARROTS WITH CUMIN

WHAT YOU NEED
1 bunch baby carrots
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tbl butter, unsalted
Salt
Pepper
2 tbl white wine

WHAT YOU DO
Preheat oven to 180C.
Scrub or lightly peel the carrots.
Place in a foil package, add the cumin, salt and pepper to taste. Dob the butter over the carrots, add the wine and close the foil package.
Roast in the oven for 30 minutes or until tender.
Try it with http://cheergerm.com/2015/03/08/a-cheergerm-gluten-free-roasted-vegetable-lasagna/ or http://cheergerm.com/2015/01/02/millefeuilles-aux-tomates-et-lentilles-and-a-lady-crush/ or http://cheergerm.com/2014/11/09/a-side-of-herb-polenta-bake-and-an-aside/

A Cheergerm Creation


Gluten free lime yoghurt cake and awash in tears

Our house was awash in tears on the morning I made this cake. Our mostly calm before school routine was offset by self-disappointment, childlike hurt and a more grown-up, deeper sadness.

All surfaces seemed awash with liquid. Bench tops, faces, cupboards and eyes reflected a watery glow. We were in fear of drowning. Even in the car, tears continued to flow and school drop off was a sombre and quiet occasion.

Upon returning home, I was relieved to see our house had not been swept into the valley and that Noah and his Ark were not loading our dogger friend, cockatoos and other assorted wildlife on board.

From the fruit basket these gem like, green, freely given, home grown organic limes greeted me. They went a little way to soothing my aching head and worn out from weeping eyes. They spoke to me in limey voices (‘hello guv’nor!’) of a sweet something, that would greet my citrus loving progeny upon their return from school.

There is nothing like the smell of lime to put some pep in your step and allow a breath to be taken. This lovely cake is tangy from the citrus and Greek yoghurt with an extra fruity hit from the olive oil. The first recipe trial was fine, the second tweaked version you find here, is damned fine. And not a salty tear in sight.

Note to self, never leave a cake and the camera alone with The Yak, not even for a moment.

GLUTEN FREE LIME, YOGHURT AND OLIVE OIL CAKE

WHAT YOU NEED
1 cup full fat Greek yoghurt
2 eggs
1/3 cup olive oil
1/4 cup lime juice (this is roughly the juice of one lime)
Zest of one lime
1/4 tsp vanilla bean paste, vanilla bean powder or 1/2 tsp vanilla essence
210g gluten free flour (1 cup/140g gf plain flour, 1/4 cup/40g almond meal, 1/4 cup/40g brown rice flour)
3/4 cup raw caster sugar (or white caster sugar)
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsps baking powder

Topping
1 tbl brown sugar (I used raw caster sugar)
1 tbl extra lime zest (I used the zest of one lime)

HOW YOU DO IT
Preheat oven to 180C and grease and line a 22cm springform tin with baking paper.
Mix all the wet ingredients including the lime zest in one bowl until well combined. (If using vanilla essence or paste add it here.)
Sift all the dry ingredients into a large bowl. (If using vanilla powder, add here.)
Pour the combined wet ingredients into the dry ingredients bowl and using a wooden spoon, mix until just combined.
Pour into the prepared baking tin and cook for approx 40-45 minutes. The cake is ready when it has browned on top and a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.
Cool in the tin for ten minutes, then turn out and cool on a wire rack.
When the cake is completely cool sprinkle with the topping mixture. This is delicious served with a big dollop of yoghurt on the side.
Feel free to use lemons if you can’t find limes.

A Cheergerm adaptation of a recipe from the blog Souvlaki for the Soul which was in turn adapted from a Smitten Kitchen recipe.

http://souvlakiforthesoul.com/2011/05/lime-yoghurt-and-olive-oil-cake


Parenting and cauliflower curry

Ten years later, I do not have this parenting thing down pat.

