Gougères.

In Australia, summer inevitably means cricket and cricket means I must share Boy Robin with what seem like endless games (both watching on tv and playing himself).

I can’t say I enjoy cricket.  I understand the rules enough to follow the game, but it seems that I watch for aaages while nothing happens, only to turn around to talk to someone at the very instant something interesting happens. And then, get in trouble for talking at a crucial moment.

However, one thing I can get behind is the food breaks.  I like that afternoon tea is considered important enough to have its own scheduled break (not to mention I just like afternoon tea).

I don’t watch Boy Robin play cricket (I did it once and once was enough for me).  However, if he is playing a home game, I drop in with some afternoon tea.  Gougères are my go to – quick, easy and super tasty.

Gougères

Gougères

Ingredients

  • 2/3 cup beer
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 113g butter, thickly sliced
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup self raising flour
  • 1/2 cup wholemeal flour
  • 4 eggs, room temperature
  • 1 tbsp seasoning (I usually add garlic chives), plus salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 1/2 cup cheddar cheese, coarsely grated

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 220C with a rack in the top third.  Line 2 trays with baking paper.
  2. Bring the beer, milk, butter and salt to boil in a large, thick-bottomed saucepan over a medium-high heat.
  3. Reduce the heat, add both the flours and stir like crazy. The dough will eventually come together smoothly and give a nice, toasty scent.
  4. Remove from the heat and stir in your seasoning. At this stage, I usually add some freshly ground salt and pepper as well, but it’s not essential. Even if you decide not to add any seasoning, still stir occasionally for 5 minutes or so to let the heat out (I find it takes much longer on warm days). You don’t want the dough to cook the eggs when you add them.
  5. Once the dough has cooled, work the eggs into the dough one at a time. Add 1 cup of the cheese and stir through.
  6. Scoop 1 tablespoon sized amounts onto the baking trays, leaving a few centimetres between each. I usually manage to fit 12 or so onto each tray. Sprinkle the remaining 1/2 cup of cheese on top of the gougères.
  7. Put 1 tray into the oven for 5 minutes, then reduce the oven temperature to 190C and bake for a further 20 to 25 minutes. The gougères should be a deep, golden brown colour all over, puffed up and well set (no soggy bottoms). Transfer the gougères onto a rack to cool.
  8. Bring the oven temperature back up to 220C before baking the second tray the same as the first. I find that now the oven has warmed up a bit, the second tray bakes a tad quicker, so keep an eye on it.

¡Buen provecho!

We apologise for this untimely break in broadcasting.

Hi!  I realise I have been missing in action for some time now … Work was suddenly so busy, I was taking work home (something I promised myself I would never do again …)  I started ballet classes and when I wasn’t working / at ballet class / trying to make sure my house didn’t look like a bomb had hit it, I was mostly collapsed on the couch, binging on episodes of Parks and Recreation.  I think I want to be Leslie Knope when I grow up.

Don’t get me wrong – I also did bit of socialising.  Australia Day was spent chilling at Kings Park, I have been checking out FringeWorld and Boy Robin and I had a romantic “this is the month we first started going out / got engaged / celebrate Valentine’s Day” dinner earlier this week at Pata Negra.  (If you’re ever in Perth, check it out.  Their Crema Catalana is to die for.  The entire meal was beautiful, but they had my heart at dessert.)  However, on the whole and despite the socialising, the last thing I have wanted to do lately is sit in front of a computer some more after work.

Don’t worry, that will change!  I was keeping an eye on the Zero to Hero challenge and have stored up in my mind some posts (although that deadline seems to have flown right past me as well).

In the meantime, I leave you with my go-to dinner recipe for when you know the week is going to be a bit nightmarish.  It feeds Boy Robin and me for the best part of a week, including lunches.  While that sounds like a rather boring week of meals, there is enough flavour and texture there that it is still pretty tasty come Thursday.  And that totally outweighs that sinking feeling when you get home an hour and a half after you had planned to and realise that although all you want to do is put your bag down and pour yourself a stiff drink, there is still dinner to make.

This recipe is courtesy of a friend of mine.  She is very adventurous in the kitchen and is great with flavour combinations.  I apologise for the photo.  It really doesn’t do it justice.  The original recipe calls for a packet of fresh spinach.  I was experimenting with frozen spinach, which is better value for money than the fresh stuff.  You can pack more in and can keep it handy in the freezer, but it also tends to disintegrate and colour the entire meal with a greenish tinge.  You will just have to imagine how tasty it is.