Kid 1: Mum, I am scared that an axe murderer is going to kill me.
Me: That is highly unlikely darling. Good night.
5 minutes later
Kid 1: Mum, can you come here please?
Me: Yes?
Kid 1: You telling me that ‘it’s highly unlikely’ does NOT make me feel better.
Me: Oh, all right then, it will never happen, how’s that?
Kid 1: OK, now I feel better.

Thanks for the parenting tip Kid 1.

Kid 1 will probably never eat this curry, he hates anything spicy. We don’t care, more for us. This curry benefits from a hit of bright, pungent mustard seeds; I love the little buggers. After a spot of googlebumbling research I discovered these wee dudes are high in a variety of B vitamins, minerals, anti-oxidants and phytyo-nutrients. (Phyto what?) Phyto-nutrients are intrinsically natural chemicals found in plant matter that may help prevent disease and keep your body working properly. Mustard seeds and their oils have traditionally been used to relieve muscle pain, arthritis and rheumatism pain.

Whatever a mustard seeds health benefit, this curry has good depth of flavour along with a punch of heat from the chilli. Add more chilli if you like but we enjoy the balance of flavours. If you aren’t a chilli fan, reduce the amount back to 1/4 of a teaspoon or you could leave it out. (No judgement from this Cheergerm….really, you don’t like chilli? What’s wrong with you??)

CAULIFLOWER CURRY

WHAT YOU NEED
2 tbl oil , rice bran or grapeseed oil
1 onion, finely chopped
A 3cm piece of peeled and grated fresh ginger
2 cloves crushed or grated garlic
1 tsp brown mustard seeds
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground turmeric
1/2 tsp ground paprika
1/2 tsp chilli powder (the hot stuff)
1 tsp salt
Dry curry leaves about 10 (I only had 4)
1 cauliflower head, cored and cut into small florets , about 2-3 cm large
1/2 cup water to start with, you will need more
1 handful fresh chopped coriander

HOW YOU DO IT
Sauté onion in oil in a large frypan over medium heat for about 3-5 minutes until soft.
Add the ginger and garlic, cook for 1 minute.
Add all the spices, salt, curry leaves and cook for 2 minutes to release their flavour, stirring gently.
Add the cauliflower, stir well to coat the cauliflower in the spices.
Add 1/2 cup water and simmer on a low to medium heat for about about 50 minutes. If the curry starts to get dry, add a bit more water. I added just over a cup throughout the entire cooking process. By the end, the curry should be mostly dry with a small bit of liquid but soft and beginning to fall apart.
Take the curry off the heat, taste and see if it needs extra salt then stir through the chopped coriander.
Serve with rice, quinoa or whatever takes your fancy. We had it with brown basmati rice.

A Cheergerm creation


A Cheergerm gluten free roasted vegetable lasagna

There is a raging battle of supremacy in our family for the grand title of ‘Queen of the Veggie Lasagna.’ It’s not as if we have any other ruling status to aspire to, unless of course it was The Precious Princess of Dunny Cleaning or The Lady of the Laundry. Perhaps we should aspire to the title of The Duchess of Finding Lost Shoes and Spare Socks?

Battles aside, all of our vegetable lasagna versions have a different twist and they are all scrumptious. A lasagna is such a practical ‘big gathering’ dish as you are able to prepare it the day before you need it. Come the day of the party, you can smugly swan around the house preening and cleaning. Safe in the knowledge that the lasagna resides in stately grace, awaiting to be baked. In this case, we were enjoying a joint birthday celebration for Kid 2’s eighth birthday, as well as my birthday. (Thanks, turning 21 was tonnes of fun.) As such, I had prepared my Cheergerm veggie lasagna the day before.

It ain’t traditional Italian, more a mixed breed of an old school lasagna and a hippy vegetarian version. I know that the grated apple and carrot in the tomato sauce is based on a vague memory I have of a Julie Stafford recipe from the healthy eating cookbook, The Taste of Life. This was a 1980’s cookbook that was well used by Mum back in ‘the day’. This lasagna is unctuous and hearty. The use of the ricotta in the white sauce gives it a lighter taste. Yes, it does contain a shedload of veggies and whilst it looks overwhelming, it really isn’t as much work is it at first appears. ( Ah, who I am kidding but it’s worth it!) There are a lot of photos in the post, I took the ‘step-by-step’ approach quite figuratively. Go figure.

CHEERGERM GLUTEN FREE ROASTED VEGETARIAN LASAGNA

WHAT YOU NEED
Roasted vegetables
2 medium eggplants
1 large sweet potato
4 medium zucchini
1 red pepper
1 head garlic
Tomato sauce
1 onion, diced
400 g mushrooms, diced
700g bottle sugo (or passata, which is basically a tomatoey sauce)
1 tin chopped tomatoes
1 large carrot, grated
1 green apple, grated
Fresh basil, a big handful, torn
Ricotta sauce
2 tbl Butter
2 tbl gluten free plain flour
1 1/2 cups milk
400g Ricotta
Other
1 box 200g gluten free instant lasagna sheets
Grated mozzarella (2 cups, 200g)
40g Parmesan, grated
Lots of Olive oil
Salt and pepper

HOW YOU DO IT

Roast Vegetables
Preheat the oven to 200C (180 fan forced).
Cut the eggplants (I peel mine), sweet potato (peeled) and zucchini into one cm thicknesses. Place on trays lined with baking paper, oil both sides of the vegetables and season with salt and pepper lightly.
Place halved red pepper and head of garlic onto a tray and drizzle with olive oil.
Put the trays into the oven, turn the veggies over after 15 minutes, cook for another 10 minutes until the veggies are tender. You may have to leave the head of garlic in for another five minutes.
Allow the vegetables to cool.
Once the capsicum has cooled down, peel and cut into thin strips.
Take the head of roasted garlic, peel and squash up the peeled cloves. (This is to add to the red sauce.)

The tomato sauce
Sauté onion in 2 tbl olive oil over medium heat until they start to soften, add the mushrooms and fry them until most of the moisture is evaporated.
Add the sugo, tin of tomatoes, grated apple and carrot. Season with 1 tsp salt and some generous grinds of black pepper.
Cook for about 45 minutes until the mixture has thickened and reduced. Check again for salt, it may need more.
Take off the heat, add the torn basil and squashed up roasted garlic, stir gently.

Ricotta Sauce
Melt the butter in a medium size saucepan over a low to medium heat.
Add the flour and cook for 3 -4 minutes until the mixture (roux) starts to bubble.
Take off the heat and whisk in the cold milk. (This method of adding cold liquid to a hot roux helps to reduce the risk of a lumpy sauce.)
Put the sauce back on the heat and stir constantly with a wooden spoon until the mixture starts to thicken. Cook the white sauce for a few minutes, continuing to stir constantly.
Add the ricotta cheese, pepper and taste for salt before adding any.
Take off the heat.

Assembling the lasagna
Oil your lasagna dish. I use a Pyrex, 3 litre dish.
Place approximately five big spoons (a serving spoon size) of sauce on the bottom of the dish.
Place 4 lasagna sheets on top and spoon on more tomato sauce, about 4 spoonfuls.
Put all the eggplant in a single layer, place the red pepper strips on top then layer on half of the ricotta sauce. Smooth it out.
Place 4 more lasagna sheets on top of the ricotta sauce, you will probably need to snap one sheet in half to add as well. (Press down gently.)
Place another layer of tomato sauce, around 4 spoonfuls.
Add the sweet potato and zucchini. (It’s looking full by this point.)
Place a few more spoons of tomato sauce and spread it out. (I usually have some left, which I freeze.)
Spread the remaining ricotta sauce on top, then sprinkle with the combined mozarella and grated Parmesan.
At this point you can place the lasagna in the fridge and cook later that day or the next. (When doing this, make sure you bring the uncooked lasagna out of the fridge for an hour before cooking, so it isn’t stone cold going into the oven.) If you are eating straight away, place in a 180C oven for approximately 45 min to one hour until golden brown and bubbling.
Let stand for 20 minutes before serving. This helps the lasagna to re-solidify a bit and will be easier to portion and serve.
Now you can lie down and rest for a day or two.
It really is worth the effort.
Truly.
Serving Notes: Serves 12. Best served with a simple green salad and crusty bread of some kind.