Pork sausages and cider lentils

Pork sausages with cider lentils

Ingredients

  • pork sausages – enough to meet your meat preference
    (Boy Robin is quite carnivorous, so we tend to go with 6 to 8 sausages.)
  • 2 onions, diced
  • 4 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 sticks celery, diced
  • 2 apples, chopped into about 1 inch or so pieces
    (They’re going to be cooking away for a while, so keep the pieces relatively large, or they’ll turn into apple sauce.  I don’t bother peeling them, because I think it keeps the pieces together better, but it’s up to you.)
  • small bunch of thyme
    (Or other herbs you have to hand.  Parsley would go well.  Or if you don’t have anything else, a few liberal shakes of the Italian Herbs container also works.)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 bottle apple cider (33oml)
  • 1 tin lentils
  • stock, as required
  • 4 medium sized potatoes, if you think it’s necessary, chopped into bite-sized pieces
    (We left them unpeeled, because peeling is fiddly and the peel is nutritious and holds the potato pieces together.  The recipe doesn’t usually call for potatoes, but when we made it this week, we steamed some potatoes in the microwave until they were partially cooked through and added them towards the end.  It thickens it up a bit, as well as bulking it out, extending the number of meals we can have from it.  If you’re adding the potatoes, use a large bottle of cider rather than the usual 330ml to increase the liquid content.)
  • packet of fresh spinach
    (Frozen spinach also works, although it doesn’t look as pretty.)

Method

  1. Fry up the sausages in a deep pan until brown and then set aside.  Alternatively, get Boy Robin to do them on the barbecue, so you can get on with the other cooking and can eat dinner sooner.
  2. In the same pan, saute the onion, garlic, celery and apples with a decent slurp of olive oil.  While the onion, etc is cooking, chop up the sausages into reasonable bite-sized pieces and steam the potatoes if you’re adding them.
  3. When soft, add the thyme, bay leaf, apple cider, sausages and the tin of lentils, juice and all.  If you’re worried about the added salt, you can drain the can before adding the lentils and add stock instead, but stock contains salt as well.  If you’re adding potatoes, now is the time to add them.
  4. Simmer away for 10 or so minutes, or until the sauce reduces a little, and season to taste.  If you’re adding frozen spinach, add it at the 5 minute mark and stir through, using your spoon to break it up a bit.  If you using fresh spinach, add it right at the end.  The heat in the saucepan will wilt the spinach and allow you to stir it through.
  5. If you’re making it sans potatoes, serve with some bread to sop up the sauce.

Guten Appetit!

P.S.  Happy Valentine’s Day!  I am slightly conflicted about Valentine’s Day.  I love being doted on with flowers, chocolate and cups of tea in bed, but why reserve those demonstrations of affection for just one day?  Plus, it leaves me with a nagging suspicion that it’s just an excuse for crass commercialisation.  Stay tuned for Valentine’s Day ideas which can be used any time of the year.

Caramel walnut loaf.

Last Wednesday night, I was home alone and desperately in need of dessert to satisfy my sweet tooth.  It was one of those rare moments that chocolate would not cut it.  Despite it being officially Spring, there was a Winter chill in the air and our little apartment was practically begging me to use the oven to warm it up, both in temperature and ambience (nothing warms up our apartment like the smell of freshly baked goods).

My former house mate is truly a kitchen goddess, making up recipes as she goes along and whipping up muffins, cakes and other sweet treats just about every weekend.  I am not very adventurous on the kitchen front.  I spend too much time poring over the recipe, measuring everything to the n-th degree and setting the timer rather than my house mate’s style of just going with what seems right by using her eye and taste.  I much preferred eating the produce of my former house mate’s forays into the kitchen than attempting to creating them myself.  Plus, it always tastes better when someone else bakes it.

This caramel walnut loaf, however, is simple enough to whip up on a Wednesday evening, without even the slightest pinch of apprehension and still have time to finish the dishes and curl up on the couch for a little Wednesday night tv viewing (Adam Hills, how I adore you).

No special equipment is required – just a saucepan, a wooden spoon and 9.5 x 20 cm (ish – a little bigger or smaller will not make a difference) loaf tin.  You could ice it after it cools, but I like it on its own – the sweetness of the caramel balanced quite nicely by the walnuts.  I hope you enjoy it too.

Caramel walnut loaf

Ingredients

  • 100g butter, cubed
  • 200g (1 cup, firmly packed) brown sugar
  • 100ml milk
  • 1 egg, lightly whisked
  • 75g (1 cup) coarsely chopped walnuts
  • 150g (1 cup) self-raising flour

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 170oC.  Grease the loaf tin and line the base and long sides with one piece of baking paper, allowing it to overhang the sides.
  2. Place the butter, brown sugar and milk in a medium saucepan over a medium heat.  Stir until the butter is just melted and remove from the heat.
  3. Stir in the egg and walnuts.  Add the flour and stir until just combined.
  4. Pour the mixture into the tin and bake for approximately 30 minutes (or until a skewer comes out clean).
  5. Stand for five minutes before turning it out on to a cooling rack to cool completely.
  6. Serve with your hot drink of choice.  Also works well as breakfast.