A Cheergerm creation.

http://www.juliestafford.com.au/about-julie.php


Roasted sumac asparagus and rap

Macklemore, aka Ben Haggerty, is part of a rap duo called Macklemore and Ryan Lewis. These modern day musical poets produced an album the lads and I love, named The Heist. Imagine tuneful rap with a social conscience. Naturally, half of the album is full of ‘swear’ words, hence, the boys do NOT listen to those songs.

Kid 2 was recently singing this song he made up. I wrote it down verbatim.

Macklemore swears a lot
In his songs
But he’s an awesome singer and rapper
I never heard him say a rude word
But I know that he does
He sings them quietly
It is the ‘S’ word
But I wouldn’t know it if I heard it
My maniac mum loves Macklemore even if he swears a lot
Which is weird cause she doesn’t like swearing
Even though she says the ‘S’ word

Just to be clear.

I never did.

Well, I may have but I am NOT a maniac.

This is more of an idea than a recipe, albeit a delicious idea. The lemony sumac was the bomb when paired with the sweet roasted asparagus.

If only McDonalds sold these little darlings in french fry boxes. ‘Will you have asparagus with that?’

ROASTED SUMAC ASPARAGUS

WHAT YOU NEED
2 or 3 bunches asparagus
Olive oil to drizzle
1 tsp sumac
Salt and pepper

HOW YOU DO IT
Preheat oven to 180C and line a baking tray with baking paper.
Wash and trim the asparagus, place on the tray.
Drizzle the asparagus in olive oil, add the sumac and season with salt and pepper to your taste. Mix well to ensure the asparagus is well coated in the seasoning.
Cook the asparagus for ten to 15 minutes until tender.
Remove from oven and et voila! As easy as that. A great accompaniment to a vast array of whatever takes your fancy. That evening we ate it with roasted carrots and pork fillet steaks that had been marinated in mustard seeds, honey, oil and vinegar.

A Cheergerm creation


A little bit of what you fancy and gluten free banana bread

A particular comment on a television show we were watching recently has stuck in my mind. It was made by a British woman who had reached the magnificent age of 101. She was in remarkable good nick and during the interview had said ‘People always ask me, what is the secret to your longevity? And I always say, a little bit of what you fancy does you good but don’t make a pig of yourself.’

In this age of don’t eat this, eat more of that, eat less of that, eat only that; her view resonated with my food philosophy. Which would probably be ‘a little bit of this and a little bit of that, just don’t go nuts’. I will clarify this by saying that I do sometimes go overboard, being the happily imperfect human being I am.

Fanaticism and radicalism have never sat well with me. Sometimes it feels that my attempt at viewing food in a well balanced manner is under attack, albeit, by a well meaning barrage of good intentions. (It’s ok, no paranoia here, it is completely understood that it’s not directed purely at me.)

The issue is, as a devourer of new food information and being an open minded wee Cheergerm, it floats my boat to learn new things and experiment with different ingredients and recipes. It’s all about keeping it in perspective. Continuing to still enjoy what is loved as well as opening my mind up to new ideas. So the mantra of ‘a little bit of what you fancy’ is compelling in whatever direction that may take me.

Teresa Cutter, aka ‘The Healthy Chef’ has some great recipes. What I love about her is the many alternatives she provides in her recipes and so far, they have all worked. Three out of four CheergermYakatarians adore her nutritious (read low fat, low refined sugar) version of banana bread. I made a little adjustment and replaced some of the almond meal with sorghum flour to attain a lighter texture. Try using a stick blender to zshoosh the mixture as it really keeps the texture nice and light. The ground flaxseed acts as a fantastic natural binder in lieu of gluten.

This loaf is subtly bananaish, light and moist without too much squelchy almond meal texture. A hint of vanilla and cinnamon. Not sweet, at all…I mean, really not sweet but quite delicious with a smear of the good stuff, yeah, we are talking about butter. Give it a try, you might just fancy it.

GLUTEN FREE BANANA BREAD

WHAT YOU NEED
300g ripe, smashed banana (I only had 240g but it turned out fine)
3 eggs
60g/2 tbl maple syrup or honey
1/4 tsp vanilla powder or 1 tsp vanilla
60g or 1/4 cup grapeseed oil, macadamia nut oil or cold pressed olive oil
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp bicarb soda/baking soda and 1 tbsp lemon juice
1 cup almond meal (120g)
3/4 cup sorghum flour (80g)
1/4 cup ground flaxseed

HOW YOU DO IT
Preheat oven to 160C.
Oil a loaf tin and line the bottom with baking paper. The size I used was 13cm x 22cm. The original recipe used 10 1/2 cm wide by 26cm long.
Combine smashed banana, eggs, honey, vanilla, oil, cinnamon, bicarb soda and lemon juice (the lemon juice activates the bicarb) into a large bowl and mix by hand or better still, use a stick blender or big blender of some kind.
Add the almond meal, sorghum flour and flaxseed and mix thoroughly.
Spoon batter into the tin and bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.
Cover the top with foil if it starts to overbrown. I covered my loaf at 40 minutes and it was ready at 55 minutes.
Remove from the oven and allow to cool before turning out.
Slice and serve with a creamy smear of butter.

A slight adaptation from Teresa Cutter
https://www.thehealthychef.com/2013/01/gluten-free-banana-bread/


The Way of the Pierogi

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Before the Lovely R departed back to Poland, I was lucky enough to experience a hands on pierogi lesson. Pierogi is a Polish style dough dumpling stuffed with various fillings. R’s English is pretty darned good, despite her insistence that it isn’t. It is miles better than my Polish. (Ummm, non-existent.) As our lesson progressed, I tried to ask if she ever eats the pierogi straight after being boiled or does she always let it sit, then pan-fry and eat it. As we did on our lovely Polish picnic day.

Using her English/Polish dictionary, I found the word ‘boil’ and pointed at the translation. Horrified, the Lovely R vehemently shook her head and exclaimed ‘No, no!’ We spent a good few minutes, toing and froing, trying to understand what the other was saying. I showed her the dictionary again, this time, my finger was no long blocking the second meaning of the word ‘boil.’ It turns out that the first meaning had been an actual ‘boil’ that appears on the skin, a somewhat unsavoury medical condition.

Much laughter ensued.

This is one picture heavy post. I really tried to capture the intricacies of this process and I hope I have done the Lovely R justice. You can make the dough first then prepare the filling whilst the dough rests. R will often make the filling the night before then make the dough the next day. The dough also freezes well. She works fast. It is harder than it looks to make the dough stick, you must use all of your finger strength. No namby pamby weak fingers please. (Which obviously mine are.) The lovely R’s advice. ‘Practice will make you a master and Be Strong.’

For that is The Way of the Pierogi.

PIEROGI

WHAT YOU NEED
Pierogi Dough
1 kilo plain flour
400ml boiling water and extra ready if needed
1/3 cup Olive oil
1 tsp Salt

HOW YOU DO IT
Add oil to the flour then add the water gradually, you may not need all the water, or you may need a dash more. We used all 400ml and added another 3 tbl boiling water.
Bring the mixture together in the bowl then turn out onto a floured bench or board and knead until the gluten is activated, approximately 5 minutes.
Cover the dough in clingfilm and rest for half an hour minimum, up to one hour maximum at room temperature .
Flour a tray to place the pierogi on, and flour your workspace.
When the dough is soft and springy it is ready. Take a large ball of dough, around the size of a large orange.
Using a rolling pin, roll the dough, moving the dough regularly to avoid sticking, R worked it quite hard and it is quite elastic. Roll to approx 1mm thickness.
Using a glass or cutter about 8cm to cut out the pierogi shapes.
Use the scraps and add back into the dough.
Place a large teaspoon of filling onto each round of dough. (R works quickly.)
To shape the pierogi, pick up one pierogi and fold in into a crescent shape, press filling into the dough all the way and start to crimp around the edges.
As R says, Be Strong! Then turn over and crimp the other side. If there is too much filling, press it in with your index finger before crimping.
Don’t be afraid to pull the dough out as you crimp, you must have a good space between the filling and the dough so the two sides stick together without filling getting in the way. Again, Be Strong!
This filling used up about half of the dough made, we rolled out another batch once the first dough was used up. You can freeze leftover dough.

Filling
WHAT YOU NEED
3 potatoes, cooked and mashed
1 tbl oil and 1 tbl butter
1 medium onion, finely diced
300g-350g farm style cottage cheese, similar to Polish cheese. (Approximately the same weight of potatoes as cheese, with a tad extra cheese. Cheese must be slightly sour.
1 tbl Veggie stock powder (this is not mandatory)
1 1/2 tsp dried marjoram
Salt to taste, (more if not using vegetable stock)
Pepper to taste

HOW YOU DO IT
Cook onion in oil and butter until golden brown. Cool slightly.
Grate the cheese then add the cheese, stock powder (if using), marjoram, salt and pepper to the potato mixture.
Add half of the onion mixture to the cheese and potato mixture and mix well. R used her clean hands. The other half of the onion mixture is sprinkled on top of the cooked pierogi.
R usually makes the filling the day before or makes the filling whilst the dough is resting.

To cook pierogi
1 tsp salt
2 tbl oil
Fill a large saucepan over half way and bring to the boil.
Add about 8-10 pierogi at a time. When they float to the surface and have cooked for about 3-4 minutes, and feel tender, they are ready.
Meat pierogi take a bit longer, about 4-5 minutes.
You can eat them straight away topped with fried onion or refrigerate and pan fry on each side later in butter and oil, then top with the onion. (Which answered the infamous ‘boiling’ question, you can eat them straight away or wait and pan-fry them later. I have even re-poached them to keep them as softer type dumplings. It’s up to you!)

COOKING NOTES
If you are not cooking the pierogi straight away, cover the tray with a tea towel until ready to boil. It is ok if they get a bit drier and with a bit of air, it means they are less likely to stick.

Different filling ideas include a sweet variation of fresh blueberries. Do not add any sugar as it will bring out the juices and the pierogi will collapse. Serve them with a a sugar and butter sauce and sweet whipped cream.

Another popular vegetarian filling is finely chopped sauerkraut, dried mushrooms and onion. Meat fillings include ground lamb, pork and beef variations. When making meat pierogi, make the crescent shape then bring it around to the corners and squeeze into a tortellini shape. (See the photos at the very end. )

We did experiment with a gluten free version which was pretty darned tasty, however, it requires a tad more refining, so stay tuned.

Cheergerm Feb 1510

IMG_7792


A farewell afternoon tea with mini mushroom and feta frittatas

Last Sunday, The Mothership and Mr Polish hosted a family farewell afternoon tea for the Lovely R and Gorgeous A before they headed back to Poland. In direct hospitable response to the Lovely R’s Polish picnic generosity, the pressure was on to reciprocate. (In all reality, most of our get together’s involve some fairly tasty food due to a general love of eating, and eating well.)

The Cheergerm contribution to this slap up were dainty little mushroom and feta frittatas. Puffy, light and earthy from the thyme and mushroom; they were a nice addition to a motza of delicious afternoon tea delights.

This was the kind of spread from an Enid Blyton storybook. I half expected old Moonface himself to pop his head in and say ‘Hullo, oh, what have we here? What a top drawer afternoon tea. May I have a piece of cake?’ (To which the answer would have been a resounding, why yes Moonface, help yourself!) There was a pumpkin and veggie frittata, crispy homemade sausage rolls, dreamy gluten free lamingtons, fluffy pikelets, a gorgeous rich missisippi mud cake and spanokopita. The Polish contingent provided a delicious apple cake and peach cake (that had also been freed of gluten) and a vibrant marshmallow and Oreo cheesecake.

We sat in the sun, ate, talked and laughed, then ate some more. These beautiful people left a little bit of Poland behind and we hope that a little bit of Australia is forever tucked away in a corner of their hearts.

MINI MUSHROOM AND FETA FRITTATAS

WHAT YOU NEED
1 tbl olive oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 small zucchini, finely diced
200g mushrooms, finely chopped
6 eggs
100ml cream
1 tbl thyme
200g soft Danish style feta, crumbled
1/2 tsp salt
Pepper to taste

HOW YOU DO IT
Lightly oil a 12 pan non-stick muffin tin.
Heat olive oil in a frypan and cook onions over a medium heat for a few minutes.
Add the zucchini and cook until they start to soften.
Add the mushrooms and cook the mixture until any liquid from the mushrooms is reduced. Season lightly and allow to this mixture to cool.
Preheat oven to 180C or 170C fan-forced.
Beat the eggs and cream together in a medium sized bowl.
Stir in the mushroom mixture, thyme and gently fold in the feta. Check for salt and pepper, add more to taste.
Spoon the mixture evenly into the prepared tin and cook for 20-25 minutes, until puffy and golden. They will deflate as they cool, so don’t freak out.
Serve warm or cold, they would also be great for a picnic.

A Cheergerm creation


Ginger Kisses and 80’s Rock Stars

80’s rock stars, how I loved your imperfect teeth, your curly hair, your baggy pants and billowing white pirate shirts. Your castaway on a desert island looks, your exuberance and subtle sexuality.

No overt flaunting of your nibbles and nobbles, be you lady or man. Just a luscious and gorgeous sensuality in the way you moved and dressed.

I am talking about you; David Bowie, Michael Hutchence and all of INXS. Yes, you Sting, the strangely sexy Prince, The Police, U2, The Church and The Cure. Yes; you Split Enz, Crowded House, Pat Benatar, Blondie and Siouxsie and the Banshees. Don’t worry, I haven’t forgotten Duran Duran, Tears For Fears, Icehouse, Depeche Mode and New Order.

If I could, I would give you all a big Ginger Kiss. Rest assured, I am not smothering my lips in ginger sauce and going in for the pash. (Not that I wouldn’t mind giving a few of the above a smooch or two.) I am talking about that delightful New Zealand cake like biscuit, sandwiched with a buttery, mock cream type icing.

My childhood is embedded with memories of my paternal grandmother Nana J opening a packet of these wee puffy clouds from heaven. The spicy smell of them would waft towards you and your mouth watered with great expectation. Mr Bagpipes has memories of his mum baking them from scratch back in the day but by the time us grandkids had come along, Nana was busy running the business side of things for their trucking business. So, opening a packet of these ginger kisses was quicker by far. Nana still baked and cooked, her pavlova roll was legendary.

Baking these has been on the old ‘to do’ list for a while and I was very happy with the result. Warming, gingery and sweet. They were a real treat. Sure they weren’t quite as puffy as the store purchased ones, as I used a wholemeal flour but they had more substance. Try using the same amount of plain flour if you want an even lighter result.

GINGER KISSES

WHAT YOU NEED
115g butter, softened
85g caster sugar
1 egg, room temperature
2 tsp golden syrup, placed in a small dish and warmed slightly
125g/1 cup wholemeal flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp ginger
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tbsp hot water

Filling
30g butter
120g icing sugar, sifted
1/2 tsp vanilla essence or 1/4 tsp vanilla powder
2 tbsp boiling water
1 tsp ginger or 1 tbsp preserved ginger

HOW YOU DO IT
Preheat oven to 180C or 170C non-fan forced oven, line two baking trays with baking paper.
Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, then beat in the egg, followed by the golden syrup.
Sift together the flour, baking powder and spices.
Fold the sifted dry ingredients into the butter mixture and lastly, stir in the baking soda, dissolved in the hot water.
Put the mixture in small teaspoonfuls (I did large teaspoonfuls and they spread quite a bit) on the trays, or use a piping bag with a 1cm/1/2 inch opening. (I am not a fan of the intricate art of piping so I didn’t.)
Bake for about ten minutes, then remove to a cooling rack.

Finishing
Making the filling by beating the butter, icing sugar and vanilla together. Slowly add the boiling water a little at a time and continue to beat until the mixture is very light and creamy. Once the icing looks light and fluffy enough, stop adding the water as you may not need all of it. (I added too much water too quickly and had to add extra icing sugar, so my filling was a little heavier than it should have been.)
Pair up the Ginger Kisses, matching the sizes, smear a small amount of filling on each lower half and stick them together.
Store airtight, this made about 12 very large Ginger Kisses, next time I will make them a tad smaller.

Recipe from Ladies A Plate, Traditional Home Baking by Alexa Johnston. Published by Penguin Books 2008


Picnic Polish style and a cake for lazy people

To celebrate the arrival of our stepdads sister (let’s call her The Lovely R) from Poland, a picnic was organised at the lovely McKell Park in Brooklyn, a mere 25 minute drive from the homestead. This cute wee park is leafy and green, has a number of picnic tables and overlooks the beautiful Hawkesbury River. You can lounge around in the shade, chow down, then when everybody needs a spot of cooling off, it’s just a short walk down to the enclosed swimming area at the base of the hill.

The sky was as clear as a bell and the sun had risen this morning saying in its best Spike Milliganesque voice, ‘Good morning Sydney, today I am going to burn as hot as an Italian pizza oven and fry you all into tiny crispy bacon like pieces.’ In other words, it was damn hot. Carnivorous chickens roamed freely and battled with brush turkeys for scraps that had fallen at children’s feet. Frightening and delighting, simultaneously.

The best thing about this picnic was that The Lovely R had gone cooking mad and conjured up a number of amazing Polish dishes as her contribution to the picnic. R hails from Boleslawiec, a town in the south west part of Poland. I can happily say that very little cooking was done by anyone else in our family and we were all super excited to wrap our laughing gear around the amazing looking food. First up were stuffed capsicum/peppers, what’s not to love about a stuffed veggie? R had made a very tasty vegetarian version with rice and mushrooms and a heavenly meaty version. Both were cooked in a deliciously piquant tomato sauce.

R had also rustled up two different kinds of pierogi. (Yes, two, people. She doesn’t do things by halves and vegetarians by halves.) Pierogi are wee dumplings made of unleavened dough that are first boiled then pan fried and in this case, served with buttery fried onions on top. There was the vegetarian pierogi filled with cheese, potato and onion and the kolduny litewskie meat version with lamb mince, onion, peppers, garlic and marjoram. A fight almost broke out when divvying up the leftovers. I missed out. Just saying.

As if that wasn’t enough, The Lovely R had baked what she called ‘ciasto dla lenisych’, or The Cake for Lazy People. (An apt description for our family at this picnic.) A lovely yeasty, vanilla cake that sits in its batter state and bubbles away overnight before baking. She had topped it with ruby red plums and sweet nectarines. It was seriously good. As if we had not been spoiled enough, The Lovely R bestowed upon us some gorgeous handmade gifts. These included gorgeous ceramic glazed brooches made by a friend of hers as well as brightly coloured adorable local pottery (which bizarrely fit in with the chicken theme of the day) as well as scrumptious Polish caramels. Please stay here forever and look after us. Please.

This Cheergerm is pondering a lazier lifestyle, never cooking again and following other people’s picnics around, taking photos and scrounging food. I am also hoping for a pierogi lesson from The Lovely R before Poland (and her very hungry husband), call her home. In the spirit of full disclosure, we did score some leftover stuffed peppers and cake. So don’t feel too sorry for me. (I write this post with a face bulging full of a delicious Polish caramel with an oozy caramel centre…hello mumma….)

Hope you enjoy the new format.

http://www.hornsby.nsw.gov.au/media/documents/recreation-and-facilities/bushwalking/McKell-Park-walk.pdf

http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bolesławiec

http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bolesławiec_pottery